In the upcoming final round of the French elections, President Jacques Chirac is expected to win reelection easily over the ultra-conservative candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen. However, Le Pen’s elimination of Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in the first round—which earned him the right to face Chirac—has sent shock waves throughout Europe and around the world.
Le Pen’s surprise showing in the opening round is only the latest demonstration that politicians from the conservative and the far right wings of the political spectrum are attracting growing support from voters in many other European countries, including Germany, Austria, Italy, and the Netherlands. These far right candidates are often strongly nationalistic, anti-European Union, anti-immigration, and in a few cases anti-Semitic.
A panel of knowledgeable Brookings scholars will discuss the meaning of the strong Le Pen showing in France and of the increasing popularity of right wing candidates across Europe in advance of the final round of the French elections. The panel will examine the causes and impact of this trend, and whether it threatens to overturn the left-of-center consensus that has characterized European politics for many years.