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The following article discusses the right of anti-establishment parties in Europe and some parallels with Brexit and Trump. UKIP itself is a centerist party and does not necessarily share all policy visions with the respective parties discussed below.
2016 saw two seismic events in Western politics.
In June Britons decided to leave the EU and later on in November, Americans voted in Donald Trump to be the 45th President of the United States. Both events were remarkable in many similar ways. Both the Brexit campaign and Trump were largely vilified and mocked as outsiders with no chance of success. However, they both succeeded in spite of a hostile and biased media. Each campaign occurred in the context of a so-called silent majority dissatisfied with the status quo and the recent history of negative experiences with migration.
The mainstream options of remain in the EU or Hillary Clinton offered no solutions either and even threatened to make the situation worse.
In each case the campaigns were narrowly won, although we will never know what would have happened had the media treated both campaigns neutrally.
Winning the EU referendum and the Presidential campaign are only the start, of course. The Brexit negotiations still have scope to be derailed and agitators in the Supreme Court are presently blocking Trump’s travel ban just one month in to his term. This proves that the Establishment remains and they’re digging in their heels. In the UK and the USA there are still many people hostile to the choices made fairly and democratically, and from time to time this has erupted in to violence. No doubt this will continue in to the near future.
But what about Europe? This year could potentially continue the backlash with general elections taking place in three major EU countries: Netherlands, France and Germany.
Let’s take a brief look at each in turn.
Netherlands – March 15th
With only a few weeks remaining in the election campaign Geert Wilders’ PVV (Party for Freedom) is currently leading the polls by 6 points. The party has risen to success on the back of Wilders’ departure from centre-right liberal politics (where Wilders began his political career). Their stance is anti-immigration from non-Western countries, and anti-EU. Wilders is a frequently outspoken figure on Islam and has plans to reverse the Islamisation of his country including promoting “voluntary remigration“. All of the other parties have ruled out any coalition with the PVV should that situation arise. The mainstream media, in typical fashion, label the PVV as ‘far-right’.
France – April 23rd / May 7th
The current poll leader in the French elections is Marine Le Penn of the Front National party. The French system is a little more complicated and can take place over a second stage, if the first vote does not provide a clear majority. Le Pen is not polling well in the second stage, should it happen. Similar to Wilders she runs an anti-EU party and is outspoken on globalisation and Islamisation.
“Financial globalisation and Islamist globalisation are helping each other out. Those two ideologies aim to bring France to its knees.” Marine Le Pen
France has experienced the worst brunt of Islamic attacks in Europe. The Nice truck attack in July 2016 was particularly brutal resulting in the deaths of 86 people. This attack was preceded by the November 2015 attacks in Paris where 130 people were killed including the gunning down of 89 concert-goers at the Bataclan theatre. In addition the rising unemployment in France has increased franco-scepticism of the EU. Le Pen frequently talks of economic protectionism measures to boost the French economy. It is against this backdrop that she has risen. Her detractors would refer to this as populism; others would call it common-sense.
Germany – September 24th
Finally, for the year we have the German elections which currently prove to be the least likely to get a party elected that are aligned to true conservative thought. The incumbent party, the CDU, led by Angela Merkel are still polling as leaders although the gap is being closed by the left-wing SPD led by Martin Schulz. The AFD (Alternative for Germany) have grown hugely on the back of Merkel’s disastrous immigration policy that saw 1 million migrants enter the country in 2015/16. Even Merkel knows her policy is a disaster as she is now allocating 90 million euros to pay migrants to retract their asylum applications. No-one will remember this woman with fond memories as they witness their demographics irreversibly changed for the worse in the coming decades.
In a poll in 2016, 61% of Germans stated that they believed that Islam did not belong in their country. This opinion is core to the AFD policy yet they are still lagging third in the polls. Why? May be it is incorrect polling (we’ve seen this with Brexit and Trump). May be it is media propaganda. Or it could be an inability for the AFD to attract credible candidates for office (they are only 4 years old)? Germany is still a conservative nation on some levels despite the infection of liberalism. Germany also has the most severe laws that impinge free-speech in the world known as Volksverhetzung (incitement of the people). This makes navigating the waters of political discourse extremely difficult. A candidate could make a case for stopping immigration and easily find themselves on the wrong side of ‘hate speech’. In addition there is a severe clamp-down on mainstream and social media. Merkel was famously caught in 2015 discussing with the Facebook CEO, Zuckerberg, about censoring anti-immigration posts on Facebook.
Volksverhetzung – Prosecutions have ballooned in Germany in recent years. The maximum sentence is 5 years imprisonment although most receive fines. A court just needs to demonstrate that an individual did something that is likely to disturb the public peace against a national, religious or ethnic group or individual, this includes ‘insulting’ them. Clearly these laws prevent any serious critique of ideologies such as Islam and their more militant followers.
Despite these obstacles in Germany, there are still seven months to go; and remember what they said about Brexit and Trump!
Does it matter anyway?
It may not even matter if these candidates win or not. Just look at how UKIP forced the hand of the Tories during the election in 2015. Backed in to a corner and faced with another coalition they had to steal some of the ground that UKIP were rapidly gaining. Cameron took the biggest gamble of his career and promised the referendum if they were elected. The gamble paid off in securing a Tory majority but backfired spectacularly for the pro-EU establishment and resulted in Cameron’s resignation.
This only happened because UKIP were there in the political mix.
And so it could be with Wilders, Le Pen and the AFD. In order to secure their majorities the mainstream parties may have to promise something of what they offer. In this respect being a strong second place may be no bad thing. There is also speculation that Wilders and Le Pen losing may still result in an EU referendum. In short 2017 promises to be an exciting year. And as an altright commentator once said “We live in interesting times”.