The Populist Phenomena Trumping Europe

CARLOS E. ALVAREZ – Populism continues to unfold in a myriad of ways, and the current global heads profess their movement supports common individual interests against the elite and the establishment.[1] While the phenomena combines elements of the right and the left, populism dances with extremes that are either led by socialist or nationalist sentiments.[2] Recently, the Brexit saga and election of President Donald Trump, pivot the ideological trajectory of populism towards the latter.[3] The rhetoric behind these two considerable milestones is riddled with factors crediting to the rise of terrorist attacks, immigration, growing wealth inequality, and fear of globalism as a deterrent to state autonomy.[4] “[H]ostility towards cultural diversity,” such as the belief that Muslim immigration is a threat to national security, coupled with significant unemployment and socioeconomic differences foster the foundation to the edifice of nationalistic populism.[5]

Brexit and Trump are the starting pieces to a very uncertain domino effect extending to the upcoming political elections in France and Germany.[6] So far, the Netherlands “said ‘Whoa’ to the wrong kind of populism,” when “[t]he far-right politician Geert Wilders fell short of expectations in the Dutch election . . . failing to persuade a decisive portion of voters to back his extreme positions on barring Muslim immigrants and jettisoning the European Union.”[7] Though, many consider Prime Minister Mark Rutte as a victory away from these impressive philosophies, the battle against these perspectives is still ongoing.[8] Post-election tweets from Wilder, stating “Rutte has not seen the last of me yet!,” echo a likely continuation of the aforementioned views that Rutte and the rest of the country will continue to face.[9]

Batter up—France’s upcoming election may cement nationalistic populism in the EU, if the National Front’s leader, Marine Le Pen, is successful in dissuading voters away from Emmanuel Macron’s novel liberal movement, En Marche! (Forward!).[10] In many circles Le Pene is perceived as the French female Trump by “accus[ing] immigrants of bringing crime and terrorism”[11] and “favoring economic protectionism.” [12] Considerably, a victory for Le Pene may provide an extreme blow to the future of EU. Divergent from Macron’s embracing approach towards the vitality of the EU, Le Pene advocates for a departure of the Euro and “would seek to renegotiate all EU treaties in order to claw back national sovereignty … [while] establishing the primacy of national laws over European laws.”[13] According to recent polls, the two French contenders share most of the popular vote, with Macron polled at 26% and Le Pene at 25%.[14] As of now, the finale of this election is too close to call, but a win for Le Pene would mean that one of key players of the EU would further bolster the nationalistic phenomena sparked by Brexit and Trump.[15]

Germany’s autumn election will be a by-product of both the result of the French election, and whether “[t]he anti-euro, anti-immigration Alternative for Deutschland” peaks its receptiveness within the electorate.[16] However, for now Chancellor Angela Merkel’s popularity remains somewhat intact, but it has “weakened by her long service in the job and severe criticism of her 2015 ‘open-door’ immigration policy.”[17] As the leader of the free world[18] Chancellor Merkel will have to endure the Brexit/Trump contagion and rising Euroscepticism promoted both national and neighboring populist parties.[19]

National populism is not only disturbing the strongest pillars of the EU, but other members such as Italy and Spain, which have weakened economies and prevailing sentiments regarding state sovereignty and immigration control.[20] Forthcoming elections will be a decisive move of this trumping phenomena, and only time will tell what the ramifications of such an expansion to nationalistic populism will generate throughout the EU and the world.

[1] Leslie Picker, Hedge Fund King Ray Dalio Shares His Views on Global Populism, CNBC, (Mar. 23, 2017 1:59 PM),

[2] André Munro, Populism: Political Program or Movement, Britannica, (Oct. 14, 2015),

[3] Kenneth Roth, The Dangerous Rise of Populism: Global Attacks on Human Rights Values, Columb. J. of Int’l. Aff., (Mar. 15, 2017),

[4] Satyajit Das, Brexit and Donald Trump Promised Easy Solutions to Hard Problems – But What Happens When They Don’t Deliver?, Independent, (Mar. 26 2017),

[5] An Unprecedented Election, With Unprecedented Risks, Economist, (Mar. 4, 2017),

[6] M. Eugenia Borneto, Will Marine Le Pen Be the Next Donald Trump, Market Mogul, (Feb. 29, 2017),

[7] Alissa J. Ruben, Greet Wilder Falls Short in Election, as Wary Dutch Scatter Their Votes, N.Y. Times, (Mar. 15, 2017),

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] The Next French Revolution: The Vote that Could Wreck the European Union, Economist, (Mar. 4, 2017),

[11] Amanda Taub, Trump’s Victory and the Rise of White Populism, N.Y. Times, (Nov. 9, 2016),

[12] Borneto, supra note 6.

[13] Id.

[14] Alexandre Boksenbaum-Granier and Vidya Root, There Could Be Another Twist in The French Election, Bloomberg, (Apr. 2, 2017 1:14:14 PM),

[15] Unprecedented Election, supra note 5.

[16] Steven Erlanger, Pillars of the West Shaken by ‘Brexit,’ But They’re Not Crumbling Yet, N.Y. Times, (Mar. 29, 2017),

[17] Id.

[18] James P. Rubin, The Leader of The Free World Meets Donald Trump, Politico, (Mar. 16, 2017),

[19] Unprecedented Election, supra note 5.

[20] Id.; Erlanger, supra note 16.

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