Europe: does PR boost extremism (Part Two)?

A look at the rise of the Far-Right in nine more EU countries.

Even when thresholds have to be met before parties can enter parliaments, Proportional Representation (PR) sometimes appears to open the door to fringe movements.

Once notoriety and credibility are gained, they attract media attention, state funding, and additional public support.  Look at the remaining nine countries in the European Union and see the voting system used, what Far-Right parties exist and how fast they might be growing. 

POLAND:  no relevant party
(Although ethnic minority parties are exempt from having to meet a threshold, other parties have to attract more than 5% of the vote to enter parliament under Poland's PR system)
In the Sejm or Lower House of the Polish parliament, there are no Far-Right parties represented.  According to Wikipedia, "public support of (Far-Right) parties is marginal, as they received 2.8% of the popular vote in the 2007 parliamentary elections. There is also a limited amount of nonparliamentary far-right extremism."  

PORTUGAL:  support at around 0.2%
(PR using the D'Holdt method which favours larger parties)
Founded in 2000, the National Renovator Party (PNR) has been led since 2005 by José Pinto Coelho.  It is the nearest thing in Portugal to the French National Front.  In the 2009 election the PNR gained a mere 0.2% of the vote, failing to pass the threshold to enter the Assembly of the Republic.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND:  suport appears to be Nil
There are no right-wing parties of significance in the Republic as there doesn't appear to be an appetite for keeping Ireland Irish.

ROMANIA:  support in 2008 of 3.15% and no seats
(Mixed Member PR system with a threshold in place)
The Greater Romania Party (PRM) was founded in 1991.  PRM participated in government 1993-5.  It'is led by Vadim Tudor and by 2000 had shot to prominance when Tudor gained 33% of the popular vote in presidential electons, being beaten in the second round by Ion Iliescu.  In the same year the party itself won 126 seats in parliament and around 20% support.  That was its high watermark, however, and it has since slumped in popularity.  In the 2008 elections it could only muster 3.15% support, below the threshold to enter the Chamber of Deputies.

SLOVAKIA:  support in 2010 at 5.08% or 9 of 150 seats
(PR with 5% threshold to enter parliament)
The Slovak National Party (SNS) was formed in 1989.  Since 1990 it has won seats in every parliament but one, being in 2000.  In the 2010 election for the unicameral parliament, the National Council of the Slovak Republic, SNS gained 5.08% of the vote (down from 11.6% in 2006) and 9 seats (a dramatic fall of eleven). 

SLOVENIA:  support in 2008 at 5.4% or 5 of 90 seats
The Slovenian National Party was created in 1991.  It did well in the following year, gaining nine seats in the National Assembly.  But it hasn't made much headway since, with consistently low respresentation in parliament.  In the last elections three years ago it garnered 5.4% support, winning only five seats.

SPAIN:  support in 2008 at 0.03% and no seats 
Spanish Alternative or Alternavita Española (AES) is miniscule and has failed to gain traction since its formation in 2003.  It has no seats at all in the Congress of Deputies of the Cortes, gaining just 0.03% of the popular vote in 2008 despite contesting twenty of the fifty Spanish provinces.

SWEDEN:  support in 2010 was 5.7% or 20 of 349 seats
(semi-open list PR)
The Sweden Democrats were founded in 1988.  It has enjoyed steadily increasing popularity, and received 5.7% of the vote and twenty seats in the elections to Riksdag last year.  This was the first time the party had achieved representation in parliament.

UNITED KINGDOM:  support in 2010 of 1.9% and no seats
(First Past The Post system)
Successors to the National Front, the British National Party (BNP) was founded in 1982.  It has never won a seat at Westminster.  And it currently has a paltry twenty eight of 21,871 councillors at local government level.  But it did manage to win two seats following elections to the European Parliament in 2009.  The BNP has had its successes in the past, becoming the second largest party (therefore official Opposition) on Barking and Dagenham Council, a local authority.  In the 2010 general election it put up 339 parliamentary candidates out of a possible 650.  It has steadily increased its share of the popular vote over time, in no small part due to contesting more constituencies.  Last year it gained 563,743 votes, or 1.9% of the total cast, and no seats.

Clearly, PR doesn't guarantee that any fringe or extreme party can achieve electoral success.  And sometimes when they do they can lose momentum, fracture or merge.   But it is often the case, that if thresholds are breached then notoriety can stimulate support.

In the UK, where a Referendum is being held to decide on the Alternative Vote system, the extremists and other fringe groups have found it hard to gain traction under the First Past The Post arrangement currently in place.

See the other countries in the European Union, click here

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