24 January, 2022


Neo-Populism Tips Over The Peak

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Trump, Durante and Le Pen against the wall; Modi changing tack: Neo-populism tips over the peak

“Public sentiment is everything; with public sentiment

nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed” ~ Abraham Lincoln

It seems that neo-populism has peaked and at least in some theatres flipped into decline. In India, Modi has shifted gear from right-wing populism to the more “regular” brand of mass populism. Republicans, whose party Donald Trump hijacked, agree that he is the most bizarre oddball president in American history. Though his support base has not collapsed it is has weakened; (a) after a $600 billion tax concession to the rich disguised as healthcare reform cleared the House, (b) the suspicious firing of FBI director James Comey and (c) the incompetent, albeit inadvertent, leaking of sensitive intelligence to the Russian Foreign Minister. He now faces a Special Counsel (Bob Mueller) as Nixon did in 1973 – both appointed on the same date (17 May). What Trump says and does on one day has no relation to what he gets up to on the next as exasperated White House personnel lament.

Rodrigo Durante is a self-admitted hoodlum with blood on his hands. Senators whisper “impeachment” but stay silent in public for obvious reasons. Nevertheless alarm is mounting though his popularity is still holding up. Official sources estimate that 8000 suspected drug traffickers and drug users have been slaughtered since July 2016 and 40,000 are behind bars without trial. The drug problem is as serious in the Philippines as in Mexico but this is clearly overkill; note double entendre. In Mexico, conversely, the political establishment is in the pocket of the drug trade. Durante is way out of line with simple values; more seriously, will a man so recklessly wielding a machete stop after he has cleared the decks of the drug related? Are not political opponents next in line to be put to the sword?  Steller public sentiment is waning; folks are ready for his constitutionally limited one-term 6-year presidency to expire.

Clowns and killers are not stimulating because they do not teach subtle lessons. The case of the French National Front (FN) is far more significant. A looney White House and a Pilipino cowboy will soon be bad dreams, the inmate of the former perhaps impeached, but the tensions that propelled all three forward are the perilous realities of the prevailing global imbroglio, as I have often taken pains to explain. The alienation of millions that led to a global revolt against the system is not the topic of this essay since I have dealt with it two or three times previously in this column. 

The follies of French neo-populism

The trajectory of European neo-populism is complex and important, so let’s migrate to France and sip a leisurely glass of Bordeaux. You have heard it before but let me use it as an opening gambit. The two populist candidates in the French presidential election shoved the main parties (Socialists and Republicans) out of the final lap and secondly Emmanuel Macron is the youngest French leader since Napoleon – wow! If you don’t see an earthquake in this double whammy nothing will ever surprise you. Simply put, the French political edifice has crumpled. And don’t forget that though Le Pen lost she secured 34% of the vote, double what any NF candidate had secured previously. To add salt into the wound, she polled most of her eleven million votes in the working class districts of France.

But both centrist populism and right neo-populism have peaked; the Macron and Le Pen platforms are now mutating towards conventional liberalism. In Macron’s case the switch was instantaneous and expected. He has picked right-of-centre Republican Edouard Philippe as Prime Minister and rushed off to Berlin, within hours of being sworn in, to cement heart and soul EU-centric ties with Angela Merkel. The CDU is scoring rousing victories in Germany’s State elections and Merkel is likely to come storming back as Chancellor in September. The fate of bourgeois democratic Europe seems secure for about five years and it will thumb its nose and see off mad-cap Don and hoodlum Rod.

As bits and pieces of Macrons programme emerge it contains nothing out of the ordinary; plain vanilla bourgeois liberal-democracy if you want it in jargon. So the despair and alienation that drove millions to imbibe centrist populism will find no relief or medication in Macron’s un-aged cabernet sauvignon; they will have to keep gulping harsh tannins. In line with my title I am saying devotees of Macron populism will soon turn their backs on it.

What about the fiery shiraz of Miss Le Pen? Though she nearly doubled the NF vote it now comes as a sudden revelation ‘that this is it’; the French far-right has peaked. Without alliances with liberals the NF will never reach 35-40%. This is parallel to the predicament of the JVP; no matter proportional representation or first-past-the-post, the JVP cannot win more than 20 seats in parliament unless it forms alliances. Having burnt its fingers three times with Chandrika, Fonseka and Sirisena there is hope the JVP will now see the light and consolidate an umbrella left alliance. The goal should not be premature notions of governmental power or utopian socialism, but sturdy impact on national politics like the left was able to do for four decades from the mid-1930s. 

To return to the National Front; a reappraisal of policy has been initiated. An established right-wing party with longstanding policy, platform and ideology, it is not popcorn or instant noodles like Macron’s En Marche! (On the Move). Rewriting the NF agenda and restyling the organisation will be prolonged and painful – Marine’s nice Marion Marechal-Le Pen and some ultra-right elements have walked out screaming “treachery”.  My point is the NF is past its peak in its current avatar but seems to have the intelligence and foresight to lick its wounds and ponder what to do next. The JVP seems not to have the head to transcend its waning avatar; it may forever remain a smallish party.

All will come to a head in the 11 June National Assembly elections. En Marche, a recently conjured out of the air soda bottle as a vehicle for Macron’s presidential bid is unlikely to win a clear majority to allow Macron to govern freely. A French president without a majority in the legislature is as shackled as an American president with both houses of Congress against him. Therefore political alliances have become as important for centrist as for right-wing neo-populists.

The thrilling part of the story is that the same is true for the left; so it’s time to sip a little heady Champagne.  It is clear as daylight to the French left that unless there is across the board cooperation and tactical voting it will be hopelessly marginalised. Broad left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon obtained 20% in the presidential primary, Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon 6.5% and adding other smaller left votes adds to over 30%. The step from primaries (11) to run-off a week later (18) in legislative elections is a very complicated process, so it is impossible to guess how many of the Assembly’s 577 a unified left may get. But if unified it will do well. I am emphasising left unity for obvious reasons relating to Lanka’s domestic politics.

Prefrontal cortex defect

I know most leaders of the multiplicity of left sects, fragments and splinters in this country; many have been personal friends for years. They are normal in other ways but there is an explicable disconnect on one matter. The prefrontal cortex is where cognition, reflection and decision-making occur, so is the political prefrontal cortex of the Lankan left defective? The limbic gaggle is the part of the cortex where emotion and passion reaches out from. It seems the gaggle has blown up and smothered the prefrontal. Ok this may not be funny but what I am driving at is deadly serious.

All over the world, in this age of rise of neo-populism and preparing for its decline, the global left is waking up to the truth that unity is sine qua non. But not in Lanka! Leaders who understand and nod their heads in agreement but do nothing about it are guilty of negligence. We have to unify the left in the next year or two or the landscape will turn chaotic. Imagine the scenario; the Ranil-Sirisena government in terminal decline, Tamil and Muslim alienation worsening, a hung parliament with gangster leaders of the last regime reaching to grab power and, at best a lot left undone on the economy, at worst a mess. In a bleak scenario a strong unified left movement in the country at large, and a significant presence in parliament, is probably the only glue that can hold the country together. If we take a step back we see in the post-independence decades a powerful left supplying political and intellectual national cohesion, something at which UNP, SLFP, FP and religious orders had failed.

The point I am driving at in conclusion is that unification of the left, though of course in its own interest, it is also a national imperative in these difficult days.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 5

    Great analysis – thanks and applause to you Prof. KD. We really appreciate of the kind of analyse. With the eminent visit being discussed, Europeans are bit nervous to welcome him. Anyways, they are more to welcome former prez Obama next week to Germany.
    Even if Durante administration is believed to have done that much in terms of drug traffickers, as written above by putting over 40k behind bars, the drug problem is though not serious threat as the case in Philipines, but it is raising head as no times before with every 4th among youth becoming addicted according to report in the country today, but even most known high men are not yet subjected to any primary level investigations. It is a public secret that Depty minister Nimal Lanza from Negambo is a drug king pin to the area. But not even rumours about calling him for the investigations. Why ? What stands against the kind of menbeing taken to custody ?
    Yes, the left parties should get together in the country, but there are no signs that JVP would make ties with them as we expect them tobe or other leftist parties seem making the first step.
    The educated will fully agree with you Prof..” the Ranil-Sirisena government in terminal decline, Tamil and Muslim alienation worsening, a hung parliament with gangster leaders of the last regime reaching to grab power and, at best a lot left undone on the economy, at worst a mess”

  • 1

    Dear Dr. David Kumar,
    Excellent tutorials to the class of citizens and in particular to Mother Lanka’s rathu sahotharayo. Whether the current JVP is a real patriotic rathus or not, I’m not sure because of their past. In the past they were not inclusive of sulu janathawa.
    The self claimed smart patriots like DJ are pseudo rathus like DJ hiding behind Fiedel Castro. What a shame India phobia DJ , never writes about for actor Mahinda Rajapakse’s request for a nocturnal rendezvous with the Indian Leader. DJ is like a snake oil seller in SL south village markets.

    When it comes SL politicians ” There is small choice in rotten apples ” – William Shakespeare, TheTaming of the Shrew.

  • 1

    “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it”. That is Abraham Lincoln too and that is what happened to the socialists and communists.

    Anyway, the main reason why I am writing to you is not all that. Who cares, what name you give to the eternal robbing of the Putujjana by the Palakayas? My problem is that I have a ceaselessly sobbing lady in my household. She is not taking any food or drinks and most of all not doing any work since she saw your article. She went only as far as the second word in the article heading before she broke in to uncontrollable sobbing.

    Do I have to explain who is crying and why? It is Silvestra, my housekeeper and the reason she is crying is because, despite her many humble requests you have again misspelt the Philippines Presidents name as Durante. I don’t know why she is taking it so badly. May be Durante is a bad word or the name of some bad person like Stalin. The correct spelling is Duterte. D-U-T-E-R-T-E. Sir, I know Silvestra is a ‘poor no education lady’ as she often describes herself. But she is a human being and deserves a little care and respect. Sir, I beg you, please do take care about this in the future.

    • 4

      what a beast to point at a tiny spelling error as it according to his limited knowledge , finds it not normal. But to Prof.KD or the like researchers that keep writing to high impact journals in their fields of specialization should be just normal. This is just normal. But to be meticulous is always fine.
      Anyway, I am speechless when looking at the estranged and unique behaviours of one another dimwit, but not seem to have yet the common knowledge about the life.
      What matters is the content of the article not the typos, Edwin the most abusive mouth piece of the day.. dont you think so ? Besides, you are now in mid 60ties but to make a big fuzz out of it ?. OMG.
      Hope you have not done any physical and moral harm to ” so called house keeper- Silvestra or slanken housemaid (can also be the case)” believed to be a filipino ? we trust you to even to any evils, having read your posts to CT lately.

      • 0

        This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

    • 3

      To whom it may conern

      The Philippines is a Southeast Asian country in the Western Pacific, comprising more than 7,000 islands and it has has a population of nearly 100 millions by 2015. There are 13 local or indegenous langauges in Philiphines with at least one million native speakers; including Aklanon, Bikol, Cebuano, Chavacano, Hiligaynon, Ibanag, Ilocano, Ivatan, Kapampangan, Kinaray-a, Maguindanao, Maranao, Pangasinan, Sambal, Surigaonon, Tagalog, Tausug, Waray, and Yakan. Spanish and Arabic are to be promoted on an optional and voluntary basis

      Btw – meaning of Durante in Spannish is “during”. So need to worry about to have mispelled the his name as ” DURANTE”.

      So, I hope this will clear the anxities of octagenarian writer even if he accidently made the typo – is really normal to anyone but seems not to the kind of men like EDWIN RODRIGO ( is that becasue “Rodrigo Duterte” is genetically related to Edwin Rodrigo ? )

      Anyways, I wish this estranged commentator- Edwin Rodrigo and the like ILK would have rather sensitive with the substance of message being well articulated by Prof. David :

      • 2

        it should be ” no need to worry about the wrong spellings”:

        • 0

          This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

          • 1

            Edwin Rodrigo, it is high time you to learn the basics, Then CT authorities would you get in.
            LEarning is a hard thing. I wonder why the arabs seem to have tolerated to you such a long time.
            They are known to stone and put to death anyone for having acted without their ethics and morals. Butyou seem to have been exempted from the systems ? Are they that stupid to allow you further ?
            Man, wake up, you are now in your 60ties, already too late, why not you learn the basics of this life… respect others, then only you would be respected by others. Got it boy ?

        • 0

          Ex-colonies in the process of relieving themselves of the colonial cultural burden do rid themselves of misspellings by the ex-master like Calcutta to Kolkata and Bangalore to Bengaluru preceded by Trivandrum to Thiruvananthapuram (quite a mouthful, but sweet to the Malayali). . . . . .***
          The Chinese did it nearly 40 years ago wholesale to their names written in Roman script. . . . .***
          Bad spelling of a person’s name is a mark of disrespect. If it was done to Trump and Le Pen too then there is justification to do it to Duterte.

      • 0

        This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

    • 2

      You AND the ilk may talk about the poor education of filipinos but our house maid led lanken guest workers in ME cant even fill up the embarking form by themselves. Once I happened to help a line of housemaid in the plane heading from Dubai to Colombo. It was my transit taken from Dubai. This is the truth of our people. We talk high placing ours above anyone else. Latter should finally be away from average thinkers back in our country. Then only we can think of achieving set goals.
      I m in the view, foreig ministry should focus on the issues even more closely, not sending any women without checking their education and skilled knowedge obtained for the requirements of the employments in that and other parts of the world. Just because not having proper control in that areas, some have just moved out of the country, and made a bad image to the country today. Above all those people have to face all untold stories not being able to defend themselves in situation they have to face if they cant have the knoweldge they the employersr required.
      Only skilled workers to allow leave the country for ME, Korea or Italy where lanken labour is still in demand can help the country, nation and those employees too.
      Reponsible authorities have to react LET alone today in the areas with wholeheartedness not paying any more lipservice – is what we expect next.

    • 1

      His insisting on misspelling Duterte is part of the colonial heritage. We are only careful about getting the names of European & North American suddhas right. . . . .****
      Placing Duterte side by side with racists like Trump and Le Pen is not even faded red politics. It is dyed green ideology.

      • 2

        and not forgetting turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Turkish pronunciation: [ɾeˈd͡ʒep tɑjˈjip ˈæɾdo(ɰ)ɑn] ?
        Entire europe is warning him but nothing would work. They are born in that way. If Rajapakshe remained in Lanka as the leader, we too would have been added to the list.

        Le Pen

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.