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The Populist Lego Effect – How the Far Right Could Take Over Europe

2016 ignited a worldwide Lego effect that began with the UK’s Brexit referendum.  In an unexpected turn of events, a slight majority of UK citizens voted to leave the European Union on June 23rd. This was considered to be a great victory for the UK Independence Party (UKIP), which is the United Kingdom’s leading far-right, populist party. The rise of far right populism, or as others see it, the downfall of western civilization, has frightened many. Its momentum continued on November 8th when infamous candidate Donald J. Trump was elected president.

Although considered to be a fluke by many due to a notable loss in the popular vote, Donald Trump’s win is feared to continue the dark pattern of far-right populism throughout progressive, modern societies.

Tomorrow, on the 15th of March 2017, will be a fateful election day for the people of Netherlands. Threats by Freedom Party leader, Geert Wilders, promise to ban the Quran, shut down mosques and end Muslim immigration. Although some of these threats are considered a criminal offense in The Netherlands, Geert Wilders has garnered wild support. His win tomorrow could give a surge of power to far-right parties in France and Germany which also face elections soon. The once wildly popular candidate is feeling some concern as polls have no longer conveyed him as a clear winner.  A loss could mean that the Brexit and Donald Trump were just isolated events and that people are discouraged by what was briefly a bright spark that rose from deeply conservative populism.

Geert Wilders’ performance in the Dutch election could sink or save the campaign of another European far right populist, Marine Le Pen in the late April – early May French election. Though Marine is seen as quite a reasonable and centered voice in comparison to her National Front party, her hyperbolism and disdain against immigrants gives her a seat on the far-right side of the political spectrum. While her success relies on the far right engine to keep running, her popularity seems to be rising while Geert Wilders’ is diminishing. As previously mentioned, Geert is no longer predicted to be the clear winner of tomorrow’s election but most polls have so far determined Le Pen as a front-runner in the French presidential elections. While there is plenty more time for things to change, especially after the results of tomorrow’s Dutch elections, there is a seemingly high probability for a far-right  France.

No populist party has struggled after a warning fifteen minutes of fame as much as the German Alternative for Germany (AfD). Polls have displayed a dramatic decline in their support. The party has until September to recuperate for the federal elections, but it is unlikely that they will be able to defeat the rising, progressive social-democratic party or the conservative Christian Democrats. Whereas the Dutch and French populist parties might be able to ride the wave of far-right hysteria, the AfD will have to struggle to keep the flame alive. It is undebatable that if the Dutch Freedom Party or the French National Front win, the AfD will regain some excitement, but whether that is enough to fuel and maintain a political movement is yet to be seen.

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Cynthia is a college freshman in North Carolina. She likes soccer, learning foreign languages and politics.

Cynthia is a college freshman in North Carolina. She likes soccer, learning foreign languages and politics.

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