By Conor Holohan
Just as the American and French Revolution sparked waves of political change across Europe and the West, today, the tide of the populist spring sweeps towards Europe, inspired by events in the UK and US. For the first time in history arguably, a genuinely democratic revolution is taking place.
Here in the UK, 72.2% of the registered electorate – a record turnout in the UK – voted in a referendum to exit the European Union. In the US, the Electoral College returned Donald Trump as President, and rejected the dynastically corporatist Hillary Clinton. As the current of political revolution sweeps towards Europe, the political crisis we face becomes more apparent.
Though the democratic revolution is very much underway, there are obstacles in the road. The first obstacle is that the systems in place across the west are becoming obsolete. In the UK on the morning of the referendum result, it became clear that two ghoulish parties were forming over Parliament. The leave/remain ideological dichotomy was suddenly more important than the Conservative/Labour one.
Many MPs who campaigned venomously for remain found themselves sitting in constituencies which had voted leave. The people in these constituencies are without representation on one of the most important political issues of recent time in British politics, and until we have another general election, we will continue to have parliament very much past its sell-by date.
Additionally we have seen that legally, the referendum was not binding but was advisory as all British referenda technically are. This, while legally sound, was a glaring example of how the laws surrounding referendums are mistrusting of the electorate, and as Daniel Hannan said; ‘The best antidote to oligarchy is trusting people’.
Not to mention the fact that in the last general election, UKIP received the third largest share of the votes, but only returned 1 seat, while the SNP returned 56 seats with less than half of UKIP’s share of the vote.
Meanwhile in Holland, Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party is polling as at-least neck and neck with Prime Minister Mark Rutte ahead of an election next month. Wilders admires Trump, but unlike the President has been involved in his nation’s lawmaking for some time. Wilders’ main topic of discussion is Islam in Holland, and many see his comments on Moroccans and other immigrants as concerning.
His views aside, his popularity is soaring in the Netherlands, but this will be stifled by the Dutch style of forming a government. In Holland, the government must be made from at least two parties, and all other serious parties have made it clear that they will not form a coalition with Wilders’ Freedom Party. Another example of current political frameworks do not easily serve as vehicles radical change (but perhaps the Dutch example is an extreme one).
As French parties park their ideological tanks on Marine Le Pen’s lawn and unite against her (much like is happening against Wilders in Holland) and attempts to initiate a second referendum in the UK gather large popular support, we see that the populist surge is not welcomed by many in politics nor in the media. As we look forward, regardless of how much momentum this movement has, we can expect attempts will be made to stifle it at every turn.