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Europe after the elections: Right wing stronger, but will it get along?

The European Parliament elections are strengthening the EU right, but there has been no shortage of surprises. In the Nordic countries, the left has seen successes, and TikTok stars and hackers will also sit in the Europarliament. In France, after the disastrous result of the ruling party, President Macron announced early parliamentary elections.
Krytyka Polityczna

The elections to the European Parliament have ended, and the outcome could change the balance of power inside the EU’s major institutions. Looking at the overall performance of the Europarliamentary factions, the Greens (G/EFA) suffered the biggest defeat, being particularly hit by sizable drops in support in Germany and France. They were largely influenced by changes in local political dynamics, but environmental parties also suffered from a general pushback on climate issues relative to previous Euro elections. The topics of security and migration were more clearly dominant this time.

Among the losers further down the line is the liberal Renew Europe (RE). In this case, the results from France and Spain were the most painful. The latter is symptomatic of the results across the European Union in that, in addition to the disappearance of the centrist Ciudadanos and a slight weakening of the left, the right – both moderate and extreme – has grown in strength.

Strengthening the European right

Ursula von der Leyen, who is likely to retain her post as head of the European Commission, can be satisfied. Her faction (the European People’s Party – EPP) has strengthened its position as the strongest grouping in the Europarliament, heralding the continuation of the EU’s current conservative-liberal course. Although the center-left (Socialists and Democrats – S&D) has seen only a minimal decline in the number of MEPs, the shift of focus to the right is a fact.

Responsible for this are the advances of the far-right AfD in Germany and the FPÖ in Austria, the retention of the state in Italy (where Meloni’s party replaced Salvini’s Lega), but above all the huge success of the French nationalists. Le Pen’s party won more than 30 percent. votes, while the presidential grouping had less than 15 percent. Even with the low turnout, this represents a shocking result – so much so that Emmanuel Macron has announced early parliamentary elections for June/July.

France is thus facing an exceptionally short and intense election campaign, and the European Union will face strong pressures from the right in the upcoming term of the Europarliament. EPP politicians have announced a continued alliance with centrist parties, but it would theoretically be possible to get along with the radical right, which von der Leyen could use to strengthen her negotiating position in talks with existing partners, even if the prospect of a right-wing coalition seems unrealistic. This puts a question mark over more ambitious EU projects like the Green Deal or infrastructure investment, which the left cares more about.

A reshuffle in the Europarliament?

What remains an open question, however, is how the MEP right will divide. There has been a lot of talk about the idea of merging ECR and ID into a single faction that would be similar in strength to the S&D, which would strengthen the voice of the right in the next EP term. The personal ambitions of the two potential leaders of such an alliance, namely Giorgia Meloni and Marine Le Pen, may stand in the way. They would have to share power, and they differ in their approach to Russia, for example, so working out a compromise may not be easy. Also to be determined at the outset will be who will be part of their alliance.

The possible faction to the right of the EPP, despite the unification of the main forces of the radical right, is not expected to be extreme enough to accept parties like the AfD and its fascist counterparts from other countries, such as the Slovak Republic or the Polish Confederation, which will send Grzegorz Braun to Brussels. Therefore, in the case of the Meloni – Le Pen alliance, there is likely to be an additional far-right faction around the AfD, if it manages to gather the required 23 MEPs.

Similar maneuvering awaits that part of the left that does not find itself in any of the existing factions. Refers to groups with different ideological profiles, from moderate social democracy to communism, generally with a conservative and anti-immigrant tilt – the so-called alt-left. Leading the way here are the Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance and the 5 Star Movement, which also share pro-Russianism. They may be joined by, among others. Greek Communist Party and Slovakia’s Smer, but it is uncertain whether the alt-left faction will get enough members to formally launch.

Surprises – Cypriot tiktoker and Spanish “squirrels”

Denmark’s Euro-election came as quite a surprise, where Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s party not only failed to take first place, but was overtaken by the Socialist People’s Party. This is the first defeat in the more than 100-year history of the Danish Social Democrats against a more left-wing grouping, a clear indication of the criticism of the ongoing coalition government with the right, characterized by an abandonment of social policies and a focus on the fight against immigration.

Positive news for the left is coming from other Nordic countries. In both Sweden and Finland, it improved its results – in the latter, the Left Alliance, which belongs to the GUE/NGL faction, unexpectedly won 17 percent. votes, more than twice as many as last time. With this, he overtook both the Social Democrats and the far right. As for the radical left, the results in Belgium, Ireland and Italy are also noteworthy, offsetting losses in several other countries.

At the same time, there will be no shortage of more exotic politicians in the new European Parliament. One of them is Fidias Panayiotou, a well-known youtuber and tiktoker, whose list has gained nearly 20 percent in Cyprus. votes. At the launch of the campaign, the young influencer said he knows little about EU policy, but promises to address issues such as AI or Bitcoin. Another unexpected black horse of the Euro elections – Alvise Pérez, leader of the End of the Party party – has more defined views. Once associated with the liberal center, he is now associated with the far right and alt-right.

With the grouping gaining nearly 5 percent in Spain. votes, the party is expected to end for the establishment and the “partiocracy.” Pérez became famous for exposing alleged corruption scandals and then defending himself in court against defamation charges. His mandate as an MEP is supposed to give him the immunity he needs to continue his fight against the “deep state” reportedly lurking around him and his supporters – he has several hundred thousand followers on Telegram, who have taken the squirrels in the Anonymous mask as their symbol. Time will tell whether this new type of politics performed by the stars of TikTok or Telegram will turn out to be an ephemeral phenomenon and curiosity, or whether it will someday have a greater impact on the Euro-parliament, but for the moment the influencer faction need not fear.

Arthur Troost

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