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French far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party leader Marine Le Pen and party President Jordan Bardella address militants listens after French President announced he is calling for new general elections on June 30, during an evening gathering on the final day of the European Parliament election, at the Pavillon Chesnaie du Roy in Paris, on June 9, 2024.

Photo by Raphael Lafargue/ABACAPRESS.COM via Reuters

Left in the dust: European voters swing right

Europe took a hard right turn in European Parliament elections this weekend, dealing a substantial blow to key EU leaders German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron, prompting the latter to call early elections.

In France, Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party surged to 31.5% support – more than twice as much as Macron’s Renaissance coalition, with 14.5%. Close behind are the Socialists and their lead candidate Raphaël Glucksmann with 14%.

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Disgraced AfD leader Maximilian Krah.

DPA via Reuters

Euro Parliament group expels AfD

Even the far right has its limits. The European Parliament’s “Identity and Democracy” group of populist right-wing parties – including the Alternative for Germany, France’s National Rally, and Italy’s League, among others – expelled all nine AfD members on Thursday.

The move comes just weeks ahead of European Parliament elections on June 9 in which the far right is expected to make serious gains. It also comes a day after Maximilian Krah, head of AfD, said he’d step down over two scandals – one involving a senior staffer being charged with spying for China, and another stemming from Krah telling an Italian newspaper that not all members of the Nazi SS were war criminals. But sacrificing Krah wasn’t enough – and National Rally leader Marine Le Pensaid her party needed a “clean break” from AfD.

The expulsion was a bold move, given the AfD’s popularity. As recently as January, it was Germany’s second most popular party, polling at 22%, though it has since dropped six percentage points to tie for second place with the Social Democrat Party.

Polls have predicted the Identity and Democracy group’s number of seats in the European Parliament could rise from 59 to about 84 (some predicted a high of 93 before AfD’s recent scandals). National Rally, meanwhile, is surging in the polls.

What does this mean? Apart from hurting its reputation, expulsion means AfD loses access to the group’s shared resources, collective voice in parliament, and possibly some funding. But it doesn’t mean AfD members can’t run. In fact, party leaders said Thursday that they remained optimistic about the election. “We are confident we will continue to have reliable partners at our side in the new legislative period,” they said.

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