Europe’s swing to the right continues: How Geert Wilders’ sweeping victory in the Netherlands is just the latest example of the continent turning to ‘populist’ parties to tackle social issues

Right wing nationalist Geert Wilders has won a ‘monster victory’ in the general election in the Netherlands sending shockwaves around the nation and the rest of Europe. 

The 60-year-old heads up the Party for Freedom (PVV), which ran on an anti-immigration and anti-Islam platform, taking 37 seats in the election – more than any other party. 

The result, which more than doubled his party’s previous share, puts Wilders – described as the ‘Dutch Trump’ – in a favourable position for upcoming coalition talks with the roughly half-dozen other parties that hold a significant number of seats. 

But he has alienated almost all of the other political parties in the Netherlands with his harsh rhetoric. 

While Wilders still faces an uphill battle to form a government and become the next Netherlands leader, his surprise success is the latest in a string of recent political upsets that have seen so-called populist parties taking significant strides across Europe. 

Here, MailOnline takes a look at the right’s meteoric rise in Europe over the last few years. 

Geert Wilders (pictured) heads up the right-wing Party for Freedom (PVV), which ran on an anti-immigration and anti-Islam platform

ITALY: Brothers of Italy with self-confessed Nazi links won last year’s election

Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party took power in Italy in late 2022, and has consistently enjoyed high ratings since. 

Aggregated polling data reveals that since the party, which has been accused of being neo-fascist in its policies and ideologies, took power there have been no significant drops in support. 

Speeches made by Meloni, Italy’s first female leader, have overtly expressed her hardline views on immigration and homosexuality. 

She has outwardly spoken about fighting what she called ‘the gay lobby’, while her Deputy PM, Matteo Salvini, called gay parents ‘unnatural.’

Speeches made by Georgia Meloni, Italy's first female leader, (pictured, centre) have overtly expressed her hardline views of immigration and homosexuality

Speeches made by Georgia Meloni, Italy’s first female leader, (pictured, centre) have overtly expressed her hardline views of immigration and homosexuality

Meloni has also been forced to deny that her party is fascistic, despite it being the direct successor to the Italian Social Movement, a neo-fascist party active between 1945 and 1995. 

Her government has taken strong stances on immigration. Earlier this year, it passed measures to give Italian authorities the power to detain migrants for up to 18 months, and ordered the construction of new centres to house them. 

The reforms came following a surge of over 10,000 migrants landing on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, more than the number of residents. 

The new measures were designed to work in combination with a plan to fight the flow of migrants to Italy with increased surveillance of the seas around Italy.

HUNGARY: Viktor Orban’s fourth consecutive term 

Viktor Orban (pictured) is well-known for his support of Russia on the world stage, yesterday threatening to block all EU aid to Ukraine

Viktor Orban (pictured) is well-known for his support of Russia on the world stage, yesterday threatening to block all EU aid to Ukraine

Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party has long been accused of subscribing to a ‘soft fascism’ and ‘soft autocracy.’

But the stance seems to be working for him, as his party last year won 117 seats in Hungary‘s National Assembly, once again running on a euro-skeptic and anti-immigration platform. The victory earned the 60-year-old a fourth successive term as prime minister.

He is also well-known for his support of Russia on the world stage, yesterday threatening to block all EU aid to Ukraine, as well as the country’s potential entry into the bloc, unless EU members agreed to review the strategy of support for Kyiv. 

The Fidesz-led government has been accused of silencing media outlets that dare to criticise the party, and curating a state-run media that is said to be ‘entirely loyal’ to Orban. 

In 2021, it was revealed that Orban has authorised the use of Pegasus, a surveillance tool, to target political opponents. 

The phone numbers of at least 10 lawyers, five journalists and an opposition politician were included on a list of leaked list of potential targets of surveillance. 

His government has also been accused of putting a finger on the scales of justice by removing independent judges, and stacking top courts with loyal ones. 

FRANCE: National Rally’s Marine Le Pen tipped to succeed Macron in 2027

National Rally, the party run by Marine Le Pen (pictured, left), has consistently been accused of using anti-immigration rhetoric to flirt with overt racism

National Rally, the party run by Marine Le Pen (pictured, left), has consistently been accused of using anti-immigration rhetoric to flirt with overt racism

Her party is set to inherit power in France in the 2027 general elections

Her party is set to inherit power in France in the 2027 general elections

Marine Le Pen‘s National Rally (NR), formerly the National Front, is set to inherit power in France in the 2027 general elections, after narrowly losing to Emmanuel Macron‘s En Marche! (EM) party last year. 

Macron’s approval rating has been consistently going down since the Spring election last year, and currently sits at just 29%. 

His disapproval rating, meanwhile is at 69%, the fourth time in six years his negative ratings have breached 65%. 

Meanwhile, polling from earlier this year revealed that 24% of French voters were set to vote for NR, while 22% of voters were set to vote for EM. 

Le Pen’s NR party has tapped into growing anti-immigration sentiment in France. 

It was revealed today that 66% of French citizens believe that immigration from outside of Europe was a danger to France. 

consistently been accused of using anti-immigration rhetoric to flirt with overt racism. 

Last year, hard-right MP and NR member Grégoire de Fournas was suspended from France’s parliament after he told a fellow MP, who is Black, to ‘return to Africa.’

Fournas was also given a two-month cut in salary, the maximum penalty for parliamentary wrongdoing.  

It is only the second time in the history of France’s Fifth Republic, established by Charles de Gaulle in 1958, that an MP has received such a rebuke.

Le Pen weakly condemned the remarks, while insisting that he was defending the party line of pledging to halt all illegal immigration. 

GERMANY: Far-right party with alleged Nazi ties made waves in state elections 

Daniel Halemba (pictured) was suspended from the party after being arrested on suspicion of owning Nazi symbols

Daniel Halemba (pictured) was suspended from the party after being arrested on suspicion of owning Nazi symbols

He was arrested after officials discovered Nazi insignias and racist documents at his home

He was arrested after officials discovered Nazi insignias and racist documents at his home

Alternative for Germany (AfD) also won by a landslide in a recent state elections in October, winning its biggest ever share of votes in the powerful state of Hesse. 

The party also gained a significant portion of votes in Bavaria, taking in an additional 4.4% of the vote share in the state. 

Roughly a quarter of Germany’s population lives in Hesse and Bavaria.  

Alice Weidel, the co-leader of the AfD, said the gains were a major milestone for the far-right party, and showed that ‘AfD is no longer an eastern phenomenon, but has become a major all-German party. So we have arrived.

The party runs on an anti-Islam and anti-immigration policy. In 2017, the party’s founder, Alexander Gauland, explicitly vowed to fight an ‘invasion of foreigners.’

He also tried to trivialise the period that the Nazi party ruled Germany, claiming it was ‘just a speck of bird’s muck in more than 1,000 years of successful Germany history.’

While the party has fought back against comparisons to the Nazi party, in late October, a newly elected AfD lawmaker was suspended from the party after being arrested on suspicion of owning Nazi symbols. 

22-year-old Daniel Halemba, the youngest politician to ever be elected to Bavaria’s parliament, is currently under arrest, after officials discovered Nazi insignias and racist documents at his home. 

His neighbours also complained that they heard calls of ‘Sieg Heil’ coming from his home. 

GREECE: New far-right parties entered Greek parliament for the first time, following disappointing election for Left

The Spartans party was backed by Ilias Kasidiaris, who is currently serving 13 years in prison for membership in a criminal organisation as a former leading member of Golden Dawn

The Spartans party was backed by Ilias Kasidiaris, who is currently serving 13 years in prison for membership in a criminal organisation as a former leading member of Golden Dawn

Two far-right parties entered Greece‘s political arena for the first time ever in this year’s national elections. 

The Spartans party and the Niki, or Victory, party took 21 of the Hellenic Parliament’s 200 seats between them in June. 

The Spartans party was backed by Ilias Kasidiaris, who is currently serving 13 years in prison for membership in a criminal organisation as a former leading member of Golden Dawn – a political party of neo-Nazi origins linked to multiple violent street attacks. 

Niki, meanwhile, is a rare party that holds ultra-Orthodox beliefs, and aims to promote and ‘maintain’ Greek identity through its language, history and tradition. 

Niki is a staunchly anti-abortion and sex education party, and maintains a deep dislike of the LGBTQ community, as well as same-sex marriage. 

Many of the party’s candidates in this years elections were accused of having links to Russia. 

Theoharakis also admitted that he has not been vaccinated against COVID-19. 

BELGIUM: Anti-multiculturalism party leading in polls for 14 straight months

The party, whose name means 'Flemish Interest' in English, has a long-standing goal of establishing an independent Flemish state where the region of Flanders would peacefully leave Belgium

The party, whose name means ‘Flemish Interest’ in English, has a long-standing goal of establishing an independent Flemish state where the region of Flanders would peacefully leave Belgium

Although Belgium is often considered a bastion of pan-European-ism, given its role as the host of both the EU and NATO, the far-right Vlaams Belang party has consistently been ahead in aggregated polls for the last 14 months. 

Belgium is set to have national elections in June 2024, which experts have said Vlaams Belang may end up winning. 

The party, whose name means ‘Flemish Interest’ in English, has a long-standing goal of establishing an independent Flemish state, where the region of Flanders would peacefully leave Belgium. 

It claims that ethnic Flemish and ‘Walloons’, from nearby Wallonia, have ‘enormous cultural and political differences’ that would be easily remedied by secession. 

Vlaams Belang, a euro-skeptic party that opposes the introduction of Turkey into the EU, also aims to implement a ‘zero tolerance’ policy, by abolishing Belgian parole law, which allows convicted criminals to be released after finishing just one-third of their sentence. 

The party is anti-Islam, and has stated in the past that women wearing hijabs have ‘effectively signed their contract for deportation.’ 

SWEDEN: Fringe anti-Islam party were kingmakers in 2022 election 

The Sweden Democrats were satisfied by the concessions given to them, which fed into the party's core anti-immigration and anti-Islam messaging

The Sweden Democrats were satisfied by the concessions given to them, which fed into the party’s core anti-immigration and anti-Islam messaging

The Sweden Democrats managed to strike a deal with the Moderate party in the 2022 election, and was the keystone in forming a government.

The new government were forced to give the fringe party a lot, and put plans in place to cut taxes, begin building new nuclear power plants, cap benefits, tighten immigration rules and give police more powers as part of the deal with the Democrats. 

The new government also made it harder for new immigrants to receive benefits, while the overseas aid spending target of 1% of GDP was replaced by a fixed sum. 

The Sweden Democrats were satisfied by the concessions, which fed into the party’s core anti-immigration and anti-Islam messaging. 

The party’s leader, Jimmie Åkesson, said last year that most of Sweden’s shortcomings, and the reasons why his party was doing well, was due to the country’s over-welcoming immigration policies that have failed to integrate ‘new Swedes’ into the country. 

‘For us in the Sweden Democrats… a change of power also has to mean a paradigm shift regarding immigration and integration policy,’ Åkesson said at the time. 

SWITZERLAND: Anti-immigration party that pledged to cap population at 10 million won big in October election 

SVP's platform included a pledge to keep the population of Switzerland, currently 8.7 million, below 10 million

SVP’s platform included a pledge to keep the population of Switzerland, currently 8.7 million, below 10 million

The most recent success story of the European far-right came late last month, after Switzerland’s euro-skeptic and hardline Swiss People’s Party (SVP) managed to take an extra nine seats in the nation’s House of Representatives, bringing its total to 62 out of 200 seats. 

The party did lose one seat in the Senate, Switzerland’s upper house. 

SVP, which captured 27.9% of the votes cast in the October election, ran on a staunchly anti-immigration campaign, and promised there would be ‘less political correctness’. 

Its platform included a pledge to keep the population of Switzerland, currently 8.7 million, below 10 million. 

The party managed to tap into anti-immigration sentiment in Switzerland, in a campaign many condemned as outright xenophobic.   

Switzerland saw a 43% increase in asylum applications in the first half of 2023, and on top of this has taken in 65,000 Ukrainian refugees since Russia‘s invasion, despite its long-standing policy of neutrality on the world stage. 

The SVP also declared war on ‘cancel culture’, ‘gender terror’ and ‘woke madness’.

AUSTRIA: Anti-immigration party that shared video of youth wing below Hitler’s balcony set to win next year’s elections 

In Austria, the right-wing Freedom Party (FP), led by Herbert Kickl, has consistently been growing its voting share and has been ahead of every other party since November 2022

In Austria, the right-wing Freedom Party (FP), led by Herbert Kickl, has consistently been growing its voting share and has been ahead of every other party since November 2022

The euro-skeptic party has consistently run on an anti-immigration platform, with a focus on 'preserving' Austrian culture

The euro-skeptic party has consistently run on an anti-immigration platform, with a focus on ‘preserving’ Austrian culture

Earlier this year, Austria's longest-serving spy chief warned that the country may be under threat from Russia if it comes into power in next year's elections

Earlier this year, Austria’s longest-serving spy chief warned that the country may be under threat from Russia if it comes into power in next year’s elections

In Austria, the right-wing Freedom Party (FP), led by Herbert Kickl, has consistently been growing its voting share and has been ahead of every other party since November 2022, according to polling data aggregated by Politico. 

The FP currently holds a 5% lead over its closest rival, the Social Democratic Party of Austria, and is set to win next year’s elections. 

The euro-skeptic party has consistently run on an anti-immigration platform, with a focus on ‘preserving’ Austrian culture. 

The party was so serious about this that it pledged to subsidise restaurants that offered typical Austrian dishes, and wanted to force schoolchildren to only speak German in playgrounds. 

Earlier this year, the party shared a promotional video made by its youth wing that cut image of Paris’ Notre Dame burning with conspiratorial phrases related to the debunked Great Replacement theory, which claims that white Europeans are being replaced by non-white migrants. 

The video showed members of the party’s youth wing taking part in torchlight processions and standing below the Vienna balcony where Adolf Hitler gave his infamous speech when he returned to his homeland in triumph after the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938.

Critics have also accused the FP of having ties to Russia, which even the nation’s security services backed up. 

Earlier this year, Austria’s longest-serving spy chief warned that the country may be under threat from Russia if it comes into power in next year’s elections, as it has not severed its ties with the Putin-led nation. 

Peter Gridling, who led the Austrian intelligence service BVT between 2008 and 2020, told the Financial Times: ‘We were very worried about the Freedom party’s contacts with Russia.’

‘[We investigated how] Russia might finance them, offer them jobs . . . how [the party] would host these round table talks, spreading pure Russian propaganda.’

‘They have not changed. They still have contact with Russia. Intelligence is a long game — and the Russians have a very long perspective.’

SLOVAKIA: Ultra-nationalist party helped form government in 2023 elections

While the Slovak National Party (SNP) took just 5.6% of the vote in this year’s national elections, it managed to be part of a three-way coalition government formed in October, after failing to even make it into Parliament in 2020. 

The party, formed in 1990, has been accused of peddling anti-Romani and anti-Hungarian rhetoric. 

The European Roma Rights Centre, which advocated for the advancement of Romani people in Europe, said of the SNP: ‘Members of this party have repeatedly and regularly reiterated to the public their contempt for and hostility towards a number of groups in Slovakia, including ethnic and sexual minorities.’

It accused the SNP of having ‘a very vibrant role in degrading relations between Roma and non-Roma in Slovakia, and inflaming ingrained anti-Romani sentiment in that country.’

The SNP’s former leader, Ján Slota, once called Jozef Tiso, the former president of Slovakia who was hanged for collaborating with Nazi Germany during World War II, was ‘one of the greatest sons of the Slovak nation.’ 

The party’s current leader, Andrej Danko, called for the burqa to be banned in Slovakia, saying at the time:

‘Not everyone professing Islam is a terrorist. People cannot be judged according to their religion or skin colour. 

‘But security measures identifying people that incline towards radical expressions of Islam have to be adopted within Europe.’

FINLAND: Anti-immigration party fielded seven out of 19 ministers following 2023 election

The far-right Finns party managed to put seven of its politicians in ministerial roles following this year’s elections. 

On top of this, its former party leader was made Speaker of Finland’s parliament. 

But within days of taking office, the Finns-appointed economics minister Vilhelm Junnila was forced to resign after it emerged that he had several links to Nazism. 

In 2019, he was the keynote speaker at a memorial event organised by a far-right group of Finnish nationalist parties, several of whom have been banned in the country for years. 

He was also known for using the 14/88 symbol, referencing a racist set of slogans used by white supremacists, on the campaign trail. 

His replacement, Wille Rydman, is widely known for his use of racist language. Leaked texts revealed he called people from the Middle East ‘monkeys.’

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