French politics was thrown into turmoil on Sunday after a centrist coalition led by President Emmanuel Macron lost control of parliament. It’s the biggest crisis of the 44-year old leader’s career. The most worrying bit is that a right-wing party, the National Rally (RN) won 89 seats (17.3%) – more than 10 times its haul from the last elections. 😳

RN is led by conservative, anti-immigration, Islamaphobe and holocaust denier, Marine Le Pen. 

France is the latest example of a political phenomenon that has been rampant of late: the rise of the right. In the last decade or so, partly as a result of the economic hardships created by the 2008 Financial Crisis, right-wing populists have accumulated a frightening amount of political power. Rather than address the political and economic systems’ inherent flaws, they use racism, xenophobia and blame the “woke mob”. It fires people up, but it doesn’t fix anything. We’ve seen it in SA too. 

But it has been particularly true in Europe. Out of 27 EU member states, 15 are governed by parties that are considered right-wing or centre-right, with values grounded in conservatism and deregulated, free-market economic principles. It’s a far cry from the social democratic order that had dominated European politics and raised living standards since the end of World War II.

So what’s next for France? Macron needs to work with the opposition to pursue his economic reforms and tackle crises in France’s health and education systems. But opportunities for common ground are slim: His government now faces two powerful opposition blocs led by politicians of the far left and far right, The Financial Times notes

It’s a common problem for coalition governments in fractured societies, and one we’ll be seeing more often here in SA. Let’s see if/how France will resolve it – and what we can learn.