What is populism?
A gang of democracy, a perversion of democratic principles, has gone into the derision in the hand (or mouth) of successful demagogues? Or on the contrary, even populism represents true democracy, the direct expression of the will of the people, by shorting the shadowy intentions of the elites to govern in the name of the people?
The classical theories of political parties define parties as organizations whose functions are to organize and prepare society politically, as well as to have an interest in governing on behalf of a social group whose political representative has become. By the idea of an organization, the political party should be a structured entity in which members are not personalized but only act on behalf of their ideas.
The crisis in Europe justifiably justifies the emergence of right-wing extremism? This demonstration is very simple, says Florian Hartleb, from the European Studies Center in Brussels. As Hartleb says, right-wing populists would not have crisis-solving strategies apart from separatist and anti-globalization strategies.
Right-populist tendencies in industrialized countries
For example, in Scandinavia, the effects of the crisis are hardly felt, and illegal immigration is not a problem. And yet, right-wing populist parties are gaining ground. At the last Finnish election, the “True Finnish” party picked up voters’ votes. The strategy, which won 20 per cent of the votes, was the slogan “We do not understand why we have to pay for the Portuguese,” explains Florian Hartleb. In the neighbouring country, the “Democrats of Sweden” populists entered parliament for the first time in 2010. In the opinion of the political scientist, in rich countries, these formations also fuel the fear of those wealthy to lose their wealth.
“An important reason is the aversion to the rich, so the middle classes vote for these parties.” Also, Hartleb says the terrorist attack by Andreas Brevik in the summer of 2011 in Norway should be seen as a singular case and not as an expression of increasing violence.
But also in Germany, the violence by right-wing extremists shocked. A self-titled Trio Nationalist Socialist Group (NSU) has committed crimes for over a decade until the authorities have traced them. We also reach the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), an unconstitutional party that can be considered not only a right-wing populist but a right-wing extremist.
“Not consolidating right-wing parties is a problem in Germany, but politically motivated crimes and a certain subculture, responsible for serial killers.” As Hartleb sees, with scepticism. The pressure in the right-wing liberal societies.
In the neighbouring countries of Germany, right pressure can be felt right inside the parties. In Belgium, the racial and populist right-wing political party, the Vlaams Belang Regional Party, who until 2004 was named Vlaams Blok, has been twenty years among the most popular parties.
In 2012, Vlaams Belang launched a campaign and demanded that immigration offenders be removed from the country. They also had several posters in this regard and who appeared in the campaign. Predictably, they were denounced as racist, even if some of the other posters were of European origin.
The Netherlands is another example where the government of Christian Democrats and Liberals resists Prime Minister Mark Rutte only through the right-wing populist party of Geert Wilders, who is the third faction in power.
Florian Hartleb says about the Dutch right-wing populist strategy:
“Geert Wilders asks the Dutch to record offences committed by immigrants from Eastern Europe on their website. And through this attitude, it creates diffuse fears. ”
Even this liberal tradition of these countries could lead to the strengthening of right-wing populist parties, Stefan Steidenhof, historian and chair of the European Department of the German-French Institute in Ludwigsburg.
By working on a study of right-wing populism in Europe, he believes that: “This liberal vision, projected on a collectively defined population, has begun to show its shortcomings, as long as it does not correspond to reality.”
There is the talk of “an extended bourgeoisie, while we see ghettos on the outskirts,” adds Seidendorf about France.
While in Holland, Wilders tolerates a government, the Austrian FPÖ, headed by Jörg Haider, even made a coalition in 2000 with the conservative ÖVP party.
But it must be known that, as in Eastern Europe, right-wing parties are expanding.
Many see these changes as a phenomenon of modernization and transformation. After World War II, there were extremist parties in both the right and the left of politics, says Stefan Seidendorf.
“It took a generation to pass until these party systems were modernized and until extremist temptations could be overcome.”
Something similar can be noted, with all the differences, also in Eastern Europe. Hartleb also disagrees with the fact that these transformations are the justification for the emergence of right-wing populists, even twenty years after the change of the system.
There is no doubt, he says, that Central European democracies, such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and now Hungary, are no longer qualitatively different from those in the west of the continent. But Hungary currently has one of the most powerful parties, Orban’s Fidesz party. FIDESZ, the conservative party he leads, achieved more than two-thirds of the mandates in the 2010 legislative elections.
In Slovakia and the Czech Republic, right-wing populists have gained more and more ground in the past twenty years. In Poland, right-wing populism often appears as ultra-Catholic or anti-Semitic statements. “These countries are very different and each has its own tradition. That is why it would be wrong to consider them very simply as “former communist states”, according to Florian Hartleb. ”
Europe – Challenges
However, Stefan Seidendorf admits that the state of crisis in which the economy is located has had some negative effects on the expansion of right-wing populism.
The so-called “losers of modernization” have sympathy for these parties. There is a factor that attracts the electorate to the populists, Seidendorf says: “Europe needs to cope with increased emigration, but it does not have a unanimous migration policy. Given that traditional parties do not come up with solutions, they are sought after by extremist movements. ” This is also the common denominator of European countries with strong right-wing parties.
Florian Hartleb believes that the European Union, political parties and institutions have an obligation: “Policy can no longer be a purely administrative matter,” he says. “It takes visions.”
In this context, should the EU answer the question “What will happen to Europe in the next twenty years? ” These visions reinforce optimism and drive out fears, Hartleb concludes.
Is the populism the future of European politics?