How Europe’s Far Right Will Be Hobbled by Its Own Internal Contradictions

How Europe’s Far Right Will Be Hobbled by Its Own Internal Contradictions
Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy prime minister and interior minister, at a press conference after the European Parliament elections, Milan, May 27, 2019 (ANSA photo by Daniel Dal Zennaro via AP).

Last week’s European Parliament elections were expected to propel the far right to new heights, auguring a shiny future for a populist agenda that sends fears across much of the continent. But although far-right nationalists did score their best performance to date, the election results fell far short of expectations. Just as importantly, there are major internal contradictions in the nationalists’ plans to take over the European Union from within, suggesting that the road ahead will bring mostly headaches and disappointment for them and their supporters.

The results revealed troubling polarization and the steadily eroding power of centrist parties, the ones most amenable to compromise. And yet, even though the center suffered the biggest losses, it was the far right that suffered the biggest letdown. Nationalists and populists made gains in key countries but increased their overall position only modestly. While centrist parties that had dominated the European Parliament lost their majority, they remained a formidable force, and much of the ground they lost was conquered by other pro-Europe parties.

But even if the far right had fared better, the results showed that its tactical decision to push hard for an electoral victory in an effort to weaken the EU from within suffers from a fatal flaw. The internal contradictions in a transnational nationalist force—the grand dream of Italy’s deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, along with Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former adviser—will be put to the test in the incoming parliament.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.