Extremist parties have been on the rise in Europe in recent years, and the victory of the United Kingdom Independence Party, also known as UKIP, in winning a seat in Parliament is evidence of this. Long dismissed in the mainstream as an extremist fringe group, the results of last Friday’s elections that not only outright gave the party a seat in Parliament, but came close to giving them a second seat, served as a shock and wake up call to many. But this is only the latest victory by extremist parties like UKIP in elections.
UKIP just won their first seat in Parliament, even though it has a controversial platform. It is headed by Nigel Farage, and under his tutelage, they have grown by promoting ideas that are common among extremist parties and movements throughout the European continent. Among the main points that UKIP has in common with those other parties is a desire to severely tighten the reins on immigration, as well as to pull their nation out of the European Union (EU). Now, the victory by UKIP has forced people to stand up and take notice.
The victory for the UKIP came in Clacton-on-Sea. The man who won for the party is Douglas Carswell, who defected from the Conservative Party, the party of Prime Minister David Cameron, and joined the Independence Party instead. Carswell had represented Clacton-on-Sea since 2010, but his previous time in this capacity was with the more established Conservative Party. He had switched and was running this time for the Independence Party, and his victory earned that party their first, and so far only, seat in Parliament. Questions are already swirling about what this means for the sitting prime minister and his party, and just how much this setback will cost them in the next election. Cameron has already promised a referendum on the status of Britain’s membership in the EU.
This is the first time in recent memory that an extremist party has risen in Britain the way that it has in the rest of Europe, but UKIP really scored a big win by earning a seat in Parliament. Similar movements have seen the National Front in France grow bigger and more influential. Founded and long headed by Jean-Marie Le Pen, the party grew from a tiny movement into one known across the nation. Just as it seemed they might have reached their peak, Marie Le Pen, Jean-Marie’s daughter, took over, softening the rough edges of the party, and reinvigorating it in the process. They still have very much the same anti-immigration, anti-EU platform, but their continued prominence in elections shows that Marie’s approach has injected new life into the party.
In Germany, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) has surprised many. They also run on an anti-EU platform, and have made Chancellor Angela Merkel’s job decidedly more difficult. The AfD has made any chance of backing a softer approach on austerity measures in Europe politically impossible for Merkel, and their message continues to resonate with Germans. This, even though Standard & Poor’s, a rating agency, has warned that the continued rise of AfD in Germany threatened economic stability for Germany and the EU.
Extremist parties, like that one in Italy known as the Five Star Movement of Beppe Grillo, are doing very well. The Five Star Movement is now second in recent polls. That places them right behind that of the sitting prime minister, Matteo Renzi. Many people also know about the rise of the Golden Dawn movement in Greece, a neo-Nazi party that has significant representation in government there. In Hungary, support for the extremist party in residence there, Jobbik, continues to rise.
Indeed, extremist parties continue to rise in Europe, and the win by the UKIP to be represented in Parliament, controversial though may be, seems further proof of this trend. UKIP, Britain’s own unique version among the various extremist parties popping up across the European continent, just won a seat in Parliament, and came fairly close to winning a second one, earning them a measure of respectability and relevance that is new to the party. This success underscores what these extremist parties have in common, such as anti-immigration and anti-EU stances. Now yet another thing that these extremist parties have in common is their continued rise to prominence in polls and election across the Eurozone.
By Charles Bordeau
Photo by Alex Loach – Flickr