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How Far Is Europe Swinging to the Right?

Politika rovat / 2017-04-04

How Far Is Europe Swinging to the Right?
Amid a migrant crisis, economic inequality, growing disillusionment with the EU and a sense of lost national identity, right-wing parties in a growing number of European countries have made electoral gains.

The right-wing parties included below range across a wide policy spectrum, from populist and nationalist to far-right neofascist.


The anti-European Union, anti-Islam Party for Freedom, led by Geert Wilders, failed to win a plurality in a March 15 election in the Netherlands, finishing in second place.

While the results were a setback for a party that had been leading in the polls for much of the campaign, the party is predicted to gain five more seats, 20, than it won in the last election. The party also succeeded in pushing many right-leaning parties to adopt tougher stances on immigration and is likely to influence policies in the new government.

A new right-wing party, the anti-European Union Forum for Democracy, won two seats.

Mr. Wilders, one of Europe’s most prominent far-right politicians, has said he wants to ban the Koran and close mosques and Islamic schools. He was convicted in December of inciting discrimination for leading an anti-Moroccan chant at a political rally, but the Dutch court imposed no punishment. In February, he described Moroccan immigrants as “scum” who endanger the country.

Norbert Hofer of the nationalist and anti-immigration Freedom Party became the clear front-runner in the first round of the presidential election in Austria in late April, winning 35.1 percent of the vote.

In May’s runoff election, he received 49.7 percent of the vote, narrowly losing to Alexander Van der Bellen, an economics professor and former Green Party leader.

After Austria’s highest court ordered a do-over of the election, Mr. Van der Bellen repeated his defeat of Mr. Hofer, expanding his margin of victory to 6.6 percent of the vote.

Mr. Hofer campaigned on strengthening the country’s borders and its army, limiting benefits for immigrants and favoring Austrians in the job market.

The far-right party, whose motto is “Austria first,” holds 38 of the 183 seats in the National Council.

Norbert Hofer, center, of the Austrian Freedom Party, narrowly lost the presidential election.Christian Bruna/European Pressphoto Agency



Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice party roared back into government by winning 39 percent of the national vote in the 2015 parliamentary elections.

Since assuming power, the party, led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who has no official role in the government, has moved to restrict public gatherings, strengthen government control of the media and curb the independence of the judiciary.

In June, the European Union’s executive branch chastised Poland for failing to uphold the rule of law, a rare rebuke reflecting growing alarm about the government’s commitment to democratic norms. In July, President Obama, too, chided Poland’s leaders, urging them to do more to nurture democratic values.

From mid-December through mid-January, Poland’s largest opposition party, Civic Platform, occupied Parliament to protest plans to limit the news media’s access to the legislative body. Andtens of thousands of protesters in October attended a rally against a proposed law that would have made virtually all abortions illegal. The Law and Justice party backed away from both initiatives.

An effort this month by Law and Justice to deny former Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who was in the Civic Platform party, a second term as president of the European Council fell flat when no other European Union country supported the effort.

A banner showing the Law and Justice party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski at a demonstration for free media in Warsaw in January. Kacper Pempel/Reuters



Viktor Orban and his right-wing Fidesz party, running on a joint list with the K.D.N.P., a Christian Democratic party, have won the last two parliamentary elections in Hungary, worrying many Western leaders about his increasingly authoritarian rule. The party also decisively won in voting for the European Parliament in May 2014.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia visited Budapest in February, and Mr. Orban said that “very anti-Russian policies” in the West were hurting Hungary’s economy.

After the election of Donald Trump, which Mr. Orban supported enthusiastically, Fidesz accelerated a crackdown on what it called "foreign funded" nongovernmental organizations pressing for more transparency and human rights.

Jobbik, a far-right, anti-immigration, populist and economic protectionist party, won 20 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections in 2014, making it Hungary’s third-largest party.

Jobbik’s policy platform includes holding a referendum on membership in the European Union and a call to “stop hushing up such taboo issues” as “the Zionist Israel’s efforts to dominate Hungary and the world.”

Jobbik wants to increase government spending on ethnic Hungarians living abroad and to form a new ministry dedicated to supporting them. In a 2012 bill targeting homosexuals, the party proposed criminalizing the promotion of “sexual deviancy” with prison terms of up to eight years.

In a February interview, Gabor Vona, the party’s leader, denied persistent rumors that Jobbik receives money from the Kremlin, but he did say he would welcome warmer relations between Moscow and Washington.



The far-right Sweden Democrats party, which has disavowed itsroots in the white-supremacist movement, won about 13 percent of the vote in elections in September 2014, up from only 2.9 percent eight years earlier, which gave it 49 of the 349 seats in Parliament.

Because none of the mainstream parties would form a coalition with the Sweden Democrats, which is led by Jimmie Akesson, the country is governed by a shaky minority coalition of Social Democrats and the Green Party.

The Sweden Democrats’ platform calls for heavily restricting immigration, opposes allowing Turkey to join the European Union and seeks a referendum on European Union membership.

Some of the party’s progress has to do with Swedes’ perceptions of crime, a significant issue with voters in cities like Malmo, Sweden’s third-largest. Polls show it also making gains for its position on increased defense spending and better care for the elderly.

Sweden has a long history of being receptive to refugees, and 163,000 arrived in 2015 in a country of 10 million. In February, President Trump issued a vague but harsh critique of the country’s migration policies.

The country has recently tightened its immigration rules, making reunification of refugee families more difficult, among other changes.

Jimmie Akesson, the leader of the Sweden Democrats, at an election night party in Stockholm in 2014. Anders Wiklund/AFP/Getty Images



Founded in 1980, the neofascist party Golden Dawn came to international attention in 2012 when it entered the Greek Parliament for the first time, winning 18 seats. The election results came amid the country’s debilitating debt crisis and resulting austerity measures.

The party, which the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner described in 2013 as “neo-Nazi and violent,” holds extreme anti-immigrant views, favors a defense agreement with Russia and said the euro “turned out to be our destruction.”

In September 2013, the Greek authorities arrested dozens of senior Golden Dawn officials, including members of Parliament and the party’s leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, who was charged with forming a criminal organization.

Golden Dawn again won 18 seats in parliamentary elections in September, making it Greece’s third-largest party.

Party leaders, since released from custody as their trial continues, have said Golden Dawn is planning numerous protests around the country against what they warn is the “Islamization of Greece.”

In November, Mr. Michaloliakos publicly embraced the occupation by nationalist groups of a site in Athens where the capital’s first state-sponsored mosque is planned.



The National Front is a nationalist party that uses populist rhetoric to promote its anti-immigration and anti-European Union positions.

The party favors protectionist economic policies and would clamp down on government benefits for immigrants, including health care, and drastically reduce the number of immigrants allowed into France.

The party was established in 1972; its founders and sympathizers included former Nazi collaborators and members of the wartime collaborationist Vichy regime. The National Front is now led by Marine Le Pen, who took over from her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in 2011.

She has tried to soften the party’s image and broaden its appeal. Mr. Le Pen had used overtly anti-Semitic and racist language and faced repeated prosecution on accusations of Holocaust denial and inciting racial hatred.

In February, Ms. Le Pen began her campaign for president with a grim speech warning that “two totalitarianisms,” globalization and Islamism, want to “subjugate France.”

Polls show that she is very likely to reach at least a second round of voting in France’s two-stage electoral process this spring. The party is closer than it has ever been to gaining power in France after over 40 years of existence.

“We are living through the end of one world, and the birth of another,” Ms. Le Pen told a cheering gathering of members of European right-wing parties in Germany in January.



The far-right Alternative for Germany party, started four years ago as a protest movement against the euro currency, won up to 25 percent of the vote in German state elections last year, challengingGermany’s consensus-driven politics.

The party failed to win seats in the German Parliament in 2013 by narrowly missing the 5 percent threshold, but is now polling at 8 percent to 11 percent and is expected to be the first right-wing party to enter the Parliament since the end of World War II when Germany votes in September.

The party, Germany’s fastest-growing, has attracted voters who are “anti-establishment, anti-liberalization, anti-European, anti-everything that has come to be regarded as the norm,” said Sylke Tempel of the German Council on Foreign Relations.

Frauke Petry, the leader of the party, has said border guards might need to turn guns on anyone crossing a frontier illegally. The party’s policy platform says “Islam does not belong in Germany” and calls for a ban on the construction of mosques.

In January, Björn Höcke, a prominent state lawmaker in the party, drew broad criticism by challenging the collective national guilt over Nazi crimes and the Holocaust.

Frauke Petry, a leader of the far-right-wing party Alternative for Germany, said that the situation with asylum-seekers in the country was causing “huge problems.” Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

Note: The charts shows parliamentary election results. For countries with separate elections for upper and lower house, the lower house was used.

Sources: European Election Database, Inter-Parliamentary Union, ElectionGuide.org, Government websites

Correction: June 22, 2016 

An earlier version of this interactive chart referred incorrectly to the political leanings of four parties. BZÖ (Austria), LA.O.S (Greece), and MIEP and FKgP (Hungary) should have been categorized as "right wing and far right," not "other."

Correction: January 27, 2017 

An earlier version of this interactive chart misstated the percentages of the vote won by parties in Germany for the years 1998, 2002, 2005 and 2009. It gave the percentages for the first vote, in which Germans vote directly for a candidate, not the second vote, which is cast for a party list of candidates and is considered more important. (The numbers are visible by hovering over the sections.)

Correction: March 22, 2017 

An earlier version of this interactive chart failed to distinguish among the various People’s Parties in Romania. The existing right-wing People’s Party is not the same as the one from 2012, officially called the People’s Party — Dan Diaconescu, or the one from 2016, the People’s Movement Party. The earlier version of the chart also referred incorrectly to the New Flemish Alliance of Belgium. It is a right-wing — not center-right — party.

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