Twenty-one members of Golden Dawn have been sworn into Greece’s Parliament, making it arguably the most far-right party to enter a European national legislature since Nazi-era Germany. Europe’s financial crisis is changing the tone across the continent, with frustrated voters turning to extremists on both the right and left. None seem as extreme as Golden Dawn, whose leaders claim that the Nazis did not use gas chambers to kill death camp inmates during the Holocaust. The party – which won 7 percent of the vote in a May 6 election – says it wants to rid Greece of immigrants and plant landmines along the border with Turkey.
The new parliament will hold power just one day because the election left no party with enough votes to form a government, forcing repeat elections next month. Recent polls show falling support for Golden Dawn, so it’s not certain to make it into parliament again. Still, many people across Europe are troubled.
“The Golden Dawn party is a dark stain on European politics,” said Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress. “For the first time in over six decades a seemingly long hidden Nazi ideology returned to power.”
Here are other far right parties that have won parliamentary seats and pushed their views into mainstream policies and discourse in Europe, sometimes in ways that have impacted immigrants and Muslims.
France’s anti-immigrant National Front was in parliament until 1986, when new rules made it harder for small parties to make it in. Its leaders, first Jean-Marie Le Pen and now his daughter Marine, have featured prominently in presidential elections and maintained a national following. Marine Le Pen came in a strong third place in presidential elections this month, earning more than 6 million votes, and is angling to get National Front candidates back in parliament in legislative elections next month.
While Jean-Marie Le Pen has been convicted and fined a few times for racism and anti-Semitism, Marine Le Pen has sought to soften the party’s message, and turned its anger toward what she calls the “Islamisation” of France. Those ideas have entered the mainstream discourse, notably in former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s push to ban face-covering Islamic veils and keep halal meat out of public cafeterias. He also made reducing immigration a pillar of his presidency.
The right-wing Freedom Party consistently polls a close second in popularity to the leading Social Democrats, reflecting the resonance of its anti-immigrant, Euro-sceptic message. It counts the neo-Nazi fringe among its supporters and its leaders’ occasional anti-Semitic comments are widely condemned by other parties. Its main draw with voters is Islamophobia. It holds 34, or 1.5 percent of the seats in parliament compared to the nearly 27 percent won in 1999. That result catapulted it into a government coalition – and led to EU sanctions against Austria. In response to their gains, the federal government has toughened asylum rules and introduced compulsory German courses for immigrants.
The Freedom Party of anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders became the third largest bloc in the Dutch Parliament in 2010 elections with 24 seats. The result turned Wilders into a kingmaker who agreed to support the minority coalition of Prime Minister Mark Rutte on crucial votes in return for concessions such as a crackdown in immigration and a ban on the Islamic veil, the burqa. Wilders, a Euro-sceptic, brought down Rutte’s government last month when he refused to support an austerity package aimed at cutting the country’s budget deficit to within the EU norm of 3 percent of GDP.
The Italian Social Movement, which saw itself as the heir of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist party, was Italy’s fourth largest party in the decades after the war, gaining up to 6 percent in some cases. But mainstream parties refused any alliance with it so it was kept out of the post-war governing coalitions. It campaigned against immigration and sought tough law enforcement, and some fringe members were linked to right-wing violence. In the early 1990s it morphed into the National Alliance and under party leader Gianfranco Fini moved into the mainstream: It shed its hardline roots, decried anti-Semitism and Mussolini’s racial laws, and became a major ally of ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi. Fini had to pull back from a statement in a newspaper interview that Mussolini was one of the greatest statesmen of the 20th century.
Hungary’s Jobbik party – The Movement for a Better Hungary – won nearly 17 percent of the national vote in the 2010 parliamentary elections and is currently the second-largest opposition party in the legislature, behind the Socialists. Jobbik’s popularity is highest in Hungary’s northeast region, the country’s poorest, and some of its support came from its pledge to fight what it calls “Gypsy crime”. From 2009, uniformed groups closely tied to Jobbik, such as The Hungarian Guard, set up patrols in countryside villages to “protect” residents from Gypsies, but such activities have been banned under the current, centre-right government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The Guard and several other such groups use some colours, slogans and symbols of the far-right nationalist parties of the 1930s, and its rhetoric is sometimes anti-Semitic, racist and anti-gay. Racist comments by Jobbik deputies have drawn condemnation from the rest of the parties and Orban’s governing Fidesz party’s two-thirds majority has allowed it to not make any concessions to Jobbik in the legislature. At the same time, some of the themes Jobbik promotes can also be found to a smaller or larger degree in Orban’s policies.
The anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party is Denmark’s third largest party and has pushed the country to adopt some of Europe’s strictest immigration laws, leading to a drastic cut in the number of refugees seeking shelter there to just over 5,000 in 2011, from 13,000 in 2001. Last year, it also pushed through a plan to reinstate custom checks at Denmark’s borders with Germany and Sweden. Both the European Union and Germany sharply criticised the move, with the EU accusing Denmark of violating the spirit of EU rules on free movement for goods and people.