The sequel in Europe could surprise us

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As the writer Anaïs Nin says: “The whole art of analysis consists in telling a truth only when the other is ready for it”. Political risk analysis – which is essentially an art rather than a science, and no less essential for it – requires to anticipate in order to be always ready for whatever happens or, as Nin would say, to always be ready for the truth. Never being surprised when seemingly improbable events unfold is an artistic prerequisite for taking political risks well.

Currently, two somewhat unconsidered but quite possible political currents are unfolding in the heart of Europe. While the potential rise to power of Giorgia Meloni of Italy and Valérie Pecresse of France has been underestimated, it is also likely that at least one of these “surprising” events will occur. To see what comes next in Europe, it is imperative to take the possibility of their success seriously, and do it now.

Outside of Italy, hardly anyone has thought about the fact that there is a very real possibility that Meloni, leader of Italy’s far-right Brotherhood, could soon be prime minister. She has proven to be a shrewd political operative, working with some success to detoxify a party that still has too many ties to Benito Mussolini’s fascist nightmare.

Moreover, Meloni has wisely chosen to stay out of Mario Draghi’s COVID-19 inspired national unity government. She deftly criticized the Draghi government’s many panicked zigzags on pandemic policy, as well as becoming an eloquent (albeit somewhat unlikely) champion of parliamentary sovereignty and the need for technocratic government to submit more openly and democratically its program to Italy. people. All this did him a lot of good, as his party climbed to second place in the last Italian poll ahead of the next elections scheduled for 2023.

Politico’s Jan. 10 poll put the centre-left Democratic Party at 22%, with Meloni’s Brothers of Italy just behind at 20%, the far-right League at 19% and the populist and founder of Movement five stars at 15%. These figures clearly show that the right will be strongly favored to win the 2023 legislative elections.

Better yet for Meloni, she has hammered out a deal with the League’s Matteo Salvini – long the far-right’s golden boy – that whichever of their parties performs best in the next election will see their candidate for prime minister favored by both, making them favorites to assume power. While Italian politics is byzantine at best and although there are many twists and turns to come over the next 18 months, at present it can be argued that the far right Meloni (with all the political repercussions that that implies) is as likely as someone to be prime minister, and as soon as next year.

Likewise, in France, a largely unknown woman has also quietly made political inroads. Pecresse, the head of the Paris regional council and a former cabinet minister in the Sarkozy government, has surprisingly emerged as the Gaullist candidate for the French presidency, with the two rounds of voting due to be held in late spring and early summer. of this year.

Politico’s latest polls find President Emmanuel Macron with 25% of the vote, far-right Marine Le Pen with 17% of the likely tally, Pecresse breathing down his neck at 16% and with Eric Zemmour – the far-right talk superstar -show – at 13%. Given the complexity of the French electoral system, this means that Macron would easily qualify for the decisive second round, but that the other three still have a real chance of advancing to the second round.

Unlike the personality-focused campaigns of Macron, Le Pen and Zemmour — which simply have factions behind them rather than established parties — Pecresse is the heir to the Gaullist Party, the ruling party of France’s Fifth Republic. The party has branches across the country, long-established community ties, money and organizational clout, giving it a level of support the other three candidates simply cannot match. Moreover, Pecresse, unlike her far-right rivals, simply cannot be demonized as a threat to the security of the republic – she, like Macron, is a moderate, center-right politician who clearly poses no threat to the French state.

As such, if there is a runoff between Macron and Pecresse, the incumbent cannot count on disgruntled leftists to half-heartedly but decisively vote for him, as they did in the matchup. 2017 between Macron and Le Pen. Instead, the president’s many critics – due to his imperious intellectual nature, he was never liked by his countrymen, if admired as capable – now have a real opportunity to vote against him. With Pecresse just a point behind Le Pen as the campaign heats up, she has a real shot at claiming the Elysée.

For Meloni as for Pecresse, victory is far from assured. However, as Nin’s analytical injunction makes clear, these seemingly surprising political risks should not surprise us either if they materialize quickly.

  • John C. Hulsman is President and Managing Partner of John C. Hulsman Enterprises, a leading global political risk advisory firm. He is also a senior columnist for City AM, the City of London newspaper. He can be contacted via johnhulsman.substack.com.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News

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