The fortunes of Europe's far right

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The Independent Online
The success of Gianfranco Fini's neo-fascists is one example of how attractive parties well to the right of mainstream conservatism can be, writes Michael Sheridan. But support for extremism tends to be limited: in no country has the far right achieved a breakthrough on its own.

All figures refer to European parliamentary elections except Austria where figures refer to general elections


Freedom Party

Jorg Haider

The far-right Freedom Party, its name chosen without a hint of irony, captured more than 20 per cent of the vote in elections last year. But it seems unlikely to achieve the "Fini effect" to make itself a party suitable to share power. Its leader, Jorg Haider, apes Mr Fini with a youthful fortysomething appeal to voters. But unlike Mr Fini, who smoothly qualifies his regard for Mussolini, Mr Haider is prone to ranting xenophobia and open praise for Hitler's "full employment" policies.


Vlaams Blok



In Belgium, the openly racist Flemish nationalist party scored a dramatic success in elections in the port of Antwerp last year. The party, the Vlaams Blok, draws on a tradition stretching back to the Flemish SS collaborator units in the Second World War. Fuelled by resentment against immigrants, the Vlaams Blok also espouses a separate Flemish state. It campaigns against abortion and denounces "Americanised" culture. The party's success has raised tensions in Antwerp, which has a large Jewish quarter and substantial communities of Moroccans and Turks.


National Front


Le Pen

Jean-Marie Le Pen evoked the ghosts of French Algeria with his campaign against immigration and echoed Vichy in his fight against "decadence". But most French voters seem to feel that the Gaullist Interior Minister, Charles Pasqua, may be relied upon to round up the usual suspects and crack down on troublesome foreigners. The result: Mr Le Pen's party has never won more than 15 per cent. The nationalist and Catholic conservative voter can now also choose the more placid Struggle for Values movement led by Philippe de Villiers - that rare beast, a French Euro-sceptic.



Rolf Schlierer

The revival of the extreme right aroused international concern in the late 1980s, but its small parties seem doomed.

The Republicans, whose figurehead was the the former SS officer Franz Schonhuber, failed to achieve impact in elections last year. Schonhuber, who blamed a "media conspiracy" for its reverses, has since been replaced by the nondescript Rolf Schlierer.

The other small group on the extreme right, the German People's Union, has also sunk into obscurity.

Both Chancellor Kohl's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian ally, the Christian Social Union (CSU), embrace a broad swathe of right- of-centre opinion. They have carefully responded to populist concerns, such as restricting Germany's asylum law after a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment.