Another week, another victory for an anti-immigration party in Europe. Politico Europe reports:
The populist, anti-immigrant Swiss People’s Party (SVP) is on course for a record win in a parliamentary election held Sunday, with media reports suggesting it could win a third of the seats.
Already the country’s largest party, the SVP won 28 percent of the vote, according to the broadcaster SRF, a rise in support of 1.5 percentage points since the last election, in 2011. That would give the party 65 seats in the 200-seat parliament. The ATS news agency says the SVP will win 64 seats.[..]
The Swiss electoral system is complicated. The largest party does not form a government. Instead, the parliament will elect a seven-person government on December 9, with the make-up determined on the basis of proportionality and strategic deals struck between parties.
Migration was the key topic in the election campaign, with Europe’s refugee crisis playing into the hands of the SVP. A poll in August found that 50 percent of Swiss voters wanted to close the country’s borders to keep out migrants.
Meanwhile, in France, a new poll shows the incumbent Socialist party falling to third place behind Les Républicains and the Front National. And in Sweden, Austria, and the Netherlands, as we wrote last week, there have also been gains, either in polling or in elections, for the far right lately.
But there’s at least one place where the “populists” have not been surging: Britain. There, the Conservatives largely co-opted UKIP’s rhetoric, and some of its policies, in the run-up to the last election. This wasn’t just good for the (victorious) Conservatives; it was good for Britain. There are distinct advantages to having the immigration issue be handled by mainstream parties, not least that they have more experience governing. When center-right parties have voiced concerns about immigration, it has generally been less radicalized and less racialized than when far-right parties have owned the issue. And at a time when distrust of establishment parties has been fraying politics across much of Europe, mainstream interest in the issue also lets citizens know that their elites aren’t ignoring their concerns. Finally, of course, there are electoral rewards to be reaped by the mainstream parties that can successfully address immigration, assuming they can avoid putting off other demographics in the process.
Unfortunately, the UK is an outlier here. Across much of Europe, elites have been unable to embrace tough-on-immigration policies or unable to convince their electorates that they’re serious about maintaining these policies once in office. As a result, the radical fringes continue to prosper, in Switzerland and elsewhere.