Ad-Hoc vs Post-Hoc Reactions to the Extreme Right
By Nerea Heras, Head of 1989 Generation Initiative Scotland
On Sunday, December 2nd, Spain went back 40 years. The extreme right party VOX entered the Andalusian parliament with 12 seats, after having obtained 11.97% of the votes. Rumour had it that elections to the national parliament could be called for May 2019, yet Prime Minister Sánchez might want to wait and hope that the regional outcome does not reproduce at a state level. VOX is a party hostile to immigration, multiculturalism, pluralism of religious beliefs, women’s rights, and sexual diversity, amongst others. VOX advocates for a Europe of borders, and not of freedom. One need only look at the sort of party leaders that have congratulated Francisco Serrano as he begins his project for the new Reconquista of Spain. A party with links to the Francoist era, VOX is a threat to any of the steps forward taken since the establishment of a democratic system. It defends values that should have no place in a liberal and progressive society, but which have been democratically supported by almost 400,000 people. With unprecedented losses for the socialist party, VOX’s participation in the Andalusian government seems now more than just another possibility. Or if not, they might support it by abstaining at the investiture vote. Too naïve should one be to believe that such action would come with no strings attached. Their breakthrough on Sunday most likely means that policies in their programme will be part of the next Andalusian government, in one way or another.
If only Southern Spain were an exception to the rule, if support for VOX were a slight deviation, outcome of a contextual crisis that would eventually lose its appeal. Yet the Andalusian elections are just a reflection of a bigger threat currently spreading all over Europe. Few are the countries that have not yet succumbed to the extreme right. Marine Le Pen disputed the French presidency against Emmanuel Macron in 2017, and even if she lost, she still obtained an unprecedented result in the history of the party, 33.9%. In Italy, Matteo Salvini’s Lega Nord is in government. So is the Austrian FPÖ. The Danish People’s Party, although not in government, has managed to strongly influence policy, particularly in matters of migration policy thanks to its 21% of support. And as for the rest, the extreme right’s success cannot be ignored either in Germany, or Belgium, or the Netherlands, or Finland, or Sweden, or Poland, or Hungary, or now in Spain.
This is not to say that opponents to the extreme right have simply assumed their defeat and rolled out the red carpet. In the Andalusian case, demonstrations have been organised in most of the major cities, social media is plagued with messages of anger and rejection. For Andalusians, this might be the only possible resistance actions available in the next four years, as another election seems unlikely. But the constant overflow of pictures, videos and calls for mobilisation suggest a necessary reflection on the ways we currently act against the threat of anti-democratic and anti-liberal values. Turnout on the Sunday election was lower than 60%. It seems like reactions against the extreme right are indeed reactions, and not actions. What is post-hoc opposition to the extreme right worth?
The European Parliament Elections in May 2019 can be a great opportunity to show ad-hoc participation in politics. Optimists would hope that the lessons learnt from Brexit and the overall picture of growing radical right-wing parties would wake people up. But will they? The This Time I’m Voting campaign prepared well in advance of the election day to try and prevent, once again, low turnout. Will it manage to reach further than to those who already voted in previous elections? Or will we wait until May 27th to express our outrage on social media when the European extreme right obtains better results than ever in the history of the EU? The importance of constructing the EU we want cannot be stressed enough. Those who want a Europe of intolerance, of limited rights and freedoms cannot be the only ones casting their votes. The EU is a project under constant construction, and for now, it is not on Facebook that it will be shaped. However disappointing it might be that the not so distant threat of the radical right is what brings Europeans to the polls in May, it might mean a turning point towards a greater participation in the construction of the EU.
I wonder how my news feed will look in the morning of May 27th. Will it be full of indignant comments, of condamnations of the extreme right, of videos that compare contemporary radical parties to the fascists of the mid-twentieth century and philosophical quotes about the power of democracy, tolerance and resistance? Will these be accompanied by a low turnout figure? Or will it be different? No matter how strong mobilisation in social media can be, words without deeds remain just words.