On Sunday, France will elect a new president. But Europe’s far right has already won.
On Sunday, by almost every indication, François Hollande, who has been leading in the polls for months, will defeat Nicolas Sarkozy and become France’s next president. Hollande’s Socialist Party, which hasn’t ousted an incumbent president in over three decades, has every reason to celebrate. But the true winner of this election isn’t France’s left; it’s Europe’s far right.
The reason is simple. In this election, France’s establishment has embraced Islamophobic ideas to an unprecedented degree. Right-wing populism, once a fringe phenomenon, has been conquering the bastions of Europe’s political mainstream with frightening speed; even so, most observers failed to predict the extent to which anti-immigrant themes would shape this campaign. It’s difficult to know whether Europe’s populists are approaching the zenith of their power or will continue their steady rise. But one thing is certain: At no point in Europe’s postwar history has the far right’s influence been as pervasive as it is now.