Le Pen Is Mightier Than . . .

Reuters reports:

France’s far-right National Front could top European Parliament elections next May, pulling ahead of the two big mainstream parties for the first time in a nationwide vote, a poll showed on Wednesday. Some 24 percent of those surveyed by for the Nouvel Observateur magazine said they would back the anti-immigrant party, compared with 22 percent for the center-right UMP and 19 percent for the governing Socialist Party.

This is a fairly small shift from previous polls, but still . . .

The National Front knocked out left-wing rivals and pulled far ahead of the UMP in the first round of a local election in southern France this week. The party’s next major political test will be municipal elections in March, in which [National Front leader Marine] Le Pen says she wants the party to build up a strong local base by winning control of hundreds of seats in local councils.

The National Front is also a Euroskeptic party. Its objections to the EU are rooted in an idea of national sovereignty that also encompasses a broader suspicion of globalization (many of the Front’s economic policies are, as so often with parties of the hard “right,” closer to the ideas of the traditionalist left than anything you might find emerging from most of Europe’s conservative parties). Meanwhile (to take a number of examples) the more mildly Euroskeptic Finns party (formerly known in English as the True Finns) is scoring around 19 percent in current polls (admittedly a lower number than on some previous occasions), Germany’s anti-euro AfD appears to be building on its unexpectedly strong showing in the recent general election, parties opposed to the single currency took nearly a third of the vote in the even more recent Austrian election, and in Britain there is a chance that UKIP may top the Euro-poll. In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders’s Freedom party is polling well and nearly 40 percent of those responding (a total unimaginable just a year or so ago)  to one recent poll wanted to exit the EU entirely. In Italy, the more ambiguously euroskeptic  Five-Star Movement still commands the support of around a fifth of voters, and in Greece the austerity-skeptic (very) left populists of SYRIZA are running a (very) close second in opinion polls.  There’s more, but you get the picture . . .

This wave may ebb somewhat, not least if the euro-zone’s economy can build on tentative signs of recovery, but at the moment it looks as if the EU’s parliament, a complacent and profoundly unpleasant assembly driven largely by greed and eurofundamentalism, may become (for good and bad) a distinctly spikier place after next May. That in turn is likely to drive the majority establishment groupings of center-left and center-right (to their credit, this does not include the U.K.’s Tories) even closer together, reinforcing the voters’ perception of an oligarchy at work, a perception that is not only deserved, but has also done quite a bit to fuel the current populist fire.

And there’s the rub . . .

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