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The Winds of Europe Blow to the Right: How Conservatism is Gaining Momentum in the Old Continent

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If, before the pandemic, someone told you that the number of national conservative governments in the European Union would double, while at least two other parties waiting in the wings for the next election, you’d be called insane.

But that is the reality in 2022, when, after two years of pandemic restrictions and decades of uncontrolled migration with elites looking the other way, never affected by the policies they enact, people had enough.

Aside from the conservative stalwarts of the continent, Hungary, and Poland, two unlikely countries are set to join this list: Sweden and Italy.

The conservative revolutions in Sweden and Italy

After having left-wing governments for all but eight of the last 28 years, Sweden held general elections on September 12 in which the Sweden Democrats (SD), the conservative party led by Jimmie Åkesson, came in second. However, the typical European coalition system that in the past has neutralized conservative governments, this time helped SD: along with its potential allies, the Moderate Party, the Social Christian Party, and, perhaps, the Liberal Party, they have enough members of the parliament to form a government, albeit under the Moderate Party leader, Ulf Kristersson.

Nevertheless, even if Åkesson does not immediately become Prime Minister, his party will have a significant influence over the direction of the Sweden government. The Moderate Party has shown to be open to some of the immigration and law enforcement reforms proposed by Åkesson.

Italy is historically known for its quick change of Prime Ministers. The longest-serving prime minister since World War 2 was the first one, Alcide De Gasperi, who served for seven years. After him, the longest-serving Prime Minister is Silvio Berlusconi, who had an almost five-year period as PM and then served for another three and a half years.

No other Prime Minister has broken the three-year mark in 35 years.

But Giorgia Meloni seems poised to become the first female prime minister in Italy’s history.

A long-time serving congresswoman and the leader of Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) might finally break the three-year mark if she wins thanks to a not-so-disparate coalition formed by her party; Forza Italia, Berlusconi’s party, under which she served as Minister of Youth; and Lega Norte.

Lega Norte, led by Matteo Salvini, technically formed the first populist government in Italy’s modern history through a strange coalition with the Five Star Movement that, as usual, only lasted two years and a half. Now, under Meloni’s wings, it might be part of a solid majority in Congress that will likely take a stronger stance on migration and on the defense of the traditional family.

The UK and Spain

But that’s hardly it. The United Kingdom has a new government under Liz Truss. Truss can be hardly considered a staunch conservative as her career has been marked by a chameleonic survival instinct. Nevertheless, the most conservative wing of the Tories rallied behind her in an effort to fill her cabinet with solid conservatives and try to align her with them.

So far, she has appointed the pro-life MP Thérèse Coffey as secretary of health and deputy prime minister; a solid anti-transgender movement home secretary in Suella Braverman, James Cleverly, a pro-Brexit MP as foreign secretary; Ben Wallace, a staunch conservative, as secretary of defense (a position he already held under Boris Johnson); likely the most conservative MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg as the secretary for business, energy, and industry; and anti-woke conservative rising star Kemi Badenoch, as secretary of international trade.

Therefore, some are hopeful that appointing strong conservatives and Brexiters will steer Truss’ government to the right.

The increasingly unpopular government of Pedro Sánchez in Spain is set to face a difficult electoral challenge in 2023. Due to inflation, gas price hikes, high unemployment, unpopular education reform, and migration policies, Sánchez has a weak 36% approval rating. Many seem to believe that his coalition partners –the far-left—are steering most of his government’s policies, which is leading to the demise of his government.

The Popular Party, led by centrist Alberto Feijóo enjoys an eight-point lead over the government party, PSOE, with 32.3% of the voting intention and, if it enters into a coalition with the natcon party, Vox, it would have more than enough seats to form a government.

Of course, it remains to be seen if Feijóo, well known for caving to the left every now and then, will be open to forming a coalition with Vox, led by former PP congressman, Santiago Abascal. Yet, just having entered Congress less than five years ago, becoming the potential kingmaker in Spain is an astonishing success for Abascal’s party.

The future of national conservatism in Europe

Of course, this is not to say that conservative governments will overtake the EU. Far from it. However, after years of Poland and Hungary being left alone as pariahs for their border security, pro-family, pro-life policies, Sweden and Italy joining the list of right-wing governments might make it too hard for the EU to ignore. And a likely participation of Vox in a future government coalition in Spain, and the growth of parties such as Chega in Portugal and AUR in Romania means that we are closer to seeing more solidly conservative parties playing a significant role in government coalitions or taking a major role in the opposition.

Now, where has this national conservative revival come from? The answer is pretty simple: the mutation of the EU and the sheer inability (or apathy) to rule of left-to-center governments in the continent.

Sweden went from being a Nordic dream to a multi-cultural nightmare. The country has suffered 500 bombings since 2018. It has the highest per capita number of deadly shootings in the EU. Unsurprisingly, 85% of shooting suspects are first- or second-generation immigrants. Immigrant neighborhoods are centers of gang crime, with over 40 criminal clans operating in the government, according to the National Police Deputy Commissioner, Mats Löfving. Sweden was the country that took in the most immigrants per capita during the 2015 refugee crisis and now 23% of Sweden adults are foreign-born—and a large majority of those seeking asylum are male, around 70%.

To point out that there is a strong correlation between both elements should hardly be controversial.

But of course, the left-wing government typically responded by denying the seriousness of the situation and saying, along with the media and the intellectual class, that those calling it out –mostly working-class people—were racists. Who were the only ones paying serious attention to this issue? Of course, the Sweden Democrats.

Åkesson was also effective in stripping the party from its Nazi past and most extreme politicians, which, of course, help to create a new perception of the party.

The same concerns on migration have motivated a rightward shift in Italy, which is one of the top destinations of migrants from Northern Africa crossing the Mediterranean by boat.

However, Italy’s problems are far more systemic and go beyond mere policies, as in Sweden: Only three prime ministers have ruled the country for over three years since WW2. The latest attempt at a government coalition –a national unity government led by former EU bureaucrat Mario Draghi failed after a year and a half. What was the only major party that did not join the coalition? That’s right, Meloni’s FdI.

The formula for national conservatives varies between European countries but it seems to share at least three characteristics: isolating actual extremists, focusing on migration and crime, and taking a principled stance against the left and EU bureaucrats.

Edgar is political scientist and philosopher. He defends the Catholic intellectual tradition. Edgar writes about religion, ideology, culture, US politics, abortion, and the Supreme Court. Twitter: @edgarjbb_ // Edgar es politólogo y filósofo. Defiende la tradición intelectual católica. Edgar escribe sobre religión, ideología, cultura, política doméstica, aborto y la Corte Suprema. Twitter: @edgarjbb_

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