In France, the idea that the far-right Marine Le Pen will win the presidency in May 2022 is no longer dismissed as impossible.
Years of sporadic terrorist attacks, sluggish economic growth, and the collapse of the country’s traditional center-right and center-left parties have deeply divided France and made France uncertain about its future.
The latest warning sign of further political unrest: a public letter Signed by approximately 1,000 current and former military personnel, including 20 generals, as an indication of civil war. The letter was published on April 21 – the 60th anniversary of a failed military coup against President Charles de Gaulle – and proposed a military takeover unless France cracks down on Islamists.
François Lecointre, the chief of staff of the French army, said he was “rejected” by the letter, calling it “an unacceptable attempt to manipulate the military”. Le Pen interrupted efforts to temper their image and threw their support behind and urged the generals to do so “Join me in my fight for France.”
That could be because of it Le Pen faces growing opposition within its own right-wing extremist ranks – Regardless, it was voters’ closest first preference for seven months in a row POLITICO survey, a year before the French presidential election in 2022.
When asked who they would choose between Le Pen and Macron in a presidential runoff election, Le Pen is 54 to 46 percent behind Macron: much closer than Le Pen’s 66-34 defeat in 2017 or the landslide defeat of her father Jean-Marie Le Pen (82-18) in 2002.
With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic making the upcoming presidential campaign less predictable than previous races, the door is open to Le Pen to sack center-right politicians into a new anti-Macron alliance.
Democracy is losing currency
“The idea of democracy as a destination has lost its importance in many capitals,” said Csaky. This narrative is familiar to those who have followed the transition of the satellite states and allies of the Soviet Union since 1991, but the specific conclusions in Freedom House Nations Report in Transit – funded by the US Agency for International Development – are often shocking.
Csaky concluded that none of the countries currently seeking membership in the European Union can be classified as a democracy. Democratic institutions have been weakened in 18 of the 29 countries rated from Central Europe to Central Asia – a region currently in democratic decline for the 17th consecutive year, she said.
The EU aspirants – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Ukraine – are all listed as “transitional or hybrid regimes” and are below 50 out of 100 points in the Freedom House ranking. This puts them on a par with Hungary, which is considered the largest long-term democratic relapse in Europe.
Since 2010, the Hungarian brand leader Viktor Orbán has been trying to oust critics from the fields of justice, media and science, including from force several hundred judges into early retirement and removing operating permits for institutions such as radio stations and Central European University.
Hungary consistently tops the list of fraud investigations into the misuse of EU funds, with EU investigators finding this out Abuse of at least 1 in 25 dollars The EU spends in the country. Most recently, Orbán defended himself against the solidarity of the EU by buying it Chinese and Russian Covid vaccines not approved by the European Medicines Agency, arguing, “There is no Eastern or Western vaccine: there are only good and bad vaccines.”
Freedom House recommends that the US and EU work together to address “the threat of anti-democratic norms setting” in both EU and non-EU countries through targeted sanctions against corrupt officials and human rights abusers and withhold financial support from governments who hinder civil society and journalists.
The EU’s strongest step in this direction is a 2020 rule that will allow the European Commission, the EU executive, to withhold funding from member states that fail to uphold the rule of law.
The new law is being tested on two fronts in Poland – the one that slipped the furthest in Freedom House’s 2020 ranking.
The first sees the executive branch of the EU Lawsuit against the Polish government Due to allegations, it is putting the judges under pressure not to implement EU law in Poland. This fight could explode over $ 65 billion that Poland could get in the way of being part of the EU’s Covid Recovery Fund. Democracy experts and Polish opposition parties fear that the US $ 65 billion will become a slush fund for the ruling Law and Justice Party.
The greater risk is that Warsaw could use EU funds to undermine the EU legal fabric across the continent. “Hungarians and perhaps others might notice and follow in Poland’s footsteps,” warned Freedom House’s Csaky. Democracy experts are now calling on the EU to cut funding for Poland.
Piotr Buras, head of the Warsaw office of the European Council for Foreign Relations, says it is now time to turn off funding opportunities. “If the EU does not use its financial resources to stop the spread of autocracy, its post-pandemic recovery will at best be a Pyrrhic victory,” he said.
The second front is the government-controlled Polish Constitutional Court, which has set itself the task of deciding whether Polish or EU law takes precedence in Poland. If the tribunal claims on May 13th that Polish courts are replacing the European Court of Justice, the country’s EU membership would be called into question.
While Poland’s EU membership The prerequisite is the recognition of the ECJ as the highest legal person, the Polish government spokesman Piotr Müller brought the government openly into the debate on WednesdayHe expected the tribunal to rule in favor of the Polish court, which trumps the EU court.
Krystyna Pawłowicz, the judge responsible for the decision, is a former MP for the ruling Law and Justice Party designated by George Soros “The most dangerous man in the world” and who describes Buras as “the party’s most radical and vocal critic of the EU”.
While Brussels would do almost anything to avoid a “Polexit” – and would be supported by to 91 percent of Polish voters who tell respondents that they support Poland’s EU membership – It’s stuck between a democratic rock and a tough place.
Given Warsaw’s consistently skeptical stance towards Vladimir Putin’s Russia and a warm view of American military engagement in Europe, it may be Washington – not Brussels – that has the greatest influence in pushing Poland back towards mainstream democratic Europe.
State Secretary Antony Blinken has so far determined the American-Polish relations in relation to military partnership and NATO allianceand this week expressed “real concern” on the decline in freedom of the press and pluralism in Hungary.
The real test of America’s influence will be how the Biden administration structures the invitations and agenda of its planned Democracy Summit in 2021.
Alliances will play a crucial role: the EU alone has not significantly influenced Warsaw and Budapest. The Obama administration tried to wield a cane: it restricted the engagement of high-ranking officials and withheld perks such as a visit to the White House from Orbán, Hungary, but got no further. The Trump administration used carrots: Encouraging Eurosceptic tendencies, White House visits and invitations to Hungarian and Polish leaders: the relapse continued.
At home, Biden decided to make it big in his first 100 days, taking advantage of the Covid crisis to push for bills that would fund trillions of dollars for the generation change. But if he wants to achieve his foreign policy goals of aligning the world with the norms of social democratic governance, he may also have to find a way to go all-in in Europe.