Thursday, January 26, 2017
I would love to be a fly on the wall at Davos. I can only imagine the panic filled discussions being had over not just Brexit, but also the defeat of Hillary Clinton. All of their plutocratic wealth accumulation schemes at the expense of the common person, and neoliberal plans of incessant domination as of now, look for them to be a giant ice cream cone that is melting before their eyes and in their hands due to the heat of populism. Even when they leave their luxurious surroundings in the snow-peaked Swiss Alps at the annual World Economic Forum, they will continue to have nightmares and dreams of what could have been because of what is up next at the plate.
Within the next 8 weeks the Dutch general election will happen on March 15. As it stands, the current front runner and favorite is the leader and founder of the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) Geert Wilders. The PVV has been described as being far-right and anti-Islam with Wilder himself recently being tried (for hate speech) in court, accused of inciting hatred against Moroccans. His crime was asking a crowed at a rally in 2014 if they wanted “fewer or more Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands”. After the throng began to shout “fewer, fewer,” he responded: “We’re going to organize that.” Although the resulting verdict found Wilders guilty of inciting discrimination, his views and support has only grown. Like Trump, he is seen as an anti-establishment firebrand who speaks the language of the people and tells it like it is.
Pundits have projected that the PVV could win as many as 35 seats this year which would make it the majority power in the 150-seat Dutch parliament. Present policy positions presented by the PVV include but are not limited to closing down all Islamic schools and mosques, shutting down the borders, a complete ban on migrants from Islamic nation states, banning the Koran and calling for a referendum on Dutch EU membership in a hope to pull the Netherlands out of the 28-nation institute, should he become prime minister. Thus it is not improbable that the Christian Wilders, with his promise to start a complete "de-Islamification" of the Netherlands, could become the country's next Prime Minister.
After the Dutch elections, in April and May the first and second rounds of the French presidential elections will take place, and like the Netherlands, the far-right has a strong chance of winning. As it stands, Marine Le Pen of the National Front is just a few points ahead of her conservative rival and former front-runner François Fillon of Les Républicains party based on recent surveys conducted by Ipsos Sopra Steria for Sciences Po University Research Centre (Cevipof) and Le Monde. In the past French voters have supported the National Front to the runoff stage of elections; however this was when the current candidate’s father was running. This time it will be after both the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote. Like Obama, the French reflect a similar level of disappointment for both François Hollande and his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy. Trump’s anti-NAFTA rhetoric is similar to the position of Le Pen regarding the European Union trying to establish a free-trade zone across Europe and North America that would be called the Transatlantic Free Trade Area (TAFTA).
Like Trump and Wilders, Le Pen boasts a similar form of political nationalism. She has been extremely critical of the migration policy of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and has ceaselessly indicated her desire, being labeled a Eurosceptic, to take France out of the EU and/or euro seeing she has pledged to hold a referendum on France’s membership in the organization. In addition she holds views some have described as being anti-Islam. For example, she believes that the children of illegal immigrants should not have access to French public schools. In concert with president Trump, she is for working closer with Russian President Putin and sees the utility of NATO as being questionable. In one recent interview with the BBC she was quoted as stating, “NATO continues to exist even though the danger for which it was created no longer exists.”
Whatever the result, a Le Pen win is set to usher in a new age of right-wing politics for France after decades of centrism. With the UK removed, along with Germany there remains only France to hold the top positions of power in the EU as nation states. And for this to continue, Le Pen and her far-right party would have to fall in defeat to her center-right opponent. If not a Le Pen victory could mean the end of Europe as we know it.
If France’s Marine Le Pen and the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders were to become president and Prime Minister of their respective nations, the impact of their victories would likely be felt far beyond Europe, especially with elections on the horizon in Germany. Not only could it result in a domino-effect of Brexit-style referendums in other member nations, it may entrench the observation that globally in the west, the mistrust of established corporate, media and political elites will continue to display itself in a tug of war between populist and establishment forces. Also, it will signal that more policies that are anti mass immigration, anti-austerity and anti-EU may not be too far behind.
Neoliberal detractors may say that politicians like Trump, Le Pen and Wilders are exploiting a populist agenda by capitalizing on irrational beliefs and views. Unfortunately the reality is that people are sick and tired of not having their political, or any interest represented by the contemporary status quo and feel they are not being represented by, or benefiting from current dysfunctional,neoliberal or neoconservative mainstream policies. They have seen what has happened in Greece and the impact that mass immigration and migration policies can have on a nation’s security and serenity. They are seeing increasing levels of terrorism once where they had not and are experiencing little and little less in their wallets and purses to even meet their basic needs. Even more sad and offensive is that mainstream politicians and most journalist not only are not trying to understand these phenomena but rather ignoring them as if a passing fad.
So if the Netherlands and France are next to follow Trump and Brexit, it could significantly damage the dream of a single unified shared economy for the Eurozone and significantly weaken the European Union as a world power and more importantly, signal that populist movements will continue to cultivate in Europe and the progressive left and other traditional supporters of neoliberalism will remain behind the curve or on the outside looking in.