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Jun. 8 2009 - 11:58 am | 25 views | 1 recommendation | 10 comments

Meet the Crazies: ultra-right parties make gains in European elections

(Image from Guardian.co.uk)

Gordon Brown (Image from Guardian.co.uk)

Conservative mania swept through Europe in a series of political victories for parties that were reluctant to throw taxpayer cash into company bailouts and bottomless stimulus pits. And putting aside the fact that, as economist Paul Krugman points out, conservatives can be blamed for the collapse of the global financial system as much as any of their liberal counterparts, it’s still a good time to be a conservative in Europe.  

Surely, American conservatives will be overjoyed at this news. Perhaps they’ll finally express an interest in Europe, but only because the pendulum has swung toward their own sets of ideologies. Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll still hate France even though exit polls suggest Sarkosy’s conservative party scored a victory with 28.3 percent of the vote. He may be a winner, but he’s still French, after all.

But before anyone takes a victory lap, let’s first examine what this shift to the right means. Some countries will experience quite moderate changes, but there are also worrying trends of radicalism with several ultra-right groups winning parliament seats. While many mainstream politicians may dismissively ignore fringe parties, it’s important to acknowledge these radical groups and bring their rotten ideologies into the light so their hate cannot spread. 

The UK voting results caused a political uproar in Britain where members of the Labour party have reported that a plot to push out Prime Minister Gordon Brown may accelerate after the party’s poor performance. Such news will please the British National Party (BNP), a conservative political group with the specific stated niche of being for whites-only, or as the Wall Street Journal calls them, a “fringe party.” The party’s current leader is Nick Griffin, a man famous for calling the Holocaust the “Holohoax.” Griffin is a white man who feels threatened by ethnic minorities and the idea of multiculturalism, a description that should sound familiar to Americans that have been paying attention to Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gringrich’s treatment of the nomination of Hispanic judge Sonia Sotomayor.

Thanks to Labour’s poor performance, the BNP now has two seats in the European Parliament. The party standing to make the greatest gains in Britain will be the conservatives led by David Cameron, a man known for showing exactly as much cultural sensitivity and social grace as America’s GOP leaders. In June, Cameron formed an alliance with the ring-wing Polish Law and Justice party (PiS). The head of PiS, Urszula Krupa, is famous for co-signing an open letter to the Polish people that states homosexuality is a “pathology” undermining the sanctity of family, and that Christianity was the root of European greatness. Such a statement makes Mike Huckabee’s recent comments about Prop 8 being a “miracle from God’s hand” look like small pickings.

In Italy, the center-right party People of Freedom, which is led by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, took in 34.9% of the vote, despite being one of the most scandal-ridden parties in history. Berlusconi has been accused of having ties to the mafia, authoritarian control of Italy’s media, and once claimed that Western civilization is “superior to Islam.” Before anyone could escort him away from the microphones he added, “the West will continue to conquer peoples, like it conquered Communism.” But he wasn’t done there. Finally, in a thrilling conclusion, Berlusconi compared anti-globalization demonstrators to Al-Qaeda. And you thought Dubya had a big mouth.

The Austria’s People Party made large gains and won 30% of the vote. The party partly ran on an agenda of being anti-affirmative action and anti-rights for sexual minorities.

In Denmark, the Danish People’s Party (DPP) picked up one seat in the European assembly. The People’s Party has been accused of harboring xenophobic ideologies, and one of its members, Søren Krarup has previously stated, “Islam has for 1,400 years attempted to conquer and repress European Christianity…” and “It may sound offensive, but Islam is a totalitarian regime that has thousands of human lives on its conscience. The headscarf is a symbol of this regime and the Quran may very well be compared with Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf.’” Kristian Thulesen Dahl, the DPP’s spokesman on finance, while describing his party, said “[i]n many ways, we are anti-Muslims.”

In 2006, undercover journalists pretending to be members of Dansk Front (a defunct extreme-right group that has advocated banning Islam and accused the Danish secret police of collaborating with neo-Nazi groups) attempted to join the DPP. Half the district chairmen accepted their requests, explaining that extreme views confessed during the application process are kept private. The ensuing story — as you can imagine — caused quite the scandal.

Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party has won 22 seats, while its center-right party, Fidesz, won 14. Jobbik has been accused of stoking anti-Semitic fears. In 2009, a Jobbik party candidate, Krisztina Morvai wrote 

“I would be greatly pleased if those who call themselves proud Hungarian Jews played in their leisure with their tiny circumcised dicks, instead of besmirching me. Your kind of people are used to seeing all of our kinds of people stand to attention and adjust to you every time you fart. Would you kindly acknowledge this is now OVER. We have raised our head up high and we shall no longer tolerate your kind of terror. We shall take back our country.” 

Judit Szima, a Jobbik candidate and editor of a Hungarian trade union released a newsletter that read, “Given our current situation, anti-Semitism is not just our right, but it is the duty of every Hungarian homeland lover, and we must prepare for armed battle against the Jews.” Asked to comment about the content of the newsletter, Szima said that he “didn’t see anything wrong with the content of the article.”

Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, Geert Wilders’ anti-Islamic Party for Freedom won 17% of the vote and secured four of 25 seats. Wilders’ political wish list includes a ban for immigrants from non-western countries, a ban for the founding of mosques and Islamic schools, and yet another ban on preaching in any other language other than Dutch. To put worried Netherlands liberals at ease, Wilders explained, “I don’t hate Muslim. I hate Islam.” 

There was another center-right shift in Poland where PiS won 29.5% of the vote. In addition to making all kinds of radical statements about homosexuality and Christianity already described above, PiS favors strengthening restrictions on abortion, a practice already illegal in Poland except in extraordinary circumstances.

Though it was voted out of parliament in 2008, this time around the ultra-right Greater Romania Party (PRM) won 8.7% of the vote. PRM promotes strong nationalist policies and has been characterized as homophobic, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, anti-ethnic Hungarian, irredentist, and anti-Roma. PRM’s leader, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, founded the nationalist weekly Greater Romania, a publication Time magazine calls a “crude mixture of anti-Semitism, racism, and nostalgia for the good old days of communism.” Additionally, a former reporter at Romania Mare, Dan Corneliu Hudici, claims Tudor has a “secret blacklist” of politicians, journalists, and businessmen to be arrested if PRM ever comes to power.

This shift to the right is primarily caused by voters’ rejection of careless spending on stimuli that has thus far only slowed the global economy’s bleeding, but has not stopped it. Unfortunately, reliable byproducts of civil and financial unrest are the emergence of ultra-right political groups that blame economic ruin on everyone from immigrants to homosexuals. 


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  1. collapse expand

    A few notes.

    – Minor political parties won a lot in these EU elections because average people didn’t care enough to vote. Seriously 40% voted! So who voted? People who are actually involved in politics. Unfortunately that results in crazy Neo-Nazis gaining ground. In a regular election, with the exception of one or two, these parties would be irrelevant…as they will be in the EU parliament.

    – If there is one thing our European cousins share with us, it’s contempt for democracy. So never you fear, nothing in the European Parliament will change. Because the Socialists and the Conservatives will continue to form a grand coalition as long as they have the united majority of the votes! They form this coalition to keep minor parties in their place…it’s cute.

    — The Conservative Parties often win elections in Europe because the left is split between Greens, Communists, and Social Democrats. While, on the other hand, the conservative parties are more uniform, with the exception of a few voting for crazy racist parties. That isn’t to say I support tactical voting, it’s just how their elections work. When the left’s main party only gets 65% of the left vote and the right’s main party gets 85% of the right vote…the right wins the elections.

    — Many conservative parties in Europe, as well as in Australia and Canada, are actually to the left of the U.S.’s Democratic Party. Look at Sarkozy’s political positions in comparison to Obama’s. Who opposes the death penalty? Sarkozy. Who support Universal Health Care? Sarkozy. Who opposes the war in Iraq? Sarkozy. Who supports a higher tax bracket? Sarkozy, okay barely. So why the hell would Republicans support him? Just because he’s France’s “conservative” party? Look past the labels and at their positions. The left-right terminology is different in Europe than the U.S.

    — If you look at the election from the perspective of the U.S.’s conception of left and right, then the right only slightly won the election. Seriously less than 15 more MEPs, with still some to be decided…that is less than a 2% advantage. Furthermore if one wants to make a big deal about the 54 far right extremists that won, then the far left outdid then by having over 85 MEPS.

    Of course you wont hear that. Because the liberal parties in Europe are considered moderates and the Green Party is considered moderate left as opposed to far left. Even though the liberals in Europe are more liberal than the Democrats and The Green Parties have almost universally the exact same positions. Thus by European logic, the conservatives won in a landslide, by American logic it was incredibly close.

    • collapse expand

      Minor political parties won a lot in these EU elections because average people didn’t care enough to vote. Seriously 40% voted!

      This is a very good point. You’re right, the voter turnout was extremely low, which is why fringe groups made gains.

      Many conservative parties in Europe, as well as in Australia and Canada, are actually to the left of the U.S.’s Democratic Party.

      Another good point. I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw Sweden’s conservative party’s (adorably named the “Moderate Party”) ideologies. For example, they support gay marriage. Imagine that. :)

      However, parties like the British National Party, PiS, DPP, and PRM harbor extremely racist and homophobic ideologies. Those groups aren’t moderate, nor “liberal” in comparison to America’s GOP. It’s important to acknowledge their presence, even though they’re in the minority because unchecked hatred tends to spread especially in volatile environments i.e. the global depression. Panic breeds zealotry.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    Well yes, the Neo-Nazi parties are less liberal than the democrats. Probably similar the more extreme Republicans. But they have generally, properly, got a lot of negative coverage from the press in Europe. The BBC, France 24, Deustche Welle, have talking about how worrisome their success is. Which is true.

    But it should be kept in perspective.

    What I find more interesting though is how these “news” channels have related these extreme parties to minor left parties – I know you aren’t doing this. So they show a clip of some lunatic who belongs to the BNP saying crazy racist stuff. At which point they would say that that is the danger, that small parties, non-mainstream parties, could win a lot of votes. Be they far left or far right. Except they never show the green party person, or the supposed crazy leftist.

    So they were actually using the craziness of these Nazi parties to say that all small parties are bad. It’s very devious and quite clever. I imagine our 24 hour news networks would be very proud.

    Anyways some evidence that all that really matters is whether the conservatives and socialists maintain their unified majority… a labour politician said before the election, and this is verbatim: “Of course we want them to vote Labour first, but if they are not going to vote Labour, use the vote, use it for a mainstream party. That is the right thing to do… you know if they are going to vote Conservative, then fine, it’s a mainstream party.” (Link, the quote about 3:30 in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nI_RqfyVM4 )

    • collapse expand

      Of course it should be kept in perspective. No one is saying these fringe parties gained seats therefore it’s the end of society itself.

      Simply putting a spotlight on some fringe groups with dangerous ideologies.

      So they show a clip of some lunatic who belongs to the BNP saying crazy racist stuff. At which point they would say that that is the danger, that small parties, non-mainstream parties, could win a lot of votes. Be they far left or far right. Except they never show the green party person, or the supposed crazy leftist.

      That’s interesting. I agree that the two can’t be compared because the “crazy leftist” example in the Green Party essentially just wants to save the planet, while the “crazy right-wing” BNP person is viciously racist and anti-immigration.

      The quote from the labor politician is a very sad inditement of the political monopoly certain dominate parties have on the system. It’s the same sad state of affairs in America with the Democratic and Republican parties. The Dems and Reps are guaranteed to be in power every few years (give or take,) and there isn’t a threat from third-party candidates. Therefore, they essentially have a monopoly on politics and don’t have to acquiesce to populist demands i.e. health care reform and environmental reforms.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    Yes it’s very much like Democrats and Republicans owning Washington.

    Rereading your post I might have been unduly harsh. I was probably just annoyed because the only thing I’ve heard about this election is that the conservatives beat the liberals by a lot while the far right made big gains. Both are kind of true but they are also somewhat exaggerated by the international press.

    It just seems to be a running theme that people in the U.S. often paint Europe as being worse than it is. And while it certainly has many severe problems, we appear to exaggerate it’s failures and fail to recognize it’s accomplishments. For instance Iceland’s election earlier this year, which really changed the whole political landscape of the country, was completely ignored. So I was just trying to add some extra information.

    • collapse expand

      I agree that if the media is saying these are “big gains,” that’s an exaggeration. I simply said they’re gains, which they are, and in some cases, that’s cause for concern.

      It just seems to be a running theme that people in the U.S. often paint Europe as being worse than it is

      Absolutely. What’s particularly ironic is that conservatives always use Europe as the example of why “health care reform won’t work” and how “any Socialism at all will destroy humanity.” Now, of course, they’ll use Europe as an example of why “Conservatism can save the planet.” Sort of a case of wanting one’s cake and eating it, too. :)

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  4. collapse expand

    This concept was best illustrated in Wyatt Cenac’s trip to Sweden. If I’m not mistaken the horrible nature of their system is shown by the fact that their celebrities don’t live in giant mansions… which is obviously quite tragic.

  5. collapse expand

    Yes, quite right, tis a terrible life these people must lead. They’re practically slaves.

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