A global overview – early Jan. 2019

The year 2018 was full of sparks, but it only laid the groundwork. I have not yet discussed the tariff war between primarily China and the U.S., which hogged the headlines the world over. Let’s have a short overview of what one needs to be on the lookout for and what to expect:

MAINLAND EUROPE: The European Union is in a collapsing mode, the writing is on the wall, but that won’t reveal itself just now. It will take a few years. That has nothing to do with Brexit, rather with the changing power dynamics of the world. Europe is important, but not so much these days; it is an also-ran now. Within Europe itself, the power landscape is changing somehow. Eastern Europe, as it carves out Europe from Eurasia, or rather the first entry into Europe after the Central Asian steppes and mountains, is coming out from under Germany/EU’s shadow. There are, however, many stumbling stones: immature leaders being the main ones. But economies in Eastern Europe are doing well, people are becoming prosperous, and for the first time in a century or more, there is some kind of stability in the region. Bad wolf Russia awaits, but Russia’s interests are in its buffer zones, not necessarily right now over anything beyond: it is too diminished in power to effect anything. On the Western side, it’s all crumbling. France’s “gilets jaunes” is symptomatic of people’s disenchantment here: the root cause is an inability of many to keep prospering in post-2008 world, while keeping having the Social Security benefits. Germany, being a heavily lopsided economy (on the side of exports and manufacturing), faces a tough time: as trade relations get redefined globally, and new players emerge (e.g., in automobiles, a key German area), traditionally held fiefdoms stand challenged. Also, countries like Germany, France and the UK need a lot of investment, much of it urgent, in their infrastructure: many of their rails, bridges, etc., were built in the 1960s to 1980s period, and now they are creaking. The Italian bridge collapse some time back was a sign of things to come if some of the investment is not done urgently. Germany’s DeutscheBahn is becoming worse and worse in punctuality. The problem is that the economies aren’t doing so well now, China is the giant to take on, social security seems difficult to withdraw from people nourished on a diet of values of dependence, and no leader having intelligence, charisma and empathy exists. It’s difficult, given all this, to put money into infrastructure such as rails (I don’t mean trains), where foreign investment usually is not welcome. Then, there are also tensions created by Brexit. Countries such as Portugal have close relations with the UK but are part of the EU. Also, if any companies, notably banks, thought they could relocate their operations to Paris from London, the “gilets jaunes” must have spooked them: France is simply not the UK.

UK/NORDICS: It is hard to say anything about the UK, as the British themselves are confused what to do. The best would probably be a “no-deal” exit, that is, under the WTO rules, but that is also hard to say. It would be interesting to see if that has any effect on Britain’s trading partners such as Norway. The geopolitical role of the UK has by now become quite obsolete. Under May, the UK has not proceeded with great pace, not being able to be ready, it seems, to stitch up good deals with major economies outside the EU. One country that is doing very well, aided by a smart, experimental leadership and companies, is Finland. Its smaller, poorer cousin Estonia also is doing well. For them, the main threat remains Russia, and Finland has been preparing well for any future attacks of any kind. It is also training its people in artificial intelligence and experimenting with education models. Scandinavia itself is doing neither great, nor badly. Sweden is facing trouble with integration, while Norway has no clue over what to do with all the money it has.

INDIA: Let’s move on to another obsolete player on the geopolitical stage, India. The country is big, its market is what everyone is eyeing, yet India has never played a very significant role on the geopolitical stage. That is not necessarily a bad thing: being non-aligned always, even now, has helped India to weather the Cold War, the 2008 financial crisis and now the U.S.-China trade war. The problem with India is though its legacy: corruption sustained by red-tape bureaucracy, a spirit of divisiveness, and an inability to look to the present and the future. Much of this legacy was born in the British times, but an inability to modernise seems to have characterised many kings and emperors post Akbar. India is blessed though with a quite good geography: vast ocean extending to its south, and the Himalayas, where warfare is difficult to sustain, on its north and northeast. Its weak point remains the Indo-Pak border: if India had not got divided, Baluchistani territory would have afforded some buffer. The Modi government meanwhile proved itself to be one of the worst-performing in Indian republic’s short history when it came to issues touching foreign relations: it has made the Kashmiris more antagonistic, has bullied Nepal so much without projecting the necessary power to sustain the bullying that Nepal is in China’s camp, has made the blunder of letting go of a strategic port in Sri Lanka, almost lost the Maldives, and has lukewarm relations with Bhutan and Myanmar. The only success has been continuing good relations with Bangladesh, though much of it is down to the Sheikh Hasina government in B’desh. This much for the region; internationally, India hasn’t been an important actor at all, and the Modi government’s inability to sway the Trump administration in the U.S. as regards visas means that many engineers from the U.S. start returning to India. Relations with Japan are on an upswing, but that has more to do with Japan’s hedging of bets given the Koreas’ relative rapprochement and the constant China threat. With already a dearth of jobs in the country, a booming population, increasing automation, and rising living costs, India seems to be sitting on an atomic stockpile of ‘too many to feed, too few able to work’. But many Indians are enjoying a newfound prosperity and have not realised the danger, so they are still busy with the divisive cards played by their politicians: caste, language, religion.

CHINA: The biggest geopolitical player of today’s world is not the U.S., but it’s China. The country continues to develop impressively, especially in new technologies, whether it be artificial intelligence, aircraft manufacturing or space tech. It is already the leader in fintech, one can say, given that most Chinese youngsters now don’t carry cash or card to buy even a mocha tea. The issue before China is though its head of the state: is Xi Jinping ruining what would have been good times for the country by being personally too ambitious? It would have been ideal for China to buy some more companies in strategic domains in Europe and the U.S. and to continue lifting its huge population out of poverty: but because of Xi’s BRI (or OBOR) hubris, not only are countries like Germany and the U.S. warned, but also Chinese researchers are not anymore welcome so often in Western universities. China could of course focus even more on Africa and the rest of Asia, including big markets such as India, but it will need high technology to match the West. The game is now who will win the technological battle: China or the U.S.? (Or a third player?) The trade war will not hurt China that much; what is going to be more important for China is its ongoing domestic issues: the housing price inflation, increasing crackdown on religions, reportedly on even the Huis and Christians, and air pollution. China has to ensure that no domestic rebellion catches the people’s fancy: an equivalent of “gilets jaunes” in China, hard though it is to imagine right now, will throw everything in the spanner. In such a case, the millions unwisefully dumped in the BRI just to get political influence over other countries will return to bite the country. What is also important for China is how well it is able to protect its important companies, such as Huawei.

RUSSIA: Oil prices are again low, and with that the geopolitical importance of the country. It continues to have its sphere of influence in the various -stans, but China is making a dent into it. It continues to worry Eastern Europe, but the U.S. will also continue to sit tightly there. The U.S. role is to keep Russia and Germany on edge for each other. If anything happens to Putin, the power struggle will be intense, and chaos may ensue.

SAUDI ARABIA: The kingdom’s influence has certainly went down after the outcry over what seemed a directly ordered assassination by the Crown Prince (MbS) in the country’s consulate in a third country. However, as long as it has oil as well as stakes in various companies, the country will continue to be immune to criticism or sanctions. What is more of interest is how MbS will go now in his own country: will he slow down the secularisation and modernisation of the country? He shouldn’t, for his own good: any quarter given to the Islamist mullahs will bring his own downfall. Meanwhile, the burgeoning friendship between the country, the UAE and Israel so as to isolate Iran eventually promises only great instability in the region.

TURKEY/IRAN: While Iran seems hemmed in by sanctions, it would be foolish to understimate Iran. The country derives its strength from exceptionalism: the people know they are almost the only Shias in the world. In this respect, though many Iranians hate the Islamist regime itself, there is a kind of solidity within. Of more interest is Turkey: where several ethnicities live and don’t get along well with everyone, but also where many young are liberals or not that much interested in radical versions of Islam, going along more with the vision of Kemal Ataturk, but this modernity is not shared by all. The society is fractured, and while Turkey is safe from outsiders for now, it carries deep fissures within, including an ambition to once again become a power in the region. The sooner that ambition dies, the better it would be for the Turkish themselves.

SOUTH AMERICA: Except for some countries such as Colombia or Argentina to some extent, the year 2018 was worse than what went before, and it seems that there is not going to be any respite. Venezuela is a key issue, but also the Chinese control over several assets in many countries, especially oil and gas fields. It will be interesting to see how legalisation of certain narcotics in North American countries affects the region as a whole, especially countries such as Colombia: will it make the criminal drug cartels grow or reduce? The verdict is difficult to pronounce in foresight.

AFRICA: At issue again is Chinese control over various assets, especially in countries such as oil-rich Angola. Nigeria also hasn’t done anything to modernise its oilfield infrastructure, and seems ready to fall to foreign powers and internal instability. The Saudis may want to invest here, but MbS will be wary of going more into oil and of a rampant Islamism here. What Nigeria does need is a good new crude refinery. In Northern Africa, “gilets jaunes” kind of movements may surface.

Disenchantment with Macron could be fatal for Europe

The Gilets jaunes (“Yellow Vests”) movement, or rather mayhem, now seems to have become a recurring weekly feature of France. The movement, spontaneously arising and leaderless, is less of a movement, more of a revolution. If it gains further strength, it will of course gain some leaders too, which happens inevitably in the course of a revolution. So far, it has rejected Mélenchon and the Le Pens, figureheads of the so-called extreme left and extreme right, respectively, though in what way and to what degree Mélenchon differs from Marine le Pen is hard to figure out. In these rejections lies the potential strength of the movement: its apoliticalness, or, in other words, its seemingly non-partisan bias, though slightly on the left for the nature of its demands. In this rejection lies also the danger for France, and consequently for Europe: for the rejection is now for all the voices they know, except their own.

Macron, the outsider, came to power on the backs of a youth able to connect to the euphoria of something untested. France is not going back now to career politicians of the ilk of Sarkozy or Fillon, Mélenchon or the dynasty of le Pens. That time was over with Macron’s stunning win. There is in France a deep-rooted antipathy to elites, who are busy pocketing state monies while pilfering from the middle and poorer classes in the form of all kinds of taxes and charges. The antipathy is part of the French history: there’s nothing new about it. At the same time, this antipathy has often stemmed from jealousy: and thus many have actually desired to become the elites, if not in landed property and the like, then at least in family name (i.e., once your family had lands and serfs). For land is dear in France: if you haven’t grasped it so far, check out the film Jean de Florette. Thus, there is at the core of the antipathy a sympathy, a wanting to be in the shoes. And from time to time, this tension between antipathy and sympathy bursts out into the open, most famously in 1789, when it actually succeeded for a very short time to give rise to Robespierre’s guillotine-aided terror state. The French though, and much of the Western world, regard the French Revolution, as the 1789 jacquerie (a finer word for mayhem) is better known, as something noble: and why not, for it was one of the bulwarks for the political system in Europe to subsequently colonise the world and loot and plunder it, and yet to keep up a noble appearance, using fine words, while doing the most ignoble acts. That idea of a noble deed done has permeated through successive generations of French: and thus the French, very smugly, conveniently and delusionally, call the Champs-Élysées as the finest street in the world (or, avenue, as that sounds more elegant); the French food as the finest; and the French language as the language of amour (more lust than love in the French definition) and the language of intellectuals. They also call their land as the land of liberty, equality and fraternity: even if you spend a month in France not as a tourist, you would be stripped of each of those three illusions. In the minds and hearts of many French, this France has now been under attack for some time: not from any particular invaders, but the migrants whom France invited first to build their infrastructure and then could not dis-invite. If someone thinks that the French Revolution stood for justice and thus the idea of not embracing migrants from other lands, especially non-white migrants, should not find wide currency in France, then that person has bought the usual currency of nobility tagged with the events of 1789. The French Revolution never stood for that: neither in its immediate aftermath nor in the cruelly savage colonialism that strengthened itself in the name of civilisation. And nor in its motives: it was merely a protest against high taxes and penury, to begin with. It portended that the idea of Divine was about to fall in Europe: the French Revolution was the first hefty blow to strike down the Empire of the Spirit. The French Revolution became a tool to exploit others, and the modern nation-states that it engendered yielded further means to divide and rule people, quash the Spirit and make people fall prey to the argumentative and narrow language of enfranchisement and rights belonging to newly created identity constructs. It was all good till Europe exploded within itself with the two World Wars. Then followed the phase of rebuilding, a forced end of colonisation and finally the reluctant invitation to migrants: from lands which had been cruelly subjugated and stripped of their own thoughts and values and languages. Can it be then coherent that today those who believe in the French Revolution can live with those who were crushed because of it, and be both on the same page? The values of many French are those of liberty, equality and fraternity: that is, in their preaching. These values are implemented, of course, though a automaton-like Social Security Office and other state services. No one really bothers to be libre, equal or fraternal: it is delegated to the State with the tax they pay. What they do care about is their purchasing power: let it be good, and let France be the colonial power it once was. Let them live like their forefathers. Or even like their fathers, as they did before the 2008 crisis. The values of some French, on the contrary, are aspirational: they don’t care about the humbug, but they want to get on in life, and they don’t even pay lip service. Like Macron. These could be rich, these could be poor. These could be artists. These could be master builders. These are the ambitious, for they know getting on in life oneself often is also the best for the society, and anyway they are merely concerned with making their best effort. These are often the creators, with often a big ego but sometimes without one. They also are often not obsessed with the past of France, rather more with the future. But ignoring the French past, thought to be glorious, is inglorious in France. And the thought of personal ambition is abhorrent in many European countries (notably the Nordic countries), and also in France: where the big word is neither liberty nor equality nor fraternity, but Solidarity. I type it with a capital “S”, for indeed it has been the Divinity of France in the past few decades. And a very typical Divinity, in that many do pay homage but very few do anything to further it. Unless in participating in burning things down in solidarity.

And now Macron does not seem to care about it, the Solidarity. He may or he may not, but perception is everything in politics. The man does not have a gentle side to him anyway, which could or even would have helped him at such a juncture. A brilliant politician that he is, this is one thing that Macron lacks: the touch of humility, even if an affected one (though a real one is the best). The danger to France is when Macron’s mandate expires (unless Macron government finishes midway, which seems extremely unlikely for a country like France): so in 2022, the danger faces us right in face. It is inconceivable that people can go back to career politicians. A brand new charmer has to fill the vacuum. Remember that Macron anyway was a reluctant choice for many and not at all a choice of several others: the voting percentage was low. Macron was new, but not able to play up to the older voters, who were still entrenched in partisan loyalties. While voting percentages might continue to be low, as happened in the case of Macron’s win, a charmer (say, the French equivalent of Trump) has every chance to win the next election. And that charmer, in order to charm, will play the tune of the voting public: we may call him in fact a bagpiper, out to seduce the rodents to the seas. Macron will have already done the spadework of eroding party preferences. With Merkel not seeking re-election and Germany anyway in trouble as China rises, and with a charmer holding sway over France, Europe’s well-being for the next few decades seems in grave danger. I am not meaning European Union, for that is bound to collapse sooner or later, but I mean Europe. Particularly Western, Southern and Central Europe. Of course, things, rather than wait for 2022, can go much more precipitately, if the flames of fire were to spread to other countries: the Gilets jaunes could accelerate across the French borders in Germany, Italy and Spain. It is Germany that is the most crucial: any uprising of spontaneous, leaderless violence there will cause disaster among a people who live a complex inner life for their and their fathers’ role in World War II. Add to that German economy’s growing troubles because of an unsustainable export dependence business model, and Germany seems ready to erupt. In fact, much more than France ever will. For France has a custom of jacqueries: they come, they change the course of politics every now and then, but France goes on as usual, with its landed folks, wine and cheese. But Germany-Austria, once the region erupts, is off the tangent: a flat terrain (in the German part) and lots of heavily populated and dense urban areas, with a large population on social media, do not hold promise in case of the conflagration of mob violence. Also, if any help were needed, there are many who will want to plot and aid current Europe’s downfall, such as Rasputin-wannabe Bannon, to take an example. The path for Western Europe in particular is slippery, and it seems that all it can hope to control now is how fast it wants to hurtle downwards.

The curse of nation-states

Cultures are like gardens: and not greenhouse hothouses. Nutrients, tangible and not so, flow into and out of them: they are porous and their loose boundaries are highly permeable. Over the course of our time on this earth, in response to several factors, a few of which can be pinpointed and a majority cannot be, different cultures have sprung up in different parts of the world: they are not to be dismissed merely as different “ways of life”, a heavily used and loaded term, especially by religionists (or their counterpart atheists). Different philosophy systems, some of which are embedded in each and every aspect of a culture, resulting in different thought processes, different techniques and tools, and different levels of optimism or love with oneself and/or the world: all of this, and more, is a consequence. It is better here to maybe now compare cultures with biomes, but as biome seems more exotic a term than a garden, let’s keep to the garden. A big garden in which many and many species live, out of which some flourish, some don’t do so well, and some come but go, some come and stay and even push out others: their pollinators are of course human agents (not just with actions, both biological and otherwise, but also ideas, imagination, and intuition), technology (books, Internet), and even other living beings. It is also better to keep to our garden analogy than a biome, because a biome is quite self-regulating: a garden is not, in that if one species overgrows, then just like many of us like our garden not to become a wild forest, we do some pruning, some weeding out, some landscaping: thus, we judge the noxious ones or the ones to be disciplined and control or eliminate them, or at least try to. However, we do not know everything (maybe the noxious-seeming one was also performing some useful function), we cannot see all the consequences of our action, and while we may very well establish ourselves as gods to the plants of a garden, whom most do not regard as peers, the act of doing so in a culture means also that we do the same disciplining with respect to our fellow human beings, who, at least theoretically, have often been recognised to be peers by many. However, being products ourselves of a culture, raised with prejudices, insights, and beliefs, we can still consider it to be a biome: after all, every powerful species tries to dominate other species, but the biome self-adjusts. Sometimes, this happens though in such a way that finally it is the powerful species that is hurt, which probably acted blindly (or maybe not: sometimes, circumstances just change more than one could have foreseen, and the greedy ones anyway foresee lesser). However, for adjustments to happen, especially if most species, including a dominant one, need to survive and flourish, it is equally important that the biome remains unified: rather than being fragmented into isolated patches by putting molten tar and erecting high fences in between different areas of the biome, often quite arbitrarily. Does one cut off the mango-tree-dominant area and the chikoo-tree-dominant area of the garden into Mangoland and Chikooland in such a way that they can hardly communicate with each other (no birds, for example, to cross)? Nation-states do that. They divide cultural wholes into new entities that pretend to be wholes and try to depict another as a separate whole, a separate ecosystem (often, an inferior ecosystem, for nationalistic reasons overtly and survival reasons essentially): so the Indian subcontinent gets divided into India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal; the Tibetan whole straddles across strangely from Gansu and Qinghai in China to Sikkim and Arunachal in India via Bhutan, and onwards to Yunnan in China again, which though connected seamlessly with Myanmar and Vietnam at its two ends. A confusion in the self arises: an Indian hates a Pakistani, and vice versa, for abstract entities of the nation-state, though they might share the same culture. But one might say that religions do foster significant differences in cultures, and Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim country with Islam as its state religion. But the Indian is still supposed to, and does often, like the Indian Muslim: so is the Pakistani Muslim different? This also leads of course to stronger identification with religions instead: thus, many Indian Muslims may make joy when Pakistan wins a match (even if it is against India), or many Hindus of India might be very concerned with the human rights of Hindus in Pakistan but not with the human rights of Christians in Pakistan or the Zoroastrians in Iran or the Muslims in India itself. Of course, without the nation-state itself, self-identifications exist(ed): especially when erstwhile kings also identified their kingdoms with religions. Thus, if you lay a jizya tax on non-Muslims, you automatically politicise not just Islam, but also every other religion that is being practised but is not Islam. However, kingdoms are bound in decrees, not constitutions, and decrees change more easily, are more pliable, and do not carry the impression of something noble and good. Decrees have a personal face; constitutions do not, or at least seem not to have.

Thus, nation-states damage religions quite much more badly, in particular those which have had a more spiritual bent rather than political tones: they politicise religions, significantly swaying their practising members towards a mind-set of fear (extinction of their beliefs), of aggression (defense of their beliefs, up to converting others to their beliefs: motivations could range from justification of their own beliefs to themselves, to assuring perpetuity of their beliefs, even if those very beliefs are now ironically diluted with this zeal of conversion and non-spirituality), and of exoticism (going back to some real or imaginary source, and fetishising it: it could be the Hadiths, the Old Testament, or a much-less-read Veda). When religions themselves are weak in a country, or when neighbouring nation-states have same or similar religions, self-identifications are more inclined to nationalism and/or patriotism: for example, a highly nationalistic France (for which nationalism existed even when Catholicism was strong, governed especially by France’s constant wars, in particular with England), a highly patriotic Norway, and a very strongly nationalistic China. When it comes to Europe, though, the European Union project makes things more complicated: often called a type of supra-state, I would rather call it an attempt to establish a continent-state. Except that a nation is bound by some predominant elements of culture, which though seem not so well bound in the case of the EU: it is hard to imagine that the EU experiment could ever succeed, as most people in this world cannot enthuse with someone they don’t know at all (unless their sentiments are milked in the name of a cause, or by some images, etc. – and even when they can self-identify in those images, etc., in some fashion). If at all it has to succeed, each nation-state which is part of the EU will have to make its “nation” weak while keeping (or fortifying) the “state” apparatus strong (and amenable to EU requirements): I don’t see that feasible with many countries in the EU, most notably France (which has a strong nation, strong state) or, worse, countries such as Poland (strong-ish nation, weak state). Germany (strong-ish nation, strong state) is EU’s champion, but it itself has to weaken its “nation” component further, which would bring the risk though of reviving lurking Nazi dreams. Now, if Scandinavia, or even the Nordic countries, were to try something similar, it would work much better, for there is a greater acknowledgement of being Scandinavian or Nordic among the countries, united  in a shared harsh climate, though not so united when it comes to a big disparity of economies. And that’s why, maybe even there it would not be wise to do anything of the sort.

While the EU experiment may never succeed, in 150 years of time, we may very well be an interplanetary community, existing very probably on at least 1 other celestial body and maybe even more: that would certainly automatically, and not artificially (as in the case of the EU continent-state), generate planet-states: there will be new haves and have-nots, on a galactic scale, and both sides should identify closely among themselves as a community, though of course, as always, there would be border-crossers (the pollinators). Nation-states may very well be expected to crumble under that weight, though, with the rapid advance of technology and with rapid movement of people (with children having multiple origins and sources of self-identification), that may happen much sooner than that. That is also why, project nation-state, especially if followed now with vigour, is an extremely short-term strategy. One could always say that one answer is to map the nation-state to a cultural whole (though who would agree even to that? and mapping per which parameters of a culture?), but cultures evolve much faster and painlessly than nation-states do: or else we would have solved the Kashmir question. Of course, any natural space self-adjusts to any change: that is the law of nature. But when you put molten tar between Mangoland and Chikooland, when you try to do selective breeding, you eliminate not only those whom you consider(ed) noxious, but also new offshoots and creativities that could have arisen, and thus stunt your own development. Each patch of the original garden will certainly self-adjust, but with a rankling growth of single species, to which, the day you decide it itself is noxious, you will have no answer.

Focus country: France (before elections 2017)

While I predicted Macron victory a long time back, 4 days before the elections, I feel that there is the danger that this may not happen. Many leftist voters are unconvinced by centrist Macron, belonging to no particular blood: remember, France believes in pedigree. Mélenchon has always impressed many older French by his rhetoric, even if they sometimes privately admit that what he says is not much realistic: however, with not much to choose from, and a weak left candidate (Hamon), much of the left may sway towards Mélenchon in the 1st round: which means that that may leave Le Pen vs. Mélenchon as the battle for presidency. That would be a quite hard-to-call election battle, as it would be difficult for many to vote for either of them. Either way, unless Fillon finds a way to win, France’s short-term future looks gloomy. Because (starting from the most gloomy scenario):

If Le Pen wins – Euro will drop drastically, and France, the bastion of secularism, will fail its own history and Europe. Economy will be in doldrums, and a flight of talent, both willing and forced, would be then on the cards. An EU exit may or may not happen, but the European project will have certainly failed. Emboldened by an extreme right victory, miscreants will have a field day, creating much more friction in a society already riven by class and race differences.

If Mélenchon wins – Euro may drop even more in such a case than with a Le Pen victory. French economy to be really shot, and the less said about the EU project, the better. A bright lining would be much softer stance on immigration.

If Macron wins – While I think France would benefit from Macron’s presidency, I also think that that benefit will not accrue during Macron’s term itself. The benefit is that a country like France would become open-minded enough to make someone like Macron, a neoliberal without party pedigree and a centrist, their President. However, many of Macron’s measures may become too unpalatable to the workers’ unions of France: and France is a country where things often come to a standstill in the name of expressing themselves. If Macron wins, expect a lot of strikes and a tired economy worsening under that pressure. However, the social fabric of France may strengthen. Euro will strengthen a lot, as will the EU sustaining hopes.

If Fillon wins – In the short term, that is the best bet for France, though the country will lose all right to complain afterwards as they would be electing, with their eyes open, a man with serious charges of corruption. Euro will strengthen, France-Germany relations will become warm again (and if Merkel is re-elected, then that’s important), and things in France will more or less maintain their status quo: including the pervasive corruption.

With 4 days to go, I expect Mélenchon to make it to the 2nd round. His opponent could be Le Pen or Macron. If it’s Le Pen vs. Mélenchon in the final battle, France is already doomed.