The Radical Right and the European Elections

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© European Union 2024- Source EP - Alain ROLLAND The Radical Right and the European Elections

© European Union 2024- Source EP – Alain ROLLAND

Every Monday, a member of the international academic association ‘UACES’ will address a current topic linked to their research on euradio.


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Very pleased to have you back with us, Nick. You have studied the European far right parties over decades now and you shared your findings several times in our programme, most recently on how these parties respond to the climate crisis.

With the European elections less than one month away, let me ask you what you think of all the media speculation about the rise in support for Radical Right Parties.

Before turning to next month, the first thing I would flag up is that the Radical Right already did very well in the 2019 European elections. A leading scholar in the field, Cas Mudde, estimated back then that ‘Right-wing Euroskeptics took between a quarter and a third of the seats in the European Parliament, with populist radical-right parties making the biggest gains’.

That said there is little doubt that the number of Radical Right MEPs looks set to increase further at the elections next month, although not uniformly across the member states.

In a Policy Brief conducted for the European Council on Foreign Relations in January, Kevin Cunnigham and his co-authors predicted that ‘anti-European populists’ are likely to come first in nine member states and that the two transnational groups where Radical Right parties currently sit are likely to win a quarter of the European Parliament’s 720 seats.


Is that confirmed in the current opinion polls?

If we look at the three largest Western European states, FranceItaly and Germany (all three founding members!), the Radical Right, as represented by the Rassemblement National, the Fratelli D’Italia and the Alternative für Deutschland, could obtain up to 75 seats.

This would represent over 10% of the seats in the Strasbourg Parliament. And that’s before you add the 12 seats predicted for the rival radical right parties in Italy and France, Matteo Salvini’s Lega (with a prediction of 7 seats) and Éric Zemmour’s Reconquête (possibly 5 seats). On the face of it, this is a very significant rump of like-minded Radical Right MEPs emanating from the three big founding member states!


Why do you say “on the face of it”?

Because historically, the Radical Right has struggled to work together in the European Parliament, and this has limited its overall influence and impact. Back in 2007 Michael Minkenberg and Pascal Perrineau stated that ‘there is nothing more difficult to establish than an international group of nationalists.’

Since then, we have witnessed more cooperation among radical right parties, but even today, despite the strategic and financial advantages of transnational group cooperation, the Radical Right remains fractured across two groups: the ‘soft eurosceptic’ European Conservative and Reformists group (ECR), and the ‘hard’ Eurosceptic Identity and Democracy group (ID). To illustrate the point, if we go back to our discussion about France, Italy and Germany, currently the Fratelli d’Italia are in the ECR group and the Rassemblement National are in the ID group.

And even within the groups there are tensions between certain parties; for instance, most recently within the ID group between the RN and the AfD over the latter’s controversial meeting on ‘remigration’.

In other words, as Cas Mudde extrapolates, ‘a far-right “super group” remains an unlikely scenario – at least for the next legislature.’


So, what will be the significance of their potential increase over the next 5 years?

The significance in the broader sense is that it appears to confirm the ongoing mainstreaming of the Radical Right, which is much debated by political scientists.

What this means in terms of its impact on EU policy is that flagship policies such as the European Green deal may be up for further discussion and potentially watered down. There will also be moves to prioritize a stricter immigration policy, with pressure on the Schengen Agreement and the principle of open internal borders.

In short, the next President of the European Commission, whoever that is, will face significant challenges emanating from the Radical Right in terms of the future trajectory of the European Union.


Many thanks, Nick Startin, for sharing your observations and expectations with us. 
I recall you are Associate Professor of international relations at John Cabot University, in Rome.