The banal cruelty of Europe’s “protest vote for the status quo.”

By Alberto Toscano, In These Times

While largely toothless as a democratic body—shorn of true legislative capacities and having never developed a genuine transnational dynamic—the European Parliament is nonetheless an important bellwether to track the continent’s political winds. As the results of the parliament’s June 69 elections confirm, those winds are blowing in a bleakly reactionary direction. While some center-left parties performed well (in Sweden and Italy, for instance), the overall picture is of the consolidation of a xenophobic, nationalist hard Right, vying to become the junior partner of the European People’s Party (EPP), the conservative, neoliberal coalition that has dominated the parliament since 1999.

activists hold a sign showing flags of various european countries

Across much of the continent, the verdict was severe. Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party crushed Emmanuel Macron’s makeshift coalition, leading the French president to call for snap parliamentary elections. The far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) came in a strong first, while Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) — which recently proved too extreme even for Le Pen’s far-right Eurosceptic bloc, after AfD’s leading European Parliament candidate, Maximilian Krah, declared that not all members of the Nazi SS were criminals — came in second behind the center Right, relegating the governing social-democrats to a dismal third place. In Belgium, the high scores of the Flemish nationalist Right triggered the resignation of the country’s liberal prime minister, while Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia — whose roots go back to the neo-fascist Movimento Sociale Italiano — retained its standing as Italy’s leading party. In a way, Meloni also won personally, since her party’s latest victory has cast her as capable of bridging the gap between current European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen’s Atlanticist and free-market EPP and a disparate galaxy of far-right forces, including Spain’s Vox, Holland’s Freedom Party and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s party, Fidesz.

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