Right parties in Europe
Right-wing populists in Europe like to say that their parties are inexorably on the way to power. But they only talk to themselves.
Not long ago, Matteo Salvini left no doubt in his speeches. Before the EU election in May, the head of the Italian Lega said: “From today we will determine the politics of the next 50 years.” The Lega will “change the history of Europe”.
This message was characteristic of Europe’s right-wing populists. Recently Alexander Gauland, as AfD leader, announced that “a weakened CDU would only have one option: us!” Marine Le Pen and many others also acted as if an unstoppable pull had been used to put them in power everywhere would bring, the “old parties” could only watch.
Not only did many of their supporters believe this, but also in view of a phase of widespread right gains for their opponents. In Dresden, for example, before the election in September, some were already talking about exile. And colleagues from Eastern Europe are also, not without reason, thinking about this.
But not only since the unexpected defeat of the Lega in the regional elections last Sunday has shown that the certainty raised that the populist upward trend is irreversible was more auto-suggestion than self-fulfilling prophecy. They suffer stagnation and setbacks, just like other parties.
Salvini, the doormat
The election in the left stronghold of Emilia-Romagna on Sunday should, according to Salvini, be a “turning point” in the history of Italy – and bring back power. Here too, many leftists believed: this is how it would happen. As a junior partner, Salvini became Minister of the Interior in 2018 and was soon unable to run before Kraft.
His media omnipresence caused the Lega survey values to rise temporarily to 39 percent. During this time, Salvini treated his larger coalition partner, the five-star movement (M5S), as a doormat. So he wanted to force new elections and become prime minister.
But in his greed for power he miscalculated. The M5S teamed up with the Social Democrats (PD) they once hated. Salvini ended up in the opposition. A powerful movement emerged from civil society: the “sardines”.
In the past two months, they have put hundreds of thousands on the streets of Italy. Their goal: to push back right-wing populism. With success: Stefano Bonaccini, the candidate for the PD, won 51.4 percent, well ahead of Lucia Borgonzoni of the Lega.
What pushes them back
In addition, a lawsuit is now pending because, as Minister of the Interior, Salvini himself prohibited Italian military ships from entering the port because they had refugees on board. M5S and PD recently lifted Salvini’s immunity from the Senate. After a conviction, his right to vote would be lost – he should no longer stand for office. It would be the final victory of the “sardines”.
The widespread upward trend has by no means been replaced by a corresponding downward trend. In some European countries, rights are still gaining ground today, for example in Spain or Belgium, and in many countries they can hold their position.
How our neighbor made life hell for us: The story of the suffering of a family that just wants to be happy – in the taz on the weekend of 1st / 2nd February. In addition: The crisis in Chile and what the “Chicago Boys” have to do with it. And: declarations of love for the English food. From Saturday at the kiosk, in the eKiosk, in the practical weekend subscription and on Facebook and Twitter,
But their claim that more and more people would automatically run over to the right camp is propaganda. Corruption scandals, the loss of sovereignty over topics, the vacancy in climate policy and civil society counterpower can certainly push them back in some places.
The FPÖ in Austria was by no means the victim of evil powers, as she claims, but her own greed, corruption, unprofessionalism and inept personnel. These are problems that many of the – often rapidly growing – right-wing parties in Europe are struggling with.
Rights lose votes in Scandinavia
If FPÖ chief Strache had behaved differently, there would have been no Ibiza video. In 2017, his party won over 26 percent in the National Council elections, and until eight months ago it provided the Vice Chancellor. If elected today, it would come to just under 15 percent, and the trend is falling. Without the big stage of government offices, popularity is dwindling, just like with Salvini.
The finding is inconsistent. With European right-wing populists, one can “today speak neither of an endless upward trend nor of a general downturn,” says Mainz party researcher Kai Arzheimer. The reasons for the emergence of a radical right-wing populist potential are similar everywhere, such as the expansion of education, the decline of the industrial workforce, migration or globalization, says Arzheimer. “That weakened the parties in the middle.”
It was “rather unusual that it took so long for this potential to become the AfD electorate”. But what position the populists will take in the future would have “country and party-specific factors strong influence”.
In liberal Scandinavia, too, the right had long grown across the board. But in the last “folketing” elections, the Danish People’s Party only got 8.7 percent, 12.4 percentage points less than in 2015. The allegations of corruption were that the Social Democrats had coped with the hardship against refugees. They won with the right migration policy. Many Danes also did not approve of the lack of a climate policy.
Latvia’s KPV-LV disassembled itself after the election success – 14 percent in 2018 – on the question of government participation. Of 16 MPs, 10 are now left. In the EU elections in May she got 0.9 percent. There are currently efforts to dissolve the party. However, there are two other right-wing parties in Latvia.
The progress party in Norway received around 15 percent of the vote in 2017. As part of a coalition that was unpopular with everyone, their approval rating was halved. The coalition broke in the past week, which however gave the FP rising poll values again.
The strength of SVP is eroding in Switzerland. In 2016, the party wanted to impose a tougher right of removal by referendum – after it had already drastically tightened the right to asylum. The SVP didn’t just have the conservative one The New Zurich Times against itself, but a broad civil society alliance, far from the parties, similar to the “sardines”.
SVP loses power of discourse in Switzerland
Almost 60 percent voted against the deportation initiative. Shortly afterwards, inspired by Trump’s “America First”, the SVP wanted to use a “self-determination initiative – Swiss law instead of foreign judges” to stipulate that the federal constitution will in future rank above international law. 66 percent of Swiss women said no.
The SVP’s long almost total power of discourse in Switzerland began to crack, others set the agenda. In the parliamentary elections in October 2019, which were rated as “climate and women’s elections”, she lost 12 of her 65 seats by then.
In the Netherlands, Islam hater Geert Wilders crashed with his PVV freedom party. In 2017 he received 13 percent of the vote. In the 2019 EU election, Wilders appeared in Italy with Salvini, Le Pen and Meuthen, wanted to form a group with them. But at home he only chose 3.53 percent – the PVV failed because of the Dutch five percent hurdle.
Wilders ’decline is less likely to be due to a political economy than to himself. His party consists only of him. A social base and fresh blood are missing. The revenge is now evident.
The AfD stagnates – or loses
The Dutch wanted new faces on the talk shows. Wilders ’place is now replaced by the equally right, market-liberal forum for democracy with Thierry Baudet, a kind of post boy of the New Right, who is more able to appeal to a young audience than the dodgy Wilders.
For the AfD, too, things are not just going upwards. In the state elections in Thuringia, Saxony and Brandenburg, she came up with results between 23.4 and 27.5 percent. Many were shocked by the gains and losses. In part, the party had doubled its voting share compared to the last state election in 2014. But that obscured the fact that it had only grown strongly in the first three years of this time – the phase of high refugee arrivals. Since then, it has stagnated – or lost.
A look at the absolute second voices is revealing. Because compared to the 2017 Bundestag election in 2019, around 75,200 fewer people in Saxony made their cross at the AfD. That was a minus of 12 percentage points compared to 2017. And that despite the fact that the party hoped to take power in Saxony in September and mobilized everything possible for the election campaign.
In Thuringia, the AfD also lost around 12 percentage points compared to the 2017 federal election, which was about 34,700 votes. In Brandenburg the loss was lower with 3,600 votes. But the finding is the same: the AfD has run away again in the past two years.
The possible observation by the protection of the constitution and the tax and donation scandals are likely to play a role here. In addition, the AfD suffers from the fact that it was no longer able to keep its favorite topics Islam and refugees as strong in the media. At the same time, it could also score points in some milieus with its anti-climate stance.
The situation for liberal democracy is undoubtedly disastrous today, especially in Eastern Europe. And in other parts of the continent, the populists will certainly not sink into insignificance again. But the steady growth of their power is also not certain.