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The European politicians who are likely to seize the reins of power may not have much to offer

Beppe Grillo
photo Benny Marty / Shutterstock

The European elites have long stopped to respond to the fears and hopes of the people, which resulted in the emergence of new political parties and movements that address these fears and inspire many citizens of the Old Continent with a hope that it is still possible to have a new, healthy establishment. The forthcoming elections in France, Italy and the Netherlands may decide whether such politicians as Fillon, Macron, Grillo or Wilders, who decisively oppose the current establishment, will hold positions of power. The question arises whether they are as reliable and trustworthy as they would like to be perceived or they only wish to pull wool over our eyes and will not be all that different than their neoconservative and liberal predecessors.

Due to numerous scandals, cronyism, unfair business deals, empty promises, thousands of migrants in the streets and refugee camps people began to mistrust the likes of Berlusconi or Sarkozy. Recently, new actors have appeared on the political stage who immediately have been labelled as extreme right or left, populist, xenophobic and anti-European. People in Italy and France, however, do not let themselves be duped with such misnomers anymore and prefer now to turn their attention to such politicians as Marine Le Pen or Beppe Grillo, who at least represent the common man’s feelings and hopes. Yet, even if the National Front and the Five-Star Movement abide by their election promises, the leaders of these parties do not seem so decent as their voters wish they were.

Suspicious financing

On 17 March an election will be held in the Netherlands. The recent polls indicate that Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party (PVV), is highly likely to win.1)Wilders rückt die Niederlande in den Blick, Frankfurter Allgemeine 2017-01-10.

His party is in point of fact an association, where Geert Wilders is the only member, which under the Dutch law means he is not obliged to reveal the financial sources, so much so that his party, unlike other parties, receives no money from the state. Still, the voters would like to know. The PVV may be financed by anti-Islam American organizations like the David Horowitz Freedom Centre2)David Horowitz centre gave Geert Wilders €18,000 in 2014, 2015-10-01.and by Daniel Pipes, who is head of the Philadelphia-based pro-Israeli forum for the Middle East.

True, the party spokespersons say that the contributions are small,3)Extreemrechtse PVV ontving financiële steun van haatgroep David Horowitz, 2015-09-24. but Hero Brinkman, a one-time PVV second most important person, believes the contributions amount to loads of American money.4)US lobbyists make large donations to PVV, says former MP, 2012-03-21.To think of it: American Jews are supporting the Dutch right. Wilders’ voters would certainly like for him to have a circle of different friends.

Cronyism and empty promises

Let us have a cursory look at the French candidates: François Fillon from the Republican Party, who promised full employment, and just a few weeks ago stood a chance against Le Pen, is now suspected of having employed his wife in the party for a mere €500 000. Can he look the French pensioners in the face whose annual income he has promised to raise by €300? The manor house that he has in Sarthe is perceived by the people who live on a social minimum like a red rag by a bull.

When Fillon is a disappointment, then how about Marine Le Pen, who wishes to bring to France law and justice? It was in November 2016 that the National Front’s suspicious election financing was exposed. The party is said to have excessively raised the 2012 election costs with the purpose of having them reimbursed by the state. The forthcoming election will, too, have to be somehow financed: in January 2017 “Le Canard enchainew” reported that the National Front was about to borrow money from a Russian credit institute, despite the fact that it had not yet paid off the €9 million of a similar loan dating back to 2014.5)Die Geldsorgen von Marine Le Pen, Neue Zürcher Zeitung 2017-01-04.

Le Pen has also run up a debt of more than €300 000, which must be paid to the European parliament. The EU money rather than be used for the salaries of the secretaries to the parliamentary deputies was directed to the party’s national members in France. No wonder then that many French citizens have pinned their hopes on independent candidates like Emmanuel Macron or Benoît Hamon. Macron, an advocate of Merkel’s migrant policy and a has-been investor banker of the Rothschild Bank, who strangely morphed into a socialist, is as unconvincing as Benoît Hamon, who wants to throw money out of the window (a proposal of his: an unconditional basic income of €750 for everyone). Hopefully, the voters will not let themselves be charmed by the facetiousness of both candidates or else France will immerse in turmoil.

Bribery and corruption

Beppe Grillo, leader of the Five-Star Movement, an erstwhile comic actor, poses as neither right nor left. His aim is to disempower the petrified and ridiculous parties, and create a kind of direct democracy modelled on the Swiss ideal.6)Italienische Städte greifen nach Schweizer Demokratie, 2016-06-20.Policy making would be implemented by means of referendums or internet polling. Already in 2012 the party’s candidates were elected with a click of a computer mouse.7)Italien in der Zwickmühle, n-tv 2013-04-16.

The party’s banners are emblazoned with words like transparency and honesty („onestà“). Rome, a city transformed by both right and left mayors into “Mafia Capitale“, looked aghast as last year Grillo’s supporters came to power. At present they, too, are suspected of having been bribed by a large construction entrepreneur. The rumour concerns a colleague of Virginia Raggi, who last June was voted into office as Rome’s mayor with a two-thirds majority.8)Korruptionsskandal erschüttert Italien, n-tv 2016-12-16.

The colleague’s name is Raffaele Marra. He made himself notorious as he served under Gianni Alemanno, the post-faschist mayor heading the most corrupt municipal government of the Eternal City. Nothing out of the usual on the Tiber. We wouldn’t like to go along, dear readers and voters!

References   [ + ]

1. Wilders rückt die Niederlande in den Blick, Frankfurter Allgemeine 2017-01-10.
2. David Horowitz centre gave Geert Wilders €18,000 in 2014, 2015-10-01.
3. Extreemrechtse PVV ontving financiële steun van haatgroep David Horowitz, 2015-09-24.
4. US lobbyists make large donations to PVV, says former MP, 2012-03-21.
5. Die Geldsorgen von Marine Le Pen, Neue Zürcher Zeitung 2017-01-04.
6. Italienische Städte greifen nach Schweizer Demokratie, 2016-06-20.
7. Italien in der Zwickmühle, n-tv 2013-04-16.
8. Korruptionsskandal erschüttert Italien, n-tv 2016-12-16.