European elections: The far right does not grow as expected, remaining as a minority in the EU

Although they showed growth, they increased their presence in the European Parliament by fewer legislators than they dreamed. Traditional parties and pro-European forces will have to adapt to this new political landscape and find ways to respond to the challenges posed by the far right.

parlamento europeo

The recent European elections have confirmed a wave of far-right parties, although this is not a homogeneous wave and its magnitude varies significantly between different countries.

Far-right parties have won approximately 170 seats, representing 24% of the total 720 seats in the European Parliament. By comparison, in 2019, these parties had 165 MPs, a slight majority, including the 29 seats of the Brexit Party in the United Kingdom.

Main winners, consolidation and new players

The largest number of far-right seats comes from the French Rassemblement National (RN), with 30 seats; followed by Fratelli d’Italia, with 24 seats; the Polish PiS, with 19 seats; the German AfD (with neo-Nazi characteristics), with 17 seats; and Fidesz in Hungary, with 17 seats. These five parties account for more than half of all elected far-right representatives in the European Parliament.

The consolidation of Eurosceptics is evident in almost all EU Member States, with the exception of Ireland and Malta. In France, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Denmark and the Netherlands, the far right is made up of multiple formations. In France, for example, RN competes with Reconquête, while in Italy, Fratelli d’Italia rivals the League.

The performance of far-right parties has not been uniform across Europe. In countries such as France, Italy, Hungary and Austria, these parties have achieved significant results. In the Netherlands, the Party for Freedom (PVV) came second, with 7 seats, behind a left-wing coalition. In other countries, such as Belgium and Austria, these parties have seen notable increases in their support, while in countries such as Poland and Hungary they have seen declines.

Disparate national contexts

In France, the far-right bloc made up of RN and Reconquête obtained 37% of the votes, an all-time high. In Italy, Giorgia Meloni’s success reflects the recomposition within the right-wing bloc and the decline of Matteo Salvini’s League. In the Netherlands, the PVV has captured much of the support previously held by the Forum for Democracy (FvD).

In Spain, Vox’s rise has been limited, gaining only 3 additional seats compared to 2019. In Sweden, the Sweden Democrats have maintained their position, and in Germany, the AfD has experienced stagnation with 16% of the vote, behind of the social democrats of the SPD.

The popularity of far-right movements in Europe has its roots in the “polycrisis” that has affected European citizens since 2008, including the financial crisis, the 2015 refugee crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the war in Ukraine. These problems have fueled resentment and have been exploited by far-right parties.

European Parliament, Allée du Printemps, Strasbourg, France
European Parliament, Allée du Printemps, Strasbourg, France

Economic and cultural factors

The economic context, with rising prices and concerns about purchasing power, remains a crucial factor in support for the far right. From a cultural perspective, these parties capitalize on insecurities related to immigration, as seen in the recent elections in the Netherlands. Migration remains a key issue, dominating the electoral agenda in countries such as Germany, Poland and France.

The geopolitical uncertainties surrounding the war in Ukraine have allowed the far right to criticize European governments for their support for kyiv, accusing them of warmongering. This discourse has been particularly effective in Germany and Austria, where parties such as the AfD and FPÖ have taken advantage of these tensions.

In many cases, the European far right has exploited the socioeconomic impact of war, focusing on national issues. There has also been a backlash against energy transition policies and the European Green Deal, mobilizing voters in several countries.

Normalization of the far right: the movie we already saw

The new wave of far-right reflects a growing normalization of these parties. Figures such as Marine Le Pen and Giorgia Meloni have strategically moderated their positions on Europe, abandoning more radical issues. This strategy has also been adopted by other far-right parties in Europe.

Far-right parties are currently in power in six EU countries, including Italy, Finland, Hungary, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Croatia. In Sweden, the Sweden Democrats support the centre-right government without being part of it. Furthermore, the far right could enter the government in Austria or Belgium, where the cordon sanitaire around the Vlaams Belang is increasingly weakened.

Although it is still early to analyze the full impact of these elections, the consolidation of the far right in many Member States represents a significant challenge for the European Union. Key issues such as immigration, energy transition and support for Ukraine will be areas of conflict. Pro-European forces should retain the majority, but the shift in the balance of power and the normalization of the main far-right actors will inevitably affect the future of the EU.

The European far right faces the challenge of unity, with significant divisions between the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and Identity and Democracy (ID) groups. These divisions reflect the reality of a heterogeneous far-right family, with differences on issues such as Ukraine, relations with Russia and EU economic policies.

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