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24 June, 2024
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The rising tide of nationalism

Analyzing the global wave of nationalism and its impact on politics and society



By Demetris Demetriou*

The Netherlands and Argentina represent two additional victories in the surge of populism and nationalism that the world has witnessed over the past decade. If we trace the origins of this wave to Trump's 2016 election and Brexit shortly afterward, we find ourselves confronted today with a tsunami of extremists ascending to positions of power. In Austria, Italy, France, and Germany, where they have become second parties, and just recently in the Netherlands, analysts speculate about Belgium following suit, and the return of Trump cannot be ruled out.

I am not optimistic about whether the rise of extreme, racist parties can be halted. The only certainty is that we must fight it.

The main concern for Dutchman Geert Wilders, the far-right leader of the winning party, centered around immigration, a theme similarly prevalent in Italy when Meloni triumphed. The failure to address or even acknowledge the changing landscape since the mid-2010s has proven costly for the Union. Unless they recognize this now and have the courage to embark on a bold reassessment with substantive measures, the unfortunate truth is that the rise of populism, nationalism, and the far right will persist.

The second driving force behind the rise of populists in the Netherlands relates to the cost of living, a precision painfully felt every day by every European citizen in the middle and lower classes. An unrestrained populist discourse was bound to resonate. Here, too, the European Union needs to find solid ground, steering clear of regressive populism, to empower and provide relief to citizens, employing policies similar to those implemented during the pandemic.

Politically, the normalization of the far right has regrettably permeated through center-right parties. Driven by the anxiety to govern or secure a parliamentary majority, they entered into questionable collaborations with these parties. This phenomenon has been witnessed in numerous countries, including our own. Unfortunately, it's a mistake staring us in the face. I'm not asserting that the rise of the far right is solely due to cooperation with center-right parties, but certainly, their normalization through such collaborations, facilitated by democratic processes that grant them a leading role in political activity, further fortifies their upward trajectory. Today, we face a significant challenge both in Cyprus and the European Union. With European elections in seven months, indications are unfavorable. I am not optimistic about whether the rise of extreme, racist parties can be halted. The only certainty is that we must fight it. From my perspective, the path is clear. We need to speak honestly about who the extremists are, expose them, and strip them bare. Any attempt to appease them, both themselves and the public, with utopian hopes of electoral gains from this stance would be suicidal. We must openly address the dangers of the extreme right, articulating what it means and the consequences of allowing snake eggs to multiply.

In Cyprus, it has been long overdue for us, as the Democratic Rally, to confront this danger. To discuss the distinctions between nationalism and populism. Unfortunately, we neglected this, leaving public opinion confused and concluding that the two are synonymous. We should have marginalized the proponents of populism and racism. Regrettably, not only did we not confront it directly, but we also attempted to collaborate with it at times and tried to emulate it at others. Clearly unsuccessful, it acted as a misprint that not only failed to compete with the original but also contradicted our fundamental principles. Let's address it today. Better late than never. But to do so, we must believe in it and sustain the effort. In my view, battling the monster of nationalism and populism is a one-way street for our party. It's axiomatic that when you consistently and continuously serve a fundamental principle, you will ultimately emerge victorious.

*Mr. Demetris Demetriou is a Member of Parliament for Nicosia DISY and the Chairman of the House Standing Committee on Institutions. Twitter: @dmdemetriou

[This op-ed was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  nationalism  |  racism

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