European elections see a win for right-wing parties

Nationalists did well in recent European elections, with the spotlight on France and Germany’s leaders

European flags in Brussels
(Image credit: Jacek Kadaj)

Nationalist and right-wing parties won major gains in last week’s European elections, says Bruno Waterfield in The Times. They punished France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Olaf Scholz, “badly weakening” and even “humiliating” the two leaders “who were at the heart of running the EU”. 

Indeed, Macron’s results were so bad that it prompted him to make the “unprecedented” move of calling snap French parliamentary elections. Similarly, Scholz’s SPD party came third, behind the centre-right CDU and the hard-right AfD – its “poorest result in a nationwide election since reunification”. Elsewhere, there was “a continuing consolidation and overall gains for eurosceptics and hard-right parties”.

European elections: a reality check for incumbents

European voters in Germany and France clearly delivered a “stinging rebuke” to the incumbents, says The Economist. However, the broader hard right takeover of the EU that was predicted by some does not appear to have happened. 

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The new parliament will “lean further to the right”, but the wider shift to nationalist parties failed to materialise in many countries. In Holland, Geert Wilders, for example, the “hard-right firebrand” who won the most votes in national elections in November, “lost to centrist adversaries”, while the far-right nationalist Vlaams Belang party failed to top the polls in Belgium. 

Further evidence that this was a “vote against incompetent mainstream parties that promise much but deliver little”, rather than a “pro-right surge across Europe”, comes from the fact that socialists won the largest share of the vote in Malta, Romania and Sweden, says The Telegraph. This has helped the centre-left retain its position as the parliament’s second-largest group, albeit as a far weaker player than in the 1990s. 

Overall, the far-right bloc seems to have increased its number of seats only slightly, with pro-EU centrists, greens and socialists still holding on to a majority of seats. This “boosts the chances of Ursula von der Leyen securing a second term as European Commission president”.

What can Europe expect from right-wing parties? 

The populist, far-right parties could still have a bigger hand in European policymaking over the next five years, however, says Karen Gilchrist of CNBC on MSN. Centrist parties will now be more dependent on the right for key votes in the 720- seat European Parliament, and we can expect an “emboldened” ID party, the far-right grouping in the EU, to apply pressure on contentious issues. 

This obviously includes immigration, expected to be “front and centre of the policy agenda in the next parliament”, but might also affect green policies, industrial strategy, defence and EU enlargement. 

The rise of the hard right not only “greatly complicates getting united, decisive action from the EU on issues such as the green transition”, but also poses a threat to Ukraine, says Timothy Garton Ash in The Guardian. The right is divided on this issue – Italy’s Giorgia Meloni is a supporter of Ukraine – but the “net impact of these results will be negative”. Scholz’s party is already showing signs of wanting to “appease”’ the quarter of Germans who voted for parties that want to end the war. 

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Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

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