At the end of last year I questioned whether 2021 would be the year of populism here it is now well into 2021 and things seem a bit clearer
Following Donald Trump’s (alleged?) election defeat, the MSM, or mainstream media, declared populism is dead, gone, never to be resurrected ever again. But were the victories of Trump and Brexit the matches that lit the flames of a dormant populist movement? Or to give it its proper unsanitised and un PC name, patriotism or nationalism.
Despite the rest of Europe essentially dismissing figures and parties who championed anti-establishment, anti-immigrant policies in 2016, voters might be giving these same forces a second look now that our experts have failed so many people in the age of the pandemic.
From France to Portugal to the Netherlands, the populist wave could still rise.
President Emmanuel Macron is not the most popular man in France right now. According to dozens of opinion polls since July 2020, the French leader’s disapproval rating has routinely topped 50%, with the latest batch of surveys exceeding 60%. Could this signal his demise at next year’s presidential election?
Marine Le Pen, head of the National Rally party, is closing in on Macron in the polls. According to the latest Harris online study, if a final-round presidential contest were held today, Le Pen would receive 48% of the vote, compared to Macron’s 52%. While this gives Macron a slight re-election victory, it is the narrowest margin recorded.
Le Pen appears to be launching her electoral bid proposing new measures, including a ban on Muslim headscarves in all public places. Speaking to reporters at a press conference, Le Pen suggested prohibiting “Islamist ideologies” that she referred to as “totalitarian and murderous.”
But while this kind of position failed to get Le Pen to the Elysée Palace in 2017, the public’s frustrations over Macron’s handling of the Covid19 pandemic and the poor economic recovery might prompt more voters to cast a ballot for her in 15 months.
That said, a lot can change over the next year, but populism appears to be making a comeback across the whole of France.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte recently stepped down after more than two years of political chaos among a fragile ruling coalition government. Conte resigned after Matteo Renzi withdrew his small Italia Viva party from the brittle alliance, although populist Five Star Movement (M5S) and the center-left Democratic Party (PD) are sticking behind the outgoing prime minister.
That said, Salvini’s exit resulted in Conte running the government with a slim majority, meaning no clear way of getting policies through.
Was this a victory for populism? Not quite. Salvini is currently facing a trial over allegations that he abused his power by preventing a refugee ship from anchoring in 2019 while he was the interior minister. Salvini is unapologetic, accepting the charges as a badge of honour. He told the press following a closed-door hearing:
“I am totally at ease and proud of what I did. I am sorry only for the cost of the procedure that is being borne by Italian taxpayers and the magistrate’s time that I have wasted.” That doesn’t sound like the sentiments of a contrite politician, more of a nationalist wanting to get back into the fray.
Last month, Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa won re-election in a landslide, capturing 61% of the vote. Despite his victory, many political analysts are monitoring Andre Ventura, a right-wing populist politician who earned a substatial 12% of the ballots, hardly a fringe movement, although there is still some way to go.
. Although Lisbon has been led by a centre-right coalition with a Socialist Party in opposition, observers say that this balance could well be shifting before the next parliamentary election in two years as Ventura continues to rise.
Ventura has been a growing voice in politics since 2017, advocating less immigration and more law and order. After abandoning the centre-right Social Democratic Party, he formed his own populist party called Chega (Enough).
The Foreign Policy think tank https://www.fpri.org/ notes that “the Portuguese have a higher level of distrust in their democracy than most populations,” adding: “this discontentment could fuel a unique brand of far-right populism in Portugal that doesn’t rely primarily on anti-immigrant sentiment.”
In a country where the government has extended and tightened lock downs and the economy is forecast to slump even more, an anti-establishment candidate could well achieve wide public appeal.
Geert Wilders, the head of the Party for Freedom, did not become the political general some had expected in the 2017 election, despite holding the second-largest number of parliamentary seats.
However, following a child welfare scandal under Prime Minister Mark Ruttle, and a nation becoming increasingly bitter over the Covid19 lock downs, could Wilders succeed in the spring when millions of citizens venture back to the polls?
The latest data suggest the makeup of government would look relatively the same as it does now. In fact, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) could build on its number of seats, despite the political disaster hanging over the party’s head.
In the United States, President Trump’s loss may have only been the beginning. Whether you support Trump or not, he may be a force to be reckoned with for years to come in the form of the Patriot Party.
While conservatives have warned of the long-term political consequences of a fractured Republican Party that would give Democrats control for many years to come, it shows that the MAGA population is not vanishing.
The same spirit has travelled across the pond, seeping into a large segment of the voting public who have felt both left behind and insulted by Boris and his faux conservatives not only appeasing their globalist masters in Brussels, but advocating a migrant amnesty in the form of Covid19 vaccination whether you are legally a UK resident or not.
Populism is not going away anytime soon.