Thursday, 1 December 2016

After Brexit and Trump . . . . Enter France

by Gemma Webb

Marine Le Pen
With the excitement of the US elections now over, the nation is crying out for political conflict to dominate their lives once more. Enter France. With the country in disarray after five years of broken promises and insecurity under the most unpopular president of the French Fifth Republic, François Hollande, the upcoming election in 2017 may well be the next in a series of divisive political spats that cause us to question the future of humanity. 

This article will hopefully give you a vague idea of what’s happening on the other side of the Channel. Although it is unlikely that the next president will come from a party outside the three favoris [favourites], I have also included three autres [others] who may have a chance. Go forth and impress your friends.

Les Favoris

Les Républicains: François Fillon

‘Mister Nobody’ managed to swipe the Républicain nomination from under both Nicolas Sarkozy and Alain Juppé, and now the Thatcherite former prime minister looks to be the pundit’s favourite for the presidency. As the enemy of bureaucracy and self-confessed ‘chum’ of Vladimir Putin, the Catholic traditionalist presents himself as a liberal compromise to Le Pen’s ardent nationalism. Ideology: 
Society and Welfare: Opposes same-sex marriage and abortion (although makes no proposals of reform). Advocates clamping down on illegal immigration, the burkini ban, limiting unemployment benefits and combatting ‘Islamic totalitarianism’.
Economy and Industry: Advocates abolition of wealth tax, raising retirement age, curbing union power, and cuts to public spending and public sector jobs.
Foreign: Advocates Russian rapprochement whilst maintaining ties with the US and NATO.

Le Front National: Marine Le Pen

The ‘Devil of the Republic’s daughter took over France’s far-right party from her father in 2011, and since then has worked tirelessly to ‘de-demonise’ and soften the party’s image, expelling controversial members (including her father) accused of racism, anti-semitism and Neo-Nazism. The Front Nationale has since experienced a surge in popularity, winning the highest number of seats in the European Parliament elections in 2014. In the regional elections in 2015, after winning the highest number of votes in the first round, the Front Nationale was blocked from regional presidencies by a conspiracy between the centre-right and centre-left as they divided up the regions amongst themselves and agreed to withdraw from the other’s election so as not to split the vote. Due to the nature of the French electoral system, in which the top two in the first round go through to a head-to-head second round, it is likely that Le Pen will be brought down in the same manner in the presidential race. Ideology:
Society and Welfare: Believes the republic is under attack from Islamic extremism, and calls for stronger laïcité [state secularism] and a referendum regarding a reinstatement of the death penalty.
Economy and Industry: Advocates economic protectionism.
Foreign: Resents France’s role as an arm of the US military, and calls for the collapse of the EU, withdrawal from NATO, a Franco-Russo rapprochement, and a moratorium on immigration.

Parti Socialiste: Francois Hollande?

President Hollande's party will hold its primaries early next year, and French media is currently rife with speculation over whether the president or his prime minister Manuel Valls will put their name forward in spite of abysmal approval ratings. The question has also been raised as to whether it is worth holding our breath for the announcement of the Parti Socialiste candidate: is it even possible to rebuild their reputation after Hollande has razed it to the ground? Nine members of the Parti Socialiste have announced their candidacy, but the three to watch are Arnaud Montebourg, Marie-Noëlle Lienemann and Benoît Hamon. That said, no one seems to be particularly optimistic about their prospects. The French public simply doesn't trust the party to bring about the kind of radical change that they believe is necessary to ‘make France great again'. Nevertheless, keep an eye out in January for what promises to be a particularly heated primary. 

Les Autres

If we’ve learnt anything from the past six months it’s that we can’t rule anyone or anything out. These candidates represent parties outside of the generally accepted triumvirate, in exactly the same position that the Front Nationale found themselves in 2012. They may not feature too heavily in next year’s election, but it is entirely possible that the following candidates represent the future of French politics.

Parti de Gauche: Jean-Luc Melenchon

Melenchon is no stranger to the presidential race, having won 11% of the vote in the 2012 election. He left the Parti Socialiste in 2008 to found the Parti de Gauche with French deputy Marc Dolez. Previously a proponent of European federalism, Melenchon now denounces the technocratic corruption of the European Union, and is calling for a Marxist revolution citoyenne [citizen’s revolution] and the nationalisation of several key industries. He insists on the importance of ‘popular involvement’ through public referenda. Obviously he missed the whole Brexit thing.

En Marche!: Emmanuel Macron

The former Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs was responsible pushing through business-friendly reforms in the second Valls Cabinet. Following in the footsteps of Melenchon, Macron left the Parti Socialiste in 2016 to form centrist organisation En Marche!, calling for a ‘democratic revolution’ and promising to ‘unblock France’.

Les Verts: Yannick Jadot

The Green Party primary was the first and smallest party contest for the 2017 election. Yannick Jadot won 36% of the 13 000 votes cast, beating out Michèle Rivasi for the nomination. His policy revolves mainly around environmental policy (duh) and his opposition to the establishment of a Transatlantic Free Trade Area. Given the party’s lacklustre performances in previous elections, no one seems to have particularly high hopes for the former Greenpeace activist. 

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