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News9 Plus Decodes: Who are Europe’s Far-Right Populist Women Leaders?

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Far-right populist parties have made the greatest gains in the European Union elections in 2024.


Italy’s Prime Minister and leader of the far-right party Brothers of Italy (Fratelli D’Italia – FDI) Giorgia Meloni getures during a press conference following the results of the European Elections in Rome on June 10. (Credit: AFP)

Those who have suffered setbacks in these elections include French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the opponents of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

One recent trend in European politics has been the rise of right-wing politics and the emergence of women leaders, providing an alternative to those espousing the virtues of Left-Liberal ideologies.

In France, Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally victory compelled President Macron to dissolve parliament and call a new election. Far-right parties are also gaining followers in Austria, the Netherlands, Germany and Romania. Often, the driving force behind a right-wing populist party is a woman.

To begin with, let us look at Europe’s political landscape that is increasingly turning populist. The phenomenon has been on the rise over the last 25 years. Since 1998, the vote share of populist parties in Europe has gone from 7% to more than 25%.

What is populism?

Put simply, it is an ideology that sees politics in two homogenous groups. One representing the corrupt elite and the other representing the ordinary people. Its proponents believe politics must be an expression of the ‘general will’ of people.

Who are the women flag-bearer leaders of populism in Europe?

The trio of Far-Right populist European leaders comprises Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Maltese conservative politician Roberta Metsola and French National Rally leader Marine Le Pen.

Why is Meloni’s victory in the EU vote significant?

Italian PM Giorgia Meloni’s ultra-conservative Brothers of Italy group won the most votes in the European parliamentary election. Brothers of Italy won 28.8% of the vote, more than four times what it took in the last European Union election in 2019.

Meloni’s rise has coincided with the rise of the Right. Her party traces its roots back to a neo-fascist group, and her rising graph set the tone for far-right gains across Europe.

How did Marine La-Pen trounce Macron?

Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party has compelled French President Emmanuel Macron to dissolve Parliament and call for elections. Her anti-immigration party did so well in the EU elections that it garnered more than double the vote share of Macrons’s pro-Europe Centrists. Le Pen says her party voices the French people’s real concerns: immigration, the cost of living and a feeling of insecurity and fear of crime.

Who is Roberta Metsola?

Maltese conservative politician Roberta Metsola is the new president of the European Parliament. She leads the Partit Nazzjonalista (Malta’s Nationalist Party) that is part of the centre-right EPP group.
She is only the third woman at the head of the European Parliament, after Simone Veil and Nicole Fontaine.

What explains the rise of the Right Wing?
Experts believe anti-immigration sentiment and the breakdown of faith in institutions are fuelling the phenomenon.

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