Categories: Politics

Rising nationalist right in European Parliament elections and Türkiye

The rise of nationalist right in the European Parliament elections has shifted the balance in EU politics. The leader of the Italian nationalist right, Prime Minister Meloni (far left), emerged as the only leader to win the elections. The President of the European Council, Michei (second from the left), lost his seat. French President Macron is heading to snap elections, and German Chancellor Scholz (far right) finished third in the elections.

The expectation was that the nationalist right, often mischaracterized as the “far right,” would gain ground in the European Parliament (EP) elections held from June 6-9, but the extent of their success was unexpected. The shock was evident on the night of the June 9, as early results started to come in. In response, French President Emmanuel Macron decided to dissolve French Parliament and call for snap parliamentary elections to be held on June 30. Similarly, Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo resigned. In Germany, Social Democrats, led by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz suffered a significant loss, finishing third. The only leader to emerge victorious was Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, whose nationalist right stance had already propelled her to power.

This scenario will inevitably affect Türkiye-EU relations. The EU leaders had already postponed discussions about Türkiye to 2024 during the December 13, 2023 summit. It would not be surprising if they postponed discussions about Türkiye until after the US Presidential elections on November 5, 2024.

The rise of the nationalist right

In the US, it wouldn’t be surprising if the representative of the nationalist right, Donald Trump, wins.

It is also noteworthy that Hungary, led by one of the important leaders of the European nationalist right, Viktor Orban, is set to take over the EU Presidency from Belgium in June. The political tremors in Europe do not seem to settle in the second half of 2024.

Let’s take a closer look at what happened in the EP elections, within this context:

In France, while Macron’s Renaissance Party received 15 percent of the vote, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally Party, led by her new rising star 28-year-old Jordan Bardella, surged to over 31 percent, taking the lead. Interestingly, the left coalition also rose and caught up with Macron’s coalition with 14 percent.

In Germany, the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) secured first place with 30 percent, while Scholz’s SPD, finished third. Notably, it is the Alternative for Germany (AfD), despite being expelled from the nationalist right Identity and Democracy (ID) group in the EP due to their neo-Nazi rhetoric, rose to second place with 16 percent securing 17 MEPs in the EP.

Warmongers lost

In Belgium, which resulted in the resignation of the Prime Minister, the New Flemish Alliance, both nationalist and separatist, emerged as the leading party. Interestingly, the second party with the most vote gain, after the nationalist right, was the Marxist Workers’ Party.

The most interesting reaction came from Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński of the Polish nationalist right. After casting his vote, Kaczyński said that the EU is improtant for them for economic reasons but  “it cannot be an attempt to rebuild Franco-German imperialism.”

Macron’s and Scholz’s defeats, alongside losses for the liberal Renew Europe (RE) and the Greens are not surprising.

These parties were the most active in taking a stance in line with the Joe Biden administration in the US regarding Russia’s war on Ukraine, and they were the most pro-Israel in the Gaza crisis, following the US-UK line. Of course, this is not the only reason; economic reasons, immigration, and the replacement of secular sensitivity with the rise of the church also play a role.

Italy, the EU, G7, and Türkiye

Meloni’s Brothers of Italy (FdI) Party increased its votes and led the EP elections, reflecting the nationalist right politics that brought her to power in 2022 in Italy. Meloni seems to have absorbed the votes of the League (Lega) party with her fascist rhetoric. Just like in France and Belgium, the party that increased its votes the most in Italy was the leftist Democratic Party (PD), surpassing the 20 percent treshold.

As Hungary will assume the EU Presidency, Italy, which opposes the concept of the “West” will lead the G7. The G7 Summit will be held this week, June 13-15, in the Italian city of Apulia. The host will have their head held high while Macron and Scholz attend with a bitter taste.

Among the leaders Meloni invited as host is President Tayyip Erdoğan. Other invited countries are Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, Brazil, and Argentina. A surprise fitting the spirit of the times is that Meloni also invited Pope Francis. For the first time, a religious leader will attend a G7 summit.

Türkiye: benefit amid adversity

The new political landscape in Europe presents both challenges and opportunities for Türkiye. Among the negative side, the rise of nationalist, xenophobic and Islamophobic sentiments now approaching mainstream aceeptance could strain Türkiye-EU relations, which have been in a holding pattern for decades. This may further harm the bar for the efforts to improve democratic standards in Türkiye.

The increased competition between European countries in economic and trade arenas might benefit Türkiye. Its strategic proximity to Russia, the Causasus, and the Central Asia could open new opportunities.

Domestically, Türkiye’s political environment had settled by a nationalist right shift with religious undertones with the AKP-MHP  alliance formed in the 2017 constitutional referendum.

We now see the same trend in Europe.

China and Russia are closely monitoring these developments. If Donald Trump and the nationalist right gain power int he US, the geopolitical landscape of the first quarter of the 21. century is likely to become even more tense.

 

Murat Yetkin

Journalist-Writer

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