The Spectre of Russia and ‘Populism’ Looms Over the French Elections


Four months ago I published an article about the upcoming French presidential election (Are France Next to Join the Nationalist Narrative?) where I gave a brief overview of some of the candidates involved and whether we will witness a further escalation of nationalist sentiment in the wake of Brexit and Donald Trump.

The opening round of the election is less than one week away (April 23rd), with the second and decisive round scheduled to take place on May 7th (assuming no candidate achieves 50% or more of the vote at first time of asking). Throughout the campaign multiple different narratives have come into play simultaneously, which I believe are designed to exacerbate three primary concerns. These concerns are Russian interference in the election result, the fear of ‘populist’ anti EU party Front National being elevated to power and the subsequent economic fall out should Marine Le Pen become Madame President.

Russia

When it comes to understanding Russia’s connection to the French election, it’s worthwhile taking a look at the leading candidates affinity with the country, as played out in the mainstream media. Let’s begin with Francois Fillon.

Between 2007 and 2012, Fillon, who is running for The Republicans party, was the Prime Minister of France. An advocate of the EU project, Fillon has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on several occasions over the years, meetings which Putin remembers fondly.

“We had a lot of meetings, and have developed certain personal relations, very kind ones. He’s a tough negotiator, certainly an ultimate professional, and a decent man.”

More recently, Fillon has been vocal about the west’s hostility towards Russia, which stems from the ongoing conflict in Syria.

“We must stop with this illusion that we can solve the Syrian civil war by relying on forces that have no local backing or who are just disguised jihadists. We must keep up a dialogue with the Russians.”

Fillon’s conciliatory stance towards Russia extends also to his view on sanctions currently in place against the nation.

“It is an enormous country that we cannot treat flippantly… Thinking that we can break down the Russians by imposing economic sanctions is naive.”

He has expressed clearly a desire for France’s relationship with Russia to be ‘rebuilt‘, along with the need for ‘a new economic partnership‘ and a proposition for a ‘European-Russian conference on the conditions of security in Europe‘.

Mixed in with Russia, Fillon has been batting off a growing list of scandals that opinion polls suggest have damaged his ambitions to become President. In brief, he has been charged over a ‘fake jobs’ charade involving his wife Penelope and a misuse of corporate assets. Then came further scrutiny from the Journal du Dimanche who reported a mystery benefactor as having paid for his bespoke suits worth over €45,000. Then news from the Canard Enchaine about an interest-free, undeclared loan surfaced, where Fillon is alleged to have received €50,000 from a billionaire friend in 2013.

Finally, The Guardian reported how Fillon had been met with allegations over how he was paid €50,000to arrange a meeting between a Lebanese billionaire and Vladimir Putin‘. The Canard Enchaine, who made the allegation, were dismissed by the Kremlin as spreading ‘fake news‘.

The Pro EU Fillon has not been ruled out entirely for the running as President, but one of his leading competitors, Emmanuel Macron, is favourite amongst pollsters to defeat him for a place in the second round.

Macron is the centrist of the pack. His newly formed party, En Marche, runs on a ticket of supporting France’s place inside the EU (much like Francois Fillon) and favouring increased integration with the country’s European partners.

Whilst Macron is promoted through the media as an anti establishment ‘progressive’, a survey of his past shows otherwise. From 2012 to 2014, he served under President Hollande as Deputy Secretary General of the Elysee before being appointed Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Data under Prime Minster Valls. Prior to his career in politics, Macron was an investment banker at Rothschild & Cie Banque.

Macron’s stance on Russia is at variants with both the Republican’s Fillon and the Front National’s Marine Le Pen. In February, En Marche publicly accused Russia of thousands of cyber attacks on their computer system. This followed on from accusations leveled against the Russian government in 2016 for hacking the Democratic National Committee in the US and interfering in the UK Brexit referendum.

A couple of weeks ago, US Senator Richard Burr, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, warned that Russia was actively interfering in the French election process. Without giving too much away in the shape of tangible evidence, Burr said,

“I remind you that we’re within 30 days of the first French election, with four candidates. It will go down to two candidates with a run off in May.

I think it’s safe by everybody’s judgment that the Russians are actively involved in the French elections.”

After the chemical weapons attack in Syria on April 4th, Macron had this to say about Russia’s support for the Syrian regime:

“We should maintain dialogue with [Russian President] Vladimir Putin, but under no circumstances we should indulge what he sometimes supports or defends … Russia needs to be put face to face with its responsibilities”.

As with Francois Fillon, a whiff of scandal has followed Macron’s campaign. The Telegraph reported how he had provoked those on the right by ‘describing colonial rule as a “crime against humanity” during a visit to Algeria, once the jewel in France’s imperial crown.’ He then apparently upset those on the left by ‘trying to reach out to Right-wingers who opposed gay marriage, saying they had been stigmatised and “humiliated” under President Hollande’s Socialist government.’ Macron then publicly dismissed rumours of a longstanding affair with the president of France Radio Mathieu Gallet.

Macron is tipped to either win the first round of the election or come runner up to Marine Le Pen. By the pollster’s word, he would go on to comfortably defeat Le Pen in the May 7th run off to become President of France at 39 years of age.

Now we come to Marine Le Pen. The leader of Front National – who are perceived as far right – has from the outset refused to dignify the election from the conventional standpoint of left vs right. Instead, she says that what we are witnessing is a battle of ‘Globalists vs Patriots’. Out of all the candidates, she is the one that the media have sought tirelessly to interlink with Russia and portray as a patsy of the Kremlin. The list of examples is long, and will likely grow in the days leading up to the election.

All the way back in 2014, Le Pen received a €9 million loan from the Moscow-based First Czech Russian Bank (FCRB), which as of July 2016 is defunct. Le Pen justified the loan as being essential to funding local elections. ‘French banks won’t lend to us‘, she said.

“We had thrown out hooks everywhere: in Spain, Italy, the United States, Asia and Russia. And we signed with the first one who agreed and we’re very happy about it,” she told Le Monde.

Two years later and Front National were again canvassing for monetary support. The Party’s treasurer, Wallerand de Saint Just, made no secret of the fact that he was once again looking to Russia for electoral funding. His attempt at trying to secure further resources came several months before the Central Bank of Russia revoked the license of the FCRB in July 2016, following the failure of the bank.

The shortfall in funding has meant that the Front National have been struggling to raise the necessary €20 million to fund French presidential and legislative campaigns in 2017. They are estimated to still require around €14 million after renewed attempts to secure funding from France, Russia, America, Italy, India, Indonesia and the U.K failed.

Accusations of fresh financial assistance from Russia surfaced in March 2017. According to the Mediapart news portal,

“Apart from the two loans she received in 2014, Le Pen asked for money from Russian financial institutions in June 2016. The sum of the loan amounted to $3.2 million and was aimed at “financing [the] French electoral campaign.”

The media outlet obtained two internal documents from the National Front (FN) party: the first one, dated June 15, 2016, was an itinerary from a party meeting where a loan form Russia’s Strategy Bank was discussed, and the second contained an agreement to transfer the money to Le Pen to cover presidential campaign costs.”

Party treasurer Wallerand de Saint-Just denounced the claims as ‘dishonest‘, stating that the documents in question were stolen by Mediapart and failed to prove the existence of any loans.

Outweighing the subject of Front National’s links to Russian funding was the revelation that Marine Le Pen was heading to Moscow to meet face to face with President Putin prior to the elections. The meeting took place on March 24th, 2017, and allowed the mainstream media to cement speculation over concerns that Russia was trying to rig the presidential vote in Le Pen’s favour. No discussions were said to have taken place between Putin and Le Pen on funding for Front National.

We do not want to influence events in any way, but we retain the right to meet with all the different political forces, just like our European and American partners do,” said Putin.

Of course, it would be very interesting to share our opinions about how our bilateral relations are doing, and about the situation that is developing in Europe,” Putin told Le Pen. “I know that you represent a European political force that is growing quickly.”

Le Pen used the opportunity to say how she believed ‘a new world has emerged in the past years‘. As with Fillon, she decried the sanctions placed against Russia by the EU as ‘counterproductive‘.

Of a more peculiar nature was a story reported by Politico in February 2017 about how Marine Le Pen is revered by the White Star Art Group in Russia. The group says it receives no funding from the Kremlin, and has as part of its work produced a series of oil paintings of Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and Le Pen herself.

“Identically dressed in black and white, their steely gazes turned to the right, the leaders appear to peer into the future.”

Ukrainian sculptor Nikolai Shmatko was also referenced in Politico’s article given that he has produced a life-size bust of Le Pen in marble complete with the words, ‘Le Pen: The French President‘.

The Ukrainian sculptor Nikolai Shmatko stands beside his bust of Marine Le Pen | Rafael Schmatko

On its own this might not seem particularly relevant, but the White Star Art Group is part of what’s called a ‘Pro – Le Pen collective‘. The public face of this collective is Maria Katasonova, who as well as supporting Marine Le Pen also assists a law maker from the ruling right wing United Russia Party. In Katasonova’s own words, ‘We’re on the verge of a new global order‘.

Incidentally, the United Russia party’s leading ideologies, according to Wikipedia, are Conservatism, Russian Nationalism, Populism and Statism.

Unrelated to Russia, Le Pen has had her fair share of scandal to contend with. In March 2017 she lost her EU parliamentary immunity over a series of tweets she posted in 2015 about ISIS, one of which was a photograph of the decapitated body of US reporter James Foley. In response to this Le Pen told the LCP TV network:

“I am a politician, I play my role when I condemn Daesh. This is my role …. And I am sure that no one can prevent a politician, a member elected by the Republic to condemn Daesh atrocities. And in the meantime you persecute Marine Le Pen for it.”

Le Pen has also refused to be questioned by French police over repayment of around €356,000 in EU expenses which the European parliament insists were used inappropriately. Her lawyer, Rodolphe Bosselut, insisted she will only answer questions after the June legislative elections.

Le Pen’s latest broil with the press came just the other week when she denied the French State was responsible for the round up of Jews at a Paris cycling track during World War Two who were later sent to Nazi death camps. The Irish Times followed up the story with a direct quote from Le Pen:

“If someone was responsible, it was those who were in power at the time, which is not France. France has been abused in the minds of people for years. We taught our children that they had every reason to criticise, to see only the darkest historic aspects. I want them to be proud of being French again.”

A commonality throughout these type of scandals is how Marine Le Pen fends off criticism and maintains an incredulous stance. She refuses to be press ganged into a corner, opting instead to reaffirm her beliefs rather than adopt a defensive posture. Donald Trump deployed a similar tactic during the US election campaign.

Le Pen has heavily promoted the conviction that French people should display nationalistic pride in their country’s history, which is the antithesis to Emmanuel Macron over comments he made about French colonial rule over Algeria being a ‘crime against humanity.’

Away from the scandal ridden headlines of EU expenses and tweets about ISIS, Le Pen was spotted in January visiting Trump Tower in New York. Donald Trump’s aides said she did not meet with the President, and so far there has been no evidence to suggest that she did. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer also defused speculation of a meeting by confirming that Trump Tower is open to both the general public and politicians alike.

Initially, Marine Le Pen was enthusiastic about Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016, hailing it as a ‘great movement across the world‘. She was, however, not impressed with Trump’s decision to launch 59 tomahawk missiles into Syria in April 2017. She told the France 2 channel:

“Is it too much to ask that we wait for the results of an independent international investigation before carrying out a strike like this in Syria?”

Le Pen’s response was in keeping with Russia’s perspective of refusing to condemn outright Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. She went further in an interview with France Info radio by criticising Donald Trump’s new found support for NATO, an alliance which Le Pen apposes:

“Undeniably he is in contradiction with the commitments he had made. I am coherent, I don’t change my mind in a few days. He had said he would not be the policeman of the world, that he would be the president of the United States but it seems today that he has changed his mind.”

Also unimpressed with Trump’s actions was former UKIP leader and current member of the European Parliament Nigel Farage. Farage was first invited by Trump to speak during a Republican rally in August 2016, and was a dedicated advocate of both Trump’s campaign and the vote for Britain to leave the European Union. Before Donald Trump’s inauguration, Farage was invited to Trump Tower and became one of the first political figures to gain an audience with Trump. On Syria, though, Farage’s tone was unsympathetic towards the President:

“I think a lot of Trump voters will be waking up this morning and scratching their heads and saying ‘where will it all end? As a firm Trump supporter, I say, yes, the pictures were horrible, but I’m surprised. Whatever Assad’s sins, he is secular.”

As well as assisting Donald Trump, Farage has also spent time with Marine Le Pen. In March 2017, he interviewed her as part of his role working for British radio broadcaster LBC:

So far, whichever populist campaign that Farage has been connected with, it has proven victorious come the night of the election. He is a chain in the link connecting both Brexit and Donald Trump’s Presidency. We willsoon find out whether Le Pen becomes a further link to the chain.

Populism

George Soros is cited widely throughout independent / alternative media as being responsible for mainipulating financial markets and co-opting ‘social justice‘ groups to counteract the growth of populist insurgencies. Many have also questioned his role behind the refugee crisis that has plagued the EU over the past few years.

Here we’re going to look at some analysis Soros made over the past ten months about the European Union. Soros was publicly a remain supporter in the UK’s EU referendum, and prior to the June 23rd vote last year he wrote an opinion piece for The Guardian warning about the ramifications of a leave vote.

A day after the leave vote prospered he published the first of two articles on the Project Syndicate website (Brexit and the Future of Europe). The first talked of the survival of the EU project being at stake after the UK’s decision. He warned of Brexit being a precursor for anti-European forces to gain strength in the union. He said how he expected Scotland to make a second attempt at independence, something which they are now doing. According to Soros, the City of London would ‘not be spared the pain‘ following Brexit. To reform the EU, Soros posited the necessity for a single banking union and a limited fiscal union. His overall view was of the EU heading towards a ‘disorderly disintegration‘, and that those who believed in EU values and principles must now ‘band together to save it by reconstructing it.’

Soros’s second article (The Promise of Regrexit), published on July 8th 2016, reaffirmed his call for the creation of a movement to save the EU by ‘profoundly reconstructing it.’ He said how if those who voted to leave began to regret their decision, then the danger of disintegration could create ‘positive momentum for a stronger Europe‘. He wrote of how he was convinced that as the consequences of Brexit unfold over the following months, more people would step forward to join the ‘movement‘. Instead of seeing it as a negative, ‘Brexit should be ‘seized on as an opportunity to reinvent the EU‘. This comment in particular is interesting as it plays towards the theory of using a crisis to broker an opportunity. Soros also used the article to speak about the refugee crisis by saying that plans for dealing with it need to be ‘thoroughly revised‘ and are ‘riddled with misconceptions and woefully underfunded‘.

Soros maintained his insistence throughout that the EU was ‘on the verge of collapse‘. He put forward no timescale for this collapse occurring, although he did warn that if the disaffected failed to soon realise the benefits of the EU, it would fall apart ‘faster than leaders and citizens currently realise’.

A further commonality linking both articles was Soros’s direct mention of the Italian Five Star Movement party, whom he feared could capitalise on the present government’s woes by taking power at the next election, possibly in 2017. He made no reference to the French elections.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, George Soros was interviewed by Bloomberg and began by stating how he did not now believe Europe would disintegrate:

He supported his view by bringing Russia and China into the EU narrative. He spoke of how both countries need Europe and do not want to see the EU fail. China needs Europe ‘as a market‘, whereas Russia needs Europe to ‘provide capacity to produce something‘. President Putin is only capable of ‘exploiting natural resources‘ given that Russia ‘can’t produce for itself‘ and is therefore reliant on Europe.

Soros then dropped in how ‘coming under Putin’s dominance would undermine the values of the EU and what it stands for.’ According to him, the prospect of falling under Russian command would be on a par with the EU disintegrating.

Failure of the EU remains an active process, according to Soros. But there remains the opportunity of saving it provided that people ‘make the effort to preserve the EU in order to thoroughly reinvent it.’ Here, Soros lamented how the EU had become dysfunctional, governed by laws that were mapped out under the Maastricht Treaty that are no longer appropriate. Since 2008, the old laws ‘no longer prevail‘.

Soros went on to discuss how treaties can no longer be successfully changed, especially in the wake of France and Holland rejecting a new European Constitution in referendums held in 2005. In other words, traditional democratic methods of consolidating the union have failed. He has ceased to believe that conventional routes to reform are effective, given the growing resistance of populations defying the will of the European Union directive.

This once again plays into the theory of using jeopardy e.g. Brexit, as a tool towards gaining a consensus on reform. Out of a crisis comes opportunity.

What Soros has also done is advanced his rhetoric on the EU by feeding Russia and China into the narrative, which works to accentuate the supposed growing tensions between East and West. By doing so, he has brought into focus the notion that the EU may not simply fall on its own sword by way of voter rebellion, but also from external pressures – notably Russia.

Should Marine Le Pen win the French Presidency, Soros would be the first to tell you that such a result would be a dagger to the heart of the EU project. The disintegration he has spoken of would likely become a graphic reality.

Le Pen guarantees fracture and chaos, and because she represents the far right of the political paradigm, she is a continuation of a trend which has seen perceived ‘reactionary’ movements throughout the Western world coming to prominence. Her victory would be entirely consistent with the growing trend of ‘populism‘. The ‘disintegration‘ of institutions like the EU, coupled with Donald Trump in the US, come as one in the minds of globalists and ‘progressives‘. Remember that nationalism and proponents of sovereignty are vehicles which the establishment associate with conservative ideology, and run counter to the socialist / liberal beliefs of collectivism and the interdependence of nations.

If the EU as we know it is on a path of self destruction, I remain committed to my belief that Marine Le Pen will be victorious. Especially if the plan is for globalist elites to subsequently try and implement greater centralisation of powers after a period of economic and societal breakdown.

The banking sector on the other hand rates Le Pen’s chances of victory to be minimal.

The Economic Side

Several leading banking institutions have weighed in on the French elections over the past couple of months. In February CITI came out and said they predicted Marine Le Pen to have a 20% chance of winning. In the event she did so the bank stressed that it would cause ‘turmoil in the country’s corporate sector‘ and could ‘re-ignite a fully-fledged sovereign debt crisis on fears of euro zone breakup‘. A result of this, according to CITI, would be sharply lower GDP and higher inflation.

France’s last GDP report for the 4th quarter of 2016 showed growth of 0.4%. Quarter one expectations for this year have just been scaled back to 0.3% growth. With or without Le Pen, France’s economy is stymied.

As for inflation, it currently stands at 1.1%, which is markedly lower than other European nations such as Germany (1.6%) and Spain (2.3%).

CITI continued their analysis by declaring that 54% of the French electorate want a vote on EU membership, but 72% favour keeping the euro ahead of reinstating the French Franc.

JP Morgan have also given their insight. They say a victory for Le Pen could have ‘far-reaching‘ consequences if she defeats Emmanuel Macron and Francois Fillon, and prompt corporate and consumer confidence to fall.

Should Le Pen get as far as calling a referendum on France’s membership of the EU, they fear the ramifications could be damning:

It would be too complacent to think that parliament would completely stand against the Front National’s willingness to leave the Eurozone. The signal sent by the French people would indeed be very strong and rules and laws can always be changed or circumvented. There would be “sword of Damocles” above the Eurozone, its institutions, and all European assets.

JP Morgan also thinks that the Euro could slide by as much as 10% if Le Pen succeeds.

On the flip side, the bank reckons that a Le Pen loss will see ‘at least 10 percent of assets under management flow back into the region’s stock markets‘.

Goldman Sachs were next. They chipped in by saying that ‘while the base case is that she (Le Pen) won’t win, it is at best naive, at worst negligent to assume she can’t.’

Goldman’s analysis has branched into expectations on voter participation as well as the economic impact. Their findings suggest that if a person’s favourite candidate is eliminated in the first round, 42% of people will be uncertain who to transfer their support too. The bank said:

Political correctness leads people to lie in the polls. Hence populist candidates benefit from the ‘shy vote.'”

The bank’s latest note on the elections recommends that ‘investors short French bond futures expiring in June ahead of the contest, amid the possibility that anti-establishment candidate Marine Le Pen or Jean-Luc Melenchon could stun pollsters with a win.’

The Communist backed Jean-Luc Melenchon, according to some pollsters, is tied with Francois Fillon for 3rd place in the first round on 18% to 19%. Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen are said to be several percentage points higher in the mid to low twenties.

UBS offered their insight by declaring that if Le Pen wins, Europe could encounter ‘a shock wave up to five times as turbulent as the start of the euro zone debt crisis‘.

UBS also said that the French election is the most potent political risk in the region during 2017. One comment in particular is worth repeating in full:

“It is certainly arguable that risks to the euro zone’s cohesion emanating from the core are by definition more severe and harder to diffuse than those emanating from the periphery.”

In recent months nationalist candidates in both Austria and Holland have been defeated in the polls. Austria rank 13th out of 42 countries in terms of European GDP, whilst Holland come in at 7th. Can Austria and Holland be classified as peripheral to the EU project? Perhaps so when compared to the core of the Euro Zone – Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

The Swiss bank Credit Suisse have also chimed in with the belief that Marine Le Pen is the most prominent threat to the stability of the EU. Whilst considering it unlikely that any one country will end up leaving the Euro Zone, they did warn that ‘institutional safeguards against a euro break-up remain incomplete.’

Finally there is Deutsche Bank, who’s macro strategist Alan Ruskin says that ‘Frexit has the potential to go beyond a “Lehman’s moment”‘.

Out of all the banks mentioned, they are the only ones to recognise that even if Marine Le Pen loses, record valuations in the market could limit any potential ‘relief rally‘:

European stock market valuations are near 15-month highs, at 15 times forward price to earnings, and almost 5 percent above what Deutsche calls fair value, leaving little room for more gains.

But Deutsche Bank also cast doubt on the possibility that a Le Pen victory could instigate an equities rally, in line with those seen since the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s ascendancy to US President. Rather, they envisage a sustained backlash should the Front National win.

The tactic Deutsche Bank are using here has been mirrored throughout the banking sector. Banks have collectively dismissed the prospect of a Le Pen victory, and yet have filled a majority of their communiques with warnings of what will happen should Le Pen defy the pollsters. For an institution that does not rate her chances, they certainly spend a lot of their time talking about her.

The warnings from banks may be varied in nature, but this hasn’t prevented them from meeting with Front National officials to discuss their economic policies. Institutions that are said to have engaged in a dialogue with the party include UBS, BlackRock and Barclays. The US, Swedish and Danish governments have also apparently met with party officials.

One of the Front National’s leading policies is to withdraw France from the Euro. Indeed, in Marine Le Pen’s list of 144 election pledges, ditching the Euro in favour of resurrecting the French Franc is top of the pile. Le pen has called the Euro ‘a knife that you stick in a country’s ribs to force it to do what its people don’t want to do‘.

Along with restoration of the Euro would be a push for a referendum on whether France should remain part of the EU. Le Pen has already gone on record as saying that if she were ever to lose such a referendum, she would resign as President.

The International Monetary Fund

Whilst not commenting directly on the upcoming French elections, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde has been speaking recently about growth prospects for the global economy. This comes only days before the IMF and the World Bank hold their annual spring meetings in Washington, DC. Beginning on April 21st, the meetings conclude on the same day that the first round of the French elections take place on the 23rd.

Lagarde raised concerns earlier this month about the potential for weak productivity growth in the next decade. She believes this could ‘undermine the rise in global living standards and lead to populist disruptions‘:

“Slower growth could also jeopardize the financial and social stability of some countries by making it more difficult to reduce excessive inequality and sustain private debt and public obligations.”

She does, however, see the outlook for the global economy as being more positive in 2017 and 2018. But this was not without warning:

“There is a positive short-term outlook on the horizon, which is unfortunately tainted by the risks that are still there, and that lead us to be concerned about the risk of complacency.”

I have also identified two key concerns that we at the IMF have: one is persistent low productivity and, second, excessive inequalities that grow together with that low productivity.”

On April 12th, The Financial Times ran a story with the headline, ‘Sword of protectionism’ hangs over global recovery, says IMF‘. Here, Lagarde expanded on her concerns for the risks pertaining to the global economy:

“We also see — at least in some advanced economies — doubts about the benefits of economic integration, about the very ‘architecture’ that has underpinned the world economy for more than seven decades.

There are clear downside risks: political uncertainty, including in Europe; the sword of protectionism hanging over global trade; and tighter global financial conditions that could trigger disruptive capital outflows from emerging and developing economies.

We need to encourage countries to support strong international co-operation.”

The IMF’s message here is very clear: the global recovery is within reach, but remains tempered by the risk of protectionist measures and populist insurgencies that could jeopardise the current world order.

Whether they are purposefully attempting to communicate what is likely to happen in the future is not yet certain. But Lagarde does have form when it comes to discussing ‘populism‘. At the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, she cited a speech she gave in 2013 warning about the dangers of income inequality and the populist uprising that could result:

“It did not get much traction. Well, I hope people will listen now. I got strong backlash from economists in particular who said that it wasn’t really of their business to think about these things, including in my own institutions, which has now been very much converted to the importance of inequality and studying it and providing policies in response to that.

With lower growth, more inequality and much more transparency, I think you have the good ingredients of what is defined now as a crisis of the middle class in the advanced economies“.

The Bank for International Settlements

As I have written about extensively over the past six months, the Bank for International Settlements convened at the time of the Brexit referendum in June last year and also on the day of the US election in November. Curiously, the bank have so far not given any details of their planned meetings for 2017, an unusual move which is without precedent on their part. The BIS website has records of all their conferences dating back fifteen years ago to 2002.

However, the General Manager of the BIS, Jaime Caruana, recently conducted an interview with the German Borsen-Zeitung in which he stated that, ‘protectionism and populism are certainly not the right solution to our problems‘.

Speaking of Brexit, Caruana said he did not view it ‘as a major risk for the global economy.’ His overriding stance was that the global economy was transitioning into a process of ‘normalisation‘. But there remains ‘the high degree of political uncertainty‘:

“Market players are possibly not factoring in all risks properly, and thus there might very well be surprises and corrections.”

On concluding the interview, Caruana was asked if the world has an overly pessimistic view of Europe and the Euro Zone. Caruana said in reply:

“I recently read about the history of integration in the United States. It took them more than 150 years to attain full integration. In Europe, we have achieved a lot a good deal quicker. We should therefore be proud of what we have accomplished. At the same time, we mustn’t forget that there’s still much work ahead of us.”

Summary

Having looked into Russia’s links to the French elections, as well as the subject of ‘populism’ and analysis from leading globalist institutions, we begin to see the semblance of a narrative develop.

After Marine Le Pen’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in Moscow, a victory for her will almost certainly guarantee that Russia will once more stand accused of influencing the result of an election and in provoking a further outbreak of nationalism within the EU. Russia’s prominent role in the media at present will bring France sharply into focus should Le Pen come out on top. At a critical moment, Le Pen has distanced herself from Donald Trump, and has instead rallied behind Russia in the wake of the Syrian chemical attack and the subsequent tomahawk missile response days later by the US. This potentially gives the US the platform to actively call out Russia for impacting the result in France and trying to destabalise the European Union project.

From comments made by banks and globalist elites such as the IMF and the BIS, the narrative of ‘populism‘ as an ongoing concern to the global economy remains in play. George Soros, Christine Lagarde and Jaime Caruana all sight a persistent political risk to economic stability. But is Marine Le Pen part of the agenda to begin a new phase in the ‘disintegration‘ of the EU?

Brexit and Donald Trump have successfully managed to agitate the current world order. Both serve the purpose of eventually creating greater continuity out of a growing sense of chaos and disorder. Le Pen would serve the same purpose as French President.

The timing of the IMF / World Bank’s Spring Meetings to coincide with the first round of the election is interesting given the recent history of BIS conferences tying in with shock results at the polls. Mainstream media have been conditioning its readership since 2016 to accept that Marine Le Pen will make it into the second round, only to be heavily defeated on May 7th. No outlet has contemplated the idea of a President being declared on April 23rd. Something extraordinary would have to occur for Le Pen or a fellow candidate to achieve 50% of the vote, thus negating the need for a run off two weeks later. Either that or the polls prove to be even more violently off message than they were in 2016.

To advance their goals, globalists are no longer seeking to centralise through conventional means like treaty adaptations, something which George Soros himself has mentioned. Instead, I believe they have adapted their rationale by instigating a program of allowing nationalist / sovereignty champions into positions of power, under the pretext of it being driven by reactionary conservative ideals that the left of the paradigm equate to a new age of fascism. ‘Populism‘ has therefore been selected as a vehicle towards a realignment of the current world order.

We have our thesis of nationalist movements advocating protectionist measures, and the antithesis of liberal ‘progressives‘ advocating collectivism and deeper integration and interdependence of countries. Arising from this conflict comes reform, as intended by the globalist elites.

Francois Fillon and Emmanuel Macron should not be dismissed out of hand, though. I regard Fillon as a compromise candidate. He is a representative of the right wing with The Republicans Party, and by adopting a conciliatory stance towards Vladimir Putin and Russia could be a destablilising figure if elected to office.

Whilst it is possible that Emmanuel Macron could win, his election would splinter the carefully cultivated narrative over the past twelve months of populist movements attaining power, and in doing so would break the nationalist trend. The ‘disintegration‘ of the EU under Macron would invalidate the narrative of far right ‘populism‘ being the primary cause of political turmoil. Rather, the left must instead retain the position of being the antidote to nationalism, and be deliberately placed to take advantage when economic and societal pressures are cited as a consequence of growing conservatism.

If the goal is for the Euro Zone to fail, promoting Macron to the Élysée Palace at this time makes no logical sense from a globalist perspective.

I think a similar logic can be applied to Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Unsubmissive France party. In the media, Mélenchon is promoted as a communist, with some of his leading policies being withdrawal from NATO, the World Trade Organisation, the IMF and the World Bank. As I have written about in my series on The Communist Manifesto, tenets of communism exist today through central banks, corporatism and the State. But the widely held perception is that communism died a death after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the abolition of the Soviet Union. A Mélenchon presidency would draw attention away from two prominent narratives – reactionary conservatism e.g. Brexit and Donald Trump, and also the current progressive ambition of centralising power through the model of social collectivism. Why then would globalists want to change the narrative from right wing conservatism causing unrest within the EU to left wing firebrands taking over the mantle? It makes little if no sense.

What should also be taken into account is France’s recent history with terrorism. France remains under a state of emergency and has done ever since the Paris shootings in 2015. Immediately after the London attack on March 22nd 2017, Marine Le Pen took the opportunity to reinforce her belief that France must control its borders to prevent the country from coming under further assault. From the very outset, she has identified ‘Islamic Fundamentalism‘ as the cause for terrorist activity in her homeland. The EU parliament’s decision to lift Le Pen’s immunity over her critical tweets about ISIS could easily be construed by the electorate that the establishment are disinclined to allow open debate of the Islamic faith and the perpetrators of terrorism. The perception being that the fundamentalism Le Pen continuously raises is being protected from criticism, whilst the victims of atrocities are given short thrift and the rest of the population is expected to integrate without objection.

Should France sustain any more acts of terrorism between now and May 7th, resulting in a loss of life, the emotional response from French citizens would tip the balance in her favour.

Bare in mind that Goldman Sachs are already on record as warning about the dangers of the ‘shy vote‘ and voters opting to lie to pollsters about who they are supporting so as not to be pigeonholed as a racist and fascist sympathiser.

Ultimately, if Le Pen is seen as an integral part of the globalist plan for further consolidation of both economic and governmental power, she will become the next French President. If not, then it points to America under Donald Trump being the prime instigator (in the near term at least) for an unraveling of global turmoil over the next four years.

In the long term, the Italian Five Star Movement, as explicitly referred to by George Soros, may then come into play. Last year Italy rejected reforms to their constitution, a move seen as anti establishment and nationalist in nature. Clearly this is evidence of the old methods of reform no longer having the desired impact.

What is also clear is that the UK leaving the European Union will not by itself be enough to threaten the end of the EU project. Whilst Britain is second in terms of GDP, it has never stood at the centre of Europe and been recognised as an irreplaceable force. France is the second largest Euro economy. They along with Germany are the crux of the Euro Zone.

European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said back in February that France electing Front National to power ‘would be the end of the European project‘. Likewise, German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said last month that ‘we need a strong France, Germany alone cannot hold Europe together‘.

The globalists will have made their decision long ago on whether now is the moment to inject further conflict into the EU apparatus. They took the chance of promoting Donald Trump to power in the US at a time when pollsters and mainstream analysts, even up to the last few hours, said it couldn’t happen. This proved Brexit in the UK not to be an isolated occurrence. By choosing not to install Marine Le Pen as President, globalists would be squandering a big opportunity to cement the perception of right wing nationalism / ‘populism‘ in Europe as being the cause of economic and social disorder into the future.

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