Nationalism in Europe
We are frequently warned about the dangers of growing nationalism in Europe. The dangers of ‘extremist’ parties on the right gaining influence. Some news outlets sound like these parties are powerful and influential. Yet, is that really true? Let’s have a look at European politics to see where these parties currently stand.
‘The Rise of Nationalism across Europe’
A title that definitely grabs the attention. The chart however does not show the ‘rise’, as it provides us with a snapshot in time. We cannot see the growth of the parties, or their rise. We can only see what percentage of votes they gained in the most recent national elections. Nevertheless, these parties may have been getting that percentage of votes for the last decades without any change.
Nationalist Parties in European Elections
What Is Nationalism?
The other question that we can pose when seeing this chart is; are they actually nationalists? And what definition of nationalism do we then use? Undoubtedly what most of these parties will have in common is that they want to restrict immigration. But, simply wanting to restrict it is hardly nationalistic. Nationalism in Europe, after all, reminds people of World War 2. That, we are taught, was nationalism gone wrong.
Thus, the connection to nationalism is vague and implies a lot more than what can be shown. By that logic, anyone opposing unlimited immigration into their country can be labelled a nationalist. And, thereby, anyone opposing unlimited immigration to their country can be linked to the Nazi’s in people’s minds. Can we not even talk about where the limit to immigration should be? Everyone would agree that taking one billion immigrants over the next 10 years would be too much, so why not discuss where the line is?
Despite the dubious connection between all parties being labelled as nationalistic, the next question would be what the percentages actually show. The highest percentage score is a mere 21%. That is just over one in five people vote for these parties. Those numbers are nowhere near a majority vote that can influence the country. Moreover, other parties will block them when they form a coalition. The nationalist parties end up with zero influence. If they are not blocked, it is often a winner takes all system, such as in France. As long as the Front National has fewer than 50% of the votes, they will not provide a president to France.
The only country with more than 21% is Switzerland, with 29%. Yet, Switzerland has always been unique and closed to foreigners. The wealthy Alpine state has a very democratic system with many referendums, and a decentralized government. Calling the Swiss People’s Party nationalistic, and comparing it to Front National, may be a bit of a stretch.
The Media Focus
Despite being such a small group, the media focuses on these parties a lot. More than any other party, these small parties that lack any influential receive a bombardment from the media. Should the media not focus on checking the parties that actually hold the power in the country and ensure they are not abusing these powers? That, after all, is why the freedom of the press is so important. Not to criticize the opposition powers, but to criticize the ones that rule.
Seeing the percentages on the map amplifies the ridiculousness of the media focus on ‘nationalist’ parties. These parties are not a threat and hold no actual influence; with the odd exception that merely confirms the rule. Overall, the European right-wing is simply the clearest opposition group. Yet, it is only the clearest opposition, because all other parties are working together to keep them powerless.