By Hanif Ghafari

Tracks of Populism in Europe

November 9, 2017 - 7:0

TEHRAN _ Leaders of the European Union and the Eurozone are facing with persistent challenges in the green continent. The continuation of the economic crisis in Europe, the prevalence of social and security challenges and, most importantly, the return of citizens from traditional parties which were the proponents of Europe's integration, all together have led to an increase in the level of the European Union's vulnerability. It is not unreasonable that many analysts of Europe's political and social issues warn against the return of the European Union to the time of nationalism.

In recent months, we witnessed three major European elections, which all of them shared the relative victory of the nationalist and right wing extremists:
In Germany's general election, the Christian Democrat Party and, in general, the League of Christian Parties didn't have the necessary votes. On the other side, the extremist party of Alternative for Germany (AFD) won the election and found way to the parliament. Not only did this extremist party take nearly 90 seats in the Parliament, it became the third strongest party in Germany after the Social Democratic Party. Even more traditional parties such as the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party were left behind the AFD in this political marathon. The turning of about12 percent of German voters to AFD means a progressive increase in this party's votes. This is while until now, this party has not even had a single representative in the German parliament. If this increasing trend continues, we will see the formation of new equations in Germany.

The two traditional German parties, Christian Democrats and Social Democrats, faced a decline in popularity compared with previous elections. Undoubtedly, with the escalation of the economic crisis in Europe and the depopulation of Euro currency with German citizens, the general interest in the Alternative for Germany will increase. This issue will show itself in the upcoming European Parliament elections that will take place in all 28 EU member countries. The overwhelming majority of Europe's analysts refer to the recent victory of the Chancellor of Germany and her party (Christian Democrats) in the recent election as Merkel's most bitter victory.
Although Merkel has now begun negotiations to form a coalition government with Green parties, Liberal Democrats and Christian Socialists (the Jamaica coalition), the shadow of the right-wing extremism and the Alternative for Germany are still heavy over Germany. Meanwhile, the Social Democrats, as the main opposition party of the German government, have practically lost their revitalization power after the defeat of the Christian Democrats. Obviously, under such circumstances, the AFD will automatically become the main opposition party in Germany, and most voters who despise Merkel and her weak coalition will prefer to vote in the next election in favor of this extremist party.

The AFD made use of the immigration crisis in Germany. This party's opposition to the principles and bases upon which the United Europe was formed on, will be effective in exacerbating this trend. The main concern of the Alternative for Germany is to attract the gray and white votes in the next German election. The move that Marin Le Pen has made and could reach the final round of election by attracting these potential votes.

In Austria, the Freedom Party, which is affiliated with the right-wing extremism, made use of the conflict between the two traditional parties, the Conservative party of People (led by Sebastien Kurtz) and the Social-Democratic Party, and won a large part of the general votes In this election. In this way, the Freedom Party could become the second most powerful party in the Austrian parliament after the People's Party. At present, the Austrian coalition consists of the two parties of Freedom and People.

 It is the first time that a radical right-wing party is at the head of the executive equation of one of the most important European countries. One of the main concerns of the Freedom Party is to stop the flow of immigrants to Austria and to prevent the entrance of immigrants into the country's borders (contrary to the common policy of European countries).Most importantly, in the second half of 2018, Austria is scheduled to take the EU's rotating presidency. Hence, in about eight months, the Freedom Party will have the golden opportunity to play the leading role in the European equation. This is the worst possible news for the EU and the Eurozone.

The national election in the Czech Republic was also accompanied by the victory of opposition populists in Europe. Andrej Babis, the founder of the anti-Euro and the newly-formed movement of Ano (meaning yes), became the winner of the election. Babis party was able to win over 30% of the general vote.  Babis is called the Donald Trump of Czech Republic. In his campaign, he was focusing on issues such as opposition to the presence of asylum seekers and objection to Czech Republic's joining the Eurozone. He is a rightist billionaire (right-wing extremist) in Prague, and with his presence in Czech's political stage, there will be new challenges and conflicts with the EU.

What is happening today in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic is the beginning of the transformation of infrastructure of the United Europe and the renewed growth of radical and nationalist movements in the green continent. In other European countries, including France, Sweden, Spain, Finland, Italy, etc., nationalist and opposition movements in the European Union made great progresses and have been able to attract the attention of part of their societies to themselves.

 The main question here is whether the traditional parties (center-right and left-wing) in Europe will be able to control this trend or not? The answer to this question will be determined in the near future, but the available evidence suggests that traditional parties will be more likely to see the destruction of the foundations of the United Europe, rather than to have the power to face recent challenges.

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