June 23, 2024
EU Parliament Elections – Ominous Signs

ELECTIONS to the European Parliament held on June 9, saw the emergence of far-right parties as a significant force. Many of these parties are pro-capital, against immigration and also climate skeptics. In a globalised world these results are ominous.

The centre-right Conservative group, European People’s Party was barely able to maintain its vote share and seats in these elections. The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (centre-left) saw a marginal drop in their vote share (1 per cent) and seats (minus 4 seats). The pro-corporate grouping, Renew Europe’s vote share decreased sharply by 4 per cent (23 seats). The group of Left parties and environmentalists, GUE/NGL, lost one seat and 0.2 per cent votes. Various Green parties together have lost around 20 seats.

Major gains were made by the far-right parties, which have increased their representation by more than 30 seats. In the new 720-member EU parliament, the far-right parties together have 145 seats or nearly one-quarter of the total seats. Both the far-right and right together control 331 seats. If we add many among the over 55 ‘others’ (many who are sympathetic to the right-wing), the right emerges as a strong force.

The gains made by far-right parties in the three major countries/economies of Europe – Germany, France and Italy – portends danger. In Germany, the Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) got 16 per cent and emerged as the second largest party, pushing the ruling Social Democrats to a third position. In France, Marie Le Pen’s Rassemblement National got 32 per cent votes, more than twice the votes secured by President Macron. In Italy, prime minister Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia won 29 per cent votes and re-established itself as a dominant political force.

The victory of the far-right parties was a result of the policies of ‘austerity’ pursued by both the Social Democrats and Conservatives when in power. They have sharply cut social welfare budgets, increased retirement ages, reduced pensions and imposed various kinds of taxes on common people that worsened their livelihood. Resultant peoples’ anger is captured in the various surveys done by European Commission. 45 per cent of those surveyed in Spring 2024 felt that their standard of living saw a fall, while only 6 per cent claimed that it got better. Most of the Europeans identified cost of living as the major issue (31 per cent), followed by unemployment and health (26 per cent). 55 per cent expressed their distrust on their national governments as they failed to meet people’s demands.

Anger on deteriorating economic conditions and failing trust on major political parties has contributed to the growth of far-right parties like the AfD, Rassemblement National and Fratelli d’Italia. A survey done in Germany showed that 44 per cent voted for the AfD out of their disappointment with the ‘mainstream, establishment’ parties. These far-right parties tapped into the discontent by channeling people’s anger away from economic policies. They launched a virulent campaign promoting Islamophobia, against immigrants and created deep fissures in the society. In exchange for legitimacy and a share in power, some of the far-right parties are adjusting their demands. They are toning down their opposition to European Union as they are promised that a hardline position on immigration can be taken within the EU if both these streams come together.

The ruling classes of Europe are helping in the convergence of all the right-wing forces on the basis of their shared belief in protecting the interests of capital. The conservative European People’s Party gave legitimacy to the neo-fascist party of Giorgia Meloni by allying with her. This helped in getting some pro-business legislations passed in the EU, overcoming popular resistance. The same attitude can be witnessed in national politics too. The Macron administration in its attacks on workers protesting against pension reforms and the ‘Yellow Vests’ protests, termed the protestors ‘Islamo-Leftists’ and ‘welfare scrounger immigrants’. These were exactly the very same words used by Le Pen. This convergence gave legitimacy and helped the far-right expand their base. According to a recent poll, 50 per cent of the voters of Republican Party stated that they support an alliance with Le Pen. Thus the fringe is being mainstreamed.

In the overall gloom, a sliver of light can be found in these results. In Finland, the Left Alliance (Vasemmistoliitto) gained 17.3 per cent of the vote. The vote share of the far-right, Finns Party dipped by 6.2 per cent and got only 7.6 per cent votes. In Denmark, the Socialist People's Party (SF) emerged as the largest party with 17.4 per cent of the vote, up 4.2 per cent (2019). Here, the ruling Social Democrats lost 5.9 per cent, winning only 15.6 per cent. In Germany, the party led by Sahra Wagenknecht after splitting from the Die Linke, Bündnis Sahra Wagenknecht (BSW), won 6 seats making a promising debut. Wagenknecht has put out a platform stressing class politics.

Communist parties in Greece, Belgium and Czech Republic also performed well, increasing their vote share. Championing the interests of working class, active intervention on people’s livelihood issues, taking a correct position on immigration and waging uncompromising struggles against austerity, endeared them to people and won their trust. These results are an indicator.

In Portugal and Cyprus, the communist parties saw a reduction in their votes and they are reviewing the results and electoral performance. Their initial reactions indicate that they are taking all efforts to consolidate struggles led by them and strengthen party organisational structures.

The growth of far-right has alarmed people across Europe. They are waking up to the danger and started to act. In France, parties on the centre-left and Left – the France Insoumise, the Socialist Party, the Communist Party of France (PCF), and Les Écologistes came together and formed a Popular Front to meet the challenge posed by the far-right in the snap elections for French parliament. This Front was formed within a week after the results, as a response to various rallies held in France, with the participation of thousands of people. These rallies expressed their anguish at the growth of far-right and wanted the Left to unite. The Front has come out with a draft manifesto promising – an increase in the minimum wage, investments in public services, repeal of retirement reform, restoration of taxes on the wealthiest and a move towards ecological planning – to reverse the measures introduced in the name of austerity.

The way to contain the threat of far-right is to confront them on economic policies along with challenging their social and cultural policies. A multi-pronged struggle, forging a unity of all the exploited only can defeat the far-right.

(June 19, 2024)inger is checking your text for mistakes...