French Voters Illustrate the Desire for Change and the Failure of the EU
Political disillusionment and the desire for change are the key messages from France after the first presidential electoral round, and while commentators seem surprised by the results, I am not.
The pattern of the unexpected continues to embed itself as a fact of life as peoples express themselves through revolt and the safer ballot box and, ultimately, it is all about democracy. In China, Syria, Burma, Bahrain as just a few examples, the expression of anger at its lack has caused a ripple of uncertainty all over the world; even in Britain voters are turning to the maverick independent politician who seems genuinely to speak for them rather than the complacently established main parties, while on mainland Europe deep rifts and divisions about the way forward are apparent.
The French election is not complete but the messages from the voters are clear: there is appetite for change but also mistrust and cynicism and a desire to punish the men and women who have, they believe, failed them. They want strong leadership with a clear message and they want to be supported not ignored. They want their own French community to be the priority, not the EU or other global markets to which they are unhappily wedded - and these sentiments are not confined to France. People are tired of being forgotten, unheard, dictated to and of suffering because of the inadequacies of those they elected to protect them and their livelihoods: they want true democracy.
If Sarkozi loses office, the ramifications for Europe as well as France will be immense as a novice politician with a dislike of much that his predecessor established at home and more widely tries to cope with a fragile EU and a domestic economic crisis. Europe would rock. America, meanwhile, is preparing for her own expression of her people and that too may bring about surprises. It is all change in the world, and that is always welcome.
The desperation of the Greek people has been ignored for months, and current hardship in Spain, Portugal and Italy - with more to come - has been glossed over in the hope that the problems there may go away. The EU plan is in trouble.
In the recent French election, one person in five voted to leave the EU and restore the national currency and sovereignty, and Holland, previously a strong upholder of strict debt reduction measures by other member states, is in crisis as it confronts its own economic woes. The situation of unease and resistance in many EU countries reminds me of our human journey, where we repeat again and again a painful learning such as self-esteem or attachment until we can take no more and determine to resolve the issue ourselves without relying on external sources of help to make us feel better. Our personal world can only change if we change from within, and this applies to Europe and other countries in trouble just as much as it does to us personally.
Germany has been the controller of EU policy in recent years, but her insistence on imposed, imprisoning austerity on others while protecting German taxpayers is proving intolerable now, and publicly. Previously, bailouts and bureaucratic interference was seen as sensible and the policy was only challenged sotto voce, but now this old centralised approach is being recognised as being unworkable and potentially destructive, and it is starting to fall apart.
The question is, what will replace it? Where there is a vacuum, something fills it just as a patch of newly dug ground attracts invasive weeds or fragrant flowers. If change comes from within, it is important to recognise our problem and then to let it go, enabling peace and freedom to thrive without it. A problem does not have to become another problem unless we choose to let it - and that is our responsibility, just as it is for every country in the world.