Rightist Resurgence In Europe

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European countries have witnessed rising a right-wing trend. However, Nordic countries are different. Nordic trend is left-centric. In other words, it is called social democratic model. Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland are Nordic countries and these countries are always seen differently as they have unique political model distinctly different from both Western capitalist countries and the communist or socialist model. The model Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland have adopted is called the Nordic model.

The East European countries, until 1990s, used to be satellite states of the Soviet Union. These countries followed Soviet path and adopted rudimentary type of regime which they called socialism, fundamentally inimical to Western European political model. The communist regimes in East Europe collapsed like a house of cards following what Samuel Huntington’s said the ‘ third wave of democracy’ and disintegration of the Soviet Union. 

Disintegration 

Sixteen new countries, including Russia were born out of the disintegration of Soviet Union, of which eight are in Asia and the rest are in Europe. The newly born countries adopted the system somewhat akin to western political model. Even Russia which claims to be the inheritor of Soviet Union shook off the shackles of communism and adopted the capitalist model. Russia, at present, is in conflict with the West, which has flared up following Putin’s invasion in Ukraine, but this conflict is not based on ideology but for enlargement of hegemony.

The 2008 economic recession and the influx of immigrants mainly from the Africa and the Middle East to different countries of Europe had already triggered the rightist turn. Denmark which used to be citadel of social democratic model, too, turned right in the election in 2014. Danske Folke Party (Danish People’s Party), vehemently anti-immigrant rightist party, out of the blue emerged as a key player in Danish politics. A new government of Lars Løkke Rasmussen was formed on rightist plank ousting the social democratic government. Since then, Denmark is slowly moving to what some Danes call the ‘American way’ or the rightist leaning. Although Social Democratic party returned to power in 1919 headed by Mette Frederickson, rightist agendas continue to dominate the government policies. 

Rightists and conservatives are hijacking people’s agendas all over the world. They have succeeded in setting their own agenda which are not in the interest of the people in the long run. Conservatives and rightist are gaining ground in several countries in Europe. Far-rightistAlternative for the Deutschland (AFD) in Germany and Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally Party in France are slowly gaining ground and retracting attention, while Austria already has the government of rightist and green coalition. The Brexit is also the glaring example of this trend. British far-right conservatives were the ones that had pushed more for leaving the European Union. Italy and Sweden are the recent phenomenon. 

Two important countries of Europe Italy and Sweden went to general election recently in which rightist resurgence has been the major trend. In the election held on September 25, right-wing coalition has emerged winner in Italy and now is poised to form the government. Although the government has so far not been announced, Giorgia Meloni is likely to form the coalition government. The coalition will consist of Brothers of Italy party led by Meloni herself, the Democratic Party of former prime minister Enrico Letta and liberal Third Pole party and Italia Viva. 

The mid-term elections were prompted as the government headed by Prime Minister Mario Draghi failed to win confidence of Italy’s ‘Camera Dei Deputati’ or Chambers of Deputies ( the lower house of Italian parliament). The electoral system of Italy is unique as the parliament is composed of different clusters. In other words it is the hybrid system in which 36 per cent or 147 members of the 400 member lower house of parliament are elected on the basis of the first-past-the-post system whereas 253 are chosen on the basis of proportional representation system. The number of seats in the lower house of parliament was reduced from 630 to 400 through a referendum held in 2020. 

Sweden is another important European country that went to the election on September 11, which saw a sharp rightist and conservative shift. Sweden was the social democratic model or left of the centre politics. But a right-wing coalition consisting of the far-right and ultra-nationalist Sweden Democrats (SD), Moderate Party, Christian Democrats and Liberals has secured a fragile mandate to form the government in this Nordic country. Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s centre-left coalition government comprising Social Democratic Party, left and green parties was defeated in the election. Leader of Moderate Party Ulf Kristersson is likely to head the next coalition government. Right after the election results were made public, Jimmie Akesson, leader of the Social Democratic party leader, said “now we will get order in Sweden and it is time to put Sweden first”.  

Multiple factors 

Multiple factors are behind the rise of rightist elements in European politics. The health of European economy had been bad since the 2008 economic recession. Soon after the economy had just been recovering, COVID-19 hit hard the life of entire world including Europe. Barely the world had started to come out of the COVID-19 shock, the Ukraine war began as Russia started invading its small and weaker neighbour. The Ukraine war has caused multiple impacts in Europe. 

Energy price shot up tremendously, inflation ratcheted record high and cost of life became unbearable. The immigration had been a key political issue of parties for quite some years due to influx of a large number of refugees from some Middle Eastern countries and Africa. Already more than seven million Ukrainians fled their country and are living in different European countries as refugees since war started, which has caused further alarm in some European countries.

These issues and problems provided further ammunition for the right-wingers and ultra-nationalist forces in Europe. As people were facing hardship, the populist agendas and slogans of the rightist and populist parties and politicians drew attentions of the voters. But it is now to be seen how these parties deliver and live up to their promises because it is easier said than done. 


(The author is former ambassador and former chief editor of this daily. lamsalyubanath@gmail.com)

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