On the Right Nationalist World Tour: A Trending Topic

Right nationalism is a hot trending topic right now. It certainly seems to be having its moment in the sun. For those who are not privy with this ethos, let me set the stage here.

The right nationalists (a great deal of them certainly) believe that the inequality and economic stagnation that is becoming characteristic in many rich democracies can be attributed to the rise of immigrants, minorities, and foreign states because they drain welfare states and public services, and help to push seizure trade deals. They are (mostly) anti free trade and free movement and bid to recreate the strong, ethnically and culturally homogeneous nation states that pretty much prevailed in the post-war period of the 1950s. In Britain, they managed to win the referendum. This particularly shocking event was followed by a less shocking event (I wasn’t surprised. Where you?); The victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election.

It goes without saying that there are many right nationalist movements scattered throughout the rich countries, and many of them will have a chance to gain power and influence in upcoming elections. I hereby present you the four biggest opportunities for right nationalists to shake the liberal world order to its core in the next year.

I call it the right nationalist world tour. Here are the dates in chronological order:

  • June 23, 2016, London, UK.- 52% vs 48% referendum victory Brexit
  • November 8, 2016, Washington DC, USA- 306 to 232 electoral college victory for Donald Trump (don’t even get me started on the electoral college crap).
  • December 4, 2016, Rome, Italy- Constitutional referendum result is yet to be announced.
  • MArch 15, 2017, The Hague, Netherlands- General election results yet to be announced.
  • May 7, 2017, Paris, France- presidential election results yet to be announced.
  • September 2017, Berlin, Germany- Federal election results yet to be announced.

At the moment, the polls are looking vigorous enough to keep the right nationalists down in Germany and, to a lesser extent France, but in both UK and the US the right nationalist are kicking butt. To make matters worse, the Italians are up first and it looks like they are in biiig trouble. Why? Well, if their referendum fails and this triggers a new round of Eurocrisis, it could potentially change the conditions in the Netherlands, France, and Germany. Each race that tips has the potential to produce more momentum, particularly if other external factors hurt Europe’s current political establishment – think of a terrorist attack or global economic crisis. Let’s examine the state of each rat race in the tour, shall we?

The Italian Referendum

Italy’s constitution has always been messy.  Unlike most countries that run on a parliamentary system, Italy’s government is responsible for two houses simultaneously, the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate of the Republic. This means all legislation must be passed in both houses in the same text, and the government needs the confidence of both to stay in power. Goes without saying that this makes it extremely difficult for the Italian Prime Minister to get things done, and especially to maintain a stable government. Enter sandman: Prime Minister Matteo Renzi wants to pass an array of reforms to make it easier for him to run the country, and essentially make Italy more similar to other parliamentary systems. The problem is that the reforms he is advocating will massively weaken the senate, leaving the Prime Minister without any balance between the two houses. This, in turn, will make it more similar to the British House of Lords, which allows the Chamber of Deputies to override it on most matters.

I’m going to get statistical in this part. Italy has basically already passed some electoral reforms that will give the leading political party winning in excess of 40% of the vote a minimum of 340 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, or 54% of the total (so if no party wins 40%, a so-called run-off is held between the two strongest parties). The remaining 277 seats are then distributed to the less fortunate parties proportionately. Together with the constitutional reform, the whole point of this electoral reform is to ensure that the leading party in Italian politics always enjoys a comfortable governing majority in the only house that really matters, thereby eliminating potential coalitions.

Italy’s small parties hate these reforms because with this new electoral reform they are essentially excluded of a chance to join coalitions with the major parties. Furthermore, because Italy is pretty much used to proportional representation and coalitions, there is a general concern that the reforms are undemocratic and give the Prime Minister too much power (not so peculiar for British standards). Among the leading opponents is the Five Star Movement, a Euroskeptic, anti-establishment party promoting protectionism and condemning foreign military interventions. It is certainly not a perfect mirror of Trump, since it actually recognizes climate change and cares a lot about the environment. However, Beppe Grillo is a clown. An entertainer with no political experience who really hopes to defeat Renzi’s referendum and capitalize on the defeat so that he can force a new election in which the FSM might potentially win. Once this happens, the doors will be open for achieving the longstanding aim of holding a referendum on EU membership, Brexit style.

As you can see in the table below, things are not looking pretty for Renzi. But it ain’t over till the fat lady sings. The most recent polls have “yes” trailing by 3 to 4 points!

media_sondaggi_sul_referendum_costituzionale_italiano_del_2016-svg

However, if Renzi blows the referendum, he is probably in serious trouble. The Five Star Movement is quickly catching the trail.

The Dutch General Election

In the Netherlands the PVV (Party for Freedom) is once again rising in the polls. Let by Geert Wilders, quite the bona fide Islamophobe, the party is now expected to increase its shares of seats in the Dutch House of Representatives from 15 to somewhere between 21 and 42, with most November polls putting them on around 25. There are 150 members in the House of Representatives, which are directly elected by Dutch voters every four years. If the PVV can score 28 seats, it is more than likely to have the largest number of seats, but far from enough to form a governing majority on its own (since this would require 75 or more).

Mark Rutte, the current Dutch Prime Minister, comes from VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy), a center-right party that supports austerity. Let me tell you the story about the 2010 elections. in 2010, PVV came third and VVD included PVV in a right wing coalition. When Rutte attempted to pass austerity measures in 2012, PVV blocked them and forced the government to call a new election. In that particular election, PVV’s numbers fell and VVD elected to form a unity government with PvdA, the Dutch Labor Party. This coalition reintroduced and eventually passed austerity measures in 2013. I should point out that this particular event seems to have destroyed the Dutch Labor Party’s “anti-austerity” authenticity. Its poll numbers have drastically decreased since then, much like the British Liberal Democrats’ numbers, which also dived after they vetoed their support for tuition fees. The VVD also took a hit, but a softer one. As the Dutch center has pretty much collapsed, a variety of anti-establishment parties on both left and right have experiences a rise in the polls, but none more so that the right nationalist PVV.

Traditionally, the party with the most seats gets the first opportunity to form a governing coalition. There is a good chance that this could be PVV. But if other parties refuse to work with PVV, it could potentially be bullied out of power. Luckily this could also be accomplished even if PVV does exceptionally well and beats its current numbers.

The French Presidential Election

It is commonly known that French President Francois Hollande is going down, hard. The latest polls have him levitating around the 10%. The French presidential elections run in two rounds. The two parties with the strongest position showing in the first round advance to the second, while the rest are eliminated. The current polling strongly suggests that Alain Juppe will defeat Nicolas Sarkozy to become the center-right Republican Party’s nominee and can potentially end the first round with something around 30% of the vote, while the National Front’s Marine Le Pen will finish either closely ahead of him or behind him. This means that potentially all  the left and center-left candidates are likely to finish outside the top two, which would mean an early defeat for the current power bearer Hollande as well as the left wing Jean-Luc Melenchon and the centrist Emmanuel Macron, each of whom polls range from low to middle.

In my hypothetical round two, you’ll have a Juppe and Le Pen matchup, Juppe remains quite the favourite, leading by a near 2 to 1 margin. Le Pen is more on the extreme choice. She’s typically a French voter’s first or last choice. This is due to the fact that few voters are willing to move to National front in the second round. But since the first round is not until April, there is still plenty of time for things to change, and they will change substantially if Italy gets rid of Renzi and votes to leave the EU, or if the Netherlands manages to put PVV in government. It happened before, so who knows. In the 2012 presidential election Le Pen won only 18%. This was mostly attributed to Hollande’s unpopularity and an array of terrorist attacks in France. She has already managed to add about 10 points to that. I haven’t a clue what her ceiling is though. By the way, this would potentially mark the first time that National Front has made it into the second round since 2002 (they were seriously crushed then: 82 to 18).

The German Federal Election

My dear Angie, I once had so much faith in you. Faith no more. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been around for a good 11 years, and she remains a tough cookie to beat. The right nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) remains far behind in the third place, and the general sentiment is that the Socialist Party (SPD) won’t really work effectively in a left coalition with the left and the greens. However, Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has been going down the rabbit hole in the polls for a whole consecutive year now, and there is are still 10 months to go before election (usually held in September). Let’s take a closer look at the stats:

opinionpollinggermanyfederalelection2017

Ok so CDU is black, SPD red, AfD is cyan the greens are, well the greens, the left is purple, and the liberals are yellow. What we see is that the CDU is down about 10 points compared to last year (August to be exact). This results in a low of almost a quarter of its support. Also in the same time span, the AfD has been climbing from the basement onto the low mid teens, occupying a space similar to Britain’s UKIP (UK Independence Party). Moreover, the left wing parties have not been able to make significant progress- the PSD have also lost support this past year, the left is pretty much on flatline galore, and the greens’s gains are being counterbalanced because of the SPD’s losses. The liberals have picked a few points here and there, but nothing worth talking about. The trend clearly seems to be for weakening SPDers to go to the greens and weakening CDUers to go to AfD (still with me?).

This particular race is still very far ahead, so it is hard to predict what will happen. Perhaps a miracle will happen and the CDU will recover some of its losses, and let’s not forget Germany’s history of right nationalism. Clearly, right nationalists will face higher cultural barriers. Having said that, it is safe to say that Germany is one of the countries that has most profited from the EU membership (tariff free market galore), but the German media narrative also seems to be riding the wave of eurosceptism, which has swept across the continent after the British people backed Brexit in the historic referendum on June 23rd. This can be clearly seen in articles where AfD chairman Bjorn Hocke is quoted saying “I know the German people want to be free of EU slavery”. Party leader Frauke Petry has made it very clear that Dexit is at the top of her party’s agenda.

However, a chance of a German referendum are essentially quite small, and it might not be that simple. Let’s not forget the experience of the Nazi manipulation of plebiscites, which left quite the scar in the trust of polls on a national scale. This is mainly because the country’s post-war constitution, which technically only allows for referendums if the constitution itself or the territories of the states making up the republic are to be reformed. So basically Germany is one of the few EU countries with little to no experience of national referendums.

In the years of the Weimar Republic there were two national referendums; during the Nazi rule, three plebiscites were held, with biased questions and obvious manipulation of results, may I add.

Let us not forget that a referendum does not legislate an organized political opposition- it is either a yes or no answer. Probably the reason why Napoleon and Hitler loved them so much.

And there you have it, Europe’s peaceful sophisticated well run cities are now falling apart with demonstrations and anarchy while media narratives are spinning out of control. The domino effect has begun. It is a rolling tumbleweed at work. EU: The beginning of the end?

What are your thoughts on this topic?

Picture courtesy of http://one-europe.info

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One thought on “On the Right Nationalist World Tour: A Trending Topic

  1. Anonymous says:

    Stay optimistic. What else can you do? Have faith in human sympathy and empathy, or maybe every now and then a revolution is needed and the system needs to be shaken up a bit. Makes me think of a good quote from Thomas Jefferson “the tree of liberty needs to be refreshed from time to time with the blood of tyrants and patriots” Hell, maybe in the states there”ll b a 2nd civil war. Then its EU vs Russia, with China in the middle. Hello WW3.. but what can you do? Stay optimistic! 🙂 An good word usage!

    Like

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