In September, Germans will head to the polls to elect a new parliament. One of the parties expected to enter the Bundestag for the very first time is the Alternative für Deutschland (or Alternative for Germany). Over the course of two years, as AfD has transitioned from an agenda of economic reform to one of nationalist populism, they have morphed into something resembling the American alt-right.
In 2012, a group of German conservatives and classical-liberal economists who had defected from Angela Merkel’s center-right and the traditional liberal-democrat party found themselves associating with independent-voter groups in order to run for office on the local level. Soon, these conservatives, who were heavily critical of the European Union’s economic interventionism and especially the European common currency, found themselves alienated by these existing platforms, and in 2013 they founded the AfD.
Soon after its creation, the party began to struggle with internal disagreements about the priorities of its political message: the classical liberals were keen on developing a German brand of Euroscepticism—which, relative to the Anglo-Saxon brand, would appear less aggressive and more academic—while nativists and those who were religiously inspired pushed for more nationalism and social conservatism on issues like gay marriage (which remains illegal in Germany). These were internal fights over these differences during the 2013 election, which contributed to the AfD narrowly failing to enter parliament.
In 2014, the party continued its rise in the polls. It won electoral success in the European Parliament, local parliaments, and municipal councils. Former AfD chairman Bernd Lucke, a classical-liberal economist known for his numerous appearances on German TV shows dedicated to debates on the Euro and its effect on the European debt crisis, became the target of the nationalist wing of the party. But AfD’s moment in the spotlight was short-lived. As the issue of Greece leaving the Euro was swept off the table and the Euro-crisis became uninteresting for the German media, so did the focus on the AfD.
Continue reading at The American Conservative
With the recent rise to prominence of right-wing populist parties across Europe, it’s refreshing that Iceland has remained largely immune to such nationalistic rhetoric. On the continent, figures like Marine Le Pen in France and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands are capitalizing on what political scientists are calling a third wave of European populism that began after the international financial crisis of 2008. These parties are characterized by their anti-immigrant, and specifically, anti-Muslim sentiments. They fashion themselves the “protectors” of their homelands’ traditional culture against cosmopolitan globalism.
Yet, tiny Iceland has resisted this dirty brand of politics because of the rise of social movements that challenged the power structure of the Icelandic political establishment after the financial crisis of 2008. Unlike in other European countries, these social movements transformed themselves into a political movements, filling the vacuum of traditional center-right and center-left political parties, while also preventing far-right political projects from succeeding.
For starters, Iceland is a relatively young country that only became independent in 1944. It is a parliamentary democracy, based on coalitions because the Althing (parliament) has 63 members but a single party rarely has a clear majority. Unlike other Nordic countries, Iceland has been governed by the right for most of its history, either from the liberal conservative Independence Party or the center-right agrarian Progressive Party.
Continue reading at FEE.
On 15 March, the Dutch voted in their parliamentary elections in favour of the ruling Liberal party and against their own version of the alt-right. Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) won 33 seats compared to insurgent candidate Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party’s (PVV) 20 seats. Although this triumph will act as a speed-bump for ethnic and economic nationalism, it is a temporary effect. The election was mostly about immigration, particularly of Muslims, and how to integrate them into Dutch society.
Now that they have won, centrist parties must learn that without incorporating some of the more legitimate and palatable concerns of voters concerned with immigration, they will be unable to maintain power. During the lead up to the election, Rutte warned of the need to integrate ethnic non-Dutch people to ensure every citizen shared the same basic secular and liberal values.
Rutte said everyone needed to know that the Netherlands wasn’t for people who “litter,” “spit,” “attack gay people”, or “shout at women in short skirts.” All of this was declared in a full-page advertisement which said people should “act normal or go away.”
By doing this, the VVD was able to steal some of the PVV’s rhetoric and, in turn, some of their voters. While such language from an establishment leader rattled the liberal and centrist press, it worked well and was copied by other parties. Finally, Rutte benefited from taking a firm stance on a visceral row with the Muslim-majority country, Turkey. The problem facing centrists is how to stop nativist parties that thrive on marginalising others without alienating increasing numbers of nativist voters.
Continue reading at EUobserver.