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DW Documentary | May 20, 2019

2019 looks to be a good year for right-wing populists in Europe. Be it Italy, France, Hungary, Poland or Germany, many European countries are experiencing a shift to the right. Right-wing populists are expected to make significant gains in the European Parliament elections this spring.

Right-leaning party representatives have an agenda: they want to dismantle to the European Union. Guido Reil of Germany’s AfD party believes the best way to do that is by going to Brussels. “It is easier to destroy something from the inside than from the outside.” Joseph Sauvage, a cafe owner in Denain in northern France, backs Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National party, because he doesn’t want to see people in Denain abandoned. “When the factories closed, the small shops closed. There is nothing here, economically speaking. No work. It’s also changed politically. It used to be communist. But that changed with the end of opportunities for the working class.” His view of migration has also changed. “Immigrants are entitled to the same social benefits without ever having worked here.” Like Joseph Sauvage, Luca Davide, a member of Italy’s Northern League party, says he’s had enough of living in a run-down block in a small city full of foreigners. “We don’t need drug dealers, we don’t need illegals! We just want to live here in peace and safety.” In early February 2018, a right-wing supporter targeted Africans in a drive-by shooting rampage. According to Northern League leader Matteo Salvini, the EU shares “moral responsibility” for the act because it “filled the country with illegal foreigners.” Messages like these are met with support. Evidence of just how a state’s society and institutions change when right-wing populists come to power is evident in Hungary. Many judges, organizations that support refugees or human rights, scientists, and journalists speak of massive restrictions in Orban’s “illiberal democracy”. But a lot of young Hungarians starting to push back.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.