Nationalist groups have been making significant gains across Europe in recent years. And, with an election approaching in Portugal, concerns have surfaced that we could see the same trend here. But if boots on the ground translate to ballots in the box, it looks as if we have nothing to worry about.
In the wake of the long-lasting financial crisis, and a new wave of immigration, many countries have seen nationalist parties make significant advances in politics and influence large-scale global changes. While they differ from country to country, most focus on anti-migrant, anti-EU, and anti-Islam themes, as well as the traditional bedrock topics of nationalist movements like reductions in jobs, industry, and agriculture.
This has led to large political shifts such as Brexit, as well as parties making parliamentary gains such as the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in Germany, the Movimento 5 Stelle in Italy, and Rassemblement National (previously Front National) in France, to name but a few.
Portugal avoided the fate of many other European nations, with its messy 2015 elections eventually leading to a center-left government in power. And despite right-wing and nationalist tendencies still growing across Europe, recent turnouts at right-wing street rallies in Lisbon do suggest that few Portuguese believe in such a direction for the country — or at least in showing their support for it.
Last Friday saw Nova Ordem Social, led by Mário Machado, take to the streets of Lisbon, marching from Rato to the front of the Parliament. A street-stopper it was not, with only around 40 to 50 demonstrators taking part. The march lasted around an hour before everyone dispersed. Moreover, bystanders seemed either confused or completely unperturbed, an indication that these right-wingers really don’t have much clout among the general population.
However, despite their small numbers and lack of impact, it should still concern everyone that a “homage to Salazar” wandered the streets completely unchallenged. With calls such as “viva Salazar” and a banner reading “Salazar Faz Muita Falta,” it was a surprise that not one group came out against them. That said, there was an “anti-racism rally” in Rossio by groups such as SOS Racismo. Nonetheless, if bystanders looked unbothered by NOS, then NOS was equally unbothered by SOS Racismo.
The NOS march comes just a few weeks after the “Vamos Parar Portugal Como Forma De Protesto” event — inspired by France’s gilet jaunes — which many labeled as a nationalist rally. This event also drew small crowds and made little impact, despite seemingly large numbers supporting it online.
With the two most recent nationalist rallies proving to be flops, it looks as if Portugal is safe from a right-wing movement in this year’s election. A recent Council of Europe report concluded much the same recently. However, with online support often outstripping on-the-street support, it could be that many people are willing to support nationalist agendas while hiding behind anonymity — whether of the web or the ballot.