• Stephan Raab

The Rise of the Far Right in Portugal and its European implications

For a long time, the Iberian Peninsula has been a bulwark against populism. However, during the last years it seems, that the anti-European wave of populist movements seems to have reached Portugal. A new political party called “Chega”, which translates into “Enough” has gained ground since its foundation in 2019. Discovering the roots and the reasons for this populistic surge, the Institute for Greater Europe has organized a panel with renowned participants from research and politics in Portugal.

During her introduction, Ana Gomes, former S&D MEP, and independent candidate for the Portuguese presidency, underlined, that the democratic parties seem to have forgotten, setting clear red lines, defining the space for democratic dispute. Astoundingly she argues, the head of the party, André Ventura graduated in law with an PhD about the topic of criminalizing minorities. Nevertheless, his politics seem to be different.

Adding to that, Dr Raquel da Silva: Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the Centre for International Studies at the University Institute of Lisbon, gave a presentation, showing the worrying rise of violence and racism in Portugal. Until today, according to her research extreme right violence is a topic still mostly neglected by prosecution.

What was quite astounding, Dr. Filipa Raimundo: Assistant Professor at the ISCTE - Lisbon University Institute, mentioned, that even André Ventura considered the pre-democratic time of Salazar a dictatorship. Therefore, Chega seems to be less towards restoring, what some right-wing might consider “, the good old times”.

Rather as Dr. Mariana Mendes, Research associate at the Chair of Political Theory and History of Political Thought at TU Dresden, underlines, Ventura poses as an example of a political entrepreneur allocating resources and people for his goals. Mrs. Mendes evaluates Chega as far right populist at the same time, presenting especially people prone to authoritarianism of law and order. In joining the Basta! -Coalition, a consortium of Portuguese right-wing parties, the Euroscepticism of his political campaign was revealed.

Eventually, the emergence of populist and far-right movements in countries, which showed a strong pro-European stance, is alarming and thought-provoking. Concluding this panel discussion, the task of democratic parties will be to set clear red lines of what is acceptable and what is not in a democratic dispute. Furthermore, getting a better understanding of what attracts certain groups toward authoritarian promises will require more research and democratic actions, in a country, that once left authoritarianism behind to enter his path into European Integration.

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