Europe’s liberal order could come crashing down next year. Squeezed from all directions, it may not be able to withstand the pressure. Within Europe, populists on the left and right are trying to roll back the liberal order. This insurgency is being actively backed by Putin’s Russia, and, now, it seems, Trump’s America. The European Union itself risks being an early casualty.
The coming year will be decisive, as key elections are held in France, The Netherlands, and Germany, in which anti-EU populist parties are expected to make headway. The French Presidential elections will be the most critical. Marine Le Pen, who has promised to hold a referendum on France’s EU membership, is expected to win the first round but lose the second. Yet the momentum of the populist surge favours Front National, and in any case, who can trust the polls after Trump’s election? A victory for Le Pen would spell the likely end of the European Union, as it is inconceivable that the EU could survive France’s departure.
On 4 December, Italians voted in a referendum against a set of constitutional reforms that would make the country’s notoriously unstable political system more stable. Prime Minister Renzi’s resignation may very well prompt elections in which the anti-establishment, eurosceptic Five Star Movement will make substantial gains if not win altogether. Also, on the same day, the far-right wing candidate, Norbert Hofer, was defeated in presidential elections in Austria but still won 46.7 per cent of the vote.
The refugee crisis and, before that, the financial crisis have given a boost to populist parties all across Europe, on both the right and the left.
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