In The Media

France set to follow in the footsteps of Brexit, Trump with shift to the right

by Antonella Artuso (feat. Ferry de Kerckhove)

Toronto Sun
Dec 3, 2016

As the world still tries to absorb the lessons of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, France’s spring election promises to set a new direction for that country.

The decision of remarkably unpopular President Francois Hollande not to run again, and the unexpected rise of Francois Fillon as the presidential candidate for the Republicans, have raised speculation that the country is ready to move to the right of the political spectrum.

Right, maybe. But not far right, not Marine Le Pen right, experts say.

“Basically the trend is Le Pen has to be beaten and Fillon is the right guy to do it,” said Ferry de Kerckhove, Senior Fellow with the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa. “The French have been absolutely profoundly disappointed by the presidency of Francois Hollande. The socialist dream hasn’t paid off. The French economy hasn’t gone up. The terrorists haven’t been beaten.”

But while Le Pen is vowing a crack down on immigration and the protection of the country’s social safety net, the Shield, Margaret Thatcher-fan Fillon is focused on bringing more free market sensibilities to the French economy.

In fact, Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president that Fillon beat out, would have been to his right, de Kerckhove said.

Dr. Anthony Wall, Professor of French and Francophone Studies at the University of Calgary, said the Republicans opted for a distinctly right-wing candidate thinking – falsely, as it turned out – that the centre of the political spectrum would be occupied by the disliked Hollande.

“They are certainly not the same type of reasons that analysts have given for Brexit and Donald Trump,” Wall said. “François Fillon is anything but a populist candidate and he has not in the least triumphed on a populist platform.

“On the contrary, he has clearly stated that he wishes to dig deeply into France’s public sector in a way that France has never seen before,” he said.

Le Pen’s Front National was surprised and unhappy with Fillon’s strong showing, he said.

Of course, Hollande’s departure now opens up the potential for a more centrist left-centre candidate.

De Kerckhove said he believes that the right-wing Fillon is the clear frontrunner in the spring presidential campaign, and that France is very unlikely to put the anti-free trade, far right Le Pen in charge.

“I may be wrong but my sense is we’ve reached the limit of the French moving full steam to the right because — I don’t question the fact that the immigration issue is playing out, that the anti-Muslim stuff, the assimilation, all of that plays out — but my sense is at the end of the day, they’ll feel more comfortable getting a guy like Fillon who’s sufficiently on the right side but at the same time has experience of government and will hopefully provide for a better growth of the economy,” de Kerckhove said.

What’s Up In The West?

United Kingdom: Unhappy referendum voters opted to take the U.K. out of the European Union, a move known widely as Brexit. Various theories on why people wanted to leave the EU but common themes were concern over low wages, the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs and immigration.

United States: The election of Donald Trump as president came as a big surprise to most political observers. Why Trump won is, of course, up for debate. But it’s believed voters in the rust belt states, worried about jobs and their futures, and also those concerned about immigration, specifically illegal residents from Mexico and Islamic terrorists, pushed him over the top.

Italy: The populist Five Star party, led by Italian comedian — we kid you not — Beppe Grillo, is anti-EU and considered a serious threat in the 2018 general elections.

Germany: German Chancellor Angela Merkel will have her work cut out for her in September 2017 elections. There is opposition to her wide-open-door immigration policy.

Trade between Canada and France

  • Size: France is Canada’s eighth largest trading partner
  • Exports: $3.1 billion annually
  • Imports: $5 billion annually
  • What France buys from Canada: high-tech goods, pharmaceuticals, electrical equipment
  • What Canada buys from France: Pharmaceuticals, aerospace products, beverages, beauty products
  • French visitors to Canada: 422,000 in 2012
  • Canadian visitors to France: 729,300 in 2012

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