ANTI-IMMIGRATION FEVER: A NORTHERN DISEASE?

Alberto Nardelli, George Arnett, The Guardian, June 19, 2015
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hat is so special about the social fabric and political culture of Northern European countries that makes them easy prey to anti-immigration right-wing parties, being as they are relatively removed from Europe’s immigration borders in the East and South? Denmark is a good place to start looking for answers. The election there, on June 18, was deemed historic not because of the loss of power by the center-left social-democrats, but because of the rise of the right-wing Danish People’s Party (DPP). It won the biggest vote share in its 20-year history. The Danish election continues a trend that began in Norway in 2013: the rise of right-wing, anti-immigration parties in Nordic countries. Although such parties are on the rise –with few exceptions– across Europe, the Nordic results make a bigger difference because of their more representative voting systems: the parties’ parliamentary strength is greater in Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway than elsewhere. In the UK, UKIP’s 12.5% vote share in May’s national elections translated into just one seat. Britain’s first-past-the-post system rewards the winner in each district, and penalizes the loser. The Front National regularly struggles to win seats in French elections because of the country’s two-round voting system, in spite of polling consistently above 20% in the last few years.

Over the past 20 years, the DPP, the Sweden Democrats, the Finns in Finland and Norway’s Progress party have all increased their support sharply in election after election. Anti-immigration feelings in the electorate are one big factor that explains their surging popularity. Surprisingly, attitudes to immigration have become significantly more negative in Sweden and Denmark. According to the Eurobarometer, a record number of citizens in these two countries now see immigration as one of the two most important issues facing their societies. In Finland, however, the share has declined after spiking between 2007 and 2010 (support for the right-wing Finns follows the same pattern). Immigration is now seen as less urgent than the economic crisis and the rising unemployment (the country was in recession last year, and growth has yet to resume this year).

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The writers of the famous Danish TV series ‘Borgen’ couldn’t have concocted a more shocking episode than the one that unfolded during Thursday’s general elections.Bo Lidegaard, The New York Times, June 21, 2015
Why Spain, one of the countries hit hardest by the economic crisis, with some of Europe’s highest levels of unemployment, has not seen a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment? (…) Spain is generally open, committed to integration, and more concerned with enlarging avenues for legal immigration rather than limiting flows.Joaquín Arango, Migration Policy Institute, March, 2013
Yet another anti-immigration party has performed unexpectedly well in a European election [in Denmark]. (…) It’s certainly part of a trend, and it’s easy to assume a connection with the growing influx of immigrants (…). The assumption would be wrong. The parliamentary representation of anti-immigrant parties is not correlated with the share of non-native-born residents in a country.Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg view, June 19, 2015
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ANTI-IMMIGRATION FEVER: A NORTHERN DISEASE?

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