Nikolaos Stelgias

Nikolaos Stelgias

Strategic new gains for the European far-right

Once strongholds of social democracy, many countries witness the rise of far-right movements

The European far-right, which gained power throughout the neoliberal European narrative's crisis years, is expecting new political victories by the end of 2022. The far-right is "flirting" with power in Scandinavia, the heartland of social democracy. Italy’s sister movement is one step closer to gaining control of the government. The far-right is also expanding its influence in France and Hungary. Greece is similarly turning to the far-right rhetoric.

The spectacular successes in Hungary and France marked the beginning of the growth of the European far-right in 2022, which has since continued in Sweden and Italy. According to experts, the new strategic gains of the European far-right are being driven by the new socio-economic realities that are emerging in Europe because of the financial crisis and the war in Ukraine.

Trouble in the social democracy's heartland

The extreme right achieved a startling new victory in Sweden, one of the nations that gave rise to contemporary European social democracy. According to David Crouch, the far-right Sweden Democrats party was the clear victor in the nation's election on Sunday, increasing its share of the vote by two to three percentage points and moving up to the position of second-largest party, but the outcome was too close to call as counting continued.

The right-wing group got 49.7% of the vote, which would give it a majority of one seat in the new parliament, with 95% of the votes counted. The far-right Sweden Democrats appeared to win over 20% of the vote in the parliamentary elections held on Sunday. The leader of the movement predicted that the right-wing alliance would likely triumph. In a speech to party members, Jimmie Kesson stated, "Right now it looks like there will be a shift of power." Kesson's party won its first seats in Sweden’s parliament, the Riksdag, in 2010. In 2018, it briefly rose to first place in the polls before slipping back to third. 

The small neo-Nazi movement that flourished in Sweden in the middle of the 1990s gave rise to the far-right movement, which is currently expected to have a major impact on the nation's political system. "The Swedish party's mission statement refers to Benjamin Disraeli. Most of its policies, from the deportation of foreign criminals to the requirement that immigrants who wish to settle take language exams, would hardly look out of place in a more modern conservative manifesto," writes Oliver Moody, summarizing the movement's evolution in recent years. The radical right-wing party has transformed over the past 25 years from a loose alliance of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and hard-core conservatives into a well-organized organization with a good chance of being the driving force behind the next Swedish administration.

The manifesto of the Sweden Democrats calls for the abolition of unauthorized immigration and the promotion of Swedish culture and the nuclear family. The Party's platform is noteworthy when Sweden's fatal gunshot rate is rising because of ruthless feuds between the gangs that control semi-organized crime in urban ghettos. Even though Sweden's total murder rate is still low, the increase in gun violence has made people feel uneasy. 

The renaissance of the far-right in the birthplace of fascism

On the centenary of the great march of the founder of modern fascism, Benito Mussolini, to Rome, the Italian far right has also sped up its march to power. Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party has surged from 4% of the vote in 2018 to nearly 25%. Distancing herself from her party’s neofascist origins and refusing to take part in the previous coalition governments, the 45-year-old Meloni claims to have "given fascism over to history." The ambitious leader of the Brothers of Italy looks up to Viktor Orbán, the homophobic nationalist who wants to send back immigrants and opposes homosexual rights in Hungary. The impact of her catchphrases "God, family, fatherland" and "Less Europe, but a better Europe" on the streets of Italian cities is growing.

The Brothers of Italy and its allies prioritize supporting the Italian traditional family, combating immigration, and undermining the power of the EU. The movement suggests lowering the VAT on necessities and energy, reworking Italy's EU recovery plan to account for rising costs, encouraging employers to provide energy vouchers to employees, increasing welfare benefits and pensions, reforming the EU's stability pact, and instituting direct elections for the country's president.

The observers claim that the aforementioned election agenda pushes the Brothers of Italy closer to the new government of the nation. However, it also raises concerns about the movement's adherence to the principles of democracy and basic individual freedoms. This fear took on further significance after a recent assault on a Roma woman by a member of the movement. Movement's councilor in Florence Alessio Di Giulio recorded a video of himself approaching a Roma woman and saying to the camera: "Vote for the League on September 25 and you'll never see her again." Di Giulio made the clip as he walked along a busy street in the center of Florence, and the woman waved happily before realizing his intention. Then she responded, "No, you shouldn't say that" and added, "I have no fear."

France, Hungary, Greece, different countries similar stories

In 2022, the extreme right gained ground across Europe, including in Sweden and Italy. The French far-right movement made major gains throughout nearly the entire nation during the recent elections. Marine Le Pen is more optimistic about the future and believes that the energy and economic crises will advance her movement's chances of gaining power because of the new triumphs.

In Hungary under Viktor Orbán, the far-right gained ground in 2022. With its initiatives in many spheres, Orbán's government continues to stir up political turbulence throughout Europe. Orbán also relies on smaller far-right groupings to strengthen its ties to broader socioeconomic groups. This group of movements includes "Our Homeland." In the April election in Hungary, Our Homeland garnered 6% of the vote, advocating for the revocation of the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, which deprives Hungary of two-thirds of its territory and half of its population.

300,000 Hungarians voted for an openly anti-Roma and anti-Semitic party that wants the UN to pay reparations for Hungary's post-World War One losses and makes it clear it is open to border changes in the region "when the international situation changes," driven by public frustration over COVID-19 restrictions and anti-vaxxer sentiment. 

In Greece, a country where in the recent past the third largest party, the far-right "Golden Dawn" was declared an "illegal criminal group", the conservative government's flirt with far-right rhetoric intensified during 2022. The Kyriakos Mitsotakis administration emulates many of the nationalist xenophobic practices of the European conservative Right.

The government itself is staffed by people who openly admit to having ties to extreme right-wing political organizations. The administration is receiving criticism from the international community for its immigration policies at the nation's borders. Inside Greece, the government is under fire for creating a police state while also taking a leading part in the latest surveillance scandal.

Considering the re-intensified economic and energy crisis, Prime Minister Mitsotakis' specific decisions are highlighted when the ruling party is in danger of losing the majority in the new parliament.

*Dr Nikolaos Stelgias was born in Istanbul. He is an independent researcher, writer, historian and journalist. His doctorate is in the field of the modern Turkish political system (Panteion University, 2011). His latest book “The Ailing Turkish Democracy” was published by the Cambridge Scholars Publication in 2020. Dr. Stelgias was a correspondent of the newspaper "Kathimerini (Cyprus edition)" for Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot community from 2009 to 2021. Currently, Dr. Stelgias works at the Cyprus News Agency. Dr. Stelgias publishes in Turkish news articles and analyses on Cyprus and Greece.

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