Right-wing populists and the EU | DW Documentary
Polls promise populists a third of seats in the European Parliament
The return of “Mr. Brexit” Nigel Farage to the political front is a clear example of the difficulties faced by the centrist establishment across the EU in trying to contain the rise of populism in the last days before the EU parliamentary elections..
In an era where social media drives politics and traditional notions of political affiliation fade into the background, populist agendas are more appealing than the establishment’s boring, hands-on approach..
Farage can rightfully call himself the man behind Brexit. It was his campaign that prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to call a referendum on whether Britain should remain in the EU, in the hopes of weakening the position of the United Kingdom Independence Party..
Farage, educated in one of the most prestigious private schools, positions himself as a man of the people. At the same time, he does not put forward specific political initiatives, promising to do so after the elections to the European Parliament, which will be held on May 22.
His newly formed Brexit Party did not even submit a written manifesto.
The idea with which he speaks at campaign rallies and on television is simple: the British people were betrayed by the treacherous and greedy political elite, who failed to fulfill the will of the people and implement “Brexit”.
Like Italy’s Five Star Movement, Farage is trying to bridge the traditional left-right divide by leaving his far-right United Kingdom Independence Party..
The simple message of betrayal fuels the party’s popularity, propelling it to the fore in the polls, also fueled by competition among parties that favor retaining EU membership. According to polls, the Brexit Party will take first place in the UK elections with 34 percent of the vote.
The ruling Conservative Party is projected to gain only 9 percent and take fifth place. If the predictions come true, this indicator will become the worst in the history of the game..
Farage is now focusing more on the Labor electorate – a working class from post-industrial areas in the north of England and south Wales, for whom globalization has brought few obvious benefits, although the industrial and mining cities that drove Britain’s industrialization in the 19th century received significant EU funding from the EU, as Farage says prefers to remain silent.
Many Labor voters are impressed by the opposition of people and elite, which Farage is pushing for. “I realized that under the current political system we would never get the Brexit we voted for,” he said Saturday, speaking in the Welsh city of Merthyr Tydville, the birthplace of one of the founders of the Labor Party. “They’re trying to build a coalition of politicians against the people.”.
Similar ideas are being heard across Europe, although Brexit is not a factor in the remaining 27 EU countries, and neither is the UK’s lead. Apparently, the situation in Britain convinced even Eurosceptics to abandon attempts to leave the bloc..
A poll conducted in September last year in the European Union showed that 62 percent of respondents consider EU membership a positive factor..
However, for populists, playing on feelings of injustice turns out to be an effective strategy, whether it be full-fledged attacks on those who are considered the elite, or calls to protect ordinary people from the negative consequences of globalization or immigration..
Attempts by Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who heads the far-right League party, to convince European populists to conduct a coordinated campaign, were only partially successful, but his campaign message is also simple: Salvini calls for tougher border controls, protect European culture and weaken the influence of the EU by subjugating Brussels and EU institutions to national governments.
On Saturday, almost 100,000 people came to the rally of Salvini and European nationalists in Milan, which included the leader of the French National Front Marine Le Pen and the Dutch politician Geert Wilders.
“The political elites in Brussels cannot be trusted. They want to impose their own rules on us. They want to take away our national identity and security, “- said Wilders, speaking at the event..
According to a recent poll, a quarter of Europeans consider themselves populists. Sociologists predict that populists will occupy a third of 721 seats in the European Parliament.
“Several far-right parties, particularly in western and northern Europe, have demonstrated the ability to adapt their ideology to attract voters outside of their core constituencies,” says University of Reading professor Daphne Halikiopulu..
“The populist ultra-right makes inequality the norm: they offer solutions to problems that worry voters, in their rhetoric discarding different groups of the population who are positioned as a threat to shared values, and therefore to stability and security,” she notes..
However, analysts also point out that populist parties have significant ideological differences, including over migration and relations with Russia. Perhaps the most serious challenge awaits them after the elections, when it may turn out that unity is not easy to achieve..