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Far-right surge in elections shakes up European Parliament

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French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party suffered losses serious enough to prompt Macron to dissolve the National Assembly and call for a snap election by the end of June. Far-right parties nearly match Social Democrats in the new EU Parliament, raising concerns, the writer says. – Picture: David Iliff / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikipedia

By Ana Vračar

The European Union woke up to a grim reality, albeit with few surprises, after the European Parliament elections concluded on Sunday, June 9. As predicted by polls, far-right parties emerged gleeful. According to preliminary results, combined, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and Identity and Democracy (ID) groups secured only four fewer seats than the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the second-largest group in parliament. Including mandates won by unaffiliated parties close to ECR and ID, the far-right easily overtakes the centre.

The conservative European People’s Party (EPP) received 186 of the 720 seats, and remains the largest group in parliament. The EPP has led the European policy cycle relying on support from parts of the S&D, the liberal group Renew, and the Greens since 2019. Early reports indicate that this agreement might hold a majority for another cycle, though the EPP may still decide to shift further right to secure a more stable vote.

Renew and the Greens lost the most seats in the European Parliament. After significant gains in 2019, the Greens are expected to lose some 18 seats. This drop is particularly notable in Germany, where the Green Party is part of the federal coalition government, but got less than 12 percent of the votes in this election. In contrast, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) secured second place in the European election with over 15 percent of the votes.

Macron calls for snap election on National Rally triumph

Liberals fared even worse, losing 23 seats according to preliminary results. French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party suffered losses serious enough to prompt Macron to dissolve the National Assembly and call for a snap election by the end of June. Marine Le Pen’s National Rally secured more than double European seats compared to Renaissance.

In the light of this, Macron’s call is seen as a final attempt to appeal to French voters’ pragmatism to avoid the far-right coming into power on the national level. “I have confidence in our democracy, in letting the sovereign people have their say. I’ve heard your message, your concerns, and I won’t leave them unanswered,” Macron said.

Meanwhile, in Italy, Giorgia Meloni’s ECR-affiliated Brothers of Italy dominated the European election. Securing almost 30 percent of the votes, Meloni’s party outperformed its national coalition partners, the Lega and Forza Italia. The surprise, however, came from the centre and left to the centre. The Democratic Party, led by Elly Schlein, and the Greens and Left Alliance (AVS) performed better than expected, securing 24 percent and 6.7 percent of the votes, respectively.

The AVS included Ilaria Salis, a teacher imprisoned in Hungary for participating in antifascist demonstrations, on its list. This was a move aimed to secure her release by getting her elected to the European Parliament, prompted by indications that her case has rapidly transformed into political persecution.

Left remains stable, Workers’ Party stronger in Belgium

Hungary‘s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán faces challenges beyond the Salis case. His party, Fidesz, suffered a serious blow by the opposition party Tisza, led by former Fidesz member Peter Magyar. Fidesz still emerged as the relative winner of the election in Hungary, but the falling share of support may indicate a weakening of the party’s control over Hungary’s governance and economy.

Despite the general bleakness, there were glimmers of hope on election night. In France, La France Insoumise secured nearly 10 percent of the vote, strengthening its representation in the European Parliament. In Belgium, the Workers’ Party (PTB-PVDA) gained an extra seat in the EP and performed well in local elections, securing 20 percent of the votes in Brussels District.

“By sending Rudi Kennes to the EU Parliament, we are sending a former shop steward from Opel-Antwerp: a spokesman for the working class, with a megaphone for the social struggles in Europe,” said PTB-PVDA head Raoul Hedebouw following the election.

The Left group in the European Parliament remained stable, with representatives elected from different parts of the EU, and votes still to be counted in Ireland.

The election was also marked by low turnouts. Italy fell below 50 percent turnout for the first time, and many countries on the EU’s periphery did not reach 40 percent. Croatia recorded the lowest turnout at barely 21 percent.

Final results will be confirmed in the coming days, followed by negotiations on parliamentary support and candidates for the European Commission and European Council. The make-up of the majority will influence both parliamentary voting and policy content.

With the far right’s strength, European policies are likely to shift in the same direction. This will mean the continuation of the emphasis on security, austerity, and migration restrictions, despite hundreds of thousands of people across the region taking regularly to the streets in support of peace and social justice.

This article was first published on Peoples Dispatch