Across Europe, traditional political parties are being challenged by new political formations that barely fit the classic classification of left versus right. Drawing support from the divide between “open” and “closed” societies, they mainly feature anti-establishment claims in the name of protecting people, advocating closed borders in response to the tumultuous transformation caused by globalization in the past few decades. Globalization is generally seen as a powerful source of inequality and disempowerment—a political design coinciding with only the interests of elites.
For some reason, analysts struggle to understand the whole scope of the political change underway. Defending the prerogatives of protected or closed societies, insurgent parties are winning office month after month. In one third of EU countries, they are members of government coalitions and, according to a survey, they currently hold more than 1,300 seats in 25 national parliaments. Although we keep referring to them as “fringe” or “non-mainstream,” these parties are hijacking the political agenda and forcing mainstream parties to align along their positions.
With borders an essential part of the rhetoric in the debate regarding closed vs. open societies, the new parties' political orientation is unusually focused on international affairs. While, in the past, traditional populist movements were mainly concerned with national issues, most of the new populists are now interested in defining their politics as protecting against external threats. The international context thus becomes the main battlefield of politics today.