Continent of Fear: The Rise of Europe's Right-Wing Populists

All across Europe, right-wing populist parties are enjoying significant popular support. Led by charismatic politicians like Geert Wilders, they are exploiting fear of Muslim immigration and frustration with the political establishment -- and are forcing mainstream parties to shift to the right. By SPIEGEL Staff.

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He is a politician who claims to have nothing against Muslims, and that he only hates Islam. He is a charismatic man with peroxide-blonde hair, elegant, eloquent and precisely the type of politician that has put fear into the hearts of Germany's mainstream political parties in recent weeks.

He is Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician of a stripe that doesn't yet exist in Germany: a populist who stirs up hatred against Islam and the establishment, and who has taken away many votes from the traditional parties in his native Netherlands. So many, in fact, that they now can hardly form a government without giving him a share of power.

Wilders is the central figure of a movement that has been expanding its following in Europe for years, entering parliaments and governments, and ensuring that minarets were banned in Switzerland and burqas in Belgium. It is a sort of popular uprising against Islam, spearheaded by right-wing politicians and journalists throughout Europe. They portray themselves as people who are willing to express a sentiment they claim no one else dares to express: that Muslims are undermining Europe and that the West must be saved. And the approach has been successful.

'An Ideology that Opposes Everything that Matters to Us'

The man who invited Wilders to speak in the German capital Berlin this coming Saturday would like to emulate the Dutch politician. René Stadtkewitz, 45, a well-dressed man with a short haircut, was recently ejected from the Berlin branch of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which he represented for years as a backbencher in the Berlin city-state parliament. He has now founded a new party called "Die Freiheit" ("Freedom"), named after Wilders' Freedom Party.

Wilders is traveling to Berlin to help Stadtkewitz inaugurate the new party. Anyone who hopes to catch a glimpse of the prominent guest must register online and pay an admission fee in advance. For security reasons, only registered attendees who have paid the admission fee are told where the event will take place.

Stadkewitz, eating Moroccan couscous in the cafeteria of the Berlin city-state parliament, says that "Geert's" call for the institution of a headscarf tax in the Netherlands is really a great idea. Wilders' visit has cost him €12,000 ($16,200). Stadkewitz sees it as a worthwhile investment. "Islam may also be a religion," he says. "But mainly it's an ideology that opposes everything that matters to us."

Stadkewitz is in a hurry. He is about to give a Dutch television team a tour of Berlin in his BMW. He wants to show them the Muslim parallel society that is supposedly being kept under wraps in the German media.

A Lightning Rod for Popular Anger

A debate has been triggered in Germany by a new book by Thilo Sarrazin, a controversial politician with the center-left Social Democrats, in which he describes Muslim immigrants as an existential threat for Germany. Ever since the book was published and met with popular approval, many columnists, academics and politicians have been asking themselves whether Germany will remain an exception in terms of its political landscape. It is still the only country in Western Europe that lacks a right-wing populist party that acts as a lightning rod for popular anger targeted at Islam and the political establishment.

In recent months, right-wing populist parties have thwarted majority governments in three European Union countries: Belgium, the Netherlands and, most recently, Sweden. Although right-wing populists in the latter country only captured 5.7 percent of the vote, it was enough to deprive the incumbent center-right coalition of an absolute majority. All three countries were long known for their liberalism, but now political parties are gaining influence that see Islam as "our biggest foreign threat since World War II," as Jimmie Akesson, the 31-year-old chairman of the Sweden Democrats, puts it.

Right-wing populist parties have been a part of coalition governments in Italy and Switzerland for years, and they hold seats in the parliaments of Denmark, Austria, Norway and Finland. Jean-Marie Le Pens' National Front captured 9 percent of the vote in last spring's French regional elections with a targeted anti-Islamic campaign. In March, Italy's Northern League gained control of the regions of Venice and Piedmont. During the election campaign, party supporters handed out soap samples, to be used, as they said, "after having touched an immigrant."

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1. Dangers of Religion
cyberrifles 09/28/2010
I have read the Koran and most of it is really beautiful. However, the part where they must convert non believers to Islam or kill them was a bit of a shock. I also do not like their having their own law. ANY religion that allows a justice system other than the system of the country needs to be watched and not allowed to get out of hand. I feel Islam is a danger to the world as we know it.
2. Europe is playing into the hands of the far...
Europeanonion 09/29/2010
...but, as we have seen, the far left is a far more dangerous adversary; the idea that the free movement of peoples throughout Europe is aberrant, playing into the hands of the forces of ‘no good’. One can see where the left, where Europe, the EU, is heading, break down national barriers and when we are all one where will the opposition to Brussels (or Strasbourg, depending on the time of year) be? It is underhand. It is ‘our’ riches and ‘our’ future whenever Britain has a little local difficulty and yet, especially in France, we have seen how issues can be inoculated against Brussels’ intervention by claims of particular or peculiar national interest and how it has maintained a Common Agricultural Policy that is as expensive as it is unwieldy; how the tentacles of that awful construct have reached out into the Third World besides breeding shortages and Byzantine practices at home. But that may be all about to change. It may well be a case of first in, first out for France. The Germans may be at ease with Gastarbeiter but to many, the British in particular, it has a ring of European convention that means little to them, especially when they have so many of the labouring classes who seem to be in line for never having full time employment again. The British are also left wondering how such tribal meanderings around Europe need to embody those people having access to naturalisation, the deployment of passports and access to pensions and other social security which are patently un-earned. The French have this local difficulty (and the Dutch, and yes, the Italians have the problem too) they do not want these people in the main and no amount of pressure for the free flow of ‘skills’ is ever going to win them over. France and the Netherlands have already signalled that they are ill at ease with the EU and Britain is famously unconvinced, if the free vote in the North East of England over Regional Assemblies is an indication (the only referendum on Europe that anyone in Britain has had access to) Europe is a dead letter as far as the British are concerned. What would it take for French Nationalism to take a stand against EU interference having already shown dissent? Elsewhere Spiegel refers to Wilders and the Dutch experience, add the economic uncertainty and the social manipulation together and France’s stand is supportable, will undoubtedly raise all the other issues concerning the centrist, socialist model. Britain has just voted-out a Government that was modelled on Europe, where all the diktats and voluminous rules stifled not only commerce but were able to introduce viral infections into the culture that militated against the natural British conservatism, that played fast and loose with our social dimension and introduced countless statutes based on the will of the Government rather than natural law. I refer of course to a period of massive immigration that Andrew Neather, a one time Labour apparatchik, exposed as being a policy to undermine the Tory Party and its view of the British Diaspora. This could be the defining issue. Who do you, as a German, Englander, whatever, want to live with, who do you want as your fellow countryman? How are any of the countries of Europe to plan for their electorate when they cannot even project within narrow confines the size of the problem that they are trying to administrate? How can any worker already contemplating a life of rejection from the labour market stand by as the many ‘onion skin’ accessions take place and ever lower wage scales are imposed on the market, where the indigenous with commitments of ancestral proportions find that they cannot maintain their social obligations because the best that is offered is part time working and that only on a casual basis and even then competed for by foot-loose individuals, carpetbaggers, who will still undercut them? The French are raising doubts about the European Laws as they apply to France and if they can be delineated, itemised, acted against then anything is susceptible. At the moment Ireland is paying for German stability. France is having to consider the fancies of outsiders, whatever they may be. They are contemplating having to reconfigure the fundamentals of being French and to consider sacrificing those parameters on the whim apparently of scrap collectors and beggars. A state should always consider the higher ideals and have discretion, two things that the centrist confection of Brussels cannot entertain.
3.
BTraven 10/01/2010
---Quote (Originally by Europeanonion)--- This could be the defining issue. Who do you, as a German, Englander, whatever, want to live with, who do you want as your fellow countryman? How are any of the countries of Europe to plan for their electorate when they cannot even project within narrow confines the size of the problem that they are trying to administrate? How can any worker already contemplating a life of rejection from the labour market stand by as the many ‘onion skin’ accessions take place and ever lower wage scales are imposed on the market, where the indigenous with commitments of ancestral proportions find that they cannot maintain their social obligations because the best that is offered is part time working and that only on a casual basis and even then competed for by foot-loose individuals, carpetbaggers, who will still undercut them? ---End Quote--- Interesting statement which is not easy to answer since I will take a while to form my own opinion about it. Therefore I focus on next to last paragraph. Were Polish people not welcomed when the economy was still booming? The media gave always the impression that they were needed in order to keep up high growth rate. Nobody complained about them. Women could work because there were cheap babysitters available. Restaurants owners could offer meals at competitive prices. And, like in Germany, it was always claimed that they would do the work nobody wants to do. I think it was not the mistake of the left alone. The mistake of Labour was to permit that praxis. And it lost the election because those who had benefited from that policy think Tories and Liberals will continue with it. They chance only the people who serve their clientele. But the next wave of emigration is about to start - the Irish are forced to leave their country.
4. Rise of Europe
giggles13 11/09/2012
Rise of Europe is a free to play strategy browser game developed by China-based Perfect World and published by Travian Games. After I saw the demo of Game of Thrones Seven Kingdoms by Bigpoint (http://www.dotmmo.com/game-of-thrones-seven-kingdoms-10333.html), I think it will be popular among 3D browser game players because of the high quality graphfics and gameplays.
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