The end of 2016 was welcomed with open arms across the globe. Deﬁned by the unexpected victories of Donald Trump and Brexit, the world witnessed an unprecedented growth of populism.
2017 holds its own set of unknown possibilities. Elections across some of the most inﬂuential European countries all have the potential to continue and expand the populist wave which has already hit both Great Britain and the United States. A growing scepticism about the value of the European Union, and the shared European currency will also be tested as many European citizens take to the polls. With these events in mind, will 2017 really be the year we are all hoping for? Or is Europe about to descend into political crisis?
Will 2017 really be the year we are all hoping for? Or is Europe about to descend into crisis?
Across the international landscape, the growth of populism has signalled a stark shift from the political models of antiquity. Deﬁned as a political movement claiming to represent the views of the masses, populism often sparks political waves on the back of crisis. Crisis is in fact fresh in our memory, as the 2008 recession and an ever present threat of terrorism regularly affect our lives. It is therefore not particularly surprising that Donald Trump could inspire the American people to vote against the political system they believed had left them defenceless against such crises. The coming European elections therefore represent the same possibility: a vote against the establishment.
The upcoming French election in May will be a clear test of how quickly populism is growing on the continent. The current President François Hollande has unsurprisingly declined a second term, after he faced extensive criticism and blame for the string of recent terrorist attacks on French soil. Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen announced earlier this year she would be a candidate in the election, having placed third in 2012. As leader of the National Front, a far right extremist party, Le Pen has gained a radical growth in support since the last election as the populist wave has swept through France. Similar to Trump, Le Pen’s policies have attracted support for their hard line against illegal immigration, and her plan to send refugees back to their own countries. For the people of France this suggests greater job and national security, however it follows a trend of countries closing their doors to the world in fear of terrorist attacks.
In Germany, Angela Merkel stands to be re-elected for her fourth term, as Federal Elections are planned for between August and October. With Germany facing similar questions and fears as the French, it is not surprising that populism will be a force the German leader will have to face. The AfD (Alternative for Germany), are providing Germany with an alternative to continuing with the policies they have now. For many, the re-election of Merkel would keep the country stagnant as they face increasing terror threats at home.
Many Germans blame recent disasters, such as the recent Berlin attack, on the number of refugees allowed into the country in past years. Whilst these are clear problems, Merkel remaining in power could provide stability for Germany in a changing Europe, and allow her to tackle the refugee and immigration crises with the expertise she has gained in her last three terms.
Angela Merkel’s re-election could provide the strength that Europe needs
The spread of populism could extend ever further than France and Germany, as Austria and the Netherlands will also hold elections this year. Austria’s Freedom Party are polling extremely well, expressing anti-immigration policies similar to those growing in France and Germany. According to Bloomberg if they won it would be “an unprecedented victory for the EU’s populist right”. Holland also has a growing populist movement, as hard right extremist Geert Wilders leads his Freedom Party into their parliamentary elections. He has stated he would hold a referendum on leaving the EU and would close the Dutch borders in order to prevent growing terror threats in their country.
Upcoming elections in both France and Germany will also question the existence of the shared currency and EU. Following the Brexit Referendum, it is not surprising that other major European powers are beginning to question if they should remain a member. The desire to leave appears to be an important component of the populists movements, as was seen in the growth of UKIP before the last UK general election. A populist victory in either France or Germany, could trigger a major trend of referendums and leave votes across the continent, leaving the future of the EU unknown.
Le Pen has strongly advocated that France should reintroduce their own currency, the franc, while maintaining economic relations with the Eurozone. This would be accompanied by a referendum similar to the one in Britain last June, which would decide if France would remain a member of the EU.
Germany’s AfD party hold a similar stance to Le Pen. Were they to be elected in the coming year, it is likely that the leading country of the EU would strongly question its position. If France decides to leave the Euro, this could trigger a wave of Euroscepticism which could boost the number of votes for the AfD in the election. By contrast, Angela Merkel has been a strong advocate of the EU throughout her past three terms, and has been seen to set an example for other European countries. Her re-election could provide the stability and strength that Europe needs, and prove that countries need not rush to extremist parties in the face of crisis. The EU and shared currency have been incredibly beneﬁcial to German trade, and the advantages of such a union should not be overshadowed with fear.
Beginning with the Dutch election in March, the coming year therefore holds many possibilities for Europe. The French election could prove crucial to what happens in Germany, and combined could see the end of the EU. Arguably, this may be advantageous to Britain as countries would seek to forge new trade deals. However, the closing of borders could lead to increased nationalism, and see the decline of important modern values, such as freedom. So many unknowns make it a challenge to predict or assess the impact of such changes experience, but they should be changes voted for with intelligence, not with fear.
How To Survive 2017
By Eloise Hardy
Stock up on weapons and isolate yourself, because if 2017 beats 2016 in terms of general shittiness, then the only thing worse I can dream up is a zombie apocalypse. So, a few tips…
1) Stockpile supplies (the apocalypse is coming): You’ll thank me when a zombie comes calling in March and you’re in possession of a meat cleaver that you bought and saved especially FOR THIS OCCASION.
2) Get a cat: In a world where Trump is going to be President, owning a cat can only be a good thing.
3) Invest in a bed: By this, I mean a top notch, memory foam, luxurious, duvet fort that you can crawl into in times of trouble and become a serial napper.
4) But seriously…: This is going to be a tough year for a lot of people; so look after each other. Lend your neighbour your zombie stake with a smile, okay?
5) When all else fails…: Keep it simple; save money and don’t die.