Thursday, Dec. 09, 2010

The Rise of Europe's Anti-immigrant Right

On a continent where the consequences of xenophobia in political life have been tragically demonstrated, anti-immigrant parties are on the rise. In Sweden's September parliamentary elections, the unabashedly anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats crossed the threshold for making it into Parliament and earned a caucus of 20 seats. That figure gives the party roughly 6% of the chamber's total seats — and major bargaining power as a swing voting bloc. The Sweden Democrats are part of a continent-wide right-wing surge, with similar parties making gains in Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands and Denmark. Politicians in those countries now feel at liberty to float such extreme measures as banning the Koran, Islam's holy book, and radical parties are being drawn into the mainstream as coalition partners by more-established conservative parties seeking governing majorities. As former Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen put it, "The conservatives are saying, If you can't beat the far right, join them."