Populism and extreme right-wing parties could have a strong representation in the European Parliament for the first time as a result of the elections to be held between May 23 and 26. Recent polls project that ultranationalist and authoritarian parties could control up to a third of the seats. This would translate into hundreds of members in a Parliament they themselves reject.
The 28 countries of the European Union (EU) will choose their 751 representatives for the next five years. The European Parliament is the only directly-elected institution in the EU. Nearly 500 million Europeans will vote the MEPs that will monitor the EU budget and elect the President of the European Commission.
The League in Italy, the National Rally in France, Alternative for Germany, the Brexit party in the UK, Fidesz in Hungary, and Vox in Spain have sprung up phenomenally. Ten or fifteen years ago they could not dream about having influence throughout Europe and some did not even exist or did not have more than 5 percent of MPs. Their new dynamism today is proof of the great change that the end of the Cold War, globalization, major technological and industrial transformations have brought about. Their voters are essentially those who were excluded and forgotten by these fundamental changes.
These far-right parties are in opposition to the founding values of the EU, such as separation of powers, freedom of expression, national openness, central administration in Brussels. Its authoritarian rhetoric favors daily and institutional racism and is against Muslim and African immigration. They aggressively attack international policies in favor of human rights and align themselves with backward-looking international positions. Their aim is, in essence, the destruction of the European democracy, forged by social democratic and liberal parties.
Populism has systematically worked on the political scene of the Old Continent for twenty, thirty or forty years, methodically attacking each country´s institutions and, with this election, populism is trying to position itself on the continental scale. In some countries, such as Italy, Germany or Austria, it draws inspiration from their fascist past. In France, voters have been accepting these ideas and normalizing them. Today, European populism shares its political ideology with that of the American Donald Trump or the Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro.
One of the most prominent examples of these new bold political leaders driving far-right ideas is Matteo Salvini from the Italian The League. With his extreme positions against immigration, Salvini seeks today to unite all the ultraconservatives and present himself as the undisputed leader of this new transcontinental political movement.
Polls in Italy show that his party would get 30 percent of the votes, compared to 6.4 percent in the 2014 European elections. Extreme slogans during his rallies such as "Europe, beautiful dream, we will change it from within" or "If we don't save Europe, in five years it will be an Islamic State" reveal his real purposes. In his efforts to extend his European power, Salvini has built ties with Le Pen's party in France and Víctor Orban's party in Hungary.
So far, the majority in the EU Parliament consisted of two blocks of center-right and center-left parties. If polls are correct, this balanced majority will disappear and any new majority will have to negotiate and count on the votes of extreme right-wing parties to consider any proposal.
This new situation will bring strength and credibility to extreme and dangerous ideas under right-wing populism and will further solidify the recomposition of political parties in this new world we live in. Therefore, those of us who do not identify ourselves with these extreme proposals, both in Europe and in America, must remain vigilant and ready, keeping in mind that ideas have always been fought with other ideas.