Upping the Anti

The left-leaning, anti-establishment Syriza party made political waves across Europe by winning power in Greece in the country’s recent general election, despite scraping just 4% of the vote a decade ago. With alternative political parties gaining popularity all over Europe, we take a look at the ones who are gradually luring voters away from the more established parties.

Podemos (Spain)
http://podemos.info/

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Politics: Left wing

Who are they?
Podemos (which means simply “we can”) say they’re “a tool for citizen empowerment” and aim to “transform popular outrage into political change; reclaiming institutions and putting them at the service of the citizens”.

Tell me more…
Leader Pablo Iglasias doesn’t just sound like a 90s pop star, but he has the enthusiastic public following to match. His party came out of nowhere to win 1.2 million votes in the 2014 European elections, despite the party only being four months old at the time. They’re also tearing up the established rulebook with their “Citizens Assembly”, a lengthy, complex process that allows draft resolutions and principals to be discussed online (“digital democracy”). Policy decisions/positions within the party are then made/taken by the people within it.

Policies:

  • Nationalisation of all public services and banking sector
  • A “Citizens Audit” allowing people’s personal debt to be written off if deemed too unaffordable.
  • “Basic income” for everyone (guaranteed money paid to each citizen regardless of need).
  • Leave Nato
  • Free access to abortion
  • Free access to euthenasia euthanasia

Success/Polls:
With Spanish national elections later this year, Podemos is polling around 30% – as high as the governing People’s Party. It became the third largest party in Spain within the first 20 days it allowed membership, with 100,000 signing up in that period and currently has more than 300,000 members.

Next elections: Late 2015

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Five Star Movement (Italy)
http://www.movimentocinquestelle.it/

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Politics: Populist

Who are they?
The Five Star Movement say they are a “party of the people rather than the establishment” and argue that they shouldn’t be defined using the traditional left/right paradigm. They say they offer “simplicity, transparency and the modest exercise of power”, and in a nation more used to the sleazy uncle-shaped sex scandals and wheeler dealing from (Carry On) Berlusconi, this approach seems to be gaining them a lot of support.

Tell me more…
Party leader Bebe Grillo is a former comedian, seemingly the Italian love child of Billy Connelly and Russell Brand. In 1980 he was convicted of manslaughter when he accidentally killed three people when driving, but that hasn’t stopped him striking a chord with many voters. Some critics call the party ‘extremists’, while expelled members have complained of a lack of internal democracy. These guys aren’t just all talk and no action either. After demonstrating in the Italian parliament against a law approved by the government, a brawl erupted between them and opposing parties. Hey, hey, calm down!

Policies

  • Support a 20 hour working week
  • A referendum on the Euro
  • Public consultation on policy via online outlets/”digital democracy”
  • Support renewable energy, the creation of “green jobs” and reject polluting and expensive industries
  • Support of same-sex marriage

Success/Polls: Came 2nd in EU elections gaining 17 MEPs and regularly poll around 20% of national vote.

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Alternative for Germany (AfD) (Germany)
http://www.alternativefuer.de/

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Politics: Right wing (ish. Sometimes. Kinda. But mostly. We think.)

Who are they?
AfD is a young party and still seems to be finding its identity, changing political colours more often than a chameleon. The labels the party has been given in the media include conservative, liberal, nationalist, isolationist and Eurosceptic, or even all at once.

Tell me more…
They hate the Euro and want it dissolved but insist they love the EU. They are sceptical of free trade and free movement of people, wanting national immigration quotas. They’re also want the poorer southern European countries to leave the EU. The party hierarchy openly support the controversial TTIP proposals (the proposed free trade agreement between the EU and the USA), but the party voted to reject it. Their views on same sex marriage appear to change depending on who in the party you ask. There have also been inter-party tensions over various political alliances, too. Senior members of the party have a more moderate stance and make it clear they don’t want to appeal or align with the extreme right wing, but there are sections of the party have openly shown support for movements such as Anti-Islamasiation group PEGIDA.  A true mess or a true reflection of today’s increasingly hazy, mixed up world?

Policies:

  • Tighter immigration rules
  • Tax breaks for families
  • Return powers from EU and abolish the Euro.

Success/Polls:
10-12% in the polls, expected to gain its first national seats in 2017 German election.

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Jobbik (Hungary)
http://www.jobbik.com/

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Politics: Accused of being neo-Nazis. Right wing, but they care about trees, too.

Who are they?
The party describes itself as “a principled, conservative and radically patriotic Christian party”, whose “fundamental purpose is the protection of Hungarian values and interests.” Other people outside of the party have described them as “facists”, “neo-facists”, “neo-Nazi”, “extremist”, “racist”, “anti-Semitic”, “anti-Roma” and “homophobic”.

Tell me more…
Jobbik have threatened legal action to media outlets who describe them as “far-right” and prefer the term “radical right wing”. (Obviously completely different.) Jobbik are against Jewish investment in Hungary, believe “Roma deviants” should be put in camps and argue that Jews are a national security risk. A few years ago, four Jobbik deputies were removed from parliamentary committees dealing with national security, defence and law enforcement, after failing strict security vetting procedures. Their 2009 election slogan was “Hungary belongs to the Hungarians”. Maybe they just need a hug?

Policies:

  • Rejects the influence of foreign investment in Hungary
  • Advocate of state control to protect Hungarian farming and business
  • Anti-EU
  • The defence and protection of the environment

Success/Polls:
Not the most cuddly of the alternative Europe bunch, it still hasn’t stopped them becoming the third largest party in the country. Increasing its share in recent polls, currently around 15% (20%) in national polls coming second in 2014 EU elections.

Next election: 2018

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UKIP (UK)
Ukip.org

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Politics: Right wing, flatcaps and rollies

Who are they?
Unless you’ve been vacationing in your holiday home on the planet Jupiter, you’ve probably noticed that pint quaffing “man-of-the-people”, Nigel Farage has been in the news once or twice recently.

Tell me more…
Ukip, formed in 1993 with the primary objective of getting the UK the hell out of Europe. In terms of success, the ‘People’s Army’ has seen big gains since the last election as it spotted the issue of immigration and rode it like a cowgirl. When Cameron became leader of the Conservatives he initially pushed the party to the centre, venting frustration at those in his party who kept “banging on” about Europe and heading off to council estates and the Artic to hug huskies and hoodies. This, along with the decline of the BNP, left a gap on the right-flank of British politics which Ukip has stepped into it with their message of anti-EU and low tax message. But increasingly it’s not just former Conservative voters but Labour voters too who have decided to support the party, helping UKIP win the 2014 European elections.

For the mainstream media, Ukip presented a strangely intoxicating mix of a charismatic and controversial leader and the odd bigoted loon that has sent them into an orgasmic trance from which they’re still enjoying a post-coital cigarette.

Policies:

  • Leave the EU
  • Tighten immigration rules
  • Lower tax
  • Boost NHS funding
  • Remove minimum wage workers from income tax.

Success/Polls:
Won the 2014 EU elections, won 2 by-elections and polling 15-20% nationally.

Next election: May 2015

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Front National (France)
www.frontnational.com/

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Politics: Right wing

Who are they?
The words ‘national’ and ‘front’ together can often conjure images of skinheads spouting racism on the streets of 1970s Britain. But when it comes to the french Front National, they describe themselves as “socially conservative protectionists”.

Tell me more…
Founded in 1972, the Front National serves up euroscepticism with a side dish of anti-immigration, and a referendum on the death penalty for desert.  Commentators are split on how to see the Front National of 2015. Some see them as the new force for centre-right politics, others see them as “outright fascists”.
Whatever they are, the approach is clearly working, gaining a significant share of the vote at the last election. Yet due to the French electoral system, the party’s representation in public office has been limited. Leader Marine Le Pen took over from her father as party leader in 2011 and still spends a fair chunk of her time publicly clashing with her Dad’s far right rhetoric.

Policies:

  • End bailouts to poorer EU states and allow them to leave the Eurozone
  • Dissolving the Euro
  • A ban on automatic immigration rights to join a spouse or family member residing legally in France and tighter immigration rules overall.
  • Protection for businesses and agriculture
  • The creation of 40,000 new prison places

Success/Polls
Largest French party at 2014 EU elections with 24.9% of the French vote.

Presidential elections 2017

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Greens (UK)
www.greenparty.org.uk

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Politics: Left wing

Who are they?
Beginning as the People’s Party in the 1970s, the 1990s saw the Greens gaining ground in European elections, but still largely unsuccessfuly in local and general elections. Thought of as the ‘windmills and sandals party’ by some, they’ve worked hard to broaden their policies and expand their appeal.

Tell me more…
The surprise win of Caroline Lucas in Brighton in 2010 was a huge boost to the party and made some in Britain’s somewhat weary, post-Labour givernment left sit up and take notice. As the Lib Dems have declined Greens have seen gains, coming third in the 2012 London mayoral elections and finishing higher in the in 2014 European elections than Nick Clegg’s party.

Whilst reviews of their tenure in charge of Brighton have been mixed, 2015 has seen media chatterings of the ‘Green surge’, and their website recently crashed after getting too many membership applications.

Whether David Cameron’s insistence on them being included in the televised debates is because he genuinely thinks they’ve earned a platform, or a cynical political move, is yet to be seen. Maybe he just wants some advice on the Downing St vegetable patch.

Policies:

  • Introduce a Citizens Income (a payment of at least £72 per week) to everyone, regardless of wealth
  • Nationalise rail services
  • A move to cleaner energy and away from dependence on fossil fuels
  • Want EU referendum
  • Don’t want UK to join Euro

Success/Polls:
Won its first MP in 2010. Some polls have put them above the Lib Dems and 4th in UK. On 15 January 2015, combined membership in the UK stood at 44,713; greater than UKIP (at 41,943) and the Lib Dems (at 44,576).

Next election:  May 2015

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Freedom Party (Austria)
http://www.fpoe.at/

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Politics: Right wing, they have been called ‘far right’

Who are they?
The FPO can trace its history all the way back to the Habsburg Austrian Empire revolutions of 1848, but evolved into its current form after merging with the Freedom Party in 1955. Initially established as a moderate, centrist liberal party, from the 1980s, the party gradually shifted to the right as the political landscape also changed around it.

Tell me more…
By the early 2000s, the party begun to champion more conservative values. Its leader Heinz Christian Strache may sound like a strange mix of children’s storywriter and a can of baked beans to British ears, but interviews reveal an even stranger fellow. He thoroughly denies being a Nazi, and the photo in where he is shown holding up three fingers does not depict a Neo Nazi gesture, he insists. He doesn’t appear to be a big fan of anyone who isn’t Austrian and spends his spare time trawling nightclubs, handing out cans of Red Bull and copies of his latest hip-hop CD to the yoof. (No, really!) Farage, eat your heart out.

Policies:

  • Tighter immigration rules
  • Low taxes
  • Committed to market economy
  • Against EU weakening the identity of member states.

Success/Polls:
Came 3rd in 2014 EU election with 20% of the vote.

Next legislative (parliamentary) elections: 2018

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Finns Party (Previously, True Finns) (Finland)
http://www.perussuomalaiset.fi/

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Politics: Populist: Described as ‘fiscally centre-left, socially conservative’ (earlier)

Who are they?
Gleefully skipping around Finland singing their signature song of centrist ideals, the Finns Party spend their time luring in disenchanted people from the left and the right. They boast a clutch bag of policies collected from across the political spectrum.
Tell me more…
Initially set up as a rural party, the Finns expanded from their core base of farmers in the 1990s and now appeal to Finland’s more well-heeled citizens.

The Finns propose “a more progressive tax system”, including raising capital gains tax and the re-institution of the wealth tax. They may well share the wealth, but not the love… The party “supports the traditional family model”, opposing same-sex marriage/adoption and also IVF for same-sex couples and single women. They approve of teaching “healthy national pride” in schools and support cultural activities that “promote Finnish identity”. Work-based immigration is welcomed, as long as they pay their taxes and subscribe to Finnish ways of life. Charismatic leader Timo Soini is a die-hard supporter of English football club Millwall.

Policies:

  • Strong support for welfare state
  • Anti-EU
  • Tighter immigration rules
  • Opposes same-sex marriage
  • Wants to raise capital gains tax and re-introduce a wealth tax.

Success/Polls:

  • Largest opposition party in Finnish parliament.

Next election: April 2015

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