Far Right’s Rise in Europe: Serious alarm Sounded for Established Political Parties

Xenophobic far-right political parties are on the rise in Europe. They have served as a receptacle for voters’ political discontent over European integration and the influx of immigrants into Europe, among other issues. Can the established parties regain public support?

In November, the far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) became the leading party in the Dutch lower house election. The PVV is a populist party that opposes the acceptance of immigrants and refugees and rejects European integration, and this was the first time it had won a lower house election.

The center-right ruling party led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte, which had been in power for 13 years, sank to third place. The Rutte administration had promoted an immigrant-tolerant society and an emphasis on the European Union. However, support for his party did not grow, partly due to the ennui felt toward his long-term administration.

A factor that boosted the PVV was its leader Geert Wilders proclaiming that his party would “put the Dutch first.” He advocates a tougher stance on accepting immigrants from the Middle East and Africa, saying that increasing the number of immigrants from these countries would undermine national interests.

Wilders also argues that the Netherlands needs to leave the EU so that the country can pursue its own policies without being bound by the bloc’s decisions, calling for a referendum on the question.

With a relatively small land area and population, the Netherlands has been expanding its economic interests and political influence through the EU’s massive market. An election result rejecting that course is shocking.

The Netherlands has seen a strong influx of immigrants in recent years, with foreign-born persons and their children accounting for 26% of the entire population of 17.6 million.

The public is likely strongly concerned about shaky social cohesion, deteriorating safety and an increased burden on the government in areas such as health care and education.

The tendency for a far-right party to gain support by absorbing voters’ discontent can also be seen in other European countries.

In Germany, the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) has maintained a support rate of around 20% and increased its seats in state parliamentary elections this autumn. Finland’s anti-EU and anti-immigrant party became the second largest party after April parliamentary elections and has joined the coalition government.

France’s far-right National Rally has also garnered solid support, and former party president Marine Le Pen is no doubt preparing for the next French presidential election.

In addition to being anti-immigrant, far-right parties share opposition to the EU’s ambitious measures against global warming. They claim that decarbonization will incur an economic cost and increase the burden on households, a strategy they have adopted to win public support.

The EU needs to take this reality seriously. If the EU simply pursues its ideals, then demands that its member states implement them, it will inevitably weaken its ability to lead.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 7, 2023)