What are European Right-wing Voters Afraid of?
By Koralia Ioannou, 3rd year BA Journalism & Media student
What are European right-wing voters afraid of?
In a world where equality, humanity and justice are the hype values on social media, some seem to forget to put comments and posts into practice. Recent political results show that parties with extreme and radical ideologies have majorly increased in popularity, and this makes me wonder; have most of us ‘Europeans’ entered a period of grief; where bitter feelings and angry sentiments take over in the voting booths?
I know that everyone is currently concerned with Trump and his politics, however, let’s judge our own bed before jumping on another.
Nowadays, what does it mean to be European? Let’s take it back to the start.
After World War II and all its atrocities, European leaders decided that uniting countries of Europe would be crucial both for security and for the growth of the market. The European Union was born, and alongside it the United Nations, as an aim to prevent another world war from happening again. Both are now modern symbols of the continent’s dark history, reminding us of mistakes that should never be repeated. Indeed, Europe’s past with extreme, right-wing politics hasn’t been the most prominent, making today’s political talk all the more ironic.
In countries such as France, the United Kingdom and Greece, the far right has gained an impressive popularity amongst its voters. In the latest French regional elections, the Front National (FN) won 6regions in the first round of the elections. In the UK, 2012 marked a record year for UKIP, as the averaging result was 13%, in comparison to 2011, where the results only showed 8% in favour of the party.
Whilst extreme right-wing ideologies grow popular in northern Europe, another type of extremism is brewing in Greece. Following intense austerity measures and budget cuts, the country faced a social and humanitarian crisis which gave ‘birth’ to the neo-Nazi group, Golden Dawn. In 2012, the party won 22 seats in the Greek parliament, representing a total of 7% at the exit polls.
Most of us would be thinking ‘so what?’, but what is interesting to consider is that these exit polls are not just figures; they are a representation of the current popular ideologies spreading across Europe. As previously mentioned, the EU and the UN were created in order to assure that past mistakes would never be repeated; yet it would seem that the present is starting to look like the past. It is interesting to observe that people who vote in favour of far right parties consider them as a solution to a corrupt and non democratic European institution.
After agreeing to openly discuss his political opinion, Panagiotis Fetsis, a Golden Dawn supporter, stated that the EU is ‘in no way what our forefathers had envisioned. We signed up for a fair, equal and democratic Europe. Instead we Greeks are the punching bag. We are used as an example of punishment to any who wish to go against the institutions’ major powers (Germany, France, Luxembourg). I have always voted for the socialist party, but I have had enough. I feel a stranger in my own country. All I want is to feel like I have some sort of control again, I am not a fascist. I am just a Greek who is fed up’.
If the late 1930s and early 1940s have taught us anything, it is mostly that one does not fix a broken system by electing a leader with broken values; yet we are now on the road of repeating that mistake. However, it is not surprising to think that our generation would make the same error. After all, were we alive the first time around? Have we lived through world wars, triggered by right-wing politics? No. Mistakes are bound to be repeated if the consequences have not been experienced firsthand. Call it ignorance, arrogance, whatever makes you feel better, but one thing is certain: old habits die hard.
The far right now seems less threatening than the far left, perhaps because history brings us closer to the Cold War rather than the World Wars. The idea of Hitler, the Nazi’s and the violent politics seems almost mythical nowadays, as though it is a horror story we have all heard, but can’t process to be real. The rise of such a government in our modern world seems impossible now, but we are restraining ourselves to a very outdated image instead of adapting ourselves to a new one.
Other than not fully grasping the potential dangers the far right can have, there is one very important element we must not forget in order to understand these voters; fear.
When we are afraid, our body functions are ready to operate as though we are facing a physical threat. We react or make decisions based on adrenaline, and not necessarily through logic or good will. A biological fact is always important to keep in mind when trying to understand the human behaviour. I am not suggesting that the next step of this article is to break down the whole anatomy of mankind; I am just saying that when trying to comprehend people and their political choices, let’s try to remember that we are all human.
Whilst talking to Kiara Lanoe, an art student who votes for UKIP, I realised that a lot of the votes towards UKIP revolve around migrations and xenophobia.
‘I quite frankly don’t feel British anymore…And to be honest with you I don’t even know if that word holds a meaning anymore. I’m not saying that those who are not English should leave; I’m just saying that I want a government who takes care of its own people first and not prioritising others’. She then went on to explain that she was completely anti migration, as she noticed that an increase in unemployment amongst British men and women.
‘Categorise what I say as cliché if you want. But it’s true. They are taking our jobs. If I wanted to work in a bar, I would be paid minimum wage for sure. But those who come from eastern Europe, for example, will work twice as hard and get paid half the minimum wage. I am not saying that is right, or that it is their fault, but whether we like it or not it is affecting the employment market’.
Across from me, I didn’t see an angry girl, blaming the world for all her misfortunes; instead I saw a scared teenager, who wants to be reassured that she will have a future upon her graduation. The younger generation votes through practice instead of theory, most of them are impatient. How do you convince an 18-year-old art freshman that good results in politics often take time to appear? You don’t. If they don’t see it, they will unanimously think it is lies and propaganda.
It is fear that elected Adolf Hitler, it is fear that enacts hate crimes, it is fear that fuels terrorism, and it is fear that is providing the FN, UKIP and Golden Dawn important votes. Fear is not a representation of thought and logic, and rare were the times where it offered reasonable solutions.
Institutions such as the European Union do not seem to aspire much hope within the youth. Our ancestors indeed thought it would be a good idea to create a union in order to prevent their nightmare from creeping up on us one day, but it would seem that no matter what we do, we as a human race somehow manage to press the rewind button. If I have learned one thing throughout the course of time, it’s this: so long as there is fear, there will always be hate.