Pantelis Boukalas PANTELIS BOUKALAS

Saving democracy

COMMENT

TAGS: Politics

A European Union that goes to such lengths to express its relief and embellish situations so as to partially justify this relief probably doesn't trust the ideas, visions and values that are touted as being strong and dear to all its members.

In mid-March, we heard sighs of relief from Brussels and the capitals of the bloc's leading nations at the victory of conservative Mark Rutte in the Netherlands (though he won having lost a serious percentage of support) and the defeat of far-right Geert Wilders who, however, managed to increase his electoral influence and the number of his party’s seats thanks in part to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now the sighs are being elicited by the two-point lead clinched in France by centrist Emmanuel Macron over far-right Marine Le Pen in the first round of the presidential elections.

Yet there is nothing to be glad about in the fact that at least one in five French voters supports the rabidly intolerant and racist Front National. When Jean-Marie Le Pen was expelled from the party in August 2015 for claiming that the Nazi gas chambers were a mere “detail” of history, the aim was to protect and clean up the party's image so that it would enjoy broader public appeal. The polarizing ideas the FN peddles have not changed particularly – after all far-right supporters all over the world love its tall tales of Jewish conspiracies, including here in Greece and not just those who vote for Golden Dawn.

Europe's ultranationalists will be looking forward to the second round of the French elections as the mother of all battles, as they have found their natural leader in Marine Le Pen. The performance of her party in the 2014 elections for the European Parliament, securing 24.5 percent of the vote, and the high percentage of support she received on Sunday (a personal victory, as she ran mainly on the merit of her first name rather than her surname or the name of her party, which is so hateful to many), put her in the lead of the trend that is poisoning Europe with its rhetoric of hate and cultivation of fear.

The democratic forces of both France and Europe at large must respond to this imperative by throwing themselves behind Macron on May 7. Even if they are not moved his rather vapid slogan (OK, we're marching forward, but to where and with whom?), as unimpressed as they are by his stint at the Economy Ministry, as unconvinced as they are by his assurances that his background in banking will be put in the service of society rather than to pander to cronies, they must stand beside him. This is a must: You cannot improve democracy if you don't first save it.

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