Mabel Berezin, an expert on European politics and associate professor of sociology at Cornell University, says austerity and the lack of political leadership on the left will ensure Europe’s right, including France’s National Front and nationalist movements elsewhere, lead the stories that emerge from the European Parliament elections.
“As of May 16, Marine Le Pen and her far right party National Front is polling in first place among French parties standing for the European Parliamentary elections. Marine Le Pen’s ranking in the polls does not suggest that France is experiencing a collective turn to the right, or that Marine Le Pen is tricking French citizens into believing that she is taking her party in a more egalitarian direction. “Rather, the European Parliamentary elections point in two directions. “First, the austerity regimes in place since the European financial crisis hit are immiserating citizens who face high unemployment rates, particularly among youth, and for whom governments appear to offer nothing but pro-European austerity regimes.
“Second, the failure of any genuine left voice to emerge that supports working citizens and not Europe – which among the French is often viewed as a synonym of for global capitalism. The French municipal elections in March 2014 provide concrete instances of collective pessimism. Hénin-Beaumont, a Socialist stronghold for 70 years in the de-industrialized northeast of France, elected a National Front mayor. “Marine Le Pen, an astute and talented politician, wants, as successful politicians do, to win elections. The French National Front has been criticizing the EU since 1998. The European sovereign debt crisis made salient a long-standing party issue and Marine Le Pen has run with it. She is not alone. The reason her message – and the messages of her nationalist colleagues such as Geert Wilders in the Netherlands – resonates is because it is experienced as true by disenfranchised unemployed and anxious European citizens. “On Sunday May 25, the anti-EU nationalist right from the Netherlands to Greece will likely capture large numbers of votes. Whatever the absolute number of votes that they receive, the European right will dominate the narrative moving forward. The European right will not need a sharp rhetorical strategy to get citizens to vote for them, they will only need to show up.”
Note: Berezin is the author of “Illiberal Politics in Neoliberal Times: Cultures, Security, and Populism in a New Europe” and editor of “Europe Without Borders: Re-mapping Territory, Citizenship and Identity in a Transnational Age.”
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