The 2014 elections to the European Parliament saw a high rise in euro-skeptic vote amongst the European public. The financial crisis, harsh austerity measures, anti-immigration rhetoric and populism has clearly taken its toll, especially in France, Denmark, UK and Greece. With turnout slightly higher than in 2009 and around 43% average across the EU, let us have a closer look on the far-right and far-left parties from across Europe that will create a new force in the European Parliament.
AUSTRIA - FREEDOM PARTY
Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ
Result: 19.5% (3rd in national poll)
MEPs: 4 (+2)
FPÖ is led by Heinz-Christian Strache - dental technician by training, and leading the party since 2005. Ideologically, the party is a direct descendant of the pan-German and national liberal camp, which dates back to the 1848 revolutions. The FPÖ itself was founded in 1956 as the successor to the short-lived Federation of Independents (VdU), which had been founded seven years earlier. In the Austrian political landscape, the FPÖ was from its foundation a third party with only modest support until it entered into government together with the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ), following the elections in 1983.
Under the leadership of Heinz-Christian Strache, the FPÖ has focused on describing itself as a Heimat and social party. This means that the party promotes its role as a guarantor of Austrian identity and social welfare. Economically, it supports regulated liberalism with privatisation and low taxes, combined with support for the welfare state; however, it maintains that it will be impossible to uphold the welfare state if current immigration policies are continued.
The party has traditionally been part of the national liberal camp, and generally identifies with a freiheitlich (libertarian) profile. In the late 2000s, the party combined this position with support for the welfare state. It criticised unemployment and alleged welfare-state abuse by immigrants which, it said, threatened the welfare state and pensioners' benefits.
Although during the late 1990s the party warned against the growing influence of radical Islam, this was later expanded to include concerns about Islamisation and the increasing number of Muslims in general. During the period of ÖVP-FPÖ government, many amendments were introduced to tighten the country's immigration policies. The number of new asylum applications, for example, was reduced from 32,000 in 2003 to 13,300 in 2006.
DENMARK - DANISH PEOPLE'S PARTY
Dansk Folkeparti (DF)
Result: 26.6% (1st in national poll)
MEPs: 4 (+2)
The party was founded in 1995 by Pia Kjærsgaard, who led the party until 2012, when she passed the leadership on to Kristian Thulesen Dahl. DPP supported a government consisting of the Liberal and Conservative parties from the Parliamentary election in 2001 until the election in 2011 (which was won by a coalition of center-left parties). During this time, while not part of the cabinet, DPP maintained a close cooperation with the ruling coalition on most issues. In return for its parliamentary cooperation, the party required support for their political stances.
The DPP, had campaigned to reclaim border controls and curb benefits to other EU citizens living in Denmark. The party holds that Denmark is not naturally a country of immigration. The party also does not accept a multi-ethnic transformation of Denmark, and rejects multiculturalism. Former party leader Pia Kjærsgaard stated she did "not want Denmark as a multiethnic, multicultural society", and that a multiethnic Denmark would be a "national disaster". The party seek to drastically reduce non-Western immigration, oppose islamisation, and favour cultural assimilation of immigrants. In 2010, the party proposed to put a complete stop to all immigration from non-Western countries.
The party opposes a cession of Denmark's sovereignty to the EU, wants to maintain the Danish krone, and opposes the accession of Turkey to the European Union.
FRANCE - NATIONAL FRONT
Front national (FN)
Result: 24.95% (1st in national poll)
MEPs: 24 (+21)
FN is economically protectionist, socially conservative, and nationalist political party founded in 1972 to unify a variety of French nationalist movements of the time. The FN has established itself as the third largest political force in France, after the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) and the Socialist Party (PS). The current leader of the party is Marine Le Pen, who took over from her father in 2011.
The party's ideology has been broadly described by scholars such as Shields as authoritarian, nationalist, and populist. Its major policies include economic protectionism, a zero tolerance approach to law and order issues, and anti-immigration. Since the 1990s, its stance on the European Union has grown increasingly eurosceptic. The party's opposition to immigration is focused on non-European immigration, and includes support for deporting illegal, criminal, and unemployed immigrants; its policy is more moderate today than it was at its most radical point in the 1990s.
From the 1980s to the 1990s, the party's policy shifted from favouring the European Union to turning against it. In 2002 Le Pen campaigned on pulling France out of the EU and re-introducing the franc as national currency. In the early 2000s the party denounced the Schengen, Maastricht, and Amsterdam treaties as foundations for "a supranational entity spelling the end of France." In 2004, the party criticised the EU as "the last stage on the road to world government", likening it to a "puppet of the New World Order." It also proposed breaking all institutional ties back to the Treaty of Rome, while it returned to supporting a common European currency to rival the United States dollar. It rejected the possible accession of Turkey to the EU. The FN was also one of several parties that backed France's 2005 rejection of the Treaty for a European Constitution.
Marine Le Pen has advocated that France should leave the euro (along with Spain, Greece and Portugal). She also wants to reintroduce customs borders and has campaigned against allowing dual citizenship.
Francois Hollande is said to hold an emergency meeting with his ministers today (Monday 26th May 2014) after a far-Right 'earthquake' saw the National Front triumph in France and voters across Europe turn to extremists and anti-EU parties.
GERMANY - ALTERNATIVE FOR GERMANY
Alternative für Deutschland (AfD)
Result: 7% (5th in national poll)
MEPs: 7 (+7)
The AfD was only founded in 2013. It describes itself as centrist, and states that it is anti-euro, but not anti-EU, and not against European unity. The party's central argument is that the euro is a failed currency that threatens European integration by impoverishing countries with uncompetitive economies and burdening future generations.
The party's election platform contains broad goals on currency policy, European policy, the rule of law and democracy, public finance and taxes, pensions, energy policy, and immigration policy. The section on currency policy provides the main part of the program. With regard to other policy fields, the party's main themes are to return some responsibilities back to national governments from the European level, to introduce elements of direct democracy, and to strengthen elements of ownership and self responsibility.
Specific goals include:
- The no-bailout clause of the Maastricht Treaty must be respected.
- Countries must be able to leave the eurozone to form alternative monetary unions or establish parallel currencies.
- Secondary market interventions by the European Central Bank should stop.
- The cost of bailouts should be borne primarily by the private sector.
- All transfer of sovereignty to the European Union must be legitimized by referendum.
The party is seen as offering a home to socially conservative voters who have been disenfranchised as Chancellor Merkel has allegedly shifted the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) to the left in areas of social policy such as same sex marriage. Some members of the AfD have been critical of same sex marriage, particularly Beatrix von Storch, an AfD candidate in Berlin.
In contrast with other anti-euro movements in Europe, the AfD claims that it is neither nationalist nor anti-immigration. Its program calls for Canadian-style policies to entice more skilled foreign workers to Germany. Its leader, Bernd Lucke, said: "We won't work with right-wing populists."
GERMANY - NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY
Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (NPD)
Result: 1% (10th in national poll)
MEPs: 1 (+1)
NPD is a far-right political party founded in 1964 as successor to the German Reich Party (German: Deutsche Reichspartei, DRP). The party is usually described as a neo-Nazi organization, and has been referred to as "the most significant neo-Nazi party to emerge after 1945". The German Federal Agency for Civic Education, or BPB, has criticized the NPD for working with members of organizations which were later found unconstitutional by the federal courts and disbanded, while the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, classifies the NPD as a "threat to the constitutional order" because of its platform and philosophy, and it is under their observation. The NPD rejects this depiction, viewing it an attempt to discredit their politics. An effort to outlaw the party failed in 2003.
The NPD's political philosophy coincides with the notion of a third political position, an idea which developed amidst criticisms of both liberal capitalism and communism. The NPD also endorses certain beliefs about human nature. NPD leader Udo Voigt states that the philosophy of the NPD differs from both communism and social liberalism in that it acknowledges people as unequal products of their societies and environments, largely governed by what is called natural law.
The NPD argues that NATO fails to represent the interests and needs of European people. The party considers the European Union to be little more than a reorganisation of a Soviet-style Europe along financial lines. Although highly critical of the EU, as long as Germany remains a part of it, the NPD opposes Turkey's incorporation into the organisation. Voigt envisions future collaboration and continued friendly relations with other nationalists and European national parties.
The NPD's platform asserts that Germany is larger than the present-day Federal Republic, and calls for a return of German territory lost after World War II, a foreign policy position abandoned by the German government in 1990.
GREECE - GOLDEN DOWN
Λαϊκός Σύνδεσμος - Χρυσή Αυγή
Result: 9.39% (3rd in national poll)
MEPS: 2 (+2)
Godeln Down is a far-right political party led by Nikolaos Michaloliakos. Michaloliakos was arrested on 28 September 2013, along with several other Golden Dawn members on the charges of being involved in a criminal organisation.
Scholars and media have described the party as neo-Nazi and fascist, though the group rejects these labels. Members have made use of Nazi symbolism, and have praised figures of Nazi Germany in the past. According to academic sources, the group is racist and xenophobic, while the party's leader has openly identified it as nationalist and racist.
The party ran a campaign during the Greek national elections of 2012 based on concerns for unemployment, austerity and the economy, as well as virulent anti-immigration rhetoric, which gained a large increase in support from the Greek electorate. It received 7% of the popular vote, enough for the party to enter the Hellenic Parliament for the first time with 21 seats.
Officially denying that it has any connection to Neo-Nazism, even though it is openly admitting it is heiling and it is using an icon strikingly similar to Swasitka and are selling WWII Nazi propaganda, the party admires Ioannis Metaxas, the Greek general who established the fascist dictatorship known as the 4th of August regime, between 1936 and 1941.
In January 2013, a group of Golden Dawn supporters attacked the car of Turkish consul-general Osman İlhan Şener in Komotini during an anti-Turkey protest. The party members also insulted Atatürk during the attack.
Election advertisements for Golden Dawn have depicted the burning of U.S. and Israeli flags, a reflection of the party's strong anti-American and anti-Zionist position. Golden Dawn is also staunchly eurosceptic, opposing Greece's participation in the European Union and the eurozone.
GREECE - SYRIZA (COALITION OF THE RADICAL LEFT)
Συνασπισμός Ριζοσπαστικής Αριστεράς
Synaspismós Rizospastikís Aristerás
Result: 26.55% (1st in national poll)
MEPs: 7 (+6)
SYRIZA was originally founded as a coalition of left-wing and radical left parties, and is currently led by Alexis Tsipras. The coalition comprises a broad array of groups (thirteen in total) and independent politicians, including democratic socialists and green left groups, as well as Maoist, Trotskyist, and eurocommunist organisations.
The coalition stands against the austerity measures that have come as conditions--contained in what is called the "Memorandum" - of the bailout of the Greek financial system by the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, known together as the "troika."
Tsipras, said that the party's win sent a clear message against the budget-cutting austerity measures tied to Greece's 240 billion euro ($327 billion) bailout from the euro area and International Monetary Fund, and called for immediate national elections.
The following are SYRIZA's proposals in a document titled "The Exit from the Crisis Is on the Left.":
The capitulation of our foreign policy to the desires of the U.S. and the powerful states of the European Union endangers the country's independence, peace, and security. We propose:
A multi-dimensional and peace-seeking foreign policy.
Disengagement from NATO and closure of foreign military bases on Greek soil.
Termination of military cooperation with Israel.
Aiding the Cypriot people in the reunification of the island.
ITALY - Five Star movement (M5S)
Movimento Cinque Stelle
Result: 21.13% (2nd in national poll)
MEPs: 17 (+17)
M5S is considered populist, anti-corruption, environmentalist, and Eurosceptic. The "five stars" are a reference to five key issues: public water, sustainable transport, sustainable development, connectivity, and environmentalism. Beppe Grillo - party leader - and several party members strongly condemned all recent western wars (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria) and Italian military and foreign policy.
In the Five Star Movement converge themes derived from ecological and anti-particracy promoting the direct participation of citizens in the management of public affairs through forms of digital democracy. The Movement wants to be a "democratic encounter outside of party and associative ties and without the mediation of directive or representational organisms, recognising to all users of the Internet the role of government and direction that is normally attributed to a few". From the economic point of view, embraces the theories of degrowth supporting the creation of "green jobs" and the rejection of polluting and expensive "great works", including incinerators, aiming to an overall better quality of life and greater social justice. The Movement 5 Star proposes the adoption of large-scale energy projects, elimination of waste, sustainable mobility, protection of territory from overbuilding, teleworking.
Another feature of the movement is the so-called "zero-cost politics", according to which politics must not become a way to make money and career. Belonging to the Movement requires the autoreduction of salaries of the citizens elected: in some regions such as Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna and Sicily the elect allocate part of the salary for purposes relating to the 'political activity of the group (exposed cover, legal fees, appeals to the Administrative Court and the Council of State, etc.).
Likewise the movement intends to reject campaign contributions, Grillo described the reasons for this choice March 27, 2010. In the regional elections in Sicily in 2012, as well as rejecting more than "1 Million Euro in electoral reimbursements", the sicilian MoVement has also decided to allocate the money saved by the reduction of the salaries of their elected in a fund for micro-credit to help small and medium enterprises, from Grillo always been considered the "backbone of Italy".
NETHERLANDS - FREEDOM PARTY
Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV)
Result: 13.35% (3rd in national poll)
PVV is a right-wing party led by its founder Geert Wilders (previously of VVD). Wilders has campaigned to stop what he views as the "Islamisation of the Netherlands". He compares the Quran with Mein Kampf and has campaigned to have the book banned in the Netherlands. He advocates ending immigration from Muslim countries, and supports banning the construction of new mosques.
With program items like administrative detention and strong assimilationist stance on the integration of immigrants into Dutch society, the Party for Freedom breaks from the established centre-right parties in the Netherlands. In addition, the party is consistently Eurosceptic and since early July 2012, according to its then presented program for the elections a few months later on September 12, even strongly advocating withdrawal from the EU.
PVV combines economic liberalism with a conservative programme on immigration and culture. The party seeks tax cuts (€16 billion in the 2006 election programme), de-centralisation, abolition of the minimum wage, and limiting child benefits and government subsidies. Regarding immigration and culture, the party believes that the Judeo-Christian and humanist traditions should be taken as the dominant culture in the Netherlands, and that immigrants should adapt accordingly. The party wants a halt to immigration from non-Western countries. It is sceptical towards the EU, is against future EU enlargement to countries like Turkey and opposes a dominant presence of Islam in the Netherlands. The party is also opposed to dual citizenship.
In 2012 the PVV party has launched a website named Reporting Centre on Central and East Europeans which receives complaints about Central and East European immigrants in the Netherlands. 'Do you have problems with people from Central and Eastern Europe? Have you lost your job to a Pole, a Bulgarian, a Romanian or another East European? We want to know,' the website states. It displays newspaper headlines such as 'Wouldn't it be better if you went back home?' and 'East Europeans, increasingly criminal'. The European Commission has condemned the website.
POLAND - CONGRESS OF THE NEW RIGHT
Kongres Nowej Prawicy (KNP)
Result: 7.06% (5th in national poll)
MEPs: 4 (+4)
KNP is a right-wing political party in Poland founded on 25 March 2011 by the controversial Janusz Korwin-Mikke - JKM. Korwin-Mikke, in his electoral interview to the EU parliament, Janusz Korwin Mikke expressed his belief that there is no proof that Hitler did know anything about Jews' extermination which is a reference to the assertion of British historian David Irving. JKM is a supporter of the monarchy system, and says that people should not vote because they are generally not very familiar with the economy and politics. JKM thinks that young offenders should be whipped instead of sent to prison because according to him "whipping hurts the body and the prison hurts the soul". JKM also said that Crimea residents generally preferred to belong to Russia.
The KNP endorses free market (in the understanding of Austrian school of economy, not 'free market' defined by leading media and politics), and every interference of government treats as harmful and unnecessary. It calls for dissolving of personal income tax (PIT) and corporate income tax (CIT) replaced by capitation tax, radical reduction of other taxes (e.g. VAT to 15%), disbanding once and for all redistribution of wealth, carrying put general privatization in the form of public bidding (including education, health care system, public media).
Moreover, KNP embraces the standpoint of disbanding minimal wage and privileges of labour unions. The party also demands constitutional amendment imposing on future governments to balance national budget (preventing incurring debts). The number of officials in Poland would be reduced dramatically from almost 500 thousand (in 2013) to few hundred (or few thousand) along with the great deal of regulations and restrictions. The party having been against adopting euro as polish official currency and strongly discourage from further integration within the European Union. In effect, it is commonly regarded as euro-skeptical.
The party strongly urged to liquidate coercive pension and health care system, in parallel respecting the rights of people having earned in previous years (pension, health care). Members of KNP lean toward conservative values that comes from Christian religion opposing abortion, euthanasia and civil unions. Furthermore, they are against government funding: research on embryos, in vitro treatment and birth control. On the other side, they are in favor of free access to weapons and releasing the ban on drugs trading.
SWEDEN - SWEDEN DEMOCRATS
Result: 7.90% (5th in national poll)
MEPs: 2 (+2)
SD is a far-right, populist, and anti-immigration political party in Sweden that was founded in 1988. The party describes itself as social conservative with a nationalist foundation.
The Sweden Democrats' party programme is based on nationalism and social conservatism. The journalist and historical author Henrik Arnstad has characterized the party as fascist. Nordic Studies scholar Benjamin Teitelbaum has called them radical nationalist. The party has been described by sociologist Jens Rydgren, and others, as xenophobic, racist and right-wing populist. In 2013, a Sveriges Radio journalist called the party xenophobic, which resulted in a complaint lodged to the broadcasting regulator. The Swedish Broadcasting Commission determined that this description was acceptable to use.
The Sweden Democrats believe that the current Swedish immigration and integration policies have been a failure. SD is the only party in the Swedish Parliament without an integration policy. They oppose integration because they believe that integration involves "meeting in the middle" and do not think that the Swedish people should have to bear the burden of what they see as a reckless immigration policy. SD feels that the current situation with a large number of immigrants living in cultural enclaves is not beneficial for the country. They argue that the immigrants themselves are rootless, that there have been rising antagonistic tensions between various population groups (socially, ethnically, religiously and culturally), and the immigration in itself, SD says, has caused social and economic strains on the country.
SD wishes to instate the possibility of life without parole for the worst crimes and to repatriate foreign citizens found guilty of serious crime.
The Sweden Democrats in their foreign policy reject joining the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union, are opposed to the Accession of Turkey to the European Union and want to renegotiate Swedish membership of the European Union.
UK - UNITED KINGDOM INDEPENDENCE PARTY
Result: 27.49% (1st in national poll)
MEPs: 24 (+11)
UKIP is a Eurosceptic right-wing populist party founded in 1993. The party describes itself in its constitution as a "democratic, libertarian party" and, as of May 2014, is reported to have a membership of over 38,000.
UKIP was founded in 1993 by Alan Sked and other members of the cross-party Anti-Federalist League, a political party set up in November 1991 with the aim of fielding candidates opposed to the Maastricht Treaty. The nascent party's primary objective was withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. It attracted a few members of the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative Party, which was split on the European question after the pound was forced out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992 and the struggle over ratification of the Maastricht Treaty.
Although UKIP's original raison d'être was withdrawal from the European Union, it was felt that the public perception of the party as a single-issue party - despite issuing full manifestos - was damaging electoral progress. Farage, on becoming leader, started a wide-ranging policy review, his stated aim being "the development of the party into broadly standing for traditional conservative and libertarian values".
UKIP proposes cuts in corporation taxes and the abolition of inheritance taxes. A flat rate of tax and the abolition of national insurance are advocated by UKIP, which it says will simplify the tax system, although it is unclear at what rate the flat tax would be set. UKIP proposes "tens of billions" of cuts to taxation, along with a further £77bn of cuts to the public sector in order to reduce the deficit.
UKIP advocates leaving the European Union, resulting in stopping payments to the EU and withdrawal from EU treaties, while maintaining trading ties with other European countries.
UKIP wants to repeal the Human Rights Act, and remove Britain from both the European Convention on Refugees and the European Convention on Human Rights.
UKIP's policies on immigration are currently under review after receiving criticism for not having "clear-cut" immigration policies. The party has previously outlined a number of measures designed to reduce immigration into the UK which include a five-year "freeze" on immigration for permanent settlement, the introduction of a points-based work-permit system and initiating a drive to remove illegal immigrants.