Far Right Prepares to Play Stronger Role in European Parliamentary Elections

2024/02/06 | Note, political, top news

Strategic Council Online: Note: The increase in people's support for far-right parties in the parliamentary elections of Italy, France, Finland, and the Netherlands will make the upcoming elections of the European Parliament the most competitive elections in the history of the European Parliament. But considering the growing popularity of far right-wing groups in Europe and the increasing possibility of their victory in the polls, it will sound a warning for Europe. Mahmoud Fazeli, Analyst of international affairs

Polls in different EU member states predict satisfactory results for the two right-wing groups in the elections, and the implications of this scenario will be significant for Brussels. Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy prime minister and head of the Italian populist and right-wing League, and Marine Le Pen, the French right-wing leader, were present in the race.

The latest poll by Europe Elects showed that the far-right group Identity and Democracy (ID) and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) could win enough votes to counter the center-right European People’s Party – the largest in the event of a coalition. The poll also predicted that the informal coalition between the center-right European People’s Party (EPP), the center-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D), and the centrist liberal New Europe (RE) would still retain its absolute majority with 404 out of 705 seats.  If the support for far-right European parties continues to increase, this coalition may face tough competition.

Manfred Weber is the leader of the European People’s Party, who has been the leader of the European People’s Party faction in the Parliament since 2014. In the 2019 elections, the EPP faction won most of the seats in the Parliament. However, Weber came under attack from his party officials for forging a coalition involving the leading Italian party (European People’s Party) with the Brothers of Italy Party (European Conservatives and Reformists Party ECR) and Lega Party (I&D Identity and Democracy Party). Still, he argued that he had done this to control the trend of rightism.

The Identity and Democracy (ID) group won 12 percent of the seats – the highest level since February 2020, according to the Europe Electors poll. French National Campaign Leader Marine Le Pen and Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini (both EU opponents) belong to this group.

The popularity of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) also increased slightly and reached 11%. This group’s position was also improved by the recent electoral success of the Brothers of Italy party, which is part of this group and was led by Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s first female prime minister in October 2022. Poland’s Law and Justice Party and Spain’s far-right party Vox also belong to the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR).

The results of these polls have sounded serious warnings to the primary and traditional European parties. However, obstacles and differences, including ideological differences over the war in Ukraine and migration, are said to exist for a coalition of far-right parties.

There is a lot of evidence that shows there are differences of opinion among European populist parties, conservatives, and European reformists on issues such as transatlantic relations, how to manage the European Union and its expansion, how to participate in the Ukraine war, how to interact with Russia, how to deal with immigrants, the rule of law and freedoms.

European parliamentary elections in June could be as fateful as the US presidential race, the EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has warned, saying he believes voters’ fear of the unknown may lead them to back rightwing populist parties.

“I am afraid of fear, I am afraid of Europeans vote because they are afraid. It’s scientifically proven that fear in the face of the unknown and uncertainty generates a hormone that calls for a security response. This is a fact,” Borrell said.

Examining the state of people’s participation in the European Parliamentary elections during the last few decades has shown their lack of interest in participating in these elections compared to the national elections. Apart from Belgium and Luxembourg, where, due to the mandatory parliamentary elections, the level of public participation in all elections was more than 90%, this level of participation was much lower in many EU countries, especially in Eastern Europe.

It is expected that as the right-wing populists gain power, the tone of the parliament will become much harsher, especially on issues such as immigration. The old debate of reviving increased cooperation and deepening the European Union or moving towards “Europe with fatherlands” is also becoming more heated.

According to a survey conducted by the European Union in all 27 member countries, voters are less influenced by European policy issues but look at their economic situation and concerns about the future. According to the latest poll, three-quarters of EU citizens expect their living standards to decrease, and one-third have problems paying bills.

In many EU countries, conservative parties and even right-wing nationalist parties are on the rise. In Sweden and Finland, right-wing populists are in government as Christian Democratic junior partners; in Italy, Giorgia Meloni is at the helm; and in the Netherlands, right-wing Geert Wilders recently won an election. In France, polls consider Marine Le Pen’s right-wing party the strongest force in European elections. In Germany, the extreme party Alternative for Germany is on the rise and gets more than 20% of the votes in the polls.

Also, polls put the far-right Alternative for Germany’s vote in European elections at 23 and 25 percent, which would shake up Germany’s domestic politics more than Europe. In the newly elected European Parliament, two right-wing factions, Identity and Democracy (ID), which also includes representatives of Germany’s far-right party, and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), which consists of the Italian Prime Minister’s far-right Brothers of Italy, are based on current projections. , will have 175 seats out of 720 future seats. With the seats of the ruling Hungarian Fidesz party, the right-wing party will probably win over a quarter of the seats. This is enough for disruptive maneuvers in parliament, but right-wing populists and right-wing extremists are still far from having creative power.

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