The Rise of Right-wing Populism Across The World
The rise of right-wing populism across the world is truly alarming and disturbing.
History is repeating itself, as it usually does, and it’s not a good sign. It’s something we should be concerned about. Something we should stop and avoid, for it’s changing for the worse.
Because the rise of right-wing politics poses a great threat to our future. Instead of uniting humanity, it will end up dividing us even further, making us more selfish in our approach to world problems.
Now, this may sound like an exaggerated statement. But it’s really not. It’s a fact.
In the aftermath of World War II, right-wing populism had subsided. It was a political ideology that was frowned upon, as it had created men like Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco. These men had led millions of people to destruction and death.
And since the end of the war, the world has not seen such a sudden surge in right-wing populism as we are seeing it happening today. People are growing more and more intolerant of each other. And politics is getting more and more radical in nature.
Again, this is a terrible sign!
For those of you who are not sure what right-wing populism exactly means, and why is it so dangerous, let’s examine it a little more.
What is Right-wing Populism?
Right-wing populism is a political ideology that combines right-wing radical politics and populist rhetoric. It’s also known as right-wing nationalism, or right-wing extremism, or national populism, or radical nationalism. In many countries now, it’s also propagated under the disguise of plain old nationalism and patriotism, which makes it even more potent and dangerous.
Right-wing populism shows itself in different ways in different countries. In the Western world, it usually shows itself through its opposition to immigration, especially from the Islamic world, and through its anti-globalization, anti-environmentalism, and protectionist stance.
For example, in Europe, it reveals itself to be against the European Union, thereby advocating Euroscepticism, and it finds itself promoting Welfare Chauvinism.
Whereas in the USA, it reveals itself through slogans like ‘America First’ or ‘Make America Great Again’, even though there seems to be nothing wrong or offensive about these slogans.
And in a country such as India, it shows itself through religious politics, religious rhetoric, and religious propaganda, such as the advocacy of a twisted version of the concept of Hindutva, and through slogans like ‘India for Hindus’ and ‘Hindus First’.
Right-wing populism based on religion can be even more socially regressive, divisive, and harmful, than the ones based on economic reasons in developed countries. This is because, in a country such as India, which is steeped in religion and stuck in religious divides, and has had a history of communal riots and violence, things can get quite personal. Religious sentiments are easily hurt. People easily flare up. Killings easily occur. And all this in the name of religion!
It’s worthless, futile, and regressive. But, it works to win elections. And that’s all that matters, isn’t it?
Similar Traits Of Different Forms Of Right-wing Populism
In spite of the fact that right-wing populism comes in different forms in different countries, they all have certain similar traits and characteristics that make them one and the same.
All forms claim to be representing and speaking to the Common People.
All forms claim to be just and right.
All forms proclaim that they were compelled to go down the radical road in order to protect the country and its people, protect their pride and dignity, and their self-respect as a nation.
They all have rhetoric that is against the current establishment and usually professes anti-elitist and anti-wealthy sentiments.
And, at last, they believe themselves to be representing and speaking for the majority. And the funny thing is, slowly, gradually, but eventually, the majority starts believing it too.
And that’s when the problem starts!
Countries Experiencing A Surge In Right-wing Populism
Let’s take a look at 5 countries that are currently riding the wave of right-wing populism:
India has become one of the latest victims of right-wing populism. It has fallen into the age-old trap of populist rhetoric frequently used by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The BJP is a right-wing party that has historically reflected Hindu nationalism. The rhetoric used by the BJP leadership is filled with religious undertones, sometimes too blatant to ignore, and sometimes so subtle that one might not think of it twice. And it’s all aimed toward one particular goal, that of exploiting religious sentiments.
The BJP, led by India’s current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, came into power in 2014 with the promise of a new India. And since then, it has comfortably consolidated its power and influence as the ruling Government in the absence of any effective opposition.
In 2019, the BJP was voted into power again. And once again, they achieved this feat mainly with help of their target audience – the Hindu majority.
The BJP’s ideology is simple and straightforward. It promotes and follows the ideology of Hindutva (Hindu Nationalism). The word ‘Hindutva’ was popularized by V. D. Savarkar, who intended to disconnect it from any religious connotations that had become attached to it. Hindutva roughly means ‘Hindu-ness’. A concept of Indian cultural, national, and religious identity. A concept that sees Indian culture through the lens of Hindu values.
But ironically, the BJP has done the exact opposite in order to come into power and continues to do the same in order to remain in power. It blatantly uses the very term to advocate one major religion – Hinduism. And its followers use phrases like ‘Hindu Rashtra’ (Nation for Hindus) or ‘India for Hindus’.
The BJP’s ideology is more aligned with social conservatism, and its foreign policy is based on Nationalist principles.
In 2017, for the first time since its inception, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) entered the federal parliament with 12.6% of the votes, thereby becoming Germany’s largest opposition party to the Angela Merkel-led Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
The AfD’s popularity has soared to such an extent that it now has representatives in every state parliament.
The AfD is known for its stance against the European Union and immigration, staunchly advocating the implementation of stricter anti-immigration policies. When Germany allowed over a million immigrants, who were all mostly undocumented and from the Islamic World, to enter its borders, the AfD experienced a drastic surge in popularity.
The AfD openly voices its anti-Islam sentiments, which seem to resonate with its supporters. The right-wing party is strongest in East Germany, where its supporters frequently hold ‘Anti-Islamization’ rallies and shouts slogans like ‘We are the People’, which is a slogan of the anti-communist protests of 1989.
The rhetoric used by the AfD is also populist and nationalistic in nature. And if things continue as they are, it won’t be too long until the AfD’s influence spreads across the whole of Germany.
Jair Bolsonaro, currently serving as the 38th President of Brazil, is a Brazilian Politician and retired Military Officer. He served in Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies from 1991 to 2018, representing the State of Rio de Janeiro.
In 2018, Bolsonaro was elected as a member of the conservative Social Liberal Party before cutting ties with them and becoming Independent. He has been in office since 1st January 2019.
Bolsonaro is considered a controversial politician. His views and comments are far-right and populist in nature and have polarized the Brazilian public, drawing both criticism and praise. He’s vocal about his stance against abortion, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and secularism, and has a history of making misogynistic statements.
He’s a strong supporter of national conservatism, and he advocates economically liberal and pro-market policies. He has previously stated that he would open up the Amazon to extractive industries such as mining companies, regardless of the impact it would have on the indigenous people and on the environment.
And Bolsonaro has followed up on his statements. He has already ended protections for Indigenous groups in the Amazon and has accelerated its destruction through deforestation.
On previous occasions, he has also threatened to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
The most prominent right-wing populist party in Italy right now is Lega (League), led by the Italian politician, Matteo Salvini.
Salvini formerly served as the Deputy Prime Minister of Italy and as Interior Minister.
At present, Salvini is one of the key figures in Europe’s nationalist scene, commanding great popularity among far-right supporters. He’s considered one of the important leaders of the populist wave that hit Europe in the past decade.
Much like many other populist parties, the League holds anti-immigration, anti-globalization, and protectionist stances, and is known for its Eurosceptic outlook. The league is a staunch critic of the EU and the euro, as well as the EU’s management of asylum seekers.
The League’s power base has primarily been in the North, where it has its staunchest supporters. But under Salvini’s leadership, the League has lately extended its reach to the rest of Italy, enjoying its highest popularity yet. The party’s popularity coincided with the influx of immigrants from North Africa in 2016.
In the 2018 general election, the League was the third-largest party. And by the time the 2019 European Parliament election came around, it became the largest party, clearly indicating its sudden surge in popularity.
If the same trend continues, the League may even become the most powerful party in Italy.
Well, I know it’s a little too late to be mentioning the USA on this list. After all, Trump is no longer its President.
However, it’s important that we look into it nonetheless.
The election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the USA sparked outrage across the world.
Donald Trump epitomized the image of a far-right populist leader. He claimed to be speaking on behalf of the majority (he wasn’t exaggerating). His election to the Presidency proved that claim of his.
He promised the Americans that he would make America great again, that he would protect the interests of America and its citizens, and that whatever he did, America’s interest would be first on his agenda.
And the people believed him. Not all, but enough of them to get him elected.
Trump’s rhetoric was that of a quintessential populist leader. He frequently made controversial statements that divided the American people, and he too has had a history of uttering racist, misogynistic, anti-environmental, and anti-immigration statements.
His foreign policies were nationalist in principle, and he was vocal about his opposition to immigration, especially from under-developed and developing countries. He also famously pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
A lot of things Trump said and did were highly questionable. And more importantly, towards the end of his Presidency, his words were said to have incited the riot at Capitol Hill, which was the first time such a grave illegal act had ever taken place in the heart of American Democracy.
Fortunately, the citizens of America were smart enough to get rid of him before more damage was done. They have saved themselves and their country from ruin, and we can only hope that other countries follow America’s example.
America succumbing to the wave of right-wing populism should serve as an important lesson to all the other nations. For if it can happen in America, it can happen anywhere.
Unfortunately, the actual list of countries experiencing this wave is not so short. Right-wing populism and radical politics seem to be spreading like wildfire across the world, especially in Europe.
Other countries in Europe such as Spain, France, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, and more, are also riding the same wave of right-wing populism.
What’s the reason for this dramatic rise?
Are people just too reluctant to see its potential and inherent dangers? Or is it that people are fed up with secular, liberal values, seeing no real value in them?
Rest assured, the years to come will provide us with an answer.