MOSCOW — Vladimir Putin may have suffered a setback with the successful presidential election in Ukraine, but he can claim a significant consolation prize. Elections to the European Parliament, held simultaneously with Ukraine’s presidential vote, resulted in a surge of far-right and nationalist parties—many of which are vocal allies of Putin’s Kremlin.
In France, in a political earthquake for the country, the far-right National Front (FN), led by Marine Le Pen, topped the poll with 24.9 percent. Le Pen has been outspoken in her support for the Kremlin—a feeling reciprocated by Putin’s top lieutenants, including Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin and Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin, who warmly received the FN leader in Moscow. Le Pen has openly sided with Putin over Ukraine—which the pro-Kremlin blogosphere met with a highly publicized “Merci Marine!” campaign. Aymeric Chauprade, the newly elected FN member of the European Parliament, has called Putin’s regime “the hope of the world against new totalitarianism”—by which he meant “the American and European financial oligarchy.”
In Great Britain, Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, which finished first with 27.5 percent, has been on the record blaming Ukraine’s Maidan revolution on “the provocative speeches and intervention of European foreign ministers and people like [US Senator] John McCain,” accusing the European Union of having “blood on its hands” in Ukraine—mirroring the Kremlin’s propaganda line—and naming Putin as the leader he most admires.
In Hungary, the far-right Jobbik party came second with 14.7 percent of the vote. One of its reelected MEPs, Bela Kovacs, was one of the “international monitors” who gave a nod of approval to Putin’s annexation referendum in Crimea—among an eclectic group of European neo-Nazis, anti-Semites, Stalinists, Soviet sympathizers, and similar types. Hungarian prosecutors now reportedly suspect Kovacs of working for the Kremlin.
Putin’s supporters will control a significant bloc of votes in the incoming European Parliament. Despite overall gains, however, the pro-Kremlin camp in Brussels did lose two noticeable voices. Alexander Mirsky, whose list received 3.7 percent of the vote, will no longer represent Latvia in the European Parliament. And the UK parliamentary delegation will no longer include Nick Griffin, whose far-right British National Party only managed 1.1 percent of the vote—no doubt explained by Griffin himself by the “fact” that, as he famously claimed, elections in Putin’s Russia are “much fairer than Britain’s.”