Lessons from France

Lessons from France

Marine Le Pen’s victory in the first round of regional elections in France points to a wave of rage. A commentator in the conservative Le Figaro described this sentiment as a “cold and brutal rage.”

The deadly terrorist attack in Paris a few weeks ago contributed to this development but does not lend it any form of rationality. France’s Socialist President Francois Hollande immediately declared war on Islamic State, while the Republican party of Nicolas Sarkozy has also in the past shown particular determination in the war on terror. It is Euroskepticism and not the refugee crisis that is undermining the systemic French center-right. This does not mean that Le Pen will triumph in the remaining six of 13 regions that gave her a majority in the first round. Nor do these results constitute a sign that she will be elected president of France. They are, however, a clear indication that the right in Europe is eroding and becoming warped while the European ideal is becoming increasingly unattractive.

Maybe the developments on the French political scene will lead to some kind of review of the common European policies that resulted in the dramatic drop of the socialist parties in the bloc’s south and are now threatening the systemic parties of the right in some countries of Central and Northern Europe. But this is not the issue at hand.

In Greece, a country that always fails at its imitations, the tribulations of the French right must be carefully studied and evaluated. As a systemic party of the center-right, New Democracy has already suffered some fragmentation, but Golden Dawn – its main rival on the far right of the spectrum – has not gone through the mutations of similar parties in other parts of Europe. Marine Le Pen’s Front National is nothing like the party founded by her father Jean-Marie, which underwent a radical shift after the first victories, fractured for a brief period and then came back together. Already Marion Marechal-Le Pen, who got over 40 percent of the vote in her region, represents the party’s third political mutation. Similar mutations have taken place in Austria’s Freedom Party, which shot up to 27 percent in 1999, entered a coalition government, fell apart and eventually regrouped to reach nearly 29 percent.

Golden Dawn is still in the initial, primitive stage, and New Democracy needs to start expressing the Euroskepticism that is prevailing across Europe, not in a manner that is anti-European but in a way that is critical of the system, because Greece’s problems are not just fiscal.

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