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Is the French Presidential Election Going Back to the 1930s?

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According to an opinion poll yesterday, one French person out of three supports the ideas of the Front National (Un Français sur trois en accord avec les idées du Front national). In survey after survey around 40% of workers who intend to vote back the FN. Amongst this “électorat populaire” 31% of those in council housing back the far-right, as do 30% of office employees. A majority of young people say they will vote for Marine le Pen (Here,there are many studies with roughly the same result).

With François Fillon clinging to his presidential ambitions, organising mass rallies of his remaining supporters, Le Monde has accused him of adopting a “populist” defence against all-comers, screaming about “political assassination” “lynching” and hinting at plots against him. He has talked of a “coup d’Etat des juges“.

Some are already drawing comparisons with the 1930s. The traditional political parties are discredited. As Laurent Joffrin writes in Libération, reviewing the book pictured above (“c’est le retour au terroir, aux traditions, à l’exaltation nationale qui l’emporte dans des opinions déboussolées.”) “with the loss of certainty,   it’s a return to the native soil, to tradition, to exalting the Nation…” that is carrying the day in public opinion.

It appears that there are parallels with the 1930s. Both are marked by nationalist propaganda, poverty and mass unemployment in the rich countries, doubts about values, intellectuals joining extreme parties, nostalgia for national grandeur, the simplistic slogans of populist agitators, and the phantom of a deathly spiral which is leading people to the abyss.

As Joffrin points out the comparison has its limits. France has experienced an unprecedented level of Jihadist violence. One only has to read Gilles Kepel’s La Fracture (2016) to see that  the brutal acts of Islamist terror   have reinforced  the far-right, from the Front National  to a host of linked “groupes identitaires.” But horrific as these atrocities are, from Charlie, the Hyper Cacher, Bataclan to Nice, passing by many other incidents, the degree of violence in Europe remains low. There is no Hitler, Mussolini or Stalin.

Think about it.

Nevertheless some are so swept up in the mood that they are calling for a vote for Emmanuel Macron to block the route to Marine Le Pen, from the first round of the Presidential election onwards. 

While the right of the Parti Socialiste may need little encouragement to back Marcon against their own party’s candidate  Benoît Hamon (Bertrand Delanoë l’annonce de son ralliement à Emmanuel Macronthis call from a prominent figure on the radical left and President of the important territorial coordinating structure next to  Paris, Plaine Commune is more surprising:

Patrick Braouezec : « Je voterai pour Emmanuel Macron »

Braouezec bases his decision on the need to unite against the right and the extreme right. He nevertheless asks people to cast their ballots for the Parti Communiste Français and the Front de gauche – and notably not Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s la France Insoumise – in the 1th and 18th legislative elections.

The language used recalls the first paragraphs of this post. This alliance of  all “progressives” is the only rampart against Barbarism. “le seul rempart à la barbarie »(/ Braouezec choisit Macron)

Patrick Braouezec is a former Communist (PCF) and Mayor of the famous Communist district (a city in its own right), just next to Paris, Saint Denis, from 1991 to 2004. He was often in conflict with his party’s leadership. As one of the dissident “”refondateurs he backed the Green candidacy of José Bové against his own party’s   Marie-George Buffet  in 2007. From 2010  he has been a supporter of the Front de Gauche (FG) initially as a member of the network,  Fédération pour une alternative sociale et écologique.

Described in the past, by the unimpressed on his own side, as “incontrôlable” Braouezec is still well-regarded enough to maintain, as noted, an important elected position.

This is one possible result of the Pro-Macron moves:

Harris Interactive poll shows Macron one percentage point ahead of National Front’s Marine Le Pen in the first round.

Update: Socialist Party activists call for elected members of the party who back Macron to give up their membership.

Another issue is the predicted record abstention:

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French Regional Elections: Socialists on Course, but Massive Abstentions.

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With a total of 50% (29% for the Socialist Party) the left won a historic score.  The elections were marked by record abstentions ( 54% ) This was nevertheless a slap in the face for Sarkozy’s Party, the UMP, (which he openly campaigned for – violating Presidential neutrality). They were down (with their allies) to  26,18%.
 
The election results will not alter the existing leadership of Regional Councils, which are all under Socialist control, except for Alsace and Corsica. In the latter the right may lose. Only the situation in Languedoc, where the Frêche list (organised by a loud-mouthed ex-Socialist  populist) came out ahead of all left lists. The Parti Socialiste is calling for a vote for him to stop the UMP gaining power.
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Europe Ecologie, an alliance of the Verts and Green ‘notables’ from all sides, got, 12,46% – a reduction on the European election result., 16,2% They will be a position to negotiate positions of strength inside new regional council. Their politics on ecological issues, are not expected to cause difficulties, though the self-importance of some of their candidates may be more of a problem.
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To general surprise the far-right Front National did well. They has a high vote in the Nord de Calais (Le Pen’s daughter Marine – now coming Party leader)  and 20% in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur where Le Pen stood. In many places they will be able to stand again in the next round – thus undercutting the traditional right, and effectively helping the Socialists retain power. The FN ascribes its success to the debate on French ‘identity’ – where their xenophobic message has seemed to be part of the mainstream.  

The Front de Gauche got over the limit of  5% – up to 6% . The Nouveau Parti Anti-capitalist (NPA) got around 2,5% (it is not clear whether this figure includes the minority of regions where they were allied with the Front de Gauche or not). This defeat (they had hoped for 5%) was expected. Commentators account for it, partly from their perceived sectarian stand, and partly from their failure to stand up for secular principles on the issue of the Veil.

All of these left forces call for a vote ‘against’ the right. But only the Front de Gauche will actively negotiate with the Socialists and campaign for their victory.

The  Mouvement Démocrate (MoDem), the ‘centrist’ opposition to Sarkozy declined to 4,35%.
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High abstentionism is said to be due to the feeling that regional councils are not relevant to everyday  life, and to the failure of any party to convince people that they will make a difference.

 

(From here) Perceptive analysis, Rue 89 here.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 15, 2010 at 2:20 pm