The foggy trend in Europe
19 May 2012
It would be bad form to put it down to the curse of the Sufi saint Sheikh Salim Chishti. Nicolas Sarkozy lost the French presidency because he had become the most hated French leader in history.
True, on December 4, 2010 the president and his wife, Carla Bruni, did visit the Sheikh's mausoleum in Fatehpur Sikri and receive special blessings. Only the superstitious would insist that the child born to the couple nine months later was a result of this visit. Indeed, ever since Moghul emperor Akbar declared his debt to the saint for the having answered his prayers by providing the expanding kingdom with an heir Salim, or Emperor Jehangir, made famous by the Bollywood classic Mughal-e-Azam, the childless turn up at the shrine in droves.
The scorn Sarkozy showered on Muslims in general and 'halal' meat in particular towards the last laps of the campaign, would not have pleased the great saint. But it is extremely unlikely that the saint switched his divine intervention in favour of Francois Hollande for this reason. Carla Bruni must have scribbled a quiet note of thanks to the keepers of the Salim Chishti shrine to ensure their neutrality in France's presidential stakes.
The return of a Socialist in France since Mitterand's victory in 1981 confirms a trend in Europe which, instead of lifting the mist, is adding to the fog. The other day David Cameron, who has never quite found his feet, had egg all over his face. Labour had trounced the Conservatives in local bodies election across the country. The Liberal Democrats, for their sin of associating with the Conservatives in a coalition, have been decimated.
And yet, if the return of labour was a confirmed trend, how does one explain the success of the maverick George Galloway in Bradford? His Respect party is a little bit like the Peace Party in Azamgarh - future indeterminate. Galloway is one of those incredible politicians who has nurtured a constituency in the Muslim world. He has a regular programme on the Iranian Press TV! What is emerging in Europe is an aviary of doves and hawks and hawk nosed doves, even dove nosed hawks.
On superficial view, the British and French (and more recently parts of Germany) voters may have slided the balance of power just a little bit from centre-right to centre-left, from tweededum to tweedledee. But that may not be the lasting reality. That could well be the beginning of further upheaval.
In France, a reality that has loomed for two decades is the anti Muslim, anti Roma, in brief anti immigrant, National Front founded by Mons Le Pen. His daughter Marine Le Pen, had a threatening 18 per cent vote share in the first round. She advised her supporters to tear their ballots rather than help Sarkozy's right wingism which by her reckoning is tepid. Some may have followed her advice.
The French will not stand for 'austerity' which across Europe means lower standard of living, and Hollande has therefore promised growth instead. Without Angela Merkel there is pretty little he can do. But how secure is Merkel's platform? The resulting frustration is what Marine Le Pen will capitalise on in the Parliament elections.
Neo-fascists are not the only ones knocking at the gates in France. In Greece, the abysmal economic situation is polarising politics sharply - from extreme right to extreme left. Under 25 are swelling the ranks of the unemployed in excess of 50 per cent.
Monstrous political formations like 'Golden Dawn' have emerged under the leadership of Nikos Michaloliakos who admired Hitler as one of history's great personalities. He has adopted the Nazi salute and a variation of the swastika as his party's emblem.
He must send shivers down the spine of Jewish power centres in New York and Jerusalem because his candidates have been lamenting publicly that 'most of the money is in the hands of the Jews.' The Greek right has its roots deep in the 70s when the military Junta ousted the Socialists and supported Enosis, Cypriot union with Greece. Clashes between Turkish and Greek Cypriots caused Greek prime minister Bulent Ecevit to send Turkish troops to protect the Turkish population.
The rise of the fascist right is only one danger. What worries the rest of Europe more is rise of the communists. Political compasses have panned centre-left and centre right for so many years that they are rusted and screechy to pan the new expanse of possibilities. The Golden Dawn and two other far right parties have fierce opposition in the extreme left, under the banner of Syriza which contains every tendency from Marxist-Leninists to Mr Bardhan.
The young racist in Oslo who shot dead 70 young Norwegians represents the most stark form of European despair. Across Europe, including Britain where racist nationalists won 14 per cent vote in local elections, to Finland, Hungary, Austria everywhere a monster of extremism is rearing its head. Italy, Spain, Portugal are all on sixes and sevens.
A panic-stricken Greek president Karolos Papoulias, has ordered fresh elections in the hope that the electorate will return a less fragmented verdict. The elections, expected in mid June, may shift the country so far to the left that austerity or anything with an EU/IMF touch will be turfed out of the Greek window leaving Europe in shivers in the hottest of months.
(The writer is a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)
Courtesy: The Deccan Herald, May 19, 2012