Far-Right party candidates appear to have successfully convinced European voters that murdering, thieving immigrants are the cause of their problems.
When the polls close after four days of voting in European Parliamentary elections this weekend, far-right parties are expected to double their representation to take around a quarter of the chamber’s seats. The voting runs from today through Sunday.
Under the parliament’s rules, that’s a big enough share to receive money to hire staff, chair committees and enjoy more speaking time — promising to turn a legislature dedicated to European unity into a hotbed of hate.
The success of far-right parties reflects a wave of dissatisfaction with European Union policies that critics say have curbed growth and dropped barriers to Eastern Europeans who compete with natives for work.
In Greece, the far-right Golden Dawn is expected to win around 10 percent of the vote. The party claims its swastika-like symbol is based on an ancient Greek design, not Hitler’s. But anti-semetic rhetoric and Nazi salutes are common among its members, and leaders have recommended “Mein Kampf” to new recruits.
“Most of the people in Greece that are voting for Golden Dawn, they are doing it because they don’t feel safe anymore,” Giorgos Makropoutsos, a spokesman for the Greek political party’s office in Queens, New York told VICE News. “They see foreigners getting away with crimes.”
Asked to cite examples, Makropoutsos declined. “There are statistics out there to explain that,” he said.
Indeed, in 2012, Greek police released figures that said foreigners committed around half the crimes in the country. The flip side of the numbers, however, was that absolute crime rates were pretty low. The police recorded around 600 home burglaries nationwide in 2012 as people were rioting in the streets over a lack of jobs.
Golden Dawn members know something about crime. Last year, in the wake of a supporter killing anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fissas — aka MC Killah P — prosecutors charged party leaders with running a criminal organization. Lawmakers in Athens have since stripped some party members of their parliamentary immunity.
For the United Kingdom Independence Party, or Ukip, Bulgarians, Romanians and others are the bogeymen — a variation on the fears that surfaced a decade ago about Polish plumbers stealing jobs.
Polls (no pun intended) forecast that Ukip will win around 30 percent of the vote compared to around 16 percent in the last European Parliamentary election in 2009, and more than the mainstream Labor and Tory parties.
Like the Golden Dawn, Ukip has problems with fuzzy thinking. On Tuesday, Ukip candidate Winston McKenzie called Croydon an “absolute dump” even though he’s running to represent the London borough.
McKenzie made his comments after Ukip leader Nigel Farage opted not to attend an event in Croydon with McKenzie because he thought the neighborhood was “unsafe.”
Flip side: Farage took a powder probably to avoid a PR disaster. McKenzie and other Ukip members got into shouting matches with Romanians who live in the so-called unsafe dump, and a Caribbean steel drum band that was supposed to provide music for the event canceled after they discovered they’d been hired by xenophobes.
One of the oldest far-right parties in Europe, France’s National Front, has learned its lessons from years of suffering with foot-in-mouth disease. In the 1990s, the party sought to crack down on foreign influences like hip hop — these guys don’t seem to like good beats — but policy was lost on cosmopolitan French voters.
Now, arguing that the EU and its Eastern European citizens are more trouble than they’re worth as the French economy stagnates, the party is expected to win around a 20 of the vote in France, making it one of the biggest parties in the parliament.
National Front leader Marine Le Pen calls her overhaul of the party "dédiabolisation," or “de-demonization.” Not very catchy.
But, for some French voters, it might as well be “Yes We Can.”