How much has the right really won in Europe?

How much has the right really won in Europe?
How much has the right really won in Europe?
The results in Germany and France risk a domestic political impasse and undermine the already troubled Franco-German tandem, so essential to setting the European agenda. The election result also highlighted the role of Italy’s Meloni in reinvigorating the role of the far right in European politics.

Tags: European elections, far right, right, migration, Ukraine, populism, France, Germany, European Union, Giorgia Meloni,

The center will remain in Brussels after the parliamentary elections; the real story is France and Germany

Molly O’Neal*

The European Parliament elections brought gains to parties belonging to two far-right populist factions: the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and the more radical Identity and Democracy (ID). Populist or far-right parties (ECR, ID or unaffiliated) come out on top in five countries: France, Italy, Austria, Hungary and Slovakia.

In Germany, Poland and the Netherlands, these parties occupy a solid second place. These elections have generated very worrying developments in France and Germany, the two most influential member countries of the EU.

In France, Marine Le Pen’s party, National Rally (RN, member of the ID group) won just over 30% of the vote, double the support obtained by Macron’s liberal Renaissance party. As a result, Macron called early national legislative elections for the end of the month, opening the possibility of “cohabitation” with a far-right prime minister for the remainder of his final term.

In Germany, the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) received just under 16% of the vote, placing second behind the Christian Democrats with 30%, and ahead of the Social Democrats with 14%, the Greens with 12%. % and the FDP. (liberals) at 5%. These last three parties form the German government coalition, and their cumulative score of 30% reveals a deep popular disaffection with those in power. The new populist anti-war left BSW (Alliance Sahra Wagenknecht) enters the European Parliament with 6%.

Victories for far-right populist parties have been more modest than polls earlier this year predicted. Overall, the balance relative to Parliament is not radically changed: the centrists (PPE, S&D and Renew) retain a slightly reduced majority (403 out of 720 seats). The ECR gained four seats to win 73, and ID gained nine seats to finish with 58 in the new parliament. This latter score reflects the move of the AfD (which won 15 seats) from the ID category to the unaffiliated category. The participation rate averaged 51% across the 27 member countries, barely higher than in 2019.

A series of factors appear to have been behind the relative success of the far right: migration flows, economic insecurity, the alleged impact of Europe’s green policies, anti-elite Euroscepticism and (in some cases) opposition to financing and arming Ukraine. The relatively stronger far right in the new parliament can be expected to lobby on these issues.

The center-right European People’s Party remains by far the largest group in Parliament with 189 seats, more than a quarter of the total. The center-left Social Democrats lost just four seats to gain 135, while the centrist pro-business Liberals (Renew) lost 23 seats to remain in third place with 79 seats. These three groups formed a de facto coalition to support the legislative agenda of Commission President, German Christian Democrat Ursula von der Leyen. The coalition will have a slightly reduced majority of seats, so von der Leyen’s election for a second term as European Commission president could be at risk. The vote is secret and a defection rate of around 10% is considered normal.

The EPP perhaps owes its good results to the hardening of its position on migration and the green transition, partly to slow down the momentum of the far right. This will complicate the EPP’s cooperation with the S&D. It is possible that the EPP will pass legislation in these two policy areas with the votes of the ECR, which will raise the profile and importance of the populist right in the new parliament. The Greens lost 18 seats and only have 53 in the new parliament.

Right hand maneuvers

The ECR and ID delegations – if they merged – would make the far right the third largest group. An obstacle to such a merger has been the role of the German AfD, which was excluded from the ID just before the elections, after the main AfD candidate, Maximilian Krah, said in a press interview that membership in the Nazi-era SS did not in itself imply personal criminality. . In response, Marine Le Pen succeeded in obtaining the exclusion of the AfD from the ranks of the ID.

Ursula von der Leyen courted Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni (Brothers of Italy — ECR) to support her re-election for a second term as President of the European Commission. But Meloni (one of the few European leaders currently enjoying strong popular support) sought to convince the EPP to govern with the ECR and ID group rather than with the S&D and Liberals. To achieve this goal, she called for a merger of the ECR and the ID. Marine Le Pen, Viktor Orban and former Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki (of the Law and Justice party – ECR) have supported such an effort. The combined strength of ECR ​​and ID could increase its already significant influence over the positions taken by the center-right EPP.

Although the overall performance of the ID and ECR failed to produce a major “wave” reshaping the European Parliament, the results in France and Germany in particular were considerable. European parliamentary elections remain fundamentally national elections, showdowns for ruling and opposition parties. The results in Germany and France risk a domestic political impasse and undermine the already troubled Franco-German tandem, so essential to setting the European agenda. The election result also highlighted the role of Italy’s Meloni in reinvigorating the role of the far right in European politics.

*Molly O’Neal is a university teacher and researcher, with a long diplomatic career focused on Central Europe, Russia and Eurasia. A Fulbright Professor in Warsaw and Dresden, she holds a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University. O’Neal is also a non-resident member of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.

Responsible statecraft, JUNE 15, 2024

#EuropeanElections #far-right

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