Euro-MPs predict soaring support for far right

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The Independent Online
A SURGE of support for racist and far-right politicians in the European Union could lead to a doubling or trebling of their representation in the European Parliament next year, Sir Christopher Prout, leader of the British Conservatives, said yesterday.

A powerful anti-incumbent mood sweeping Europe was driving voters away from traditional Christian Democrat and Socialist parties and into the hands of extremists, such as Jean-Marie Le Pen in France and Franz Schonhuber in Germany, Sir Christopher said.

'It would be wrong to panic,' he said, 'but there is a risk that the far-right will pose very considerable problems for the management of business, just as it is taking on a more powerful role. It's important to remember that even Adolf Hitler was initially elected in 1932 before becoming a dictator.'

Sir Christopher suggested that the left and centre-right may have to form a strategic alliance against the extreme right if they attempt to disrupt sessions by filibustering.

Senior Conservative and Labour MEPs predict that up to 10 million Europeans could vote for neo-facist candidates in the June poll, with the result that there could be between 35 and 50 elected to the Parliament next June. Although they will remain a small proportion of the 567 members in the new Parliament, the far right is far more disciplined than other MEPs when it comes to attending the sessions and committee meetings.

As a parliamentary group the 14- strong Group of the European Right already has access to massive funds. Membership of Parliament also provides them with a platform.

The strongest vote for the far right is expected in France with up to 16 per cent of the electorate delivering Mr Le Pen's anti-immigrant National Front (FN) up to 13 seats in the EU Parliament. The National Front has 10 seats at present. It gained 12.5 per cent of the vote in the March 1993 general election but failed to win any seats.

In Germany, Mr Schonhuber, a former Waffen SS officer, leads the far-right Republicans. Another group, the German People's Union (DVU), is led by Gerhard Frey, a neo-fascist. Together they are expected to get 13 seats at best.

In Belgium, the Vlaamse Bloc is expected to increase its representation from one to three MEPs. Gains are also expected for Italy's Italian Social Movement (MSI), led by Gianfranco Fini. The MSI is expected to get six or seven seats in June. The Northern League, led by Umberto Bossi, is expected to take many more seats; though anti-immigrant, it is not generally considered to be on the far-right, although it could yet sit with the far right, pushing their number as high as 45.

Elsewhere, Denmark and Greece may elect one far-right MEP each and the Centrum Demokraten, in the Netherlands, several MEPs.

Glyn Ford MEP, an expert on the extreme right in Europe, said that the rise of the right was due to 'a vicious anti-incumbent vote combined with a rejection of left- and right-wing politics'.

In Britain the 32 Conservative MEPs are expected to be cut down to as few as seven. The Labour Party and Liberal Democrats will be the main beneficiaries, however, as the far-right is well established in Britain.