Europe’s populists seem set to pull off a major win in the European parliamentary elections this week. But populism’s real challenge to European democracy goes far deeper than its ability to force ideas long regarded as extremist or unsavory into the political agenda. Populist parties, even when not in the majority, are splintering the political party system, making governing more difficult. If support for populism and anti-establishment parties continues to grow, European democracies will remain on a trajectory toward an era of paralysis, unable to deliver results to an increasingly frustrated public.
Europeans, like many Americans, have grown disenchanted with politics as usual. In Europe, the financial crisis of 2008 and especially the refugee crisis of 2015 dealt a major blow to centrist parties that advocated for open markets and open borders. Greeks resented the economic austerity measures imposed on them by the European Union. Germans never got to vote on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to allow more than 1 million refugees into their country. As a result, a growing swath of Europeans no longer view mainstream political parties as representing their interests. Far-right populist parties have been the biggest beneficiaries of this growing resentment. Today far-right parties have a presence in 23 out of 28 European parliaments.
Read the full article in The Washington Post.