Right-wing ideology on the rise across Europe, what does it entail for Georgia?
By Levan Abramishvili
Thursday, May 23
Voters in 28 countries of EU will elect 751 members of the European Parliament on May 23-26 for a five-year term that starts on July 2.
In recent years, Europe, and the world at large saw a resurgence of far-right political parties and ideology. The European elections will take place in an environment of surging right-wing, populist leaders across the European Union, which have been talking about the 'new era' that will come with elections this week.
Italy’s Matteo Salvini and France’s Marine Le Pen are only a few examples of right-wing populists who love to condemn the EU as an elitist project that doesn’t hold the best interest of the general public.
Nationalist parties from across Europe, headed by the abovementioned leaders, held a rally on Saturday in Milan promising to reshape the continent through the EU parliamentary elections.
Standing with Salvini, Le Pen promised the far-right 'will perform a historic feat,' saying they could end up as high as the second-biggest political group in the EU parliament.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was absent from the rally; however, he is considered to be one of the prominent examples of far-right, anti-immigrant ideology that has taken roots across the Western countries.
This week, the Austrian government was hit by a political crisis that is expected to result in an early election. The right-wing government Freedom Party has announced that all its ministers would step down from the Cabinet after a video of Austria's Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache meeting with a woman posing as Russian oligarch’s niece was posted online. In the footage, the woman said that unnamed Russians would be willing to fund Strache's campaign in exchange for government contracts.
While the right-wing politicians in Europe quarrel for more influence on the national and international levels, the people who represent the same ideology in Georgia barely have any influence.
While the nationalistic groups are incapable of gaining significant votes in the elections, their online influence is surging, according to a study published by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), the number of likes of right-wing Facebook pages increased significantly since 2015, reaching 760,000 last year.
One of the most prominent ultranationalist groups is called Georgian March, which was established around 3 years ago, they aim to 'defend' national culture and traditions.
Sandro Bregadze, the leader of the group Georgian March, openly stated that he is trying to emulate the efforts of Marine Le Pen.
In 2017, the Georgian March was able to organize an anti-immigrant rally in a district of Tbilisi that is popular among Middle-Eastern tourists. It showed that Georgian society is also vulnerable to the poisonous beliefs of Islamophobia and anti-immigration. However, the reach of the nationalistic groups remains within the online sphere.
Even though the nationalistic groups have little to no influence outside of social media, they have yet to become a political force that can be taken into account. Allegedly backed by the Kremlin, the Georgian March has no prospect of getting into the Parliament in the 2020 elections as of now. But that doesn’t mean that their ideas aren’t posing a threat to the ever-evolving Georgian society. There is a significant growth in nationalistic views, both within the public and the government.
Georgian Dream has taken significant steps to pander to these views, by tightening immigration rules and banning the sale of agricultural land to foreign nationals.
The pro-EU part of the European society has to remain cautious to keep the Union inclusive and welcoming place for everyone and not to let the right-wing ideologists gain power. Along with the growth of nationalism across Europe, Georgia also becomes vulnerable to the damaging ideology.