Peter Popham: Rise of far right threatens to pollute politics across Europe

So far none of these rapidly growing parties has succeeded in forging a meaningful alliance with any of the others across national borders

Share
Related Topics

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 from the woodwork like termites.

The leader of Chrysi Avgi ("Golden Dawn"), Nikos Michaloliakos, would not have been given the time of day in most EU countries only a short while ago. An open admirer of Hitler (he has called him "a great personality of history"), Mr 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." 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 a dozen MPs in parliament.

That will still put them many miles away from holding power. But in Greece, as in many other countries, the danger is not a far-right takeover but ideological contamination of the parties in power.

Last week, attempting to steal the far right's thunder, the technocratic government of Lucas Papademos set up a camp for illegal immigrants and promises to establish dozens more.

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.

In France the rise of the Front National under Marine Le Pen has already dramatically altered the terms of the presidential election decided yesterday. When the FN polled 17.9 per cent in the first round two weeks ago, President Sarkozy immediately toughened his rhetoric. "Islamism is the totalitarianism of religion," Ms Le Pen declared last week. Mr Sarkozy promptly followed suit, as John Lichfield reported in the Independent on Sunday yesterday, lashing out at "such menacing enemies as halal meat in school canteens and special hours for women in swimming pools".

Across Europe, from Britain, where UKIP – "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists" according to David Cameron – averaged 14 per cent in last Thursday's local elections, to Finland, where the extreme nationalist True Finns party has increased its share of the vote from 4 per cent to 19 per cent in four years, to Hungary, where the anti-Roma, anti-Semitic Jobbik party holds the balance of power, the far-right is seizing the initiative provided by recession and the threat of a eurozone meltdown.

The only crumb of comfort is that so far none of these rapidly growing parties has succeeded in forging a meaningful alliance with any of the others across national borders. Nicolas Lebourg, an authority on the far-right at the University of Perpignan, was yesterday quoted as saying: "Europe is a dry prairie waiting for someone to light a match." But given the nationalistic obsessions of all these far-right parties – Golden Dawn says "the nation comes first, democracy after" – the EU's national borders would seem to be unbreachable fire-breaks. It's about the only consolation there is.

The right track: extremist Europe

France

Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front, came third in the first round of the presidential elections with 17.9 per cent of the vote. She told her followers to cast blank votes at the run-off yesterday, blowing President Sarkozy's chances of taking the far-right vote for his campaign.

 

Greece

The extreme-right Golden Dawn party seemed set to gain parliamentary seats for the first time last night, as voters made their anger known over austerity measures, and the main two parties.

 

The Netherlands

The Dutch nationalist Freedom Party, led by Geert Wilders, is the third-largest in parliament. It brought down the minority government last week by withdrawing its support.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Scientists have discovered the perfect cheese for pizzas (it's mozzarella)  

Life of pie: Hard cheese for academics

Simmy Richman
The woman featured in the Better Together campaign's latest video  

Tea and no sympathy: The 'Better Together' campaign's mistake is to assume it knows how women think

Jane Merrick
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution