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