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The Rise of Populism in Europe

Can the Center Hold?

Norbert Hofer of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPOe) attends a news conference in Vienna, Austria, May 2016. Heinz-Peter Bader / Reuters

Last Sunday, Norbert Hofer of the far-right Freedom Party of Austria received a stunning 49 percent of the vote in his country’s presidential election. Although Hofer was ultimately defeated, his strong showing opened a new chapter in the story of Europe’s populists.

In several European countries, including Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, and Switzerland, right-wing parties have taken the reins of government. And even where right-wing populists haven’t gained power, groups such as Britain’s UKIP, the French Front National, and Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland are enjoying record popularity.

In crisis-ridden southern Europe, meanwhile, left-wing populists have seen a renaissance. Spain’s anti-austerity movement Podemos is likely to finish second in elections scheduled for June. In Greece, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ left-wing Syriza party is leading an unlikely coalition government with the right-wing populist Independent Greeks party.

Two core issues lie at the root of today’

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