Europe and the Rise of Populist Far Right

Liberalni Institute

Populist, xenophobic, and eurosceptic movements are raising across the Old Continent. There is at least one far-right party for each European country. Some of these are big and significant, while others are not. So what are these parties and where are they?

Czech Republic: Andrej Babiš, a billionaire entrepreneur accused of fraud, nicknamed the “Czech Trump” or “Babis-coni”, won the elections leading the “Ano 2011” party. The Czech Republic has chosen to put itself into the hands of a man who promised to combat illegal immigration and to limit contacts with the European Union. Next to him is Tomio Okamura, a Czech-Japanese entrepreneur, the leader of the “Freedom and Direct Democracy” party (SPD), who campaigned under the slogan “No to Islam, No to terrorists!”.

Austria: In the 2017 legislative election, the Austrian People’s Party (OVP), a Christian democratic and conservative party, led by Sebastian Kurz, won a relative majority of the seats in the National Council with 31.5% of votes. The Freedom Party of Austria (FPO), the right-wing populist and national-conservative political party, led by Heinz-Christian Strache, won the third largest number of votes (26%) in general elections.

Germany: Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD), the right-wing to far-right political party in Germany, became the third largest party in Germany after the 2017 federal election, claiming 94 out of 630 seats in the Bundestag. Some supporters of the AfD have shown racist and anti-semitic tendencies connected to neo-Nazi movements. The AfD is the second largest party in the eastern Lands and the first one in Saxony.

France: In the 2017 French presidential election a run-off was held between Emmanuel Macron of En Marche! and Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front (FN), the right-wing populist and nationalist political party. The latter was defeated but eight seats in Parliament were gained.

Hungary: Jobbik, the Movement for a Better Hungary is a political party with radical and nationalist roots. The party has been described as an “antisemitic organization” and “neo-Nazi party”. The party polled around 1 million votes securing 20.54% of the total in the Hungarian parliamentary elections on April 2014 and it is the largest far-right party in the European Parliament. Viktor Orban, the current Prime Minister of Hungary, is also leader of the national conservative Fidesz party. Orban’s conservatism and euroscepticism have attracted international attention, which made him one of the most influential leaders in the European Union.

The Netherlands: The Party for Freedom, led by Geert Wilders, a man compared to Donald Trump, became the second largest party in the Netherlands after the 2017 general election. PVV is a Dutch nationalist and right-wing populist political party. It has proposed to ban the Quran and shutting down all mosques in the Netherlands.

Slovakia: In the 2016 Parliamentary elections, the ruling left-wing populist Direction–Social Democracy (SMER – SD) party remained the strongest party, but it lost its majority, whilst for the first time a far-right nationalist party, the Kotleba – People’s Party Our Slovakia (L’SNS), entered parliament. This party declared that it builds on the legacy of Josef Tiso, the head of the 1939-45 First Slovak Republic, a satellite state of Nazi Germany.

Poland: The 2015 Parliamentary elections were won by the Law and Justice (PiS) party with 37.6% of the vote. PiS is a right-wing populist, national-conservative, and Christian-democratic political party in Poland and it is currently the largest party in the Polish parliament.

On the National Independence Day, celebrated on 11th November, more than 60 thousand people took part in the march launched by the far-Right. According to The Independent, it has been one of the world biggest fascist rallies ever made.

Finland: The Finns Party (PS), headed by Jussi Halla-aho is a populist and nationalist Finnish political party. In the 2015 election the party got 17,7% of the votes, making them the parliament’s second largest party. Timo Juhani Soini, co-founder of the party, has been Minister of Foreign Affairs since 2015. The Finns Party has been compared to other populist, nationalist, eurosceptic and right-wing parties in Europe.

Denmark: The Danish People’s Party (DF) is a right-wing populist political party, even described as a far-right party. Danish People’s Party goals are to protect the freedom and the cultural heritage of Denmark, to enforce a strict rule of law and to limit immigration. In the 2015 general election, the DPP got 21% of votes, becoming the second largest party in Denmark.

Greece: In the January 2015 Greek legislative election Golden Dawn became the 3rd political force in force in Greece. Golden Dawn, headed by Nikolaos Michaloliakos, is an ultranationalist, far-right party, described as neo-Nazi and fascist. They have also made use of Nazi symbols and propaganda and they have praised figure of the Nazi Germany.

Belgium: The New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) is a Flemish nationalist and conservative political party. It strives for the secession of Flanders from Belgium. It has become the largest party of Flanders as well as of Belgium as a whole, and now it is leading the Flemish Government.

Sweden: The Sweden Democrats (SD) is a nationalist political party. The party has been described as far-right, right-wing populist, national-conservative and anti-immigration. In the 2014 general election the SD got around 13% of votes, becoming the 3rd largest party in Sweden.

What all these parties have in common is, besides being eurospectic and nationalist, the rejection of the “welcome policies” to migrants and to those who are getting away from the misery of the South of the World and who are looking for a better life in the Old Continent. These parties are not all the same: some of them are extremely far-right parties, like the German Republikaner, the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), the Italian Fiamma Tricolore, Forza Nuova, Fronte Sociale Nazionale, the Spanish National Democracy, the British National Party, the Greek Golden Dawn, the Hungarian Justice and Life Party, the Flemish Vlaams Blok. Other parties prefer to be considered as conservative or right-wing socialists, like the French Front National and the Freedom Party of Austria.

In the Eastern European countries there are parties in which ultra-nationalist connotation prevails, like the Greater Romania Party, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), the Slovak National Party, the Croatian Party of Rights, and the Serbian Radical Party. And it is no coincidence that in Germany the far right achieved the greatest possible consensus in the Eastern Germany.

These parties are not just characterised by xenophobic and racist attitudes. They have indeed a common approach to refuse Community institutions and bodies or at least to refuse the current European architecture drawn by the Jean-Claude Juncker’s European People’s Party (EPP) and by the Party of European Socialists, which means closer integration, common currency, European Parliament and Commission. The far-right parties wish to get back to the dominance of the Nation States as opposed to Community bodies in order to safeguard the regional specifities.

In short, less Europe and more State. Less immigration, more nation. Less freedom, more borders.

Remy Morandi
Liberalni Institute