The Financial Times wonders if Austria’s Sebastian Kurz is the savior of Europe’s center-right or an enabler of the far right.
His supporters, including the liberal-minded former prime minister of Finland, Alexander Stubb, see the Austrian as the antidote to Orbanism:
He talks about an open world, internationalism and is pro-European. But he is pragmatic about solving issues. And one of the big issues is immigration.
Critics argue that by taking a hard line on immigration, Kurz is legitimizing the far right. “You don’t fight fire with kerosene,” according to former chancellor and former Social Democratic Party leader Christian Kern. Read more
The Sources of Populist Rage — And What To Do About It
Add France to populism’s list of victims.
A year ago, Emmanuel Macron’s election victory was hailed as a setback for the transatlantic reactionary movement that began with Brexit and has since led to Donald Trump in America, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and an anti-EU government in Italy.
The outbreak of nationwide anti-tax protests, which quickly morphed into an anti-government movement, makes clear the same forces that gave us Brexit and Trump live in France.
Protests against a fuel tax increase in France have morphed into violent demonstrations against the presidency of Emmanuel Macron.
This weekend alone, 260 rioters were arrested in Paris, where cars were set ablaze and stores looted. A woman was killed in Marseille when a protester threw a tear gas canister through the window of her home.
The so-called Yellow Vests movement, named after the fluorescent safety vests French motorists are required to keep in their cars, started in opposition to higher taxes on diesel and gasoline. The increases are meant to help France meets its climate goals.
Diesel tax would rise 6.5 cents per liter, gasoline tax 2.9 cents. Leonid Bershidsky of Bloomberg calculates that the average motorist would end up paying €13 more per month. Hardly worth setting Paris on fire for.
The movement isn’t really about taxes then. It is that they have become a symbol for reactionaries who feel Macron has ignored them. Read more
I don’t get the liberal handwringing about Emmanuel Macron’s falling popularity.
A few recent examples:
The Financial Times fears that the French president is all that is standing between us and illiberal strongmen.
The Guardian argues that his liberal rhetoric is not backed up by action.
Der Spiegel predicts that Macron could lose his unofficial status as the flagship politician of the West.
I’ve argued before that polls are unlikely to keep the Frenchman up at night. The opposition still hasn’t got its act together and the next presidential election isn’t until 2022. That gives Macron plenty of time to repair his public image and for his now-divisive reforms to start bearing fruit. Read more