Anti-Europe Parties Set to Win a Third of European Parliament Seats, Study Says

(Bloomberg) -- The European Parliament elections in May will be the most important in the legislative body’s history, with anti-European parties poised to win more than a third of the assembly’s seats, a new study has found.

These groups will try to work together to derail projects supported by pro-European politicians like French President Emmanuel Macron, especially over issues on which mainstream parties in the assembly are divided, according to a report by the European Council on Foreign Relations, set to be published this week.

Anti-Europe Parties Set to Win a Third of European Parliament Seats, Study Says

Far-right political parties for the first time could win enough seats that would allow them -- at least on paper -- to disrupt the EU’s legislative business. And while that would require a hodgepodge of parties to overcome fundamental policy differences, Italy’s anti-immigration Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini has already sought with mixed success to forge alliances with leaders including Poland’s Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Hungary’s Viktor Orban to usher in a “new European spring.”

Anti-Europe Parties Set to Win a Third of European Parliament Seats, Study Says

“The vote could see a group of nationalist anti-European political parties that advocate a return to a ‘Europe of the nations’ win a controlling share of seats,” the ECFR’s study’s authors wrote. “Their ability to paralyze decision-making at the center of the EU would defuse pro-Europeans’ argument that the project is imperfect but capable of reform.”

‘Command by Negation’

If far-right groups win a third of the new assembly and their leaders are able to work together at the Council of the EU, where national governments are represented in the decision-making process, they would be in a position to obstruct pro-European legislative priorities on such issues as foreign policy, reform of the euro-area, the rule of law and migration.

Steve Bannon, the onetime chief political strategist of U.S. President Donald Trump, has set up a Brussels-based organization called The Movement to galvanize populist leaders and parties into a loose alliance to help them gain a foothold in the European Parliament. And while Bannon isn’t hoping nationalist parties will garner a majority, if they capture a third of the seats he says that would allow them to “command by negation” and disrupt integrationist policies.

Anti-Europe Parties Set to Win a Third of European Parliament Seats, Study Says

Aside from obstructing general legislative business, a far-right bloc in the assembly could upset the process for choosing the president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive body; obstruct the election of the Parliament’s president; and stall an agreement on the the bloc’s trillion-euro long-term budget.

Some of the right-wing parties that are expected to make gains in the May election include Salvini’s League, Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National and Germany’s AfD, according to ECFR. The scenarios of legislative disruption assume that mainstream parties, such as the Social Democrats, the Greens, and Liberals and the Christian Democrats are divided and thus unable to garner enough support between them for a majority of votes at the Parliament.

Anti-Europe Parties Set to Win a Third of European Parliament Seats, Study Says

“The experience of the 2016 Brexit referendum shows the mobilizing power of a rejection of the status quo in the current political climate,” the study’s authors wrote. “Regardless of whether anti-European parties increase their share of European Parliament seats, the battle of ideas that they are launching looks set to reshape Europe’s political landscape for years to come.”

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