Claiming that the western world is fed up with the current crop of politicians is an understatement. If US voters are able to stomach a Donald Trump as their president, then rock bottom is not far below.
Europe is not far behind. The UK has voted to leave the European Union. Probably representing a protest vote which had nothing to do with the strengths and the weaknesses of the EU, it represented a vote by the general public against a detached political class or the ‘establishment’ as they became known.
Less known, but equally important, policies by hardline parties in Eastern Europe are resulting in a reversal of the hard-won democratic process. Just last week, the Polish ruling Law and Justice party contested the mandate of the country's top judge after she accused the lawmakers of naming only judges which favoured the government.
In Hungary, Victor Orban, has for years been undermining democratic norms and institutions. Only last week, Hungary accused Amnesty International of producing fake reports and of inciting migrants to break laws.
But a definitive break from the old norm would probably become a reality if the far-right manage victories in the Dutch general election next week and in France in April/May.
History has always moved slowly in circles, and France is once more in a position to revolutionise politics. For the past month, surveys have projected a run-off between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. None come from the leading Socialist or Republican parties.
The difference in these elections is that while Marine Le Pen hails from the ‘Trumpian’ right, Macron does not identify himself with either the right or the left. More importantly, this signals a breakdown of the traditional parties in France.
With Le Pen promising a break from the European Union and the Euro, Macron is capitalising by picking ideas from both sides. Macron is presenting himself as the credible centre anti-establishment candidate.
Traditional political parties across Europe have been periodically alternating positions. However, no one can blame citizens for not being too enthusiastic by either side of the political spectrum.
The centre-left is struggling because of a philosophy that does not cater for the modern economy; it's well and good to promise higher wages and better medical care, but hard-left governments continue to drive countries into ruin. The Labour Party in the UK and the Socialist government Greece, for instance, are unable to match ideology with a feasible economic strategy. Other European socialist parties have abandoned any pretence of socialist economic policies and embraced the right. In both cases, core supporters are not amused.
The centre-right, on the other hand, is falling prey to changing population attitudes. Partially a side-effect of higher education standards is that that political leaders are no longer privileged. While the right has been much more successful economically, the people managing these economies have often privileged groups of close associates.
The gap created by the right is often a power gap rather than an economic gap. The elite are not necessary richer, but they have easy access to medical facilities, education, comfortable jobs, business opportunities; basically they can avoid queues and require less qualifications and skill to succeed.
However, for the general population this is no longer being tolerated. Not everything that is legal is acceptable any longer. While hiring friends and relatives may be within the boundaries of the law, voters are turning their back on this type of politics (read about Fillon in France).
Unfortunately, the vacuum created by poor leadership is often being filled by the extreme right. And voters appear to prefer taking huge risks rather than maintaining the old order. The attitude appears to be developing into a, "if my qualified son is unable to get a job at the expense of the less qualified minister’s son, than I do not care if everything come crashing down" attitude. France may present the first signs of some common sense, but everything remains fluid and complex.
What is certain is that the western world is being led into a new era which requires a new type of leadership. The current crop of politicians are either too self-serving or too ingrained in the old style to realise their time is up. The Dutch and especially the French elections are to be watched closely because they may mean the end of Europe as we know it or the first signs that change can be positive. What is certain is that a new breed of leaders is required to carry forward the banner of the democratic West. It is the time for change.
This article was issued by Antoine Briffa, Investment Manager at Calamatta Cuschieri. For more information visit, www.cc.com.mt. The information, view and opinions provided in this article is being provided solely for educational and informational purposes and should not be construed as investment advice, advice concerning particular investments or investment decisions, or tax or legal advice. Calamatta Cuschieri Investment Services Ltd has not verified and consequently neither warrants the accuracy nor the veracity of any information, views or opinions appearing on this website.
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