- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 5, 2002

Europe's right flank may be on the march, but so far it has been a pretty disorderly parade.
French right-wing populist leader Jean-Marie Le Pen's stunning second-place showing in the first round of presidential voting on April 21 has focused a new spotlight on the recent successes of a host of parties offering similar anti-immigration, anti-EU platforms across the continent.
But as Mr. Le Pen faces President Jacques Chirac in the runoff ballot today, many of Mr. Le Pen's ideological comrades have rushed to distance themselves from him.
"These are parties that are linked mostly by what they are against, and they all reflect very national and even regional interests," said Ivo H. Daalder, a former director for European affairs at the National Security Council and now a foreign policy specialist at the Brookings Institution.
"They all strongly defend what they see as their national interest. It would be contrary to their interests to work together," Mr. Daalder said.
Many of the most prominent rightist leaders in Europe including Joerg Haider of Austria's Freedom Party, Umberto Bossi of Italy's Northern League and Pia Kjaersgaard of the Danish People's Party have taken pains in recent days to reject an alliance with Mr. Le Pen and his National Front.
Peter Skaarup, deputy leader of Denmark's People's Party, told reporters last week: "We defend Danish interests and we have no plans to create a pan-European party, even though we have denounced the [EU] bureaucracy in Brussels."
Mr. Bossi, a member of the coalition government of center-right Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and a sharp critic of the European Union, denounced Mr. Le Pen in an interview in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera as "an ultra-nationalist, anti-European fascist" an accusation leveled at him by many on Italy's left.
The Northern League "is not racist or xenophobic," said Mr. Bossi. While Mr. Le Pen advocates "throwing immigrants into the sea, we, on the other hand, want clear legislation."
The Democratic Centrist Union of Swiss industrialist Christoph Blocher, which won the single-largest bloc of seats in the last parliamentary elections with 23.3 percent of the vote has also rejected any suggestion of a cross-border alliance with Mr. Le Pen and his party.
Swiss rightist leader Uli Maurer Friday described his party as a "traditional middle-class and rural party. Le Pen's party is a xenophobic party, and there can be no parallel between the two."
On the Web site of the French National Front (https://195.246.155.17/accueil.htm), Mr. Le Pen has set up links to allied right-wing parties in Romania, Hungary, Portugal, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Greece but not to many of the continent's more prominent and politically successful rightist parties.
Perhaps the most interesting reaction has come from Austria, where the surprise second-place finish of Mr. Haider and his Freedom Party in 2000 rocked the country and led to condemnations by center-left governments across the continent.
In an irony that has not been lost on Mr. Haider, both Mr. Chirac and leftist French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin strongly supported the European Union's diplomatic blackballing of Vienna when the Freedom Party joined the government.
There are clear parallels between Mr. Le Pen and Mr. Haider, the spiritual head and public face of his party despite his refusal to take a post in the national government.
Both campaigned against increased immigration and both have been hostile to what they see as the encroaching power of the European Union's Brussels-based bureaucracy on the national sovereignty. Both have a populist, plain-speaking touch that contrasts sharply with their country's less colorful mainstream politicians.
Mr. Le Pen's slogan is "France for the French." Mr. Haider campaigns under "Austria for the Austrians."
And both have faced charges that they have exploited racist, anti-Semitic and anti-foreigner sentiments during their careers.
Mr. Le Pen has been dogged by a 1987 comment in which he described the Nazi gas chambers as a "detail" of World War II history. Mr. Haider has been forced to apologize for several comments that appeared to minimize Austria's Nazi past, including a speech in which he praised Hitler's labor laws.
Mr. Haider has described Mr. Le Pen's success in the April 21 vote as a "victory for democracy" but pointedly said he did not want to work with the French party.
"Le Pen has positions which are indefensible," Mr. Haider told Die Standard newspaper. "He has racist positions in his program."
While the far right in Europe may not display much unity now, there are signs that Mr. Le Pen's breakthrough could change the dynamic, analysts said.
Despite Mr. Haider's rejection, Mr. Le Pen suggested shortly after his first-round showing that the two should work together, praising the Austrian's "ambitious politics" and noting that the two have never met.
Mr. Le Pen said, "I've always had the feeling that Mr. Haider is very cautious about contacting us. But one must discuss common goals."
In Belgium, the separatist Vlaams Blok (Flemish Bloc) says it has already established working ties with the National Front. Bloc leader Filip Dewinter declared that he and Mr. Le Pen were "brothers in arms."
And Mr. Haider said last week that he is considering a pan-European rightist movement to coordinate candidates and strategy for the 2004 EU parliamentary elections, a group to be known as "New Europe."
Mr. Haider himself excluded the French rightists from his proposed bloc, but Andreas Moelzer, a close Haider adviser, told an Austrian newsweekly that that might change.
"It would be absurd to launch a European-wide list without that party," said Mr. Moelzer.

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