Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Has the spectre of right-wing populism gone away?

In the aftermath of Emmanuel Macron' s strong win in the French presidential elections this week, many people around the world are breathing a heartfelt sigh of relief, and wondering whether the threat of a surge right-wing populism is finally receding.
Centrist M. Macron won about 66% of the popular vote, compared to white nationalist Marine Le Pen's 34%, an apparent runaway victory for commonsense and wisdom that extended across almost all demographics. But this still represents the French National Front's best ever showing at the national level, and the party could still do well in the National Assembly vote in June (without a supportive majority in the lower house, M. Macron's victory may well be a hollow one).
After populist victories in the UK Brexit vote and the US presidential elections last year, the spectre of rising anti-immigrant anti-globalization populism seemed more than likely. But, since then, Norbert Hofer in Austria, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, and now Marine Le Pen in France, have all to stamp their right-wing vision on their respective countries. Britain's populist UKIP party was also almost blanked out in local council elections just last week. Next up is Germany, and few are predicting that Angela Merkel will lose control of Europe's biggest economy.
Italy, however, could be a different story, and the populist anti-Europe Five Star Movement has a handsome lead in the polls there, although a lot can still change in the run-up to the Italian election next spring. And the upcoming French National Assembly vote could have an influence on that too.
So, the forces of middle-of-the-road democracy can perhaps give themselves a pat on the back. But they certainly can't rest on their laurels, or slacken the pressure. The spectre is not yet at bay.

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