Activity of European Right Parties in the Context of Trump’s Victory

05.01.2018

Right parties across Europe have been greatly enthusiastic since Donald J. Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States. The first positive reactions to Trump’s victory came from the Dutch Freedom Party, France's National Front, the UK Independence Party, and the Alternative for Germany. 

Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Freedom Party, tweeted about Americans that, “The people are taking their country back. So will we.” 

The president of the National Front, a national-conservative political party in France, Marine Le Pen tweeted congratulations to Donald Trump, “and to the American people, free!”.

Viktor Orbán, the present leader of the national conservative Fidesz party of Hungary, wrote on his Facebook page that Trump’s victory was great news and “democracy is still alive.”

Frauke Petry, the party chairwoman of the Alternative for Germany, said that “This election result is encouraging for Germany and for Europe, because Trump really has the cards for a political sea-change in his hand.” She added: “Like Americans, citizens of Germany must have the courage to put a tick in the ballot box and not remain resigned at home. Their own opinion counts, even if political correctness would appear to have elevated the decreed consensus to the level of a new doctrine.”

Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party, who successfully fronted the Brexit this summer, was the first European politician to visit Trump in person after Election Day. After that Farage is now viewed as the British politician with the most influence in the incoming American administration.

The election of Republican Donald Trump followed after Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and the growing popularity of right-wing parties in European countries are widely seen as a global trend of rising populist nationalism and the collapse of the idea of globalization. On December 4th, two elections in Italy and Austria will reveal just how significant an impact the results in the US will have had. Politically Europe is highly dependent on the trends prevailing in the US. 

The lack of boundaries has led to uncontrolled migration and multiculturalism — to the destruction of traditional culture. As a result, a majority of people vote for Trump and European right-wing parties (especially in countries which were affected heavily in the refugee crisis) who greatly embodied the conservative idea. 

Almost everywhere in Europe these parties are winning regional elections and having more representatives in national parliament seats. A year ago, 2015, some midsize European countries, Hungary and Poland, had elected right, anti-globalization governments. And now it will not be easy for left-wing parties to win. Europe is grappling with a surge of migrants and refugees, as well as the fallout from Brexit. People who vote for populist parties feel that the liberal political elite are not delivering enough for them, especially to working class people. The working class is afraid of job competition from low-cost immigrant workers, and other Eurosceptics realize that the competition will not be in the labor market but in the social sphere. 

Another important factor of the growing influence of right-wing and far-right parties in Europe is the economic crisis. It creates a strong internal tension in the structures of the European welfare states. Many voters are dissatisfied with the fact that EU funds are used to help migrants and refugees (and often without any positive results). The need for financial assistance to poorer countries (e.g, Greece) from the richer (eg, Germany) has already led to an increase in the influence of the conservative and ultra-conservative forces recorded during the elections to the European Parliament in 2014.

Right political parties have a lot in common: they propose to deport migrants, to resurrect internal European borders, to go back to the individual currencies of each country, and to dissolve the European Union. These populist themes are getting new attention in the US and in Trump’s campaign ideas — a hard line on immigration, a revitalizing of manufacturing in various iterations, a distrust of trade deals, a defense of traditional values, a protection of social security and a suspicion of international organizations and international elites. Although Trump's populist positions differ in many ways from traditional conservatism.

Of course, this does not mean that these very different forces automatically will be able to negotiate between themselves. It doesn’t mean that a future conservative wave will not be replaced by any other wave. But it can be assumed that in the coming years, the course in the world will be determined by conservative values in one form or another. And some of the gains of the previous liberal wave, especially noticeable in the world in the 1990's and early 2010's, will be revised or limited. “Trump’s victory is proof that populists are credible contenders despite opposition from major media outlets and established parties,” said Heiko Giebler, a research associate at the Berlin Social Science Center. “It’s similar to what happened after Brexit. Leaders will use this to emphasize that populist movements can be successful, and that they can win even if the odds are against them.”

The rising populism caused a stir among the ruling liberal elites in Europe. So, the public mood across Europe is discussed in details in the pages of the major European periodical publications and U.S. newspapers. According to political analysts predicting, the victory of Donald Trump has a boost for populists across Europe in what they call the “Trump-effect.”

France

All eyes now turn to France where next year's French presidentials are shaping up to be the reversal. It will affect the internal reforms and relationships with partners. On the eve Francois Fillon, former prime minister, has won 66 percent of the second round of voting, beating rival Alain Juppe. Turnout was unexpectedly high. More than four million people came to vote for the leader of the opposition party. Francois Fillon promises drastic free-market reforms and a crackdown on immigration and Islamic extremism. Presenting opposing views, Fillon declared that Paris is necessary to reconsider its relations with the European Union, be careful with NATO and be on friendly terms with Russia.

“My approach has been understood: France can't bear its decline. It wants truth and it wants action,” Fillon told supporters at his campaign headquarters.

Primary results clearly show how the mood of the French has changed. Fillon's victory will send him into an electoral battle that opinion polls say will boil down finally to a duel with far-right leader Marine Le Pen, next May. Many pollsters are seeing Fillon — France's closest thing to a genuine conservative on both economic and social issues — as having the good chance of becoming president.

Italy

4 December — Italian constitutional referendum. Voters will be asked whether they approve of amending the Italian Constitution to reform the appointment and powers of the Parliament of Italy, as well as the partition of powers of the State, Regions, and administrative entities. The Italian Constitution was proposed by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his centre-left Democratic Party. If the Italians vote “against”, Renzi will have no chance to stay in power. In this case he promised to resign that would mean that the country can expect an early election.

Parties with the increasing popularity among Italians are: the regionalist political party Northern League; the Five Star Movement that is considered populist, anti-globalist and Eurosceptic.

Austria

On December 4th, presidential elections will be held in Austria. The results of the second round were canceled. Against this backdrop, Freedom Party (FPÖ) presidential candidate Norbert Hofer is likely to win. Hofer can be the first conservative head of state freely elected since 1945. He is receiving huge support from Austria’s disaffected working class. Public poll has shown that 53 percent of Austrians consider Hofer has directly benefited from Trump’s victory. Hofer has extended his lead in the polls by another percentage point from his opponent, former Green party leader Alexander Van der Bellen.

The working class also connects to Hofer on Euroscepticism, sharing the party’s negative opinions on European Union interference from Brussels. Another major issue for many is the ongoing migrant crisis and the effect it has had on Austrian communities. The politician supports the idea of control at the border of Austria and Italy, and is ready to use the army as a last resort.

Netherlands

General elections are planned to be held in the Netherlands on 15 March 2017 to elect all 150 members of the House of Representatives. The majority of Dutch and European experts predict that the Eurosceptics will win. 

“Politics will never be the same,” stated Geert Wilders of the far-right Dutch Freedom Party who will challenge the Dutch establishment next year. “America regained its national sovereignty, its identity, it reclaimed its own democracy, that’s why I called it a revolution” and “What happened in America can happen in Europe and the Netherlands as well,” Wilders said.

The populist politician seems to become the Netherlands' next prime minister.

Germany 

In 2017 the next German federal elections will elect the members of the Bundestag, the federal parliament of Germany. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has said she will seek a fourth term in the general election. But some experts call into question her victory. She has come under intense criticism for her “open door” refugee policy in 2015. Merkel’s popularity has fallen to its lowest point in half a decade with domestic security a key topic in the country, according to a poll by Infratest dimap, public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports.

Germany now sees radical right-wing populist party for the first time ever since the Second World War. In just three years, the Alternative for Germany party gained influence at the national level, pushing Merkel. Under migration crisis and helplessness of the authorities the AfD has become a real threat to the ruling parties. Moreover, according to Trump’s statements, he is going to abandon the international treaties which are fundamental for the ruling German coalition (that would weaken their position).

The Alternative for Germany won 4.7% of the votes in the 2013 federal election, narrowly missing the 5% electoral threshold to sit in the Bundestag. In 2014 the party won 7.1% of the votes and 7 out of 96 German seats in the European election. As of September 2016, the AfD had gained representation in ten of the 16 German state parliaments.