The rise of the Right in Europe’s 2017 elections

by Thorsten Schrager and Kateryna Malofieieva

The controversial and polarizing 2016 US presidential election has cast a huge shadow over Europe and the rest of the world.

However, upcoming European elections could also have important ramifications in the “Old World” as well as on the global political stage. Among those countries are the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and France.

A new renaissance of the political right, sparked by terrorist attacks, refugees and economic migrants flooding European mainland ignited a new trend which might lead to the end of Europe as we now it.


Much has happened in the Netherlands since the last general elections in 2012. Of particular interest is the rise of Geert Wilder’s Party of Freedom (PVV), the Dutch right-wing party that currently polls at 20 per cent. The PVV is of particular importance given their stance on the EU and their appetite for a referendum to leave the Euro-zone in the case of a PVV victory. This vote of course wouldn`t rest on any legal ground, and might be advisory at best, but it highlights another change in the new turbulent Dutch political environment. 

During the last two elections, the People’s Party of Freedom and Democracy (VVD) under Prime Minister Rutte was able to hold over 40 seats in Parliament and form two consecutive governments in 2010 and 2012 respectively. While traditionally it was enough for the major three established parties, the VVD, the Labor Party (PvDA), and Christian Democrats (CDA) to form a coalition out of two or three parties, this could significantly change during the 2017 elections cycle.

According to recent polls, a coalition would have to consist of five or six parties in order to achieve a necessary majority of 76 seats in Parliament.

The date for the most unpredictable elections, in the history of the Netherlands, is set on 15 March 2017.
With 15 parties in the run, and given the complex nature of the Dutch political system and climate, any kind of predictions about alliances are inconclusive.


A similar, but less dramatic picture, is seen in the German political landscape. The right-wing populist climate, which arose in Europe over the last couple of years, fueled by the migrant and refugee crisis, did not make halt at one of the top supporters of the EU.

The so called “Big coalition” consisting of Germany’s two biggest political parties: Christian Democrat Union (CDU), a centre right party, and the Social Democrats Party (SPD), Germany’s main parties are not in any imminent danger of losing power. Even if the two established traditional parties choose to part ways and form other coalitions. Either with the Green Party, the Linken (left party), or the reestablished Free Democrat Party (FDP), Germany’s liberal party.

A new player could emerge, on a federal level, after the 2017 elections. The Bundestag, the German parliament, might host six parties this time around. That’s one more than usual. The AfD (Alternative for Germany), similar to the Dutch PVV, represents a conservative populist vote with a main focus on refugees and immigration. According to recent polls (15 per cent) they might become the nation’s third strongest force following the CDU and SPD. Its popularity is on the rise, especially in the eastern states of Germany.
In Mecklemburg-Vorpommern, Angela Merkel’s own constituency, the CDU suffered a historical loss (19 per cent), coming in third behind the SPD at 30 per cent and the AfD at 20 per cent.

On a federal level, with the support of its Bavarian sister party the Christian Socialist Union (CSU), the CDU would only be in need of a single coalition partner in order to form a government. The SPD on the other hand (currently polling at 23 per cent) would need at least two partners.

For now, it is unlikely that any of the established would form a coalition with the right-wing AfD. But with an ever-evolving political sentiment in mind, alliances could reconfigure and change over the next couple of years. It already happened in other European countries. 


This year, Austria had a tough time electing a president. Austrians have had already two attempts to choose their president: in April and May 2016.

Two candidates participated in the second round – Alexander Van der Bellen, from the Green Party, and Norbert Hofer, from the extreme right-wing populist Freedom Party. Van der Bellen won the presidential elections by the slimmest of margins: 50.1 per cent. His rival won 49.9 per cent of the vote. The gap between the candidates was 31,026 votes.

However, the results of the second round were annulled and a re-vote is due to take place on 4 December 2016.


The french republic is almost there, where a lot of uprising right-wing parties want to see themselves. Namely in the final run round offs for the top political offices. 

France will choose its President on 23 April 2017. The presidential rally started in 2014 when the main candidates of the three main political parties were announced. There are president Francois Hollande; former president Nicolas Sarkozy, leader of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP); and Marine Le Pen, leader of National Front (FN), the national conservative party. According to the recent sociological survey: Hollande is in fifth place (nine per cent) as an expected voted in first tour, far behind Alain Juppe and Le Pen, whom lead with 28 per cent, and former Minister of the economy Emmanuel Macron (13 per cent).

Three weeks before the primaries, the second stage of TV debates among candidates from Republicans took places on 3 November. The audience gave former Prime-minister Alain Juppe 34 per cent, second became ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy (24 per cent). All together seven candidates from the Republican Party will fight for the right to be elected. Primaries will take place on 20 and 27 November.

According to the polls, the Republicans are favorites in the election due to Hollande’s declining popularity. Correlations among the growth of far-right movements in Europe and the results of the US election buoy the chances of candidates like Le Pan because of an increasing populist sentiment in the West.

Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Lithuania and the Czech Republic, all of which are going to have elections also have elections that will be held next year in which the chances of euro skeptics and populists wining seats, in their respective parliaments, are very likely. Of course one can`t lump all of them together, and many of them are nothing like their early 20th Century counterparts. But many different factors like

the European and world-wide banking crisis, the exponential increase in terrorist attacks, the fear of loss of cultural identity are reshaping the public political mindset.

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