The electoral success of the Sweden Democrats, the far-right formation that has become the second most supported party in Sweden, precedes the definitive challenge of the radical conservatives in Italy, where they start with clear options to take power under the leadership of Giorgia Meloni.
The Sweden Democrats obtained in last Sunday’s elections more than 20 percent of the votes, an unprecedented result for a formation that has gone from being residual to having a decisive power in the post-electoral negotiations, in which the conservative parties will try to close a deal to oust the Social Democrats from power.
The historical path of Sweden Democrats largely resembles that of other European radical parties. Its leader, Jimmie Akesson, has modulated the discourse to leave behind controversial positions such as leaving the European Union and focus instead on ‘a priori’ more popular policies such as limits on immigration.
Not surprisingly, immigration, which has become a top-level debate in Europe in the wake of the 2015 crisis, has also boosted far-right parties in other Nordic countries such as Denmark (Danish People’s Party), Norway (Progress Party) and Finland (Party of the Finns, formerly True Finns).
In Italy, Meloni has tried to bury his empathetic words towards Benito Mussolini’s dictatorship and has been at pains to make it clear that, if he governs, he will not seek an exit from the EU or the euro. As potential partners he has Matteo Salvini’s League, which is trying to mask its public praise of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and a Silvio Berlusconi who has now become a supporting actor.
This three-way alliance starts, according to the polls, as a clear favorite in the September 25 elections, which would be an unprecedented milestone in Italian history. The far-right has already been in the government–Salvini pacting with the 5-Star Movement in 2018–but has never presided over it.
Only Poland and Hungary have governments headed by ultraconservative formations–Law and Justice (PiS) in the Polish case and Fidesz in the Hungarian case–which has led to constant pulses of both countries with the European Commission, jealous of the apparent setbacks to the rule of law.
In general, the ultra-right has been progressively gaining ground in recent years in various European countries, even in some which, like Spain and Portugal, had remained aloof to a phenomenon that gained strength in the early stages of the 21st century.
In Spain, Vox obtained more than 15 percent of the votes in the last general elections, in 2019, while in Portugal the Chega! (Enough!) party achieved this same year its best results by exceeding 7 percent.
Ireland remains the only country in the European Union where this type of party has not taken hold, while in others such as France and Germany clear cordons sanitaires have been established which, in practice, have prevented the far right from gaining access to power no matter how many votes they obtained.
Alternative for Germany (AfD) became after the 2017 elections the main opposition party, thanks to the ‘grand coalition’ agreed between the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD), but in the 2021 elections it slipped to fifth place.
In France, a two-round electoral system has acted as a firewall against the record support of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally. In the last elections, the party obtained more than 80 deputies in the National Assembly and is the French party with the most representatives in the European Parliament, but in the two most recent presidential elections – the last one this year – Le Pen has had to settle for second place.