Monday, June 08, 2009

Europe swings Right

From the council house estates of Britain's former industrial heartland to French cities looking out across the Mediterranean to North Africa, European far-right parties have picked up an army of supporters in the international recession.

Families who have lost jobs and homes became an automatic target for the British National Party (BNP), Jobbik in Hungary, the National Front in France and the Party for Freedom (PVV) in the Netherlands with their anti-immigrant, anti-Islam, anti-establishment proclamations.

However, in other parts of Europe the vote dropped, leaving the far right groups with eight more seats in the Parliament than they had in 2004.

The BNP picked up two seats in the just-ended European parliament election that have brought all the parties into the spotlight.

BNP leader Nick Griffin is a Cambridge University-educated political scrapper who has completely recast his party's image.

But his message is much the same as in the other countries.

"This is a Christian country and Islam is not welcome, because Islam and Christianity, Islam and democracy, Islam and women's rights do not mix," he told Sky Television on Sunday night.

"That's a simple fact that the elites of Europe are going to have to get their heads round and deal with over the next few years."

Geert Wilders' PVV won 17 per cent of the Dutch vote in the election and will send four deputies to the EU parliament.

The far-right Jobbik party, participating in the elections for the first time, finished third in Hungary with 14.74 per cent of the vote and will get three deputies. The ultra-nationalist Ataka party in Bulgaria also expects three seats after getting 10-12 per cent of the vote.

Jobbik has seized upon what it calls "Roma crimes" and set up a paramilitary offshoot, the Hungarian Guard, to stage marches in Roma dominated villages. The head of a police trade union was on its European election candidates list.

The Greater Romania party was predicted to get about seven per cent and two deputies, according to exit polls.

Amsterdam University political analyst, Fouad Laroui, said that there was a growing move toward leaders like the populist Wilders "who use simple language - caricatures".

In the Netherlands and the rest of Europe, this sector makes up a fifth of all voters, he estimated - a group, "who understand little apart from feeling threatened."

Alfred Pijpers, researcher at the Dutch international relations institute Clingendael, said Wilders had tapped into voters who "veer from left to right without subscribing to the specific policies of political parties".

"These are, above all, people who have a degree of resentment towards the elite and feel misunderstood, excluded from society and the media," he said.

The BNP described the election of its two deputies at the expense of the scandal-stricken ruling Labour Party in Britain as a "historic moment".

However, Health Minister Andrew Burnham called it a "sad moment". He vowed it would "redouble our determination to take them on and take them out of British politics".

Government ministers and the Conservative party had sought to remind voters of BNP policies, which include calls for the immediate halt to all immigration and the "voluntary resettlement" of all immigrants.

The Conservative party's Europe spokesman, Mark Francois, said it was a "disappointing night".

French firebrand Jean-Marie Le Pen is a reminder, however, of how difficult it is to get rid of the far-right, even when it opposes everything in the EU parliament.

At the age of 80, Le Pen, who has been found guilty of calling the Nazi gas chambers a "detail" of history and has thrived on shocking the nation, is now the doyen of French members of the EU assembly.

Having been elected again, he swore to "defend France against Europe, against the abuses of the European Union." His daughter Marine was also reelected in the north of France.

The EU parliament recently adopted reforms to its operating rules so that Le Pen, as the longest serving member, cannot preside over its inaugural session.

(taken from Yahoo News)