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Europe’s swing to the right: Fear of continued influx of refugees diluting national, cultural identities has worked in all elections

By Sadhan Mukherjee*
After Austria, Czech Republic has voted rightists to power. What is interesting is that in the elections held on October 20-21, the voters deserted the mainstream parties and voted for ANO led by Anderj Babis which has won maximum votes. Babis will now be the prime minister. Czech social democrats suffered their worst set back getting only 7.3% of votes.
Slovakia, the other part of former Czechoslovakia goes to polls not later than in March 2020.
The question that has come up is interesting. Czech Republic has been doing reasonably well economically. It had the least number of refugees and also the lowest unemployment figures in the European Union. Why then the rightwing swing?
One answer to this has been provided by Deusche Welle editorial writer Christopher Hasselbach. He feels that it is Czech nationalism has come into play in this case. The Czechs want to maintain their national and cultural identity intact. Hence they do not welcome any refugees unlike Germany, and the European Union. Germany since 2015 has accepted almost a million refugees from outside EU.
This fear of continued influx of refugees diluting national and cultural identities has worked in all the recent elections. One week before the Czech election, the Austrian voters had strongly voted for two parties that promised to stem the flow of illegal migration. It also disproves the reasoning that mainstream parties need not compete with rightwing parties in avowing nationalism and taking anti-refugee stand.
Sebastian Kruz, the rightwing politician of Austria who led the Austrian People’s Party (OVP), has won the election and there is no doubt that Austria has swung to the right. Within the next few days he is going to form a new coalition government. Most likely his coalition partners will be far right Austrian Freedom Party (FPO). Here again the social democrats and the left in general have lost their vote base.
In Germany the Alternative for Germany (AfD) has become the third largest party and will have representation for the first time in German Parliament (Bundestag).
Sebastian Kurz’s victory and now that of Andej Babis have seemingly reversed the trend of consecutive defeats of the rightist forces in European elections to come to power. Clearly, the right was down but not out.
What can Europe’s answer to the EU’s inherence idea of globalisation be, Hasselbach asks and answers: For one thing, it must recognise that identity –mainly national but also regional and cultural – is a force to reckon with. For decades, “more Europe” has been the standard answer to every problem, but integration for integration’s sake is now a thing of the past. The EU can only win back relevance by solving people’s problems – no grand vision here, no fashionable narrative.
Hasselbach went on to argue: “And when it comes to the big issue of migration, solving problems can perhaps only mean putting a stop to illegal migrants. This is what most people all over Europe can agree upon. It may signal end of Merkel’s idea of an ‘open Europe’, but it does seem like the only way to a new consensus.”
Does it mean that in coming days we will see a more conservative Europe that will give up at least partly the open door policy for refugees?

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