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A crushing blow in the French elections is the latest setback for Europe’s far right

June 19, 2017 5:41 PM
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It follows another brutal loss in the United Kingdom.

Emmanuel Macron’s party won a large parliamentary majority in the French elections on Sunday, an expected yet historic victory for a party created just one year ago. But the election results aren’t just important for France; they also underscore the recent losses of far-right parties across Europe.

En Marche — also known as La République En Marche! (LREM) or in English, Republic on the Move — received 308 of 577 total seats in France’s National Assembly, with 43 percent of the vote. Along with its centrist MoDem ally, En Marche will control a commanding 350 seats in the French parliament’s lower house.

“This Sunday, you gave a clear majority to the president of the republic and to the government,” said French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe. “It will have a mission: to act for France. By their vote, the French, in their great majority, preferred hope to anger, confidence to withdrawal.”

But the election wasn’t just a victory for centrist politics; it was also a serious blow to France’s populist far-right. Just one month ago, the National Front’s Marine Le Pen was making a bid for the presidency — which she then lost by a 30-point margin. And in Sunday’s election, the party known for its anti-immigrant and Euroskeptic views won just eight seats, despite hoping to receive 15 in order to form its own parliamentary group.

The loss has led to infighting between senior National Front officials. Le Pen, who resigned as head of the party in April, told reporters that the party is now discussing a phase of “overhauling.”

The defeat of National Front is the latest in a series of failures for far-right parties that, at the end of 2016, felt like their time had come, inspired by victories in the United Kingdom (Brexit) and the United States (the election of Donald Trump). Now, they are struggling to hold onto the influence they enjoyed just a few months ago.

Earlier this month, progressives in the United Kingdom saw a huge victory when the Labour party gained 31 seats in a snap election, costing the Conservatives their clear majority in parliament. And the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), a Euroskeptic far-right party that championed Brexit, received just 2 percent of the vote in the election, a serious loss compared to the 12.6 percent the party received in 2015, when it gained one seat in parliament. The loss in the snap election followed a staggering defeat in local elections a month earlier, when UKIP lost 145 seats across the country and was left with a single councillor. After that election, former UKIP leadership contender Steven Woolfe said the party was “at an end,” and former UKIP MP Douglas Carswell said the party was “finished.”

Nigel Farage, the xenophobic gadfly most closely associated with the party, resigned as the head of UKIP after the Brexit referendum last year. His replacement, Paul Nutall, resigned earlier this month, after the party’s loss in the general election. “UKIP requires a new focus and new ideas,” Nutall said. Like National Front, the party is reportedly beset by infighting.

The far-right failure’s are seen elsewhere across Europe as well. In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders, known for his strong anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and Euroskeptic views, lost by a significant margin in the general election in March. And in Germany, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), known for its anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and anti-Semitic views, has been facing setbacks. In February, the party fell in polls, with just 8.5 percent of respondents saying they would vote for the party if elections were held that week, the party’s worst poll numbers since December 2015. In Austria, the far-right suffered at the polls in the presidential election last December.

Of course, it’s not all good news. Voter turnout in the French election on Sunday was at 42.64 percent, a record low, and the far-right has in many ways shifted mainstream political discourse. But for now, these losses are a serious judgment on the future of ultra-nationalist, far-right parties in Europe.

Source: thinkprogress.org

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