Saturday 25 November 2017

Forget the far right and left, the centre is where the real power is

Editorial Comment

What happens in France this Sunday will likely steer Europe's direction far into the future as a win for Emanuel Macron and a rejection of Marine Le Pen's racist, anti-EU Front National will, hopefully, put an end to the notion that Europe is sliding, irreversibly, to the far right.

Since Britain voted to leave the EU and Donald Trump was elected President in the United States, the overriding narrative in much of the global media has been that of an unstoppable right wing that is threatening the future of democracy across the western world.

The liberal prophets of doom - who conveniently ignore the fact that supporters of parties on the far right and left are exercising their democratic rights - continue to promote this notion despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

Last December in Austria, far right presidential candidate Norbert Hofer was roundly defeated by Green Party centrist economist Alexander Van der Bellen after a re-run of the election which had been declared null and void due to voting irregularities.

The first vote had Hofer and Van der Bellen neck and neck but in the re-run six months later, the nominally Independent Green beat his far right rival by well over six per cent.

Then last March - despite weeks of media stories warning that famously liberal Holland was about to elect far right candidate Geert Wilders as its next prime minister - Wilders' party was comfortably beaten by another centrist, Mark Rutte.

According to opinion polls, Marine Le Pen is closing the gap on her own centrist rival, Mr Macron, but it would still appear that a majority of French voters are set to say no to the politics of fear and xenophobia.

Obviously the outcome is still uncertain - and as we saw with Trump and Brexit a surprise is still possible - but as the race enters its closing days it looks as though another country will confound the doomsayers' narrative.

All this suggests that the prevailing theory of global politics being irreconcilably divided along right and left lines is mistaken.

We live in a divided world - there's no denying that - but it seems there is still much more that unites us.

As has been shown in Austria, Holland and in all likelihood France, the moderate centre is the true global majority, a fact supported by polls and votes across the world.

Rather than backing extremist parties, most voters are actually backing centrist policies and candidates and increasingly Brexit and the Trump victory look like aberrations.

What is needed now is a concerted effort to bring the disenfranchised and disillusioned who have been wooed by extremists - be they political or religious and on the far right or left - back into the fold.

To do this we need reason and discussion not insults and scaremongering. Rather than dismissing those on the other side of the political divide we need to listen to their arguments and find a way to compromise.

After all, isn't that what democracy is all about?

Enniscorthy Guardian

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