December 10th, 2012 - Written by Dr. Oliver Schmidtke
"What is the impact of the deep economic crisis that in parts of Europe has taken on a dimension reminiscent of the dark days of the 1930s? To what degree have high unemployment and the impoverishment also of large parts of the middle class in certain parts of Europe contributed to a surge in right wing extremism on the continent?
At first sight, the effects of the economic crisis in this respect are not clearly evident. Since 2008, right wing populist parties have surged in electoral support in some countries, notably Finland, France, Greece, and Hungary, but they have declined in Denmark, Italy and Switzerland (and in the Netherlands Geert Wilders' party lost almost one third of its votes in the recent elections).
Yet, there is growing evidence that the potential for a surge of the radical right is growing in those countries that are mainly hit by the economic slump. Greece is a point in case: capturing about 7% of the vote in the June elections surveys now put the extremist 'Golden Dawn' party in third place in terms of popular support. In a recent interview Greek Prime Minister Samaras compared the situation in his country to that in Weimar Germany. This form of political radicalization and threat to democracy is barely considered when yet another round of austerity measures is imposed on countries such as Greece."
Dr. Oliver Schmidtke is director of the Centre for Global Studies, University of Victoria. He is leading the research team "Immigration and Social Policy", part of the SSHRC Strategic Research Cluster "Canada Europe Transatlantic Dialogue".