Wednesday, March 8, 2017
French Elections Are Completely Different This Time
Aside in Crucial Vote
Socialists, center-right could both miss out on second round
Traditional parties hurt by poor records, constant infighting
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The old order is fading in France.
Every election since Charles de Gaulle founded the Fifth Republic more
than half a century ago has seen at least one of the major parties in the
presidential runoff and most have featured both. With Republicans and
Socialists consumed by infighting and voters thoroughly fed up, polls
suggest that neither will make it this year.
For the past month, survey after survey has projected a decider
Lhave a party behind him, and Marine Le Pen, who’s been ostracized
throughout her career because of her party’s history of racism.
“We’ve gone as far as we can go with a certain way of doing politics,” said
Brice Teinturier, head of the Ipsos polling company and author of a
book on voters’ disillusionment. “Everyone feels the system is blocked.”
Claude Bartolone, the Socialist president of the National Assembly, said
in an interview with Le Monde Tuesday he may back Macron because
he doesn’t “identify” with the more extreme platform put forward by
his party’s candidate Benoit Hamon. De Gaulle’s latest standard-bearer
Francois Fillon has spent the past week facing down rebellions in his
party triggered by a criminal probe of his finances.
Former Prime Minister Manuel Valls hasn’t campaigned for Hamon since
losing to him in the primary and Socialist President Francois Hollande
hasn’t even endorsed his party’s candidate either. Instead, senior figures
from the Socialist camp are endorsing Macron, with former Paris Mayor
Bertrand Delanoe the latest to offer his backing on Wednesday.
“There’s a breakdown of parties in France,” Francois Bayrou, a two-time
centrist candidate who is now backing Macron, said Tuesday on RMC
Radio. “There are hostile battles between factions within each party,
which has ruined the parties and ruined the image of politics.”
Years of Frustration
With Le Pen promising a rupture with the European Union and Macron
seeking to renew the Franco-German partnership and reinvigorate
the bloc, the decision voters reach will shape the future of the continent.
The French elite is facing a wave of frustration built up over more than
a decade of financial crisis, economic stagnation and political drift as
successive governments failed to find a way forward for the country
and the insurgents have tapped in to that anger.
Macron refuses to say if he’s from the left or the right, while picking
up ideas -- and support -- from both sides. Le Pen says there’s no
difference between the two traditional parties anyway. Both are
capitalizing on trends that stretch far beyond France.
Center-left parties from the U.K. to Greece are struggling to bridge
the gap between their core supporters’ views and the demands of a
modern economy and, as a result, are either blamed for the failings
of capitalism or marginalized by voters. Often both in succession.
Fillon, like counterparts in the U.K. and
Germany, faces an anti-immigration rival
to his right and has fallen victim to the
changing attitudes to elite privilege like
many officials in Spain’s People’s Party.
Fillon admitted voters are no longer willing to accept that politicians
hiring their relatives on public salaries as he tried to limit the damage
from a criminal investigation into his wife’s allegedly fictitious post
as a parliamentary aide. He said what he did was legal, but now
Tuesday’s daily OpinionWay poll showed Fillon five percentage points
short of making the May 7 runoff at 20 percent, with the Socialist
Hamon even further back at 16 percent. Le Pen and Macron were at
26 percent and 25 percent, respectively, with Macron projected to
beat Le Pen in the second round by 20 points.
Macron has emerged as the surprise front-runner by pulling in voters
of all stripes. According to Ifop, 39 percent of those who normally
support the Socialists, 59 percent of those who consider themselves
centrists, and 14 percent of people who consider themselves to be
on the right are supporting Macron.
Alice Parmentier, a former manager at a nuclear engineering company,
was waiting to see Macron at Paris’s annual farm fair last week. “He’s
young, dynamic, and is taking France into the 21st century,” she
said. “We need a new generation, and I say that as a 72-year-old,” she
said, adding that she used to vote for the Republicans.
The newcomers though will face challenges in governing if they win
office from outside the political mainstream, since they’ll be unlikely
to secure control of the parliament in June’s legislative elections.
Drilling down into the polling numbers also suggests their lead may
not be as solid as the headline numbers would indicate.
A Kantar Sofres survey for Le Monde released Tuesday said that
58 percent of the French see the National Front as a “danger to
democracy,” up from 47 percent during the last presidential election
And despite the excitement at his rallies across the country, only
49 percent of those saying they will vote Macron are sure of their
choice, the lowest of any of the candidates, according to an Ifop
poll March 7.
”Macron has benefited from the collapse of the others but he doesn’t
have much momentum of his own,” Dominique Reynie, a professor
at Sciences Po institute said on LCI television Monday.