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European Elections Show Populists' Strength but No Policy Shift

John Gizzi By Monday, 17 June 2024 10:17 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

As much as the mainstream media hailed a "far right" show of strength in elections for the European parliament Sunday, the near-final outcome showed something very different.

The top vote-getter was the middle-road European People's Party (EPP), which topped the races for the 720 seats from 27 member-nations with 191 MEPs (Members of the European Parliament). They were followed by the Social Democrats with 135 MEPs. Newer and smaller moderate parties such as the Tisza Party will support the EPP, according to its leader Manfred Weber.

What this means in terms of policy is the European Parliament will not change in any noticeable way in terms of its refusal to take a strong stand against the growing wave of migrants coming to Europe, or its passionate support for dealing with climate change.

"We have won, we are by far the strongest political force, and the voters have confirmed it," said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission and an EPP member.

Von der Leyen is currently favored to win reelection by the European Parliament to her position as head of the ruling body of the European Union.

Populist or nationalist parties gained ground in races for the 720 seats from the 27 member nations. The most significant gain was that of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy Party, which topped the contest for Italy's 76 MEP seats with 28.4% of the vote — four times what it drew in the last European Parliament election in 2019.

Although Meloni and her party (the lineal heir to the party led by Benito Mussolini) are almost always labeled "far right" by the mainstream press, Meloni differs from other populist or nationalist politicians in that she is a strong supporter of Ukraine in its war with Russia.

Meloni sees herself "as a bridge builder between the mainstream right and the EU's nationalist Eurosceptic forces," Catherine Freschi, visiting fellow at the European University, told the Financial Times.

"There are nationalists and there are different kinds of nationalists," Anne Applebaum, author of "Twilight of Democracy" on the rise of European nationalism, recently told Newsmax, referring to Meloni.

But Meloni will undoubtedly have difficulty building bridges to the right of center parties on the issue of Ukraine. As Martin Klingst, columnist for the German publication Die Zeit, told Newsmax: "The right [in the EU] is split with regard to Russia and Ukraine. Italy's Meloni is a huge supporter of Ukraine. But atmospherically it will get worse, as politicians like [Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor] Orban will do everything they can to drive a wedge into the EU."

Orban's Fidesz Party was the top vote-getter with 43.73% at the moment, but attorney Péter Magyar, a one-time ally of Orban who broke with him over recent scandals, formed a new party, Tisza, that did surprisingly well (30.69%). This is particularly significant since the new party is only two months old.

France's populist National Rally Party (RN) led by Marine Le Pen and 28-year-old protégé Jordan Bardella won a larger-than-expected victory (33.5% to 14.5%) over President Emmanuel Macron's centrist party.

On Sunday, Macron dissolved the National Assembly and called for new elections at the end of the month, which could enhance the strength of Le Pen and Bardella, whose party takes a hard line on illegal immigration.

"Bardella, who projects a new face for the RN might want to play along with Meloni [within the EU]," Laure Mandeville, best-selling author and veteran correspondent for the French publication Le Figaro, told Newsmax. "Macron is deeply unpopular but it remains to be seen if the French will want to elect the controversial Marine Le Pen as president."

The next presidential election, in which Macron cannot succeed himself, is in 2027.

Mandeville also noted that within the European Parliament, Le Pen and Bardella have carefully avoided an alliance with the German Alternative for Germany Party (AfD), several of whose members have been linked to Russia and accused of making statements from Germany's Nazi leadership (a crime in Germany).

Despite recent scandals, the AfD placed second (16%) and gained 5 new seats — actually coming in ahead of Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Social Democratic Party (14%) and far behind the center-right CDU Party (conservative) with 33%. Odds are growing that Scholz, under fire for the economy and German involvement in the Russo-Ukraine War, may not finish his term, which ends with elections next year.

Overall, it is easy for some in the media to simply say the "far right" performed well in European elections. But a careful look at the outcome indicates that it's much more detailed and complicated than that.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

As much as the mainstream media hailed a "far right" show of strength in elections for the European parliament Sunday, the near-final outcome showed something very different.
european, parliament, elections, right, democrats, media, policy, giorgia meloni, viktor orban
Monday, 17 June 2024 10:17 PM
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