Right is not far right

Jacques Chirac’s overwhelming victory in the French presidential elections, with an unprecedented 82 percent compared to a scarce 20 percent in the first round, signalled, above all, disapproval of the far-right candidate, Jean-Marie Le Pen. At the same time, the result clearly underscored where the dividing lines are drawn in a democratic state, what the ideological and political points of convergence are, and the time when citizens or political elites have to overcome their particular differences in order to combat the enemies of a democratic polity. The fact that all of France’s left, from moderates to communists, did not hesitate to unite behind Chirac, a conservative, highlights that the differences between left and right are less important than those between the right and the far right. The vote of the French citizens showed that they believe the far right to be something wholly alien, a total stranger to democratic conservative parties. If they doubted this, then the massive democratic alliance behind Chirac, that genuine democratic alert, would have not been possible. The French proved that the far right and the right are two separate things. This is an indisputable fact. One only has to take a look at the economic programs of Europe’s far-right parties to see their incompatibility with the free-market principles upheld by the continent’s democratic right-wing parties. In short, far rightists are opposed to the very economic foundations of the existing system, not to mention their blatant and unbridgeable differences with all parties on all other social and political issues. In this light, the simplistic attempt to portray right-wing and extreme rightist parties as having much in common so as to sway any terrified center-right voters, while disregarding the long-term consequences of such policies, does democracy a bad service. Finding themselves in a difficult position due to growing public disaffection, Greece’s Socialist government and the prime minister in person seem tempted by the idea of holding a campaign centered on equating the right and the extreme right. Apart from the questionable effectiveness of such a policy, it would be harmful for the country for the government to try to introduce wholly unfounded dividing lines.