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A European election like no other

Photo: Adnan Beci Agence France-Presse Largement en tête avec 27% des intentions de vote, la présidente du Conseil italien, Giorgia Meloni, aura été la vedette de cette campagne, non seulement en Italie, mais aussi en Europe.

“Whether Europe will still have to endure uncontrollable immigration or will it have to control external borders ? It depends on you! » In front of a cheering crowd, it was on the Piazza del Popolo in Rome that Giorgia Meloni chose to close this European election campaign before concluding that Europe “must be a partner of nation-states and not a superstructure which stifles them.”

Widely in the lead with 27% of voting intentions, the President of the Italian Council will have been the star of this campaign, not only in Italy, but also in Europe. If there is only one leader who has been talked about from Lisbon to Warsaw in this election, it is her. And for good reason, she was the only head of government to head her party's list. Of course, she will not sit in Strasbourg and will give up her position on June 10, but she will have left her mark more than any other candidate.

While the European elections hardly arouse passions and are deserted by voters, she wanted to show that the one which will take place on Sunday was not quite like the others. Pollsters have also noted that, although participation is expected to barely exceed 50%, voters interested in this campaign have increased by 6% compared to 2018. Perhaps precisely because issues like immigration and security, which comes first in many countries, closely affects the daily lives of Europeans and could force new alliances in Brussels.

A new balance

“The three women who will shape Europe”, headlined the prestigious weekly The Economistlast week, under the photo of a Meloni framed by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the leader of the National Rally, Marine Le Pen. Because the real unknown of this election is to know if the obvious swing to the right of the electorate that is announced will produce a new balance capable of shaking the old alliance between the European People's Party (EPP), center-right, and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (SD), center-left, which has dominated the European Parliament since its creation.

According to all the polls, these two blocs nevertheless seem to be holding together. The first is credited with around 180 deputies, and the second, with 131 out of the 720 in Parliament. There are around 75 seats remaining which will decide the direction of the next Parliament. This is where everything should play out. In the center, Emmanuel Macron's group, Renew, could lose 20% of its deputies due, in particular, to the collapse of its vote in France (Renaissance) and in Spain (Ciudadanos).

In contrast, the conservative, nationalist and populist right are making strong progress. They are made up of the group of European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), to which Giorgia Meloni and Marion Maréchal, head of the Reconquête list in France, belong, as well as the Identity and Democracy (ID) group, to which Marine Le Pen belongs. Only Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta seem for the moment to escape this push from the new right.

Previously divided almost equally between the left and the right, the Parliament would now have a right-wing majority. Which would open the door to new alliances. This is the whole gamble of these new rights, which could bring together about one in five elected representatives after the election. Not to mention those parties that are close to them and that are among the non-registered, such as the Fidesz of the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, which should join ECR after the elections, and Alternativ für Deutschland (AFD) recently expelled from the ID group.

A Meloni-Le Pen alliance ?

If these two parties managed to form a single national-conservative group, it could become the second largest group in Parliament. In recent months, there has been no shortage of calls for unity from both sides. Already courted by the classic right, Georgia Meloni has increased her ties with Marine Le Pen. As for the latter, she has been repeating for weeks her intention to form a “super group” in Parliament.

But there is a long way to go. Even if these two parties managed to overcome their differences, the 143 seats that the polls gave them would still be far from the 224 that the socialists and centrists currently allied to the EPP could accumulate. It is also difficult to believe that Meloni would join a new group in which the National Rally would be in the majority. If not because as President of the Italian Council, she wants to play a major role as negotiator with the next Commission. Opposed to any collaboration with the center left (SD), in the current configuration, Meloni nevertheless occupies a unique pivotal role allowing the various rights to dialogue.

Because if this alliance is not for today, it is perhaps for tomorrow, believes political scientist Giovanni Orsina. “Giorgia Meloni and Marine Le Pen know that the time may come when they will have to work together, and they are therefore very careful to keep the channels of dialogue open,” he declared to Figaro. At least until the French presidential election of 2027.

“Creating a large group [in the European Parliament] is very difficult,” according to Jorge Buxadé, head of the list of the Spanish nationalist party Vox, so diverse are the groups represented in Parliament. This is why he advocates agreeing instead on a “patriotic agenda” comprising five major program points. Such an alliance is not self-evident, Georgia Meloni acknowledged, recalling that, unlike her, “Marine Le Pen is left-wing economically and progressive societally.”

It remains nonetheless that at the same time, within the traditional right, the idea of ​​an alliance with this new right represented by ECR is gaining ground. “I don't see why people would say today “Oh wow, that's scandalous, we'll never talk to them.” That would be completely absurd,” declared the head of the LR list for the European elections, François-Xavier Bellamy. Like many elected representatives of the right, this minority deputy within the EPP already works “on a case-by-case basis” with these formerly unsavoury parties.

The kingmaker

After June 9, Giorgia Meloni could also establish herself as the kingmaker. Anxious to ensure her re-election as President of the European Commission and contested in her own party, Ursula von der Leyen has already reached out to him. “She is clearly pro-European, against Putin and she is in favor of the rule of law,” she said before adding that “if this is confirmed, then we will offer to work together.” Advances could not be more obvious.

It must be said that, from June 10, a new campaign will begin for Ursula von der Leyen. Within the EPP, many do not forgive him for his centralizing style and especially for having applied a left-wing program with particular regard to the Green Deal. On March 7, barely half of the 801 EPP delegates nominated her as a candidate. And the obstacle course is not over. Between June 9 and the first plenary session of Parliament, from July 16 to 19, she will have to undergo several tests, starting with the Council meeting on June 26 and 27. His choice will then have to be confirmed by a majority of MEPs during the plenary session on September 16 and 19.

In 2019, Von der Leyen was only elected with 51.3% of the vote. Hence this permanent “balancing act” that political scientist Francisco Roa Bastos spoke about on the Public Senate website. By paying attention to Giorgia Meloni, the President of the Commission has already displeased the two majority parties in the current coalition (PPE and SD), as well as the Greens, who signed a declaration affirming that they will not never alliance with the “extreme right”. “The extreme right is always the extreme right,” declared the Spanish Minister of Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera Rodríguez.

Von der Leyen may well have the support from Berlin, other names are circulating, such as that of the former president of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi. We also talk about the current President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, and the Croatian Prime Minister, Andrej Plenković. In 2019, Ursula von der Leyen herself was chosen at the last minute against Manfred Weber who was then, like her today, the big favorite.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116