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Populist parties expect key gains at EU elections

Populist parties expect key gains at EU elections
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There can be no denying the wave of popularity that has swept Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party towards power.

Fanned by fury over the country’s economic crisis and austerity measures, its anti-immigrant rallying cries have hit a note – making the party Greece’s third or fourth most popular.

At a recent party hustings for the European Elections, Golden Dawn MP Ilias Panagiotaros predicted that the European Parliament would be “interesting for the first time in decades because of the presence of nationalist parties from all over Europe.”

Despite a judicial crackdown that has left Golden Dawn’s leader and its top MPs in jail pending trial, the party’s popularity has not dimmed. Even a violent raid by some of its members on immigrant market-stalls in Athens failed to provoke widespread condemnation.

Political analyst Dimitri Sotiropoulos says extremist parties like Golden Dawn are filling a vacuum created by traditional politicians.

“The European Union has made a lot of progress but not enough to be appreciated by the lower income groups in Europe and younger generations. That means the soil is fertile for populist and simplistic understandings of politics to flourish.”

In Italy, people fed up with traditional political parties and politicians have been turning in droves towards comedian Beppe Grillo’s 5-Star Movement.

The popularity of the anti-establishment group has grown so much it could even decide the future of the government

With a well-orchestrated social media campaign Grillo has carefully nurtured his supporters and attacked all sides during his political rallies; appealing to an electorate angry over the recession, unemployment and rampant political corruption.

Many people expect he will outdo polls which predict his insurgent movement will take a quarter of all votes to end up being Italy’s second largest group in Brussels.

“We want to create a Europe for the citizens. And increase the knowedge of Europe for the 500 million citizens who do not know anything about Europe. That’s the politicians alibi,” said Grillo.

Grillo, who wants to reject EU budget rules and hold a referendum on  Italy’s future membership in the euro, has unsurprisingly predicted his party will gain a clear victory.