Wall Street Journal
May 5, 2013
Europe's protest parties are on the march. The U.K. Independent Party, a fringe group once dismissed by Prime Minister David Cameron as "fruitcakes, nutters and closet racists," last week succeeded in taking 26% of the vote in local council elections, second only to the Conservatives. In Italy, the Five-Star Movement led by former comedian Beppe Grillo took 26% of the vote in February's elections. If there was an election in Greece now, 25% say they would vote for the radical leftist party Syriza and 10% would support the far-right Golden Dawn party. In France, the National Front took 18% of the votes in the presidential election last year. In Finland, the True Finns nationalist party took 19% of the vote in 2011 to become the third largest party in the country's Parliament.
To some observers, the rise of these fringe parties are the initial tremors of an earthquake soon to engulf Europe's complacent political elites. Their charismatic leaders have tapped into deep anxieties caused by the financial crisis to which the mainstream political parties have no answer.
According to this narrative—virtually an article of faith among British euro-skeptics—that is because Europe's political elites remain wedded to the disastrous European project, which lies at the heart of the continent's woes. With no sign of the debt-pooling needed to save the euro on the horizon, the electoral success of Europe's protest parties marks the start of a popular uprising against an arrogant elite whose dream of European unity has brought misery to millions.
Their answer is clear: the mainstream parties must renounce European integration or be swept away.
But this analysis is badly flawed. Yes, it is true that all these new fringe parties are to a greater or lesser extent euro-skeptic. But opinion polls show that in every case their electoral appeal largely reflects domestic political issues.