National populism is here to stay!
Europe’s main challenge, which it has been battling for a number of years, is the phenomenon of national populism. Populist parties have gained record electoral results in Italy, Sweden and Austria within the European region.
Radical Left and Green parties are also making great strides in some countries, but they are not having the same impact as the extreme right. Democracies that have always been resistant to this political force are seeing this trend once more.
In the Nineties the rumour was that four European democracies would never fall. These were Sweden and Holland, as they were historically liberal; the UK because of its strong political institutions and its civic culture; and, Germany, because of the stigma left by the Second World War.
However, 20 years later, we see that each one of these countries has experienced a popular rebellion. Pim Fortuyn, followed by Geert Wilders in Holland; the Swedish Democrats who lately broke a new voting record; and, also, the Alternative für Deutschland, which has more than 90 seats in the Bundestag and 15 out of the 16 parliaments of German states. In the UK, Nigel Farage managed to bring the country to a referendum about the membership of the UK in the EU where the majority of the citizens voted for Brexit.
What is actually happening? National populism is mainly concerned about four social changes that have deep roots.
First, there is a lack of trust in politics, made worse by populist leaders who are portraying themselves and their fans as victims of a political system that has become less representative of the main bodies.
Second, many people are worried about the demise of national culture and life values in the context of the issues of immigration and ethnic changes.
Coupled with this lack of trust and fear there are concerns that are related to deprivation, lack of work and financial income, together with a strong sense that the populists and the ethnic social group are being left behind at their own expense in society.
Finally, a number of political systems in the West are having to face a new era, where the bonds between voters and traditional parties have been loosened. Consequently, the road to new political challengers is even more open.
When these four currents are observed in more detail, it is evident that there is nothing temporary about nationalist populism. Those who are hoping for a new politics that would be central and liberal will remain disappointed. It is likely that we will be living in times of big changes in the coming years.