The story no one really wants to talk about in Europe is the rising tide of right-wing politics. This is a particularly taboo subject in Germany, for obvious reasons. But it’s happening all across the European Union, as this handy chart from The Economist makes clear.
The driving issues of this surge are said to be economic uncertainty, immigration and anti-Islamic “prejudice.” But the overarching issue is nationalism or, more specifically, opposition to what might be called the “ideology” of the European Union.
Anti-EU politics have already toppled governments in Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Iceland. Anti-EU politics are now threatening to topple governments in more prosperous European nations.
For the first time that anyone can remember, all eyes will be on Finland this weekend, The anti-EU, right-wing True Finns Party, long an unimportant small farmer’s party in Finnish politics, is poised to score major gains in the April 17 national ballot. Indeed, the True Finns party is expected to do so well that it will likely be asked to help form a government. Such a development would have been unthinkable five years ago.
Peter Spiegel of the Financial Times sketches out what’s happening elsewhere in northern Europe:
Anger is beginning to infect Europe’s prosperous core, where mainstream parties are losing ground to populist outsiders playing on resentment and frustration triggered by austerity and falling living standards.
In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s centre-right UMP party took a drubbing in regional elections last month amid a strong showing by the far-right National Front. In Belgium, Flemish nationalists have prevented the formation of a government for a year and, observers say, are likely to emerge even stronger if forced into another election. The minority Dutch government has relied on the anti-EU party of nationalist Geert Wilders to keep it in power for six months.
Even in Germany – where the idea of a right-wing populist party feeding on economic discontent is the subject of whispered concerns – anger over mainstream handling of the economy led the traditional parties to lose ground in the state of Baden-Württemberg last month. Resentment, fuelled by the tabloid press, grew so intense that one mainstream party, the liberal Free Democrats, appeared to toy with an openly anti-EU platform ahead of the vote.
We’ll keep you posted on Sunday’s vote in Finland.
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