France: When democracy is a game of Russian roulette | Elections

Democracy has become a Russian roulette game. Once seen as a routine exercise of sovereign rights by peoples, free elections have now become a dangerous gamble, constantly in danger of taking power against freedom, against the people. owner.

After a decade of unprecedented expansion after the Cold War, liberal democracy has been attacked by populist and reactionary forces over the past few decades, from the birth of Vladimir Putin in 2000 to the rise of the Soviet Union. Donald Trump’s rise in 2016 and the rise of far right across both sides of the Atlantic.

In the process, an increasing number of countries, such as Hungary, Turkey, Austria, India and Brazil, among others, have turned towards charismatic authoritarianism and populist illiberalism. .

And this month, many fear France will follow.

But fortunately, France’s liberal democracy has survive presidential election, leaving much of Europe a sigh of relief. Well, at least for now, or until the next time or time after that, when the right can finally “smash the glass ceiling”, with dangerous implications for the continent and beyond.

By definition, a sigh of relief is a sign of distress; The louder the sigh, the greater the grief.

And the French, like citizens of other modern democracies, are so distressed today that they have come up with the reckless idea of ​​electing a far-right leader to the constitutionally powerful presidency. France.

Although the reasons for suffering and suffering can be tangible, such as job loss and constant social change, life in modern societies tends to grieve regardless of circumstances. prompting many to seek solace in tradition, religion and in the mythical past of glorious harmony. .

Dissatisfied with the status quo and established parties, more than a third of eligible French voters did not vote or abstained, and two out of five voted. chose shamelessly to the anti-European, anti-liberal, anti-Muslim, let alone neo-Nazi, Marine Le Pen is president.

This is amazing. And it’s also inexcusable.

Incredibly, because despite the support of the entire French and European establishment, as well as most of the political parties and financial circles, Macron gathered relatively fewer votes than any other president. since 1965, or just 37.9% of voters.

No excuse, because the French should know better than blaming immigrants and minorities for their problems. Even if it could be explained, given the economic instability and national unrest, it certainly couldn’t be justified.

This is paramount because the French are both trendsetters and winners in Europe and the Mediterranean.

Together with the Germans, the French have united the continent more than ever in recent decades, making the European Union the most peaceful, prosperous, free and democratic bloc in the world.

And in the process, France has restored much of the international prestige lost in the world wars, seeing its geopolitical influence grow and multiply with the opening up of the world. expansion and consolidation of the EU.

And since the pandemic and its financial crises, France has performed better economically than most European nations, and the EU has done better than most other regions.

It’s a win-win equation by any definition. All of that adds up to more stakes for the mystery.

Why would a relatively powerful, prosperous, and efficient nation have the idea of ​​an upstream neo-Nazi ruler? Why add ugliness and misery to the tension and struggles of the country, when more democratic and practical solutions are at hand?

Clearly, France’s problems are not economic or “European” ones. they are especially political: the total collapse of the centre-right and centre-left parties, and the failure of Macron’s centrists to stem the rise of the far right.

Le Pen liked to assert that France had to choose between patriotism and internationalism or between nationalism and liberalism. But it was a strange overlap that led to a wrong choice.

The French can be nationalists and internationalists, patriots and libertarians. They can be French, European, Western and Mediterranean, of any religion or not at all. They can also resist Russian aggression into Ukraine and for the rights of Muslims and other minorities.

They can or should be patriots but not white racists. Patriotism is loving one’s own country, not obsessing over its mythical past.

“Liberte, Egalité, Fraternité” is not just a motto, more than a legacy; it was France’s greatest contribution to modernity; something that is enshrined in the constitution and therefore must be protected at home before being promoted abroad.

But Le Pen, who preferred France’s imperial past to its republican constitution, succeeded where Macron had largely failed, namely to voice the fears of the people, albeit by pledging “make France great again” through lofty promises she can’t keep and issuing checks she can’t cashless as president.

In fact, there is a limit to what any president can or should do for his or her country in today’s globalized world, where capital, trade and investment are paramount. high. No less in France, where the public sector is so dominant that any further state intervention will inevitably sacrifice productivity and competition on the altar of political transparency.

But Macron has committed to the rich while making demands on the working class, tax cuts and other incentives for the lucky while asking the less fortunate to work more for the paycheck. lower.

That is not fair. Deceptive economics has long been seen as a way to create and spread wealth and prosperity, when in fact it has deepened inequality.

The French may work fewer hours than in certain advanced economies, but they are more productive than most, ranking above or between United States and Germany.

It is clear that the French are not bitter about what they do not have and do not earn; they are angry about the possibility of losing what they have in terms of hard-earned economic security and social protection.

The role and responsibility of the president is to provide French workers with the assurance they deserve over the next five years, no less than if they had won a second term with their support.

Free from political pressure, Macron must do the right thing for all his countrymen during his second term in office. Otherwise, France will be once again in a flurry with a shot to the head in 2027, especially if the US decides in 2024 to seize its chance again with a vengeful presidency. of Trump.

In the end, if France turns rogue, so does Europe.

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