Marine Le Pen’s first-round victory in France’s general elections – the final outcome of which will be decided in the May 7 run-off – is sending shivers down the spines of the EU establishment and the world.
Tactically, in an unexpected and interesting turn of events, the far-left candidate Melenchon’s bountiful 19.6 percent voter support base’s refusal to back the establishment-centrist Macron, are now likelier to flock over to Le Pen’s camp, just as Bernie Sander’s disgruntled voters – who are unwilling to accept Hillary Clinton – flocked over to Donald Trump. Melenchon and Le Pen’s shared lines of anti-establishment attack at polar ends of the political spectrum suddenly gives Le Pen a boost.
Le Pen’s victory will be less of a victory for far-right populism than in favour of anti-establishment insurgency. Le Pen might just perilously worm her way into the Elysee Palace in Paris, riding on a wave of anti-Muslim, immigrant-bashing identity politics in a vulnerable, tragically terror-stricken France, which has shaken, stirred and divided the French Republic – especially after last week’s Champs-Elysees attack which claimed the life of a brave police officer.
Le Pen’s success might unravel the much-revered 1789 French Republican values of liberty, equality and fraternity, as she represents the anti-Semitic fascist far-right Front National (FN) party – the rich irony being that the FN was formed by Nazi collaborators and still claims moral authority of being ‘anti-terror’. Le Pen sows human hatred between and among communities, thereby playing directly into the hands of Isis and other terror outfits. Isis yearns for Westerners to hate Muslims, inching our world closer to a titanic clash of civilisations.
Le Pen’s chest-thumping vitriol of banning mosques, pulling France out of the EU (labelled Frexit) and a Nato exit will jeopardise Nato’s multi-national military campaigns against Isis and has xenophobes lap up every sound byte of her sensationalist spiel. Le Pen spewed “the great issue in this election is the rampant globalisation that is putting our civilisation at risk”. Le Pen’s victory after Brexit will effectively hammer a decisive nail in the coffin of Brussels, a ‘Frexit’ from Nato represents political suicide for an already imperilled Europe with Russian hegemony on the rise along Europe’s Eastern border.
The Pegida and the AfD in Germany, Ukip and the Tories (albeit with much more moderation) will bank on much the same anti-globalisation, fear-based sentiments, as European societies are now fragmenting into smouldering cauldrons of exclusion and extremism. Terrorism, by its very definition, seeks to leverage violence to further political agenda. Isis claimed the Copenhagen, Stockholm, Berlin, Brussels, Bataclan, Nice, Westminster bridge and the recent Champs-Elysees attacks, which all tragically affect and influence the way the electorate have voted in France, how they will vote in Germany and are likely to vote in Britain’s elections. The political pendulum all over Europe has swung too far toward the extreme fascist, far-right, turning many EU nations into overbearing Orwellian police-states.
Hate-spewing, fear-mongering politicians like Le Pen prey on narrow, nationalist, nativist, anti-globalist, insular, inward-looking and immigration-demonising narratives which are gaining electoral traction the world over, whereby Muslims are being dehumanised and pushed to the socioeconomic periphery. Isis, by instigating trauma-laden, European-wide terror, wants Western governments and society to demonise all Muslims and isolate and deport them all.
Europe’s left is down in the doldrums. Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party – much like Corbyn’s Labour Party and the German left – is in tatters after a disastrous innings owing to a leadership vacuum and the failure to credibly articulate a charismatic inclusionary vision for Europe’s future. Let us hope that Macron’s pragmatic ‘centrism’ prevails as he is now Le Pen’s arch rival on May 7. The world needs ‘hope’ in Europe instead of ‘fear’, Macron is now France’s imminent hope to remain in the EU and Nato.
Edmund Burke aptly noted that society is a contract between the past, the present and the future. It is time to renew this shattered social contract. Humanity now stands at an existential crossroads. Do we betray forthcoming generations, consigning them to a clash of civilisations through ballistic ballot box choices, or do we enlighten them with hard-fought-for human liberal values of multiculturalism, tolerance and unity in diversity.
Europe’s left and centrist wings must now offer a substantive, alternative worldview based on meaningful policy shifts in a post-Brexit, protectionist, Trump world. Such a narrative could slash a bloated European public sector, reform – but never undo – the EU, give rise to policies which truly challenge an inert and inept status quo and offer stellar manifestos for genuine social and economic inclusion.
All this must be done for the security and safety of Europe, safeguarding the very existence of the EU and reinforcing Nato’s credibility in an increasingly violent nuclear world that is verging on brinkmanship.
The writer is a freelance contributor.