March 18, 2017
In the past few years there has been a slow rise of Nationalist movements in democratic countries around the world. The weight of this has been felt after the election of President Donald Trump in the US and England’s Brexit from the EU. The rise of nationalist campaigns being run spans all across Europe including Scandinavian countries Sweden and Finland, through central Europe in France and Germany. Nationalist candidates are even becoming increasingly popular as far east as Greece and west as Cyprus. It seems that every nation now has their very own “Donald Trump” like candidate. As a nation sometimes America fails to realize how large of an impact our actions and image have around the world. Regardless of who is in the administration, countries around the world still look to America as it is the strongest military force by far in the world.
What does Nationalist mean? Defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary, nationalism is “loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially : a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.” Defined in brevity by Dictionary.com as “excessive patriotism.” This word has become somewhat of a buzzword often interchanged with, far right, alt-right, and xenophobia. Some say this movement can be traced as far back as the end of the cold war when communism was no longer the largest threat to democracy. Post 9/11 there has been a strong effect of hating others who are not like us. By nature, humans dislike uncertainty.
The best way to know what’s happening around the world is to stay informed and engaged. For several European countries 2017 will be a big election year, and the history of Europe and the unification of the EU may depend on the results of the upcoming elections.
In Austria two presidential elections took place, first on May 22, 2016 the second on December 4, 2016. Alexander Van der Bellen of the Greens (environmental party) won the election in Austria against Norden Hofer, the Freedom Party (nationalist) not once, but twice. The results of the initial election were annulled due to some people speculating there were too many mail in ballot voting irregularities; in addition the margins by which Van der Bellen won by the first round were incredibly small. Some people say that the revote was a response to Brexit and Trump election outcomes, and was a vote pro-Europe. In most recent news Van der Ballen has been opposing Minister of Foreign Affairs Sebastian Kurz’s stance that NGOs that are helping refuges in the Mediterranean East must be stopped.
Two weeks ago on March 14th, the Dutch general elections took place. The candidates? Incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy ran against Geert Wilders a far-right conservative. According to BBC candidate Wilders has gone on the record saying, “Islam is not a religion, it’s an ideology, the ideology of a retarded culture. I have a problem with Islamic tradition, culture, ideology. Not with Muslim people.” One of his main campaign promises was to bring the downfall of the EU. The results of the election, Prime Minister Rutte won by a small margin. According to USA Today, the country was shook by the idea that Russians could interfere with the vote that the ballots were counted manually. Critics say not to be too relieved, that while this election is the first of the year, it may not represent the way upcoming elections will result.
The next large upcoming elections to keep an eye on are Germany and France, both have strong far right conservative parties running against a more globalist or liberal leaning candidate. The way German elections work is not as simple as other democratic counties. Their constitution called The Basic Law was rewritten in 1949 with large influence of American politics, after World War II. It was supposed to be rewritten after the reunification of Germany and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991, but it structured their government so that no single person could overtake the government again. Instead, when reelecting a new Bunderstag (similar to the US senate) each voter casts two votes, first for a person, then for a party. Through a very complex process, the winning party will have control of the Bunderstag. However, a party winning a majority almost never happens so the strongest parties must form coalitions to become the overruling party. The current Prime Minister of Germany, Angela Merkel is the leader of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany a well-established center-right party. In order for her to be reelected for the position, her party must win or form a coalition to gain the majority.
These German elections will take place on September 24th later this year. Incumbent Merkel is running against Martin Schulz. Schulz is from the Social Democratic Party of Germany a center- left party. Also in the race is Frauke Petry, a candidate from the Alterative for Deutschland a far right party. While it is still too far off to know how this election will turn out, the decision that America makes are being watched closely and have some impact on the way voters make decide.
French Presidential elections will start next month on April 23rd and end May 7th. With an election date closely approaching the race is getting very right. There are four front running candidates in this election all from different parties. Marine Le Pen is for Front National a right wing nationalist party that her father Jean-Marie Le Pen “a racist and convicted holocaust denier” founded in 1972. Fracois Fillion who was the French Prime Minister from 2007 to 2017 and is for Les Republicans, a center-right party but recently came under fire for paying his wife for illegitimate jobs during his last presidency. Benoit Hamon is running for the left Socialist party and directly opposes Le Pen’s views. Lastly, Emmanuel Macron is an Independent candidate who may be the horse to bet on in this crazy race. In past elections it has been a much more clear race between Les Republicans and the Socialist Party, keeping that France has a very socialist structure. However, with the rise of nationalism globally polls have shown Le Pen has drawn much support. Just how much? It’s only a matter of time before we will know.