Covid-19: disenchantment with the populists?

Europe's right-wing populists may well be rejoicing over closed borders, but in many countries their voices have grown fainter since the start of the corona crisis. Media discuss whether this hails a trend reversal.

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Berliner Zeitung (DE) /

People long for serious solutions

This crisis is freeing people from the spell of populism, the Berliner Zeitung writes in delight:

“Populists have lost the stuff that has allowed them to rise in recent years, the fuel they've poured on the fire of social conflicts. They'd based their programme on contempt for the state and the politicians of the 'system' - as they call democracy. ... But wherever they have the say, as with Donald Trump in the United States, Boris Johnson in the United Kingdom and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, for example, their failures are now evident. ... People long for an earnest, serious approach to the challenges we face.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Tailwind for all heads of government

In crisis situations criticism of governments tends to cease, The Guardian comments:

“The Americans have a phrase for the impulse of people to want to unite behind their leaders at a time of emergency, especially when the threat comes with an existential dimension. They call it 'rallying round the flag'. ... The more severe the emergency, the more the instinctive response of the public is to want to get behind its government. Fearful people need the comfort of thinking they are in the hands of capable leaders. In benign times, there is not much psychological cost to ourselves to regard politicians as useless knaves. In an emergency, many of us need to believe that there are smart people at the top who know what to do. This is accompanied by a desire for national solidarity.”

Novi list (HR) /

Far right could benefit in the medium term

If the EU doesn't make the right decisions soon the populists could gain a decisive advantage, Novi list warns:

“The pandemic will be over one day. But on that day not all countries will be in the same position. If too much money is lost it will lead to massive unemployment, the collapse of social welfare systems and certainly a political crisis. And the EU and the rest of Europe will no longer be the same. Especially in the political sense. It could easily happen that in Italy Matteo Salvini is able to form a stable government and that Italy not only withdraws from the Eurozone, but from the EU as well. If the EU is perceived as a foreign bureaucracy that primarily serves the German economy, it can't be ruled out that Marine Le Pen will win the next elections in France. Something similar could also happen in Spain.”