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Rightwing Populism Dominating National Elections In Europe

By Sankar Ray

Europe’s centre-right political parties were until a decade ago seen as ‘both dependably dull and dependably stable’. But that is now a thing of the past. Now the continent’s Christian democratic, conservative and market liberal parties together constitute the mainstream right. They are now undergoing significant and fascinating transformations, not least as they confront an ever more serious challenge from the populist     far right. The worrisome  aspect  is the  presence  of neo-Nazis in some form or the other.

Nonetheless, there is no one-way route ‘We should note right at the outset that portrayals of the political situation in Western Europe tend to focus more on the travails of the mainstream centre-left rather than the centre-right. This is because social democratic parties are struggling to hold on to their traditional voters and find it hard to attract enough newer, progressive voters to fully compensate, not least because some of the latter prefer to support alternatives belonging to the Green and radical/far left party families’,  according to Tim Bale of Queen Mary University of London and Cristobal Rovira Kaltwasser, authors of .Riding the Populist Wave: Europe’s Mainstream Right in Crisis’, published in August 2021

But as they continue to play a part in governing in many  countries, their role in preserving the liberal order in a continent struggling with the changes brought about by . a  common denominator is gradual erosion  of national borders is not one that we can afford to ignore and there arises the migrants issue..

There is no denying that the populist right is on the upgrade along with associate neo-Nazism. Take Italy which is  ready to have the first time a woman prime minister in  a snap general election on 25 September and she is 45-year old Giorgia Meloni whose far right Fratellid’ Italia (Brothers of Italy), a party with a post-fascist origin,  is  expected to get 25 percent of votes from 4 per cent four years ago.  She denies any ideological adherence to Fascism but claims the heritage of Benito Mussolini. As a teenager, she joined the youth wing of Italy’s post-World War II neo-fascist movement, formed by supporters of Mussolini. In her 2021 book, I Am Giorgia, she pretends as a non- fascist, but she identifies with Mussolini’s heirs: “I have taken up the baton of a 70-year-long history.” .Significantly, her party has   the same tricolour flame of the Movimento Sociale Italiano of Mussolini.

Although general election was originally slated for next spring, the resignation of Prime Minister Mario Draghi on 21 July and the collapse of his big-tent coalition government that included leftist, right-wing and centrist parties caused the snap poll. Electors will elect all members of the two chambers of the Italian parliament as a sequel to a constitutional referendum for reducing size of the chambers  by half  . There will be  400 members in the Chamber of Deputies and 200 in the Senate. The two-thirds majority threshold necessary for constitutional changes now requires 267 and 134 seats respectively.

Italy is set to receive €200 billion ($200bn) in EU recovery funds and Meloni’s chances of becoming the premier are high. Furthermore, she has carefully worked on mending ties with Brussels by showing a more moderate face and delivering reassuring statements. Poll prediction points to a massive erosion of votes for Movimento 5 Stelle (Five Star Movement) from 36.03 percent to 8.75 per cent while the centre-left coalition’s percentage is projected to go up from 18.73 to 21.5

Nonetheless, Meloni wants Italy to  march backward. Her main slogan is, “God, fatherland and family”. She opposes LGBT rights, wants a naval blockade of Libya and has warned repeatedly against Muslim migrants – the exactly opposite to the centre-left parties. . She is pro-Nato and pro-Ukraine, even though many voters on the right are lukewarm on Western sanctions. Tax cuts apart, her alliance wants to renegotiate Italy’s massive EU Covid recovery plan and have Italy’s president elected by popular vote.   That necessitates a   change in the constitution for which a two-thirds majority in parliament is needed

The rightward shift  has   already   taken place in   Sweden too. Its  centre-right opposition leader Ulf Kristersson of Moderatasamlingspartiet (Moderate Party)  claimed victory in the  general election last week   with a narrow three-seat advantage .“We have an election result, we have the mandate for change we asked for will now begin the process of forming a new government for Sweden and all its citizens,” he said. The right-wing bloc with 176 seats in the 349-parliament, the Riksdag, and Andersson’s center-left bloc with 173 seats. The outgoing premier Magdalena Andersson of Sverigessocialdemokratiskaarbetareparti (Sweden’s Social Democratic Party) who led the social democrats’s coalition, conceded defeat and stated that she would be on the frontline of Opposition.

Neo-Nazism is forging ahead in this  leading Scandinavian country. Although  the neo-Nazi group, Sverigedemokraterna (Swedish democrats) ,led by Jimmie Åkesson had its  first MPs into the Riksdag in 2010, this time it garnered  more than 20 percent  of votes, mainly riding on anti-immigrant slogan. .

The  new Nazi advent is real.“This is dramatic given that they only entered parliament in 2010. Sweden used to have an extremely stable and predictable political party system. Three elections later – and they are the second largest party, said ” University of Gothenburg political scientist Johan Martinsson .  With foresight and political shrewdness, Åkesson managed to expel extremists feigning as a party  wedded  to   democracy. This has fortified his leadership. “It is time for the Swedish people to give us a chance”.. His neo-Nazi feature is covert. Its aim is to join  mainstream allies to dislodge the Social Democrats from power.

Linked to  the decline of social democracy in Europe  is the rise of populist radical right parties. Hardly a day goes by without the media across Europe making at least some mention of the latter, fetching   between 5 and15 per cent of votes. These parties are not necessarily treated now as pariahs as if unfit for governance. They have been in office in Austria, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland, and have provided regular and reliable parliamentary support to minority governments in Denmark. (IPA Service)

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