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Crisis brings out extremists and populists, running of the EP will not be affected

EU, 9.6.2009 8:25, (ROMEA)

Even though the economic crisis and low turnout in the EP elections brought significant gains to the extreme right and other extremist parties, in practical terms their representatives will not have enough votes to influence anything about how the EP runs. According to preliminary calculations by ČTK, 35 new MEPs will be seated in the EP who might be considered as connected to extremist positions, while during the last voting period there were less than 30. The next EP will seat a total of 736 deputies (currently 785).

"The election results revealed the crisis of democracy in the nation-states, rather than EU-wide. In the Member States we are witnessing the rise of populism, which is supported by political scandals," Mario Telo, head of European Studies at Brussels-based university ULB told the Euractiv internet server.

The extreme right scored points in 10 Member States, where they won more seats than during the 2004 elections. In some countries they lost – the Polish parties “League of Polish Families” and “Self-defence” lost all 16 of their MEPs. Extremists in Belgium and France also saw losses due to their own internal disputes. The French National Front lost four seats and will have “only” three now. The Belgian xenophobic “Flemish Interest” party lost one seat and will now have two representatives at the EP; nevertheless, it is still the third-strongest party in Belgium.

This strengthening of the extreme right could result in it creating its own faction at the EP, which requires at least 19 MEPs from a total of five Member States. Extremists tried this in the past, but their ITS faction (Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty) fell apart not one year later after MEPs from the Romanian nationalist Greater Romania Party left over the outbursts of Italian MEP Alessandra Mussolini, the granddaughter of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and a faction member.

However, should a new extremist faction arise now, it might be able to last significantly longer. While ITS often seemed like a very heterogeneous agglomeration of parties, the new parties and movements now in the EP can all be considered quasi-fascist in that their representatives seek to blame the widest possible variety of problems primarily on national minorities. For example, representatives of the Movement for Better Hungary (Jobbik) will have three seats; the party was behind the birth of the paramilitary Hungarian Guard, whose members are fond of fascist symbolism.

Representatives of the British National Party (BNP), which won two seats, are very similar. The participation of longtime Nazi activist Andrew Brons in the party, who has even been sentenced for attacking a police officer of colour, may become a scandal, and party head Nick Griffin also has a spotted record. On Sunday Griffin said Britain is “a Christian country and Islam is not welcome, because Islam and Christianity, Islam and democracy, Islam and women’s rights do not go together.”

"The rise of extreme-right parties is a very bad sign and can be unambiguously linked to the economic downturn,” Gerry Gable, head of the British anti-fascist monthly Searchlight, told the EUobserver internet server.

Anti-Islamic rhetoric was also used during the EP elections by the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) of controversial politician Geert Wilders, who became known for the film “Fitna” (“Disagreement”), which labels Islam as a religion full of violence. Followers of Wilders, around whom the party was created, now have four seats at the EP and the PVV is currently the second-strongest party in the Netherlands.

Representatives of the EPP and the Socialist factions, the two strongest factions at the EP, sometimes also label parties that are purely euroskeptic as “extremist” even if they do not tend towards fascism, Nazism or racism for the most part. These parties are associated primarily with the Independence / Democracy faction, which did not make the gains it expected in the recent polls. According to preliminary results, their representatives should hold around 20 seats, roughly the same as during the previous electoral period.

The good electoral results of the British UK Independence Party (UKIP), which will probably get a total of 13 seats, were not enough to strengthen the Independence / Democracy faction. The Libertas movement, founded by Lisbon Treaty opponent Declan Ganley and running in several Member States, experienced a debacle in the elections. Ganley will probably not get into the EP; however, after he filed a complaint, a recount is taking place in Ireland, so the results there are not official yet.

Libertas did "succeed" in France, for example, where it picked up one seat. It is represented there by the “Movement for France” of the French nationalist and euroskeptic Philippe de Villiers. In the Czech Republic, where the candidate list of Libertas was led by the renegade ODS Czech MP Vlastimil Tlustý, the movement did not receive even 1 % of the vote.

Results of extremist parties:

The Netherlands: Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party made big gains. The party is famous for its harsh critique of Islam, Muslims, and Muslim immigrants. It won 17 % of the vote and four EP seats.

Hungary: The right-wing Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik) won three seats. The party is sharply anti-minority, anti-Roma, and anti-Semitic, and its meetings are marked by very aggressive rhetoric.

Austria: The Freedom Party won two seats at the EP and its results are 6 % better than the last elections. The party is noted for its fight against migrants.

Denmark: The Danish People’s Party, which criticizes Muslims and immigrants in the Scandinavian country, won two seats in the elections.

Great Britain: The xenophobic British National Party has its first two MEPs ever.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, ROMEA, ROMEA, ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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