Euro Right gathers in Germany to plot strategy during pivotal year

Populist parties gathered in the German city of Koblenz to plan a joint strategy for upcoming elections this year across the continent.

Pivotal national elections in Germany France, and the Netherlands as well as local elections in Great Britain will test the new found strength of the European right as they seek to duplicate Donald Trump's surprise victory in America.

AFP:

"2016 was the year the Anglo-Saxon world woke up. 2017, I am sure, the people of continental Europe will wake up," she told a cheering crowd at a conference hall in the western river city of Koblenz, on the river Rhine.

 

The conference comes just a day after the US inauguration of Trump, who assumed power with a staunchly nationalist address in which he vowed to put "America first".

- 'Ode to Joy' -

The Koblenz participants have repeatedly voiced their admiration for the maverick billionaire, and like him are hoping to shake up the political landscape by capitalising on a tide of anger against the establishment and anxiety over migration.

"Yesterday a new America, today Koblenz and tomorrow a new Europe," Wilders told the 800-strong crowd in German, to loud applause.

"We are the start of a patriotic spring in Europe," he added.

The charismatic Dutch MP currently tops polls ahead of March parliamentary elections but observers say he is likely to struggle to find the coalition partners needed to govern.

The Koblenz congress has been organised by the European Parliament's Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) grouping, which was set up by Le Pen in 2015 and is now home to 40 MEPs from nine member states.

It has been touted as a chance for the parties to highlight their common ground but political analyst Timo Lochocki of the German Marshall Fund said the event was mainly "just good PR" as the parties had little to gain from strengthening ties.

"This is largely to increase media attention," he told AFP.

"The reasons why people vote for these parties are purely national and are independent from any alleged cross-national cooperation between the far-right."

The meeting of some of Europe's most divisive politicians has stirred controversy in Germany.

The fact is, there is a psychological advantage for these right wing parties to coalesce. On a continent that equates nationalism with fascism, the gathering of like minded populists, cheered by the election of Donald Trump, can boost the self confidence of parties like Germany's AfD and the French National Front. The significant gains made by these parties in off year elections promises real electoral strength going into this year's national electoral contests.

However, the surprisingly strong showings at the local and regional level by these parties during the last year will not necessarily translate into votes during a national contest. They are still bucking the tide in Europe and there is a strong antipathy among voters who see the nationalist sentiments expressed by the populists as something akin to fascism. Of course, the European media does everything in their power to promote that falsehood, preventing many voters who might otherwise agree with the populists to shy away from voting for them.

How far will the populist tide in Europe go? The National Front's Marine Le Pen has been polling very strongly, as has Dutch anti-Islamist Geert Wilders. Mr. Wilders party - the PVV - is polling at about 30%, making it the strongest party in the Netherlands. But in order to govern, the PVV would have to find enough coalition partnes to achieve a majority. So far, they have fallen far short of that goal.

Len Pen actually leads the polling for the French presidential election at about 25%. But there are two rounds of balloting for president in France and even if Le Pen is one of the finalists, she is not expected to prevail.

No one expects UKIP to enjoy much success during local elections in Great Britain. But the Brexit vote proved that their issues have real power with the electorate and few are ruling out some surprises on election day. 

What good, then, can the populists do? They are already pulling the major parties and coalitions in Europe to the right, especially on immigration. Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany has almost completely reversed her open  door policy for refugees - a consequence of spectacular losses to the AfD in local and regional elections last year. The French socialists have also trimmed their sails on immigration and economic policy.

Even if the populists fall short of total victory this year, their surprising strength at the ballot box is altering the balance of power in Europe.

 

 

 

Populist parties gathered in the German city of Koblenz to plan a joint strategy for upcoming elections this year across the continent.

Pivotal national elections in Germany France, and the Netherlands as well as local elections in Great Britain will test the new found strength of the European right as they seek to duplicate Donald Trump's surprise victory in America.

AFP:

"2016 was the year the Anglo-Saxon world woke up. 2017, I am sure, the people of continental Europe will wake up," she told a cheering crowd at a conference hall in the western river city of Koblenz, on the river Rhine.

 

The conference comes just a day after the US inauguration of Trump, who assumed power with a staunchly nationalist address in which he vowed to put "America first".

- 'Ode to Joy' -

The Koblenz participants have repeatedly voiced their admiration for the maverick billionaire, and like him are hoping to shake up the political landscape by capitalising on a tide of anger against the establishment and anxiety over migration.

"Yesterday a new America, today Koblenz and tomorrow a new Europe," Wilders told the 800-strong crowd in German, to loud applause.

"We are the start of a patriotic spring in Europe," he added.

The charismatic Dutch MP currently tops polls ahead of March parliamentary elections but observers say he is likely to struggle to find the coalition partners needed to govern.

The Koblenz congress has been organised by the European Parliament's Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) grouping, which was set up by Le Pen in 2015 and is now home to 40 MEPs from nine member states.

It has been touted as a chance for the parties to highlight their common ground but political analyst Timo Lochocki of the German Marshall Fund said the event was mainly "just good PR" as the parties had little to gain from strengthening ties.

"This is largely to increase media attention," he told AFP.

"The reasons why people vote for these parties are purely national and are independent from any alleged cross-national cooperation between the far-right."

The meeting of some of Europe's most divisive politicians has stirred controversy in Germany.

The fact is, there is a psychological advantage for these right wing parties to coalesce. On a continent that equates nationalism with fascism, the gathering of like minded populists, cheered by the election of Donald Trump, can boost the self confidence of parties like Germany's AfD and the French National Front. The significant gains made by these parties in off year elections promises real electoral strength going into this year's national electoral contests.

However, the surprisingly strong showings at the local and regional level by these parties during the last year will not necessarily translate into votes during a national contest. They are still bucking the tide in Europe and there is a strong antipathy among voters who see the nationalist sentiments expressed by the populists as something akin to fascism. Of course, the European media does everything in their power to promote that falsehood, preventing many voters who might otherwise agree with the populists to shy away from voting for them.

How far will the populist tide in Europe go? The National Front's Marine Le Pen has been polling very strongly, as has Dutch anti-Islamist Geert Wilders. Mr. Wilders party - the PVV - is polling at about 30%, making it the strongest party in the Netherlands. But in order to govern, the PVV would have to find enough coalition partnes to achieve a majority. So far, they have fallen far short of that goal.

Len Pen actually leads the polling for the French presidential election at about 25%. But there are two rounds of balloting for president in France and even if Le Pen is one of the finalists, she is not expected to prevail.

No one expects UKIP to enjoy much success during local elections in Great Britain. But the Brexit vote proved that their issues have real power with the electorate and few are ruling out some surprises on election day. 

What good, then, can the populists do? They are already pulling the major parties and coalitions in Europe to the right, especially on immigration. Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany has almost completely reversed her open  door policy for refugees - a consequence of spectacular losses to the AfD in local and regional elections last year. The French socialists have also trimmed their sails on immigration and economic policy.

Even if the populists fall short of total victory this year, their surprising strength at the ballot box is altering the balance of power in Europe.

 

 

 

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