The Rise of the Right

From the June-July 2008 Trumpet Print Edition

After years of left-wing dominance in German politics, the 2005 German federal election brought conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel and a center-right coalition into power. Events have since proven that Germany was only the first domino to fall in what has become a massive surge to the right in European politics.

The majority of European Union member states have been dominated by leftist political parties from the 1980s until recently. Since Merkel’s election, however, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Austria and France have all experienced a right-wing swing in their national governments. It should come as no surprise then that Italy rejected Romano Prodi’s left-wing administration in favor of Silvio Berlusconi and his right-wing coalition.

Berlusconi was elected prime minister of Italy on April 14 during a snap election called after the collapse of Prodi’s left-wing coalition government in January. Prodi’s government fell apart when Clemente Mastella, the Catholic leader of Italy’s Udeur Christian Democrat Party, withdrew his party from the coalition after conferring with Catholic Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco. Prodi dared to take an opposite stance from the Vatican on the issue of abortion and was ousted in favor of Berlusconi because of it.

The coalition Berlusconi has formed could hardly be more different from Prodi’s. It is the most conservative that Italy has seen in years. The Communist and Green parties—which traditionally have had a strong presence in Italy—did not even get a single seat in the parliament. The parties that won out in the recent election were ultra-conservative parties like the post-fascist party Alleanza Nazionale and the anti-immigration party Northern League.

Berlusconi has pledged to support an international moratorium on abortion and to close Italy’s borders to illegal immigrants—whom he calls “the army of evil.” These positions are sure to bring Italy more in line with the Vatican and the other right-wing governments of Europe.

This shift to right-wing conservatism is acting as a unifying force in the European Union as nations across Europe take a common view on how to solve problems like illegal immigration, economic slowdown and global terrorism. Such a unified approach also presents a perfect scenario for a single European nation to rise up as the leader of the EU. As Stratfor reported, “A right-leaning Europe could be united under one leader, particularly since the states are brought closer together by common problems such as immigration and economic reform. … For the first time in decades, Germany is a full and powerful member of the European community. More important, for the first time in centuries, there is no established political regime in Europe to counter German ambitions” (June 8, 2007).

Germany was the nation that kicked off this conservative shift in Europe. Germany is the nation that most Europeans look to for leadership. The EU’s political landscape is surging right. Expect Germany to take advantage of this situation and to emerge as the full-blown leader of a united Europe.