Opinion| Right-wing parties dominate Europe

Hatem Sadek
5 Min Read

Currently, Europe is predominantly governed by right-wing parties, which have seen a significant rise in political influence, parliamentary power, and control over prime ministerial decisions. Across the continent—whether in the north, south, east, or west—various shades of right-wing extremist parties hold sway. These include nationalist groups nostalgic for past glories, populist factions, and extreme conservative parties with neo-fascist origins, all of which are gaining popularity.

Italy: Giorgia Meloni, leader of a party with neo-fascist roots, has driven a notable shift in Italy, the European Union’s third-largest economy.

Finland: Far-right nationalists recently joined the coalition government after extended deliberations.

Sweden: The Sweden Democratic Party, the second-largest in the Swedish Parliament, supports the right-wing coalition government, advocating anti-immigration and anti-multicultural policies.

Greece: Three far-right parties secured parliamentary seats.

Spain: The nationalist Vox party exceeded expectations in recent regional elections, marking Spain’s first successful far-right party since the end of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship in 1975.

Poland and Hungary: Both countries have governments with authoritarian tendencies.

The list extends to Germany, where sensitivity about its Nazi history persists. Recent polls indicate that the far-right Alternative Party may be gaining ground, potentially surpassing Chancellor Schulz’s Social Democratic Party. The AfD candidate secured local leadership, dealing a political blow to the Social Democrats.

In France, President Macron faced challenges in maintaining control. His far-right adversary, Marine Le Pen, who advocates tough security and immigration stances, came close to winning the presidency. Macron dissolved parliament, calling for snap elections to secure an absolute majority. However, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally ended up third, behind a left-wing alliance and Macron’s centrist bloc. The French election outcome could significantly impact not only France but also the broader direction of the European Union.

In recent years, several prominent European politicians have adopted slogans or stances from the far right in an attempt to weaken its support base. Paradoxically, this unintentionally contributed to the mainstreaming of far-right ideas. Simultaneously, certain far-right parties intentionally shifted toward the political centre to appeal to centrist voters. For example, their attitudes toward Russia changed after Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, putting parties like the League in Italy, Marine Le Pen in France, and the Freedom Party of Austria in an awkward position.

The surge of the extreme right was triggered by the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU in 2016. Brussels feared a domino effect, with other countries like France, Denmark, and Italy considering EU exit. Previously, Eurosceptic populist parties were active, but they’ve since abandoned advocating for EU withdrawal or abandoning the euro. European voters now prioritize stability, considering factors like the ongoing pandemic, Russia’s unpredictability, China, and rising living costs. Recent polls show increased EU popularity and right-wing parties focus on reform rather than departure.

The rise of the extreme right in Europe is linked to discontent with the political trajectory over the last decade. European citizens felt let down by the United States, which failed to support the EU during crises. For instance, when Russia reduced gas exports to EU countries, Washington didn’t step in to offset losses. American intelligence’s involvement in sabotaging the northern Russian gas pipeline after the Ukraine conflict added to the tension. Nigel Farage, leader of the British Reform Party, acknowledged that EU and NATO expansion provoked Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine.

These remarks, made during a BBC interview, received backlash before the elections, where the Reform Party secured votes. The pressing question remains: What drives European citizens toward the extreme right? Is it a genuine shift in public sentiment due to European integration and the burden of the Ukraine conflict, influenced by American actions toward Putin?

It is evident that the far-right, as seen from a European perspective, will ultimately dictate the domestic and foreign policy directions of the Union nations. This influence will undoubtedly impact all matters concerning the Arab region and North Africa, a crucial corridor for illegal immigration that European nations are closely monitoring.

Dr Hatem Sadek – Professor at Helwan University

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