Prime Minister Gaston Browne recently stated Antigua & Barbuda could learn a thing or two from the results of the recently held national election in France. In case there is some reason that you missed the going-ons across the Atlantic, Emmanuel Macron won 66.1 per cent of the vote for the presidency, ahead of the far right’s Marine Le Pen.
Macron, in the early stages of this political fight, was considered a long shot. At 39 years old, he was considered too young. As well, in a political world that is marked by deep divisions, he was a centrist. Most astonishing though was the fact that campaigned without an attachment to any traditional party and he had virtually no experience of governing. He was the quintessential outsider looking to change how the political system operated.
His political opponent in the final vote was Marine Le Pen. She is a politician with extreme views. She rode the wave of the increasing popularity of islamophobic and xenophobic messages which represented her core beliefs and those of her party, the National Front. With the anti-globalisation trends sweeping across the world, and especially in Europe, Le Pen became a force with which to be reckoned. She even caught the eye of US President Donald Trump who seemed to endorse the candidate when told the Associated Press that she was the “strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France.”
He later tried to backtrack his statements claiming that he did not ‘explicitly endorse’ Le Pen when he lavished praise on her.
In the end, the French people rejected the extreme views of the minority and elected the centrist Macron based on his more moderate outlook. In acknowledging the mood of the nation and his experience in the campaign, the president-elect said, “I know the country is divided and this has led to people voting for extremes.” He added, “I understand the anger, the anxiety, the doubt which many of you have expressed and it is my responsibility to hear that.”
We cannot speak for our prime minister and what all he surmised from the French election, but it is obvious that he paid keen attention to the election. France may be over 6,000 kilometres away but he should see more than a few similarities to what obtains in our bit of paradise. So far, the PM has only revealed his views on the political campaigning but very little on the political messages that were accepted and rejected. He stated, “The lesson is that we have to look out for an unconventional or maybe new entity that could rise to prominence”, adding, “I think that people are fed up with the conventional parties especially those that do not deliver.” There is so much that we can read into those statements but we would not want to put words in the prime minister’s mouth or assume thoughts that are not his.
Some conspiracy theorists believe that he is tipping his hat to Joanne Massiah and her new party, while others believe that, by mentioning the United Progressive Party (UPP) directly, he is concerned that the party and its leadership are in a midst of a ‘revival’ and “something new could pop up that could be a formidable opponent”.
No matter what his take is on the results, the overriding message that every politician should receive is that extremist views, while popular for a time are limited in their appeal. US President Donald Trump is a clear example of that. When you pander to extremes, the ability to compromise and make a deal becomes more difficult. That is because extremists view the world through a particular lens that does not allow for a lot of grey. And while you might capture their support on a particular set of ideas, they often differ in opinion to the other extremist on other issues. Once people get over the initial euphoria of the win and actual work begins, the ability to please everyone’s extreme ideas becomes an impossible task.
This is one of the main reasons why we do not understand that divisive “Trumpism-like” political attitude that is sweeping our nation. It may be popular to the extremists but the majority does not appreciate the rancor. The majority is silent and they will simply sit-back and evaluate the situation. They will determine whether their needs are being met or whether the politicians seek only to pander to the fringes. This is especially true of the youth who have less loyalty towards politicians and political parties, when compared to the previous generations. Their view of the world differs tremendously because the world is a whole lot smaller today.
So, to all the politicians seeking to analyse the results of the French election, know that the message is in the results and not in the campaign.