February 27, 2017


France's National Front scandal has exposed the dirty little secret of Europe's far right (Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman, Feb. 23rd, 2017, Washington Post)

Right-wing populists like the National Front typically hate the European Union. They advocate radical changes to the European Union -- or outright withdrawal from it. Yet without the support of the European Union, they almost certainly would have a far weaker voice in national politics. Many far-right parties rely on Europe both for elected positions and for money.

The first key resource that Europe offers to far-right parties is the chance to get elected. Far-right parties often have a tough time getting launched into politics. They are not part of the political mainstream, which means that they may face a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. People are unlikely to vote for these parties, even if they agree with some of the parties' positions, because they don't know much about them, and likely think the parties don't have any real chance of success.

European Parliament elections have boosted far-right parties like the National Front and the UK Independence Party. European voters don't take European Parliament elections very seriously, treating them as what political scientists call "second-order elections." This means that voters are more willing to use their European Parliament votes to protest the government and the political mainstream, making it more likely that they will vote for fringe parties, giving these parties greater credibility. When the National Front won a third of France's seats in the European Parliament elections in 2014, it sent shock waves through France and Europe.

The second key resource that Europe offers to fringe parties is money. Parties elected to the European Parliament or categorized as "Europarties" can receive European funding. This again can be very valuable -- especially to parties that do not have parliamentary funds or wealthy backers in their home countries. In theory, this money is supposed to go to Europe-level activities -- such as hiring assistants who help members of the European Parliament research legislation and do their jobs. In practice, there is not as much supervision over spending as there ought to be.

This is what has gotten the National Front into trouble. Le Pen is accused of having paid her chief political counselor and her bodyguard on the pretense that they were parliamentary assistants, when they were nothing of the sort. Other members of the National Front are accused of similar abuses.

...it fears coloreds will get the government largesse that we ofays deserve.  

Posted by at February 27, 2017 7:02 AM


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