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Thursday, 16 May, 2002, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
Could the far-right win in other European countries?
French President Jacques Chirac is back in office after fending off the challenge of far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Now other European countries are asking whether they can expect similar challenges from the far-right.
Mr Le Pen, who famously called the Holocaust a "detail of history", came second in the first round of the presidential vote, beating the socialist Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin.
Two years ago, in Austria, the far-right Freedom Party led by Joerg Haider entered government.
This week, the British National Party achieved its best results since the 1970s in the English local elections.
The far-right has even scored success in traditionally liberal societies like Denmark and the Netherlands.
Reasons given have included a perceived link between crime and immigration, anxieties about job security as well as disgust at political corruption.
What do you think? Could the far-right win in other European countries?
We discussed this issue in Talking Point, the phone-in programme of the BBC World Service, BBC News Online, and digital television.
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Richard, York, England
I think that the rise of extremist Right wing parties in Europe will continue and that the main cause for this is the perception - unfortunately correct in a lot of cases - we have of immigrants as criminals. I have nothing against people coming to the UK from any other country in the world. In fact, I think it is positive and I welcome them. However, I do resent all the immigrants who come and commit crimes and who do not respect laws and traditions of the country they choose to come and live in. I am not saying that they should take up Morris dancing but they must acknowledge our laws.
And another important issue, many people seem to forget: "it can not happen in our country, and France had it coming". I am afraid this is short-sighted: whatever the local government is doing or achieving, the only thing extreme-right seems to need in all our countries, is a strong populist voice, a charismatic leader that radiates the message of general frustration about the current situation to anyone who is listening. And rest assured: if such person was not yet present in your country, soon he/she will be, strengthened by the constant growing tendency in the rest of Europe.
Did Mr Le Pen really make the comment about the Jews, or is it just another leftist media beat-up that has taken on a life of its own, so that no-one actually examines his policies? I read a report that a lot of Jewish people were actually voting for Le Pen because they are concerned too!
Sydney is one of the most multicultural cities in the world so I feel qualified to comment on how multiculturalism is effecting my city.
Over the past 10 years Sydney has become a city of arrogance, violence, fear, and intimidation. I have seen the change through objective eyes which have been now tainted with rage. Not all can be attributed to Australia's multicultural policies of the past 20 years but it is a fact that a very significant amount can be related to new arrivals behaving with zero respect for Australia's law, people and way of life.
It is time people woke up to the facts and if it takes a right wing government to achieve sanity then so be it!
I am sick of the term multi ethnic, multi faith, et cetera. What is the percentage of ethnic minorities, of which I am one, in the UK? Caucasian natives, whom I have spoken to, are resentful, perceiving that the tail wags the dog. Urban myths abound about the preferential treatment of immigrants, and for God's sake, do not call them asylum seekers. Asylum seekers get asylum the minute they reach the shores of Europe. What they are now are economic migrants, wanting to jump the queue. The politicians and those on the liberal left should not talk up these issues or they will play up paradoxically to the fears of the majority and give grist for the mill that the far right are hoping to peddle.
If the voter does not wake up, the establishment will produce dictators and wipe their feet and walk all over the electorate.
Voters should wake up.
Another problem is that the British public is not sure of their cultural identity.
Mr. Le Pen is not a good example of a tolerant and pluralistic mind which is badly needed in world leaders at this time.
Of course the far right could come to power in France as well as any country. Equally the extreme left could do the same thing. It's all a question of balance. If the normal liberal politicians do not try to deal with very real fears extremism wins. A fine balance has to be struck between Capitalism, Liberalism and socialism and this is patently failing at the moment. Extremism is born of insecurity.
The extreme parties reflect a number of values and beliefs which are common with a sector of the society. These parties were always present, and always will be present in the political spectrum of any nation. The point is that an increase in criminal rate, and lack of force by the governments to deal with illegal immigrants, which in general are associated with crime, increased their popularity. Therefore, until mainstream parties, start to tackle these issues seriously, the far right popularity will decrease.
Whether we like to admit it or not, the extreme right wing is on the march. Le Pen has just increased his vote from 17% to 18%. That's several hundred thousand more votes than before, so there's no room for complacency because of Chirac's victory at the polls.
Racism is by definition the concept that one race is superior to others. The problem France faces today I think is not Racism but rather a competition of different races for power. It is speciation, a driving force in evolution - allopathic speciation followed by sympatric speciation. It is time the politicians stop running their countries like "plantations" randomly mixing races as a cheap and skilled source of labour for their own financial gain.
Some people, especially from US, do not understand why Mr LePen is dangerous. I would just list one point - "French Preference" that he intended to make legal with special health services for foreign people ... Why will happen after this? Probably in 2 years I can ask a Chinese man to give me his seat in the bus and pass an Algerian woman at the supermarket desk. That sounds impossible? I'm sorry to tell you that the same (and worse) happened to the Jewish 50 years ago. I do not want it happening. Never again.
It is funny how Americans, who are mostly immigrants from Europe use the Second World War as an example for liberating Europe from the far right. Why not distort history a bit more? We all know that the real reason for the US joining the war was to get the money back they provided to the UK and France for weapons and other things - and with France defeated and the UK on the brink of collapse, there were not a lot of options left. Isn't it surprising that the US only joined the war in 1942? Why wait so long to fight the evil right wing forces?
Although I am an immigrant I can understand why Europeans are concerned. Europeans now have one of the lowest birth rates in the world, while many immigrants and countries with would-be-immigrants have the highest birth rates in the world. Europeans basically face extinction in the next 100 years unless something is done or they face the prospect of becoming minorities in their own countries which will be repopulated by immigrants.
Welcome to Earth, the Global village. Remember this term? We are all humans, we all descend from apes in Africa. We are all immigrants to the areas we live in. It just took longer because we didn't have rapid transport and vast differences in living standards. Where would the human race be just now if we hadn't wasted so much time and energy bickering amongst ourselves?
Yes, the far-right political parties will keep winning as long as the EU is not cautious. Le Pen or the others are representing their respected citizens' interest in a very democratic
way. What I see as a danger is not how many countries are turning from liberal/social system to far-right wings.
I just wish that a far right party would win in the Republic of Ireland, then we may see an end to these grotesque illegal immigrants.
Sad but true, here in the UK we are being swamped by illegal immigrants, our own laws of fairness and decency are being taken advantage of by countless economic illegal immigrants, just look at the situation at the Channel Tunnel. As I see it the poor will get poorer and the working person will pay a lot more in the way of taxes/stealth taxes, to support foreigners that have nothing to offer our country, but are more than happy to claim whatever they can, including the "free" healthcare offered here.
The socialists running the EU just cannot see that it is their policies that are driving people to embrace the far-right. The individual identities of once great nations are being replaced by a pan-European state in which no-one has any say except the unelected socialists appointed to run the EU.
Of course the far-right will go on to have more electoral success in the years to come. The only way the other political parties can stop this is to listen to the concerns of all those who would vote for the far-right and act on them! But how many liberals have got the guts to do that?
L. Loukopoulos, Detroit, USA
I think other countries could vote for extreme right as most European countries live in a very rich, vibrant and dynamic democracy.
Speaking as a white Anglo Saxon middle class male I would like to say the following. I feel completely disenfranchised from the political process concerning immigration in the U.K. I have no problem with legitimate immigrants who have the correct skills and abilities that this country needs. However, I feel that the ordinary man in the street has no influence whatsoever on immigration issues. I would like to ask you to advance the clock forward one hundred years. Consider yourself an ethnic minority in the year 2102. You are white, Christain and an English speaker. You live under Muslim Sharia Law and your children attend the local Islamic Faith School. Britain is the first westernised Islamic nation and all dissent is forbidden. You ask whether the right wing will spread in Europe. I for one sincerely hope it spreads in Britain.
Fascism is like a forest fire. One either ought to escape a forest fire or seek to extinguish it. To minimize the Holocaust of WW11 is an insult to France, a nation invaded, occupied and violated by WW11 fascism. Le Pen, like Hitler, may find support for his politics from those who seek not just to weaken France, but to partition and destroy it as an independent nation in itself, the inevitable outcome of post fascistic defeat and foreign rule of defeated fascist's powers.
Could the far-right win in other European countries? The short answer is absolutely and in my humble opinion, inevitable and not just in Europe - 'Harvey, An American in Canada' wrote, "Europeans should stop lecturing Americans on tolerance and work on it in their own countries. If Europe is brought to the edge of war again, I hope you people massacre each other. But, this time don't bother asking for our help." It's this sort of self righteous, indignation that is at the core of any extremist element; it is global and infiltrates all borders. Harvey should be reminded that the US has a track record of allowing Europeans to massacre one another, does anyone remember the first and second world wars and which society profited most?
I agree with Sasha. The reason immigration is becoming an issue is that gay-hating, women-hating, democracy hating, bigoted religious zealots refuse to integrate with liberal Western civilisation. Instead they want to turn their host countries into the vile, repressive, economic disasters they came from in the first place.
It's interesting to sense that touch of racism in your comments. Curious to learn the Chinese don't like the Muslims.
If Raj thinks India is so great, how can he explain the large number of Indians in the US? Why are there so few Americans who choose to live in India? He can be proud of his culture, but denying that the US has a culture is the most obvious sign of a deeply rooted inferiority complex. It's a very desperate stretch.
Raj, I didn't ask you to comment on the situation of my declining country. I know its problems and I know the cause of most of them; immigration! I do have one question: Since you're so proud of India, what part of the UK do you live in?
"Sullivan, California" needs a lesson in history.
The Indian civilisation is not only thriving but is in fact reached greater heights. India still has a culture in place where students respect their teachers and children respect their parents. One only has to see the rising number of school shoot-outs, teenage pregnancies, incest happening in the US to look at the deterioration of a society without any culture.
Ed Karten, UK
To Rahul, London: Very few people in the world are as tolerant as Americans. Our cities are filled with immigrants from all over the world who have come to work hard and make a better life. The difference from many places is that these immigrants become Americans and are almost universally accepted as such. In the 2000 Presidential election, our "far-right" candidate, Pat Buchanan, received less than 1% of the vote. If you want to bring up the mistreatment of Native Americans, you should understand that it began with the colonization of the Americas by Europeans. Do you hold the same contempt for Canadians and Australians who also treated their native populations very badly?
For all those Americans who say they don't have to put up with immigrants. Why the American Indians allowed you into their country? Some people have decency towards fellow people.
To Sullivan, CA, USA: Greece was invaded by foreign armies, not by unarmed immigrants in search of a better life. And by the way, he forgot to mention that his own country is based on the almost complete annihilation of the indigenous population and its great culture by non-military, yet armed immigrants. Is he therefore trying to tell us not to make the same mistake and do what Native Americans should have done, i.e. shoot the immigrants?
Egypt, Persia, Armenia, India, Greece, Rome: What do they all have in common? They had built great civilizations, but were overrun by immigrants, and fell. Look at them now! Do any of them thrive like they once did? No.
China has not had a major influx of "new blood, and ideas" in 3000 years. They have preserved their civilization. This is why China will watch Europe, and the US fall, just as it has watched all of the other great empires fall. Unless we give up these sentimental ideas of liberalism, that have, historically, always resulted in suicide.
Harvey, An American in Canada
Many messages say the far left is as dangerous as the far right. It may be so, but the danger, for now, is from the far right. May I point out that Mr Le Pen has indicated he would use article 16 of the Constitution to do as he wish until the time of the General Elections in June. Electing him could be similar to choosing a dictator. My vote is for the remaining democrat, how corrupt may he be, Jacques Chirac.
Just because your country was built by immigrants doesn't mean it also has to be overrun and destroyed by them. Enough is enough. If you don't believe me, come to Los Angeles, and I'll show you a great civilization in decline.
In its concern over low turn-out at the polling stations government appears to want the people of the country to have their say, but as soon as the voting is over it doesn't want to listen to what the voters are saying.
The people of Western Europe are fed up of seeing their left-liberal governments treating strangers like top guests, while the true citizens of their country, pay extortionate taxes to pay for benefits and other freebies the immigrants get. Western Europeans have had it up to here with being treated as second class citizens in their own countries.
I disagree with the Far Right on most things. The trouble is, if you ban them you've become just as bad as them, in taking away free speech. Same as if you shot Nazi supporters, you'd be no better than they are, for using violence against those who don't agree with you.
Minority communities in France feel threatened because of Le Pen's success. Unless there is strong opposition to his leadership in France, things will become worse and it is up to the people to change the situation.
In India too we have the same problem. In whichever States the BJP is in power minority communities are in danger. That is what happened recently in the State of Gujarat where about 2000 Muslims were killed by Hindus and the killers were the supporters of those who are in power. I foresee the same problem in France too.
André Peillex, Evian, France
M. Merricks, it is not relevant that free and fair elections almost brought extremists to power. The point is that they are extremists. The rise of Hitler was within the rule of law.
Democracy is being threatened in France by the non-stop street protests more than it is by Le Pen. There was a legal fair election and citizens had the choice to vote for Jospin, Chirac, Le Pen or whoever. It is dangerous when mass rallies are protesting a democratic result. Sure, Le Pen is a scary extremist, but so were some of the extreme-left candidates that together polled over 10% that many of the protesters (those that voted) supported. Suppose the results were different and Jospin came in first and a Communist placed second, and the disgruntled political right marched in the streets every day, unable to graciously accept defeat with the potential for violence. Surely then the focus on anti-democratic behaviour would be on the angry rightist mob, not the second place communist and his party's dark European history.
I think one of the main problem nowadays, in several countries, is that voters are fed up with a number of things. They believe (and this is driven also by marketing and advertising) that life should be easy, happy, and smooth. It's not, and it will not be, this is a fact. Life is difficult, for all sorts of reasons: there will always be accidents, crimes, disease, whatever. But because we are so spoilt already, we can't accept facing today's problems, and we want somebody to solve everything quickly. Le Pen promises easy answers to every single current issue. And now, people are consumers in politics as they are in supermarkets: they think they can buy themselves a good life, without making any effort. People should realise they have to get involved a bit more, rather than being so self-centred, and even selfish. I am 32, I voted for the left, and from now on I want to get more involved in local politics, in the local community, just to try and stop this trend. If enough people spend some energy in teaching voters that help will come from themselves, not from Le Pen, it's a good start.
I guess I am confused-
Aren't French politicians allowed to have an opinion, no matter how repugnant the French public finds it to be?
This was rather a mainstream argument in the last California gubernatorial election, with Mr Wilson being soundly defeated.
Being a member of the local Green Party here in the States' gives one a unique perspective, particularly with regard to what we would consider "Neo-con" policies. What you would think of as repressive policies are a fact of life here.
All I really know is that Le Pen is not the type of president we can tolerate for France. During the first world war the French president was the one wanting to give Germany the biggest punishment possible at the Treaty of Versailles. Now there is someone in France going for president who says the slaughter of the Jews was only a part of history. Le Pen is too dangerous as President of France, it shouldn't come to that though.
I am afraid to say that as long as we have politicians ridiculously saying that people should not celebrate St George's day because it might offend people that aren't nationals, then yes, far right will come in!!
Roger Kite, you are correct in your belief that issue of immigration needs to be solved. But what exactly is the issue concerning religion and tradition? I'm sorry but I never knew that because someone was of a different religion to the majority of the population, that it was an issue that needed to be addressed first of all by government and secondly by repression. Such ideas are far too reminiscent of Hitler's regime in Germany.
As for tradition, new ones are created. Old ones are forgotten. That is the way of life. People will always resist change but to do so through terror and legislation is wrong.
I believe that people are really missing the point of the vote for Le Pen, and to constantly dismiss votes for the far right as fascist and Nazi and subsequently to label voters fascists/Nazis and not to debate the key issues of immigration, sovereignty, religion and tradition will mean not to combat it properly.
Politicians have skirted around issues for so long that the electorate no longer know what government is doing. This dumbing down of government in the vague hope that soundbites will get people voting only makes the electorate disenfranchised and ignorant.
Why is it everyone assumes multiculturalism is a good thing? All we get for this is race riots and the usual garbage concerning how this somehow makes the domestic population more intelligent. In practical terms, all I see are more foreign takeaways.
The underclass in the UK have no one to turn to. Labour is now a Tory party in drag. The difference between the Far Right and Far Left is tiny. Both seek to overthrow the status quo and replace it with something people want with immediate results.
Though we might find Mr. Le Pen's views offensive (and most of us do) we must not forget that he is standing as a candidate in a democracy. It is wrong for Mr Blah to criticise Mr Le Penn just because he dislikes his views.
Graham, Henley, England
Am I understanding this question correctly? Le Pen is seen as a threat to freedom so the answer is to ban him, or ban people from voting for him, or ignoring a democratic vote for him. It is hard to see a greater violation of freedom than to prevent an adult voter from voting for the person they believe represents their viewpoint.
I believe that Economic and Monetary Union is in part responsible for the rise in nationalism and far right groups throughout Europe. Most people living within the Euro-Zone were never given the opportunity in a referendum to endorse or reject the Euro. The Euro has diminished their national identity and caused them to lose sovereignty over their economy. We are fortunate the Government in the UK intends to give us the chance to vote in a referendum, or we could be next.
Sad though it may be, the right could grow in popularity steadily over years to come. Here, they're already up in the votes from the previous 1992 election.
The problem is not apathy. Voters will not vote so long as a culture of corrupt, "you scratch my back I'll scratch yours" type politics is in power. Until politicians start addressing the needs of real people and actually get in touch with the real world, particularly for local councillors, they can't moan when voters turn against them. Disillusioned left voters are easy pickings for the right. As democracy allows, until things change I just won't vote.
Jon, Morristown, NJ USA
Le Pen tops Jospin and the European and French Leftist elites have a fit. Amazing. Why is the "Far Right" in France considered more a threat to liberty than the "Far Left?" They're both rotten. If Le Pen is tainted by Nazi/Fascist ideology, why aren't the Communist/Marxist/ Trotskyite parties in France tainted by the regimes these ideologies foisted on Russia, China, East Germany, etc.?
France is an extreme case,
however, the frustration
that many people feel at
their government's inability
to address their concerns,
is typical across Europe.
Local government in the
UK is a farce, while at
national level, politicians
busy themselves pandering
to minorities. People voted
for Le Pen as a protest
against the complacent
smugness of the main
parties. It's a shot across
the bows. Rather than
lambasting Le Pen, Tony
Blair should ask himself
"why did it happen"?
To Mark, USA: I have to disagree with you. Although the UK is having problems with its social services, overall western Europeans enjoy better public transportation and more accessable health care, two areas where the US fails. They also have the luxury of not having their votes intercepted by the Electoral College, the worst mistake our founding fathers made. I don't think this vote is because of bureaucracy, as you say; I think plain and simple, it is because Chirac is too "Paris-centric" and failed to address concerns of a large proportion of the population. They are now using their votes to be heard. With any luck Chirac will respond in a way that they find sufficient.
It is funny that many of the anti-fascist/Le Pen posters seem to feel it is OK for them to dictate what people should think, feel and be allowed to say and vote for. Such postings a real example of how I define Fascism!
The Right is the natural politics of a nation state. Everyone wants what is best for them and their country, and as patriotism rises, so does the support of the Right wing. It is essential that Far-Right groups do not get massive support, however, as that will result in a situation like in the run up to WW2, with persecution and prejudice running wild. However, I believe that France would be better off with a Far-Right President than an incumbent one. Or perhaps they should bring back their monarchy?...
Inevitably, French politics will not be the same for some time. Public opinion has been changing for quite some time and seems to be in the most part a response to the asylum crisis. The French society, like ours, is very open to other cultures and that is something to be proud of. The recent swing to the right does not mean that the acceptance of other cultures has diminished but rather that the French public are responding through the only possible channel to state that they want to see some changes made to the immigration system. France has a broadly similar problem as the UK when it comes to the asylum system, but both governments are working towards a fair and just system.
I think we can be quite certain that this would never happen in England.
Stop barking at the French, they have done what many others did during an election, they voted against a party that they felt was not acting in their own best interests. Beside come the next election a new party might be voted into office, for the same reasons.
Now there is a lesson to be learnt for current governing parties in the rest of EU nations other than France. Mr. Le Pen has won the second place in the first round just because the French people wanted it that way. There is no mystery about it. If the current government is not doing their homework, people are going to look for an alternative and probably at the end there will be a price to be paid even if the election is democratic. Now is the time for an intelligent vote or afterwards France will live to regret it if a wrong decision is made.
If mainstream parties continue to disregard public opinion on important issues because discussing them has become taboo these things will keep happening.
The reaction of both the media and the mainstream parties towards Le Pen's election success, is likely to increase the swing to the far right. They are dismissing a democratic result and in doing so are further exposing their reluctance to tackle issues such as immigration and crime in a more direct and aggressive way. Meanwhile figures around Europe such as Mr Blair are telling people how they should and shouldn't vote. This is strengthening Le Pen's claim that Europe is trying to control and shape France. Thus, Mr Blair's appeal to the French people will probably secure Le Pen a few more votes than he otherwise would have received. The social discontent in France is shared by voters in most European countries and therefore it would not surprise me to see a widespread move towards the far right.
I can't believe some of the crypto-racism and total lack of ignorance by some of the posts from the UK. Damien from the UK, have you actually met anyone from anyone from an ethnic minority? Do any of you actually socialise or tried to socialise with them? Immigrants make up 2-5 percent of the population of this country contrary to what the tabloid press would have us believe, and in the majority of cases, they do try and integrate into British society. If you want a belief system in this country which practically the whole of the civilized world fought against in the 2nd World war, then vote for a far right party. If you want a party that claims the holocaust did not happen or was a mere detail of history, then vote for them. Remember, that most British people originate from immigrant stock, be it Roman, Celtic, Norman, Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian, Norman, French, Jewish, Afro-Caribbean, Asian or whatever. It's nothing new. In times of crisis, the people always look for easy scapegoats. Learn your own history first before jumping to conclusions.
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