European Right-Wing Populists Eye European Election Success
After the Ibiza videos had made their way around the earth, after Austria’s vice chancellor had resigned as well as also the government appeared to be on the verge of collapse, as people found themselves wondering just how deep the abyss could be, the operatic aria “Nessun dorma” – “none shall sleep” – could be heard on the square in front of Milan’s Duomo cathedral. the idea’s Matteo Salvini’s entrance music.
the idea was last Saturday, one week before elections to the European Parliament. as well as also Salvini, Italy’s Indoor minister, had assembled a pan-European festival of right-wing populists as well as also radicals. Marine Le Pen had come in high spirits by France, Geert Wilders was there by the Netherlands, Jörg Meuthen by the Alternative for Germany party, along with Bulgarian, Slovak, Austrian, Flemish, Danish, Finnish as well as also Estonian nationalists, 11 parties by Europe’s right-wing periphery who want to form a “super group” inside next European Parliament.
Together, they performed what is actually by today well-known work, one with some surreal features: Full of bluster, the self-proclaimed “true Europeans” campaigned for entry into a parliament they despise. as well as also they asked the people to give them the power to hollow out a European Union in which has been painstakingly built over decades. All of the idea to the tune of “Nessun dorma,” along with Puccini’s “Turandot,” its aria ending in fierce chanting: “Vanish, oh night! Set, stars! Set, stars! At dawn I will win! I’ll win! I will win!” Vincerò!
On the stage in Milan, not a word was said about the drama unfolding in Vienna, as Heinz-Christian Strache, the head of the right-wing populist Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), stepped down by his position as vice chancellor following the leak of a video demonstrating the depth of his corruptibility – a scandal in which also threatened to take down the entire Austrian government. as well as also yet, in Milan they all pretended in which nothing had happened. Even as they all knew: Quite a lot had happened.
Strache is actually No Isolated Incident
This specific time around, the idea’s not about some low-level party official sending Hitler pictures via WhatsApp on the Führer’s birthday in provincial Austria. This specific time the idea goes right to the top level of the Austrian government, casting light on the worrying state of the Austrian political scene. The videos raise fundamental questions about whether the populists are fit for power. as well as also whether they can be entrusted with government business. as well as also whether Strache as well as also his protégé Johann Gudenus should be regarded as isolated cases or as symbolic figures of a fast as well as also loose relationship between right-wing populists as well as also donations by foreign donors, rule of law as well as also the truth.
Most Austrians, with the exception, perhaps, of FPÖ supporters, were likely to have been deeply shocked by the disregard to the country’s constitution shown inside recordings, as well as also many Europeans were astonished by the crooked behavior displayed by the second in command of a government of an EU member state. If the scenes inside Ibiza videos had been part of a TV crime show, people probably would certainly have dismissed them as having been exaggerated as well as also overdone.
today, though, the race is actually on inside competition to interpret the videos. Opponents of the right-wing populists will argue in which the scenes filmed of Strache are the final proof in which breaking the law, corruptibility as well as also a self-serving mentality are inherent to the culture of right-wing nationalist groups like the FPÖ. Then there are Strache’s followers, who have been posting comments on his Facebook page since the scandal broke defending the politician by saying he was tricked as well as also attacking his pursuers.
Either way, “IbizaGate” feeds into the well-founded suspicions in which those thumping their chests as über-patriots in their countries have little problem with conniving with foreign powers, obtaining financing by dubious donors or even being pulled like puppets on a string when the idea comes to policy. The Strache scandal is actually undoubtedly detrimental to the original narrative offered by the right-wing populists — namely in which the parties are the lone forces defending the not bad people against “old parties” as well as also additional corrupt elites. nevertheless as Strache has today shown, the idea’s the right-wing populists themselves who are in fact the corrupt elite.
Relevant Only to Austria?
Strache’s German counterpartsfrom the Alternative for Germany (AfD) have recognized the dangers of such discussions, nevertheless they don’t want to admit the idea. Meuthen, one of the party’s leaders, has been in damage control mode since last Saturday, describing the Strache Video as a “singular matter” reflecting abominable behavior, nevertheless also as a domestic issue relevant only to Austria.
A still by the damning Ibiza video which resulted in Strache’s resignation the day after the idea was reported on by DER NewsGerman as well as also the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Until AfD leaders came up with in which formulation, the party seemed to be all over the map in their response to the scandal. At first, the AfD appeared to be too overwhelmed to come up using a definitive response to the revelations published by DER NewsGerman as well as also the Süddeutsche Zeitung last Friday. In an initial reaction shortly after the publication of the explosive story on Friday, the spokesman for the party’s parliamentary group tweeted in which an attempt was being made to create a “pseudo scandal out of nothing.” as well as also: “Poor DER NewsGerman, the magazine has never been This specific uninteresting.”
After the resignations in Vienna the following day, the AfD spokesman deleted his tweet as well as also the party leadership began considering a different response. several AfD officials tried get in touch with people they knew within the FPÖ to try to find out more about what had happened. Before his appearance in Milan, AfD leader Meuthen consulted using a modest group as well as also then asked the press spokesman to send an email at noon to the party’s national board. “In consultation with Mr. Meuthen as well as also Mr. Lüth (on behalf of Mr. Gauland) we have just decided not to say anything today about the current events relating to Strache as well as also the ÖVP-FPÖ coalition in Austria.” ÖVP stands for the Austrian People’s Party, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s party. as well as also: “These are domestic Austrian affairs…” If in which was supposed to be analysis, though, the idea was wrong.
The Strache circus is actually of course also a problem for right-wing populists outside of Austria, because the issues raised by the video are a problem for them all across Europe. For months the AfD itself has been tangled up in several party donation scandals involving Alice Weidel, the party’s floor leader in German parliament, as well as its leading candidates heading into This specific weekend’s European elections, Meuthen as well as also Guido Reil. Weidel is actually under scrutiny over a dubious election campaign donation of around 130,000 euros. In Meuthen’s case, he is actually being scrutinized over 0,000 euros by dubious sources used to finance his campaign in a state election in Baden-Württemberg. as well as also there are questions surrounding the nearly 45,000 euros used in a state election campaign in North Rhine-Westphalia for Reil, a member of the AfD’s national board.
Kremlin Shifting Strategy
No less troubling is actually the fact in which the Ibiza video Once more sheds light on the close contacts many right-wing populists in Europe have with Russia, a problem for which the AfD has also been inside headlines. In April, DER NewsGerman, ZDF, La Repubblica as well as also the BBC reported on the activities as well as also connections of Markus Frohnmaier, a member of German parliament with the AfD. A document circulated inside the Russian presidential administration at the time of the Bundestag election campaign describing the politician as potentially becoming “a deputy under absolute control” of Russia.
The BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, as well as also the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the country’s domestic intelligence apparatus, are currently detecting a change inside Kremlin’s strategy. Rather than relying solely on its own media as well as also channels for campaigning as well as also aiming to steer the agenda, the idea is actually today focusing much more on individuals, a modest group of parliamentarians were recently told in a classified meeting. They were informed in which the people selected by Moscow included somewhere between a half-dozen as well as also a dozen members of the Bundestag. One is actually Markus Frohnmaier. When contacted for comment, he responded: “I do not allow myself to be used by the Russian government for its purposes as well as also would certainly always refuse to accept attempts of This specific kind. The reporting about me is actually nothing more than a campaign.”
Senior AfD politician Alexander Gauland is actually also a frequent guest in Russia, nevertheless he rejects any criticism because he claims to be following the foreign policy footsteps of Bismarck, who believed in strong German-Russian relations. Marcus Pretzell, at the time a member of the AfD as well as also current member of the European Parliament, visited the Russian-occupied Crimea as “Guest of Honor” in 2016 as well as also thought the idea petty when he was later questioned about who paid for the trip.
Loans by Moscow
Similar episodes can be found all across Europe. When Marine Le Pen’s Front National, today known as Rassemblement National, convened a party conference in Lyon in November 2014, the guest list was similar to in which of Salvini’s rally in Milan as well as also delegates by Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party also attended. in which same year, Le Pen’s party had received two loans by Russian banks amounting to 11 million euros to help finance its election campaigns.
Two years later, the French right-wing populists asked Moscow for another 3 million euro loan, nevertheless the idea is actually unclear whether the idea was ever granted. There are, though, indications in which Marine Le Pen may have promised not to criticize Russia’s annexation of the Crimea as well as also to promote Moscow’s interests in exchange for the money. The suspicion, which Le Pen denies, is actually supported by mobile text messages by a well-known as well as also high-ranking Kremlin official, who wrote among additional things: “Marine Le Pen has not disappointed our expectations.” as well as also: “We will have to thank the French in one way or another.”
Luca Bruno / AP
Italian Indoor Minister Salvini hosted a right-wing populist gathering in Milan last week. He is actually joined on stage by Geert Wilders of Holland, Jörg Meuthen of Germany as well as also Marine Le Pen of France.
In Great Britain, the National Crime Agency is actually investigating suspicions in which Brexit leader Nigel Farage received money by Russia through indirect channels. Many consider the idea probable in which the Kremlin sought to manipulate the Brexit vote to destabilize the European Union.
There is actually a greater amount of urgency surrounding these questions inside aftermath of the Strache-Ibiza video. Are economic interests at stake when Matteo Salvini’s Lega party repeatedly advocates an end to the EU’s “useless, or even harmful” sanctions against Russia? Do the Greek far-right parties get money for their frequently expressed conviction in which there is actually a “natural alliance” between Greeks as well as also Russians? How does Russia’s president exploit the image he enjoys as being one of the last guardians of true values among European groups of both extremes? A leader who seeks to prevent what he describes as a weakened, immoral, decadent EU by prevailing?
“There is actually conspiracy of all the radical right-wing nationalists everywhere, apparently with the help of the Kremlin, or of oligarchs round the Kremlin, to disrupt This specific union,” Guy Verhofstadt, a prominent Belgian member of European Parliament, told the Times of London on Wednesday. The German newspaper Die Welt This specific week quoted former French President François Hollande as saying in which whoever votes for populists in Europe is actually “giving their vote to Trump as well as also Putin.”
in which may sound preposterous, nevertheless the idea has long since become apparent inside European Council, where European heads of state as well as also government still establish the broad parameters of EU policy. Coalition governments in which include populist parties are often more open to influence by abroad than others. Once example is actually Middle East policy. Countries like Hungary have begun diverging by the European stance to serve American interests. Because Hungary stood inside way, the EU was not able to condemn the Trump administration’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy by Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as a diplomatic mistake in December 2017. Budapest essentially became Donald Trump’s advocate in Brussels.
The unanimity requirement for important decisions inside European Council thus gives populists veto power. as well as also their partners abroad are quick to praise them for services rendered. Twelve days ago, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was showered with praise by the U.S. president himself during a visit to the White House. Orbán, Trump said, does a “tremendous job” as well as also is actually “highly respected all over Europe.”
in which, of course, is actually far by the truth. In many countries, respect for Orbán is actually a thing of the past, as well as also when the idea comes to domestic policy as well as also the judiciary, his government is actually seen as having betrayed European values. Externally, Hungary has become a gateway for all those wishing to divide the EU. as well as also the number of these open gateways is actually growing: Russia as well as also the U.S. are not alone in their desire to weaken the EU block. China has also incorporated the EU, the earth’s largest internal market, into its geopolitical considerations as well as also is actually searching for access.
The EU isn’t equipped to stand up to such adversaries. the idea does have a couple of instruments the idea can use to punish intractable member states, nevertheless the idea hardly ever uses them. EU countries worried about being punished inside future regularly block their deployment. The dream of outgoing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in which the EU might one day become a global political player seem illusory.
By chance, Juncker was in Vienna This specific week for a visit in which had long been planned. He had apparently decided in which he would certainly remain silent about the Strache scandal – nevertheless couldn’t ultimately resist. “The idea in which one country is actually put on a silver platter to ensure in which others can help themselves,” he said, “does not reflect my idea of patriotism.”
Jean Asselborn, Juncker’s compatriot who is actually the foreign minister of Luxembourg, expressed deep discomfort. “The European right wing is actually unified by its desire to bring the free press as well as also the judiciary under its control wherever they have power,” he says. “in which is actually true of Hungary as well as also Poland, as well as also in which is actually shown by Strache’s comments inside video.”