The Rise of Populism: Germany’s Far-Right AfD and the EU Elections
By Kaitlin Drape
When the EU Parliamentary elections took place on May 23, they took place in a different environment than those of the previous elections. With the growth of populist rhetoric and far-right-wing parties across Europe, the election served as a sign of things to come. Right-wing parties in Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Finland, and Denmark are attempting to become a more influential force. EU countries will soon have to get to grips with the fact that far-right leaders will have more power in the EU Parliament. This electoral shift will influence long-standing policies and obstruct any centrist agenda.
A change throughout Europe
After 60 years of relative stability, the rise of Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party threatens to upend the nation’s predictable politics. In a 2016 setback for Chancellor Angela Merkel, her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party only garnered 19 percent in her home state, while the AfD received approximately 21 percent. This was later considered a protest vote in response to Merkel’s liberal migration policies and support for the EU’s bailout of Greece. A year later, the AfD won its first seats in the German federal parliament with 13 percent of the total vote and is now represented in all 16 state legislatures.
With the AfD’s anti-immigrant, nativist, and, some say, anti-constitutional stance, Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), launched an investigation claiming
This change runs deeper than the recent challenges to Merkel’s immigration policies. Ironically, the reunification of Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall has fueled right-wing sentiment. Some of the AfD’s most substantial support is in the area which used to be East Germany. It is a place where people feel left behind and believe the government, and the EU, to favor the “elites,” multi-national corporations, and the banks. NBC
Troubling election outcomes
Recently, there has been a significant
Though overall gains for far-right parties was less than hoped for, results for Matteo Salvini’s Italian Northern League Party still grew from six percent of the vote in 2014 to 34 percent in this election, and populist/nationalist parties are expected to hold 25 percent of the seats in parliament. But left-wing green parties, particularly in Germany, showed surprising strength by increasing their members by 40 percent. For the first
Salvini’s new alliance could create a power bloc and impact EU governance. Even as a minority, they could undermine centrist interests within the EU Parliament. The European Council on Foreign Affairs recently detailed the damage that such an alliance could do. If these parties united, they could, for example, block the election of an EU President or obstruct the passage of legislation. Though these parties disagree on issues, such as their basic positions on immigration and local governments could make them strong allies. The European Council on Foreign Affairs
There is skepticism surrounding the success of a populist alliance, as they often have different agendas. However, there are a growing number of Europeans who support right-wing parties and their anti-globalist message. At present, Europe is recovering from a decade of economic and political impermanence. And a not-so-unfamiliar political landscape is taking shape, upending the grand centrist coalition that has anchored Europe’s values of democracy and liberalism for decades.
Kaitlin Drape currently works as a fellow and associate producer at the Foreign Policy Association where she assists with their annual foreign policy series on PBS titled Great Decisions. Aside from helping to produce an episode on populism in Europe, she is also a volunteer with the YPFP membership team.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.