Member states employ a variety of voting systems so making predictions of the outcome is difficult, particularly as the electorate has become more volatile in some countries as a result of internal political factors.
The UK is a prime example. The continuing scandal over MPs’ expenses has turned many voters away from the three main parties, especially Labour, leaving the way open for other parties to benefit. At the time of writing the UK Independence Party looks to be the main beneficiary, but the British National Party still believes its chances of securing seats have never been greater.
Across Europe, far right fringe parties are very much in evidence, contesting the ballot in 23 countries, the exceptions being Cyprus, Estonia, Ireland and Luxembourg. Even Malta has the long-time nazi Norman Lowell standing under the flag of his grandly-named Imperium Europa party, in the forlorn hope of winning one of the island’s five seats.
If Lowell represented the spearhead of the far right’s intervention in the elections, there would be little to worry about. But the attempt by the far right to take up more room on the European bandwagon is taking place against a backdrop of increasingly difficult economic and social circumstances resulting from the world recession and, looming on the horizon, the spectre of massive population movements within and from outside Europe resulting from climate change.
It is hard to measure the likely impact of the right wing extremists and populists because these parties function with varying degrees of professionalism and competence. There are 57 MEPs in the outgoing parliament whose politics put them to the right of the conservative mainstream. This is more than double the 24 far right MEPs in the 1999-2004 parliament.
The more competent racist and right wing populist parties that hold seats in the outgoing parliament are the National Front (FN) in France, Flemish Interest (VB) in Belgium, the National Alliance (AN) and Northern League (LN) in Italy, the Freedom Party in Austria and the Danish People’s Party (DFP).
‘Post fascist’ rebranding
Of these the biggest single group is the AN, with nine MEPs. They are joined from Italy by two from the far-right separatist LN, the convicted fascist terrorist Roberto Fiore representing Social Alternative (AS), the fascist veteran Pino Rauti and a lone MEP from the fascist Tricolour Flame. The AN continues to rebrand itself as conservative and ‘post fascist’ but its roots lie deep in Mussolini fascism.
As for the rest, the FN had seven MEPs, now has four and looks like losing at least one more. The VB has three MEPs and is likely to lose at least one, the Freedom Party has one MEP and hopes to gain another, while the DFP also has one MEP and could make gains.
All these parties will field full lists of candidates but the FN is beset by internal financial and political crises, while the VB has seen sections of its electoral support and membership ebb away to the Dedecker List, the new kid on the Belgian populist block.
It was noteworthy that in the previous parliament even the most serious attempt to weld together the disparate right wing extremist and populist parties, under the banner of the Identity Tradition and Sovereignty (ITS) group, failed at its first test.
It blew apart when one of its members, Alessandra Mussolini, expressed her view that Romanian migrants were criminals, a move that did not endear her to her colleagues from the Greater Romania party, who promptly walked out, leaving the ITS to crumble and lose official recognition when its numbers fell below what was needed to form a group.
Away from the more professional parties, the picture of far right participation in the election is varied. In Germany, the two main far right competitors, the Republicans and the Germany People’s Union, will compete with each other for the fascist vote and guarantee that the far right will again fail to send an MEP to Brussels.
In Austria too there are two far-right parties standing, the Freedom Party and the late Jorg Haider’s breakaway Alliance for the Future of Austria, which, polls suggest might also grab a seat.
In the Netherlands, the only recognisably far right party on the ballot paper is Geert Wilders’s populist and fanatically Islamophobic Freedom Party (PVV), which might well provide the country’s first far right MEP. Interestingly, Wilders seems to want any MEPs elected for his party to plough a lone furrow and retain their independence from other far right formations. This may be attributable to the fact that Wilders is strongly pro-Israel and knows only too well that other far right parties are either overtly or latently anti-semitic.
In northern Europe, the DFP finds a little echo in Sweden where both the Sweden Democrats and its even more extreme offspring, the National Democrats, are fielding candidates. Neither holds any seats, a situation unlikely to change in this election. In Finland, the far right is represented by the bizarre anti-immigrant, anti-EU Real Finns party, which could sneak a seat under the country’s proportional representation system.
On the Iberian peninsula, the anti-immigrant Partido Popular in Portugal has two MEPs and may retain them, but the fascist National Renewal Party, which is also standing, will not be sending any MEPs to join them. In neighbouring Spain, a ragbag of five fascist parties will stand for the 50 available seats in the hope of winning one. Their prospects are not very bright. In the 2004 elections, the four fascist outfits that stood were lucky to take just over one per cent of the vote between them.
In Greece, voters will find Europe’s arguably most openly and violently nazi party, Golden Dawn, sharing the ballot paper with the other ultra-right outfit LAOS which has one MEP, Georgios Georgiou, who has a chance of re-election.
In eastern Europe too the prospects for the far right look mixed. The outgoing parliament has 16 far right MEPs, ten of them from the homophobic and racist League of Polish Families (LPF). It is difficult to forecast the performance of the far right this time because the political configuration has changed with the formation of a new party, Libertas, led by the bitterly anti-EU Irish millionaire Declan Ganley, which is swallowing up huge chunks of the far right including the LPF and even a motley crew of nazi skinheads.
Three parties will fight the election in Latvia – the ultra right Osipova Party, which is linked to Russian nazis, the nationalist All for Latvia and the right wing national conservative LNNK. LNNK had four MEPs in the outgoing parliament but is unlikely to have so many this time round and the Lithuanian Centre Party is fielding candidates in Lithuania.
Zmago Jelincic’s Slovene Nation Party (SNS) will fight for all Slovenia’s seven seats, on its strongly anti-migrant, pro-Serbia policies. The far right will also try to make an impact in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, though it is unclear to what effect.
In Slovakia, the extremist Slovak National Party, which wants the rehabilitation of Hitler’s bloodstained wartime puppet Josef Tiso, will campaign for re-election on its anti-Hungarian, anti-Roma and anti-Jewish policies. In the Czech Republic three racist and fascist parties, including the National Party led by the BNP’s friend Petra Edelmannov, are standing without entertaining much hope of election. Their ideas are reciprocated in the fascist Jobbik party in Hungary, which is also assiduously building up its own anti-democratic private army, the Hungarian Guard.
In the two newest member states, the parties that have registered to carry the torch for racism and fascism might be termed ‘the usual suspects’- the anti-Turkish, anti-Semitic Attack in Bulgaria and the racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic Greater Romania party in Romania.
The number of far-right MEPs looks set to rise in the new parliament but whether they will succeed in forming any official groups are impossible to tell. At its biggest, the ITS was unable to command the support of even half the elected ultra-nationalists, right wing populists, racists and fascists in the parliament.
The biggest problem the nationalist right has is that it is not internationally minded and many of its protagonists would like nothing better than to slit each other’s throats. All of them might share the same xenophobic, homophobic, racist, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-Turkish, anti-trade union, anti-EU and Islamophobic mindset and have the policies to match but they stand, largely for nothing other than idiotic ideas about racial superiority and autarchy.
The tragedy is that a few million people will be deluded into wasting their votes on them, letting them get their snouts into the EU financial trough and so make Europe a less pleasant and humane place to live.
The compiled researched countries’ data can be found on the UNITED website under \’projects\’
Graeme Atkinson is the European editor Searchlight