Europe divided: What the EU elections mean for the far right’s rise

The European Union  elections are the second biggest in the world, based on electors.

The European Union elections are the second biggest in the world, based on electors. Photo: AP

Euro-sceptic, anti-immigration and climate change-denying parties have made massive gains in the European Parliament elections, which could have serious ramifications for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

After Europeans went to the polls at the weekend, it is expected that the centre-right and centre-left coalitions will be the two largest in the European Parliament.

Votes for the Green coalition collapsed.

Associate Professor Ben Wellings, an expert in politics and international relations at Monash University, said the European Parliament represented 448 million people, making it the second largest in the world after India.

“Elections to the European Parliament are held every five years. They consist of 27 separate national elections,” he told The New Daily.

“Members of the European parliament are then aggregated into party family groups – centre-right, centre-left, liberal, green, conservative, far-right and non-aligned – in the European Parliament that sits in Brussels and Strasbourg.”

Like Australia, established conservative parties in Europe have shifted to the right on issues in a bid to see off ascendent upstarts from siphoning off their votes.

Far-right parties, like the Alternative for Germany, successfully ran on platforms opposing immigration, emission-reduction targets and oversight from European laws and courts, sweeping rural areas and increasing their representation.

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, announced that she would support deportation policies similar to Australia’s offshore processing program to win back votes.

The results weren’t universal, however, as Nordic leftist parties bucked the trend.

Rising right

Europe has seen a rise in conservative parties – associated with euro-scepticism, anti-immigration and climate denialism politics – gaining seats and power in recent years.

Wellings said that radical-right populist parties have made political gains at the expense of green and liberal parties in the elections to the European Parliament.

“Although elections to the European Parliament are often used by voters to register discontent with a governing party, the support for the radical-right suggests a steadily growing discontent with the political and economic system in the EU as a whole,” he said.

“As we have seen in Hungary and Poland, these radical right parties pose a threat to the rule of law and contribute to the democratic backsliding observable in states governed by such parties.”

Victor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, and his ruling party unleashed a wave of misinformation and propaganda in an attempt to paint the EU as trying to drag Hungary into war against Russia, threatening its sovereignty and security.

He has also accused the EU of trying to impose Muslim invaders and LGBTQ ideology on Hungary, DW News reported.

Polling from across Europe, ahead of the election, showed that immigration was set to play a key role in deciding the future of Europe, with Generation Z showing stronger anti-immigration views than previous generations in countries like Hungary and Poland.

Ukraine’s future

In Germany, the far-right Alternative for Germany finished second, while the National Rally – an anti-Islam conservative party – made considerable gains from French President Emmanuel Macron’s government in France.

Emmanuel Macron’s party suffered heavy losses to his far-right rival. Photo: AP

Macron called a snap general election in France as a result, citing his commitment to democracy, which Wellings said is a gamble.

“The tactic may backfire given Macron’s unstable popularity with the French electorate and the fragmented and divided nature of contemporary French politics,” he said.

“If Le Pen’s Rassemblement National were to defeat Macron’s Renaissance party in the legislative elections, this would constrain French and EU policy towards Ukraine because, like many other leaders of Europe’s radical right, Le Pen is favourably disposed towards Putin’s Russia.”

Le Pen’s party is projected to win 33 per cent of the vote and 31 seats, while Macron’s party has 15 per cent of the vote in the EU election.

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