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The Lesser Eye-Catching Truth About Far-Right’s Rise in the European Parliament Election

The far-right capitalised on the anger, resentment, and imagination fuelled by farmers’ protests across Europe, particularly in Germany, France, and the Netherlands. They positioned themselves as the alternative option to push against the perceived new enemy — the Greens.
The European Union Flag. Photo: Pexels

In the aftermath of the European parliamentary elections of 2024, a veil of illusion shrouds the political trajectory of the far-right and the radical right. To many observers, particularly those opposing far-right agendas, the electoral results evoke a cautious optimism and a collective exhalation of relief. The narrative spun by pollsters had painted a picture of an impending far-right surge, some suggest the centre-right’s resilience in the European parliament signal promising signs. However, peeling back this veneer reveals a reality far more nuanced than initially perceived. 

Germany and France are not the EU

Germany and France do not equal the European Union (EU), despite common perceptions. Indeed, the far-right has made significant inroads across various member states within the European Union (EU). In Germany, Alternative for Germany (AfD) gained 15.9% of the votes, trailing only the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU) coalition’s combined 30%. In Austria, the Freedom Party of Austria (FPO) won 25.5% of the popular vote, while in France, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) secured a commanding 31.4% vote, overshadowing Emmanuel Macron’s Renew Europe, which garnered a modest 14.6%. Added to it, Macron inadvertently bolstered Le Pen’s stature by dissolving the National Assembly and calling for a snap election, giving her more credit than she deserved. 

This stunning confluence of far-right and radical right victories in France and Germany might give the impression that Europe has decisively leaned towards the right. One might presume that the far-right would have a significant role to play in the legislative decisions of the European parliament. However, such a conclusion is premature. While the far-right’s influence is growing, its decisive control remains a distant possibility. This scenario might become a reality by 2029 if the socialists, democrats, greens, and centrists continue their decline, but it is certainly not the case for the 2024 European parliament. The rise of the far-right in Germany and France cannot be simplistically interpreted as reflective of the entirety of the EU political landscape. 

The far-right is both more organised and more fragmented than mainstream parties

Why? You ask. This is simply because the EU results change nothing drastically in terms of party positioning. It leaves everything almost the same as 2019 results/status quo in terms who gets to have a say in legislate on EU policies. 

Paradoxically, the far-right exhibits both cohesion and fragmentation — a dynamic anomaly that signals its complex formation and politics. While these parties espouse common themes of nationalism and skepticism towards the EU, they grapple with internal schisms and legal entanglements. Germany’s far-right AfD is embroiled in legal disputes and finds itself isolated within the coalition of right-wing parties — the Identity and Democracy (ID) group in the EU parliament.

The far-right, by design, comprises nativist and nationalist parties with conflicting interests, which hinder their ability to form a cohesive transnational bloc. They are Eurosceptic parties — constantly in conflict with the idea of a united Europe, and in support of a compromise with the Russin President Vladimir Putin — a prospect that contradicts the entire EU experiment.

Take, for instance, the actions of far-right parties in Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, which imposed ban on the passage of Ukrainian grain through their borders and prioritised their national interests over broader European solidarity.  The War in Ukraine while might seem to be a uniting ground for pro-Russian far-right parties in Slovakia, Hungry, Germany’s AfD; it also serves as a battleground for ideological manoeuvring. Centre-right parties have adeptly leveraged the conflict to normalise far-right politics of Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy and openly anti-Islam, anti-immigration Freedom Party (PVV) of Greet Wilders in the Netherlands. This represents a mutually beneficial and dependency ground for both centrists and far-right factions, one they are unwilling to concede. 


How did the far-right fare in other member states?

The seductive nature of the hype conveniently flummoxes news anchors, who thrive on presenting sensational headlines.  Italy witnessed Meloni’s party achieving a commendable rise in its vote share to 29%. However, it was the Opposition centre-left Democratic Party (PD) that stole the spotlight, surpassing expectations with a formidable 24% of the vote — its highest result since 2014. Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, despite Greet Wilders’s Freedom Party making significant gains, the limelight belonged to the Green-Left parties, clinching the majority of seats.  

Europe’s map with country wise vote share.


In Hungary, despite the odds stacked against a three-month-old Opposition party — Tisza, led by lawyer Peter Magyar — a former aide of Viktor Orbán — not only replaced the old Opposition but also gained 30% of the votes. This feat is particularly remarkable when put into the context of Orbán’s tightly controlled election and political apparatus, where despite this control, his party  —  Fidesz received 43.7% of the vote compared to 52% in 2019 . The Opposition’s resounding performance in the face of such adversity is nothing short of inspiring. 

In Austria, the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) was on track for an unprecedented but narrow victory, leading by a mere 0.8% points compared to the Österreichische Volkspartei (ÖVP). Despite doubling its seats from 3 in 2019 to 6 in 2024, the FPÖ’s margin of success remained tight. In Spain, the centre-right opposition Popular Party (PP) secured victory over Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialists, albeit by a slim margin of 2 seats. This outcome falls short of the expectations set by PP leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo — a disappointing sight for the party’s leadership. 

Also read: The Rise of the Political Right

Among the winners, the Green-Labour alliance in the Netherlands, the Socialist opposition in Portugal, and the Green-Left party in Denmark surprised pollsters with unexpected victories. In contrast, the far-right has notably underperformed in several countries across Europe, including Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Finland and Poland. In Slovakia, the ruling Smer party, led by Robert Fico, waged a campaign against the EU’s stance on sending arms to Ukraine and its environmental policies, including the Green Deal aimed at addressing climate change. Despite its aggressive campaign, Smer suffered defeat at the hands of the liberal Opposition — Progressive Slovakia Party.

How did the far-right emerge as a potent force within the European Union?

The far-right exudes power and allure, especially appealing to those who are discontented with mainstream parties. Their ascent does not hinge solely on alternative agendas but rather on the normalisation and co-option of their ideologies by liberal and centre-right factions. This insidious infiltration extends beyond the rhetoric on migration and cover issues as diverse as the economic tumult plaguing the EU. 

The far-right capitalised on the anger, resentment, and imagination fuelled by farmers’ protests across Europe, particularly in Germany, France, and the Netherlands. They positioned themselves as the alternative option to push against the perceived new enemy — the Greens. However, this wasn’t exclusive to the far-right; the centre-right also co-opted similar tactics to hold onto their vote. A prime example is the CDU’s aggressive and incendiary language in their campaign against the Greens in Germany. The far-right’s success lies not in the novelty of their propositions but in the mainstream absorption of their rhetoric, which amplifies their influence and reach. 

At its core, the far-right has made significant gains in Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Austria. However, this rise has been met with staunch opposition and even remarkable declines in countries such as Hungary, Portugal, Denmark, and Finland. 

Though the far-right in the EU parliament remain far from achieving a decisive victory, the EU leaders should listen to Czech President Petr Pavel and examine why support for far-right parties is increasing. If they are serious about European democracy, ignoring these voices is not an option, they “need to take notice of these voices”. 

 Pius Fozan is an author and public policy graduate from the Willy Brandt School and Central European University. He researches far-right populism, political extremism, and its impact on democratic governance in India and Germany. 

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