With the polls narrowing and one of her main rivals embroiled in an expenses scandal, far-right leader Marine Le Pen could feasibly become French president in May, senior politicians and commentators say.
At the headquarters of her National Front (FN) party in Nanterre outside Paris, officials believe the same forces that led to the Brexit vote in Britain and Donald Trump's victory in the United States could carry Le Pen to power.
Even some of her rivals concede a victory for the far-right firebrand is possible.
"I think Madame Le Pen could be elected," former conservative prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said this month.
Another former premier, the Socialist Manuel Valls, has also warned of the "danger" of assuming that Le Pen cannot win.
Polls show that support for the 48-year-old anti-immigrant and anti-EU candidate has been consistent for four years now.
Since 2013, surveys have shown she will progress through the first round to reach the runoff stage in France's two-stage presidential election.
Pollsters now note that although Le Pen is not currently forecast to win the all-important showdown on May 7, she has whittled down the projected gap between herself and her main challengers.
The Globe and Mail’s Margaret Wente has been doing a little research into how things are going with Sweden's left-lauded "welcoming" and "generous" immigrant policies. Her conclusion: "Not so well." At all.
"In Sweden, where equality is revered, inequality is now entrenched," writes Wente. Citing staggering unemployment rates for immigrants, even after 15 years of living in the country, and skyrocketing welfare costs (58% of welfare payments go to immigrants, 16% of the population).
Meanwhile, the population is getting increasingly bulkanized, with more and more immigrants uninterested in assimilating while now around a quarter of Swedes side with the country's anti-immigration party.
Wente begins by highlighting stories of Middle Eastern refugees doing everything in their power to get to Sweden because of their touted reputation as Europe's most immigrant-friendly country, taking in "more refugees per capita than any other European country." Immigrants now make up 16% of the population, most of them from the Middle East and Africa.
As most of Europe's leading countries appear to be trying to follow Sweden's lead, economist Tino Sanandaji, himself an immigrant, told Wente, warns that the "generous" country is facing some major problems, particularly when it comes to employment and crime
Wente suggests that one of the reasons things have been allowed to get so bad is the failure of the "self-censorship" of the politically correct Swedish media:
The main political parties, as well as the mainstream media, support the status quo. Questioning the consensus is regarded as xenophobic and hateful. [...]
Sweden’s acute immigration problems scarcely feature in the mainstream media. Journalists see their mission as stopping racism, so they don’t report the bad news. Despite – or perhaps because of – this self-censorship, the gap between the opinion elites and the voters on immigration issues is now a chasm.
With the welfare budget quadrupling and the numbers living in "nice Swedish welfare ghettos" expanding, the media can't effectively hide the reality of the situation from the Swedish people. Now more than half (58%) of Swedes think the number of immigrants being allowed into the country is too high, with 20-25 percent of Swedes now supporting the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party.
In Europe, refugees from Syria and Iraq have been cramming the ferry-trains heading from Germany to Denmark. But once in Denmark, many refused to get off. Where they really want to go is Sweden, where refugee policies are more generous. When the Danes said no, they hopped off the trains, and began heading toward the Swedish border by taxi, bus, and foot.
Sweden’s generosity costs a fortune, at a time when economic growth is stagnant. The country now spends about $4-billion a year on settling new refugees – up from $1-billion a few years ago, Mr. Sanandaji said. And they keep coming. Sweden automatically accepts unaccompanied minors. “We used to take in 500 unaccompanied minors a year,” he said. “This year we are expecting 12,000.”
Yet Sweden’s acute immigration problems scarcely feature in the mainstream media. Journalists see their mission as stopping racism, so they don’t report the bad news.
Sweden is a cautionary tale for anyone who believes that Europe is capable of assimilating the hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants who are besieging the continent, or the millions more who are desperately poised to follow in their wake. The argument that these people are vital to boost the economy – that they will magically create economic growth and bail the Europeans out of their demographic decline – is a fantasy.
It’s really very simple, Mr. Sanandaji explained. You can’t combine open borders with a welfare state. “If you’re offering generous welfare benefits to every citizen, and anyone can come and use these benefits, then a very large number of people will try to do that. And it’s just mathematically impossible for a small country like Sweden to fund those benefits.”
There has been a lot of speculation around the deaths of several Russian diplomats in the past few weeks. The Saker even wrote a piece that said, point blank, nothing to see here, move along.
Now, we hear from inside Russia there is something to see and it is tied to Ukraine. If you have not been following the situation in Ukraine it may be a good time to start paying attention. Ukraine is directly tied to Syria by way of oil and gas/oil pipelines – the ties-that-bind.
This episode is taken off political analyst’s Valeriy Piakin’s channel – his explanation of recent events confirms what many have suspected. In the past few months, an unusual amount of individuals in pro-Russian fields of work have passed away. Starting with Arsen Pavlov (Motorola), a Commander in the Donbass region, followed by Russian Ambassadors to Turkey and India; Mikhail Tolstyh (Givi) – another high ranking Commander in the Donbass, and now – Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, Vitaly Churkin. Piakin’s explanation posits that all of these individuals were victims of US intelligence operations – but why?
The intention is to remove all individuals who have something to do with the Minsk agreement, so that it can no longer realistically be implemented. The Minsk Agreement (a ceasefire, followed by elections and self-determination in Eastern Ukraine) is counterproductive to the West. To allow Minsk to happen would be to undo all of elites’ hard work to date. This is why ”not fulfilling Minsk obligations” is always pinned on Russia in Western media – despite the fact it is not party to the document, and it is the Kiev junta who shells civilians of Eastern Ukraine.
If Piakin is correct, then everyone who defends Minsk – whether on the battlefield or through the information war – have reason to be concerned for their safety. People like Zakharchenko of the Donbass, and those below him, as well as Russia’s extended diplomatic community should be highly vigilant and ramp up their security against espionage.