The election of Emmanuel Macron as president of France was said be some to mark a receding of the populist-nationalist wave.
Recent events suggest this may be not the case.
The Euroskeptic and anti-immigration party AfD (Alternative for Germany) managed to capture seats in parliament, with the third highest vote total at 13.2%. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU came out on top with 32.8%, but apparently this is their second lowest showing ever. The main social democratic party SPD (Merkel’s current coalition partner) had a huge drop to only 20.7% and has ruled out entering a coalition. Merkel, who has refused to countenance forming a government with AfD or the Left (former Communists), faces a complex task in cobbling a coalition together with the Greens and a small pro-business party called the Free Democrats.
Der Spiegel’s English language site has a number of articles up about this at present. One of them suggests that the national parliament is likely to do what state parliaments have done with the AfD, freeze them out completely to the greatest extent possible, even where they need to re-write the rules to do so.
Meanwhile in Catalonia, Spain has seized internet domains and sent in police in order to suppress a planned independent referendum.
And Iraq’s Kurdish region just conducted its own independence referendum over the objections of the central government, the US, etc. The vote was in favor of independence. What happens next is to be seen.
One of the dilemmas the central governments of these places face from populist-nationalist movements is that in order to suppress these uprisings they utilize tactics that undermine their own democratic legitimacy. Sending in thousands of police to take over polling sites and seizing internet servers is pretty heavy handed. Changing longstanding rules and freezing out democratically elected members of parliament in the name of preserving democracy is kind of like destroying the village in order to save it.
I don’t want to overanalyze other people’s politics, but one thing that is clear is a decline in the credibility of the traditional major parties, and the “establishment” factions of US parties. Even Macron won by running as the candidate of his own startup party.
The challenge for these folks is not just to try to suppress populist-nationalist movements, but to rebuild their own legitimacy in the public eye. That might prove a much tougher task.