Undermining the anti-immigration ideology of populist parties in the Nordic region

by , under Enrique

By Enrique Tessieri

It is a tragedy that 77 people had to die at the hands of Anders Breivik on July 22. Ironically the mass killer did more than anyone to undermine the ideology of anti-immigration populist parties and hate groups in the Nordic region and Europe. 

The political fallout of Breivik’s deeds was clear: The first blow came to the Progress Party (FrP) of Norway, which saw its support plummet in the municipal election by 6.1 percentage points to 11.5%. That was followed by election setbacks in Denmark and Finland.

Not even the far-right Sverigedemocraterna of Sweden has been spared.

Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg became an exemplary leader after the mass killings of Norway. His reaction was totally the opposite from what we saw in the United States after the September 11 attacks. Contrary to President George W. Bush, the Norwegian prime minister said that his country’s reponse to the mass killings will be more openness and more democracy.

The question that hounds us, however, is if Breivik were a Muslim instead of a white Norwegian, what kind of an anti-immigration backlash would we have seen in the Nordic region and Europe?

On a BBC documentary, Stoltenberg said that Norway had become after July 22 “more tolerant,[and] more careful not to judge people” by ethnic origin.

Wise words by a wise leader of a country that suffered one of its worst tragedies in recent history.

  1. Mark

    I think that the drop in the polls is probably short-term, and that long-term, populist parties in Europe will be looking at a consolidated support of around 20% of the national vote. This is the case in those countries where populist parties have been established for longer, such as Austria. Populism as a political approach has a lot of appeal for both old voters and new young voters who are not engaged in the typical party allegiances that were often inherited from one generation to another. Typically, swing voters have voted for ‘change’, but in the last 20 years, there has been very little radical changes, with parties clambering over a smaller and smaller middle ground. This has opened up a vacuum in terms of voter discontent that was always likely to pull to more radical parties. In addition, economic factors have added volatility, with ‘anti-immigration’ pulling to the Right, and now, ‘anti-austerity’ pulling to the Left. I expect these more radical parties to seen an upswing in support for at least the next ten years, and then, as voters become weary and wary of their fast-fix politics, a return to more traditional political values.

  2. Mark

    The issue as far as I’m concerned is not in picking up on the ‘big events’ like the Breivik case, although of course, it will always be a lesson in extremism, but rather to do the hard work of tackling the small everyday issues that link voters to politicians and decision-making. By relying on these ‘big events’ to try to swing voters away from the more radical parties, the danger is that the political rhetoric associated with it remains too leftfield, while populist parties continue to feed off and encourage a sense of grievance against political and economic elites, and also the ‘migrating poor’. In my view, globalisation has given us quite weak and diminished government, but the alternative coming from the Right and Left is so far completely inept at dealing with the political and economic complexities fo globalisation. They would bring isolationism, protectionism, and weakened regional governance, as political parties literally fight over ‘who is to blame for the mess’, while doing little to repair it.

    The one thing that would fix this mess is rigourous and universally applied economic regulation, however, the deeper the austerity, the more countries want to go it alone, and even to take advantage of the debt-fuelled intertia setting into the major economies by offering regulation-free investment opportunities in return for high growth.

    Debt is about using tomorrow’s income to pay for today’s spending, with an interest charge for the privilege. At some point, the interest charges becomes so vast that there is no longer any room for fuelling stalled growth with additional debt and meanwhile interest payments take up all of the disposable income that’s available. That is a huge chunk of money that does nothing useful – it’s not spent in shops, it’s not spent in salaries. It goes rather to large investment funds and banks. But the banks won’t lend that money because confidence in the ability to pay back on any further debt has been completely eroded. That means a flow of money in one-direction only. The assumption is that if the banks have the money, they will invest it, but capital is only one part of the economic bargain – risk is the other. And while everyone has had their eye on the flow of ‘capital’, nobody seemed to notice what was happening in terms of the flow of risk. Profit in one direction, risk in the other. And now, the poor and middle classes are carrying far too much risk.

    We have to start redistributing risk, which means forcing wealthy individuals to take more risk. They have been minimizing their risks ever more carefully. Even while the economic downturn revealed huge undeclared risk, that risk was nonetheless transferred to taxpayers, as the ‘too big to fail’ clause kicked in. Private profits, socialised losses. And meanwhile, nothing is done about the continuation of a skewed market of risks. The end result will be shrinking markets and no dent at all in the increasing margins between the wealth creation abilities on either ends of the economic scale.