Theodoros Benakis

A year ahead of European elections, the far-right is on the rise

The leader of the Spanish far-right VOX Santiago Abascal delivers his speech at the Palacio de Vistalegre in Madrid, October 2019.

On May 28 people voted for regional and local elections in twelve (of the seventeen) Spanish regions. The far-right Vox party emerged as the third party in 9 regional parliaments. What is more significant is that it increased its votes by more than 5% in many of them. Vox had also marked spectacular performance in local elections. The results forced the leader of the Spanish socialist worker’s party (PSOE) and prime minister Pedro Sánchez to call for snap elections. Considering that the absolute majority in the Congress of Deputies is 176 seats, a possible alliance between the People’s Party – affiliated with EPP – and the far-right Vox – a member of ECR – is closer than ever before.

In 2020 the populist, nationalist, and pro-Russian SMER party of Robert Fico lost the general elections leading to a coalition government led by the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities movement. However, on 15 December 2022, the Slovak government lost a no-confidence vote, and the President of the Republic Zuzana Čaputová called for a snap election for 30 September 2023.

Traditionally, several far-right parties, such as Sme Rodina (We are Family), a member of the Identity and Democracy Group (ID) in the European Parliament, the neo-Nazi People’s Party – Our Slovakia (ĽSNS) of Marian Kotleba, that claims the legacy of the Slovak nazi puppet state, and ultra-nationalists as the Slovak National Party, managed to elect representatives in the National Council (the Parliament). Another two ultraconservative or far-right formations are performing well according to the polls, Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) – an affiliate of ECR –and Republic. Recent polls indicate that SMER comes first while Sme Rodina comes third with around 7%. SaS and Republic enjoy approximately 6 and 9%, respectively. Nevertheless, an eventual SMER government represents a risk, as it could reverse the foreign policy of Slovakia and push the country closer to the illiberal regime of the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and the Kremlin.

At the end of October or in the first weeks of November, Poland will elect members of the Sejm (the Parliament) and Senate. In the 2019 elections, the ultra-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party was first with 43,6% of the votes. However, according to recent polls, the party of Jarosław Kaczyński enjoys just 35% of preferences allowing the vast coalition of democratic and liberal parties to contest the power. But the situation is not so simple. A far-right coalition of parties comes third with 12%. The Confederation for Freedom and Independence brings together parties and movements that are openly racist, xenophobic, anti-EU, and pro-Russian. Will PiS seek an unholy alliance with the Confederation? Or the eventual considerable parliamentary group of the far-right will remain without partners and undermine unbothered parliamentary procedures?

Finally, the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in recent polls has raised the alarm in Germany. Its ideological arsenal includes anti-immigration, nativist, anti-Muslim, anti-EU, anti-vaccine, and climate denialist positions. Moreover, this is a pro-Kremlin party. According to the polls, the party comes second in preferences with approximately 18%, a significant advancement as it obtained 10.3% of the votes in 2021 federal elections. Although the party marked up and downs, the actual poll indications are alarming because, on the lander and local levels, several conservative politicians do not exclude a possible coalition with it. The AfD has risen in popularity due to its populist and demagogic use of several problems that emerged after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. 

The rise of the far-right represents a threat to EU fundamentals

As the 2024 European elections will take place on 6-9 June 2024, the far-right increases its support in several EU member states, representing a significant threat to the EU on internal, security, energy, social and environmental levels.

We should consider that already two far-right governments exist – in Italy and Hungary. While the Italian government aligned with the EU policy on Ukraine, Hungary mines any initiative that could harm the interests of Russia. In addition, the ultraconservative Polish government promotes anti-democratic laws affecting the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, press, and academic freedom, and spying on the opposition. The Warsaw government has an ultra-nationalist policy concerning refugees and migrants, neglecting any idea of solidarity between the EU member states.

As recent polls indicate, in Austria, the Freedom Party (FPÖ) enjoys 28% and comes at the top of the political parties, with the People’s Party (ÖVP) second and the Socialist in third place. Despite the Ibiza Scandal that threatened the country’s national security, FPÖ recovered. The next election will probably be held in 2024. The ÖVP partnered already in the past in coalition governments with FPÖ. Did the conservatives realise how compromising and dangerous this coalition is?

Estonia, Finland, and Sweden voted recently. The results show a net increase in the far-right parties. The 11 September 2022 elections in Sweden resulted in a minority government led by the Moderate party. However, the white-supremacist Sweden Democrats climbed up to second place with 20,5%. The Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE) came second in the 5 March 2023 elections. The party is a member of the ID group. In Finland, the Finns party came second in the 2 April 2023 elections with 20,1% of the votes. Interestingly, the Finns were a member of the ECR between 2014 and 2019, then joined the pro-Russia ID, and last April changed again and returned to the anti-Putin ECR. In Bulgaria, also on the 2 April general elections, the racist, anti-EU, anti-NATO, anti-American, anti-vaccine, and anti-LGBT Revival party arrived third with 13.58%.

To complete the puzzle, the ID-affiliated Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) in the Czech Republic enjoys fourth place with 9% in recent polls, while the Chega in Portugal comes third at 13%.

In addition, some of these parties do not hide their admiration and support for Russia, starting from the Crimea Annexation to the invasion of Ukraine as the FPÖ, the National Rally of France, the Lega of Italy (a member of the coalition government), EKRE, and the Czech SPD.

If this tendency persists, how will the new European Parliament address central issues such as EU integration, social inclusion, enlargement, and refugee and immigration policy, among others? The two far-right groups will refuse to support any common EU policy. Additionally, the ID Group will continue to mine the EU policy towards Russia.

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