They can be found in the north and in the south, in the east and in the west. They differ from one another, and that’s why they disagree. In fact, for the time being they are not part of the same political bloc (not even in the European Parliament, where they hold a large number of seats). Some of them sit in the government of their national countries, or hold the balance of power of internal policies. In other cases they represent strong, reactive social opposition. They enjoy the support of a large part of the electorate and on many occasions they are fuelled by the media. They dethroned – in terms of populism and votes – their left-wing opponents, identifying a common “scapegoat”, i.e. the European Union. These are – more or less extreme – right-wing parties, enjoying increasing popular support in a Europe scarred by the crisis and widespread fear.
Unstoppable success? The recent elections in the small German Land of Mecklenburg-Pomerania had an echo throughout the continent. The Party led by Frauke Petry, Alternative for Germany, gained over 20% of the vote, slightly more than Angela Merkel’s CDU. This regional vote obviously has limited bearing within the larger German and European scenario. Nonetheless, it carries symbolical value for having gnawed at the foundations of the Christian-Democrat Chancellor’s power. Thus Petry’s success was celebrated also by all nationalistic, anti-EU, and anti-immigration political leaders in Europe, starting with Marine Le Pen in France, to Nigel Farage in the UK, to include Hungary’s Viktor Orban. They are all the founding leaders of parties whose success is determined by the effects of globalization, economic downturn, by the arrival of large numbers of migrants from Africa and the Middle East, by the attacks that are upsetting the Western “dream”. They fear Islam as well as Muslims, identifying refugees with terrorists.
Charismatic leaders. All the leaders of these movements are charismatic and they know how to manipulate slogans, words, and consciences. The names of these far-right Parties blur the meaning of words; in many cases they encompass terms such as “solidarity”, “democracy”, “progress.” Some of them even “boast” their Christian DNA.
What is their political project? It’s hard to identify one, but they all seem to share recurring features:
No to Europe, No to Islam, No to refugees, No to soulless, borderless finance. Yes to borders and walls, Yes to a longed-for – rather than cherished – local, regional or national identity. They allure all levels of society, especially the young and the elderly, along with population brackets that were most direly hit by the economic crisis.
European tour. The dimension of the political geography bearing such features is impressive. In Germany it includes the euro-sceptics and no-foreigners of Alternative für Deutschland (that optimistically confides in next year’s national elections) and the declared xenophobia of Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands. In France the Front National of Marine Le Pen reigns unchallenged seeking a facelift ahead of the 2017 Presidential elections. The pro-independence Party Ukip, in the UK, was the real winner of the Brexit referendum past June. Among large European Countries, Italy’s political scenario is less-clearly defined, although Salvini and Maroni’s Northern League can be said to identify with this political area, to which it adds regional and federalist claims. The European tour across nationalistic, right-wing parties has no shadowy areas, although the Iberian peninsula features original traits (in fact strong pro-independence drives prevail in some areas of Spain, notably in Catalonia). In The Netherlands the Partij voorde vrjheid (Freedom Party), led by Geert Wilders, supporting Flemish pride and superiority, enjoys widespread consensus. In Belgium the Vlaams Belang Party – “Flemish interests”, calls for the secession of the French-speaking region of Wallonia.
In the government and in the opposition… In some Countries, more or less extreme political parties hold government seats – notably Poland (Rights and Justice, conservative, eurosceptic, founded by the Kaczynski twin brothers, represented by Prime Minister Szydlo and President Andrzej Duda) and Hungary (Fidesz, Premier Viktor Orban). In Austria on October 2 voters will go to the polls for the presidential ballot re-run, as the results of the election of May 22 were declared null. The two candidates are Alexander Van der Bellen, former member of the Green Party, contesting as an independent, and the populist leader of the Freedom Party Norbert Hofer. In Greece Golden Dawn grew to the far right along with left-wing leader Alexis Tsipras and his party Syriza. The nationalistic geographic map involves, with varying degrees, the Baltic Republics as the Balkans. Several States have registered the presence – and the disappearance – of the Pirate Party. The new right has obtained considerable success in Finland, (True Finnish), Sweden (Swedish Democrats), Norway (Progress Party), Slovakia (Freedom and Solidarity), Denmark (Party of the Danish people), Romania (Great Romania) Bulgaria (National Union). Although with different characteristics it extends beyond the EU, in Switzerland, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine… a “tide” that for the time being, is slowly – albeit inexorably – growing.