No European shift to far-right parties, says ECFR

Far-right parties fell short of predictions in the European elections and, in many cases, polled lower than in pre-election polls, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

03 Jun 2019

The respected think tank said in its post-election analysis, “Contrary to predictions, there has been no continent-wide shift to far-right or anti-European parties.”

The ECFR said that in Germany, Denmark, Spain, Austria and the Netherlands the far-right “performed badly.”

In 23 out of 28 Member States, the election was won by a pro-European party  and smaller pro-European parties were the main beneficiaries from a surge against the anti-European parties in Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria and Germany, it says.


“This counter-mobilisation of pro-Europeans has been particularly impressive in Poland and Hungary,” says the ECFR.

There were big gains for some populists, such as the Brexit party in the UK, as well as in France, Italy and Hungary.

But the ECFR report said, “Even more dramatic than the far-right victories has been the ‘Green Wave’ throughout Europe: from Germany, France and Benelux to Finland, Denmark, Austria and Ireland.”

“The Greens and liberals are going to be kingmakers in the new Parliament, as the social democrats and EPP lose influence.”

“Even more dramatic than the far-right victories has been the ‘Green Wave’ throughout Europe: from Germany, France and Benelux to Finland, Denmark, Austria and Ireland” ECFR

The report comes with Parliament’s mainstream and smaller groups now engaged in the task of forming new alliances after the elections.

The process is expected to take several weeks and also involves decisions over the distribution of the EU’s top jobs, such as the Commission presidency.

The ECFR said the elections show there has not been a significant increase in support for the far right, though they have done well in France and Italy. Instead, it shows that voters are volatile and are no longer wedded to particular parties.

ECFR’s Director, Mark Leonard told this website, “The electorate is crying out for change and is therefore volatile - preferring to back new insurgents rather than the status quo parties that have been around for decades.”

“The fear of a far-right takeover of the European Parliament has mobilised Europe’s pro-European forces, resulting in a huge surge in turnout and in support for Green and Liberal parties throughout Europe.”

“The declining vote share for status quo parties is a warning that business as usual is not an option. The composition of the new Parliament will be weighed in favour of pro-Europeans, but it does not mean that they have a mandate for more of the same.”

He added,“They should, instead, interpret the [election] results as a reprieve and a final chance to deliver on their commitments for reform. Their very future will depend on it.”

His comments were echoed by Susi Dennison, also of the ECFR, who added, “Higher turnout overall shows that voters understood this election as being critical for the future direction of the EU. The benefit of this higher turnout has gone in different directions in different countries.”

“This seems to indicate that the European electorate is indeed fragmented and volatile and that voting is more issue based, with climate change being a big mobiliser. That puts a lot of pressure on delivery on what parties have promised in the next Parliament.”

She added, “Since the Parliament will be finely balanced between different groups, coalition working will be absolutely crucial.”

She warned that the post-election period is “crucial and must be about turning the tide on citizen engagement with the political system.”

“If mainstream and wider pro-European parties fail to address this point, the nationalists’ arguments will garner power and come back to haunt them in five years’ time.”

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