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Muslim Voters and the European Left

When Inclusion Leads to Populism

Demonstrators at a joint Christian-Muslim rally for peace in Bilbao, June 2017. Vincent West / Reuters

Over the last few years, well over two million mostly Muslim refugees have arrived in Europe, a fact that has come to dominate headlines and elections across the continent. This large-scale inflow has bolstered right-wing populism and pushed some mainstream conservative parties to the right on migration in order to protect their share of the vote. But while the refugee crisis has led to shifts on the right, it has also highlighted a strategic problem for the left: how to approach immigration and immigrant voters without driving away their working-class base.

For instance, although much has been made about how German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open embrace of refugees cost her center-right Christian Democratic Union precious votes in the 2017 German election, parties on the left lost supporters to the anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland in nearly equal numbers. In part because of these losses, the election was a historic defeat

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