World News and Trends: Right-wing movement sweeps Europe

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Right-wing movement sweeps Europe

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Dutch rightist and party leader Pim Fortuyn was assassinated on May 6, not long after his party's surprising showing at the Dutch polls. It came second in a country whose governmental structure usually embraces a coalition of parties.

In France, extremist party leader Jean-Marie Le Pen came in second in the French presidential race, consigning socialist Prime Minister Leon Jospin to third place and paving the way for his ouster from government. This left France in a state of shock, producing a national scare that in turn engendered the overwhelming victory of incumbent President Jacques Chirac in the runoff.

These headline-grabbing changes are indicative of what is taking place a little more quietly in much of Europe. According to The Economist: "A pattern may now be emerging across the EU [European Union]. Centre-left and social democratic governments are losing power to centre-right governments. In the past year the left has lost power in Italy, Denmark, Portugal and now the Netherlands. In France, the Socialists' candidate [Leon Jospin] failed to reach the final round of the presidential election."

Germany's Social-Democratic chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, faces a tough challenge from the farther-right Edmund Stoiber in September's elections. Jörg Haider's right-wing Freedom Party is gaining ground in Austria's ruling coalition. Racially extremist National Front movements are on the rise in both Britain and France. Said Claude Allégre, former education minister in the socialist Jospin government: "We are witnessing a Europe swinging back towards the right, and sometimes towards the extreme right. And France is no different. Why should it be? Pink Europe is finished."

The New York Times succinctly sums up the current situation: "From Spain to Scandinavia, European politics is drifting to the right. As the economy slows, political parties stressing law and order and stricter controls on immigration are gaining ground, and mainstream conservative politicians are becoming more popular."

At the heart of the problem is the westward refugee movement from Eastern Europe. The iron curtain and Berlin Wall are no more. People pour into the nations of Western Europe demanding asylum amid a climate of high unemployment (on the Continent) and strained social and financial resources. Often the citizenry resents the sudden presence of these refugees, however compelling their individual cases may be.

Margaret Thatcher's observations are instructive in her new book, Statecraft. "During my lifetime most of the problems the world has faced have come, in one fashion or the other, from mainland Europe, and the solutions from outside it" (2002, p. 320).

From time to time since the era of the Roman Empire, the European continent has been host to damaging revolutionary movements that periodically repeat themselves, devastating the land with pain and death. The worry is that a European superstate may lead the next wave. Our free booklet The Book of Revelation Unveiled shows where these trends fit in Bible prophecy. (Sources: The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor [electronic edition], The Economist, Statecraft, The Sunday Times [London].)