Beyond the Cusp

April 9, 2014

Does Jobbik Party Electoral Success in Hungary Taint Europe?

If there would be an extreme and overt reaction to the election results in Hungary which gave the Xenophobic and Anti-Semitic Jobbik Party a three percent increase in the vote making them the third most popular party behind Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz Party and the fractious opposition center-left alliance led by Attila Mesterhazy, it would come from the European Jewish Congress (EJC). The EJC claimed on Monday the success of the anti-Semitic Jobbik party in Hungary was “a source of grave concern for Europe.” Additionally, EJC President Moshe Kantor was quoted in the European Jewish Press saying, “The gains made by Jobbik, an unashamedly neo-Nazi political party, should serve as a wake-up call for the whole of Europe. Once again in Europe we are witnessing democracy being appropriated by those are the enemies of democracy. This is truly a dark day for Hungary. It is the duty of both European leaders and voters to ensure that a strong message is delivered by supporters of democracy throughout Europe to show these racists and xenophobes that hate has no place on our continent.”

 

Of course the Jobbik Party did attempt to distance themselves from their former anti-Semitic and anti-Roma past reputation by presenting themselves as a more center of the road but “radical nationalist” movement focused on law and order and attacking corruption. Like many extreme fringe groups, the Jobbik rebranding of themselves to offer a more acceptable and affirming front in place of their former negative and hateful rhetoric required the relative silence of some of the more rabid old guard, something they were apparently quite successful. One such candidate is Istvan Meszaros, a candidate from Baja on the Serbian border, who is the leader of the New Hungarian Guard, a controversial vigilante group that has held torchlight marches in Roma neighborhoods, much like its predecessor, the Hungarian Guard, which was banned in 2009. Meszaros was quoted by AFP at his Baja campaign offices claiming, “Jobbik offers action, not just talk. Crime falls in those areas after(wards).” This was a reference to the measureable results of such marches. Of course, it is needless to point out that retaining candidates like Meszaros in “safe” locals fortifies the extremists from the old and less savvy Jobbik Party.

 

The question is what does their improved election results mean about the rise of xenophobia and racism across Europe? Similar results have been noted in Greece in recent elections with their Golden Dawn Party, reputed to be even more extreme group of nationalists than the Jobbik Party. There were also the gains made in France by Marine Le Pen’s Front National Party in recent local elections. In the eleven towns and districts which are now controlled by the Front National Party there has been debate on a sensitive issue about the substitution meals targeting mainly Muslim and Jewish students. Marine Le Pen told RTL radio, “We will accept no religious requirements in the school lunch menus.” She defended the decision saying it was necessary to “save secularism”. I have some problems that in some manner I can understand and even agree with Miss Le Pen’s as she has obviously discovered that Secularism is, if its practitioners were to be honest, a form of religion replete with commandments, deities, and a formative cannon. The religion of Secularism is, in many ways, one of the least tolerant religions and, as is often the case with any religion in its youth, and is determined to replace and subvert every other religion and place itself as the preeminent religion over all within any society where it gains a foothold. This is another reason for the advancement in election of the uber-nationalist as they are the purveyors on the front lines of exclusive secularism.

 

The rumors that religion has died in Europe are actually a false narrative used by the Secularists who claim that secularism is a political viewpoint and not a religion. They claim that it is anti-religion and purely logical and science based is one of the basic religious cannons of the secularists who make such claims to imply that secularism is steeped in unarguable facts and thus not faith based. Their argument is along the same line as the ecology anthropogenic global warming advocates who also claim that the debate is over and their definitions are the only acceptable and truthful views making everything else a form of apostasy. There is a fair amount of overlap between the secularists and the nationalist parties, especially when it comes to their exclusive and narrow acceptance of only those of similar beliefs and backgrounds and rejection of traditional religious minorities. Both groups also tend to be socialistic in their political persuasions. Their emotional attachment resembles religious fanatical observance to a rigid structure and defined cannon which rules out any debate or variance. Such a limited and rigid structure often leads to fanaticism and a developing hatred for those who are perceived as the other, those opposed to their political beliefs. For the secularists that includes the religious while the nationalists it includes all foreign groups and those religions other than the traditional religion or possibly a religion formed by the nationalists themselves which could easily be considered a secular belief. These groups, as they include greater numbers, can lead to oppressive societies which are often capable of victimizing minorities and whomever they label as the evil other, and the outsider is always evil simply because they are different and not in agreement with the rigid belief structure adhered to be such groups. The danger comes when they gain legitimate power through elections or other methods and can eclipse reason and acceptance of those who are labeled as unacceptable minorities who threaten to subvert the order and accepted mandates of the society. This will eventually lead to oppressive policies and animosity beyond normal acceptance under what is considered common custom. Europe has been down this road before in many different scenarios which always resulted in tragedies and abhorrent hate-filled persecutions. Hopefully the economic and social difficulties which are the driving impetus behind the rise of such fanatics will subside and the stresses relieved before Europe once again drives itself into another fanatical and hateful obsession.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

May 7, 2012

Hollande Wins Extremely Close French Election

Despite early predictions that Hollande would defeat Sarkozy by a comfortable margin, I had said that Sarkozy would probably win. I quickly realized I might be in trouble when later that day Marine Le Pen announced to her supporters her intent to cast a blank ballot and encouraged they do follow her lead. It was a classic case of “If I cannot have it then I refuse to play and I will take my ball and go home.” Well, that just may have been the turning point costing Sarkozy the election as the Nationalist Le Pen voters would likely have split strongly against Hollande and, by default, for Sarkozy.

The difference was much closer than anybody had predicted with 16.56 million votes for Hollande, 15.56 million votes for Sarkozy and two million casting blank ballots following the Le Pen instructions and easily changing the result in the process. All that remains now is to wait for Hollande to make all his appointments and then we will have a better idea as to whether his promises of scrapping the austerity program for a stimulus and growth program was bluster or an honest threat. Should a Hollande government actually take the route of using government spending in order to stimulate the economy then the European Union may be heading back into the deep waters of insolvency and doing so very rapidly. This election may prove very costly to far more than the European Union and the stability of the Euro, it could have ramifications well beyond Europe, especially if it leads to the crash of the Euro and each country in Europe retreating back to their native currencies. Such a necessity could also force a strain on the entire European fabric from which the European Union is cut and place the entire structure to stresses beyond its tolerance. We may have to address a world with no European Union and an immediate struggle for preeminence between France, Germany, and Britain. Europe could return to its historic and turbulent ways with each country wresting as much for itself at the expense of the rest. Will international trade suffer seriously should the trade agreements and other alliances forged by the European Union fall shattered? We may have to experience the answer to that very question.

The next election to come will be the Israeli elections which are expected to be held on September 4, 2012. This election is unlikely to produce any surprises as to the ultimate winner as Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Likud Party are predicted to breeze into victory garnering at least thirty seats. The real test in the Israeli election will be the contest for second, third, and fourth. Should Nationalist Parties gain sufficient seats that Likud can make a viable coalition clearing the sixty-one seats necessary, then the Israeli government will have a unified coalition free of obligations to some of the lesser parties for the first time in memory. What will be more likely is that Netanyahu and Likud Party and the other Nationalist Parties will fall short and need to include the Religious-Nationalists and likely the Religious Parties which will leave the coalition open to a wide set of demands any one of which could be utilized as a wedge to force early elections.

Then, come early November, the biggest election of the year, the American Presidency along with one-third of the Senate and the entire House of Representatives. This will be a contentious election with many distractions and a likelihood of violent Occupy demonstrations at either or both Party Conventions. The coming summer promises to be anything but boring between the continued Arab uprisings which may aim for Jordan first after Syria and then the countries of the GCC including Saudi Arabia, and more if the Occupy demonstrations end up breaking into violent riots. So, I guess all that is left to do is buckle-up and get ready for a wild summer roller-coaster of excitement in the public realm to rival those summer teen-movies released to your neighborhood theaters. I am not sure if I am looking forward to a summer of lots of choices for blog articles or simply scared of a summer of lots of choices for blog articles.

Beyond the Cusp

April 23, 2012

French Elections Heading for Runoff as Expected

Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande took the top spots as expected in the French elections held this weekend. This removed Marine Le Pen and her anti-immigrant platform despite a respectfully strong third-place showing garnering 19.2 percent of the vote. The front runners divided up the lion’s share of the votes with Hollande grabbing 27.9 percent of ballots while Sarkozy pocketed 26.7 percent. Far left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon took fourth with 10.8 percent as centrist Francois Bayrou snared 9.2 percent with the five remaining candidates split the remaining ballots. The future of the European Union may be riding on the result of the French election as should Sarkozy win reelection the austerity path might still remain in the realm of possible while should Hollande be the new French president the austerity programs could be facing a rejection by voters who will demand continued social giveaways without any cuts in spending. Where France is not in as deep trouble as others such as Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain, should the French voters reject even the moderate measures which may prove necessary for France, the rest of Europe could be expected to reject any candidate who even hints at making the austerity cuts and lean towards candidates promising to continue the popular but ruinous government social spending.

For our friends in the United States the titles of right and left in Europe are confusing as they have a different set of definitions than right and left do in the United States. Unlike the United States, in Europe it is pretty much a given that except for those few oddballs such as Monarchists and true Conservative Capitalists, it is readily accepted that everybody is a socialist. The differences in Europe are between the different types of socialists. The conservative right in Europe is the National Socialists while the liberal left is the International Socialists. Americans, for the most part, pretty much lump the National and International Socialists into one category, the Socialists. But in Europe this divide is well defined and the center of some of the most bitter rivalries in all of politics. It is just such a battle that will play out in two weeks in the finals of the French elections. Who wins this runoff may indicate the future of the next phase in European politics and foretell whether the more conservative of the socialists and the continued attempts at austerity will continue or will Europe once again swing the pendulum to the other extreme and install the freer spending left who rely on expanded growth to address deficits.

Unless some event turns the world economy out from its slumbers and economic growth breaks out of its doldrums, it would appear that the austerity approach might be the more responsible and promising way to address the European Union financial difficulties and dooming the free spending will produce excited economic growth leading to more inflow of funds to governments with which to pay off the debilitating debts now threatening the Euro and the European Union. This stark choice will bear close watching. From the initial round of voting we here at BTC believe that against what many have predicted, Sarkozy just might pull it out and get another term as the President of France.

Beyond the Cusp

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