Published:  12:22 AM, 11 September 2018

The rise of the far right in Europe

After Italy, Austria, Norway and Finland, it appears to be Sweden's turn to come under the baleful sway of the far right. The elections which have just come to an end have placed the far-right, anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats in a position from which they will likely influence the making of policy over the next few years. 

Although the results have not been as satisfying for the Sweden Democrats --- it has obtained 17.6 per cent of the vote in contrast to the 14.9 per cent it received in 2014 --- as had earlier been predicted in opinion polls, the party now has a very real, and portentous, chance of making it hard for a new government to be formed in the country. 

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven's Social Democrats have slipped to the lowest point in a century with 28.4 per cent of the votes, while the opposition Moderates could garner only slightly over 19 per cent. 

The centre left, in mathematical terms, has emerged with just 40.6 per cent of the vote, with the centre right coming by 40.2 per cent. In other words, protracted negotiations loom ahead for the mainstream parties to work out an arrangement that will have a new government in place. 

If the worst happens, any coalition which is cobbled into shape may see a need for support from the Sweden Democrats. That will change the political landscape even further in a country which has for decades been recognized for its social services and appreciated as a place where politics has regularly been a decent affair. 

But the global market crash of 2008 and the refugee crisis beginning in 2015 caused dents in the political fabric of the kind that has already laid other states in Europe low. 

That is understandable, but what is surely worrying is the rise in anti-immigrant sentiment in large parts of the continent which may cause a long --- and lengthening --- shadow over the future. 

There is the neo-Nazi threat in Germany. The French have so far been able to keep Marine Le Pen at arm's length, but whether such resistance can hold remains to be seen. Away in the United States, the rise of extreme conservatism under Donald Trump has been a major reason for worry since the election of 2016. 

All of these developments are a call to western governments for a unified, rational policy on immigration as well as human rights, for the simple reason that a vast majority of the refugees seeking shelter in the West are trying to escape poverty and armed conflict in their home countries. 

It is perfectly understandable that Europe cannot forever go on welcoming immigrants into its territory, but unless ways are found to encourage stability and human and economic rights in countries from where these refugees escape, the problem will persist. 

There is another concern where the rise of the far right in Europe is concerned. It is that the increasing influence which the far right has been exercising threatens to undermine liberal social order in the continent and install in its place a regime of political intolerance that may lead to bigger problems in the coming days. 

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