The Observer’s look at the dangerous rise of the far right in Europe | Observer’s editorial

Scary the rise of the extreme right in Europe: a familiar theme often rehearsed by progressive politicians and liberal media. A decisive upsurge in support for nationalist, eurosceptic, culturally intolerant parties was predicted after the 2016 Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s victory in the US elections. However, it never took off.

Last year’s electoral success of Germany’s center-left Social Democrats and the failure of the far-right Alternative for Germany party showed that the forces of reaction were retreating. Then came the President of France. second round of electionswhen far-right Marine Le Pen won a record 13.3 million votes – more than 41% of the total.

A more general lesson to be drawn from such fluctuations is that attempts to identify clear European trends can be misleading. Voting behavior in different countries is affected by individuals, events, times, regional issues, party loyalty, and electoral systems. After all, all politics is local.

At the same time, far-right populist parties are a pan-European problem that concerns all democrats. Common ground and ideological coincidences can be found, for example, between Sweden, in the far north of Europe and Italy in the south of the Mediterranean. In both cases, radical right parties are on the rise.

To the surprise of many in Stockholm, the Swedish Democrats, a party with neo-Nazi roots and hardlined against immigrants, law and order, came in second in last week’s national elections, backed by one in five voters. His support will be critical to the new centre-right coalition seeking to replace Social Democrats. If the fact that such a party, pierced through by opponents like neo-fascist brownshirts, will play the role of kingmaker is not alarming enough, then consider this: in the country where Greta Thunberg was born, 22% of first-time voters aged 18 to 21 voted for the Swedish Democrats, a party that shares the views of the European extreme right. skepticism about the climate crisis.

Anxiety about the cost of living and the energy crisis, the war in Ukraine, immigration and gun crime—hot issues in Sweden—may help explain this phenomenon. And they are not limited to the Swedes. Such problems are easily transferred to Italy, where like-minded ultra-right parties operate. ready to take over next weekend.

Opinion polls show that Georgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, an insurgent populist movement whose origins date back to Mussolini, lead the next government. She is backed by two other well-known right-wing figures, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Salvini of the League. Both are experts in separation politics.

Like the Swedish Democrats and Le Pen’s National Rally (formerly the National Front), the Brothers of Italy have cleaned up their image and suppressed their wild impulses. Meloni softened her anti-European stance and distanced herself from Russia. On the contrary, Berlusconi is known as old friend of Vladimir Putin.

Far-right Italians also have other traits similar to their European brethren: hostility towards “elites”, authoritarian tendencies, disdain for multiculturalism and gender rights, and a racist obsession with national identity. Poland, Netherlands, Austria, Spain, Serbia – everyone has their own versions of the same infection.

The damage that the far right can inflict on the authorities is painfully clear in Hungary. His pro-Moscow prime minister Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party obstruct EU action on Ukraine and undermine judicial, academic, minority and media freedoms. Last week, the European Parliament announced that Hungary no longer a democracy.

In a moment of national introspection and no small amount of self-flagellation, Britons should be thankful – and proud – that far-right parties have never taken on the importance they have elsewhere. Can it happen here? If our affairs are poorly managed, then yes, it can.

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