European elections: far-right 'surge' ends in a ripple

In the end, a promised populist surge turned out to be more of a ripple. After months of boasts, bluster and apocalyptic rhetoric about the end of the old Europe, the far right made striking gains in some countries but losses in others.

There were expected strong showings for leading figures of the European far right, such as Hungary’s anti-immigration prime minister, Viktor Orbán, whose Fidesz party took more than half the vote, and Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, whose Lega was the biggest party. Marine Le Pen’s National Rally also narrowly topped the polls in France.

Salvini said the vote showed “Europe is changing”. Orbán spoke of “a new era in European politics”.

But although there were losses for traditional big parties in many countries, far from all of those votes went to far-right or populist parties, with greens and other pro-European forces also doing well. Péter Krekó, who runs the Political Capital thinktank in Budapest, said: “I see a bit of a shift to the right but it’s not something that will endanger the operation of the EU. Pro-European forces were also mobilised in these elections.”

Nationalist and far-right parties will certainly have more representation in this European parliament than in any previous one. Salvini had attempted to capitalise on the mood, launching what he hoped would become a grand coalition before the vote, to bring all the anti-immigrant far-right parties under one umbrella. Read more via Guardian