"What the hell is wrong with America?"

You see the question blared across social media every time Donald Trump makes headlines again for saying something freshly outrageous.

"How did they let him come this far? Why would anyone vote for him?"

Opinions on the Republican presidential candidate, of course, are divided and subjective. But it would be false to attribute his increasing presence solely to the United States when similar candidates and political parties are cropping up all over the world.


Tom Switzer, a research associate at the United States Studies Centre, told news.com.au Trump was just a symbol of a rising international trend.

"Donald Trump is not just an American phenomenon," he said. "He's a global phenomenon. Trump-like figures are popping up all over Europe.

"They're railing against globalisation, against capitalism, against immigration, and political correctness."

Europe has taken a noted swing to the right over the past year, with sluggish economic growth and the refugee crisis in Syria seeing far-right factions making electoral gains.

From Austria to France, Poland to Hungary, there is a clear growing support for conservative leaders who value isolationism and are deeply wary of immigration.


Travel to France and you will find a woman named Marine Le Pen regularly making headlines.

The leader of the country's conservative Front National Party, Le Pen is arguably the most controversial MP in France right now.

She's staunchly opposed to immigration, particularly of Muslims.

Le Pen publicly supports the controversial burkini ban, even after an incident involving a woman on a beach being forced to partially remove her clothing, which was condemned internationally.

"The burkini is... one of the multiple symptoms of the rise of fundamentalist Islam in France," she told CNN.

"It is about demands that are designed to say 'We Muslims, though not all are in agreement with this, we want to eat differently, we want to live differently, and we want to dress differently'."

Her party was also the only major political group in France to call for Britain to leave the European Union, the results of which she later hailed as a "signal of liberty and freedom to the rest of the world".

She's called for a similar movement by France, which has been called 'Frexit'.

Le Pen has publicly thrown her support behind Donald Trump for the US election, saying Hillary Clinton would bring "war" and "devastation". That said, she's notably more careful with her language than Trump is, as part of her attempt to appeal to the mainstream.

However, she rejects the description of her party as "far right", arguing that it discredits the party's growing popularity.

As it stands, Le Pen is not to be understated. Previous polls have found her to be twice as popular as current French president, Francois Hollande, and will no doubt be a reckoning force in the country's general election next year.


Poland's conservative Law and Justice Party won the 2015 Polish election, winning 39 per cent of the national vote.

It is currently the largest party in the Polish parliament, with 234 seats in the Sejm (Poland's version of the House of Representatives) and 62 seats in the Senate.

Earlier this year, the party came under fire for refusing to take in the 7000 refugees Warsaw agreed to accept last year.

The country's Prime Minister, Beata Szydlo, was critical of German Chancellor Angela Merkel for opening the country's borders to refugees, saying she (Szydlo) "wasn't okay with accepting any number of migrants at all".

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo (R) has criticised German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) for her open policy on refugees. Photo / Getty Images
Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo (R) has criticised German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) for her open policy on refugees. Photo / Getty Images

Meanwhile, Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski has been accused by critics of Islamophobia. In a previous interview with The Middle East Eye, he suggested the country would favour Christian refugees over Muslims.

"An individual who arrives in Poland must demonstrate that he or she can integrate in our culture and society," he said. "Therefore, we can place greater hopes that Christian refugees have more potential to assimilate."

The country is also notorious for its stance against homosexuals and abortion.


The Danish People's Party, the country's second-largest political party, has been gaining increasing support since 1995.

The far-right party surprised opinion pollsters after bagging 21 per cent of the country's votes in last year's general election.

The controversial group is best known for its anti-immigration stance, and has proposed legislation targeted specifically at adherents of Islam.

Kenneth Kristensen Berth, the European Affairs spokesman for the party, has even stated he is a "big fan" of Australia's controversial border policy, describing it as "very sensible".

Mr Kristensen wants Denmark to send people to Greenland or an African country in exchange for aid money.

"We need to make it clear to these people that they cannot have a permanent life in a European country."


Support for Germany's far-right significantly went up following the New Year's Eve sexual assaults in Cologne last year.

In the country's March election this year, the far-right Alternative for Germany party won a quarter of the public vote.

The party heavily uses campaign slogans like "Secure the borders" and "Stop the asylum chaos", and this year marked the first time the party had come as high as second in any state.

Its leader, Frauke Petry, caused a firestorm of controversy in February this year after she suggested using guns to keep illegal immigrants out of the country.

"People must stop migrants from crossing illegally from Austria," she said in an interview with a regional newspaper. "If necessary, they should use firearms. I don't want this, but the use of armed force is there as a last resort."

The party is now expected to be the first right-wing group to enter Germany's Parliament since the end of World War II.


So, where does Australia fit into this trend?

Well, Pauline Hanson is back on the political scene, and she's been referred to in global headlines as "Australia's Donald Trump".

But Switzer disputes this comparison, saying that while there may be similarities between the two on immigration, she's far less influential here than leaders with similar political views are on their respective countries across Europe.

Our relatively good fortune here, he argues, has made us an exception to the trend.

Pauline Hanson doesn't have the same support in Australia as leaders who share her views have overseas, Switzer says. Photo / Getty Images
Pauline Hanson doesn't have the same support in Australia as leaders who share her views have overseas, Switzer says. Photo / Getty Images

"In Australia we've just celebrated 25 years of continuous economic growth," he said. "I think, all things considered, we have a good immigration system and we have confidence in our border protection system.

"Pauline Hanson may have four seats in the senate, but she only won four per cent of the national vote. In Europe, that number would have been at 25 to 40 per cent.

"Hanson's not resonating with people the same way Trump does in America, or Marine Le Pen does with many French people."

However, he attributed her rise to similar reasons for the rise of right-wing groups in Europe.

"The Muslim factor plays a key part here," he said. "A lot of political elites in this country play down radical elements in the Muslim community. Pauline Hanson isn't afraid to raise these issues."

But he said this time around, Australians are handling her spotlight a lot better.

"Twenty years ago, she was demonised. She was treated as the new Hitler. There were street protests. People weren't just demonising Hanson; they were demonising Howard for not demonising Hanson."

He said Howard handled her better during her peak in the late 1990s, by ignoring her as opposed to condemning her publicly, which Malcolm Turnbull did shortly before the election."By demonising her you're just going to build more support and sympathy for her among swinging votes, whereas by playing a dead bat, as Howard did, you limit the impact of her having an impact on the public debate.

"Twenty years on, Australia is still inclusive, we don't have agrarian socialism, we have steadily rising rates of non-discriminatory immigration. If Hanson left her mark on the nation, we would have become this xenophobic closed society. That's not the case today. I think the best way to handle Hanson is to let her and her supporters have their say. By silencing them you only make a bad situation worse."

In fact, he said, her relative lack of influence is a testament to how good we have it here compared to the rest of the world.

Perhaps our confusion over the rise of Donald Trump in America shows just how lucky we've been.