The European Parliamentary elections in May were won by the European People’s Party, though by a narrower margin than before. The breakthrough of the radical right that Orbán probably had expected didn’t come to fruition, although they made some progress.
Matteo Salvini achieved a sweeping victory in Italy, swapping places with the Five Star movement and thus becoming the strongest party in the country. They have a good chance to form a definitely rightist, ideologically markedly conservative, anti-migration government, the first one of it’s kind in Western Europe.
In Poland, the PIS (Law and Justice) performed very well, which was not a surprise, perhaps just the measure of it being somewhat better than predicted. The hopes that the radical right will gather momentum in France, Germany, Spain, and the Benelux states, however, weren’t fulfilled on the whole.
Their positions were preserved or slightly improved, except for the Danish populist party, which suffered a painful defeat. It is true that voters who abandoned them partly went to the social democrats, who had picked up a very strong anti-migration attitude, not known so far on the left in Europe. This can be seen as an ’unorthodox’ phenomenon, which may have a broader significance in the future, if continued.
In Austria, the Strache affair obviously worsened the results of the right-wing FPÖ, which lost six perecent of its previous votes, reached at the national elections in 2017.
The EPP is still the strongest party group in the European Parliament, but because of the social democrats having weakened significantly as well, the two party groups can’t form an informal coalition for basic decisions, as they did earlier. It is likely that besides EPP and PES (European Socialists), a broader coalition will be established, joined by the greens and the liberals (ALDE group), who both did well growing their representation.
This scenario seems to be the worst for the radical right, which may find itself in a sort of ’cordon sanitaire’ situation despite its better performance. It might give them a relatively small scope of activity in decision-making in the EP until the next elections, even if time may be on their side. Another problem is that they are not homogeneous enough, the main split being the reletionship with Russia, a deeply divisive issue among them. Kaczynski has pointed out, for example, that his party won’t sit together with that of Salvini or Le Pen due to their pro-Russian stance.
Orbán’s famously good political hunch seems to have betrayed him this time. It doesn’t necessarily mean that his basic analysis, or diagnosis, about the historical challeges our continent faces is wrong. He can prove to be right in the long run. For the time being, however, he must have overestimated the direct impact of the migration crisis, presuming that the social frustration it has generated logically gives rise to spectacular strenghtening of the radical right. It didn’t occur to the extent he had hoped. In addition, another tendency was manifested, in which the greens, and to a lesser degree the liberals, have occupied positions abandoned by the left mainly through the votes of younger generations.
At present, it looks as if Fidesz intends to stay within the EPP as the lesser evil to minimize the loss. In fact, that goal is not unachievable provided that the governing party opts for a more quiet and moderate communication than in recent years.
On the other hand, it also brings problems concerning the identity of Fidesz and its electoral basis, since the party has consequently positioned itself opposed to the mainstream message of the Europeam political elite. And that core image cannot be changed without damage. So probably there will still be an ambiguity between rhetoric addressed to the European Union and to the domestic audience. It is hardly imaginable, however, that the basics of Fidesz’s political philosophy – which the party has represented for so many years already – Christianity, nation state, anti-migration criticism, could change. Supposedly, Orbán hasn’t ceased to be convinced that crisis is going to deepen in Europe parallel to expanding societies, Islam gaining further ground, and the European economy lagging behind new centers of the world.
All this generates resentment and disappointment, which will make remedial proposals of the right wing appear more attractive in 2024, when new elections are held. In this way, Fidesz may lie low in the EEP, if it is possible, biding its time until the moment comes to join a more robust radical right-party faction, which may have a real say in forming the future of Europe.
In the featured photo: Matteo Salvini and Viktor Orbán. Photo by Balázs Szecsődi/PMs Press Office