Populists surge on several continents
Donald Trump’s election as US president is the latest example of surging political populism fuelled by supporters’ fears that globalization is leaving them behind. Here are examples from three continents:
Making America Great Again?
Despite the fact that he has never held public office-or maybe because of it-brash billionaire Trump won the US election after one of most bitter campaigns in memory. Trump pledged to “Make America Great Again” and restore jobs to middle- and working-class Americans worried about immigration and an exodus of jobs. His insults against Hispanics, Muslims and women were perceived by millions as plainspeaking, or at worst, “locker-room talk”, by a support base made up strongly of non-college-educated white voters. His backers also welcomed a man they perceived as a business-savvy white knight who would protect domestic production against foreign trade, and put national interests over international agreements like on Iran or climate change.
Rodrigo Duterte’s foul-mouthed tirades against the Filipino elite helped him cultivate a man-of-the-people image that propelled him to the presidency in June. The firebrand populist has made clear he is willing to forsake human rights for law and order, vowing to kill tens of thousands of criminals. His war on drugs and other crime has already claimed more than 4,100 lives. Duterte has shifted the Philippines’ political alignment away from its key alliance with the US, strengthening ties with China. He has taken his blistering antiAmerican rhetoric far enough to call US President Barack Obama a “son of a whore”, although he later apologized for that remark.
‘Take back control’ Brexit
Commentators have drawn strong comparisons between Trump’s victory and Britain’s shock referendum vote in June to quit the European Union, which was driven by anger over immigration and the perception that Brussels bureaucrats wield too much power. Defying polls and much of Britain’s political and media elite, 52 percent of British voters backed a divorce from the 28-nation bloc. Populist Nigel Farage led the antiEU UK Independence Party into the bitter campaign, becoming the face of a movement to “take back control” of Britain’s borders and immigration policy. Trump had vowed in his final campaign push Monday that the US election would be “Brexit plus plus plus”. Farage was among those to congratulate the president-elect Wednesday, saying: “2016 is, by the looks of it, going to be the year of two great political revolutions.”
Europe’s rightwing tide
A populist tide has been sweeping Europe as it battles its worst migration crisis since World War II, struggling to cope with the arrival last year of hundreds of thousands of refugees and other migrants from the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. In France, Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front is set to make it into next May’s presidential run-off, although polls predict she will be beaten by a more mainstream conservative candidate. From Austria to the Netherlands, Germany and even famously tolerant Scandinavia, oncefringe parties are gaining ground and public acceptance.
Germany’s anti-migrant, anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD) is polling at around 12 percent nationally after winning a slew of seats in state assemblies, providing a major headache to Chancellor Angela Merkel as she heads into an election year. Hungary’s rightwing premier Victor Orban has become a figurehead for anti-refugee sentiment in eastern Europe, while the Austrian far-right’s Norbert Hofer is hoping to win December 4’s re-run vote for the presidency, a largely ceremonial role. — AFP