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80 years after 1939, Europe’s far right smells power again

15 4 0

LONDON – Earlier this month, as Europe commemorated the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD ) became the most popular choice for young voters in the east German state of Saxony.

Along with a strong performance in local elections the same day in Brandenburg, the results were a reminder of just how dramatically far right political parties have resurrected themselves in modern Europe. Trading off economic frustration and disquiet over migration, they are weaponizing technology and social media, international networks and widespread frustration with the political status quo.

Such parties do not necessarily need outright power to achieve their goals — as shown by Italian right-winger Matteo Salvini when he became interior minister, turning away migrant rescue ships and arresting one of the captains.

Italy’s example, however, also points to the challenges faced by such groups. After bringing down the government earlier this year, Salvini was widely expected to become prime minister. Instead, he has found himself kept out by an alliance of more moderate parties.

The lesson of the 1930s, however — another era of dislocation, change and paranoia — remains stark. Adolf Hitler’s Nazis never won more than a third of the votes in a democratic election, but that was enough to give them a stranglehold on power, given the proportional representation-based German constitution.

Some far-right leaders continue to be plagued........

© The Japan Times