As the month of April closes, it is rather reassuring to note that Frexit may not happen after all. Frexit stands of course for France exiting the European Union, similar to what Great Britain did after a close call in a referendum last year.
French voters trooped to the polls a few days back and the tally shows Emmanuel Macron, the 39-year-old founder of a movement called (En Marche, translated as Moving Forward), an investment banker whose first try at electoral politics is the presidency no less, led the multi-candidate elections with 24 percent of the vote.
Following him is Marine Le Pen, the 48-year-old leader of the right-wing National Front, with 21.4 percent of the vote. Closely following is Francois Fillon, the candidate of the Republicans, with almost 20 percent.
Under France’s presidential cum parliamentary system, the two front-runners, Macron and Le Pen, will face each other in a run-off battle come May 7, during which period the other candidates who did not fare as well would throw their support to one of the two front-runners.
Le Pen wants an insular France, and running on populist promises in a country wracked by increasing terrorist affronts and high unemployment rates, she would eventually disengage France from the EU. Frexit, after Brexit.
Macron, who would be the youngest French president ever elected, is more of a centrist. An investment banker who resigned from the cabinet of Francois Hollande before plunging into an independent run which many pooh-poohed for a while, he wants France to remain a strong member of the EU.
Will France swing to the far right, and elect a female Trump with more rabid political instincts? Or having seen how the Donald acts and reacts on the world stage, go for the more moderate Macron who promises more stability in marching forward?
The betting is on Macron, even if Le Pen’s electoral showing has been quite remarkable, considering previous electoral defeats of her father. As of this writing, indications from Francois Fillon’s statements asking France to reject extremism indicate that Emmanuel Macron would likely be the run-off winner. Even the incumbent and lame duck Hollande publicly said he would vote for Macron.
Europe and the rest of the world should breathe more easily then.
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But why Portugal?
Because our comely vice-president, who celebrated her 52nd birthday recently, spoke before a student forum at the UP Los Baños and cited Portugal as a “triumphant” example of “best practices” in the war against drugs.
Decrying as she always does the iron-fisted approach of the President against drug pushers, dealers and the entire evil riff-raff of the nefarious trade, our vice president offered the example of Portugal as a good alternative.
Her staff should have done beyond basic research, and our vice president should have gone into deeper analysis.
On July 1, 2001, the government of Portugal decriminalized drug-use provided the same is done for “recreational use.” Only administrative penalties are now imposed, and rehabilitation efforts strengthened.
Portugal, an old country on the west and southwest of the Iberian Peninsula with an area about one-third of the Philippines, has a population of only 10.4 million people.
The Philippines, as well we know, has 104 million people, or ten times more numerous.
Moreover, the per capita income of the Portuguese is $18,700 per annum (as of 2015), while ours is less than a sixth of this, at $ 2,861 in 2015.
It is not the chemical metampethamine or “shabu” that kills the brain which the few Portuguese drug addicts or users enjoy for “recreational use.” Well-off addicts go for cocaine, and this is what Colombia and their Mexican cohorts “export” clandestinely to Europe. Even heroin from the poppy fields of Asia.
Vice President Leni touts again the recurring drug cartel occurrence in Mexico and Colombia as “failures” because violence does not solve the menace.
That is precisely what President Digong wants the Philippines not to degenerate into: a narco-state where the drug lords and their syndicates are almost as powerful than the national government itself, and in some cases, already rule certain provinces and cities with greater power than the State itself.
Our vice president should look at closer examples, like Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan, where strong-arm tactics and determined government action and enforcement nipped the drug trade in the bud, instead of looking at the Atlantic seaboard.
Previous governments, and her political allies more so, slept during the long night when drugs proliferated to the point of near-saturation in these benighted islands, or co-habited even with the drug menace. Duterte inherited a mess, and no less than draconian measures are needed to stem the tide.
Would that we can invest in enough jails and rehabilitation centers with which to house the few millions who use illegal and dangerous substances, or the pushers who supply them. We do not have the kind of money countries like Portugal or the Netherlands have. And in this country, the victims of the drug menace are people who would rob, rape and kill in their drug-induced madness just to satisfy their cravings for the poison.
Oh well, after visiting South Africa together with her Liberal companions in early April for some kind of an ideological conference of sorts, would the vice president want to sashay into the balmy shores of the Algarve, and hum the lovely tune of Avril au Portugal, comme Yvette Giraud or Eartha Kitt? But that was in the fifties, and our vice president wasn’t even born then.