NewsWhat the 2022 election taught me about humanity, politics...

What the 2022 election taught me about humanity, politics and the ‘magic sauce’


Two-time Deadline Club Award-winning CNN contributor David A. Andelman is a Knight of the French Legion of Honor, author of “A Red Line in the Sand: Diplomacy, Strategy, and the History of Wars.” That Might Still Happen” and blogs about Andelman Unleashed. He was previously correspondent for The New York Times and CBS News in Europe and Asia. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. See more opinions on CNN.

Liberal democracy was hanging by a thread this year around the world as nations from France to the Faroe Islands went to the polls to choose who would govern them. Too often, however, voters veered sharply to the right or, with little freedom of choice, simply cemented ancestral dictators to power.

During this year, I have chronicled 30 national elections on five continents and four oceans – starting with the French presidential election in April and continuing through to Fiji and Tunisia last week. Each has had its own unique cast, but often seems to feature certain fundamentals – object lessons in how people thrive or simply survive in the disparate corners of our planet.

First, the game changers – the nations and peoples who chose a substantial break with a past that didn’t seem to have worked for them, or where leaders promised something better and succeeded in persuading voters that they had some kind of magic sauce.

Perhaps the best example this year was Italy. Here the country got rid of an accomplished technocrat, Mario Draghi, a longtime former president of the European Central Bank, who as Italy’s prime minister for 20 months had steered his country through the Covid pandemic. -19 and far from the shoals of total economic collapse. While embracing Ukraine’s efforts to repel the Russian invasion and its hopes of joining the European Union.

Even in the dizzying rotations of Italian governments, it was a short-lived premiership. In July, Draghi resigned in disgust over his treatment at the hands of a parliament that resisted his every move.

In his place, voters chose to install a toxic far-right triumvirate, led by Giorgia Meloni. Italy’s first female prime minister headed the most right-wing government since the fascist era of Benito Mussolini.

Other members of Meloni’s troika were Matteo Salvini, a veteran of the far right, and four-time Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, 86, a staunch supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Shortly after Meloni’s victory in Italy, on the other side of Europe, Swedish voters went to the polls with equally spectacular results. They elected a right-wing prime minister who needed Sweden’s nationalist and staunchly anti-immigrant Democrats to form a government – a party whose leader Jimmie Akesson, in a pre-election debate, reportedly refused to choose between President Joe Biden and Putin.

The Putin Factor

Halfway around the world, Brazilian voters also appeared at first glance to opt for a sharp change in leadership in the October election. Although in this case it was about getting rid of right-wing demagogue Jair Bolsonaro and bringing far-left icon Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva back to power.

But it was a Pyrrhic victory for “Lula”, as he is called. He was immediately faced with a parliament whose majority was held by the party still controlled by Bolsonaro – a man whose campaign is believed to have been backed by Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, and who is friends with Putin. In short, don’t rely on Bolsonaro for a minute.

A similar political link had already developed in France. One hand gives, the other takes away as voters rewarded President Emmanuel Macron with a second five-year term in April, the first consecutive repeat since Jacques Chirac two decades ago.

But weeks later, in June, the same voters withdrew Macron’s absolute majority in parliament. Instead, they handed the role of power broker to far-right icon Marine Le Pen, whom Macron had twice beaten for the presidency. Le Pen has had close and well-documented ties to Putin for years. (She also condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while advocating the removal of sanctions against Russia).

Coupled with the fourth straight victory for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Putin’s staunchest ally in the European Union, the Kremlin leader appears to have cemented a powerful network of supporters across multiple continents.

The returns

All of this was happening in deeply rooted democracies. Elsewhere, in the face of widespread international condemnation, several long-serving dictators or dynasties have managed to single-handedly cement their rule over their nations.

In November’s elections in Equatorial Guinea, OPEC member President Teodoro Obiang, the world’s longest-serving head of state with 43 years in office, won nearly 99 percent of the vote. No wonder the US State Department concluded that “we have serious doubts about the credibility of the reported results”.

Turning to Asia, Filipino voters who decades earlier had abandoned the long kleptocratic rule of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, somewhat inexplicably brought their son Bongbong Marcos back to power with a resounding victory in May.

His victory ensured that Bongbong and his mother Imelda, now 93, would likely go unpunished for their family’s stolen funds which reportedly reached $10 billion during Marcos’ rule half a century ago. Filipino voters just seem to hope history won’t repeat itself.

Another of what I like to call franchisees was Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu. He managed to return to power in November elections with the help of far-right parties that oppose statehood for the Palestinian territories and support Israel in extending its sovereignty over the entire West Bank.

One of his allies is Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is promised the powerful Ministry of National Security. Ben-Gvir also happens to be the spiritual successor to the Jewish Defense League and its founder Meir Kahane, whose violent activities in New York in the 1960s led him to flee to Israel and form the Anti-Arab Party. Kash.


Of these, Denmark’s youngest female prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, was among them. His campaign was weighed down by a rash decision to exterminate the country’s entire 17million-strong mink population after fears the creatures were able to transmit Covid-19 mutations to humans. .

Forced by the tumult to call an election seven months before the end of her mandate, she managed to win. This is despite his actions costing Denmark almost $2 billion to compensate mink farmers whose livelihoods have been affected.

As for the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic, it seems many would like to sever their last ties to Denmark since Napoleon, with the pro-independence People’s Party winning nearly 20% of the vote in an election earlier this month .

When England’s Magna Carta ushered in the concept of democratic choice, there were barely 300 million people in the world. This year, the world’s population reached 8 billion.

Yet, as I recounted this year, for the most part, democracy in one form or another is still unplayed, as the defeat of Holocaust deniers in the United States suggested.

I hope that enough voters recognize the value of maintaining a system of free choice, even in the most difficult times, to keep democracy alive – even if they do not always achieve the objective of tolerance, respect and cohesion.

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