Europe Trends Toward Radical Change

By Daily Editorials

August 3, 2016 4 min read

The refugee crisis and a growing fear of terrorism are pushing Europeans into the lap of populist politicians.

The power of officials on the right is on the rise. The United Kingdom's vote to leave the European Union, or Brexit, was a victory for nationalists and populist conservatives around Europe.

The next step in that direction might come in Austria.

In April, Norbert Hofer — the presidential nominee of the Austrian right's Freedom Party — surprisingly won 35 percent of the vote in the first round of this year's election. He lost in the second round.

But earlier this month, Austria's Constitutional Court annulled that election because of improperly handled postal votes. There will be a re-election in October.

Hofer had lost to his Social Democrat rival Alexander Van der Bellen by only 30,000 votes in May. The re-election finds Hofer in a potentially stronger position with voters because of the Brexit results and the recent terrorist attack in Nice, France.

The next president of the United States likely will have to deal with many populist politicians in Europe.

How did we get here?

Several years ago — while Portugal, Spain and Greece were on edge of bankruptcy — the future of the European Union was in question. France and Germany, the big brothers of the union, decided to impose economic sanctions on those countries.

That decision triggered political conflicts in Portugal, Spain and Greece, while echoing around Europe, which helped empower radical left parties in some countries. But the radical left's influence did not give them control of many countries' governments.

In the last few years, the refugee crisis hit: Millions of Syrians left for Turkey, Greece, Germany, France and other nations. In turn, these refugees increased Europeans' fears for their jobs, as housing shortages occurred and as terrorist incidents rose.

Movements from the right have gained strength from this ongoing period of turmoil.

—Members of the Alternative for Germany party (AfD) in Germany have worked against the refugees hand in glove with the racist PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West).

AfD supporters won a number of local elections. Terrorist attacks in the last week in Munich and on a Bavarian train have triggered even more anger over the refugee situation in Germany.

—In France, Marine Le Pen's far-right National Front Party is becoming the strongest one in that country. After the outrageous attack in Nice, Le Pen has emerged as the most powerful nominee in the presidential race to be held next year.

—Geert Wilders, the Dutch friend of Le Pen, is getting stronger in political circles in the Netherlands.

Wilders attended the Republican National Convention last week and told delegates that Europe was imploding because of immigration.

All of this has the very real potential to change the political, economic and military calculus around the globe.

REPRINTED FROM THE JACKSONVILLE DAILY NEWS

Photo credit: Elliott Brown

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