Reader commentary on the future of French politics
Media, and financial commentators, have been highlighting the ‘unusual’ character of the French presidential election with the two candidates coming out on top ‘against the system’
This is not true in the way the election has been explained by these commentators
none of the 4 top candidates were ‘new’ to politics – and certainly not Ms Le Pen and Mr Macron. All of them have benefited from political institutions on a personal level with jobs, power and various advantages their personal merits could not justify
What is key to understanding political developments in France – and in Europe – is
the stronghold of Ms Le Pen on some 22% of the vote – this is testimonial to the failure of Mr Sarkozy (the former President 2007 – 2012) and his followers to regain the support of right leaning voters with aggressively worded policies. The traditional right party (the Republicans) now has to redefine the themes – and to refresh its political representation – to attract the moderate center-right voters. Tough but feasible.
The blow-out personal performance of Mr Melenchon with almost 20% is very similar to the Le Pen vote in the desperation of broad areas of the country – the rural areas who feel abandoned, the suburbs where law and order are in short supply, the South exposed to poorly integrated immigrants.
These 2 candidates have garnered the support they could possibly hope to attract within the established political system – they are stuck… unless they manage to hollow out, and destroy, the established parties
This is why the considerable support for these two candidates signals uncertain times.
Ms Le Pen, to achieve her goal of domination in French politics, must soften her policies to broaden her appeal and prepare for a ‘failed’ Macron presidency by 2022 – this is only achievable by ruining the Republican right and may well be possible if a strong leader does not guide the party in these treasonous times.
Mr Melenchon may believe he has already succeeded in destroying the Socialist party (with Mr Hamon, its candidate at 6% last Sunday) and his refusal to voice immediate support for Mr Macron for the second round of the presidential election signals his personal ambition.
However, men should never swim in a pool with the great white shark.
The shark may be out for political revenge, but it seems more relevant to interpret the political implications of the bloodbath the shark wrought.
The challenge within the Socialist party has been thrown wide open between a fringe of left wing hopefuls (never more than 20% of the party) and a majority of Social Democrats, attuned to economic reality.
Though weakened by the successful campaign of Mr Melenchon on its left, the party still is a powerful organization, well represented at national, regional and local levels – with the ability to call on qualified candidates for the Parliamentary elections, a support Mr Melenchon has not. There will be blood indeed but a strong showing of the ‘traditional’ social democrats of the Socialist Party is not unlikely, not unlikely at all.
At his most ruthless, the shark took advantage of the miscalculations of the Republican candidate, Mr Fillon; a long political career with responsibility over abundant lines of credit has always been a temptation and will always be. But when small scale greed becomes ‘normality’, it is unwise to play the card of ‘Mr Clean’ and to ask your voters for special efforts. Game over? Not really, because the political balance with Social Democrats requires a strong, relevant and credible alternative, center-right liberal but social minded Republicans. To achieve this seemingly impossible feat, the agreements between Republicans and Social Democrats at the coming Parliamentary elections must be scrutinized with care – these agreements will block the chances of the National Front and of Mr Melenchon’s communists.
The shark has his work cut out – so to speak.