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Exponential Rise of Far Right Politics: A Hefty Blow on Europe

Why are far-right political parties on the rise on Europe – and who are they?

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Why are far-right political parties on the rise on Europe – and who are they?

Many people blindly believe in political scenarios of ‘Developed’ or ‘First world countries’ as progressive, liberal, and secular influenced by matters of neo-colonial effects on the world order – although that ‘clean’ picture of those countries has been changing in the hyperactive social media period.

Europe no longer disguises itself in the cover of white politics. In recent years, so many internal and global upheavals have struck the politics of European countries. One of the growing tensions in European politics is the rapid increase of far-right political parties and pro-European narratives which drastically change the ‘ideal’ European model of politics.

On September 2, 2023, some Belgians demonstrated in a town south of Brussels under the banner of the Belgian political party Flemish Interest, holding placards that were anti-Islamic and anti-immigration.

Additionally, the Center-Right government, led by Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, won the September 25, 2022, election. The Brothers of Italy is an extreme right-wing neo-fascist political party. The rise of far-right political parties in Italy is increasing in parliament and across Europe. Right-wing populists are seen marching on the streets of different countries in Europe, including Italy, Spain, and Hungary, suddenly violating the constitution.

According to research by political scientist Matthijs Rooduijn, last year’s national elections in 31 countries showed that 32% of European voters voted outside mainstream political parties. At the beginning of the 21st century, the amount was 20%; at the beginning of the 90s of the last century, it was only 12%.

Today, one in three people votes against European settlements or those outside the mainstream. The vast majority of them are far right-wing. This article discusses the current scenario of the extreme right in Europe and the reasons behind its growth. 

So Who are Right-Wing Parties?

A far-right or far-right political party is a political organization that is ultra-nationalist, authoritarian, and ideologically driven (intolerant of dissent), often espousing traditional values, defending strong borders, and opposing multiculturalism and globalization (Mammon, 2009).

There is no single agreed-upon definition of a far-right political party, but there are certain characteristics that political scientists have suggested are indicative of far-right parties. The far-right rejects liberal democracy, including pluralism and minority rights (Oner, 2014). Far-right nativists also believe that the state will be for the natives or homogenous, non-native elements (immigration, intolerance of different religions, e.g., Islamophobia) are a threat to the fundamentally homogenous nation-state.

Most of the parties that emerged in Europe after World War I were primarily parties based on far-right political ideologies. The National Fascist Party (Italy), the Nazi Party (Germany), the National Socialist German Workers Party (Austria), etc. are called far-right political parties for the above reasons. These extremist groups promoted nationalist ideology after World War I and advocated strong central power and limited political freedom (authoritarianism). The rise of this right-wing party was one of the causes of World War II.

The Current Status Quo of Europe

After the Renaissance, people became the root of everything in Europe. The ideological and practical decline of rule by a divine king or dynastic ruler began. In England, the rights of the people were spoken about by reducing the power of the king through the ‘Bill of Rights’, and the Bastille castle fell in France under the slogan ‘Equality, Friendship, Freedom’. Liberal democracy emerged in Europe to establish real freedom and rights for people.

But this liberal democracy in Europe is currently under threat due to the political ideology of the extreme right. There are currently 234 active anti-settlement political parties in Europe, of which 112 are far-right. Brothers of Italy’s 2022 single vote share was 26%; France’s presidential election 2022 Marie Le Pen’s vote was 41.46%; Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD) received 10.3% of the vote share in the 2021 election; Spain’s far-right party Vox received 15% of the vote; Hungary’s Viktor Orbán’s far-right party formed a government with 59% of the vote in the 2022 election, all of which were far-right parties. Among them, various countries, including Italy, Finland, and Hungary, are being governed by a coalition or a single extreme-right government.  

Why are Far-Right Parties Exponentially Growing?

After World War II, European countries returned to political stability, liberating themselves from fascism, economic fragility, and unemployment. European states gradually became welfare states. As a result, Europeans did not lean toward the extreme right.

The opposite was seen after World War I, when several far-right parties emerged. But in the late 20th century and into the 21st century, the rise of such groups is increasing again in Europe. There are some reasons behind this.  

Loss of faith in mainstream politics is a major reason for the rise of extremist right- or left-wing political parties. Although the people of Europe accept democracy as the preferred form of government, they are not satisfied with the performance of the government. Due to the increase in the rate of immigrants in European countries, the government has to adopt immigration policies, which many do not like.

Extreme right-wing parties are seizing this opportunity. They are convincing the people that if they come to power, it can change. For example, in 2007, 51% of French people said they trusted the EU, while 34% did not. But in 2018, 57% said no and 33% believed. That is, their trust in the government is declining.

Globalization and Multicultural Issues

Globalization has increased the free movement of people around the world. People from one continent can work on another continent. As a result of this globalization, people of different cultures are gathering in Europe, some for jobs, some for a better life. Subsequently, job-loss and economic stagnation were often seen in Europe, creating new class inequalities.

In the era of globalization, modernization created the privileged and disadvantaged classes – making people believe migration creates unemployment and identity problems. Also, the rate of different cultures in the same city increases because people from different countries gather. This gives the far-right party an opportunity. They oppose globalization, talk about closed economies, protect their culture, etc.

Islamophobia as a Tool

Islamophobic rhetoric in Europe has played an effective role in swaying ground support for election vote banks.

Initially described as an incident, protesters were holding anti-Islamic posters. European citizens think that Muslims are a problem for their country; Muslims are not loyal to the country. Also, there is a mismatch between Muslim culture and European culture. They think Muslims are dangerous to European countries and cultures and may cause their own culture to disappear.

Anti-Muslim crime in England has risen by 42 percent in the past year. The same picture can be seen in other European countries, with France increasing by 53% in 2020 and Germany with 871 anti-Muslim crimes in 2019. The European radical right can easily increase its vote bank by spreading Islamophobia.

Aggression on Immigration

Anti-immigration is one of the most prominent political parties with far-right ideologies in Europe. They portray immigration negatively because of unemployment, economic crises, or cultural mixes.

According to the theory of economic competition, native Germans compared the situation of immigrants with their own economic conditions. These parties attract voters in elections by capitalizing on the immigration policy of the current governments in Europe.

The ‘Alternative for Germany’ party campaigned against Angela Merkel’s immigration policies in Germany. Thus, Merkel was mocked as a refugee chancellor. According to a 2011 survey, 71% of Germans consider immigration a serious problem. Anti-immigration protests were also seen recently in Belgium. Thus, the radical right-wing party emerged by negatively promoting the positive aspects of immigration.

Homogeneous Nationalism

Hitler’s nationalism in post-World War I Germany was German homogenous nationalism, in which minority Jews were persecuted. But today, the modern state does not run on the basis of nationalism; it runs on the basis of principles. Equality is a principle; everyone will be equal to the state regardless of religion, caste, gender, etc.

When the state adopts nationalism as its policy, minorities suffer discrimination. In Europe, indigenous nationalism is on the rise, leading to the rise of extreme right-wing parties. Radical-right groups prioritize philosopher Rousseau’s ‘will of all’, whereas modern liberal democracy advocates Rousseau’s ‘general will’ for all people, which precedes genuine interest.

If the co-current status quo continues in European nations, the glory of Europe’s liberal democracy will become a piece of the past, the state will run on the basis of fake interest, and the will of the real people will be lost.


References

Art, D. (2013). Rise of the Radical Right: Implications for European Politics. The Brown Journal of World Affairs, 19(2), 127–137. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24590825

Mudde, C. (2007). Populist radical right parties in Europe. https://doi.org/10.1017/cbo9780511492037

Mammone, A. (2009). The Eternal Return? Faux Populism and Contemporarization of Neo-Fascism across Britain, France and Italy. Journal of Contemporary European Studies, 17(2), 171–192. https://doi.org/10.1080/1478280090310863

Öner, S. (2015). DIFFERENT MANIFESTATIONS OF THE RISE OF FAR-RIGHT IN EUROPEAN POLITICS: THE CASES OF GERMANY AND AUSTRIA. Marmara Üniversitesi Avrupa Araştırmaları Enstitüsü Avrupa Araştırmaları Dergisi, 22(2), 85–106. https://doi.org/10.29228/mjes.8

The rise of the far right in Europe. (n.d.). Retrieved January 8, 2024, from https://www.iemed.org/publication/the-rise-of-the-far-right-in-europe/

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