The Rise of Right-Wing Nationalist Political Parties in Europe

Mar 14, 2017

Nationalist political parties are on the rise in Europe. While the party platform specifics differ between countries, these radical right-wing, populist movements tend to be anti-immigration, anti-European Union and favor economic protectionism.

Unlike broader political movements like fascism and socialism, populism - on either side of the political spectrum - essentially says those in power don’t have our best interests at heart so we need to get rid of them. Many of the complaints that have surfaced about the established political order will be familiar to Americans.

"If you kind of look across the line, a lot of people... fear uncontrolled migration. I think in addition there's a fear of Islam and also people feel that they are kind of being left behind because of the globalization, people losing their jobs because of the digitalization, and have seen a decrease in the income and a rising inequality," says Irene Braam, executive director of the Bertelsmann Foundation. 

The Bertelsmann Foundation is a non-partisan think tank based in Washington DC, which offers a transatlantic perspective on global issues, including the rise of right-wing populism in Europe. 

"The world has become more accessible and so in a way, everybody's personal world has become much larger, much bigger," says Braam. "And I think then people kind of have a tendency in having their own safe space."

In the United States, President Donald Trump won with a right-wing populist platform, and many European politicians are hoping to ride the same wave of populist support. Still, although they agree on many of the same basic principles, European populists are not necessarily supporters of the Trump Administration.

"[Trump] does not give the impression that he appreciates the transatlantic relations, like previous presidents did," Braam explains. "So I think also goes much further than maybe the U.S. having a populist president, but what does it mean for the Western order."

There are many fears associated with the current populist movements sweeping Europe, Braam names a few: "Limitation of freedom of the press, and you already see it happening in some of these Eastern European countries. If I look at France, a real fear is a referendum on the European Union. Will we have a 'Frexit' after the 'Brexit' and that would potentially lead to the end of the European Union." 

Many are waiting with bated breath for the results of the Netherlands' election, which will decide the makeup of the Tweede Kamer, the country's lower house of parliament. The leader of the party that secures the most votes, will become the prime minister.