The European Parliament and the position of far-right parties in the upcoming elections

Why have the far-right parties strengthened in Europe?
26 February 2024
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Reza Haghigi

Why have the far-right parties strengthened in Europe?

European Parliament elections will be held on June 6-9, 2024, and citizens of 27 European Union member states will go to the polls to elect 705 representatives. The news and internal developments in Europe indicate that in the upcoming elections, the parties and factions associated with the far-right will gain significant strength. Currently, the three European People's Party (EPP), with 176 representatives, the  Socialists & Democrats (S&D), with 141 representatives, and the Renew, with 102 representatives, have the largest number of seats in the European Parliament. After these three big parties, the European Green Party is in fourth place with 72 seats in the parliament. In total, the number of representatives of these four parties is about 490 people, who hold 70% of the parliament. On the other hand, the right-wing parties, including the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Party with 68 representatives and the Identity and Democracy (ID) Party with 59 representatives (127 in total), currently occupy more than 18% of the seats in the European Parliament. Speculations in European political and media circles indicate that in the upcoming elections, these two parties will take a larger share of seats and may challenge the current coalition of major parties. For example, suppose the number of seats of the Identity and Democracy (ID) Party goes from about 60 to 100, which is very likely. In that case, the composition of the parliament will undergo serious changes.

 Currently, the right-wing movement has gained strength in many European countries, including Italy, Spain, Poland, Hungary, Finland, Sweden, Austria, Greece, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Belgium, Slovakia, Romania, etc., and has gained locality. Considering the significant share of large European countries in the parliament and the fact that the right-wing trend has been strengthened in these countries, it should be seen how many representatives of these countries will be right-wing in the future composition of the parliament. The share of the five largest European countries is 51% of the seats in the European Parliament. Germany has 96 seats, France 79 seats, Italy 76 seats, Spain 59 seats, and Poland 52 seats in the European Parliament, which includes a total of 362 seats. Now, the success of the populist parties in the upcoming campaign of the European Parliament in these countries, along with smaller countries, will make the coalition of moderate parties impossible.

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party is expected to gain a larger share in the upcoming parliamentary elections. This also applies to Marine Le Pen's National Unity Party in France. The number of representatives of the Italian Brothers Party, led by Georgia Meloni, will also increase significantly. In a smaller country like Austria, the number of FPÖ representatives will probably double. In this situation, it is not far from expected that the number of representatives of populist movements will be equal to the ruling People's Party in the next parliament.

 Why have the far-right parties strengthened in Europe?

First of all, it should be kept in mind that the strengthening of the far-right parties in Europe was not done as a spurt, but this process has gradually matured in the context of political and social developments in Europe and gained more acceleration in recent years. At the same time, populist and sometimes nationalist thoughts, even in a weak form, have always existed in Europe and have gone through ups and downs. Various variables can be listed in the analysis of the way of the current situation. Economic dissatisfaction and the rising cost of living in Europe are some of the main causes of this situation, but how this factor has led to the strengthening of far-right parties is a key point. Populist and nationalist currents consider wrong immigration policies as one of the causes of economic disorder in their countries. The influx of immigrants and asylum seekers from Eastern Europe and North Africa and the government's support policies have caused a heavy burden on the government's public and social service delivery system and affected the welfare of European citizens. In the meantime, the arguments of groups that defend anti-immigration policies have gained more acceptance among public opinion. Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the economic shock caused by it, and the increase in prices, especially in the food and energy sectors, have also become the cause.

In addition to these, the concern about national identity and traditional values and the concern of open borders among different strata of European society have become more colorful. This is mostly due to the fact that the European social context has undergone metamorphosis in the last two decades, and traces of other races, ethnicities, and religions have infiltrated it and caused its transformation, a topic that is not pleasant for European citizens. The strengthening of anti-Islamic views in European societies can be examined from this view.

Social justice is a concept that the masses are very fond of. The European Union's policies in the field of energy, especially green and renewable energy, are not compatible with the capabilities of the weaker countries in the European area. These policies have strengthened the position of the populists in this regard, and their voices against these policies have been heard louder. This is more true in some countries of Eastern Europe that use fossil energy and have a weaker economic foundation.

In order to attract more public votes with a more realistic view, the far-right movements in Europe have also made adjustments in their positions in recent years, which have not been ineffective in increasing their popularity. For example, the slogan of exiting the European Union is not emphasized by these parties due to a better understanding of global economic relations. Although nationalists in more powerful European countries have always doubted the positive effects of European integration, it is natural that a bigoted German citizen is unhappy that the powerful industry of his country, affected by European integration, has to endure the weak economy of a small and problematic European country, and he thinks more about divergent policies.

Also, before Russia attacked Ukraine, the far-right movements had a strong tendency towards Moscow and did not hesitate to express it, but with the start of the war and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, these positions have been modified.

At present, liberal and moderate parties should include policies that are favorable to right-wing supporters in their slogans and programs in order to control the far-right movements. Arranging a unified law in the field of immigration and asylum is one of these things that the leaders of the union have to deal with more seriously; a matter that was supposed to be completed before the upcoming European Parliament elections and is seen in the slogans of the Belgian government as the current periodical president of the European Union.

Reza Haghighi, an expert at the Institute for Political and International Studies

(The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)

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