A broken cordon sanitaire: the growing political relevance of the far right in Europe
In recent years, political parties on the radical right of the political spectrum in Europe have grown in popularity, to the point of entering coalition governments in the Netherlands and in Greece.
The surge of the far right (on the West) is in part down to their shift toward milder policy positions and their clearer rejection of the fascist tradition.
On the other hand, their popularity is largely down to growing anti-establishment sentiment in society with governments struggling to solve the economic crisis. The growing degree of prejudice (especially anti-immigrant) attitudes in countries dealing with high volumes of immigration also adds to the popularity of radical forces. Both tendencies are in line with the latest figures of Political Capital’s Demand for Right-Wing Extremism Index (DEREX).
The increasing presence of populist forces in the political field affects mainstream parties by prompting them to react to the issues raised by the far right. For the interests of political gain, the mainstream often finds itself forced to embrace milder versions of far right propositions, thereby shifting the fields of political discourse and public policy away from the center.
The inability of mainstream forces to halt the surge of populist parties leads to the notion that the “cordon sanitaire” formed around the far right after the Second World War has been broken.