Sunday, December 11, 2016

Europe's epochal elections - Daniel Pipes




by Daniel Pipes

-- the masses are starting to make their views heard, not just in futile protests but to ‎change their countries' directions dramatically

"The novelty and magnitude of Europe's predicament make it difficult to understand, tempting ‎to overlook, and nearly impossible to predict. Europe marches us all into terra incognita."

That's ‎how I closed an article 10 years ago on the topic of Islam's future in Europe. Now, thanks to ‎elections in France and Austria, an answer is emerging: Europeans appear to be unready to "go gentle ‎into that good night" but will "rage, rage against the dying of the light."‎

True, the elites, as symbolized by Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, remain in deep denial ‎about the issues of immigration, Islamism, and identity. What I call the six Ps -- politicians, press, ‎police, prosecutors, professors and priests -- refuse to acknowledge the fundamental societal ‎changes and enormous tensions their policies are creating. But -- and this is the news -- ‎the masses are starting to make their views heard, not just in futile protests but to ‎change their countries' directions dramatically.‎

The French center-right political party, the Republican Party, has just held its first U.S.-style presidential primary. In the first of two rounds, seven candidates, ‎including former President Nicholas Sarkozy and former Prime Ministers Alain Juppe ‎and Francois Fillon, vied for the top two slots.‎ For months, Juppe and Sarkozy ran first and second in the polls, with Fillon a distant third. Fillon was so ‎invisible that a commentary on the French primaries by the excellent Christopher ‎Caldwell ignored him completely.‎

But, as has happened often in recent years -- including with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and British Prime Minister David Cameron in 2015, ‎and Brexit and Donald Trump's election in 2016 -- the more conservative option did far better than expected. In ‎a stunning surprise, Fillon won 44% of the vote, way ahead of Juppe with 29% and ‎Sarkozy with 21%. The other four candidates won 7% of the vote.

In the second round, Fillon went on to crush Juppe 66% to 34%. Fillon will likely win the first ‎round of the general election and then win the run-off against either the Socialist Party candidate ‎or Marine Le Pen of the National Front. He will have offered a way forward between the silly ‎notion of a "happy identity" forwarded by Juppe and the insurgency of le Pen, which ‎seeks "temporarily" to nationalize the banks.‎

Assuming Fillon stays true to his platform, his becoming president has epochal importance for ‎Europe. For the first time, a centrist politician espouses a traditionally patriotic outlook, standing ‎up for indigenous European culture and mores while opposing further large-scale immigration ‎and accommodation to Islamism. This greatly damages the insurgent National Front, an ‎inexperienced party replete with eccentric and often left-wing views.‎

Fillon has broken the Europe-wide taboo against a legacy party stealing the thunder of an ‎insurgent party. If he rides this tactic to victory, he will chart a course for politicians of the ‎center-right from Greece to Norway; already, Merkel has followed his lead with a dramatic ‎course change, calling for a partial ban on burqas.

The timing of these events is not fortuitous, but follows on two developments: repeated major ‎acts of jihadi violence in France, and Merkel's 2015 decision to allow in uncounted numbers of ‎unvetted migrants. Merkel's decision, which will likely be seen as a turning point in European ‎history, also helped fuel the spectacular rise of Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party of Austria ‎‎nearly to the presidency of that country, winning 49.7% of the vote in April and ‎then 46.2% in December, both times running against the Green Party's former leader.‎

Granted, Austria has minor importance and its presidency is largely ceremonial, but the fact that ‎an insurgent party twice almost reached the 50% mark shatters the consensus ‎view that insurgent parties cannot gather more than a third of the vote. They can. Hofer's near-‎victory has immense implications, suggesting that if legacy parties do not steal the insurgents' ‎thunder in time, those insurgents will eventually reach power on their own.‎

Together, then, the French and Austrian elections suggest Europeans have two alternate paths to ‎reject multiculturalism, Islamism, and unceasing immigration: either by transforming legacy ‎parties or by supporting insurgent parties.‎

Whether they will do so in turn depends mainly on two key developments: the willingness of ‎legacy center-right parties to adopt insurgent party ideas; and the frequency and death toll of ‎jihadi attacks.‎

The terra is becoming more cognita.‎


Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum.

Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=17833

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