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Right-Wing Nationalist Parties Dominate EU Elections

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Right-Wing Nationalist Parties Dominate EU Elections
2024 European Parliament elections: AP Image

Early exit polls from the European Parliament elections on Sunday show voters punishing ruling leftist parties and throwing unprecedented support behind right-wing nationalist parties, most notably in France, where disastrous results for French President Emmanuel Macron’s coalition forced him to dissolve the National Assembly and call snap elections.

Voting to elect the European Union’s regional lawmakers for the next five-year term ended with the last remaining polls in Italy, as surging far-right parties dealt a body blow to two of the bloc’s most important leaders: French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Official results were anticipated shortly after Italian polling booths closed at 11 p.m., marking the end of a four-day marathon election in 27 EU member countries. The European Union’s early estimate indicated that right-wing nationalist parties had achieved significant gains in the European Parliament.

Marine Le Pen victorious

In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party dominated the polls to the point where Macron dissolved the national parliament and called for new elections, posing a significant political risk because his party could suffer further losses, jeopardizing the remainder of his presidential term, which expires in 2027.

Le Pen was delighted to accept the task. “We’re ready to turn the country around, ready to defend the interests of the French, ready to put an end to mass immigration,” she added, repeating the rallying cry of numerous far-right politicians in other countries celebrating significant victories.

Macron recognized the thud of loss. “I’ve heard your message, your concerns, and I won’t leave them unanswered,” he said, adding that calling a quick election only strengthened his democratic credentials.

In Germany, the most populous country in the 27-member bloc, forecasts showed that the AfD would overcome a string of controversies surrounding its top candidate to grow to 16.5%, up from 11% in 2019. In comparison, the combined result of the three parties in Germany’s ruling coalition barely exceeded 30%.

Rise of Right-Wing Nationalists

Scholz’s dismal fate meant that his long-standing Social Democratic party dropped behind the right-wing Alternative for Germany, which soared to second place. “After all the prophecies of doom, after the barrage of the last few weeks, we are the second strongest force,” a joyful AfD leader Alice Weidel exclaimed.

The four-day polls in the 27 EU countries were the world’s second-largest exercise in democracy, trailing only India’s recent election. Finally, the growth of the right-wing nationalists was even more surprising than many analysts projected.

The French National Rally crystallized it, with over 30%, or roughly twice as much as Macron’s pro-European centrist Renew party, which is expected to reach 15%.

Across the EU, two major and pro-European parties, the Christian Democrats and the Socialists, remained dominant. The extreme right’s gains came at the expense of the Greens, who were anticipated to lose approximately 20 seats and drop to sixth place in the legislature. Macron’s pro-business Renew faction also suffered significant losses.

For decades, the European Union, founded on the defeat of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, relegated the hard right to the political outskirts. With its impressive performance in these elections, the far right might potentially play a significant role in issues ranging from migration to security and climate.

Leftist Parties Decimated

Former EU leader and current Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk defied the trend, defeating Law and Justice, the national conservative party that controlled Poland from 2015 to 2023, and driving it even more to the right. According to one poll, Tusk’s party received 38% of the vote, while his fiercest rival won 34%.

“Of these large, ambitious countries, of the EU leaders, Poland has shown that democracy, honesty and Europe triumph here,” Tusk stated to his backers. “I am so moved.” He said, “We showed that we are a light of hope for Europe.”

Germany, a traditional stronghold for environmentalists, exemplified the Greens’ defeat, with their vote share expected to decline from 20% to 12%. With further defeats predicted in France and elsewhere, the Greens’ defeat might have an impact on the EU’s overall climate change policies, which remain among the most progressive in the world.

The center-right Christian Democratic group of EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, which had already reduced its green credentials before the polls, prevailed in Germany with over 30%, handily defeating Scholz’s Social Democrats, who slumped to 14%, trailing just the AfD.

“What you have already set as a trend is all the better – strongest force, stable, in difficult times, and by a long distance,” von der Leyen told her German fans via video link from Brussels.

In addition to France, the far right, which concentrated its campaign on migration and crime, was predicted to make substantial gains in Italy, where Premier Giorgia Meloni was expected to consolidate her position.

Return to Nationalism

Voting in Italy proceeded late into the evening, and many of the 27 member states had yet to release forecasts. Nonetheless, previously available data reinforced earlier predictions: the elections will push the bloc to the right, reshaping its destiny. This might make it more difficult for the EU to adopt legislation, and decision-making in the world’s largest trading bloc could become paralyzed at times.

EU legislators, who serve five-year terms in the 720-seat Parliament, have a vote on matters ranging from financial regulations to climate and agriculture policy. They approve the EU budget, which funds objectives such as infrastructure projects, farm subsidies, and aid to Ukraine. They also have a veto over appointments to the powerful European Commission.

These elections come at a critical time for voter confidence in a group of around 450 million people. The coronavirus epidemic, an economic downturn, and an energy crisis fueled by Europe’s largest land dispute since World War II have all shook the EU during the last five years. However, political campaigns frequently focus on topics of significance in specific countries rather than broader European objectives.

Since the last EU election in 2019, populist or ight-wing parties have led governments in three countries: Hungary, Slovakia, and Italy, and they are part of ruling coalitions in Sweden, Finland, and, soon, the Netherlands. Polls show that populists have an advantage in France, Belgium, Austria, and Italy.

“Right is good,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who heads a staunchly nationalist and anti-migrant administration, told reporters after casting his vote. “To go right is always preferable. “Go right!”

Source: AP

 

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