Recent incidents – such as the expulsion of Roma, or Gypsies, from France, or the resurgence of nationalism and anti-immigration sentiment in Germany, or the massacre in Norway – have to be seen against the background of a long-term rearrangement of the political space in western and eastern Europe.
Until recently, most European countries were dominated by two main parties that addressed the majority of the electorate: a right-of-centre party (Christian Democrat, liberal-conservative, people’s) and a left-of-centre party (socialist, social-democratic), with smaller parties (ecologists, communists) addressing a narrower electorate.
Recent electoral results in the West as well as in the east signal the gradual emergence of a different polarity. There is now one predominant centrist party that stands for global capitalism, usually with a liberal cultural agenda (for example, tolerance towards abortion, gay rights, religious and ethnic minorities).
Opposing this party is an increasingly strong anti-immigrant populist party which, on its fringes, is accompanied by overtly racist neo-fascist groups. The best example of this is Poland where, after the disappearance of the ex-communists, the main parties are the “anti-ideological” centrist liberal party of the Prime Minister Donald Tusk and the conservative Christian Law and Justice Party of the Kaczynski brothers.
Similar tendencies are discernible, as we have witnessed, in Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden and Hungary. But how did we get to this point?
[Extract. Appeared in ABC on July 26th 2011.]