Marine Le Pen and the state of European far-right

There is somehow mixed record of populist far-right parties in the current elections in Europe. Austrian Freedom Party candidate lost presidential elections. Dutch Geert Wilders was hardly satisfied with his result, German AfD, though election will take place only in autumn, is losing in the polls. On the other hand French Marine Le Pen is polling on 40 percent which is quite impressive though she is probably going to lose to Emmanuel Macron. European populist far-right is hardly homogeneous but what next for those movements, do you think we might see some changes in their messages, tactics, direction or they will largely stick to the anti-establishment message? Read few comments.

Marine Le Pen. Credit: http://www.frontnational.com/

Reinhard Heinisch, Professor of Austrian Politics in Comparative European Perspective, Department of Political Science, Chair, University of Salzburg

There is somehow mixed record of populist far-right parties in the current elections in Europe. à we clearly see a negative effect from Brexit and D Trump. There are also polls to support this assumption. E.g. following Brexit the percentage of Austrians wanting to leave the EU declined from 31% to 22%. Similarly, Rutter came across as a statesman compared to Wilders in the NL, AfD is going through internal turmoil between the “realists” and “fundamentalists” but they will likely stabilize under their new leadership team.

Austrian Freedom Party candidate lost presidential elections. Dutch Geert Wilders was hardly satisfied with his result, German AfD, though election will take place only in autumn, is losing in the polls. On the other hand French Marine Le Pen is polling on 40 percent which is quite impressive though she is probably going to lose to Emmanuel Macron. European populist far-right is hardly homogeneous but what next for those movements, do you think we might see some changes in their messages, tactics, direction or they will largely stick to the anti-establishment message? Of course each case is different up to a point and in France the election system is different, turning a group race into a horse race between two people, meaning it is bound to tighten (cf. US). Le Pen has the support of a broad party Macron is a one man operation supported by many others but only because they like Le Pen even less. Then the situation is France is particularly unique compare to NL, Austria à persistent economic problems, high unemployment, collapse of the established parties, and a profound unhappiness about the direction of the Grand Nation as a shrinking junior partner to Germany.

Pietro Castelli Gattinara, Post-Doctoral Researcher Scuola Normale Superior di Pisa

the fluctuations in results of the far right are fully in line with long-lasting trends. Overall, while commentators and the mass media often describe it as a ‘rise’ of the far right, the electoral scores of these parties have been very conjunctural, with a few impressive results, and quite some deceiving scores. And even within this context, France has long stand out for the high scores of support for the FN.

I do not know if the radical right will change its behaviour after this round of elections (France now, then UK and Germany in fall). Some suggested that success might trigger divisions and factionalism. Others suggested that the ‘republican consensus’ will not be able to ‘resist’ to the pressure of the far right for much longer, which would lead to a Donald Trump effect in Europe too.

But I guess that the most important element is how the rest of the system will behave. One fact is undeniable, in fact: voters in all European countries are progressively withdrawing their support from mainstream parties, most notably those on the centre-left. While disenchantment with mainstream parties in Europe has been mounting for years, the process of sanctioning seems to be accelerated with the economic crisis, as was shown in Greece and Spain first, and Italy, the Netherlands and France more recently. Even if the far right sticks to its anti-establishment politics, voters will keep turning to the outsiders as long as mainstream parties continue to emulate far right views on immigration, due to their complete inability to offer a new vision of Europe and a radical change to the EU economic policy.

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