Meet The Nationalist Leaders Who Want To Tear Europe Apart

Marine Le Pen

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The European Union may be facing its toughest test in years, as a once united front is stretched by economic turmoil.A new breed of nationalist, populist politician has tapped into the growing discontent.

We’ve taken a look at the leaders across Europe and found the 10 rising populist stars you need to keep an eye on.

FINLAND: Timo Soini

Party: True Finns

Platform: Anti-EU, pro-welfare state, nationalism

The True Finns' electoral success earlier this year came as a surprise to many, who saw the nationalist, socially conservative stance of the party as being at odds with Finland's dominantly socialist culture.

However, with a charismatic leader in Soini, the party has been able to gain support on an anti-bailout platform. 'He draws a crowd like flypaper catches flies,' one voter told the AFP. Critics say the party is xenophobic, but at present the party rarely mentions immigration.

The party won 39 seats in their last election, and Soini himself was the highest polling politician.

FRANCE: Marie Le Pen

Party: Front National

Platform: Economic protectionism, Eurosceptic, anti-immigration

The Front National has emerged as the premier far right group in Europe, with its founder Jean-Marie Le Pen even coming 2nd in the first round of Presidential elections in 2002.

Now, with presidential elections coming this year, and President Sarkozy losing support from his centre right base, Jean-Marie's daughter Marine has pushed the party away from it's anti-immigration roots to focus on trade issues, and barred 'skinheads' from FN marches.

Marine may prove to be free of the baggage her father left, allowing the party to appeal to more moderate voters. Her popularity is already forcing President Sarkozy to adopt an anti-immigration stance.

SWEDEN: Jimmie Akesson

HOLLAND: Geert Wilders

Party: Party for Freedom

Platform: Anti-Islam, support for Israel, free-market economics

The Party for Freedom (PVV) are third largest party in Holland, and act as a de facto member of the coalition government (though they are not officially members).

Much of the party's success comes from Wilders' provocative public persona. Wilders has based much of his success on a profound rejection of the Islamic religion, calling for the Koran to be banned and a tax on headscarves.

The PVV is hugely influential in Holland and Wilders has pushed the Islamic issue to the centre of national discourse. Wilders is under constant police protection.

ITALY: Umberto Bossi

Party: Lega Nord

Platform: Autonomy for Northern Italy, anti-immigration

Leader of the Lega Nord and a senior member of Silvio Berslusconi's government, Bossi is notorious for his populist anti-immigration stance. This may have been best evidenced by the time he told a newspaper he wanted to 'fire the cannon' at boats bringing illegal immigrants to Italy.

Bossi is a former Communist party member. Lega Nord seeks to unite members of all political persuasions who want greater regional autonomy in Italy.

DENMARK: Pia Kjærsgaard

Party: Danish People's Party

Platform: Anti-immigration, Eurosceptic

Originally a member of a mainstream Danish party before founding her own party in 1995, Kjærsgaard's most distinctive feature is her unwavering anti-immigration stance.

In 2007's elections, the Danish People's Party was the third largest party in Denmark. The next parliamentary elections take place later this year. Recent polls show the party is running third or forth in the polls.

UK: Nick Griffin

Party: British National Party

Platform: Anti-immigration, Eurosceptic, economic protectionism

Nick Griffin has tried hard to distance the BNP from its forebears, the old-school fascist National Front, and his own past support of anti-semitism and racial separation. While the results have been mixed, the party's support has grown during his tenure.

Despite their growing electorate, the BNP has failed to distance itself from extremists. Under the current British electoral system, it is unlikely the BNP would ever be required to form a coalition government.

BELGIUM: Bruno Valkeniers

Party: Vlaams Belang

Platform: Flemish independence, anti-immigration

Valkeniers leads VB, a Flemish-speaking party that advocates the independence of Flanders and strict immigration laws that would force immigrants to adopt a Flemish way of life.

(For an introduction on the ethnic rift in Belgium, read this article from the New Yorker - subscription required)

HUNGARY: Gábor Vona

Party: Jobbik, The Movement for a Better Hungary

Platform: Anti-minority, anti-elitism

Vona is a founding member of Hungary's Jobbik, a nationalist party in Hungary, which gained 16.7% of the vote in 2010.

In 2007 Vona helped form the Magyar Gárda, a paramilitary group that critics described as 'neo-fascist.' When the organisation was banned, Vona wore their uniform to the first day of parliament.

Jobbik may be the most radical group included in this list, yet its anti-Semitic and anti-gypsy positions have not hurt its popularity.

SWITZERLAND: Christoph Blocher

Party: Swiss People's Party (SVP)

Platform: Anti-immigration, supply-side economics

While currently the party's vice-president, Blocher remains the driving force behind the SVP, and is seeking a return to parliamentary politics in this year's elections. The SVP is currently the largest party in the federal parliament.

Blocher has pushed the party towards anti-immigration policies, promoting the party with posters that showed 'black sheep' being forced out of the country.

A billionaire industrialist, Blocher opposes recent moves by the Swiss government to impose a 10% capital ratio on UBS and Credit Suisse.

While Switzerland isn't an member of the European Union, it's anti-immigration policies could have an impact on neighbouring states like Italy and France.

What else is a threat to Europe's stability right now?

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