The Global Financial Crisis and its aftermath has breathed new life into long moribund extremist parties on the fringes of many European nations. For example, in Greece the Golden Dawn party gained 21 seats in the 300 seat Parliament during the May 2012 election. According to the Greek Political Review :
“One of the two pillars of the contemporary party system (Pasok – centre left)) has imploded while the other (New Democracy centre-right) is struggling to cope with pressures from above and below.”
“A party of the radical left (Syriza) got its highest share in history and came close to winning an election. Extremism is here to stay with the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn maintaining its share of the vote despite being implicated in highly visible incidents of violence. And while Greece is struggling to balance its commitments to its lenders with soaring unemployment, crime and social malaise, political leaders are facing the need for a shift to a new political culture of coalition governments and power-sharing.”
In Germany a well-organised NPD is gathering support on a platform of withdraw from the EU, replacement of the Euro with the Deutschmark, and repatriation of foreign criminals. The NPD party gained 7% of votes.
In Austria the nationalist Freedom Party in 1994 won 33 percent of the vote in Carinthia region and 22 percent in Vienna, showing that it had become a force capable of reversing the old pattern of Austrian politics. In the 1994 Austrian election, the FPÖ won 22 percent of the vote. With the death, through a traffic accident, of its leader (Hader) in the early 2000s the Freedom Party lost its momentum. But many other smaller neo Nazi groups continue to operate either legally or underground.
The failure of social democratic (or conservative) parties to respond to the fears and concerns of lower-middle class and working class communities – especially in provincial and rural areas leaves the door open to far right groups to develop. One of the lessons of history is that in the midst of an economic crisis if the major parties lose the confidence of large segments of the population then extremist groups tend to emerge.