EUI academics discuss ‘spectacular’ rise of the right

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Professor Hanspeter Kriesi has described the surge of right wing parties at the European elections as “spectacular” and urged attendees to take the UK Independence Party (UKIP) seriously because the group “articulates a real problem”.

Kriesi, who has been appointed to the Stein Rokkan Chair at the Department of Political and Social Sciences, was speaking at a post-election roundtable at the EUI. The event follows a historic night for right-wing eurosceptic parties across Europe, sending political shock waves across the continent.

In France the Front National finished first, as did UKIP in the UK while the Danish People’s Party caused an upset in Copenhagen.

Following the vote, Francois Hollande remarked that the Eurosceptic vote “must be confronted” before saying that for many voters the EU had become “remote and incomprehensible.”

Hollande’s rhetoric was echoed by David Cameron who branded Brussels “too big, too bossy, and too interfering”.

Also taking part in the roundtable was Professor Philippe C. Schmitter, who was keen to highlight the success of far-left parties telling the audience “the European Electorate is not moving in the same direction at the same time, to put it mildly”.

In Greece the anti-austerity party Syriza topped the poll and in Spain Podemos captured over a million votes, only three months after its inception as a party.

But Professor Alexander H. Trechsel, head of the Department of Political and Social Sciences was keen to play down the ‘earthquake’.

Trechsel reminded the audience that the established parties still made up a healthy majority in the hemicycle and that there was enough diversity of opinion amongst the new populists to stop them from uniting, “unless the anti-European forces form a group there is not much that will change”.

What really impressed Trechsel was the performance of Matteo Renzi’s centre-left Democratic Party (PD) which broke the trend of the night and triumphed over the populist Five Star Movement, “in Italy there was an astonishing win for the PD… One the most amazing results for the left ever.”

But almost everybody on the panel warned against complacency, including Brigid Laffan, Director of the Robert Shuman Centre, who warned attendees about a horizon of political wrangling in Brussels “I don’t see stability for the next 5 years.”