By Damon Linker The Week
In a recent column about the landslide victory for Viktor Orban’s Fidesz Party in Hungary’s election last Sunday, I warned Western liberals and progressives against attributing the outcome entirely to electoral mischief and media manipulation by the incumbent. The truth is that the populist-nationalist message of Orban and his party appeals to lots of voters outside the capital of Budapest. That’s consistent with electoral results across the democratic world, where in recent election cycles people in rural areas and small towns have begun banding together in opposition to urban progressivism and in favor of a harder-edged, right-wing mode of politics.
In the first round of France’s presidential election this Sunday, the pattern may well be repeated in a context where it would be impossible to attribute the results to an incumbent giving himself an unfair advantage in the contest.
French President Emmanuel Macron of the centrist Forward party leads the polls, but he’s been sinking for the past three weeks, while Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Rally party has been rising. Aggregate polls currently place Le Pen 4 to 5 points behind Macron with the gap closing, while some more recent polls show her just 2 points behind. This reproduces the dynamic that prevailed in the run-up to the dual political earthquakes of 2016: the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and Donald Trump’s victory against Hillary Clinton in the U.S. presidential election.