Cordon sanitaire (French pronunciation: [kɔʁdɔ̃ sanitɛʁ]) — or quarantine line — is a French phrase that, literally translated, means "sanitary cordon". Though in French it originally denoted a barrier implemented to stop the spread of disease, it has often been used in English in a metaphorical sense to refer to attempts to prevent the spread of an ideology deemed unwanted or dangerous, such as the containment policy adopted by George F. Kennan against the Soviet Union.
French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau is credited with the first use of the phrase as a metaphor for ideological containment. In March 1919, he urged the newly independent border states (also called limitrophe states) that had seceded from Russian Empire and Soviet Russia to form a defensive union and thus quarantine the spread of communism to Western Europe; he called such an alliance a cordon sanitaire. This is still probably the most famous use of the phrase, though it is sometimes used more generally to describe a set of buffer states that form a barrier against a larger, ideologically hostile state. According to historian André Fontaine, Clemenceau's cordon sanitaire marked the real beginning of the Cold War: thus, it would have started in 1919 and not in 1947 as most historians contend it did.
Beginning in the late 1980s, the term was introduced into the discourse on parliamentary politics by Belgian commentators. At that time, the Flemish nationalist and right wing Vlaams Blok party began to make significant electoral gains. Because the Vlaams Blok was catalogued as a racist group, the other Belgian political parties committed to exclude the party from any coalition government, even if that forced the formation of grand coalition governments between ideological rivals. Commentators dubbed this agreement Belgium's cordon sanitaire. In 2004, its successor party, Vlaams Belang changed its party platform to allow it to comply with the law. While no formal new agreement has been signed against it, it nevertheless remains uncertain whether any mainstream Belgian party will enter into coalition talks with Vlaams Belang in the near future. Several members of various Flemish parties have questioned the viability of the cordon sanitaire. Critics of the cordon sanitaire claim that it is also undemocratic.
With the electoral success of extremist parties on the left and right in recent European history, the term has been transferred to agreements similar to the one struck in Belgium:
- In Italy, the Italian Communist Party and Italian Social Movement were excluded from coalition governments during the Cold War. The end of the Cold War along with the Tangentopoli scandal and Mani pulite investigation resulted in a dramatic political realignment.
- After German reunification, East Germany's former ruling party, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands, or SED), reinvented itself first (in 1990) as the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) and then (in 2005 before the elections) as the Left Party, in order to merge with the new group WASG that had emerged in the West. In the years following 1990, the other German political parties have consistently refused to consider forming a coalition with the PDS/Left Party on a federal level (possible in 2005), while on state levels, so-called red-red coalitions with the SPD were formed (or red-red-green). The term cordon sanitaire, though, is quite uncommon in Germany for coalition considerations. A strict political non-cooperation (in which The Left would participate, should the instance ever arise) is only exercised against right-wing parties, such as The Republicans.
- In the Netherlands, a parliamentary cordon sanitaire was put around the Centre Party (Centrumpartij, CP) and later on the Centre Democrats (Centrumdemocraten, CD), ostracising their leader Hans Janmaat. During the 2010 Cabinet formation, Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid, PVV) charged other parties of plotting a cordon sanitaire, however, there never was any agreement between the other parties on ignoring the PVV. Indeed, the PVV was floated several times as a potential coalition member by several informateurs throughout the government-formation process, and the final minority coalition under Mark Rutte between Rutte's People's Party for Freedom and Democracy and the Christian Democratic Appeal was officially "condoned" by the PVV (although it did not hold seats in the cabinet, the PVV agreed not to bring down the government, but did so anyway in 2012).
- Some (though not all) of the Non-Inscrits members of the European Parliament are unaffiliated because they are considered to lie too far on the right of the political spectrum to be acceptable to any of the European Parliament party groups.
- In France, the policy of non-cooperation with Front National, together with the majoritarian two-round electoral system, leads to the permanent underrepresentation of the FN in the National Assembly. For instance, the FN won no seats out of 577 in the 2002 elections, despite receiving 11.3% of votes in the first round, as no FN candidates won a first-round majority and few even qualified (either by winning at least 12.5% of the local vote with 25% turnout or by being one of the top two finishers with less) to go on to the second round.
- In the Czech Republic, the Communist Party is effectively excluded from any possible coalition because of strong anti-Communism present in most political parties, including the Social Democrats. Also a cordon sanitaire was put around the Republicans of Miroslav Sládek, when they were active in the Parliament (1992–1998). When any of its members was set to speak, other deputies would leave the Chamber of Deputies.
- In Estonia and Latvia, "Russian-speaking" parties (ForHRUL and Harmony Centre in Latvia, formerly Constitution party in Estonia) are excluded from participation in ruling coalitions on state level.
- In Spain, groups who are perceived as opposed to Catalan or Basque nationalisms such as People's Party have been sometimes excluded from any government coalition in the respective regions.
- In Sweden, the political parties in the parliament have adopted a policy of non-cooperation with Sweden Democrats in the municipalities. However, there have been exceptions where local politicians have supported resolutions from SD.
- In Norway, all the parliamentary parties had consistently refused to formally join into a governing coalition at state level with the right-wing Progress Party until 2005 when the Conservative Party opened up for this. In some municipalities however, the Progress Party cooperate with many parties, including the center-left Labour Party.[dead link]
- In Canada, resistance to the formation of coalition governments among left-of-center parties has often been attributed to an unwillingness to be seen as collaborating with the Bloc Québécois, which advocates for Quebec independence.
- In the United Kingdom, the far-right British National Party is completely ostracised by the political mainstream. Prominent politicians, including current Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader David Cameron, have been known to urge electors to vote for candidates from any party except the BNP. Even the eurosceptic and anti-immigration United Kingdom Independence Party has categorically refused even limited cooperation with the BNP. Although the party has never held more than 60 of the some 22,000 elected positions in local government, it is generally agreed by all parties that the BNP should be excluded from any coalition agreement on those councils where no single party has a majority. When two BNP candidates were elected to the European Parliament at the 2009 election, the UK Government announced that it would provide them both with only the bare minimum level of support, denying them the ready access to officials and information that the other 70 British MEPs are entitled to.
- , 1927
- "- Nulltoleranse mot Frp-samarbeid", Arbeiderpartiet
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- BBC News (3 November 2008). "UKIP rejects BNP electoral offer". Retrieved 19 November 2011.
- Traynor, Ian (9 July 2009). "UK diplomats shun BNP officials in Europe". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 23 October 2009.