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Europe: Nationalist resurgence


The eurosceptic and anti-immigration True Finns have taken nearly a fifth of votes in Finland's general election, reflecting a trend across Nordic and Western European countries.

The phrase "rise of the far-right" has been used - though in each country the parties concerned have their own characteristics and do not necessarily fit the conventional "far-right" description.

Here we record the electoral status - and political influence - of some of the most succesful nationalist/ anti-immigrant parties in Europe.


image captionMarine Le Pen is hoping to give the FN a friendlier image

France's National Front (FN) has enjoyed a resurgence under its new leader, Marine Le Pen. In recent local elections, the party took around 15% in the first round and about 12% of the total vote in the second. However, in many of the second-round votes, the FN was not competing in the run-off. Where it did, it took around 40%.

Opinion polls have suggested that Ms Le Pen could make it through to the run-off in the 2012 presidential election, at the expense of President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Ms Le Pen campaigns against immigration, Islam and the euro, but is hoping to shed the xenophobic image that accompanied the FN when it was run by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Italy's Northern League took only 8.3% of the national vote in 2008, but wields disproportionate influence. It forms a key part of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's coalition government, and props him up at a time when his popularity has been falling steadily.

As a condition for that support, it is being allowed to push its federalist agenda through parliament - it wants more control over tax revenue for the industrial north of Italy, and fewer subsidies for the south.

It is also able to pursue its hard line on immigration as Italy's interior minister is its own Roberto Maroni. He has vowed to turn back the tide of immigrants arriving from strife-torn north Africa, but has also given many free passage to France - sparking a furious row with Paris.

image captionGeert Wilders says Islam is a threat to the Dutch way of life

The Dutch Freedom Party, led by Geert Wilders, won 15.5% of the vote in the general election in 2010, putting it in third place. It is not part of the minority liberal-conservative coalition government, but is a partner - giving the government the support it needs for a majority, in return for influence over policy.

Among the first policies announced by the coalition were plans to ban the full Islamic veil, and curbs on immigration.

The Freedom Party is not of the conventional far-right. Mr Wilders has expressed strong support for Israel, and defends Dutch liberal values on issues like homosexuality. But he is a fervent anti-Islamist, and has been put on trial on charges of inciting hatred against Muslims.

The right-wing Swiss People's Party has been the biggest party in the federal assembly since 1999, reaching 28.9% of the vote in 2007.

Under the influence of its figurehead, Christoph Blocher, it has become more eurosceptic and taken an increasingly hard line on immigration. Its recent election campaigns have sparked controversy by using posters showing black sheep being kicked out of Switzerland - though it denies any racial undertones.

It succeeded in a 2009 referendum campaign to ban the construction of minarets, which it said were a sign of Islamisation. Again, its posters were controversial, showing minarets on the Swiss flag bristling like missiles.

Support for the True Finns party has exploded, from 4% in the 2007 parliamentary election to 19% in 2011. The party is likely to be part of coalition talks.

The True Finns' strongly eurosceptic stance contrasts with Finland's recent enthusiastic support for the European project. Their success has been put down to dissatisfaction at the financial bailouts being offered by the EU to the weakest members of the eurozone.

They also oppose immigration, and espouse what they call traditional Finnish cultural values.

The Danish People's Party is the third largest party in parliament. While not part of the government, since 2001 it has given the liberal-conservative coalition key support, in return for influence over policy.

It wants to ban immigration from non-Western countries, and assimilate existing immigrants.

The party's anti-Islamist stance strikes a chord with some Danes following the cartoon row of 2005-6, when the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper provoked worldwide protests and Islamist attacks on Danish interests.

In a general election in 2010, the Sweden Democrats took 5.7%, breaking through the threshold needed to take seats in government for the first time. Their success denied the governing centre-right coalition an overall majority. However, they have been isolated by other parties in the Swedish parliament.

The party campaigns for much tougher curbs on immigration and voluntary repatriation of immigrants, and has close links with the Danish People's Party.

More on this story

  • Nationalist True Finns make gains in Finland vote