Europe

Mixed results for populist right blamed on parties lacking ‘political maturity’


Although the parties to the right of what he called ‘the sad, centrist EPP’ gained seats in the European election, Frank Füredi, Executive Director of the MCC Brussels think tank, said he didn’t know whether ‘to smile or to cry’. Mixed results across Europe meant the political balance in the European Parliament had not been decisively changed, writes Political Editor Nick Powell.

There was of course much for those on the populist right to cheer about, notably the victories by the National Rally in France and the Freedom Party in Austria. But although the gains by the Brothers of Italy were also welcomed the eclipse of the League was not. So, although the mood at a post-election discussion hosted by MCC Brussels was far from downbeat, there was no triumphalism either.

MCC Brussels is an initiative of Hungary’s Mathias Corvinus Collegium but even its native land, the result was not all it had hoped for. The long-dominant Fidesz still came first with 45% of the vote but its new challenger, TISZA, polled 30% and its MEPs will join the EPP group. MCC Brussels Executive Director Frank Füredi noted that “we didn’t do well” in his native Budapest.

An even bigger disappointment were the Nordic countries, now “a lost cause” in his view, adding that a lot of political parties on the populist right lack the political maturity to make consistent headway. As was also seen in Slovakia, they hadn’t grasped the need to struggle for every vote, every time.

The great exception was the National Rally’s triumph in France, which Prof Füredi hailed as a mature operation with the right people in place. “Maybe too pragmatic for my liking”, they had rightly grown tired of losing elections and successfully set out to win one. He had attended one of their campaign events, which had drawn a young audience, with women and ethnic minorities well represented.

The zeitgeist, he claimed, is still with his brand of right-wing politics and people had said enough is enough’ to Green Deal, Net Zero and Gender Identity policies. But “we didn’t get the momentum we needed”. He hoped the Hungarian Presidency of the European Council, which will be in place before the new Parliament first meets in July, will galvanise other member states into not simply doing the Commission’s bidding.

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Solidarity on the right was the way forward but at present it was too divided. Ultimately though, his cause would find that its best friend was democracy itself.

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