A new political alliance was announced in Europe this week. Meeting in The Hague, the leaders of the Netherlands’ Party for Freedom, Geert Wilders, and France’s National Front, Marine Le Pen, announced they would campaign together for the approaching European Parliament elections in 2014. Both parties oppose immigration, Islam and the European Union, and hope to rally a pan-European insurgency to their banner.
The meeting was focused on May 2014, when voters across Europe will head to the ballot box to elect their representatives in the European Parliament. European elections are held every five years to determine the composition of the EU’s legislative branch. Historically, far right and Euroskeptic parties like those led by Le Pen and Wilders have struggled to establish the unity required to form a significant parliamentary bloc. Unlike during previous European elections, however, the general consensus in Europe today is that these radical outsiders look set to enjoy record gains. This has concerned European elites, including European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who has warned about a discourse promoting narrow nationalism, protectionism and xenophobia.
Anxiety over the rise of the far right has been fueled by election results and opinion polls over the past two years. In 2012, 6.4 million votes, or 18 percent, were cast for Le Pen in France’s presidential election and 13.6 percent for her party in parliamentary elections. In Greece, half a million votes, or 7 percent, gave a breakthrough to the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in the same year. In 2013, 20 percent voted for the Austrian Freedom Party in national elections, and 16 percent for the Progress Party in Norway. The same period has also seen record support for anti-EU parties, which often distance themselves from the far right but are equally if not more hostile toward the EU and the “European project.” The U.K. Independence Party is currently averaging a record 11 percent in the polls, enjoyed record results at local elections in 2013 and is widely expected to win the U.K.’s European elections outright, after finishing second in 2009. In Finland, the True Finns party continues to enjoy a record presence in the national parliament after polling 19 percent in 2011, while a new Euroskeptic party in Germany, the Alternative for Germany, recently polled 4.7 percent in parliamentary voting, only narrowly missing the 5 percent threshold needed to win seats.