EUObserver – an EU news source – ran today an overview of 2015’s upcoming national elections and the potential challenge posed by far-right and anti-immigrant parties to mainstream parties. They suggest that anti-establishment parties have at least nine chances to shine this year. In a November 2014 editorial, MPG noted that the electoral success of far-right parties is also fuelled by low levels of naturalisation among Europe’s growing immigrant populations. These low levels are greatly influenced by restrictive citizenship policies and a lack of engagement by government and civil society to inform and encourage eligible immigrants. So what might be the impact of this democratic deficit on 2015’s national elections? Using the latest available statistical data from the OECD and Eurostat, MPG has assembled the following chart:
Hardly any voters support far-right parties in Estonia, Ireland, Portugal and Spain. Thanks to the 2006 Portuguese Nationality Law Reform, most long-settled immigrants and their descendants can now participate in the upcoming national elections. In the absence of similar reforms in Estonia and Spain, less than half of long-settled immigrants – and – approximately half of the second generation – will be ineligible to vote. Despite the Irish government’s efforts to facilitate naturalisation, large numbers of both long-settled non-EU and EU citizens have not naturalised. Immigrants and their descendants make up a sizeable share of the overall population in these countries, except Poland. The registration and turnout of new citizen voters will be especially important in Ireland, Spain and Portugal since most naturalisations happened within the past five years.
Sizeable shares of voters have supported far-right parties in national and especially European elections in Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, the Netherlands, and the UK. In all countries but Greece, a majority of long-settled immigrants, especially their descendants, will be eligible to participate in the upcoming national elections, ranging from around half of the first generation in Denmark to three-quarters in the Netherlands. Large numbers in France and the UK will be first time voters – both young second generation adults and immigrants naturalised within the past decade.
Immigrants and their descendants make up as important of a share of the overall population as do far-right voters in France, the Netherlands and the UK. In contrast, the number of voters in recent elections for the Danish People’s Party or True Finns far outnumbers the number of immigrants and their descendants in Denmark or Finland. Thanks to the overturning of Greece’s much praised 2010 Nationality Law Reform, nearly two-thirds of long-settled immigrants – and many within the second generation – are still not citizens of Greece, even though they make up at least 10% of the population.