Watch Out for Europe, Not Just Trump, By Owei Lakemfa
The first far-right president in Europe in recent times, following in the footsteps of the xenophobic, racist and anti-Muslim Trump, may emerge as early as December 4.
World attention is focused on the tantrums of Donald Trump, the American president-elect. From his vow to get America out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on his first day in office, to his effected show of magnanimity not to jail his rival, Hillary Clinton for her emails, over which she had been cleared. He is also not ready to let go his business which has the potentials of conflicting with his office as president. Simultaneously, he is injecting three of his children and son-in-law into the Transition Team. Trump has also made a show of rejecting the Nazi salute of some of his supporters, while in a child-like manner advising Britain to send far-right leader Nigel Farage as ambassador to the United States (US). The British, masters in diplomacy, politely replied that there is no vacancy in their US embassy.
Out-going President Barack Obama has tried to assure Europe that America will stick to its international obligations and that Trump’s campaign rhetoric should not be taken at its face value. But it is not Europe that needs to be assured, it is the rest of the world because Europe may soon produce its own Trumps.
The unexpected Trump victory, brewed in the convoluted American electoral college laboratory, has buoyed on the far-right in Europe, and the usual, politically correct parties have no answer.
The first far-right president in Europe in recent times, following in the footsteps of the xenophobic, racist and anti-Muslim Trump, may emerge as early as December 4. That is when Nobert Hofer of the far-right Freedom Party takes on Alexander van der Bellen of the Austria Greens in a re-run. Hofer had won the first round of elections on April 24 but had not secured the required 50 percent of the votes, while Bellen had come second and an independent, Irmgard Griss, third. The elections were a marked turn in Austrian politics as the two parties that had led the country since the Second World War, the Social Democrats and the Austrian People, lost woefully.
The second round of elections which saw a stiff contest with the Greens having a slight edge, was canceled by the Constitutional Court on July 1 due to the irregular counting of 77,900 votes, and electoral inconsistencies in 20 of the 117 administrative districts. In straight African talk, the elections were rigged. If Hofer wins, the far-right in Adolf Hitler’s home country would for the first time since the latter’s fall, appoint the Chancellor, the cabinet, Armed Forces chiefs and the Supreme Court justices.
The French Revolution, which began 227 years ago, gave humanity the famous slogan: ‘Liberty, Fraternity, Equality.’ Today, the far-right National Front, which is allergic to these lofty ideals of humanity, is on the rise with Marine le Pen as its leader. Before Trump, it could have been taken for granted that she is unelectable. But now, the world has to watch out for her in the April 2017 elections. Her primary focus is to smash the European Union and kick out refugees and immigrants. She told the French: “Immigration is an organised replacement of our (French) population. This threatens our very survival. We don’t have the means to integrate those who are already here. The result is endless cultural conflict.” She is also winning followers with her anti-Islam rhetoric; she likens Muslims to the Nazi occupation of France “It’s an occupation. There are of course no tanks, there are no soldiers, but it is nevertheless an occupation.”
The far-right Golden Dawn Party in Greece is currently the third largest parliamentary party. It greeted Trump’s victory with the claim that “A great global challenge is starting”. It has a large following in the police, and uses strong-arm tactics. Some of its leaders were charged in 2015 with the murder of anti-fascist rapper, Pavlos Fyssas.
In those days, they were ultra-nationalist, racist, anti-Jew, anti-Black and anti-communist. Today, they are ultra-nationalist, racist, anti-immigrants and anti-Muslims. The rest of humanity should not let Trump’s tantrums, divert attention from the dangers in Europe.
One of the most vicious far-right parties hoping to gain from Trump’s rise is the Freedom Party (PVV) in Netherlands, chaired by Geert Wilders, a Member of Parliament who is on trial for hate speech. The party had hailed the Trump victory as evidence that in America “The people are taking their country back”. The Dutch party wants to ban the Qur’an and head scarfs, exit the EU and the Schengen.
In his reaction to his trial, Wilders twitted “NL (Netherland) has huge problem with Moroccans. To be silent about it is cowardly. 43% of Dutch want fewer Moroccans. No verdict will change that.” In a column for the AD newspaper, he claimed he spoke for “millions of Dutch people, fed up with the disruption and terror caused by so many Moroccans … If talking about that is an offence, the Netherlands is no longer a free country, but a dictatorship”
The far-right Alternative Party in Germany does not look strong enough now to take on Chancellor Angela Merkel in the 2017 elections but it is gaining grounds fast. The party is cashing in on the correct decision by Merkel to offer one million refugees asylum. Against this, it raised the slogan: “Rape Refugees Not welcome them”. As at September, it has had parliamentarians seating in ten of the sixteen state parliaments in the country. To this challenge and the victory of Trump, Merkel had said “We are facing struggles in Europe and internationally for our values and our interests and, simply put, for our way of life…This election will be more difficult than any before it, at least not since national reunification.”
In Italy, the fascist Five Star Party led by Beppe Grillo, has been on the rise. In the 2013 elections, it won the second highest number of votes in parliamentary elections. In the June municipal elections, it beat the ruling Partito Democratic (PD) by 55 percent to 45 percent to win the mayoral elections in Turin, and by a staggering 67 percent to 33 percent to take Rome.
From Hungary where the minority Romas are the target of the ultra-nationalists, through the Belgium of the Flemish Vlaams Belang, the Danish Peoples Party, the British UKIP and the Finns Party, the far-right in Europe is on the rise. They have formed an Alliance of far-right parties led by Le Pen and Wilders to contest elections into the EU, and the polls are predicting that they can win one third of the seats.
These parties are merely the off-springs of the fascist parties in the Europe of the 1930s-1940s when Hitler held sway in Germany, General Francisco Franco in Spain, Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini in France and Marshall Henri Phillipe Benoni Omer Joseph Petain in France. In those days, they were ultra-nationalist, racist, anti-Jew, anti-Black and anti-communist. Today, they are ultra-nationalist, racist, anti-immigrants and anti-Muslims. The rest of humanity should not let Trump’s tantrums, divert attention from the dangers in Europe.
Owei Lakemfa, former Secretary General of African Workers is a Human Rights activist, journalist and author.