Reactionary populism invades Europe

Euroskeptics are making strides against the EU (SciencesPO)

Across the pond the resurgence of reactionary politics may lead to the normalization of the Trump victory. Stepping away from American politics, you find that Trump is not a uniquely-American creation and that Europe is reluctantly facing their own brand of rabble-rousers. These far-right populist movements have gained support throughout Europe in countries like the Netherlands, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The overarching themes within these populist movements include: a dissatisfaction with the elite systems, growing immigration concerns, a strong national focus, and Euroscepticism. The sustained economic crisis felt throughout Europe has fueled the populist movement, leading to record breaking performances for many populist parties in Europe. This article intends to explain the platform and ideology that some populist parties are championing in Europe.  


The Netherlands populist movement is led by Geert Wilder, the leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV). The party platform combines economic liberalism, conservative immigration/cultural principles, and the belief that Judeo-Christian and humanist traditions should be the dominate culture. Party leader Geert Wilders has most recently gone to trial for inciting hatred against the Dutch Moroccan minority. Wilder has never strayed far from controversy, historically known for his anti-Muslim rhetoric. The Party for Freedom currently holds, in the Netherlands, 12/150 seats in the House of Representatives, 9/75 seats in the Senate, and 4/26 seats in the European Parliament, making it the third largest party in the Netherlands.


The National Front (FN) dominates the far right of French politics. Led by Marine Le Pen, the FN now controls 21/74 seats on the European Parliament. The FN has dominated media coverage with the looming 2017 presidential elections, where predictions remain optimistic for the FN. Marine Le Pen touts the platform of anti-immigration, law and order, and socially conservative beliefs. The party was first created by Marine Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie Le Pen, who was known by some as the ‘Devil of the Republic’. While party positions have changed very little, Marine Le Pen has looked to soften the party image and distance herself from the far-right categorization. The National Front has been polling increasingly well, while the incumbent President Hollande has an approval rating of 15%.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel made the controversial decision to admit more than a million refugees and migrants into Germany during 2015, sparking the creation of the Alternative for Germany (AfD). The Alternative for Germany made the increasing number of migrants a focus for the party platform; headed by Frauke Petry and Jorg Meuthen the party has increasingly gained support since its inception in 2013. The party has seen recent success, like many populist parties in Europe, due to this surge in migration. In the last election the AfD successfully gained representation in ten of Germany’s sixteen state parliaments. The party has received large support from the ‘Patriotic Europeans Against Islamisation of the West’ (Pegida) movement. Additionally, one of the AfD’s most well-known policies, ‘More children for German families’ calls for women to have more children so immigration would no longer be necessary. Party leaders have even gone so far as to say, if necessary, German authorities should shoot at migrants who attempt to enter the country. The inflammatory comments have offended many Germans, but party support remains at an all-time high.

United Kingdom:

The UK Independence Party (UKIP) is best known for its hand in BREXIT, leading the United Kingdom to exit the European Union. The leader of the party is Paul Nuttall who assumed office just this November replacing Nigel Farage. The party ideologies preach economic liberalism, hard Euroscepticism, and British nationalism. Under Nigel Farage UKIP gained the third-largest vote total and one seat in the House of Commons during 2015 elections. The decision for the UK to leave the EU was one of controversy and one that many critics claim was an uninformed decision. The decision to leave provides a baseline for how powerful populist movements can be and how dangerous they are to the survival of the European Union.

Reactionary populism has reached, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands, and these populist parties are gaining support. The historically unpopular views of Euroscepticism, anti-immigration, and Islamophobia have, through a multitude of reasons, become popular. Populist parties throughout Europe look not only to normalize the election of Donald Trump, but to emulate it.