Category Archives: Election

The Trump Effect: Could Trump Cause a Backlash against the Rise of Populist Parties in Europe?

By Devon Winsor

Just as President Donald Trump’s far right ideals have galvanized support in the United States, a rise in similar ideals has occurred in Europe as well. The success of the United Kingdom Independence Party’s campaign to leave the European Union, the rise of Marie Le Pen and the National Front in France and the Five Star Movement in Italy, are just three of a multitude of examples of the resurgence of far right parties and ideals in Europe. These groups have seized momentum after President Trump’s surprising win in the U.S., citing his victory as a reason for their future success. President Trump’s win also illustrated to the parties’ supporters that citizens around the world share their views and concerns. However, Trump’s controversial vernacular during his campaign, specifically about women, and his subsequent policies implemented during his first few weeks in office have caused a backlash in Europe that could be detrimental to these far right parties.

The Women’s March the day after President Trump’s inauguration did not only occur in cities throughout America, but in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Barcelona, and many other cities across Europe. According to CNN, approximately 100,000 people participated in the Women’s March in London, and the Mayor of London even spoke out condemning President Trump’s views on Islam. These responses to Trump in a region unaffected by President Trump’s laws regarding women indicate the growth of unity against the principles that President Trump represents. Although the European far right parties that have seen an increase in support over the past few years do not threaten women’s rights, their alignment with President Trump could cause a backlash from a group otherwise unaffected by their policies.
Furthermore, President Trump’s controversial executive order that banned immigration from seven majority Muslim countries was met with disdain in Europe as well. Immigration has remained one of the most important and controversial issues in the European Union, especially after the refugee crisis, and it has been one of the main causes in the rise of the far right parties. For example, in a study performed by the British Election Study Team, the most prominent concern for British voters that desired to leave the European Union was immigration. This is the topic in which President Trump’s policies most aligned with the far right parties and their supporters. However, leaders throughout Europe have criticized Trump’s Muslim ban, including Angel Merkel, Theresa May and Francois Hollande.

These leaders, however, represent mainstream politics and their opinion is most likely not highly valued by those that already support the far right parties particularly because his ban has been praised by the leaders of the movement. Therefore, President Trump’s policies may not impact the support for the far right parties, but they could unite other groups against these parties, improving voter turnout in favor of other candidates in order to prevent these parties from gaining power.

In particular, Trump’s policies may galvanize momentum for politically disengaged citizens in Europe that have more centrist political views. President Trump’s policies have been considered some of the most divisive policies in history, being criticized by politicians and other public figures throughout the world, yet his successful campaign indicates that his values resonate with citizens. Thus, considering how divisive the current political climate remains, European citizens who may otherwise not engage in politics may feel the need to become involved in order to prevent similar policies from being implemented, especially after seeing the results of the Muslim ban, which were highly publicized in the media, with a particular focus on Muslims who could no longer return to their home in the U.S.

Despite the fact that polling in favor of the far right movements such as the National Front has remained strong, the future decline of these groups may be imminent. President Trump’s divisive nature could awaken a group of citizens in Europe that have seen the results of his policies and desire to prevent them from spreading to Europe. Those that already support strict immigration laws will continue to praise President Trump, but they may not realize that aligning themselves with someone as divisive as President Trump could cause citizens who prioritize other political issues, such as women’s rights, to more vocally support opposition parties.

Morocco’s Elections: The Palace, the Parliament, and the People

By Catherine Cartier

Catherine Cartier’20 is a guest writer and undeclared double major in Arabic and Political Science

This October 7, the Moroccan government will hold parliamentary elections—the second ballot since the country’s constitutional reforms in 2011. In 2011, a wave of antigovernment movements known as the Arab Spring began in Tunisia and swept across the Arab world. In Morocco, these protests inspired the “20 February” movement, which demanded constitutional reforms and a change in government. While the movement and its demands threatened the Moroccan monarch’s regime, King Mohammed VI managed to maintain his supremacy as the country’s leader by adopting limited reforms aimed at broadening the power of the elected government. The constitutional reforms introduced new formal limits on the King’s power: he must now name a prime minister from the party that receives the most votes and no longer presides over cabinet meetings. The new constitution allows parliament to make laws in most areas, and protects the independent judiciary. These revisions were praised by the US and European countries, allies of Morocco, who view the King as a reformer.

Yet Mohammed VI continues to control Moroccan politics through a circle of political and economic elite, known as the Makhzen. (Nadir Bouhmouch, a young Moroccan filmmaker, explores the omnipresence of the Makhzen in his short film “My Makhzen and Me”). While the King and the Makhzen retain their grip over political and economic power, the Parti de la Justice and du Developpement (PJD, the first Islamist party to take power in Morocco’s history) won the 2011 parliamentary elections. Since 2011, the PJD, headed by Prime Minister Abdel Benikrane, has led the government.

As the election approaches, tensions intensify between the palace and the PJD. On September 18, protests took place in the city of Casablanca, demonstrating against “the Islamicization of society” and the rise of the Islamist PJD leadership; however, confused citizens were reportedly asked by local authorities (controlled by the Ministry of the Interior) to travel to Casablanca to demonstrate. Protesters that were interviewed lacked an understanding of the event’s purpose—some received money for attending, and others were told they were protesting an entirely different issue. The organizers provided the citizens with banners against the PJD, in an attempt to dismantle PJD’s support.

In response, the PJD argued that the protests were supported by organizations which should be neutral in politics, a masked complaint directed at the Ministry of the Interior. Relations between the PJD and the Ministry of the Interior have been tense for some months. While the PJD Justice Minister and the Minister of the Interior typically collaborate in election decisions, the current PJD Justice Minister, Mustapha Ramid, argues that the Minister of the Interior is disrupting this history of power sharing by taking control of decisions regarding the election.

Since its 2011 election, the PJD has remained popular in Morocco by lowering the budget deficit, but still faces criticism for its failure to address weak economic growth and deliver on its promise to fight corruption as it had promised. Internally, the PJD leadership is in crisis: Omar Benhammad and Fatima Nejjar, two top leaders of the religious branch of the PJD, the Unity and Reform Movement (MUR), are currently on trial for attempted corruption and adultery. The PJD have since released a statement denouncing Nejjar and Benhammad’s actions, yet the damage remains; social media users have drawn attention to what they perceive as the hypocrisy of the leaders.

The Special Commission for the Accreditation of Observers of Elections has approved 38 organizations, 32 national and 6 international, to observe the upcoming elections. Contrary to the worldwide trend towards the establishment of independent election management bodies, the Ministry of the Interior maintains authority over elections. In the 2011 elections, voter turnout reached only 28.65% of the population, with only a slight increase over the 2007 (pre-constitutional reform) elections. Despite an attempt to register voters, a lack of voter education and confusion over the registration process challenge democratization in Morocco.

The US views Morocco as an important ally in the MENA region and an example of democratization and modernization. Morocco entered into a free trade agreement with the United States in 2002 as the first Arab nation to do so, and has collaborated with US efforts to address regional security. In 2014, Morocco hosted the International Forum for Human Rights, an event with over 5,000 attendees from 94 countries, which Morocco’s ambassador to the UN described as representative of the country’s human rights achievements. Yet Moroccan human rights organizations, as well as Amnesty International, boycotted the forum, citing increasing restrictions on their activities and meetings. Privacy International’s report, “Their Eyes on Me,” highlighted stories of increasing government surveillance and bans on events organized by NGOs.

While the PJD and the PAM vie for parliamentary power in the upcoming elections, the struggle for meaningful political participation will continue long after the votes are counted. As Bouhmouch comments “the struggle is just beginning, and the Makhzen continues to resist.”

Featured image from the Council on Foreign Relations