Saeed Sobhani

Is far right conquering Europe?

June 3, 2019

TEHRAN - Many European politicians prefer not to deny the results of the European Parliamentary elections, especially the victory of anti-Euro-nationalist and nationalist factions in this election. However, it seems that in the near future, traditional European parties will try to determine their own proportions with nationalist movements.

The main question here is, what is the right European far right now, what is the position in the eurozone and the European Union, and how Western analysts interpret the results of the European parliamentary elections? Here are some reports and analyzes on the impact of nationalist currents on Europe:

No new dawn for far right in European election

As Deutsche Welle reported,Support for extremist parties remains limited, with signs of protest voting around single issues. While euro skeptics fared well in several countries, DW research suggests more modest gains for the far-right.The party of Geert Wilders, the Islamophobic Dutch politician, lost all its seats in the European election.

Italy's deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, said this week that Europe is changing. The leader of the far-right League party hailed the results of elections to the European Parliament, referring to the success of parties led by France's Marine Le Pen and Britain's Nigel Farage as well as to his own.

But a close look at the results for the far right — parties characterized by extreme authoritarian, xenophobic and nationalist politics — suggests the shifts have been more subtle than populist rhetoric might suggest.In countries that had a very small far-right vote in 2014, extremists have gained ground, in some places putting them on a par with mainstream opposition parties for the first time.

But where the far right had already taken root, such as in France and Austria, there was little sign of a major surge beyond previous levels of support.

In France, Le Pen's National Rally (formerly known as the National Front) came up on top of the European poll, with just under 24% of the vote. But that was, in fact, a slight decrease in their 2014 result. And in elections to the country’s national parliament in 2017, the party received about half that — 13%, suggesting the far-right party may have some appeal as a protest vote, but not when it comes to choosing who runs the country.

Liz Fekete, director of the Institute for Race Relations, said Le Pen had benefited from the failure of French president Emmanuel Macron to deliver on his promise of an alternative to establishment politics. But she warned against reading too much into the National Rally's strong performance in elections to the Brussels parliament. "Their achievements can be over-estimated because European elections tend to throw up quite strange results," she told DW.

In Britain, Farage's newly formed Brexit Party also came first in the election to the European parliament. But with little in the way of policy other than opposition to EU membership, the single-issue party's success does not suggest widespread support for a wider far-right platform.

Salvini's own party surged from the 6% it received in the 2014 European election to almost 34%. However, in a national election just last year, it collected a much lower share of the vote, at 17%. That was enough the make it the second-largest party on the country's parliament, but also shows the limits of its support."Salvini is a powerful orator and manipulator of media and media images," said Liz Fekete. "He's managed to establish a hegemony for his ideas."

But she sounded a note of skepticism over further increases in his support, pointing to a growing resistance in response to the League's fervent anti-migrant stance and its moves to shut down dissent.

"Key figures are emerging as uncorrupt, decent people, prepared to take on the system, and others are rallying around them." Fekete cited the example of Domenico Lucano, the former mayor of Riace who attracted worldwide attention when he welcomed refugees to his village in 2011. Lucano is now facing criminal charges of aiding illegal immigration, and his case has become a cause célèbre for those opposed to Salvini's far-right politics.

The country with the biggest increase in support for a far-right party was Slovakia. There, almost 120,000 people (12%) voted for the neo-Nazi 'Our Slovakia' party, compared to 9,000 in the 2014 election. That put them in third place, not far behind Slovakia's social democrats, and gave them two seats in the European parliament.

Led by Marian Kotleba, its platform includes rhetoric against Slovakia's minority Roma community, while its leading members include people associated with anti-Semitism, Nazism and Holocaust denial.A court in Slovakia declined to ban the party earlier in the month. Its breakthrough in the European election builds on the 8% vote share it received in the 2016 national election, raising the prospect that it could be on an upward trajectory.

In Belgium, the Vlaams Belang party made a breakthrough after marshaling opposition to the UN migration pact, which it claimed would increase immigration.Germany, Sweden and Spain also saw increases in votes for the far right. Fekete said in some countries they were boosted by the lower turnout in European elections than national elections. However, it is also worth noting the swell of support for anti-Brexit parties. In terms of the overall vote share, the vote for hard Brexit parties — the Brexit Party and UKIP — amounted to 35%, while the vote for pro-Remain parties totaled almost 42%.

In Hungary, the vote for the nationalist Jobbik dwindled but the governing Fidesz party, which has adopted a far-right stance under prime minister Viktor Orban, received 52% of the vote in a joint list with the country's Christian Democrats.In Greece and Denmark, far-right parties lost support compared to 2014. In the Netherlands, the party of far-right politician Geert Wilders lost all four of its seats in the European parliament.The vote share for Greece's 'Golden Dawn' was down from 9% to just under 5%.

Denmark's 'People’s Party,' which had received 27% of the votes in 2014, plummeted to 11%. That collapse in support may be confirmed in elections to the country’s national parliament next week, where the group could lose its position as the second-largest party.

Liz Fekete said the far right had fragmented in Denmark and the Netherlands, casting doubt on Salvini's idea of a grand coalition of right-wing populist parties, which has attracted wide media coverage. She also noted that Farage's former party Ukip had been demolished by voters in Britain after taking a rightward turn.

DW analyzed the official results alongside data from ParlGov, compiled by researchers at the University of Bremen, to identify far-right parties that won seats in last week's elections to the European Parliament. The researchers classify parties into one of eight families according to their economic and social positions.

In the end, a promised populist surge turned out to be more of a ripple. After months of boasts, bluster and apocalyptic rhetoric about the end of the old Europe, the far right made striking gains in some countries but losses in others.

There were expected strong showings for leading figures of the European far right, such as Hungary’s anti-immigration prime minister, Viktor Orb?n, whose Fidesz party took more than half the vote, and Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, whose Lega was the biggest party. Marine Le Pen’s National Rally also narrowly topped the polls in France.Salvini said the vote showed “Europe is changing”. Orb?n spoke of “a new era in European politics.

But although there were losses for traditional big parties in many countries, far from all of those votes went to far-right or populist parties, with greens and other pro-European forces also doing well.Péter Krek?, who runs the Political Capital thinktank in Budapest, said: “I see a bit of a shift to the right but it’s not something that will endanger the operation of the EU. Pro-European forces were also mobilised in these elections.”

Nationalist and far-right parties will certainly have more representation in this European parliament than in any previous one. Salvini had attempted to capitalise on the mood, launching what he hoped would become a grand coalition before the vote, to bring all the anti-immigrant far-right parties under one umbrella.

But a combination of egos, policy differences on issues such as cooperation with Russia, and the existing network of European alliances meant even those far-right parties that have done well may struggle to build a coherent bloc in the new parliament.Cas Mudde, an expert on populism and professor at the University of Georgia, said: “I don’t see one strong far-right group emerging soon.”

The electoral picture for far-right parties varied from country to country: in Slovenia, an anti-immigration party got the most number of votes, while in Slovakia, a progressive coalition that stood on a pro-European platform of tolerance came in first place. In Poland, the populist governing party won big but an extreme-right coalition failed to cross the 5% threshold.In Belgium, the far-right Vlaams Belang party was on course to win two MEP seats. In Holland, the anti-Islam Freedom party was due to lose all four of its seats, including that of its leader, Geert Wilders. Thierry Baudet, the new Dutch populist leader who has been taking votes from Wilders, is due to take three seats, which is fewer than opinion polls suggested.

The Danish People’s party, which enthusiastically signed up to Salvini’s new coalition, was decimated at the polls and on course to lose three of its four existing seats. Germany’s AfD came fourth in the polls, winning a projected 11 seats.

Declaring victory outside the campaign headquarters of Fidesz, on the banks of the Danube in central Budapest on Sunday night, Orb?n said the elections had given him a refreshed mandate to help build a different kind of Europe. Fidesz took 52% of the votes and 13 of Hungary’s 21 seats.“We are small but we want to change Europe,” he said, describing the elections as “the beginning of a new era against migration”.

Fidesz is still hanging onto its membership of the centre-right European People’s party grouping by a thread but Orb?n has called Salvini a “hero” and hinted in recent months he may want to join forces with Salvini’s new bloc after the elections.

Hungary’s foreign minister, Péter Szijj?rt?, said “the status quo is over” in the European parliament. “Until now, after European elections, the puzzle was quite simple, the EPP and the socialists came together, counted the votes and there was a comfortable majority … Now nobody is able to say what the final composition of the majority will look like.”

That much is true, and the new European parliament will have a different feel to the old one, as the grip of traditional, old parties is further weakened.“The fragmentation of Europe’s party systems is yet again the big story, as it already was, or should have been, in 2014,” said Mudde. “There are fewer big parties, mainstream parties are now medium-sized, and some even small, while they are replaced by more and more medium-sized anti-establishment and new parties.”

Among the anti-immigration and far-right parties, there are fissures on various issues, with Polish and Scandinavian parties deeply sceptical of Salvini and Le Pen’s admiration for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Even if the far-right parties do vote together on certain issues, they will not necessarily be able to dominate the agenda.

Krek? said that even aggregating all the populist and anti-establishment parties from across the spectrum, they will not total more than one-third of all the seats in the new parliament. “Because most decisions only need a simple majority, all the talk of a blocking minority doesn’t make much sense,” he said.
A fact that should not be ignored!

What is clear is that, despite the decline in the number and support of European public opinion in Europe from nationalist parties, these parties have grown in crucial countries such as France, Britain, Germany and Italy. The same thing can have a negative impact on the fate of the European Union and the euro area in the near future. From now on, people like Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French National Front, have taken steps to lead the political and executive equations of their countries. An issue that could increase the threats posed by the serious presence of nationalist currents in the European Union.

Leave a Comment

7 + 4 =