One has to be really blind to not see that increasingly darker clouds are forming in the skies over democracies. And that the 2020 decade could become the decade of universal collapse of these democracies.
There is not a single republic or constitutional monarchy that can afford to not worry about the rise of extremist parties. And in particular, the promises of these extremist parties, which include restoring order in their countries and protecting it from the troubles of the world. The extremist parties accept that in order to achieve these goals, challenging democratic principles built up over centuries and implemented since at least 1945 should not be excluded.
Everywhere in the world, democracy is no longer gaining ground; and if people are trying to emerge from dictatorship, in Latin America, Asia or Africa, nothing has been achieved. While many democracies are collapsing into dictatorships, sometimes masked under the slightly misleading term of “illiberal democracy,” as is the case in Brazil, India or even the United States.
In Europe, cradle of these freedoms, there is not a single country where the black tide is not rising. In Italy, an unholy alliance is keeping the government together only to delay elections, which would give all the power to a fascist party for the first time since Mussolini. In Austria, the country of Adolf Hitler, it took a xenophobic shift by the environmentalist party to delay the return of a far right-wing party. In Germany, despite the fact that it is a very vigilant country, the extreme right-wing is rising very quickly, in a continuous way, and not only in the poorest regions of the East. In Spain, a fragile coalition masks the meteoric rise of a very hard right-wing extremist party, and it is also nostalgic of the dictator that it once birthed. In northern European countries, social democratic parties are in tatters and extremist parties are on the brink of gaining power, even in Sweden, where hostility toward foreigners is soaring and their integration is increasingly problematic.
In France, people continue to delude themselves, and are self-reassured by saying that, whatever happens, even if the current president were to become very unpopular, and the traditional parties do not recover from their recent debacles, the country will be wise enough not to elect a president of the Republic from the far right-wing. Many people think and proclaim that our electoral system protects us from extremists. That is not true. And such belief indicates that we have forgotten certain lessons from our history, and in particular what has happened in all the presidential elections, since the departure of General de Gaulle: firstly, no candidate has ever really been elected president of the Republic, in our country; it is rather someone else who has been defeated. Secondly, the only presidents of the Republic who were re-elected did so after a period of cohabitation. Thirdly, no president who had been elected president as a first-time candidate has been re-elected. The current President ticks all these boxes. And his re-election is therefore by no means a foregone conclusion for 2022. Even in a face off against a far-right candidate. Quite the contrary. And what’s at stake, right now, with the pension system issue is a very worrying manifestation of that.
All this is easily explained. Our democracies seem incapable of recreating growth, or guaranteeing the sustainability of social achievements, or protecting against external dangers, or integrating the countless people who have been left behind, such as women, newcomers and many young people from humble backgrounds or neglected territories. Our democracies seem incapable of guaranteeing citizens the certainties they need, or not giving the feeling that political elites are enjoying privileges from which the middle classes, who have to take the path to proletarianization on a daily basis, are forever excluded.
In France, and elsewhere, democracy will only survive if it gives itself a project, which cannot be reduced to presenting itself as a bulwark against the extreme right or left elements of politics. It must give meaning to the nation and its place in Europe, the world, and the environment. Democracy must find a way to bring the French together in a convincing project, which cannot only be defensive in its nature. It must demonstrate, and it is perfectly possible, that together we can live better; and that future generations can live even better.