Far-Right Landslide in European Elections
Far-right parties gained considerable ground in the European Elections last Sunday. They finished first in France, United Kingdom, and Denmark, representing a fast-rising political current that goes against the beliefs of the current European Union (E.U.).
Parties skeptial of the current European Union have also broken through in Austria, Hungary, Sweden, and Greece.
In Italy, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, a Democratic Party candidate, was reinforced in the elections with 41% of the vote. His party received twice more votes than Renzi’s main opponent, Beppe Grillo of the Five Star Movement (21 %). Italy will take the Presidency of the European Union Council on July 1.
Not every European country voted in favor far-right political party. For instance, Dutch politician, Geert Wilders has seen a decline in his members of his Party for Freedom since the 2009 elections. After Sunday’s elections, Wilders said with a strained face: “we fought like lions. And honestly the exit polls are disappointing. We should not make this complicated. The results, though still exit polls, are disappointing. As it looks at the moment we will go from five to three seats.”
In the elections, the Finns Party ranked third in Finland. Moreover, the Slovak National Party failed to have any MEPs (Member of the European Parliament) elected. However, it’s important to note the global populist and surge of parties skeptical of the current E.U. in Europe.
Euroskeptic parties will have more than 140 MEPs (Member of the European Parliament). However, they’re far from united. They’re suspicious of each other’s respective search for power. With the exception of Beppe Grillo, they all share common roots and a similar far-right tradition. They sometimes collaborate with “traditional political parties” to improve their image. Such coalitions exist in Finland or Denmark. In France, Marine Le Pen engaged in a seduction strategy. However, her political party anti-Semitic remarks scare her British and Scandinavians counterparts away.
These populist parties have a strong common point though: immigration loathing. Their first target is the non-European foreigners, especially Africans. Geert Wilders even promised to his electors that “he will take care of the Moroccans in the Netherlands.” Some more moderate parties such as Five Star Movement in Italy are attracted by a more radical stance toward immigration. Xenophobia is rising rapidly in Europe. It’s often expressed through the hatred and fear of Islam. Another recent phenomenon that the populist parties exhibit is the hostility toward new E.U. state members such as Bulgaria and Romania.
Skepticism of the E.U. is found in countries with competitive economies as well as in countries in recession. Although Denmark and Austria have healthy economies, they’re struck by a major anti-European feeling. On the other side, even though Ireland and Portugal have struggling economies, representatives do not feel skeptical of the E.U.
The anti-European Union wave is a serious symbolic warning sent out to national leaders. However, “traditional parties” (European People’s Party and Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats) remain in majority at the Parliament. Their membership has decreased, but they will keep “the final say” during discussions. On the other side, populist parties will have a significant anti-European influence within their own borders.
Eurosceptic parties took advantage of the low election turnout. Abstention reached 57% (a stable rate compared to the 2009 election) in the 28 European countries. Apart from Belgium and Luxembourg, where voting is mandatory, electors were disinterested in this election.
Many Europeans don’t understand how the European institutions work and what they accomplish. Supranational institutions are mistrusted. Therefore, European leaders have to steer the EU’s work to make it more relevant to its citizens. United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron affirmed: “the European Union cannot just shrug off these results and carry on as before. We need change. We need an approach that recognizes that Europe should concentrate on what matters, on growth and jobs, and not try to do so much.”
The heads of pro-European Union groups will focus on boosting the competitiveness of the nation members’ economies and finding a common energy, climate, and foreign policy. The European Union is going through one of its main crisis of trust. If the European leaders don’t take action to attend to its citizens’ needs, the European Union may soon be at the mercy of intolerant parties extolling xenophobia, bigotry, and fascism.