You will get your bestaanszekerheid


Lisa Leutner / AP

If everyone who voted for Geert Wilders in the recent parliamentary elections in the Netherlands were under 35, his victory would be crushing. Until now, the average far-right voter in Europe was supposed to look like this: male, white, without a college degree and also elderly. Now everything has changed.

A supporter of the far right is generally an unpredictable thing. For example, ten years ago, after the change of leader in the Le Pen family, Marine’s voters suddenly turned out to be workers who had traditionally voted for the Socialists and even the Communists. In the early 2010s, they realized that migrants had flooded their places, accepting black jobs and working for pennies.

But it’s not so much about migrants. The far right in Europe has picked up another issue, no less important. The Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) has formulated one of its slogans in the unpronounceable word bestaanszekerheid. It translates from Dutch roughly as «an existence with a sufficient and predictable income».

The cost of living has skyrocketed to such an extent that guys have to live with their parents until they are 40. You can take a loan for an apartment, but in France, for example, it will be given to you at the rate of one-third of your salary multiplied by the number of months. That is, in the best case for a graduate with a salary of 1500 euros it will be a studio in the suburbs. And to rent something more or less decent, you need to provide a million recommendations, a deposit, and ideally also a lifetime contract, which graduates do not get immediately.

So when they are told about bestaanszekerheid, they only support it. And support for the far-right, which is traditionally feared in old Europe, has begun to grow primarily among young people.

«It’s really worth paying attention to the cultural and ideological melding between young voters and the far right that is taking place before our eyes», says Catherine de Vries, a political scientist at Italy’s Bocconi University. — «Young people are more easy-going than older people and more inclined to immigrate. They will either leave the country or try to change their lives here. They have not turned into xenophobes, but their lives have just become more complicated».

They need some semblance of a normal home, adequate access to education and health care, an impenetrable social safety net. And all around them are overcrowded classrooms, very mediocre public hospitals, and their own housing somewhere out there, just over the horizon.

«I voted for Wilders, but I’m not a racist», The Guardian quotes a young resident of the Dutch town of Volendam as saying. — «I am unpleasantly surprised that migrants get more help from the government than us Dutch. I’m not against Islam and I don’t want mosques to close. It’s just that this migration needs to be controlled somehow and, since it happens, used more effectively».

In France’s last presidential election, Marine Le Pen, in the second round, received 39 percent of the vote from people under 24, and 49 percent from those under 34. In Italy, Meloni received 22 percent of the vote — almost a quarter of those under 35.

It is fair to say that this is not the case everywhere in Europe, but the trend is already noticeable and is being studied by political scientists and sociologists. The trend is strongest in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark.

In Italy, the Brothers of Italy are already in power, and Marine Le Pen has a very good chance as of today: she wins the first round with 49 percent, and this is a very good springboard to the second round. In Spain, the share of young, ultraconservative Vox voters jumped between April and November from 22 to 34 percent, that is, by a third in 8 months. In Sweden, 22 percent of young people voted for the far right in 2022, up from 12 percent in previous elections. That’s almost a doubling.

How not to take advantage of such a trend? Pawel Zerka, a senior research fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), also believes that the issue of migration and Islamization in the far-right’s election campaigns is now yielding to promises of social protection, but not the one that traditional European parties have been offering for decades.

«The far-right parties have managed to convince young people that there is a credible economic alternative prospect ahead», he says. — «But they are going further. They are using all their PR skills to show that it’s cool to vote for the far right today. More and more, they are promoting young, charismatic politicians who speak to voters in their language and on their issues».

Jordan Bardella, who now heads France’s National Rally, took over for Marine Le Pen at 27 and ran the party’s successful campaign for the European Parliament at 23. In his 2022 Manifesto, he proposes to abolish taxes for those under 30, provide financial aid for working students and massively build student housing.

The Spanish Vox has had similar success, while Slawomir Mentzen, leader of Poland’s ultra-liberal Confederation, has 800,000 followers on TikTok at the age of 37.

In fact, the entire life of these young voters has been spent under the leadership of traditional parties, which from time to time change each other. There are very few differences in their programs. Most importantly, they have a very vague bestaanszekerheid.