Opinion Dan O'Brien

Wednesday 17 October 2018

European politics still trending dangerously towards extremes

Germany's elections will have far-reaching implications for a post-Brexit Europe, writes Dan O'Brien

Frau Merkel: She has been weakened by last week’s election result — so can her centre hold? Photo: AP
Frau Merkel: She has been weakened by last week’s election result — so can her centre hold? Photo: AP
Dan O'Brien

Dan O'Brien

The tectonic plates of European politics have shifted more since 2010 than in the previous two decades. With Democratic Europe's three biggest and most influential countries having held general elections over the past six months, a changed landscape is emerging. What are the implications for Europe and Irish interests?

Up until the French and Dutch elections last spring, there was much dark talk about Europe heading back to the 1930s. After the hard-right suffered a setback in the Netherlands and the arch-centrist, Emmanuel Macron, won the presidency in France, a wave of commentary suggested the populist surge might have peaked. Last weekend's German elections has raised fresh concerns about extremism after the far right did better than expected, and will enter parliament in Berlin for the first time since the Nazi era.

With commentary blowing this way and that depending on the outcome of the latest election, the important thing is to look at the underlying trend. Political scientists Giacomo Benedetto and Simon Nix have done exactly that by meticulously looking at all elections across democratic Europe over many decades.

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