France halts the anti-progressive march

By Cleofato A Coutinho
21 May 2017 20:45 IST

France is in a celebratory mode today. Emmanuel Macaron- a political novice who positioned himself equidistant from the right and left, as a centrist takes over as the new French president. Macron’s liberal policy which is clearly open to Europe and pro European union, advocated strong relation with Germany, reform of the economy, and flexible immigration policy were his hallmarks.

Marine Le Pen was the leader of the far right who positioned herself as a populist and a nationalist with the slogan of French first. She portrayed herself against the French flag background and perfected the nationalism based focus for her campaign. She pledged to give jobs to locals, throw out migrants and protect the French from Islamic extremists.

Analysis shows that the voting pattern has not been very pro Macron but very Anti Le Pen, which helped the president to romp home to victory. Though the European liberals and moderates heaved a sigh of relief, there is restraint and an element of caution. The country which gave to the world the slogan of Equality, Liberty and Fraternity in the late 18th century found itself at crossroads. America which has always claimed world leadership of democracy gave an anti establishment government in the form of Donald Trump who made populism, Islamic terror and anti migration policy as his prime focus. In England the Labour Party leader Theresa May championed the case against the migrants and for withdrawal from the European Union. Thus the political narrative got shifted to migration and Islamic Terror. Though France’s liberal and progressive values were presented by Emmanuel Macron prevailed, the extreme right leader Marine Le Pen cornered over 11 million votes, 5.5 Million over the votes cornered by her father in 2002. That itself is a worrisome signal for Europe and its liberal output. In fact in the first round of election, Le Pen and President Macron were almost at a tie.

Similar issues brought on the table by Donald Trump like Terrorism, High Unemployment amongst the youth and the anti migrant stand which triggered the trump victory were exploited by the far right leader in France. Though the Trump victory gave fillip to the Le Pen campaign she hoped to profit on similar populist issues. But that trend though rising did not get success. Both in Netherlands and Austria, the nationalism based populist forces lost and now France has kept the liberal flag flying high. It is said that when France sneezes, the rest of Europe catches a cold. The elections in Germany are due in September this year. The nationalism based right forces are also raising their head in Germany.  Angela Merkel’s philosophy more in tune with Europe’s liberal outlook shall be tested.

Could it be said that Donald Trump’s victory and Britain’s Brexit decision initiated the rejection of globalization and liberal values across the western world with Russia as an ally?

Can it be said that the march of the retrograde and populist forces has been halted in France or Netherlands? Such nationalism has retreated but it cannot be said that the far right populist forces are out. Le Pen picked up 11 million votes. The Dutch anti-Islamic terror, anti-immigrant and anti-European Union party of Wilders became the second largest part in Parliament.

2014-16 saw the rise of nationalists and anti-establishment forces with president Trump taking over as the president of the United states. Britain’s prime minister Theresa May and Indian Prime Minister found place in that area. In fact Le Pen said,”I feel much more in line with their philosophy .i.e. turning their back to the ideology of free trade and undermining social protection.”

For us in India it would be easier to deal with Macron due to his liberal outlook and pro immigration policies. India and France has always been cooperating in defense security and strategic partnership.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Cleofato A Coutinho

Cleofato Almeida Coutinho is a senior lawyer and one of the constitutional expert in Goa. A member of Law Commission of Goa, he also teaches at Kare College of Law in Madgao.

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