The Populist Domino Effect

And it’s potential to continue across Europe


2016 was the year that exposed to the rest of world the consequences and sudden fear of globalisation. With the word of the year being crowned xenophobia, 2016 molded the way for the rise of populist and nationalist movements in the political spectrum, the most notable ones being the shocking election of Donald Trump in the United States and the UK’s decision to leave the European Union in an episode known as “Brexit”. While vastly unexpected, both these events can easily be explained through growing concerns regarding migration, the perception of growing inequality and the idea that foreign aid is prejudicial. Ideas that have recently been repeated and promoted across the globe have the potential to ignite what economists call “the populist domino effect,” and immerse other nations into the same xenophobic and chauvinistic wave the US and UK currently find themselves immersed in.

Two nations currently posed with the question of whether to surrender to nationalism or to globalism are the Netherlands and France, both of which also have a significant say in the fate of the European Union. With Dutch parliamentary elections threatening to put the populist and anti-Islamic rhetoric of Geert Wilders into power and the French presidential elections glimpsing at the possibility of electing far-right leader Marine Le Pen, many economists have begun to fear the rise of ethnic nationalism and xenophobia across Europe and the possible consequences it could have. One of these could be the potential disintegration of the European Union, should France, the very core of it, decide to leave.

However, even without the rise of these individuals into power, the populist domino effect can already be felt in the continent. In the Netherlands, for instance, a survey done by the IPSOS shows that nearly 40% of Turkish and Moroccan immigrants don’t feel at home in the country anymore thanks to the growing rates of xenophobia and Islamophobia, especially when one of Wilders’ most attractive proposals is to stop the “Islamisation of the Netherlands.” France and Germany also demonstrated their new ethnic-nationalist populist ideals once they banned the use of the burqa in order to “enforce security,” according to The Guardian. The increased notion of “defensive nationalism” is explained by Dominique Moïsi of the Institut Montaigne, a French think tank, as an idea “based on a lack of confidence and a negative jingoism: the idea that I have to defend myself against the threat of others”–a phenomenon clearly on the rise within the European continent.

The populist domino effect is yet another sign that the European economic bloc and the world itself is going through a crisis. The belief that globalisation is anything but beneficial to a country is undeniably an idea travelling with it, as can be seen with UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s quote: “If you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word ‘citizenship’ means.” The question now is what awaits us down the road that the domino effect has put us on and whether or not the west will give in to xenophobia and isolate itself from the east completely.