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Euroquake 2024: Far-right rocks the Continent and France Goes into Meltdown

When the European Community first became a concept in the aftermath of the Second World War, it was to unite the continent after the tragedy. But let’s not forget, it was also a means to fight fascism, which had governed European nations with catastrophic consequences. 

Almost 80 years later, it’s truly heartbreaking to look at the results of the 2024 European Parliament elections, and see that far-right parties are now at the forefront of the European project. 

What has happened this weekend across Europe is, from my perspective, not a complete illustration of how European citizens want their future to look like. What I believe has been overlooked is the lack of understanding of how, exactly, European politics and institutions function. 

I will concede that the democratic processes and the functions of European institutions are often blurry or simply not explained. I will also concede that there is some room for improvement when it comes to the management of our institutions at the European scale. I will also emphasize that the European Union, its Commission, Parliament and Council, are very “young” bodies, and which are constantly seeking to improve. Hence, I strongly encourage you to inform yourselves on the European procedures which create new governance, like the election of the European Parliament, or the appointment of the European Commission. For that, you can listen to the latest episodes of the Ballot Brief, where I dissect these procedures and explain how they work. 

What transpired over the last couple of days is a landslide victory for the far-right in several countries, such as France (Rassemblement National at 31%) or Italy (Fratelli d’Italia at 29%), with significant progresses in other countries such as Germany (AfD in second position with 16% of the votes) and Poland (Konfederacja at 12%) amongst others. 

The progress of far-right parties and populism across European member states has been a noticeable trend for quite some time now, but perhaps the magnitude of their presence was not expected so soon. 

So, what do these results actually mean?

Well, several things. National parties and their MEPs will now join the European political groups. In the case of France, the Rassemblement National will join Identity and Democracy, a group which holds 58 seats in the 720 total EP seats. What is vital to keep in mind, is that the relative size of political group in the Parliament will impact the weight of their powers, and the roles they are given. The 31 French seats given to ID essentially entails that the voice of the French eurodeputies will be much less than if it had been in another party; no opportunities to be rapporteur or shadow rapporteur (two critical roles in the EU legislative procedures). Essentially, this reduces the weight of the French voice in the European Parliament. 

This will be the exact same case for AfD in Germany, though the CSU/CDU still remains at the forefront of German European politics within the EPP. 

The misunderstanding of the different cogs of European politics, and the roles which MEPs have once they have joined the EP, has undoubtedly played a critical role in the voting patterns in France. Several elements are to be noted when analyzing the different results and statistics of the last several days. 

First, it’s vital to look at participation rates. In France, only 51% of eligible French citizens have gone to vote. Amongst the voters aged from 18 to 24 years old, only 34% have voted. The sentiment transpiring from these elections is that the results are representative of France as a whole; a somewhat bold assumption to make when facing low voting rates. Yet it seems that it has given President Emmanuel Macron reason enough to dissolve the Assemblée Nationale. 

A particularly worrying trend is that, contrary to popular beliefs, it is not citizens over the age of 50 who have voted for the far-right parties. In fact, Jordan Bardella was also one of the top candidates for the under 30 age category. In fact, amongst the 18-24 age category, he ranked second with 26% of the votes, right behind Manon Aubry, the candidate of La France Insoumise. Justifications for motivations to vote for Bardella are often said to be in the name of his apparent conventional attractiveness and his charisma, over his political agenda. 

The next steps forward in France are crucial; legislative elections to elect the new Assemblée Nationale will take place on June 30th and July 7th. To combat the possibility of a cohabitation – that is, an assembly with a majority of a certain political affiliation and a President with another – various left parties have called for a “Front Populaire” (a popular front). This popular front would essentially work as a union of parties such as La France Insoumise, the Parti Socialist, Europe Ecologie – les Verts, Parti Communiste Français amongst others. Having a united front against the far right would propose a single candidate in each constituency, against the candidate of the Rassemblement National and thus make the choice for the voter an easier one. 

This task however will not be an easy one. The various different stances amongst and across left-wing parties has already proven to be a central difficulty during the NUPES alliance. Yet it is the uniting aim of defeating the far-right which has successfully brought together the variety of left parties. Their representatives have stated, in the late hours of June 10th, they will fight the “racist Rassemblement National”. 

Whilst the agreement to create the Front Populaire has been reached, a lot remains to be discussed and agreed on to find the common fighting ground of all parties. Complex issues such as the war in Ukraine, or  the use of nuclear energy are contentious grounds where deputies of the left do not share a common stance, challenges which will prove complicated were they to be legislators. 

If 2024 has proven anything so far, it is that a complete U-turn in political battlegrounds is approaching, and the next few weeks in France and across Europe promise to be filled with new developments to propel European dynamics into a new era. 

Image: École polytechnique / Institut Polytechnique de Paris / Jérémy Barande


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