Editorial Exchange: In France, the Far-Right Is Defeated - for Now (Toronto Star)

The Canadian Press, May 9, 2017 | Go to article overview

Editorial Exchange: In France, the Far-Right Is Defeated - for Now (Toronto Star)


Editorial Exchange: In France, the far-right is defeated - for now

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An editorial from the Toronto Star, published May 8:

In France, the far-right is defeated - for now

The high-stakes challenge for France's new president, Emmanuel Macron, will be to concretely address the anxieties that propelled his dangerous rival uncomfortably close to power

The defeat in Sunday's French presidential election of Marine Le Pen, the unsinkable stalwart of the xenophobic right, offers great comfort to those, like us, who have worried in the wake of the victories last year of Trumpists and Brexiteers that Western powers, one after another, would head lemming-like off a cliff.

The rejection of Le Pen, like the defeats of far-right candidates in the recent national elections in Austria and the Netherlands, gives hope that the audience for such hateful politics may not be as large as feared.

The high-stakes challenge now for the victors, including France's new president, Emmanuel Macron, will be to concretely address the anxieties that propelled their dangerous rivals uncomfortably close to power, and thus ensure they never get any closer.

The election results themselves indicate the challenge ahead for Macron. While Le Pen didn't extend her base enough to win, her National Front party did earn far more votes than it ever had before. Nor did the electorate show great enthusiasm for Macron's alternative. Twenty-five per cent of eligible voters stayed home, the highest rate since 1969, while another 12 per cent cast blank ballots. Of those who did vote for Macron, 57 per cent said they did so only to deny Le Pen the presidency.

Within this inauspicious context, Macron and his party will be hard-pressed to ease the economic anxiety and democratic malaise that gave new strength to France's xenophobic right.

A 39-year-old political neophyte, Macron sold himself as a change candidate, a bright, handsome alternative to the two parties that have, without interruption, taken turns occupying the Élysee Palace for decades.

The risk is that while his tone and style do represent something new, his political centrism - and what little he offered by way of a policy agenda - is largely a continuation of European politics as usual. …

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