Far-right parties surge in European Parliament vote, prompting French snap election

10 June 2024
Far-right parties surge in European Parliament vote, prompting French snap election


Far-right parties rattled the traditional powers in the European Union with major gains in parliamentary seats, dealing an especially humiliating defeat to French President Emmanuel Macron, who called snap legislative elections.

Some ballots in the vote for the European Parliament were still being counted Monday, but the outcome showed the 27-nation bloc’s parliament membership has clearly shifted to the right, with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni more than doubling her party’s seats in the assembly.

The move sends French voters back to the polls in the coming weeks. The legislative elections will take place in two rounds, on June 30 and July 7.

In France, the anti-immigration, nationalist National Rally party of Marine Le Pen handed a chastening loss to Macron’s pro-European centrists, according to French opinion poll institutes. National Rally won more than 30 per cent of the vote, or about twice as much as Macron’s pro-European centrist Renaissance party. France elects 81 members of the European Parliament, which has 720 seats in total.

French President Emmanuel Macron has called a snap election after a surge in support for far-right parties in France and other European Union member states during European Parliament elections. Political rival Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party won twice as many votes as Macron’s centrist Renaissance party.

Macron acknowledged the thud of defeat.

“In the next few days, I’ll be saying what I think is the right direction for the nation. I’ve heard your message, your concerns, and I won’t leave them unanswered,” he said, adding that calling a snap election only underscored his democratic credentials.


What you need to know about the European Parliament elections

A scenario in which an opposition party would eventually win a parliamentary majority could lead to a fraught power-sharing situation called “cohabitation,” with Macron to name a prime minister with different views.

Le Pen, who heads the National Rally group at the National Assembly, “welcomed” Macron’s move.

“We’re ready to exercise power if the French people place their trust in us in these future legislative elections,” said Le Pen. “We’re ready to turn the country around, ready to defend the interests of the French, ready to put an end to mass immigration, ready to make the purchasing power of the French a priority.”

Surging far right

An initial projection provided by the European Union indicated far-right parties have made big gains at the European Parliament, but two mainstream and pro-European groups — the Christian Democrats and the Socialists — remained the dominant forces.

The gains of the far right came at the expense of the Greens, who were expected to lose about 20 seats and fall back to sixth position in the legislature.

Italy’s Prime Minister and leader of the far-right party Brothers of Italy (Fratelli Giorgia Meloni gestures in appreciation to supporters in Rome on Sunday. (Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images)

For decades, the European Union, which has its roots in the defeat of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, confined the hard right to the political fringes. With its strong showing in these elections, the far right could now become a major player in policies ranging from migration to security and climate.

Meloni’s far-right party Brothers of Italy won with a strong 28 per cent of the votes, boosting her leadership at home and consolidating her role as one of the most powerful figures in Europe. The result came mainly at the expense of her governing partners in Rome, with Matteo Salvini’s hard-right League receiving just 8.5 per cent of the vote after finishing first in the 2019 EU election with more than 34 per cent of the vote. For the opposition, the main centre-left Democratic Party got 24.5 per cent.

In Germany, the most populous nation in the 27-member bloc, projections indicated that the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) overcame a string of scandals involving its top candidate to rise to 16.5 per cent, up from 11 per cent in 2019. In comparison, the combined result for the three parties in the German governing coalition barely topped 30 per cent.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz suffered such an ignominious fate that his long-established Social Democratic Party fell behind the AfD, which surged into second place. “After all the prophecies of doom, after the barrage of the last few weeks, we are the second-strongest force,” a jubilant Alice Weidel, the AfD’s leader, said.

Bucking the far-right trend was former EU leader and current Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. His Civic Coalition took 37.1 per cent of the votes. The nationalist Law and Justice party, which held power from 2015 until last year and is led by Jarosław Kaczyński, followed closely with 36.2 per cent, underscoring the continued attraction of its conservative worldview to many Polish voters, despite corruption scandals during its years in power.

A person holds a European Union flag at the European Parliament building, in Strasbourg, France, on Sunday. (Sebastien Bozon/AFP/Getty Images)

EU lawmakers, who serve a five-year term in the European Parliament, have a say in issues from financial rules to climate and agriculture policy. They approve the EU budget, which bankrolls priorities including infrastructure projects, farm subsidies and aid delivered to Ukraine. They also hold a veto over appointments to the powerful European Commission.

These elections come at a testing time for voter confidence in a bloc of some 450 million people. Over the last five years, the EU has been shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic slump and an energy crisis fuelled by the biggest land conflict in Europe since the Second World War. But political campaigning often focuses on issues of concern in individual countries rather than on broader European interests.

Source: cbc

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