BRUSSELS – For the populists of Europe, the electoral defeat of President Trump, who was a symbol of success and a strong supporter, was bad enough. But his refusal to accept defeat and the violence that followed seem to have damaged the prospects of like-minded leaders across the continent.
“What happened in the Capitol after Donald Trump's defeat bodes badly for the populists,” said Dominique Moïsi, a senior analyst at the Paris-based Institut Montaigne. "It says two things: if you choose them, they don't leave power easily, and if you choose them, see what they can do to provoke popular anger."
The long day of riots, violence and death when Mr Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol has given countries such as France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland a clear warning about underestimating the power of populist anger and the prevalence of targeted conspiracy theories. with democratic governments.
Heather Grabbe, director of the Open Society European Policy Institute in Brussels, said the turmoil showed how the populist playbook was based on "us versus them leading to violence".
"But it's really important to show where populism is leading and how it plays with fire," she added. "When you have aroused your supporters with political arguments about us versus them, they are not opponents but enemies to be fought by all means, and it both leads to violence and makes the admission of power impossible."
How threatening the populists of Europe found the events in the United States to be was reflected in their response: one by one they distanced themselves from the riots or fell silent.
In France, Marine Le Pen, head of the far-right National Rally, is expected to take off another major challenge for President Emmanuel Macron in the 2022 elections. She was determined to support Mr Trump, praised his election and Brexit as precursors to populist success in France, and reiterated his insistence that the US election was falsified and fraudulent. But after the violence, which she said was "very shocked", Ms. Le Pen had withdrawn, condemning "any act of violence with the object of disrupting the democratic process".
Like Mrs. Le Pen, Matteo Salvini, populist leader of the Italian anti-immigrant union, said, "Violence is never the solution." In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders, a prominent right-wing party leader, criticized the attack on the American legislature. With elections in his country in March, Mr. Wilders wrote on Twitter, "The outcome of democratic elections must always be respected, whether you win or lose."
Thierry Baudet, another high-profile Dutch populist, has joined Mr Trump and the anti-vaccination movement, and has in the past questioned the independence of the judiciary and a "fake parliament".
But already in trouble over reported anti-Semitic comments and rifts in his party, Forum for Democracy, including Mr Baudet, has little to say so far.
Still, the Forum for Democracy and Mr Wilders' Party for Freedom will probably collect about 20 percent of the vote in the Dutch elections, said Rem Korteweg, analyst at the Clingendael Institute in the Netherlands.
Even as populist leaders seem shocked by the events in Washington and nervous about further violence at the January 20 inauguration, there remains deep concern among mainstream politicians about anti-elitist, anti-government political movements in Europe, especially in the midst of confusion and anxiety. created by the pandemic of the coronavirus.
Fallout from Capitol Riot
Janis A. Emmanouilidis, program director of the European Policy Center in Brussels, said there is no uniform European populism. The different movements have different characteristics in different countries, and outside events are just one factor in their varying popularity, he noted.
"Now the most pressing issue is Covid-19, but it is not at all clear how politics will go after the pandemic," he said. "But," he added, "the fear of the worst helps to avoid the worst."
The "amazing polarization of society" and the violence in Washington "is creating a lot of deterrent in other societies," said Mr Emmanouilidis. "We see where it leads, we want to avoid it, but we are aware that we too can get to that point, that things can escalate."
As economies tank and populists come to power in France or Italy, he said, "God forbid when Europe faces the next crisis." Those concerns – in view of the 2022 elections – seem to have been part of why Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has been so concerned about France and Mr. Macron's demands.
In Poland, the government has been very pro-Trump, and public television has only acknowledged his electoral defeat when Mr Trump did it himself, said Radoslaw Sikorski, a former Foreign and Defense Secretary who now chairs the European delegation. Parliament for relations with the United States.
“With the defeat of Trump, there was an audible sound of disappointment from the populist right in Central Europe,” said Mr Sikorski. "The world will be a lonelier place for them."
Poland's President Andrzej Duda, who met Mr. Trump in Washington in June, just has called the uprising in the Capitol an internal issue. "Poland believes in the power of American democracy," he added.
Likewise, Prime Minister Victor Orban of Hungary, a strong supporter of Mr Trump, declined to comment on the riot. "We shouldn't get involved in what's happening in America, that's America's business, we're rooting for them and we trust that they will succeed in solving their own problems," he told state radio.
Mr Sikorski, the former Polish minister, is a political opponent of the current government in his country. Europe, he said, had to "wake up to the dangers of far-right violence" and conspiracy theories. “There is far more right-wing violence than jihadist violence,” he said. "We can't assume that this kind of craziness will go away, because they have their own facts. We have to take off the gloves – liberal democracy has to defend itself."
Enrico Letta, a former prime minister of Italy who is now dean of the Paris School of International Affairs at Sciences Po, said Mr Trump gave credibility to the disruptive views and approaches of populist leaders in Europe, thus freeing him is a big deal for them. Then came the riot, he said, "which I think has completely changed the map."
Now, like Ms Le Pen, Italian populist leaders felt "obliged to cut ties with some forms of extremism," said Mr Letta. "They have lost the ability to keep this ambiguity about their links with extremists on the fringes," he added.
He said Mr Trump's defeat and the violent response to it were significant blows to European populism. The coronavirus disaster alone, he added, represented “the revenge of competence and the scientific method” against the obscurantism and anti-elitism of populism, noting that the problems surrounding Brexit were also a blow.
"We are even starting to think that Brexit has been a positive thing for the rest of Europe, enabling a restart," said Mr Letta. "Nobody followed Britain out, and now there is Trump's collapse."
But Mr. Moïsi, the analyst at the Institut Montaigne, hit a darker note. After writing about the emotions of geopolitics, he sees a dangerous analogy in what happened at the Capitol, noting that among many of Mr. Trump's supporters, it could end as a heroic event.
The riots reminded him of the failed Beer Hall Putsch by Adolf Hitler and the early Nazi Party in Munich in 1923.
That attempt to overthrow the Bavarian government also had elements of farce and was widely ridiculed, but it became “the fundamental myth of the Nazi regime,” said Mr Moïsi. Hitler spent the prison sentence he received after the violence writing & # 39; Mein Kampf & # 39 ;.