Europe Takes Dangerous Turn to the Far Right
Policy + Politics

Europe Takes Dangerous Turn to the Far Right

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The election in Ukraine on Sunday, which went surprisingly well, delivered a clear winner in Petro O. Poroshenko, a Ukrainian billionaire, along with a promise from Russia to work with the new government.   

The vote drew the majority of international attention over the long Memorial Day weekend in the U.S., and put European concerns about a drawn out crisis there at ease. But elections elsewhere in Europe portends a new crisis that Europe will now be forced to deal with. 

Across Europe on Sunday, political elites were shocked by the results of EU Parliamentary elections. The vote delivered a string of right-wing lawmakers to Brussels, representing parties with clear anti-immigrant and nationalist tendencies, raising fears of a growing tide of right wing extremisms in the wake of the European monetary crisis. 

Related: Germany's Tea Party: A Threat to European Unity 

Few outside of the political elite are typically concerned with EU parliamentary elections. Lawmakers in Brussels have little power to shape national policy. The seats provide a forum for lawmakers to shape European policy debate; individual nations then take these deliberations into consideration when making national policy. 

The euro crisis made this forum more important, and the EU provided a mechanism for European countries to meet to formulate a response. This elevated the importance of the EU, and the standing of lawmakers that comprised it. 

That’s what makes the results of Sunday’s elections so important. In France, the anti-immigrant National Front won 26 percent of the vote, defeating both the governing Socialists and the Union for a Popular Movement. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called the results “an earthquake.” 

“We are in a crisis of confidence,” Valls said. “Our country has for a long time been in an identity crisis, a crisis about France’s place in Europe, Europe’s place in our country.” 

Related: Two Charts That Explain the 2014 Eurozone Crisis 

Elsewhere, in the United Kingdom, the nationalist Euro-skeptic U.K. Independence Party, or UKIP, won 28 percent of the vote. This is the first time in 114 years that the Labor or Conservative Parties did not win a national vote. 

“My dream’s become a reality. Despite the onslaught we faced over the last few weeks when it was as if the whole world was against us, the British public stood firm and backed UKIP and we’ve won a national election. I’m over the moon,” Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, said in London Monday. 

Similar results trickled in across Europe, amounting to a far right revolution similar to one that swept the America Tea Party to power in 2010. In Greece, Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi, party, defeated the ruling coalition in Greece. In Spain, the two ruling parties failed to get 50 percent of the vote, prompting Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, the leader of the Socialist Party, to quit. 

The election of lawmakers from far right parties is not going to have a direct impact on European policy. But it does lend fringe parties a new degree of legitimacy in European politics, along with a forum to advocate their radical views. 

Related: How Europe Could Finally Call Putin's Bluff 

It also adds new voices to a chorus calling for a different approach to the European crisis. Each of the radical parties elections has called for the dissolution of the European Union in the wake of the crisis. This argument now has renewed legitimacy.

Germany Remains Relatively Steadfast
The good news to come out of the EU elections is that traditional parties prevailed in Germany, a country with a troubled history of far right parties, to say the least. However, extremism did achieve a small triumph there; the far right, anti-immigrant National Democratic Party of Germany, won one percent of the German vote, giving it a seat in the European Parliament.

“In some countries it won’t be as bad as had been feared, for example in the Netherlands; but France’s National Front is a severe signal, and it horrifies me that the N.P.D. from Germany will be represented in the Parliament,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said, according to AFP. 

In London, UKIP’s Farage made clear that his party, and other fringe parties, would not go quietly. 

“I promise you this: You haven’t heard the last of us,” he said. 

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