Barring economic slump, Europe's populists may be peaking

Paul Taylor, Reuters, 21.04.2015

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It may sound counter-intuitive after the Euroskeptic Finns Party grabbed second place in Finland's general election, but a surge by anti-establishment protest groups sweeping Europe may be peaking.

With the exception of Greece, where a five-year depression propelled far left, anti-bailout Syriza to victory in January, radicals are unlikely to win power outright in any other European Union state this year, opinion polls suggest. [...]

In Britain and France, mainstream conservatives have played up the fight against illegal immigration, so-called "benefit tourism" within Europe and radical Islam, partly to try to wrest those issues away from Nigel Farage's UKIP and Marine Le Pen's National Front.

But with none outside Greece likely to win power alone, the radicals face a choice of joining coalition governments and moderating their demands -- which can cost them support -- or eschewing power to stay shouting from the outside.

"Those kinds of parties are probably better off staying outside and trying to exert influence," said Tim Haughton, an expert on European politics at Birmingham University in England.

Janis Emmanouilidis, director of studies at the European Policy Centre in Brussels, is less convinced that the populist wave has peaked, arguing that events could give it new vigor.

"A Greek default, if it happens, would definitely be a game-changer in a number of countries. The populists would say 'I told you so'," he said.

Others argue that if Greece implodes, European voters will think twice about voting for parties like Syriza. [...]

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