Election Gains by Nationalists, Conservatives Move European Union Further Right

Election Gains by Nationalists, Conservatives Move European Union Further Right
French National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen (L) addresses supporters as party President Jordan Bardella listens after French President announced he is calling for new general elections on June 30, during an evening gathering on the final day of the European Parliament election, at the Pavillon Chesnaie du Roy in Paris, on June 9, 2024. (Julien de Rose/AFP via Getty Images)

As European Union (EU) election results are finalized, nationalist and conservative political parties are set to hold more than 25 percent of parliamentary seats—more than 190 out of 720—in what experts are calling a “political revolution” and “game changer” in favor of Europe’s right wing.

Twenty-four of 76 Italian seats went to the right-wing Brothers of Italy—the governing party—and another six to its even more hardline coalition partner, Lega.

France’s clear winner was Marine Le Pen’s right-wing National Rally, whose 30 seats more than doubled that gained by any other French party—while another five of the country’s 81 seats went to the right-wing Reconquest and six to the center-right Republicans.

The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) came in second in its country with 15 out of 96 seats despite widespread attempts to characterize it as neo-Nazi. Victory went to the center-right Christian Democratic Union of Germany, which won 29 seats.

Six seats went to the new Reason and Justice party, which combines social conservatism and nationalism with left-wing economics.

AfD’s Austrian ally, the Freedom Party, finished first in its country, with six of 20 seats. The country’s center-right Austrian Peoples’ Party—which, unlike the Christian Democratic Union, has previously been willing to enter coalitions with the right wing—won five seats.

For those on the right of European politics, it’s a victory on a scale that exceeds the impression created by summary statistics published by the EU—which report only 131 seats going to right-wing parties (two-thirds of the right-wing total and less than 20 percent of seats in the European Parliament).

Confusion is caused by the EU practice of publishing results by “political groups.” Each of these is a formal alliance of political parties from various nations.

Each must have members of the European Parliament (MEP) from at least seven EU member nations and at least 23 individual MEPs.

Reports of right-wing victories have focused on two such groups.

The “soft Euro-Sceptic” European Conservatives and Reformists have won 73 seats (an increase of four) and the “hard Euro-Sceptic” Identify and Democracy won 58 (an increase of nine).

However, some national political parties aren’t part of any EU group. Members of these are classified as “non-affiliated” or “others” regardless of ideology. Out of 90 seats in this category, 62 went to right-wing parties (a third of the right-wing total).

Defeats for the left in the EU’s most powerful member nations, France and Germany, were so striking that the director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, Nile Gardiner, called them “an utter humiliation of their ruling parties.”

A mere 13 seats went to French President Emmanuel Macron’s center-left Renaissance, the same number to the Social Democratic Party of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz—whose coalition partners the Free Democratic Party and the Green Party gained only 17 between them.

Mr. Gardiner believes that Mr. Macron’s response of calling a June 30 snap election—in which the National Rally is expected to gain the largest number of seats by a substantial margin—will likely be a significant first step toward France withdrawing from the EU in perhaps as little as a decade.

Regarding Germany, he considers it an open question what sort of coalition the Christian Democratic Union will lead after the 2026 elections to the country’s legislative Bundestag.

While it almost certainly will gain the single greatest number of seats, it is even more sure to be without a majority. The rightward shift of some members and electoral pressure might lead it to form a coalition with AfD for the first time.

Younger voters, according to numerous polls, are at the forefront of the European electorate’s rightward shift.

France’s National Rally is favored by 32 percent of voters aged between 18 and 25, with no other party topping 17 percent.

An annual “Youth in Germany” study found that the right-wing AfD was the most popular party among Germans aged 14 to 25.

Other right-wing parties including Belgium’s Flemish Interest, Finland’s Finns Party, and Portugal’s Chega have received similarly strong support from the younger generation.

Mr. Gardiner said such numbers in the recent elections have the potential to keep the right-wing parties on a long-term trajectory of increasing support.

James Baresel is a freelance writer who has contributed to periodicals as varied as Fine Art Connoisseur, Military History, Claremont Review of Books, and New Eastern Europe.