iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) — As Donald Trump prepares to enter the White House, Europe is preparing for its own elections. After Trump’s victory, European right-wing populist movements are hoping that they will be victorious, too.
“Obviously I think the momentum is on the side of the right-wing populists,” Thomas Greven, adjunct professor at the Department of Political Science of the Free University of Berlin, told ABC News. “What we’re seeing now is mostly excitement on the part of the politicians of the right-wing populist parties. They are quite excited and overjoyed by what’s happening in the U.S.”
He said that anti-establishment politicians in Europe feel hopeful now because people who usually skip elections might feel that their vote can actually make a difference because of Trump’s surprising victory.
“When someone like Trump, who is so obviously unqualified, could be successful, it gives them hope that they can get some additional percentage points,” said Greven. “It’s plausible to think that people who have not voted in elections in Europe because they’ve been so disappointed with the system now see that ‘wow someone who has given voice to us could win’ — so they feel like it might actually pay off to vote and get engaged with politics.”
One of the first significant European elections will take place in Austria on Dec. 4 when voters have to elect a president in a re-match between former Greens leader Alexander Van der Bellen and the far-right Freedom Party’s Norbert Hofer. In May, Hofer narrowly lost to Van der Bellen, but a new election was ordered because rules on ballot-counting were broken. Hofer could now become the European Union’s first far-right head of state.
On the same day as the presidential election in Austria, Italians will vote in a crucial referendum that focuses on a constitutional reform package proposed by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi who has said he will step down if the package doesn’t go through.
“The referendum symbolizes whether traditional politics can renew itself and if it can happen with popular support,” Umberto Marengo, research fellow at the Institute for International Affairs, an international relations think tank in Italy, told ABC News. “If it doesn’t go through, it sends the message that people won’t allow established politics to renew itself.”
He continued, “I think that in general when people see that other people are angry they become angrier. It’s not that they see Trump and vote for the far right, but when they see that other people are anti-establishment it reinforces that feeling.”
He said that the far-right Northern League party in Italy is pleased with the American election result while the Five Star Movement is happy but much more cautious because the party sees itself as anti-establishment but in favor of civil rights and pro-immigration policies.
Meanwhile, PM Renzi’s Democratic Party is hoping that it can rally liberals and leftists to vote in favor of the referendum, said Marengo.
“They hope that there will be a reaction from the left to come and vote to stop these irrational anti-politics,” he said.
In France, the presidential election is scheduled to be held in April and May next year. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, and one of the front-runners in the presidential race, was quick to congratulate Trump, saying his victory is part of a larger movement against political and media elites.
“It’s true that the National Front believes that Trump’s election will have an impact on the French presidential election because there are a lot of parallels between Trump and the National Front: a populist discourse, denouncing corrupted and inefficient elites. From the National Front’s point of view, there is a desire to capitalize on Trump’s election,” Sylvain Crepon, associate professor at The University of Tours, who specializes in the National Front, told ABC News.
But Crepon said he does not believe that the American election result will actually influence the French election.
“I don’t see how this could impact the French presidential election, either negatively or positively for the National Front,” he said. “I don’t think that the French will be scared to vote for Marine Le Pen because she complimented Trump, and at the same time I don’t see how Trump’s election could favor the National Front’s dynamic.”
Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.