Foreigner-phobia drives Europe's 'new-look' far-right

Foreigner-phobia drives Europe's 'new-look' far-right

24th January 2011, Comments 4 comments

Almost all in their 40s, a new generation of far-right political leaders are taking root across a fortress-Europe hunkering down to foreigner-phobia, analysts say.

France's Marine Le Pen, aged 42 and expected to take the helm of her notorious father's National Front this weekend, recently likened street prayers by Muslims to the World War II occupation of France by the Nazis.

In liberal Netherlands, where populists last year became the country's third biggest party, 47-year-old leader Geert Wilders compares the Koran to Hitler's "Mein Kampf".

"The new-look far-right is more than just a protest movement," said Magali Balent of the Robert Schuman Foundation.

"It's developed an ethnically-based discourse about European identity that's in phase with social problems."


 Hungary, Budapest : Clad in WWII Hungarian uniform, two protestors walk ahead of Hungarian activists of the neo-Nazi NS Front group marching with their banner of 'Heroes of Europe' in Budapest

Far-right parties currently are in government in Italy and backing minority cabinets in Denmark and the Netherlands. They also sit in the parliaments of Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Slovakia and Sweden.

At 31, Sweden's Jimmie Aakesson five years ago took the once obscure and neo-Nazi-smudged Sweden Democrats out of nowhere to make a maiden entry into parliament last year with a 20-seat windfall.

"Today we are different and voters see that," he told AFP at the time.

In Austria, where populists slumped after the death of controversial Georg Haider, 41-year-old Heinz-Christian Strache has propelled them back to the fore  -- taking second slot in a 2010 Vienna town hall vote after a "West for the Christians" campaign.

Moving to the beat in a campaign video, Strache raps against the EU and the Muslims, far-right vote-winning themes across Europe -- bar in Hungary where Gypsy Romas are the target.

Strache picked up 27 percent of the Vienna vote and polls show Le Pen could pick up 17 percent in France's 2012 presidential elections.

Contrary to common belief, analysts say far-right victories and the anti-immigration, Islamophobic and Euro-sceptic ideas pedalled by the populists cannot be attributed to the global crisis or economic hardships.

"The anti-Islamic discourse found fertile ground in the aftermath of the Cold War era of the early 90s, and was reinforced by 9/11 and subsequent attacks in London and Madrid," said Balent.

But most of the far-right parties took root in the 70s and 80s, times of relative prosperity before unemployment bit into Europe, said Matthew Goodwin of London's Chatham House think-tank.

"There is a high level of anxiety in our societies that touches not just on immigration itself but on a perceived incompatibility of foreigners, and specially Muslims, with Western values," he said.

"The far-right has cottoned onto this."

Softening their image, the new-generation of far-right young lions have distanced themselves from the fascist-style language of Marine's 82-year-old father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, avoiding its crude racism and anti-Semitism.

France, Tours : Newly elected president of French far-right party Front national (National Front) Marine Le Pen (R) and her father former president of French far-right party Front national, Jean-Marie Le Pen (C) stand on the stage at the end of the party's congress, on 16 January 16, 2011 in Tours, western France

"The emphasis now is on ways of life, culture, and national values," Goodwin said. "A sense that immigration, that minorities, are not just a threat to our jobs and social housing, but to our European identity and our values."

Surveys show the average far-right supporter to be very much an average European, though often less educated.
Continued gains by the populists, according to analysts, is partly due to the failure of mainstream parties to clearly confront concerns over immigration and Islam, instead of sidestepping the issues or offering pale copies of populist policy.

"The European Union's hesitation over Turkey's membership opens up an avenue for the far-right, for instance," said Balent. "The EU needs to say what it is and what isn't, define its borders, spell out its identity."

In France, Le Pen's Front has forced the mainstream right to compete with it on immigration and law-and-order issues.

Since his 2007 election, President Nicolas Sarkozy has pushed a hard line on crime and immigrants in what is seen as a strategy to stop losing votes to the far-right in the upcoming 2012 presidential poll.

"The far-right isn’t going to take national power across Europe," Goodwin said. "But they will remain on the European political landscape."

AFP/ Claire Rosemberg/ Expatica

4 Comments To This Article

  • JR Bailey posted:

    on 28th January 2011, 21:08:39 - Reply

    SJain and M Stanley,

    Well said SJain, well said! Sadly, the severity of Political Correctness to the level of being a sort of insidious disease amongst professional politicians, precludes any real movement from them.

    It is people themselves, en masse, who shall be able to affect changes-at the voting box and in the streets!

    It is time for Europeans to take back their countries, their cultures, and their futures from the barbaric hordes who have no desire but to intimidate and destroy!

    India is much in the same plight, but the added danger of nuclear Pakistan next door! Sadly, Pakistan is nearly become an Islamist State now, so India will I believe, face the real world probability that it shall forced to consider a First Strike just in order to survive as both a Free State and a non-Islamic State.

    I hope I am wrong.

    M Stanley you also are correct: those people touting 'tolerance' for the non-assimilators have NONE for anyone holding a view different from their own!

    They want no real world discussions with facts and figures, no empirical evidence to cloud their fantasy land views of the current situation across Europe and the rest of the world; all they want is for everyone to nod their heads in agreement while the adherents of Islam tear down everything that it's taken 500 years to build!

    The PC Pro Pols must be confronted!

  • SJain posted:

    on 28th January 2011, 11:31:43 - Reply

    I am an Indian living in Europe I agree with JR Baily. To take advantage of the liberal ideas of the Europeans for one's benefit, and also expect the hosts to agree with your barbaric and crude practices in the name of liberty is, to me, uncivilised and unjustified. The Europeans have every right to defend their culture in their own land without having to be branded as bigots. If the Muslims, or any other for that matter, fear the pollution of their ways (crude or otherwise), they are welcome to return to their place of origin and maintain their 'purity.'
  • M Stanley posted:

    on 28th January 2011, 10:53:51 - Reply

    jr Bailey. Well said, I totally agree with every thing you have said. But of course you will branded an extreme far right bigot.
  • JR Bailey posted:

    on 27th January 2011, 05:04:08 - Reply

    Frankly, the author of the article does the same thing most authors based in European papers do: they blather on in generalities about the 'evil' "Far Right" relating to Islam, disguising it under the term "immigration" when it has NOTHING to do with "immigration".

    Immigration has never really been the issue for conservative Europeans (and now, more and more moderate Europeans).

    The issue is the fact that Muslims overwhelmingly (nearly 90%) do NOT assimilate. They do NOT learn the language of their new host country. Muslims do NOT integrate into the culture, education, society, and politics.

    Muslims remain SEPARATE by CHOICE and then blame the citizens of the Host country for any and all woes!

    THIS is why more and more Europeans, including moderates, are finally fed up with paying out BILLIONS of Euros in Social Welfare and Program payments to Muslims and getting NOTHING in return!

    Further, with DAILY beatings, harassment, 'honor murders', rapes, robberies, etc. in major European cities where large enclaves of Muslims live, it is NOT "Islamophobia" which incites moderate and conservative Europeans to demand a complete halt to any further immigration by Muslims into Europe.

    Get the FACTS straight will you please and stop spreading half-truths and some outright lies about what the situation is really about in Europe!

    Here are three articles providing some "mild" examples of Muslim 'tolerance" and 'open mindedness":