Far-Right Political Violence Rising as European Elections Approach

SHARE

SHARE

As far-right political parties gain momentum in the polls in the lead up to the unusually contentious European Union parliamentary elections in early June, the more extreme supporters of such parties, violent and racist street gangs, are engaging in growing levels of political violence. Far-right groups have become emboldened to attack and harass political opponents and vulnerable populations, all the while openly campaigning for major far-right parties. In certain European countries, attacks on elected officials had already been on the rise before the upcoming elections raised the temperature higher. 

A recent report from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) documented a 12-fold increase in the number of attacks on elected officials in France from 2022 to 2023, representing 60 percent of all cases in the European Union. As ACLED points out: “Election cycles are shown to heighten the risks for local officials. In 2023, gubernatorial, municipal, and other subnational elections were associated with higher violence against local officials in several countries, including Colombia, Nigeria, India, and the Philippines… Anger over alleged irregularities and fraud also resulted in increased violence and threats on elected and appointed officials.” The rising political violence parallels growing threats against officials in the U.S., and serves as a warning for what Americans may face as the November election approaches. 

In Europe, rising political violence is being driven by racist street groups, as the far-right parties they support demonize immigrants and other marginalized populations, as well as their left-wing opponents. In Dresden, EU parliamentary candidate Matthias Ecke (Social Democratic Party, SPD) was attacked by four young men aged 17 and 18 in the evening on May 3 as he was putting up election posters, which led to broken bones and the need for surgery. While the far-right group Elblandrevolte is believed to be responsible for the attack, the fact that the fringe political party Freie Sachsen (Free Saxons), which uses neo-Nazis to help campaign for them, held a campaign event only two days before, possibly helped inspire the violence. And the case of Ecke isn’t the only one. Over the past five years, German security authorities have noted nearly 10,500 violent attacks on politicians and nearly 2,500 attacks on buildings belonging to the parties represented in the Bundestag. In the last couple of years, politicians from the center-left Grüne (Green) party and the center-right CDU were most affected.

Also in May, former Berlin Mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) was hit in the head with a bag full of hard objects. Another member of the Greens was attacked in Dresden while hanging campaign posters by two individuals who were a part of a group that was seen giving Nazi salutes. On May 7, Yvonne Mosler, a local politician with the Greens, was spat on on live television during an interview with DW by AfD supporters shouting banned Nazi slogans.

Anders Ravik Jupskas, the deputy director of the Centre for Research on Extremism has explained that far-right terrorism and violence is clearly on the rise in France as well. Far-right street gangs have increasingly attacked local elected officials as demonstrated by last year’s arson at the home of Saint-Brévin Mayor Yannick Morez by members of neo-fascist groups (see GPAHE’s reporting on this here). 

Attacks have also occurred in other EU member states. In Poland, for example, a person driving a car hit two activists from the Koalicja Obywatelska (Civic Coalition, KO) at a festival in Węgrów. In Sweden, a group of masked individuals, described by EXPO as neo-Nazis, carried out an attack with smoke bombs on an anti-fascist event organized in the Gubbangen theater by the Vansterpartiet (Left Party) and Green Party, which led to three people being taken to the hospital. The attack was condemned by leaders of all political parties, including Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, as an attack on democracy. 

The widespread use of racist rhetoric against immigrants and refugees espoused by far-right politicians is also fueling violence against these vulnerable populations. In late April, members of the neo-Nazi group Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR) attacked an EU migrant camp in northern Stockholm. In Ireland, a mob of anti-immigrant individuals, some with “Irish Lives Matter” signs, started a riot in an immigrant-dense area of Dublin on November 24, 2023, after an earlier knife attack that left several people dead. The riots led to property damage and 34 arrests by police. In Portugal, a group of white supremacists, believed to have ties to the neo-Nazi group Grupo 1143, attacked an apartment housing immigrants, leading to condemnation from leaders from every political party (see GPAHE’s reporting on the Grupo 1143 here). In France, a group of unionized teachers were attacked by a far-right group wearing hoods in March 2024 in a restaurant in Lorient (Morbihan) after having protested the recent pension reforms in the country. One member reportedly pointed a gun at the face of one of the teachers. In February, Sinisha Milinov, a member of the Lyon-based neo-fascist group Les Remparts (The Castle Walls), was arrested for a knife attack. Milinov was previously a candidate for the Rassemblement National (National Rally, RN) in the 2020 municipal elections on the RN list for Villeurbanne near Lyon.

The more extreme groups on the far right have also taken to campaigning for far-right political parties for the upcoming EU elections, spreading noxious rhetoric among those more likely to engage in violence. At times, far-right political parties have overlapping memberships with these extremists. 

In Portugal, the racist Grupo 1143 and Reconquista have been campaigning for far-right party Chega in order to lay the groundwork for a more radical party to appear to advocate for “remigration,” a white nationalist term used to describe an ethnic cleansing of the country of immigrants and others of non-European descent (see GPAHE’s reporting on Reconquista here). In Germany, the anti-Muslim, conspiracist outlet COMPACT, recognized as an extremist organization by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, has been campaigning  for the Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany, AfD) party (see GPAHE’s reporting on these groups here). Ten events have been organized in support of the AfD, and members of the AfD have been present at COMPACT events. On Compact-TV, editor-in-chief Jürgen Elsässer has called for donations for stage technology for AfD events in Bavaria and Brandenburg, leading to an investigation by the German Bundestag. The AfD, in an attempt to distance itself from COMPACT after this relationship became subject to investigation, later threatened to sue the outlet. 

In France, the Cocarde Etudiante (Student Cockade), a student organization that regularly co-mingles with violent street groups such as the GUD, Action Française, and local Identitarian groups, has overlapping membership with Marine Le Pen’s RN, and provides a constant flow of activists for the party in their elections (see GPAHE’s country report for France here for more information on the Cocarde Etudiante). Further to the right, local neo-Nazi and Identitarian groups have strong ties to the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant party Reconquête, led by Eric Zemmour and Marion Marechal Le Pen. They both have worked in unison to spread anti-immigrant propaganda concerning the murders of French citizens to demonize immigrants and Muslims. In Italy, the Florentine branch of Lealtà Azione appeared on social media in support of far right Lega (League) candidate Barbara Nannucci, who is running for political office. 

The situation in the European Union has clear implications for the upcoming American elections. Intolerant and anti-democratic rhetoric can embolden far-right groups to political violence, as is already the case in the U.S. where threats against elected officials and those who administer elections are already at all-time highs. Violent white supremacist groups may become more active in the political arena, such as Proud Boys chapters who are open about their intention to support Donald Trump in the election, and were seen campaigning in North Carolina on Super Tuesday (see GPAHE’s reporting on the Proud Boys here). Though much of the group’s former leadership is in prison for their actions related to the January 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol, the group and others like it are reorganizing and could wreak havoc again. Claims of rigged elections, which are ramping up among American far-right political actors, could also contribute to potential violence. The storming of the Capitol showed the power of this rhetoric.

1676 1116 Global Project Against Hate and Extremism
Start Typing
Privacy Preferences

When you visit our website, it may store information through your browser from specific services, usually in the form of cookies. Here you can change your Privacy preferences. It is worth noting that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our website and the services we are able to offer.

GPAHE uses cookies to collect information and give you a more personalized experience on our site. You can find more information in our Privacy Policy.
Stay connected with GPAHE
You can unsubscribe at any time.
Close
You can unsubscribe at any time.
Stay connected with GPAHE
Thank you for subscribing!
Thank you for subscribing.
Join Us in The Fight Against Global Extremism.
Stay connected with GPAHE and get the latest on how hate and extremism are threatening our safety and democracy.
Subscribe To Our Free Newsletter!
You can unsubscribe at any time.
Join Us in The Fight Against Global Extremism.
Stay connected with GPAHE and get the latest on how hate and extremism are threatening our safety and democracy.
Subscribe To Our Free Newsletter!
You can unsubscribe at any time.