National Front Has Most to Gain from Becoming Conservative

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's National Front, listens to a news conference in Brussels, June 16, 2015
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front, listens to a news conference in Brussels, June 16, 2015 (European Parliament)

France’s National Front will have to reinvent itself after a disappointing election result on Sunday.

The nationalists were hoping to get 40 percent support or more in the presidential runoff, but Marine Le Pen got stuck at 34 percent. Still double her father’s performance when he qualified for the second voting round in 2002, but a letdown nonetheless.

In her concession speech, Le Pen promised voters “profound reform” of her party in order to create “a new political force” for all French “patriots” who oppose the globalism of Emmanuel Macron, the incoming president.

Whether this means starting a new party or rebranding the National Front remains to be seen, but change is in the air. With it could come a struggle for the movement’s identity. Read more

Germany’s Alternative Succumbs to Infighting as Popularity Fades

Frauke Petry speaks at a congress of the Alternative for Germany party in Aschaffenburg, January 27, 2014
Frauke Petry speaks at a congress of the Alternative for Germany party in Aschaffenburg, January 27, 2014 (Metropolico)

With five months to go before parliamentary elections, Germany’s nationalist party is imploding.

Frauke Petry, the charismatic leader of the Alternative für Deutschland, has said she will not lead the election campaign in the fall, in effect conceding defeat in a long-running power struggle. Read more

The Forces Shaping the French Election: Populism, Pride and Prejudice

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's National Front, makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, October 26, 2016
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front, makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, October 26, 2016 (European Parliament)

And why is it so critical? Nothing less than the European Union is at stake — and with it, the geopolitical contract that has bound Germany and France together since World War II.

After the defeat of anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders early this month in the Netherlands, it is reasonable to ask if populism as shaped by the alt-right has hit its limit. Europeans have watched the confusion in Britain over Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump. Now they are revisiting both their Euroskepticism and their willingness to gamble on ideologies not yet fully tested.

Yet France is subject to powerful forces quite different than the Netherlands, which has only a fraction of its population and international obligations. A large, unassimilated Muslim and African population simmers; an aging, conservative voter base roils; a discredited, weakened left wavers; and nobody knows what to do with the neoliberal threads that hold together the European Union yet impoverish just about anyone not in the upper classes. Read more

Geert Wilders Isn’t Really Interested in Governing

French and Dutch nationalist party leaders Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders deliver a news conference in Brussels, June 16, 2015
French and Dutch nationalist party leaders Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders deliver a news conference in Brussels, June 16, 2015 (European Parliament)

The absence of a serious manifesto did not suggest that the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders had any intention of governing after the election on Wednesday. Now two former elected officials of his Freedom Party have confirmed that he isn’t interested in power — especially the responsibility that comes with it. Read more

Invisible and Unhinged, Wilders Loses Support in Netherlands

Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders listens during a news conference in Brussels, June 16, 2015
Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders listens during a news conference in Brussels, June 16, 2015 (European Parliament)

Geert Wilders’ strategy of not showing up isn’t doing his Freedom Party much good.

Support for the party, which wants to take the Netherlands out of the European Union and stop immigration from Muslim countries, has gone down in the polls from a 21-percent high in December to 16 percent today. Read more

Dutch Parties Tried to Co-opt Populists and Failed

Dutch party leaders Maxime Verhagen, Mark Rutte and Geert Wilders answer questions from reporters in The Hague, September 30, 2010
Dutch party leaders Maxime Verhagen, Mark Rutte and Geert Wilders answer questions from reporters in The Hague, September 30, 2010 (Rijksoverheid)

The reason even right-wing parties in the Netherlands have ruled out forming a government with the nativist Freedom Party after the election next month is that they tried to make it work before — and failed. Read more

Nativist Freedom Party Draws Support from Dutch Periphery

Evening falls in Maastricht, the Netherlands, January 5, 2009
Evening falls in Maastricht, the Netherlands, January 5, 2009 (Bert Kaufmann)

Support for the nationalist Freedom Party rises the farther away one travels from the commercial and political heartland of the Netherlands on the North Sea coast, a recent survey shows.

The anti-EU and anti-immigrant party led by Geert Wilders receives around 20 percent support nationwide, but there are regional differences. Read more