The right wing soars in Germany’s AfD votes and votes

REUTERS/Ana Beltran Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni speaks via video link during a rally organized by Spain's far-right Vox party ahead of the European electionsREUTERS/Ana Beltran

Italy’s Giorgia Meloni wants to repeat his domestic success on a European scale

Far-right parties are on the rise in much of Europe and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni senses a critical moment.

“We are preparing for a decisive election,” the leader of the Italian Brotherhood told a packed hall in Madrid via video link. Marine Le Pen of National Rally France sat in the front row, along with Santiago Abascal, head of Spain’s Vox party. “We are the driving force for the renaissance of our continent,” the Italian prime minister declared, before bringing the audience to their feet and cheering.

The far-right party has won elections in Italy and the Netherlands, leads polls in France, Austria and Belgium and has shares in the governments of Finland and Slovakia.

Now they could win more than three in 10 votes when the 27 EU countries vote in the European elections from June 6 to 9 and become a powerful force in the European Parliament.

Infighting is threatening to derail the rise of the far right – because of a series of scandals surrounding Germany’s AfD.

That is why the AfD’s allies in the EU have kicked the German party out of their far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) group in the European Parliament.

They want nothing to do with a party that has a leading candidate, Maximilian Krah, revealed Adolf Hitler’s shameful views of the Waffen-SS and the number two faces accusations of receiving money from Vladimir Putin’s Russia – charges he denies.

That kind of association is the last thing Marine Le Pen needs. She fought for years to detoxify her party from the extremist views of her father, who founded National Rally’s predecessor and was convicted of trivializing the Holocaust.

JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP President of France's far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party and leading RN candidate in the European Union (EU) parliamentary elections Jordan BardellaJEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP

Marine Le Pen’s nationwide protest is now led by Jordan Bardella, the party’s leading candidate in the EU elections

Her party is currently around 30% in the polls and she is favorite to become France’s next president in 2027.

The biggest far-right success story in Europe, Giorgia Meloni, also has high hopes. Her ambition is to create a right-wing force that will take power in Brussels.

“They will have more people [in Parliament] and these people will be mainstreamed or normalized by their presence,” said Sabine Volk, a close observer of the far right at the University of Passau in Germany.

If Ms Meloni’s EU group, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), wins the election it is likely they will find common ground with the centre-right wing of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen .

Ms von der Leyen’s European People’s Party is likely to become the largest group and she has left the door open to a coalition with the ECR as long as they are pro-European, pro-Ukrainian and pro-rule of law.

The ECR includes not only the Brothers of Italy, but also Poland’s right-wing populist opposition party Law and Justice, Spain’s Vox, Riikka Purra’s Finnish Party – part of the Finnish government – and Jimmy Akesson’s Sweden Democrats, who work with the Swedish government without its involvement. are in there.

Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission and Giorgia Meloni, Prime Minister of Italy attend the European Council Meeting on March 21, 2024 in Brussels, BelgiumPier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

Ursula von der Leyen (left) has built a strong working relationship with the Italian leader

It is hard to imagine them all agreeing to Ursula von der Leyen’s demands, especially since some of the center-right parties in her group do not even support such a coalition. But if they did, the European Parliament could steer policy in significantly different directions, on green policies, migration and asylum.

If the two far-right groups – ECR and ID – somehow overcome their internal differences, they too could form a powerful bloc.

Sabine Volk is highly skeptical of “a grand coalition” of far-right parties, as is Matthias Dilling, a European politics expert at Swansea University.

“The far right in Europe has a history of division,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ll see a single far-right group as they continue to be quite heterogeneous internally.”

The ID group, which organizes France’s National Rally, also includes Italy’s League, Austria’s Freedom Party (FPÖ), Geert Wilders’s Freedom Party in the Netherlands, Belgium’s Vlaams Belang and the Danish People’s Party. Circuit.

What does far right mean?

There are differing opinions about what constitutes a far-right party, but Marine Le Pen, like Mr. Wilders, opposes the label.

Dutch political scientist Cas Mudde – perhaps the best-known observer of the far right in Europe – says that at its core is a combination of nativism, authoritarianism and capitalism. populism. He defines nativism as a “xenophobic form of nationalism.”

While France’s National Rally and Brothers of Italy have worked hard to shed the far-right label, Matthias Dilling says the three pillars of Cas Mudde are “very present” in both parties.

Sabine Volk said immigration and anti-feminist policies often tie far-right movements together. She argues that some parties may support gender equality, but ideally women should stay at home.

Brothers in Italy recently pushed for the passage of a law that would allow anti-abortion groups to enter abortion clinics to try to prevent women from having abortions.

Although some commentators consider Hungary’s ruling conservative nationalist Fidesz party to be far-right, they are not far-right.

Most far-right parties have traditionally sought to challenge the EU as a supranational force, and many still do so.

But Ms Meloni’s party has left behind “its once vehement opposition to Brussels”, said Professor Leila Simona Talani of King’s College London. Her European election manifesto said that “we want Europe to become a political giant with a leading role on the international stage”.

JOE KLAMAR/AFP A pedestrian passes by a billboard with an election poster for Harald Vilimsky, the leading candidate of Austria's right-wing and national conservative Freedom Party FPOJOE KLAMAR/AFP

Austria’s Freedom Party leads polls with slogan “Stop EU madness”

Meanwhile, Austria’s Freedom Party (FPÖ) is fighting its election campaign with the slogan “Stop the EU madness”, in the context of Volodymyr Zelensky kissing the president of the European Commission and the clusters buzz words like “refugee crisis”, “eco-communism” and “corona chaos”.

Despite a succession of national scandals, FPÖ leader Herbert Kickl is leading EU election polls and could win national elections in the fall.

Eurosceptic rhetoric remains popular on the far right, but there is now less talk of leaving the EU.

KOEN VAN WEEL/ANP/AFP Dutch party leaders (from left) Geert Wilders (PVV), Dilan Yesilgoz (VVD), Caroline van der Plas (BBB) ​​and Pieter Omtzigt (NSC) pose during the presentation presented to the press the main points of the 26-page coalition cabinet agreement they had previously reached on May 16, 2024KOEN VAN WEEL/ANP/AFP

Geert Wilders (L) has reached a coalition agreement with three Dutch party leaders

Geert Wilders’s Freedom Party supported the Dutch referendum on leaving the EU but now says: “I see no more support for Nexit in the Netherlands.”

The same thing happens with the Finnish Party, which is not actively seeking a way for Finland to leave the EU or “Escape” from the EU anymore: “Finland’s unilateral departure from the EU” in the near future is unlikely. reality.

Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson has not completely abandoned the idea and wants to remove Sweden’s EU membership from the country’s constitution.

Marine Le Pen has never been a fan of the EU either, but she no longer talks about leaving it. She sought to accuse the country’s officials of “promoting Islamism and wokeism” and seeking to tear down Europe’s borders. Her party is currently led by Jordan Bardella, who is number one on the EU election list. But the former head of the EU’s border agency Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, came in third place.

It is difficult to predict how this patchwork of nationalist politics plays out in the European Parliament after the vote on June 6-9.

But far-right parties are much better organized than before, as the demonstration in Madrid showed. Even Argentine President Javier Milei was there.

“It’s part of a long trajectory [for the far right] to form international relationships and international networks,” said Matthias Dilling.

The question is whether they have the same ambition as Giorgia Meloni.

“I wanted to try something not easy but exciting, to repeat in Europe what we achieved in Italy,” she told Italian television.


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