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article imageBrexit vote a victory for populist politics

By AFP     Jun 24, 2016 in Politics

British voters' decision to leave the European Union highlighted working class dissatisfaction with the UK and Europe's ruling elite and the mass appeal of populist politics.

Anti-EU campaigner Nigel Farage said in his victory speech Friday: "This is a victory for ordinary people, for good people, for decent people."

Farage, who posed next to an anti-migrant poster emblazoned with the words "Breaking Point" during the Brexit campaign, dedicated the "Out" vote to people who have "had enough of the merchant bankers".

Populist leaders and ideas are also gaining traction elsewhere.

- Trump vs. the world -

Donald Trump.
Donald Trump.
Oli Scarff, AFP

Donald Trump's tell-it-like-it-is bluntness and disdain for both political correctness and Washington insiders has struck a chord among increasingly frustrated white working class and middle class voters in the United States.

Many believe the presumptive Republican candidate understands their concerns and can make tough decisions without being in thrall to special interest groups. Trump has said he wants to build a wall on the Mexican border, deport millions of illegal immigrants and stand up to China to "Make America Great Again."

- Fear and voting in Europe -

Fears of mass immigration to Europe from the Middle East, Asia and Africa have boosted populist parties in recent years.

A candidate from Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) narrowly missed out in May on becoming the EU's first far-right president, with party leader Heinz-Christian Strache describing the FPOe's showing as "a success against the whole creaking system".

In Poland and Hungary, right-wing populist governments have noisily resisted pressure to accept quotas of migrants to help ease the burden on countries on the frontline of the crisis like Greece and Italy that have been forced to deal with huge numbers of arrivals.

- Brexit bandwagon -

While populists in Poland, Hungary and Austria stop short of lobbying to quit the EU, the Brexit prompted far-right leaders in France, the Netherlands and Italy to call for referendums on their own countries' membership of the bloc.

Just hours after the result of the British vote had been announced Dutch far-right MP Geert Wilders, and French National Front leader Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy's anti-immigration Northern League, called for referendums.

- Austerity anger -

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras delivers a speech to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council o...
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras delivers a speech to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on June 22, 2016
Frederick Florin, AFP/File

In southern Europe, anti-austerity populist parties on the left have railed against the austerity politics demanded by creditors following the euro crisis, appealing to swathes of the electorate who feel squeezed by cuts.

The Spanish party Podemos and its Greek ally Syriza both make a virtue of pledging to tax the rich while increasing spending with Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras becoming Greek prime minister in 2015.

- Foul-mouthed tirades -

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte's term begins on June 30, after he won office with a pledge to wipe out crime by killing tens of thousands of criminals.

Duterte's foul-mouthed tirades have helped him win support for his plans to fix the Philippine's broken economy and society's ills, echoing Trump's simplistic slogans.

- Comic choice -

President elect Jimmy Morales of the National Front Convergence speaks during a press conference in ...
President elect Jimmy Morales of the National Front Convergence speaks during a press conference in Guatemala city on October 26, 2015
Johan Ordonez, AFP/File

Comic actor and political novice Jimmy Morales staged an upset in October by winning Guatemala's presidential election against a background of violence and corruption.

And in Italy the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), founded by foul-mouthed comedian Beppe Grillo, has become a formidable political force in just a matter of months.

M5S is now the second biggest party in Italy and looks poised to do well in the next nationwide election after its candidate for the mayor of Rome won with a landslide earlier this month.

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