AP Exclusive: Europe's far-right wooing the young

AP

Print Article

  • FILE - In this Friday, April 26, 2019 file photo, far-right Vox party supporters attend an election campaign event in Madrid, Spain. In Spain, Vox’s gains have come at the expense of traditional conservatives, who were slow to counter the upstart party’s rise among the young. Its events include the popular "Pints for Spain" evenings at bars, nightclubs and cafes, where no one over 25 is allowed through the door. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

  • 1

    In this May 11, 2019 photo, far-right Vox supporter Amanda Puiggros, 22, distributes flyers after a party meeting in Barcelona, Spain. Europe’s far-right parties are going after young voters by fielding strikingly young candidates. In Belgium, Spain, France and Denmark and elsewhere, candidates in their twenties are working to mainstream once-marginalized groups. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

  • 2

    FILE - In this Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016 file photo, demonstrators hold torches during a far-right Thuegida rally in Jena, Germany. Young voters tend to turn out less than older voters, but AP has found that in many countries they’ve recently gone right further and faster. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

  • 3

    In this May 11, 2019 photo, Luis Felipe Ulecia, 24, far-right Vox party vice secretary for youth, speaks during a meeting for supporters in Barcelona, Spain. He has said, “A young kid who is highly motivated is capable of convincing many others. He talks to friends, he debates constantly with others, with family, that enthusiasm is contagious." (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

  • 4

    In this April 23, 2019 photo, Vlaams Belang party candidate Dries van Langenhove speaks with attendees at a debate with other party leaders in Zemst, Belgium. Until recently isolated as racist by the rest of the political spectrum, the Flemish independence party Vlaams Belang whose slate he leads in Flemish Brabant has a handful of seats in the parliament and a plan to more than double that. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)

  • 5

    FILE - In this Sunday, Sep. 18, 2016 file photo, far-right National Front president Marine Le Pen, waves to supporters during a meeting in Frejus, southern France. She re-branded her father’s far-right National Front party as the National Rally after losing the presidency to Emmanuel Macron in 2017. Despite the loss, she made important inroads among young French voters over her previous attempt in 2012, easily outstripping all the traditional parties in polling among the young as well as the far-left candidate. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)

  • 6

    FILE - In this Monday, Feb. 29, 2016 file photo, an illuminated cross with a sticker reading "Refugees not welcome" is displayed during a demonstration by PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West), near the Frauenkirche church in Dresden, eastern Germany. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

  • 7

    FILE - In this Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019 file photo, Jordan Bardella, 23, poses for portrait in Nanterre, outside Paris. He joined the far right National Front party at age 16 and swiftly rose to lead its youth movement and that of its successor. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

  • 8

    FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2015 file photo, a protestor holds a poster with a manipulated image of German Chancellor Angela Merkel wearing a headscarf and the Reichstag with a crescent on top, during a rally by the group Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA) in Dresden, Germany. Words on poster read, "Mrs. Merkel, here is the people." (AP Photo/Jens Meyer, File)

  • FILE - In this Friday, April 26, 2019 file photo, far-right Vox party supporters attend an election campaign event in Madrid, Spain. In Spain, Vox’s gains have come at the expense of traditional conservatives, who were slow to counter the upstart party’s rise among the young. Its events include the popular "Pints for Spain" evenings at bars, nightclubs and cafes, where no one over 25 is allowed through the door. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

  • 1

    In this May 11, 2019 photo, far-right Vox supporter Amanda Puiggros, 22, distributes flyers after a party meeting in Barcelona, Spain. Europe’s far-right parties are going after young voters by fielding strikingly young candidates. In Belgium, Spain, France and Denmark and elsewhere, candidates in their twenties are working to mainstream once-marginalized groups. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

  • 2

    FILE - In this Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016 file photo, demonstrators hold torches during a far-right Thuegida rally in Jena, Germany. Young voters tend to turn out less than older voters, but AP has found that in many countries they’ve recently gone right further and faster. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

  • 3

    In this May 11, 2019 photo, Luis Felipe Ulecia, 24, far-right Vox party vice secretary for youth, speaks during a meeting for supporters in Barcelona, Spain. He has said, “A young kid who is highly motivated is capable of convincing many others. He talks to friends, he debates constantly with others, with family, that enthusiasm is contagious." (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

  • 4

    In this April 23, 2019 photo, Vlaams Belang party candidate Dries van Langenhove speaks with attendees at a debate with other party leaders in Zemst, Belgium. Until recently isolated as racist by the rest of the political spectrum, the Flemish independence party Vlaams Belang whose slate he leads in Flemish Brabant has a handful of seats in the parliament and a plan to more than double that. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)

  • 5

    FILE - In this Sunday, Sep. 18, 2016 file photo, far-right National Front president Marine Le Pen, waves to supporters during a meeting in Frejus, southern France. She re-branded her father’s far-right National Front party as the National Rally after losing the presidency to Emmanuel Macron in 2017. Despite the loss, she made important inroads among young French voters over her previous attempt in 2012, easily outstripping all the traditional parties in polling among the young as well as the far-left candidate. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)

  • 6

    FILE - In this Monday, Feb. 29, 2016 file photo, an illuminated cross with a sticker reading "Refugees not welcome" is displayed during a demonstration by PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West), near the Frauenkirche church in Dresden, eastern Germany. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

  • 7

    FILE - In this Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019 file photo, Jordan Bardella, 23, poses for portrait in Nanterre, outside Paris. He joined the far right National Front party at age 16 and swiftly rose to lead its youth movement and that of its successor. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

  • 8

    FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2015 file photo, a protestor holds a poster with a manipulated image of German Chancellor Angela Merkel wearing a headscarf and the Reichstag with a crescent on top, during a rally by the group Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA) in Dresden, Germany. Words on poster read, "Mrs. Merkel, here is the people." (AP Photo/Jens Meyer, File)

BOKRIJK, Belgium (AP) — They are strikingly young, but emphatic that they should not be considered newcomers. Rather, they are claiming the mantle of Old Europe at its most traditional.

Several of this year's far-right candidates in Europe are well under 30 — as are some of their most ardent supporters. In Belgium, the telegenic Dries Van Langenhove, who is among the top picks on the list for the far-right party Vlaams Belang, is 26. In France, the head of the National Rally slate for the upcoming European elections is 23 and has been a card-carrying party member since the age of 16. In Denmark, the lead candidate from the Danish People's Party is a 29-year-old who is already a veteran campaigner. And in Spain, the chief spokesman for the Vox party is 27 and was elected to parliament last month.

These candidates are part of a growing attempt by Europe's far-right parties to gear their anti-migration, Euroskeptic message to the young, the Associated Press has found. Young European voters tend to turn out less than older voters, but in many countries they've gone further and faster right in recent years — as illustrated by voting results or party rolls from Italy, France, Spain and Austria. The trend could have major implications for this month's elections , which decide the makeup of the European Parliament as well as some national governments, as in Belgium.

"The far right has made a very explicit effort to pander to younger audiences. They've essentially rebranded themselves," said Julia Ebner, a researcher with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue , a left-leaning think tank.

It's a significant change from where the far right found itself in Europe's postwar era: identified with the Nazis and a Holocaust that killed 6 million Jews, marginalized by governments and eclipsed by a unifying Europe. Opponents say today's far-right candidates have given new window-dressing to old racist beliefs and an implicit call for violence, pushing a pro-Christian, anti-Islam ideology that Belgium's security services describe as "extreme right in a white collar." Only now they're appealing to a demographic with no memories of where extremist beliefs once led the continent -- to a world war that left almost all of Europe in rubble.

According to poll estimates, 17 percent of Italian voters aged 18 to 34 voted for the League in 2018, compared to just 5 percent in 2013. In Austria , 30 percent of the youngest voters chose the Freedom Party in 2017, up from 22 percent in 2013, making it the most popular party among those ages 16 to 29. And in Germany , the AfD made notable gains while young-voter support for the Green Party stagnated. France has seen similar trends.

Until recently isolated as racist by the rest of the political spectrum, the Flemish independence party Vlaams Belang aims to more than double its handful of seats in parliament, boosted by Van Langenhove's 31,000 Instagram followers and strong social media presence.

Van Langenhove is also the leader of Schild en Vrienden, a Flemish nationalist movement known for anti-immigration stunts and named in Belgium's annual national security report last year on extremist groups. The report did not accuse the group of violence but noted that the movement "deserves our attention."

Van Langenhove avoids direct discussion of race in favor of what he calls identity. But he routinely posts on social media about "replacement," a term used by white supremacists in the U.S. and Europe for the idea that European populations are being culturally and ethnically replaced by minorities.

Even though migration to Europe has slowed to a trickle, the continent is still grappling with the after-effects of the hundreds of thousands of people who arrived in the past few years alone. In repeated surveys of young Europeans, including one released this month by the TUI Foundation, migration and asylum are described as Europe's most pressing issue. The environment comes in a distant second.

Vlaams Belang's decision to name Van Langenhove came after the Belgian network VRT linked him to racist and sexist messages in closed chat rooms. He dismissed the show as a "smear," but it prompted protests at the Ghent campus where he was studying law and got him banned briefly. Later, he was suspended from Facebook for content that violated the social network's terms of service. He is now more circumspect online and in front of the camera.

"Everything is on the table right now, it's an all-in game. And that's why more young people are taking the risk of associating themselves with right wing nationalist groups and organizations," he said.

Young Belgian voter Louis Beernaert, 27, has been coming to Vlaams Belang meetings since he was a child, and is all in favor of the party's new faces.

"It needed to get younger," Beernaert said. "Their ideas are the same, but they say them in a less radical way."

In France, the top of Marine Le Pen's National Rally party list is Jordan Bardella, a 23-year-old raised by a single mother in a suburban Paris housing project. Le Pen re-branded her father's far-right National Front party as the National Rally after losing the presidency to Emmanuel Macron in 2017. Despite the loss, she made important inroads among young French voters.

"The generation that is committed to nationalist political movements today is the generation that tomorrow will be called upon to lead Europe," Bardella said.

In Denmark, Peter Kofod, 29, of the anti-immigrant, populist Danish People's Party 29, has risen steadily since his first election in 2014 to city council. And in Spain, the Vox party's events include the popular 'Pints for Spain' evenings at bars, nightclubs and cafes, where no one over 25 is allowed through the door. Under Manuel Mariscal, the 27-year-old Vox spokesman and a newly elected lawmaker, the main Instagram channel has over 300,000 followers, more than half of them younger than 34.

Although the party has a tiny footprint in Spain, it's already influencing the political debate on migration or the country's territorial unity. Still, Vox's vote total in April elections was far lower than its social media following would indicate.

As Manuel Mostaza Barrios, an analyst at the Madrid-based Atrevia consulting group, put it: "The candidates most followed on social media aren't necessarily those that get the most votes."

___

Aritz Parra contributed from Madrid, along with Elaine Ganley in Paris, Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, David Rising and Frank Jordans in Berlin, and Raf Casert in Brussels.

       

Print Article

Read More World News

China ramps up war of rhetoric in trade standoff with US

AP

May 24, 2019 at 7:15 am | BEIJING (AP) — Stepping up Beijing's propaganda offensive in the tariffs standoff with Washington, Chinese state media on Friday accused the U.S. of seeking to "colonize global business" with moves a...

Comments

Read More

AP Interview: Catalan separatist vows EU parliament fight

AP

May 24, 2019 at 11:17 am | BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Blocked from pursuing his political crusade in Spain's parliament, the most prominent jailed leader of Catalonia's separatist movement is vowing to take his fight to the Europ...

Comments

Read More

May to quit as party leader June 7, opening race for new PM

AP

May 24, 2019 at 10:15 am | LONDON (AP) — Theresa May ended her failed three-year quest to lead Britain out of the European Union on Friday, announcing that she will step down as Conservative Party leader June 7 and triggering ...

Comments

Read More

Theresa May: A prime minister defined and defeated by Brexit

AP

May 24, 2019 at 8:01 am | LONDON (AP) — Theresa May became prime minister in 2016 with one overriding goal: to lead Britain out of the European Union. Three years on, the U.K. is still in the EU, and May's time in 10 Down...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(208) 263-9534
PO Box 159
Sandpoint, ID 83864

©2019 Bonner County Daily Bee Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X