French Parties Collapse as Voters Flock to Blue and Red Extremes

The facade of the French National Assembly building in Paris, June 21, 2011
The facade of the French National Assembly building in Paris, June 21, 2011 (cactusbeetroot)

Three of the top four contenders in the French presidential election on Sunday come from outside the country’s two major political parties. The Socialists’ Benoît Hamon isn’t even in contention anymore while the Republicans’ François Fillon may not qualify for the runoff in May.

The frontrunner, Emmanuel Macron, left the Socialist Party last year to start his own progressive movement.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen lead the far left and the far right, respectively, which have so far played a minor role in French politics.

Their popularity says more about voters’ disillusionment in the two-party system than it does about their own appeal. Read more “French Parties Collapse as Voters Flock to Blue and Red Extremes”

France Eyes Macron-Le Pen Runoff After First Voting Round

  • The French voted in the first round of their presidential election on Sunday.
  • The centrist Emmanuel Macron placed first with 24 percent support, followed by nationalist party leader Marine Le Pen at 21.3 percent.
  • The center-right Republican candidate, François Fillon, the far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon and the ruling Socialist Party’s Benoît Hamon were eliminated from the contest.
  • A runoff between the two leading contenders is scheduled for Sunday, May 7.
  • Surveys show Macron beating Le Pen by a 20- to 30-point margin. Read more “France Eyes Macron-Le Pen Runoff After First Voting Round”

Jean-Luc Mélenchon Is Not the French Bernie Sanders

France's Jean-Luc Mélenchon gives a speech in the European Parliament in Brussels, November 11, 2015
France’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon gives a speech in the European Parliament in Brussels, November 11, 2015 (European Parliament)

Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s late surge in the French presidential election has invited comparison with the unexpected success of Bernie Sanders in last year’s Democratic primary in the United States.

The comparison is not altogether off in the sense that Mélenchon’s rise is largely due to the unpopularity of technocratic socialism under the incumbent president, François Hollande. Sanders’ candidacy similarly reflected a disillusionment in the centrist incrementalism of Hillary Clinton.

But there is no comparing the policies of the French candidate, who is backed by the Communist Party, to those of the senator from Vermont, whose views would be mainstream in France. Read more “Jean-Luc Mélenchon Is Not the French Bernie Sanders”

Elect Macron to Move France Forward

Emmanuel Macron
Former French economy minister Emmanuel Macron changes his tie on a train, December 31, 2016 (Facebook)

For once, the French are spoilt for choice.

Their presidential elections used to be a battle for the center between the mainstream left and the mainstream right. Now there are five candidates with a reasonable chance of qualifying for the second voting round in May, including a big-government socialist, a small-government conservative, a nationalist of the left and a nationalist of the right.

Our sympathies lie with the fifth man in the middle: Emmanuel Macron. Comfortable with neither the statist inclinations of the Socialist Party nor the social conservatism of the Republicans, he launched his own progressive movement last year for the rejuvenation of France. It represents the best alternative to the anti-globalism of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen. Read more “Elect Macron to Move France Forward”

Another Anti-EU and Anti-NATO Candidate Rises in France

France's Jean-Luc Mélenchon gives a speech in the European Parliament in Brussels, November 11, 2015
France’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon gives a speech in the European Parliament in Brussels, November 11, 2015 (European Parliament)

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, France’s far-left presidential candidate, has pulled within striking distance of qualifying for the second voting round in May.

Mélenchon shares third place with the center-right Republican candidate, François Fillon, in recent polls.

But whereas Fillon’s support has been stable for months, Mélenchon’s has surged from a low of 12 percent a few weeks ago to just under 20 percent today. Read more “Another Anti-EU and Anti-NATO Candidate Rises in France”

Neither Macron Nor Le Pen May Win Legislative Majority

The sun sets on the Bourbon Palace, seat of the French National Assembly, in Paris, June 8, 2007
The sun sets on the Bourbon Palace, seat of the French National Assembly, in Paris, June 8, 2007 (jrrosenberg)

Neither of the two frontrunners in the French presidential election is likely to win a majority in the National Assembly, which would make it hard for them to govern.

The centrist Emmanuel Macron and the far-right Marine Le Pen are neck and neck in the polls for the first voting round this month. Macron is expected to prevail in the second round. Read more “Neither Macron Nor Le Pen May Win Legislative Majority”

Certain to Lose Power, France’s Socialists Argue Among Themselves

French Socialist Party presidential candidate Benoît Hamon, March 2
French Socialist Party presidential candidate Benoît Hamon, March 2 (PS/Mathieu Delmestre)

Former prime minister Manuel Valls’ endorsement of Emmanuel Macron has widened a split in France’s ruling Socialist Party.

Benoît Hamon, the left’s presidential candidate, has taken Valls to task for going back on his word.

During the Socialist primary, Valls vowed to support his party’s nominee. Now that he has lost the contest, he wants leftwingers to support Macron instead in order to stop Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front. Read more “Certain to Lose Power, France’s Socialists Argue Among Themselves”

Macron Wins Support of Former French Prime Minister Valls

Manuel Valls
French prime minister Manuel Valls arrives for a meeting at the Elysée Palace in Paris (Sipa/Laurent Chamussy)

Former French prime minister Manuel Valls has thrown his support behind the presidential candidacy of Emmanuel Macron, his former economy minister.

“I don’t think we should take any risk for the republic and so I will vote for Emmanuel Macron,” the Spanish-born social democrat said.

Valls sought the presidential nomination of his own Socialist Party but was defeated in January by the far-left Benoît Hamon. His center-left policies are closer to Macron’s, who served together with Valls in François Hollande’s government for two years. The two men cut taxes for employers and loosened labor laws. Read more “Macron Wins Support of Former French Prime Minister Valls”

The Forces Shaping the French Election: Populism, Pride and Prejudice

Elysée Palace Paris France
The gate of the Elysée Palace, the residence of the French president, in Paris, June 1, 2013 (Nicolas Nova)

And why is it so critical? Nothing less than the European Union is at stake — and with it, the geopolitical contract that has bound Germany and France together since World War II.

After the defeat of anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders early this month in the Netherlands, it is reasonable to ask if populism as shaped by the alt-right has hit its limit. Europeans have watched the confusion in Britain over Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump. Now they are revisiting both their Euroskepticism and their willingness to gamble on ideologies not yet fully tested.

Yet France is subject to powerful forces quite different than the Netherlands, which has only a fraction of its population and international obligations. A large, unassimilated Muslim and African population simmers; an aging, conservative voter base roils; a discredited, weakened left wavers; and nobody knows what to do with the neoliberal threads that hold together the European Union yet impoverish just about anyone not in the upper classes. Read more “The Forces Shaping the French Election: Populism, Pride and Prejudice”