Yesterday the exit polls have announced that Alexander Van der Bellen won the rerun for Austrian Presidency, after the first round has been cancelled due to suspicion of improper conduct of ballots. As I tightly control the information I process online and my news feed is rather liberal, it got right away flooded with catchy headlines about Austria breaking the political populist trend in the European elections, turning the tides of the future politics and giving all of us, liberals, some hope. But hey, guess what, it’s not really the case.
With Hungary and Poland in central Europe, the U.K. potentially out of the EU and Trump in the USA, with Le Pen running in France and Merkel losing support in Germany, the Austrian victory is simply not enough. Tell me that too many of my friends study medicine, but populist and conservative movements are not a cause of the world’s disease, they are only a symptom. And the fact that one country turned out to be immune does not mean that the epidemic is over.
To be honest, what scares me the most in the whole nowadays situation is how easily we forget about the past mistakes and we start treating things as if they are normal and okay. Let me explain what I mean by that on the example of Poland.
In April 2010 a plane with the major figures, including the President Lech Kaczyński, President of National Bank of Poland and High Military Officials, has crushed near Smolensk in Russia. Independently of the reason for the crush, which are being investigated over and over by the current government in order to determine whether it was an assassination, it was a huge tragedy. However, last week the plane coming back to Poland from the UK got boarded with the Prime Minister, the Vice Prime minister and big part of the Cabinet. There was supposed to be two planes, but one apparently got cancelled. There were not enough places, the plane turned out to be badly balanced, people had to leave, the pilot refused to disembark… Besides being pathetic, the situation was a potential basis for another catastrophe.
Looking at it from another, more individual angle, I wrote in February about the situation in Poland. And at that time I got angry at every clerical or unsubstantiated claim that our government threw at the public. In the passing days Jesus Christ was crowned to be a King of Poland, in the presence of all the country highest officials. It is not a joke, from secular democracy, just in a few months, we apparently have turned into a Christian monarchy. But when I read the news about it, I just laughed – this is what abundance of absurd does with your better judgement.
Austria had in the past a chance to experience a populist regime. And apparently they did learn the lesson there was to learn about the fact that populist ideas do not work in reality, especially the economic one. This is what makes me agree to see in this event a glimmer of hope. Getting back to my medical comparison, they have developed some kind of immunity for the disease, they got the vaccine in the form of experience. However, by no means it leads us to the conclusion then the countries around the Europe will follow. Because the main cause of the epidemics did not disappear.