has the financial crisis triggered a rise of the far right?

No is the short answer given by Cas Mudde of the University of Georgia in this article for the LSE European Politics Blog.

Cas basically makes the point that there has not generally been a rise in support for far right parties across the EU as a direct response to the economic crisis; he points to the fact that only one of the five current bail out countries has any far-right party of note (Greece with the openly neo-nazi Golden Dawn), and that where the far right has been successful to some extent it had already been on the up before the crisis hit.

The five EU countries that have seen a substantial rise of populist radical right electoral support are Austria (+13.1 per cent), Finland (+14.9 per cent), France (+9.3 per cent), Hungary (+14.5 per cent), and Latvia (+6.9 per cent). Greece comes close (+4.7 per cent), almost doubling its support, and will be discussed separately below. The single biggest increase is in Finland, where the True Finns jumped from 4.1 percent in 2007 to 19.0 percent in 2011. Interestingly, Finland was among the least affected EU countries, having faced its own economic crisis over a decade before the Great Recession. This notwithstanding, the economic crisis played a major role in the electoral campaign and success of the True Finns, who vehemently opposed Finnish participation in bailouts. That said, the populist radical right status of the party is heavily debated, and it seems at best a borderline case.

Cas makes a compelling case that the bogeyman of far-right parties has been grabbed by the likes of the Hungarian and Greek governments to justify increasingly harsh rhetoric and action against the poor, immigrants, and other vulnerable groups in order to bolster their own popularity and that is has allowed them to move in a more authoritarian direction.

I think he’s got a fair point to some extent – the establishment and the media love to point at how on the whole the rightwing has benefitted from the crisis at the extent of the left; and that it means that people want rightwing solutions that just happen to benefit the establishment and their mates.

Of course the real answer across Europe is much more complex – and people seem to exploring a number of different political alternatives to the absolute status quo of which the far or populist right are just one example.

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