President Donald Trump is not only shaking up the political establishment in the U.S., but he's doing it overseas as well. "The Trump effect has certainly emboldened the populist right in Europe in the elections coming up this spring and summer," says Dr. Cal Jillson, political science professor at Southern Methodist University. Indeed, populist candidates and parties are making waves in the Netherlands, France and Germany ahead of national elections in those countries.
The wave of populism and nationalism sweeping Europe didn't actually begin with Trump's stunning election here last November, but with last summer's Brexit vote in which Great Britain voted to leave the European Union. Now, with Brexit and Trump victories providing a boost, conservative populist candidates in European nations are surging in the polls and hoping to ride similar momentum. "All eyes are on France, where Marine Le Pen is a candidate of the right, and has embraced Donald Trump and his themes and election tactics," says Dr. Jillson.
The platforms of these European candidates and parties also look familiar to anyone who's followed politics over the past year. "The issues are broadly similar in that, economic growth and jobs are always critical and as part of that...immigration is often charged with slow economic growth," says Jillson. "Crime is often attributed to immigrants as well, so broadly similar themes."
However, with parliamentary systems in place and multiple rounds of voting in these European nations, Dr. Jillson believes the upstarts face long odds of actually getting into power. "The populist candidates are expected to do better than they have in the past, but in most cases are not expected to win national elections," he says.
Then again, that's what the experts said last year about Brexit and Trump. Time will tell.