What is to be learned from success of right-wing parties across Europe?

Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH ProIgual

The most recent electoral gains for another ultra-nationalist party, this time in Hungary, where anti-Roma Jobbik shoot from nowhere into the tie for the second largest chunk of seats in the parliament, brought up another round of discussions about the economic crisis´ impact on the voters. Mainstream politicians, especially the left-leaning, are going to get it wrong again. It is not the crisis per se. It is not even deep-seated xenophobia in many European voters. It is simplicity with which right-wing/nationalist leaders explain their message to the voters, something that the more sophisticated politicians do not seem to be capable of, and that keeps costing them votes.

If we remember the previous elections to the European Parliament in 2004 (not at all a crisis period, on the contrary, a period of economic boom), right-wing parties had made considerable gains there. And elections, for example, in the early noughties in the Netherlands when Pim Fortuyn´s message was so well received, the country was not doing too bad economically, either. So, without discounting an economic crisis as a factor,  let´s admit that on its own it is not a decisive factor for people voting for right-wing parties.

The message of xenophobic parties is always quickly dismissed by the mainstream and especially left-wing counterparts as not worth talking about. But perhaps this is a mistake? Perhaps, the message, and especially the way it is presented, needs to be dissected, studied and in some ways even used? Just listen to the brilliant simplicity of “2 legs bad, 4 legs good,” or “foreigners steal our  jobs.” Trying to explicate that foreigners actually take jobs that natives do not want and make contributions to economy through paying taxes, work product, etc., somehow muddles up the message.

Perhaps, some liberals or even centrists are too well-educated and too sophisticated and that becomes a problem? Instead of using simple words, black-and-white images, and clear/memorable slogans they delve into all sorts of shades of grey — and get lost in translation, or even in their own message.

Of course life, and any public issue, is more complicated than black-and-white. But the European voters have grown accustomed to information presented with a lightening speed, whether it is a toothpaste commercial or presentation of a political platform. To be ahead of the game, mainstream politicians should refine their message — without losing its integrity. And who knows, maybe when pro-diversity, pro-immigration, pro-inclusion politicians learn to present their messages with similar, enviable simplicity of their opponents, the political landscape of many European countries might become quite different.