European Politics

Rage Against the Center

Syriza AFP
A Greek anti-austerity protestor.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Europe’s political system is fragmenting as voters desert traditional conservatives and Social Democrats for more radical alternatives.

  • Facts


    • UKIP, a party that wants Britain to leave the European Union, is now the third-biggest party, attracting almost 4 million votes in last week’s election.
    • Marine Le Pen, the leader of the Front National in France, is likely to make the second round of the French presidential election in 2017.
    • Spain’s Podemos won 8 percent of the vote in European Parliament elections.
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As Nigel Farage, the head of the United Kingdom Independence Party, learned last week he had not won a seat in Britain’s parliament, it looked like his euro-skeptic party had received a drubbing.

Yet despite winning only one seat in Britain’s first-past-the-post system, UKIP’s brand of populist conservatism appears to be alive and well in a country still grappling with the fallout of the global financial crisis.

UKIP, which wants Britain to leave the European Union, is now the third-biggest political force after the conservative Tories and Labour, winning 3.9 million votes, or 13 percent of the vote.

Just as significant, UKIP finished second in 120 voting constituencies in Britain, leaving it well poised to build on its gains in the 2020 election.

The party’s euro-skeptic push had a direct impact on Britain’s election campaign, with Prime Minister David Cameron promising an in-out referendum on British membership in the E.U. by 2017.

UKIP is not an exception in Europe, but increasingly, the rule.

While a very British part of the British electoral landscape, UKIP belongs to a growing wave of populist parties, on both the right and left, that are increasingly making a bid for the political center of Europe.

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