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Did the Far-Right win the European Elections in 2024?

At 11 pm, as the last vote was cast inside an inconspicuous middle school in Venice, the future of the European Parliament had just been determined. Amidst the shadow of major elections in the United States, India, and the United Kingdom, Europe stood as the gentle giant poised to dictate its future. One might expect that amidst the backdrop of the invasion of Ukraine and escalating protests around the Western world calling for the War in Gaza, Europe would unite around a sense of community, embracing the European values Schuman proclaimed years ago. However, divergent interests emerged as the results from Germany and France unfolded, shattering all prior expectations.


Weeks ago, there was the realization that Identity and Democracy (the furthest right-leaning coalition inside the European Parliament) was falling apart at the seams, particularly through bold declarations by the leader of Alternativ für Deutschland (AfD) regarding Germany’s tragic past that sent shockwaves around Europe. AfD’s leader would try to humanize SS soldiers during WWII by speaking of extenuating circumstances to judge their crimes, reminding the viewers of the national socialist era. In turn, this led to Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (RN) stating that they “would no longer sit with them in the next mandate” in her push to advance inside the European Parliament by de-radicalizing her party. ID would expel AfD and enter the European elections without them inside their coalition. She continues to protect her image as she is poised to take on President Emmanuel Macron in future French national elections and hold steady inside the EP.

Continuing to partner with AfD, a party at the center of so much polarization, would allow her to underline her efforts to escape from her father’s legacy and give her an opening for her opposition to be labeled as an extremist. Identity and Democracy (ID) would lose AfD but gain a cleaner image from a constituency that grows worried about the rise of the far right.

 

AfD, now part of the Non-Inscrits group in the EP, continues to lead in Germany with 17 seats and a considerable voice. The growing concerns of polarization find validation in this realized prophecy. The AfD, a formidable force, overtakes Prime Minister Olaf Scholz’s party, reflecting skepticism towards the German left. AfD, now a different party, emerges speaking for the German right. However, it fails to enter discussions at a European level, because of its disagreements with ID. On their own, coalitions like Identity and Democracy grapple with varying levels of Euroscepticism and nationalism, posing challenges for cohesive policymaking. Furthermore, AfD's tainted public image positions the European far-right as victorious, albeit with limitations.


At the same time, Marine Le Pen’s RN would reach new heights with 31% of the popular vote, significantly more than Macron’s party. Under this insurmountable pressure, Emmanuel Macron made the controversial decision to dissolve parliament on the last night of the elections in what he calls his show of “confidence in our democracy, in letting the sovereign people have their say.” Next month will either reward or punish Macron’s bravery, but for now, the French people are gravitating toward a more anti-immigration and nationalist style of rule. At a European level, RN will wield considerable power as one of the largest parties in the Parliament. However, how much power can a coalition so isolated wield under the same European People’s Party (EPP) ruling once again, the same party that rejected the extremists' advances on both sides?


Internally, France seems poised for a change of pace. A new style of ruling appears to be deliberated by its citizens. As a G7 country, a nuclear power, and a soft power giant, France should be observed by the world to anticipate its own well-being. Simultaneously, when contemplating the structure of the European Parliament, it is challenging to envision a scenario where RN can exert influence without building bridges. Renew and the Greens Party lost several seats in Germany and France, but the Left-leaning parties held on in Spain and the Nordic states. This indicates that Le Pen faces the task of engaging with centrist parties skeptical of veering towards extremes.


Alas, the real winner of the elections might be Italy’s Giorgia Meloni. Overtaking all competition to become the largest party in the country at the European level and aligning with the less polarizing European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), she seems driven to build a bridge between her interests and a returning Ursula Von der Leyen, looking to assert her vision of union and centrism if it prevails Pro-EU. As the ruler of a G7 country, Giorgia Meloni had to be in the spotlight somehow, but the way she has navigated her long mandate by Italian standards has shown that she is willing to build a castle on which she will, at the end of the day, stand at the top.


Through Meloni, European right-wingers perhaps see the only hope of union. Where less nationalist agendas meddle, but some dignity is given to the often-maligned conservative ideas. At least, that is the promise upon which Fratelli d’Italia has built its campaign. Critics condemn Meloni for being all “bark and no bite,” but that might not be true. One can argue that she has been playing a longer and larger chess game. It is not by chance that she was one of the three women “who will shape Europe,” per the Economist.


The future of the European right looks uncertain. While the numbers are on their side, the alliances become weaker, and the stakes are different for all those involved. Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, it is not time to mourn or celebrate. There is no great resurgence of the far right to speak about just yet, and if there is, they are too divided to enjoy the spoils of war.

 

Luis Marroquin


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