The year of 2016 was full of celebrity deaths, and drama, but perhaps the most shocking events were Britain voting to leave the European Union (Brexit) and Donald Trump becoming the President-elect of the United States.
These two major events are significant because of the possible implications that can follow in 2017. It is clear that citizens throughout the globe are scared of terrorism and want stricter immigration policies. Can the election of Donald Trump and Brexit lead to far right-wing leaders taking over Europe?
Not necessarily. Europeans do not make up their minds based on what others are doing, but the election of Donald Trump and Britain leaving the EU definitely do tell us one thing; that far right politicians can thrive in countries that tend to be much more liberal than the United States.
France’s general election will occur on April 23. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front, a political party that bases its platform on nationalism, Euroscepticism, and anti-immigration, came in third place in the 2012 French election. But after the election of Donald Trump, Le Pen gained hope for her movement and even wished President Elect Trump a congratulatory message:
The overwhelming vote of Britain in favor of Brexit, of course, and now Donald Trump’s election, these are democratic choices which bury the ancient order, and they are the bricks which will build tomorrow. Because only the interest of France and French people counts for me, I dare say here that the election of Donald Trump is a good piece of news for our country.
Le Pen is gaining momentum in French opinion polls, currently averaging in 2nd place; this would put her in the final round of voting.
Besides from running a controversial campaign, Marine Le Pen believes the French want their own exit from the European Union, or “Frexit.” In addition to France, she noted how there are increasing concerns in nations like Norway and Italy, where Euroscepticism is on the rise.
Is Marine Le Pen correct? In many ways, yes. There is a rising amount of nationalism and anti-immigration sentiment throughout European nations, and many are skeptical of the EU and whether it is benefiting Europe or not.
Perhaps one of the biggest tests of the direction Europe will be heading into will be the German general election, where Chancellor Angela Merkel is running for another term. Merkel, a center-right politician who believes in Christian democracy has relatively high favorability numbers among Germans. Those who vigorously oppose her often cite her open border policy and how immigrants flood in. Can this cause the rise of a new leader in Germany? As of right now, Merkel is the favorite to win this election, so Germany may be one of the only European nations not transitioning towards nationalist policies.
A new party named “Alternative for Germany” is the new face of the far-right in Germany, however due to the party’s lack of membership and time being a factor, the party has little to no chance of giving Merkel a real challenge. The Alternative for Germany may capture some seats however in the legislature.
In Italy, the economy is struggling, and is expected to get even worse this year. Economists believe that Italy will wind up ditching the Euro, which translates to Italy leaving the European Union as well. While this is all speculation, it is clear that many in Europe do not feel as if the EU is working for all and that individual countries should be in charge of their own laws.
These “alternative” parties are rising in every European country, making it a growing ideology for many Europeans. It remains uncertain whether these alternative movements will be successful throughout all of Europe, though.
It’s clearer than ever that politics and the ideology of people throughout the world is shifting significantly, with many favoring “anti-establishment” policies in all different parts of the world. Nationalism and anti-immigration sentiments will rise as long as the fear of terrorism is present, and these feelings probably will not be leaving anytime soon. It remains unclear however what direction individual countries in Europe are thinking right now, but many do want substantial change.