Monday, August 28, 2017

The Populist Tide Ebbs in Europe

It's not just Marine Le Pen who hasn't met expectations in Europe. Pretty much across the board, right populist parties have under-achieved this year in elections and seen considerable decline in their support in public polls. A good recent article in the Wall Street Journal summarized the situation:
[I]n most of Europe, elections and surveys suggest that populism might have peaked—at least for now. Support for European antiestablishment parties rose to just over 30% in opinion polls in 2016, but has declined to around 23%, according to a composite measure of opinion-poll support developed by economists at bank Nomura Holdings….
The Dutch Party for Freedom, led by anti-Islam firebrand Geert Wilders, won more seats in elections this March than in the previous elections in 2012, but fewer than in 2010. Mr. Wilders missed his goal of becoming the Netherlands’ biggest party. Like Mr. Wilders, France’s Ms. Le Pen performed worse in the presidential election than opinion polls last winter suggested she would. The AfD is polling about 8% in Germany, well below its 15% level of support last fall.
Now this doesn't mean these parties are going away anytime soon; they are still doing quite a bit better than they were doing five years ago. But it does suggest the threat is containable, particularly if the toxic austerity regime in the Eurozone is finally lifted so the current recovery can get a full head of steam. We shall have to wait until after the German elections to see if this is possible. Keep those cards and letters to Angela Merkel coming...and hope that Emmanuel Macron devotes at least as much time to pressuring Merkel for Eurozone reform as he apparently does to his makeup.

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