The IRR has been following the fortunes of extreme-Right and anti-immigration parties in elections across Europe from September 2003-January 2004.
In the last five months, the anti-immigration Swiss People’s Party (SPP) has received a massive boost and polls predict significant gains for anti-immigration parties in Denmark and Norway. Far-right political parties in the UK and Germany have also made some gains at a local level. But in Austria, the Freedom Party, which is a junior partner in the coalition government, suffered substantial losses in provincial parliament elections in Upper Austria and the Tyrol.
- In Switzerland, the anti-immigration Swiss People’s Party won the largest share of the vote in the October 2003 general election. Its share of the vote increased by 5.2 per cent from 1999 to 26.6 per cent.
- The Danish People’s Party’s controversial leader Pia Kjaersgaard was voted Denmark’s most influential politician in 2003 and an opinion poll suggests that the DPP could now command 12.5 per cent of the national vote.
- In Norway, the anti-immigration Freedom Party (FrP) improved its share of the vote in regional and municipal elections held in September 2003.
- In Germany, the far-Right German People’s Union (DVU) made a significant breakthrough in municipal elections in Bremerhaven in September 2003 and now has four seats in the council assembly.
Race and asylum as election issues
The Swiss People’s Party campaign in the Swiss parliamentary elections was condemned by one newspaper as ‘the most explicitly foreigner-bashing in Switzerland’s history’. A series of aggressive posters targeting foreigners and asylum seekers were condemned by the UNHCR as ‘nakedly anti-asylum’ and ‘atrocious’. One poster, later withdrawn, carried a caricatured black face and a slogan reading ‘The Swiss are increasingly becoming the Negroes’. In Germany, the DVU election success in Bremerhaven came after racist slogans were used to capture votes. In local elections in Bulgaria, anti-Roma sentiments were openly used in electioneering – with leaflets put out telling people not to vote for certain candidates because they ‘love Roma’. In Russia, where the Union Against Illegal Immigration has been formed and is targeting immigrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus for xenophobic campaigns, a local election campaign in Jekaterinburg was characterised by intense anti-Roma racism.