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Geopolitics

Spotlight: Fillonomics? In France, Free Market V. Far Right

He was the candidate she feared the most. Not only could he unify his own party, but he could siphon crucial votes from her conservative Catholic base. And now that François Fillon won yesterday's "right and center" primary ahead of next year's presidential election, the far-right French leader Marine Le Pen must shift her strategy.

The low-key Fillon, 62, who served as prime minister from 2007-2012 under Nicolas Sarkozy, outmaneuvered both Sarkozy and favorite Alain Juppé, by appealing to social conservatives and pious Catholics upset about France's new same-sex marriage law. But as an outspoken admirer of Margaret Thatcher, Fillon has also vowed to bring free-market economics to a country largely built on a state-centered economy supported by leaders of both left and right.

His plans to do away with the 35-hour week, including for state-employees, and slash half-a-million state sector jobs would be seen largely as a kind of "shock therapy" that Fillon's opponents, both inside and outside his party, have described as "brutal" and "unworkable."

Le Pen, already desperate to "de-demonize" her image, will use her protectionist and nationalist economic program to seduce the working-class and paint Fillon as the candidate of high finance and corporations.

The triumph of Fillon, paradoxically, might give a new purpose to a devastated Left, with the ruling Socialist party more eager to bash its opponents than talk about its own, dismal, record of the past five years of François Hollande. Unless, of course, the Left gets hijacked by its own free-market advocate, the young and ambitious Emmanuel Macron.

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Geopolitics

The Trumpian Virus Undermining Democracy Is Now Spreading Through South America

Taking inspiration from events in the United States over the past four years, rejection of election results and established state institutions is on the rise in Latin America.

Two supporters of far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro dressed in Brazilian flags during a demonstration in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Bolsonaro supporters dressed in national colours with flags in a demonstration in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on November 4, 2022.

Ivan Abreu / ZUMA
Carlos Ruckauf*

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — South Africa's Nelson Mandela used to say it was "so easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build."

Intolerance toward those who think differently, even inside the same political space, is corroding the bases of representative democracy, which is the only system we know that allows us to live and grow in freedom, in spite of its flaws.

Recent events in South America and elsewhere are precisely alerting us to that danger. The most explosive example was in Brazil, where a crowd of thousands managed to storm key institutional premises like the presidential palace, parliament and the Supreme Court.

In Peru, the country's Marxist (now former) president, Pedro Castillo, sought to use the armed and security forces to shut down parliament and halt the Supreme Court and state prosecutors from investigating corruption allegations against him.

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