Tuesday, 25 April 2017 10:21

The collapse of traditional French political parties and the triumph of so called “Anti-system” candidates

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Photo: Nacho Rascón (flickr); Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If 21 April 2002 is a date all French citizens remember as the historical breakthrough of the extreme-right Front National party, 23 April 2017 will be remembered as a turning point in French politics. The two parties which have structured and dominated the French political scene for the past decades have crumbled to pieces and have been washed away by a so-called “anti-system” wave.

For the first time since the establishment of the Fifth Republic in 1958, both the traditional left wing (Parti Socialiste) and right wing (Les Républicains) parties have been disqualified after the first round of the French presidential election. The political system which was set up by and for General De Gaulle amidst the chaos of France’s last colonial war in Algeria brought stability and favoured the two main parties through its majority rule election system. However, the result of the first round of the French Presidential elections reveals an unprecedented fractured political landscape, as Emmanuel Macron (En Marche!), Marine Le Pen (Front National), François Fillon (Les Républicains) and Jean-Luc Mélenchon (La France Insoumise) obtained more than 19.5% of the electorate’s votes.  This result expresses a rejection of the current political system by many French voters and its traditional left-right division.

François Fillon’s embezzlement related scandals fuelled his rejection whereas the current Socialist government’s unpopularity lead to the Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon’s meager 6.35% score. Les Républicains’ score can be imputed to their candidate while the party itself remains relatively unscathed. However, the Socialist Party’s future remains in jeopardy as major figures of the party such as Manuel Valls, the former Prime Minister of François Hollande from 2014 until 2016 as well as the “reformist” wing of the party joined Emmanuel Macron. The implosion of one of France’s oldest party seems to be a question of time.

"The omnipresence of the “anti-system” rhetoric during the electoral campaign has allowed polluted debates and has allowed anti-Republican and anti-Enlightenment values to thrive."

The thin veneer of anti-system rhetoric adopted by the major candidates did have an echo within the French electorate. As all major candidates felt that being associated with “the system” was certainly not an advantage, they took part in a relatively absurd competition to be seen as the most “anti-system” candidate possible. François Fillon, who was one of France’s longest serving Prime Minister under Nicolas Sarkozy between 2007 and 2012 suddenly presented himself as an anti-system candidate, the accusations of embezzlement which cost him a ticket to the second round of the presidential election being presented as a ruse by this same system to keep him quiet. Marine Le Pen, who has occupied several political positions in France and is a Member of the European Parliament following the inheritance of the Front National from her father, thus being a pure product of the French political system, wore the garments of Jeanne D’Arc and sought to “fight the system” on behalf of the common man.

Emmanuel Macron is yet another self-proclaimed anti-system candidate, who took on political parties in the name of a new order erasing the left-right division in the name of pragmatism, forgetting that he served as advisor to François Holland before being chosen as Mister of Economy in 2014. His party, En Marche!, is merely a gathering of politicians who abandoned the sinking ships of their parties on time to catch the Macron life buoy such as Gérard Collomb (Socialist Senator and Major of Lyon), François Bayrou (President of the Mouvement Democrate), Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Formerly associated with the ecologist party EELV) and Jean-Yves Le Drian (the current Socialist Mister of Defence).

Photo (left): Global panorama (flickr); Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0; Photo (right): Mutualité Francaise  (flickr); Licence: cc BY-NC 2.0

Emmanuel Macron is often presented as the “spiritual son” of President François Hollande and has been mentored by Jacques Attali, a prominent economist and former Advisor of Socialist President François Mitterand (1981 – 1995) before being nominated by right-wing president Nicolas Sarkozy at the head of a special economic Commission in 2007.  It is likely that the En March! candidate will be elected President on 7 May 2017. Polls indicate that a Front Républicain will prevent the election of Marine Le Pen as it was the case when Jacques Chirac beat her father in 2002. However, given Emmanuel Macron’s background, it is likely that his policies will be similar to those undertaken under Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande. The main difference being that instead of being carried out by a right-wing, then Socialist government, his “pragmatic” policies will be driven by a gathering of former left-wing and right-wing figures. If the latter prove unsuccessful, they will be a blessing for Marin Le Pen who has nourished the tous pourris (all rotten) idea of all liberal politicians working hand in hand against the interests of France.

Emmanuel Macron’s victory may pave the way for an even greater score of the Front National in the coming years. If 21 April 2002 and the qualification of Jean-Marie Le Pen at the second round of the French Presidential was a trauma for the entire country, Marine Le Pen’s predicted 38% score at the second round of the French presidential election is seen as trivial. The absence of any large scale reaction to this score is shockingly worrying, especially following her recent declarations minimizing the role of French authorities in the deportation of Jews during the Second World War.  

The omnipresence of the “anti-system” rhetoric during the electoral campaign has allowed polluted debates and has allowed anti-Republican and anti-Enlightenment values to thrive. Whereas 23 April 2017 will surely be a turning point in French politics and be associated with Emmanuel Macron’s triumph, the Front National could be the true long term winner of this election.

Last modified on Wednesday, 26 April 2017 09:56
Benjamin Gaubert

Benjamin Gaubert is a half-French half-British former politics student currently living in Poland. Passionate about the Middle East and North Africa and fond of cinema in general, with a semi-shameful love for bad horror films.

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