France’s National Front: a mainstream party?, A leader departs, Europe’s struggles with populism, Striving for gender equality in the police, Why social media have failed Syria

A roundup of global commentary for the Dec. 19, 2016 weekly magazine.

Benoit Tessier/Reuters
French far-right National Front party president Marine Le Pen stands next to a man dressed as Santa Claus and National Front vice-president Florian Philippot as she visits a Christmas market in Paris, Dec. 8.

Prospect / London

France’s National Front: a mainstream party?

“[N]ext year an ‘outsider’ party, Marine Le Pen’s [National Front], is currently expected to make it through to the second round of the presidential election...,” writes Jim Wolfreys. “The Front’s success offers a spectacular rebuttal to claims that populist racism can be undermined by adopting a tough line on immigration. Ever since the party’s electoral breakthrough in the early 1980s, mainstream politicians have fallen over themselves to show how concerned they are about immigration.... If the [National Front] today is increasingly perceived as a party ‘like the others,’ this has more to do with a drift towards intolerance by mainstream parties than with the changes to the Front’s image introduced under ... Le Pen’s leadership.”

Stuff / Wellington, New Zealand

A leader departs

“When future generations look back on this year they will refer to it as The Year No-One Saw Anything Coming,” writes Richard Shaw, professor of politics at Massey University. “Not Brexit, not Trump and now – in our own little antipodean way – not John Key’s resignation.... [But] we should perhaps not be all that surprised by the Key announcement. Go out while still on top. That’s the advice we routinely offer sports people from the comfort of our couches.... Key was no more an ordinary Kiwi bloke than Donald Trump is a natural ally of working people. But that wasn’t the point: what he has is a sense of self-deprecation, an ease with others and a finely tuned sense of what matters to people that [the National Party] would like to bottle.”

The Jerusalem Post / Jerusalem

Europe’s struggles with populism

“Less than 12 hours after the defeat of far-right candidate Norbert Hofer in the Austrian presidential election, a wave of Brexit/Trump-inspired populism seems to have broken on Vienna...,” states an editorial. “But Norbert lost by a margin of only 53 to 46% for a largely ceremonial office.... This tells us that for almost half of the electorate the radical Right represented by Hofer was palatable.... As moderates in Europe were applauding the Austrian outcome, more than 60% of voters were handing Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi a resounding defeat in a referendum ... which commentators say is a larger symbolic test of euroskepticism and populism.”

The Daily Star / Dhaka, Bangladesh

Striving for gender equality in the police

“We can be rightly proud of the fact that Bangladesh is perhaps one of the first countries in the region to induct women in the police when the initial recruitment started in 1974...,” states an editorial. “Bangladesh also has the distinction of becoming the first Muslim majority country to contribute [an] all-women police contingent to UN peacekeeping. But one wonders whether the work environment guarantees the women members of the force the safety to contribute their best to their profession? It is shocking to learn that ten percent of women in the police suffer sexual harassment in the line of work.... [W]e urge the authorities concerned to address the issue of work environment of the women police starting immediately....”

Al Jazeera / Doha, Qatar

Why social media have failed Syria

“Aleppo has been one of the highest trending news [topics] on social media in the United States for a while now...,” writes Syrian journalist Riham Alkousaa. “And what of it? Nothing changes in Aleppo.... Indeed, social media hurt the Syrian uprising.... Many were convinced that if social media helped Egyptians get rid of Hosni Mubarak, it would help them overthrow Bashar al-Assad. It created the false illusion that toppling him would be easy and doable.... Social media, of course, is not the only reason why the Syrian uprising failed. But it is something that Syrian revolutionaries should think about when thinking about the future of their movement.”

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