Riding on people’s angst against a deepening refugee crisis and economic slowdown, rightist political parties, some of them mere fringe actors even till recently, are steadily marching towards the centre stage across Europe.
Fear of immigrants arriving to steal jobs or soak up taxpayer’s money and austerity measures by governments in the wake of financial crisis is behind the recent spread of rightist ideology and this is the ideal recipe for a serious political turmoil in future, keen Europe observers have pointed out.
This is how the political landscape in Europe is being reshaped:
Marine Le Pen’s far right National Front (FN) has emerged as the biggest challenge to Europe’s liberal democratic traditions. The FN won 6.8 million votes in regional elections in 2015 – its largest ever score. In 2014 it got 25 per cent of votes in the French European Parliament election.
Marine’s father Jean-Marie Le Pen, the FN founder who was later expelled from the party, shocked France and the world after he described the Nazi gas chambers as “a point of detail of the history.”
Marine Le Pen is anti-EU. In 2010 she told FN supporters that the sight of Muslims praying in the street was similar to the Nazi occupation in World War II.
FN campaigns for increased prison capacity, harsher sentencing, and a referendum on re-introduction of death penalty. The party opposes immigration, particularly Muslim immigration from North Africa, West Africa and the Middle East. Marine Le Pen has criticized Muslims for what she perceives as their alleged intents to impose their own values on France.
Pen described Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “defender of the Christian heritage of European civilization.” In 2014, she confirmed that her party had received a €9 million loan from the First Czech Russian Bank (FCRB) in Moscow.
German politics has been shaken up by Alternative for Germany (AfD), a right-wing party launched in 2013 by economists opposed to the euro. Under leader Frauke Petry it has drawn ever more support by rallying against immigration. The AfD has representations in 10 of the 16 German state parliaments though none yet at national level in the Bundestag.
According to its interim electoral manifesto, the party wants to reintroduce the traditional family patterns with ‘old gender roles’ in place. On the environment front, the party wants to stop ‘uncontrolled expansion of wind energy.’ It also demands conscription into the army, starting for men at the age of 18
The AfD has called for drastic steps to prevent Islamist ideology spreading in Germany, including a ban on construction of new minarets. According to Frauke Petry, Islam “does not belong to Germany”. She even recently suggested that border police should be empowered to shoot illegal migrants if necessary.
Stridently anti-Islam rhetoric came initially from Pegida, a mass movement that started in the eastern city of Dresden and then spread to other German cities. According to media reports, Pegida regularly draws thousands of supporters at anti-immigration marches. Neo-Nazi groups are among the Pegida followers, who denounce ‘Islamisation of the West.’
The far-right Freedom Party of Austria has upset centrist politics that dominated the country since World War II. In April 2016 the Freedom Party pushed both the main parties out of the running for the presidency.
Founded in 1956 by Anton Reinthaller, a former Nazi functionary and SS officer, the party is opposed to socialism and maintains that protection of cultural identity and social peace in Austria requires a stop to immigration. During the late 1990s the party attacked influence of radical Islam. This was later expanded to include Islamisation. According to The Economist magazine, hostility to Muslims is a strategy that resonates with voters of Serbian Background, whom the party has nurtured. The party demands a ban on distribution of free copies of the Koran.
The far-right Danish People’s Party (DPP) won the European Parliament Election in 2014 by securing 27 per cent of votes and received 21 per cent votes in 2015 general elections becoming the second largest party in Denmark for the first time amid a plurality for the centre-right parties.
Founded in 1995, the DPP’s stated goals are to protect the freedom and cultural heritage of the Danish people including the family, the monarchy and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark. It also proposes strict laws to prevent Denmark becoming a multi-cultural society by restricting immigration. The party’s current leader, Kristian Thulesen Dahl, once declared DPP as an anti-Muslim party.
The radical right wing party, Movement for a Better Hungary, commonly known as Jobbik has emerged s the third largest party in the country securing 20.54 per cent votes in the parliamentary elections in 2014.
Jobbik describes itself as ‘a principled, conservative and radically patriotic Christian party,’ whose declared purpose is protection of “Hungarian” values and interests. It rejects globalised capitalism and the influence of foreign investors in Hungary. Jobbik specifically opposes Israeli and Jewish investments.
The party’s alleged connections with the banned Magyar Garda – a militia group – have raised concerns about its declared commitment to peace and order. Jobbik has unarmed but uniformed ‘Hungarian Guard’ in Roma (Gypsy) neighbourhoods as it presses for strong actions against ‘Gypsy crimes.’ Hungarian flags dominate Jobbik rallies, along with the red-and-white Arpad stripes, which are often seen as an echo of Hungary’s pro-Nazi wartime regime. With Jobbik support the conservative government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban erected a razor wire fence along its border with Serbia last year to keep migrants out.
Lega Nord –the North League for the Independence of Padania, popularly known as Northern League – has emerged as the largest party in Veneto and Lombard, second-largest in Emilia-Romagna and third-largest in Liguria.
Founded in 1991 as a federation of several regional parties of northern and central Italy, most of which had arisen in the 1980s, the party’s political programme advocates transformation of Italy into a federal state with greater regional autonomy.
The party criticizes immigration especially from Muslim countries and supports the promotion of immigration from non-Muslim countries in order to protect the ‘Christian identity’ of Italy and Europe. In 2002 the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance denounced the party:
Lega Nord criticizes the European Union and opposes what it calls the ‘European Super state’ and instead favours a ‘Europe of the Regions.’ The party has proposed the abandonment of the Euro by Italy, although this has been opposed by some party heavyweights.
The Party for Freedom – a right-wing party of Netherlands – emerged as the third largest party in 2014 European Parliament elections. The party calls for a stop to immigration from Muslim countries.
In 2012 the party launched a website named Reporting Centre on Central and East Europeans to receive complaints about Central and East European immigrants in the Netherlands. “Do you have problems with people from Central and Eastern Europe? Have you lost your job to a Pole, a Bulgarian, a Romanian or another East European? We want to know,” the website states. The European Commission has condemned the website.
The party demands restrictions on immigrant labour from new EU member states and Islamic countries, withdrawal from the European Union, recording of ethnicity for all Dutch citizens, ban on Koran, prohibition of Islamic slaughter, shutting down of all Islamic schools, keeping track of the ethnicity of people who have committed crimes and abolition of tax money to Left organizations.
The far right National People’s Front (ELAM) is rapidly spreading its influence in Cyprus entering parliament for the first time in May 2016 elections, riding on the voters’ angst over the island’s acute financial crisis.
ELAM proposes a zero-tolerance policy against illegal immigration. It is allegedly involved in several violent activities in recent times against Muslims. According to reports published in the local newspaper Haravgi, in 2012 a second lieutenant was found training ELAM members in shooting mortars in a National Guard’s shooting ground. ELAM is connected with Golden Dawn-the far-right party of Greece.
The nationalist Finns Party came second in last year’s general election and party leader Timo Soini is the Finnish Foreign Minister in a coalition government. Founded in 1995, the party got 17.7 per cent votes in 2015 parliament elections.
The party proposes teaching ‘healthy national pride’ in schools, opposes same sex marriage and wants limiting humanitarian immigration strictly to refugee quotas. It demands that immigrants accept Finnish cultural norms. In December 2011, an opinion poll revealed 51% of True Finn voters agreed with the statement, “People of certain races are unsuited for life in a modern society.”
Golden Dawn, one of Europe’s most violent neo-Nazi parties, has emerged as the third largest in the country in the September 2016 elections. Only in April most of its leaders were put up on trial for allegedly running a criminal organization in the guise of a political party with reported involvement in murder, armed attacks, money laundering and trafficking.
The party uses the Roman Salute, a salute used by the Italian Fascist and German National Socialist movements. Its symbol, too, closely resembles the Swastika. The anti-EU party demands expulsion of migrants and distributes food in poor areas – but only to Greek passport-holders.
Ultra-nationalist Kotleba – People’s Party Our Slovakia – is consistently increasing its strength improving its position from 1.33 per cent votes in national elections in 2012 to 8.04 per cent this year.
The party demands strict immigration control, replacement of Euro with Slovak Koruna and withdrawal from EU. For internal security, the party wants to establish a home guard that can protect the people where the normal police forces are not adequate in stopping “Gypsy extremists” who “steal, rape and murder.” The party wants to rear children with traditional and Christian values.
The far-right anti-immigration Sweden Democrats emerged as the third-largest party in Sweden winning 13 per cent votes in 2014 general election. It has challenged the traditional dominance of Sweden’s Social Democrats – the party associated with generous social welfare and tolerance of minorities.
The party believes that too much immigration in recent years has threatened Swedish national identity and societal cohesion and demands strict immigration controls. It opposes multiculturalism. SD is opposed to the Economic and Monitory Union of the European Union and favours renegotiation of Swedish membership in the EU.
In October 2015 the anti-immigration Swiss People’s Party (SVP) won the parliamentary election with a record 29.4 per cent of votes. Support for the SVP has grown during the migrant crisis. For years the party has pushed for tough immigration controls, using controversial black sheep posters that opponents describe as racist.
The SVP adheres to national conservatism aiming at the preservation of a conservative society. The party promotes the principle of individual responsibility and rejects any increase in government spending on social welfare and education.