Marion Maréchal Le Pen (Marine’s niece), the lead candidate of Reconquête! in the European elections, confirmed on Wednesday that her party, founded by Éric Zemmour, will be part of the ECR group in the European Parliament, of which Giorgia Meloni has been president since 2020.
MEP Nicolas Bay, who was elected with Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in 2019 and then switched to the mixed group after joining Reconquête!, joined the ECR as of Wednesday. This announcement confirms that the large-scale political maneuvering on the far right has begun, based on polls predicting a jump in support for the nationalists at the upcoming June elections, which could reach a quarter or more of the next European Parliament.
The most realistic possibility is that they could represent a blocking minority. But the far right is dreaming of more, and is already counting its chickens before they hatch. The victory of the nationalists is not a given: there is the example of Poland, where the far right was defeated in the last election.
The nationalists in Strasbourg are divided into two groups, Identity and Democracy (ID) and European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), with a little more than 60 MEPs each. The ID group includes the Lega, the Dutch party of Geert Wilders (who, despite coming out on top in the legislative elections, is unable to form a government), the Austrians (on the rise once again), the Danes, the Belgians, and above all Marine Le Pen’s National Rally and Germany’s AfD. The ECR group includes Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia, the Polish PiS, the Spanish Vox and the Swedish Democrats.
Hungarian Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz has announced that it will join the ECR as well (it has 12 MPs who belonged to no group after being excluded from the EPP). The ECR’s goal is to become the third-largest group in the European Parliament (it is currently fifth), overtaking Renew (the liberals, now bolstered by Macron’s French MEPs, which, however, seem to be declining in the polls). The ID group also aims to move ahead of Renew.
The ECR has the goal of becoming the “pivot” of the new European Parliament, aiming to act as a bridge between the nationalists and the EPP, which is expected to remain number one, ahead of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D, where we find the PD). But at the moment, maneuvering is taking place and there is significant confusion. Within ID, there is conflict between the National Rally and the AfD: Marine Le Pen has distanced herself from the Germans after the recent revelations about the AfD’s willingness to pass laws to expel citizens who have acquired German nationality.
For Marine Le Pen, having such an ally destroys the process of “normalization” she is aiming for in France, with a view to a presidential election victory in 2027. But the move by her niece Marion Maréchal is putting Marine Le Pen in a difficult position, barring her from possibly moving closer to the ECR.
The ECR wants to swell up like the frog in La Fontaine’s fable, but it runs the risk of exploding before it gets as big as the proverbial ox: former Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki of PiS has said he wants to welcome Orbán with open arms, while Marion Maréchal has confirmed the entry of Reconquête! But the presence of these two new members goes against the path that Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the group’s largest set of MEPs, is envisioning: to come to an agreement with the PPE, detaching it from its traditional alliance with the Socialists (and the center), even to the point of joining the “Ursula majority.”
The current president of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen of the EPP, is expected to confirm her candidacy on February 19, making it official at the European People’s Congress in Bucharest on March 6-7. But Orbán and Maréchal don’t share the foreign policy positions that could have acted as a bridge: they have differences with Meloni on NATO, both are against supporting Ukraine, Maréchal has said she is against new enlargements of the EU, and Orbán repeatedly threw a spanner in the works on the matter of the €50 billion for Kyiv. “There are always national peculiarities,” Maréchal said in justification.
Polls are showing Reconquête! at 6-7% in the European elections, while National Rally is at around 28%. Between the two far-right parties, there are differences on the economic and social front: Marine Le Pen is banking on her social orientation (National Rally became the top party in the votes of the working class, and it exceeded 42% in the presidential runoff), while the leader of Reconquête!, Eric Zemmour, who only got 7% in the presidential elections, is an ultra-neoliberal, as well as obsessed with “population replacement” in Europe.