By Hussein Shobokshi
THE world’s focus is now on the European continent and the consequences of what will happen in the upcoming elections. So all wonder which is the next country that is going to be the “political victim” of populist votes following the outcome of Brexit and the US presidential elections?
In the recently concluded Austrian polls, the far-right party lost the elections for the post of presidency in a very close-to-call result.
It’s now time to concentrate on the France’s presidential elections in which the focus in on the far-right candidate, Marie Le Pen, who is targeting Muslim migrants, calling for their expulsion and harassment. She is also airing her anti-European Union (EU) views, seeking France’s withdrawal from the EU.
But there is another state where elections are usually neither of much significance nor are closely followed is the Netherlands. Initial polls clearly indicate the opposition, Party for Freedom, led by far-right leader Geert Wilders — who is currently on a trial for hate speech and discrimination against Muslims — is expected to achieve a major victory with the most number of seats in the polls.
But the winner of these elections, according Dutch electoral law, does not necessarily have the right to form a government. Consequently, he will be forced to form a coalition government, an issue shunned by many of the traditional political parties who do not want to work with him because of his racist, fascist and extremist policies.
Most importantly, the victory of Geert Wilder, which is anyway expected, will be influential and will echo in other European countries encouraging others who are following the trend of anti-Muslims and anti-EU stance, especially in a country like France, followed by Belgium, for example, which is always affected by the political movement in the Netherlands and has significant challenges in dealing with the Muslim minority. Dominoes continue to fall in Europe. Separatists in Greece are opting for separation from the European Union, while Italy and Eastern Europe have not been silent until now and they are awaiting new developments which will rouse their enthusiasm and give them hope again.
With the great ongoing economic recession in the European continent, which is reflected in the meager growth rate and alarmingly high rate of unemployment, increase of refugees and immigrants in staggering numbers to the continent is a hot issue which the far-right parties believe to be a threat to social, security and peace in the region.
At the same time, immigrants are competing with the nationals for employment opportunities as the latter consider the immigrants to have “different” habits and they believe that they cannot be integrated into their society to become “like them” and therefore their motive is to support the parties that “defend them.”
The ground is ready and fertilized for extremist voices, so the parties are politically and socially preparing to exploit this historic moment which is favoring them in the present climate as this moment might not be repeated again soon.
What are the implications of these elections on the Middle East?
Europe will continue to view that the Middle East environment as “repulsive” for peace, coexistence, moderation and economic prosperity. Why not, as these countries are suffering from it and the results are direct consequences? Thus, European countries may impose sanctions on some of the states in the region, which form part of the immigrant groups (as done by the administration of American President Donald Trump) amidst increasing rate of human rights reports of these countries, including the pros and cons.
It is true that the next European elections is a purely a European affair, but for sure the results will have repercussions on us here in the Middle East!