The Far-Right Make Ground Across Europe
After right-wing populism swept over Britain and America, mainland Europe looked set to follow suit in 2017. Euro-scepticism and anti-refugee sentiment were gaining traction, providing ample opportunity for right-wing media outlets such as Breitbart to spread Steve Bannon’s liver-spotted ideals with ease. Starting with Trump-imitator Geert Wilders, who fought to overthrow Dutch liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte in March, this surge, while not a resounding success, was not a total wipeout either.
Rutte’s VVD party claimed 21.3% of the seats in the Netherlands’ House of Representative. Wilders’ anti-EU Party for Freedom came in second with 13.1%. Then in May, the
French Presidential elections arrived, with Emmanuel Macron facing the National Front’s Marine Le Pen. A former investment banker, Macron was as ‘anti-establishment’ as the phrase ‘proestablishment’. Thus, Le Pen had an advantage when appealing to non-Parisians, and could capitalise on their anxiety. While Le Pen was anti-Europe, Macron’s main selling point was not being Le Pen. Running a Clinton-esque campaign, making his case by using favourable polling numbers (because when has that ever failed?), France expressed its dismay at both sides, by having the highest abstention record in over three elections.
In the end, Macron won two thirds of the vote, but Le Pen remained optimistic, labelling it a “historic, massive result”. She wasn’t wrong. That mood transferred to the German elections in September, which have proved the most unsettling, as Angela Merkel faced enormous heat for bringing over one million refugees to Germany.
Coming up against the AfD (Alternative for Germany), whose co-leader Alexander Gauland publicly stated, “We have the right to be proud of the accomplishments of German soldiers in two world wars”, the result revealed the deep divide between old East Germany and the West. The CDU/CSU conservative alliance win was hollow. Their 33% to the AfD’s 22.9% inspired little joy.
The following month, “anti-establishment billionaire” Andrej Babis won the Czech elections. Then, Austria made centre-rightist Sebastian Kurz of the Austrian People’s Party its youngest leader, which may in turn lead to a coalition with the hard right Freedom Party. Add to this the spectacle of 60,000 Polish nationalists marching on Warsaw and calling for an “Islamic Holocaust” on November 14, and what is clear is that this story has yet to reach its twilight.