The Winds of Change: Update on European Elections

Just six short months ago President Obama and Chancellor Merkel, presided over a formidable coalition of globalists committed to transforming the Western world, including also Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, France’s President François Hollande, and Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. United by a common ideology, these Western leaders were busy ushering in a  transformative era of unfettered and massive migration of Arab Muslims and Africans into Europe and the US.

Now Merkel stands alone.  Obama exits the world stage next month, Cameron resigned after the Brexit vote, Hollande announced last week that he would not seek re-election, and as of the weekend, Renzi has also announced his resignation.

According to the NY Times, Merkel

once untouchable, now seems vulnerable in next year’s elections. And far-right parties are also seeking power in France. In Austria, the Green Party stalled the advance of populist forces on Sunday by defeating the presidential candidate of the far-right Freedom Party, which was established by former Nazis. The result in Austria might have calmed some nerves, but it was the rejection of Mr. Renzi that most sent shivers through Europe and the world.
In a strategic blunder that echoed David Cameron’s call for a “Brexit” referendum, Mr. Renzi had tied his government’s tenure to Sunday’s vote when he was flying high in the polls. But his support eroded, and world leaders anxiously watched the vote in Italy, the fourth-largest economy in Europe and a key player in the European Union, as a referendum on Mr. Renzi’s centrist government and as a barometer on the strength of anti-establishment winds blowing across both sides of the Atlantic.

Sunday’s rejection of Renzi’s referendum and his subsequent resignation has created a political crisis in Italy that could spread across the Eurozone. Like Americans last month, Italian voters were furious about their dismal economic prospects and the migrant crisis that has engulfed them, as it has all of Europe.  Voters were emphatic in expressing their anger and opposition to establishment elites, globalization, open borders and the overreach of the EU.

Early projections point to a decisive defeat of the measure with the Yes vote at 39–43% and the No at 57–61%. After learning of the projected results on Sunday, Renzi said he would tell a Cabinet meeting on Monday afternoon that he will resign.

According to the NY Times, “As was the case with Brexit, there is a feeling of us versus them — of wealthy experts telling voters what to think without really understanding the despair that stalks families who feel enough is enough. Like many Greeks, Italians feel they are sheltering far more than their fair share of refugees and immigrants. To say the country is pessimistic is putting it lightly.”

Younger Italians in particular voted “NO” overwhelmingly, and for good reason.  Unemployment among Young Italians has been hovering at around 40%, forcing many to seek a job abroad and leaving those who remain embittered at what they perceived to be an elite, ineffective and remote government.

Experts are now fearful that uncertainty provoked by a political crisis in Italy could spark panic across the eurozone, and Italy may even end up leaving the euro and returning to the lira. (here)

The results in Italy are certain to reverberate across a European Union already buffeted by political upheaval and anti-establishment movements. Such movements have already unraveled traditional political structures in Greece and Spain, and led Britain to vote in June to leave the European Union.

Europeans on the continent have watched the U.S. election and the Brexit and Italian referendums closely, and leaders of right-wing movements in France, Germany, and the Netherlands holding elections in the coming year hope to get a boost from the momentum generated by these victories. Next I review their prospects (see here).

Dutch general election: March 15, 2017

Geert Wilders, a controversial member of the Dutch parliament known for his criticism of Islam and immigration has been favored to become the Netherland’s next Prime Minister. Wilders is currently awaiting a verdict on charges of inciting hatred after leading a chant at a rally calling for the Netherlands to accept fewer Moroccan immigrants(!). He has vowed to call a referendum on Dutch EU membership and to end immigration from Muslim countries. But he faces difficulties because the Netherlands relies on coalition governments and most political parties have sworn not to work with him.

Nevertheless, Wilders’ Freedom Party is topping current polls ahead of the parliamentary elections, and the momentum of his movement is evident. For example, Dutch members of parliament recently voted to ban the burqa, an Islamic face covering, from public places. Like Austria’s Hofer, Wilders has cited Trump’s election as an example for Europe. “The lesson for Europeans is look at America. What America can do, we can do as well.”

French presidential election.  April 23, 2017, May 7, 2017

National Front leader Marine Le Pen and Republicans’ candidate Francois Fillon are now the two main contenders to become France’s next President. As a result of Fillon’s recent primary victory, analysts say voters are being heavily influenced by Brexit and the election of Donald Trump in the United States. Fillon, a former prime minister under President Nicolas Sarkozy, was the more conservative of two top candidates running for president in France’s Republican Party primary elections.  Analysts say his victory points to a clear swing to the right among French voters, a trend that was already visible in the rise of Marine Le Pen’s far-right, anti-immigrant National Front, whose popularity ratings soared after a series of terrorist attacks in Paris, Nice and elsewhere in France.

Le Pen has a strong Eurosceptic, anti-Islam stance and has pledged to hold a referendum on France’s membership of the EU. However, she still faces an uphill task to clinch the top job because of the nature of France’s voting system, which requires candidates to win more than 50% of the electorate over a two-round process.  Polling conducted earlier this year indicates that the controversial FN chief will eventually lose to the conservative candidate Fillon by a comfortable margin in the second part of the contest. Fillon has promised to cut taxes, to slash jobs in the public sector, to curb union power, and to clamp down on Islamists. Analysts predict that Fillon should easily beat Le Pen, taking over from hapless socialist President François Hollande.

Regardless of the results, the fact that a third or more of French voters are now prepared to back a candidate who advocates dismantling the EU project terrifies the Brussels elite who are struggling to comprehend the surging populist tide on its doorstep. As a sign of the growing panic concerning the fate of the EU project, the current French prime minister Manuel Valls admitted for the first time that a Le Pen victory is “possible.”  Martin Selmayr, the right-hand man of Brussels chief Jean-Claude Juncker, summed up the EU’s feeling towards the FN leader and other eurosceptics when he tweeted that her election would be a “horror scenario.”

German federal election: September 2017

Angela Merkel is running for a fourth term as Chancellor but faces increasing resistance from the anti-EU Alternative for Germany (AfD). While a Merkel victory would support the status quo, a shock victory for AfD would see the reintroduction of German border controls, strict sanctions on Muslims and a referendum on EU membership. Like most European leaders, Ms Merkel has faced heavy criticism over her open-door migrant policy. Frauke Petry, a 41-year-old mother of four, has challenged Merkel’s open-door immigration policy. Petry would limit asylum applications to 200,000 a year, and is seeking a ban on the funding of mosques, declaring ‘Islam does not belong in Germany’. In a recent regional election, her hardline Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party pushed Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party into third place.

As in countries throughout the EU, Merkel’s decline is directly linked to increasing popular resistance to massive waves of immigrants.  Many voters feel that hosting migrants in their communities is a burden imposed by well-insulated liberal elites who do not care about the consequences. Here is a typical reaction from one disgruntled voter:

Watching 800,000 uninvited illegal migrants wander into the country, and seeing Germany allow these people to ignore the law and do what they wanted, I realized that countries that can’t control their borders — or won’t because of misguided naïve ideas about “human rights” — are doomed unless the people who pay the taxes and make things work have some say in the matter. It is a new “silent majority” that has been cowed into submission by a liberal press and cowardly politicians. Time to end this.

In fact, over a million migrants have arrived in Germany since last year.

The E.U. certainly can’t withstand a German exit or even a retreat from E.U. leadership. And make no mistake—Angela Merkel, still the person best able to provide that leadership, is now weaker politically than at any point over her decade-plus career as Germany’s chancellor. Merkel is still widely believed to run (and win) those elections, but the more problems mount, the more likely Merkel bows out. The odds-on favorite to replace her would be Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble, a fiscal hawk whose standoffish demeanor would do little to boost E.U. solidarity. (see here)

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