• Far Right-Wing Parties in the European Parliament [1]

  • Von Thilo Janssen | 17 Nov 14 | Posted under: Wahlen , Neue Rechte
  • With the Treaty of Lisbon, the financial crisis, austerity, public debt, European top candidates for European Commission President for the first time in European Parliament (EP) elections, all political actors in the European Union (EU), including far right parties, have been confronted with dramatic political change on the European level in the last half decade. According to the Eurobarometer, public trust in European institutions fell from a peak of 57 per cent in spring 2007 to 31 per cent in autumn 2013, while trust in national governments declined from 43 to 23 per cent in the same period. This common feeling of political uncertainty was fertile ground for right-wing ideologies in many EU member states. Hence, scholarly analysts, the media, and the political mainstream all expected the nationalist anti-EU parties to do well in the European elections in May 2014. This article examines the far right party election results and the outcome of the parliamentary group-building processes in the eighth European Parliament. The following two questions will be addressed:

    • Organisation: To what extent are far right parties organised in the European Parliament?
    • Impact: Is far right party cooperation on the European level politically relevant?


    In this article the term far right refers to all right-wing parties that by choosing alliances position themselves further on the political right than the (mostly) centre-right, conservative, and Christian Democratic European Peoples Party (EPP).
    However, a consequence of this approach is that EPP member parties like Hungary‘s FIDESZ, whose leader Victor Orban recently proclaimed the ‘end of liberal democracy’2 in Hungary, are not included in the analysis.

     

    Organisation: to what extent are far right parties organised in the European Parliament?

    In fact, as predicted, the far right did well in the EP elections. In three member states right-wing extremists or populists even turned out to be the strongest parties: the Front National (FN) in France, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in Great Britain and the Danish People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti - DF) in Denmark. In the EP there are now 176 out of 751 Members of European Parliament (MEPs) who position themselves further on the political right than the EPP. This amounts to roughly 23 per cent, almost a quarter. Out of these 176 right-wing MEPs, two official parliamentary groups have emerged, the national-conservative Europe of Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), and the right-wing populist Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD). A couple of far right MEPs remain without official group affiliation; such MEPs are called non-attached (NA). Official group status in the EP is reserved for coalitions of at least 25 MEPs from a quarter of the member states (which now means seven out of 28).

    The first unexpected development after the elections was the way in which the ECR group was reorganised. A look at the right column of Table 1 shows that only six of the former 2009-2014 ECR members were reelected to the EP. As a consequence, the hitherto most important ECR parties – the British Conservatives (CP), Poland’s Law and Justice (Prawo I Sprawiedliwość – PiS), and the Czech Republic’s Civic Democratic Party (Občanska demokraticka strana – ODS) – decided to open up the group further to the populist right and invited UKIP’s former allies DF and the True Finns (Perussuomalaiset – PS), alongside the newly elected Alternative for Germany (Alternative fur Deutschland - AfD) and a couple of other small parties, to join the ECR. In the end, the ECR has become the third largest group in the new EP with 70 MEPs from 17 member states.

     

    Table 1:The ECR group after the European elections 2014 

    Member State

    Party

    Result

    MEP

    Result

    Group

    2014 %

    2014

    2009 %

    2009-2014

    1

    United Kingdom

    Conservatives

    23.31

    20 (-5)

    27.00

    ECR

    2

    Poland

    PiS

    31.78

    19 (+4)

    27.40

    ECR

    3

    Germany

    AfD

    7.00

    7

    ---

    ---

    4

    Denmark

    Dansk Folkeparti

    26.60

    4 (+2)

    14.80

    EFD

    5

    Belgium

    N-VA

    16.35

    4 (+3)

    6.13

    Greens/EFA

    6

    Finland

    True Finns

    12.09

    2 (+1)

    14.00

    EFD

    7

    Czech Republic

    ODS

    7.65

    2 (-7)

    31.45

    ECR

    8

    Netherlands

    CU – SGP

    7.67

    2 (+/-)

    6.82

    ECR/EFD

    9

    Bulgaria

    BBTS+VMRO-BND

    10.66

    1

    ---

    ---

    10

    Greece

    ANEL

    3.47

    1

    ---

    ---

    11

    Croatia

    HSP dr.Starčević

    41.42*

    1

    ---

    ---

    12

    Latvia

    TB/LNNK + VL

    14.25

    1 (+/-)

    7.45

    ECR

    13

    Lithuania

    LLRA (AWPL)

    8.05

    1 (+/-)

    8.42

    ECR

    14

    Germany

    Family Party

    0.70

    1

    ---

    ---

    15

    Slovakia

    OL‘aNO

    7.64

    1

    ---

    ---

    16

    Slovakia

    NOVA

    6.83

    1

    ---

    ---

    17

    Ireland

    Fianna Fáil

    22.30

    1 (-2)

    24.08

    ALDE

    * Result of a three party coalition that gained three MEPs: two joined the EPP, one the ECR.

    Another surprise was the re-foundation of UKIP’s EFD group, now renamed Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD). The day after the EP elections, Nigel Farage’s UKIP lost almost all of its allies from the former EFD. The Italian Northern League (Lega Nord – LN) and the Slovak National Party (Slovenska narodna strana - SNS) had defected to Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders’ pan-European party European Alliance for Freedom (EAF) before the elections (the SNS then failed in the Slovak EP election), PS and DF joined the ECR, the Greek Popular Orthodox Rally (Laikos Orthodoxos Synagermos – LA.O.S.) was not re-elected. Nonetheless, UKIP refused to join the EAF after having been approached by Marine Le Pen. Farage explained that anti-Semitism would still be ‘deeply embedded’ in the FN and that he therefore would not cooperate with the EAF. Then UKIP found a new partner in Beppe Grillo’s Italian Five Star Movement (MoVimento Cinque Stelle – M5S). The so-called Grillini held an online referendum in which the party members could decide whether they wanted to join UKIP’s group or the ECR. 29,584 M5S members participated and 78.1 per cent voted for partnership with UKIP. Next, the Lithuanian former EFD (and EAF) member Order and Justice (Tvarka ir teisingumas – TT) decided to become part of the emerging group, followed by the newly elected parties Sweden Democrats (Sverigedeomkraterna - SD), the Czech Free Citizens’ Party (Strana svobodnych občanů – SO), and the Latvian Greens and Farmers (Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība - ZSS), making up six national delegations for the EFDD – a seventh was still needed to constitute a group. At this point, Joelle Bergeron, a French MEP who was elected to the EP on the FN’s list, defected from her party. With Bergeron constituting the seventh national delegation, Farage has secured his leadership of one group of far right populists in the EP – despite the inclusion of populist right-wing parties in the ECR and despite Le Pen and Wilders’ declared ambition to lead a broad coalition of nationalists in their common fight against the EU. However, the EFDD’s existence is very fragile. In October 2014, the Latvian MEP Iveta Gricule left the group, and the EFDD temporarily lost its group status. A few days later, MEP Robert Iwaskiewicz from Poland’s Congress of the New Right (Kongres Nowej Prawicy – KNP) was presented as her successor.

     

    Table 2:The EFDD group after the European elections 2014 

    Member state

    Party

    Result

    MEPs

    Result

    Group

    2014 %

    2014

    2009 %

    2009-2014

    1

    United Kingdom

    UKIP

    26.77

    24 (+11)

    16.09

    EFD

    2

    Italy

    M 5 Stelle

    21.15

    17

    ---

    ---

    3

    Lithuania

    PTT

    14.25

    2 (+/-)

    12.22

    EFD

    4

    Sweden

    SD

    9.70

    2

    ---

    ---

    5

    Czech Republic

    Svobodní

    5.24

    1

    ---

    ---

    6

    France

    Independent (FN)

    24.95 (FN)

    1

    6.3 (FN)

    NA (FN)

    7

    Poland

    Indepenedent (KNP)

    7.15 (KNP)

    1

    ---

    ---

    NA: Non-attached

    Eventually, Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders’ (Party for Freedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid) – PVV, Netherlands) right-wing extremist coalition EAF, initially founded as a European party in 2010 by single MEPs from UKIP, FN, FPO, Flemish Interest (Vlaams Belang – VB), TT, and one member of  the SD, failed to gather enough partners for official group status in the EP. The remaining five EAF parties are the French FN, the Dutch PVV, Austria’s FPO, Belgium’s VB, and Italy’s LN. Slovakia’s SNS is no longer represented in the EP, and the former EAF allies SD and TT joined with UKIP and M5S in the EFDD. Like UKIP, the DF and the M5S had already refused Le Pen’s invitation to join the EAF before the elections. The SD left the EAF after a scandal provoked by FPO lead candidate Andreas Mölzer who had called the EU a ‘conglomerate of niggers’ (‘Negerkonglomerat’) and had said that compared to EU regulations Hitler’s Third Reich was ‘probably informal and liberal’. The media scandal led to Mölzer’s resignation and the withdrawal of the SD from the EAF. The SD apparently feared negative consequences from this partnership for the EP elections and the Swedish national elections in September 2014. Shortly before the deadline to register for group status in the EP (midnight, 23 June) Le Pen approached Janusz Korwin-Mikke’s KNP (Poland). However, the partnership was rejected by Wilders, reportedly because of Korwin-Mikke’s too openly anti-Semitic, misogynist, and homophobic statements. For the present, Le Pen has had to relinquish her goal of leading a broad radical right-wing group in the EP, but this might not be the end of the story. As history shows, defections from far right parties and groups in the EP are very common and could, during the ongoing legislative term, give Le Pen and Wilders the two missing partners needed to form an official group in the EP.

     

    Table 3:The remaining EAF parties without official group status after the European elections 2014 

    Member state

    Party

    Result

    MEPs

    Group

    Result

    Group

    2014 %

    2014

    June 2014

    2009 %

    2009-2014

    1

    France

    Front National

    24.95

    24 (+21)

    NA

    6.30

    NA

    2

    Netherlands

    PVV

    13.32

    4 (-1)

    NA

    16.97

    NA

    3

    Austria

    FPÖ

    19.72

    4 (+2)

    NA

    12.71

    NA

    4

    Italy

    Lega Nord

    6.15

    4 (-5)

    NA

    10.20

    EFD

    5

    Belgium

    Vlaams Belang

    4.14

    1 (-1)

    NA

    9.85

    NA

    NA: non-attached

    Lastly, the neo-Nazis and fascists from the European party Alliance of European Nationalist Movements (AENM) are still far from being able to form an official group in the EP. Bulgaria’s Ataka and the British National Party (BNP) have not been re-elected. However, Jobbik and FN’s old radical faction around Bruno Gollnisch and Jean-Marie Le Pen will most likely find partners in the radical neo-Nazi parties Golden Dawn (Chrysi Avgi – CA, renamed National Dawn (EA) after being faced with criminal charges in Greece) and the German National Democrats (Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands – NPD).

     

    Table 4:Non-attached far right parties after the European elections 2014 (in addition to EAF parties) 

    Member State

    Party

    Result

    MEPs

    Group

    Result 2009 %

    Group

    2014 %

    2014

    June 2014

    2009-2014

    1

    Poland

    KNP

    7.15

    4

    NA

    ---

    ---

    2

    Hungary

    Jobbik

    14.67

    3 (+/-)

    NA

    14.77

    NA

    3

    Greece

    Chrysi Avgi

    9.38

    3

    NA

    ---

    ---

    4

    Germany

    NPD

    1.00

    1

    NA

    ---

    ---

    NA: Non-attached

    A number of far right parties were not re-elected to the EP (see Table 5), and, in addition, there are nine EU member states without a far right party of electoral relevance in the 2014 European election. In the so-called Programme Countries, Spain and Portugal, no far right parties benefited from the crisis. Ireland, also a Programme Country, has a left-wing and nonchauvinist nationalist party, Sinn Fein, which is part of the United European Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) group in the EP. In Romania and Slovakia the Greater Romania Party (Partidul Romania Mare – PRM) and the SNS failed in the elections. The other four countries without successful far right parties in the EP elections are Estonia, Luxembourg, Malta, and Cyprus.

     

    Table 5:Far right parties that failed to get an MEP elected in 2014 

    Member state

    Party

    Result 2014 %

    Result

    MEPs

    Group

    2009 %

    2009

    2009-2014

    1

    Bulgaria

    Ataka

    2.96

    11.96

    2

    NA

    2

    Romania

    PRM

    2.71

    8.65

    2

    NA

    3

    Greece

    LA.O.S.

    2.70

    7.15

    2

    EFD

    4

    United Kingdom

    BNP

    1.14

    6.04

    2

    NA

    5

    Slovakia

    SNS

    3.61

    5.56

    1

    EFD

    6

    Hungary

    MDF

    ---

    5.31

    1

    ECR

    7

    Austria

    BZÖ

    0.47

    4.58

    1

    NA

    8

    Belgium

    LDD

    ---

    4.51

    1

    ECR

    NA: Non-attached

     

     

    Impact: Is far right party cooperation at the European level politically relevant?

    The far right party spectrum, now holding a quarter of the seats in the EP, is politically diverse and currently divided into four factions: the ECR and the EFDD as official groups in the EP, and the European parties EAF and AENM. Given the internal division, it is not yet clear how strong the political impact of the 176 far right MEPs will be.

    First of all, despite the strong presence of the FN with 23 MEPs, without official group status Marine Le Pen is largely marginalised in the EP. The EAF clearly has lost the competition for domination in the camp of the far right, at least for now. As a consequence, the impact of its members is not likely to be significant for European politics. The AENM, a project of the old FN radicals Jean-Marie le Pen and Bruno Gollnisch with their partners from Jobbik and BNP might even cease to exist.

    Secondly, the EFDD is a project which requires further assessment. It is not yet obvious how M5S and UKIP, the two dominant parties in this group, will fit together in the long run. Qualitatively, the EFDD group does not seem to differ much from its antecedent groups Independents/Democrats (IN/DEM: 2004-2009) and EFD (2009-2014). Thus, it is most likely that EFDD will continue to be not much more than a platform for the particular national political ambitions of each of the party delegations involved, and especially those of UKIP’s Nigel Farage who declared that he will seek election to the UK’s House of Commons in 2015. Nevertheless, since UKIP’s success has already provoked a right-turn in British politics and led British Prime Minister Cameron to announce an in-or-out EU referendum for 2017 (provided he is re-elected), EFDD leader Farage’s influence on European politics cannot be denied.

    Thirdly, the far right group with the most remarkable story of success and probably the strongest political impact on the EU level is the strengthened ECR, now the third largest group in the EP, with Cameron’s CP, Kaczinski’s PiS, and their new allies in the German AfD, the Danish DF, and the Finnish PS. What will be decisive for the impact of the ECR is how its members will be able to link politics on the national level to common political initiatives in the EP. That ECR member parties are able to have an impact on European policy could be observed in recent events, such as the reinvention of border controls in Denmark, enforced by the DF while tolerating the centreright Danish government in 2011, the rejection of the Fiscal Compact by the CP and ODS governments in 2012, and of course David Cameron’s announcement of a referendum on the United Kingdom’s EU membership.

    Furthermore, since nationalist tendencies also exist in the EPP – Orban’s FIDESZ being only the most radical example – far right parties might occasionally succeed in pushing the EPP further towards the right, for example in the attempt to restrain individual civil rights. Shortly before the EP elections such a cultural shift towards right-wing authoritarianism was already apparent when two EP reports on reproductive rights for women were rejected by a coalition of the far right and the EPP. This was a surprise since in preceding votes on similar issues the mainstream of the EPP had regularly voted with the culturally liberal political spectrum.

    Apart from the larger scale impact of far right parties on European politics, the very existence of these groups is a political factor in itself. Belonging to an official group in the EP is important for many reasons: Access to financial resources, infrastructure, information, staff, media, and speaking time in the plenary are important factors in the quest for political power. For some parties, the EP is an irreplaceable base for the development of political impact also on the national level. It is no coincidence that the leading personalities of several far right parties, including UKIP (Nigel Farage), the FN (both Le Pens), or the AfD (Bernd Lucke) are elected MEPs. UKIP can serve as an example: The British majority voting system makes it very difficult for emerging parties to enter the House of Commons. Thus, Farage chose the EP as his political base, because the representative voting system in EP elections makes it much easier to gain seats. His now eleventh year of EP group leadership is the backbone of his current political success in the UK.

     

    Literature

    European Commission, Standard Eurobarometer 81, Spring 2014.

    Thilo Janssen, Die Europäisierung der Rechten EU-Gegner: Rechte europäische Parteien und rechte Fraktionen im Europäischen Parlament vor den Europawahlen 2014, Studie im Auftrag der Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, Berlin, 2013.

     

    Notes

    1. This is a short edited version of an article to be published by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation Berlin as part of the documentation for the workshop: On the Situation of the Left in Europe After the EU Elections: New Challenges, 22-23 July 2014, Berlin.
    2. Zoltan Simon: Orban Says He Seeks to End Liberal Democracy in Hungary. On: www.bloomberg.com, 28 July 2014

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