The extreme right in Europe

The Herald reports:

They may not have claimed ultimate victory, but the biggest winners of the elections in France and Greece were the parties of the extreme right.

Fringe parties, some of them routinely labelled “neo-fascist” until recently, have made stunning inroads into mainstream European politics, to the point that in France, Norway, Finland, Hungary and Austria they either hold or threaten to hold the balance of power. Governments are increasingly faced with the choice of either giving ground on hot-button issues such as immigration and Islam, or ceding power.

In Greece – its disastrous economy in the hands of European moneymen, its political establishment rotten with corruption and unemployment among the under-25s cresting 50 per cent – this general election has seen a host of extremist parties emerge.

The leader of Chrysi Avgi (“Golden Dawn”), Nikos Michaloliakos, would not have been given the time of day in most countries only a short while ago. An open admirer of Hitler (he has called him “a great personality of history”), Michaloliakos has adopted the Nazi salute and a version of the swastika as his party’s emblem. One of his candidates in this election remarked laconically: “Most of the money is in the hands of the Jews.”

I have always remarked that the extreme left and extreme right can be very alike, hence they both benefit from an anti-austerity backlash.

At the last election Golden Dawn polled a derisory 0.29 per cent; this time they are expected to crash through the 3 per cent threshold to end up with 7 per cent and a dozen MPs in Parliament. That will still put them a long way from holding power.

But they may stop a government from forming without their consent.

In the Netherlands the power of the far right was demonstrated last week when Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party, anti-Muslim and anti-EU, brought down the Government, wrecking a long-standing financial pact with Germany which had been one of the pillars of EU stability.

I think it is unhelpful to compare the Freedom Party with the Golden Dawn. There is a huge difference between being anti-EU and anti-immigration and being neo-nazis. Let’s look at the various parties.

France – the National Front (or Front National) has no MPs in the National Assembly or the Senate and only got 4% at the last elections. However it routinely gets around 15% in presidential elections. They got 18% in 2012, 10% in 2007 and 17% in 2002 (when they came second).  They were very anti-semitic under Jean0Marie Le Pen, but less so under daughter Marine who has even praised Israel. They advocate France should leave the euro, and reintroduce customs borders.

Norway – not sure why Norway was mentioned because as far as I know, there are no far right parties in their Parliament.

Finland – the True Finns got 19% at the 2011 election, and were almost the 2nd largest party. They are eurosceptic and anti-globalisation which is not really far right. They also support more progressive taxes. A nationalistic party but in no way neo-nazi.

Hungary – Jobbik is Hungary’s third largest party and got 17% in 2010. In 2006 they had an electoral alliance with a far left party ironically. They do use fascist symbols and have had a number of anti-semitic incidents.

Austria – Jorg Haider’s Alliance for the Future of Austria is a break off from the Freedom Party. Both have become less extreme in recent years.

Netherlands – Geert Wilders leads the Party for Freedom. They got 16% in the last election. They are eurosceptic and anti-immigration but in no way neo-fascist,.

Greece – Golden Dawn did get 7% this week and has strong fascist symbols and salutes. Their leader has been convicted of illegal possession of explosives. Their youth wing has organised white power concerts and the original party charter required members to have Aryan blood.

So overall I’d say Golden Dawn is an outright fascist party. Hungary’s Jobbik is neo-fascist. The Austrian parties and the French National Front were neo-fascist but not necessarily are today. And I don’t see the Norway, Finland or Netherlands parties as being any more extreme than say NZ First.

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