The specter haunting Europe

Arriving migrants at Munich’s main train station, September 2015
Opponents of Europe’s political establishment seized on the migrant wave of 2015 to mobilize popular anger at globalization and torn social safety nets (source: dpa)
  • Relief that Europe dodged a populist bullet in the 2017 election year is premature
  • Having done little to regain the trust of voters, establishment parties remain vulnerable
  • Populism is seeping into the mainstream, and populists can still win in some countries

A specter is haunting Europe – but not the communist specter once envisioned by Karl Marx. Instead, a wave of populism is spreading across the continent, disrupting traditional political alliances and making the formation of stable governments increasingly difficult. In some cases, these movements are even making demands for secession that threaten the integrity of nation states. This mostly right-wing upsurge is driven by a deeply felt sense of popular dissatisfaction, and it is especially dangerous because established political elites remain in denial.

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