European Parliament election: Far-right parties make gains; Macron calls snap poll | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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European Parliament election: Far-right parties make gains; Macron calls snap poll

Jun 10, 2024 02:53 PM IST

The surge of nationalist and populist parties will make legislation on issues such as climate change and agriculture policy harder

Far-right parties have made major gains in the European Parliament election that concluded on Sunday, with the domination of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in France promoting President Emmanuel Macron to dissolve the parliament and call national legislative elections on June 30 a month before the Paris Olympics.

The first provisional results for the European Parliament elections projected on a screen. (AP)
The first provisional results for the European Parliament elections projected on a screen. (AP)

The surge of nationalist and populist parties, which lead governments in Hungary, Slovakia, and Italy and are part of ruling coalitions in Sweden and Finland, will make legislation on issues such as climate change and agriculture policy harder.

Le Pen’s party won about twice as many votes—over 30%—as Macron’s pro-European centrist Renew party, which was projected to get less than 15%. She echoed far-right leaders in other European countries celebrating their wins. Le Pen said they were ready to turn France around, defend the French interests, and end mass immigration. “We are ready to take power if the French trust us,” said Le Pen.

Macron, whose move to call a snap could hobble the rest of his term that ends in 2027 if his party suffers more losses, said the move underscored his democratic credentials. “I have heard your [voters] message, your concerns, and I would not leave them unanswered,” he said. He said he could not act as if nothing had happened. “The French people must now make the best choice for themselves and future generations.”

Macron warned the rise of nationalists and demagogues was a danger for France and Europe as the outcome was expected to boost Marine Le Pen’s position as his challenger in presidential elections three years later. Macron has to step aside because of term limits in 2027.

France’s blue-chip index CAC 40 dropped by 2% at the opening on Monday after Macron’s call for a snap poll. Shares in France’s biggest bank BNP Paribas dipped by almost 8% at the opening. It was trading 5% lower at 0712 GMT. The shares in French lenders Credit Agricole and SocGen suffered heavy losses too.

Right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), a fiercely anti-immigrant party labeled officially a “suspected” extremist group, surged to second place in Germany, the 27-nation EU’s most populous nation, as its votes rose from 11% in 2019 to 16.5%. Germany’s three-party governing coalition topped 30%. AfD leader Alice Weidel cited the prophecies of doom and said they are the second strongest force.

AfD beat Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats 16% to 14%. Far-right parties gained ground in the Netherlands and Belgium. In Austria, the far-right Freedom Party topped a nationwide ballot for the first time.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni ruling post-fascist Brothers of Italy came out on top with 28%, making her one of the rare major European leaders to emerge strengthened. It won 26% of votes in the 2022 national ballot when it rose to power. “I am proud that Italy will present itself to the G7, to Europe with the strongest government of all. This is something that has not happened in the past but is happening today, it is a satisfaction and also a great responsibility,” Meloni said.

The opposition centre-left Democratic Party came in second with 24%. Another opposition group, the 5-Star Movement, was third with 9.9% of the vote.

The victory of Meloni’s party, which traces its roots back to a neo-fascist group, in 2022 set the tone for far-right gains across Europe. Meloni has since moderated her image. She has dropped her anti-EU rhetoric and presented herself as a bridge between the mainstream centre-right and her national conservative camp.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s far-right Fidesz headed for its worst score in Hungary in its 14-year rule. It got 44% votes but well down on the 52% it won in 2019.

Extreme-right parties share anti-immigrant platforms, but divisions remain over Europe’s role in helping Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s invasion.

Centrist mainstream and pro-European groups Christian Democrats and the Socialists overall remained dominant across Europe at the end of the voting on Sunday. They kept an overall majority in the European Parliament, which approves legislation, the bloc’s budget, and its top leaders.

The far-right gained at the expense of the Greens, which were set to fall back to sixth position and expected to lose about 20 seats. Provisional results showed the Christian Democrats would have 189 seats (up 13), the Social Democrats 135 (down 4), and the pro-business Renew group 83 (down 19). The Greens slumped to 53 (down 18). The defeat of the Greens was expected to have an impact on the EU’s climate change policies.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen offered to build a coalition with the Social Democrats as it mostly held its ground and the pro-business Liberals. “We are by far the strongest party, We are the anchor of stability,” von der Leyen said. She added the result brings “great stability for the parties in the center’ and that they all have an interest in stability and want a strong and effective Europe.

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