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Wednesday, 8 May, 2002, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
Analysis: Right wing takes centre stage
Pim Fortuyn
Europe's far right parties have a common set of ideas
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By William Horsley
BBC European affairs correspondent

Europeans have heard many expressions of relief over the defeat of Jean-Marie Le Pen and shock over the murder of Pim Fortuyn.

Mainstream political leaders still hope that the far-right-wing movement will subside but the signs are that it has moved from the fringes of European politics towards the centre and may be moving the boundaries of political orthodoxy.

Far-right groups are regularly vilified as racist but Pim Fortuyn's death is proof that some right-wing politicians are victims of a campaign of hate and intolerance by their opponents.

That is what Mr Le Pen and others have long claimed.

Common ideas

Despite differences of style and emphasis there is a common set of ideas among the resurgent right-wing movements in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Portugal and elsewhere.

It consists of stopping, or reversing, immigration, restoring at least part of the powers that are being, or may be, taken from nation states by the European Union and breaking the allegedly corrupt power structures in some countries.

On that platform the Freedom Party in Austria, and the Northern League and National Alliance in Italy are already in government.

Jean-Marie Le Pen
In some European countries, support rates of "far-right" parties have reached national levels
In Denmark the People's Party has a centre-right government at its mercy, resulting in much tougher immigration and asylum policies, and governments in every EU state have either had to take notice of the growing voice of the popular right with new policies or have suffered at election time.

Changing landscape

It may already be wrong to speak of the legally constituted right-wing parties in Europe as the "far right", the support rate of so-called "far-right" parties has reached national levels of 18% in France, 27% in Austria and 23% in Switzerland.

The landscape is not changing, it has already changed.

The campaign manager of Jean-Marie Le Pen, Bruno Gollnisch, has boldly claimed that the National Front in France is a new "third force" which is destined to grow and eventually take power.

He compares the rise of the Front in that sense to the birth of the Labour Party in Britain in the early 20th Century.

It gradually replaced the Liberals to become one of the two great political parties of Britain together with the Conservatives.

Mr Gollnisch apparently sees the National Front trying to replace the Socialists as the main voice of ordinary French workers.

That seems quite unrealistic.

But the Front has taken a lot of votes from the communists and other far left groups, as well as some from discontented Gaullists.

See also:

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