Right-wing parties make major gains in European Union elections

The European Parliamentary elections saw considerable gains for right-wing parties

By Matthew Rozsa

Published May 27, 2019 9:30AM (EDT)

 (Getty/Carl Court)
(Getty/Carl Court)

Right-wing parties from France, Italy and the United Kingdom made considerable gains during the European Parliamentary elections that were held from Thursday to Sunday, although some of the more high-profile far right candidates from Britain were not elected.

Among the biggest winners from the parliamentary elections were the far-right parties led by France's Marine Le Pen and Italy's Matteo Salvini, according to the Associated Press. Those political parties's platforms have stressed opposition to immigration and an emphasis on strengthening security, positions that have caused far right groups to grow throughout Europe over the past few years.

"The rules are changing in Europe. A new Europe is born," Salvini, who serves as Italy's interior minister, declared during a celebration at the League party's Milan headquarters early Monday.

The results in France were also a blow to President Emmanuel Macron, whose Republic on The Move party placed second in the elections with 21.9 percent of the vote with 90 percent of the ballots counted, according to Bloomberg. Le Pen's anti-European National Rally party, on the other hand, managed to get 24.1 percent of the vote, a striking embarrassment for Macron given how he trounced Le Pen in the French presidential election of 2017.

The Brexit Party, led by the United Kingdom's controversial right-wing leader Nigel Farage, was also quite successful in the European parliamentary elections, according to The New York Times. As of Sunday, the Brexit Party was in the lead with 31.5 percent of the votes, followed by the Liberal Democrats with 20.5 percent, Labour with 14.1 percent, the Greens with 12.1 percent and the Conservatives with 9.1 percent. This constitutes a major humiliation for the Labour Party, which was outpolled by two center-left organizations that have been more emphatic in their Brexit stances — namely, that they oppose withdrawing from the European Union and want a second referendum to determine the United Kingdom's fate within the 28-nation bloc.

Speaking on late Sunday after being reelected to the European Parliament, Farage told his supporters — who, like Farage himself, want to withdraw from Brexit by the end of October regardless of the economic costs — that "we want to take responsibility for what’s happening, and we’re ready to do so. If we don’t leave on October 31, then the scores you’ve seen for the Brexit Party today will be repeated in a general election, and we are getting ready for it."

The EU parliamentary election results also mark a fall from grace for the Conservative Party, which suffered a setback last week when Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she was stepping down due to her inability to successfully lead the United Kingdom out of the European Union per the results of the 2016 Brexit referendum, according to the Associated Press.

This isn't to say that all members of Britain's far right performed well during those elections. Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, better known as Tommy Robinson, has become controversial due to rhetoric that critics describe as Islamophobic; he ran as an independent in the parliamentary elections and lost, according to BuzzFeed News. Similarly Carl Benjamin, better known as Sargon of Akkad, ran as a candidate on the UK Independence Party ticket and also failed to win. Both men became famous as YouTube personalities and attempted to parlay that into political careers. Benjamin's failure was particularly noteworthy as his campaign was immersed in scandal after it was revealed he had posed a video on YouTube in which he joked about raping a female Labour MP. After widespread outrage, YouTube removed Benjamin from its creators program, effectively making it impossible for Benjamin to earn money using YouTube.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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