Watch Nidhi Razdan The rise of far right in Europe Video Credit: Gulf News

It is an election result that has shaken the very foundations of Europe and will completely change how the 27 member European Union takes decisions now.

The rise of far right parties in the recently concluded European Parliament polls has been significant, even though the centre-right European Peoples Party remained the biggest bloc.

We can see this both ways. The fact that the centrists held their ground is important but we also can’t ignore the gains made by the hard right. They can no longer be ignored in decision making.

In France, the hard right party of Marine Le Pen registered significant gains, forcing President Macron to dissolve parliament and call for a snap national election that has sent everyone into a tizzy. In Italy, the neo fascist party of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni won over 28 per cent of the vote, making it an important player.

In Germany, the far right Alternative for Germany came in second to the centre-right Union bloc. The more left and liberal parties suffered the most setbacks in these elections. At some level, we could see this coming.

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A risk worth taking

For some years now, anti immigration rhetoric has risen in several parts of Europe. We have seen right wing parties make gains in countries like Germany and France while Italy, Hungary and Finland already have far right governments in place.

A strengthened right wing bloc in the EU Parliament means we can expect to see policies which lead to stricter border controls, a crackdown on immigration and asylum seekers and a pushback on environmental reforms.

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Perhaps the immediate test of what lies ahead will be in France where national elections will take place in late June and early July. President Macron’s decision to go in for a snap poll is risky.

But Macron has a reputation for taking risks and this one might just be a risk worth taking. His aides say he was left with little choice after his party suffered a huge defeat at the hands of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally.

The far right party took 30 per cent of the vote compared to just 15 per cent for the Presidents more centrist party. Macron’s gamble is to test just how popular the far right really is with voters in France.

20240609 French President Emmanuel Macron
French President Emmanuel Macron Image Credit: Reuters

Calling their bluff

He hopes that the results will expose, despite their rising popularity, parties like National Rally that may not yet have the kind of public support needed to actually govern France. In a way he is calling their bluff. But if the result doesn’t go his way, Macron will have to work with a far right Prime Minister. It will make governance far more difficult.

Which is why Macron’s decision to call for a fresh election has taken so many people aback. France’s stock markets plunged. The country has been dealing with a shaky economy, growing debt, budget cuts and protests. Paris is hosting the Olympics in a few weeks and the snap polls have unsettled many.

But some analysts argue that Macron may have also factored in that a rising far right in France would be better or kept in check when he is still the President and not under his rival Marine Le Pen who has set her sights on the presidency in 2027.

Ultimately, the centrist leaders of Europe will have to look at why there is rising support for the far right. It may not be at a point that will make a huge change for now, but it has the potential to grow. And centrists need to ensure the ground does not slip from beneath their feet.