French Center-Right Needs More Than New Leader

France's Laurent Wauquiez attends a meeting with other European conservative party leaders in Brussels, October 17, 2018
France’s Laurent Wauquiez attends a meeting with other European conservative party leaders in Brussels, October 17, 2018 (EPP)

France’s center-right Republicans will be looking for a new leader after Laurent Wauquiez stepped down in the wake of a disappointing European election result.

His party got just 8.5 percent support, placing fourth behind President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally and the Greens.

Wauquiez had been at 8 to 10 percent support in polls for the next presidential election, which is due in 2022.

But the party needs more than a fresh face. It needs a better strategy. Read more “French Center-Right Needs More Than New Leader”

France’s Old Parties Suffer Another Blow in European Election

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)

France’s once-dominant center-left and center-right parties still haven’t recovered from their defeat two years ago at the hands of Emmanuel Macron.

The Socialists got only 6 percent support in European elections on Sunday, the same share as the far left. Former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s Republicans got 8.5 percent, down from 21 percent five years ago.

Most of the media attention has gone to the winners: Macron’s liberal-centrist alliance, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally and the Greens, who got almost 60 percent support combined. But the collapse of the old parties — and with it an era in French politics — is just as big a story. Read more “France’s Old Parties Suffer Another Blow in European Election”

France’s Traditional Parties Still Haven’t Recovered from Macron

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)

Two years into Emmanuel Macron’s presidency, France’s old political parties still haven’t recovered.

The Socialists, the party of Jacques Delors and François Mitterrand, are polling at a measly 6 percent for the European elections in May. The Republicans, who trace their political roots to Charles de Gaulle, are at 12 percent. Macron’s En Marche! (“Forward!”) and Marine Le Pen’s National Rally split 40 percent of the vote. The remainder goes to splinter parties on the left and right. Read more “France’s Traditional Parties Still Haven’t Recovered from Macron”

Kurzism Doesn’t Travel Well

Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz, French Republican party leader Laurent Wauquiez and Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier attend a meeting of European conservative party leaders in Salzburg, September 19, 2018
Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz, French Republican party leader Laurent Wauquiez and Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier attend a meeting of European conservative party leaders in Salzburg, September 19, 2018 (EPP)

The Financial Times wonders if Austria’s Sebastian Kurz is the savior of Europe’s center-right or an enabler of the far right.

His supporters, including the liberal-minded former prime minister of Finland, Alexander Stubb, see the Austrian as the antidote to Orbanism:

He talks about an open world, internationalism and is pro-European. But he is pragmatic about solving issues. And one of the big issues is immigration.

Critics argue that by taking a hard line on immigration, Kurz is legitimizing the far right. “You don’t fight fire with kerosene,” according to former chancellor and former Social Democratic Party leader Christian Kern. Read more “Kurzism Doesn’t Travel Well”

French Parties Must Figure Out How to Survive in the Era of Macron

Emmanuel Macron arrives at the Elysée Palace in Paris for his inauguration as president of France, May 14, 2017
Emmanuel Macron arrives at the Elysée Palace in Paris for his inauguration as president of France, May 14, 2017 (Elysée/Nathalie Bauer)

Emmanuel Macron has redrawn the political map of France.

There used to be two major parties, one of the center-left (Socialists) and one of the center-right (Republicans), with smaller parties on the far left and far right. Macron’s centrist project, La République En Marche!, has thrown them all in disarray.

  • France Unbowed is a new far-left party cobbled together by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a former communist. Although an improvement over the once hopelessly divided politics of the far left, it doesn’t get more than 20 percent support.
  • For the Socialists, there isn’t much room between France Unbowed on the left and Macron in the center. Their support is in the single digits.
  • The Republicans are similarly caught between Macron on the one hand and the National Front on the other, but at least they still have a substantial base of around 20 percent.
  • The National Front probably hit its ceiling in the 2017 presidential election, when Marine Le Pen got 34 percent support in the second voting round against Macron. Read more “French Parties Must Figure Out How to Survive in the Era of Macron”

French Republicans Lurch Right with Wauquiez

French Republican Laurent Wauquiez attends a meeting with other European conservative party leaders in Brussels, December 14, 2017
French Republican Laurent Wauquiez attends a meeting with other European conservative party leaders in Brussels, December 14, 2017 (EPP)

Republicans in France are likely to take a harder line against President Emmanuel Macron under the leadership of Laurent Wauquiez.

An education minister in the last conservative government, Wauquiez prevailed in an internal leadership ballot on Sunday with almost 75 percent of the votes.

He has ruled out alliances with both Macron’s centrists and the far-right National Front.

But he argues the party must take the fight to the latter by returning to what he sees as the “true values of the right”: order, respect and security. Read more “French Republicans Lurch Right with Wauquiez”

French Right Struggles to Unite Against Macron

France’s two right-wing parties are struggling to remain united in the era of Emmanuel Macron.

  • Lawmakers friendly to the president have split from the center-right Republicans to form a new party, Agir (Act).
  • Prominent Republicans, like Bruno Le Maire and Édouard Philippe, have joined Macron’s government.
  • More centrists are expected to defect if the hardliner Laurent Wauquiez prevails in a party leadership vote next month.
  • The far right is also divided: Marine Le Pen’s former right-hand man, Florian Philippot, has created a new party to appeal to blue-collar workers in the rust belt of northern France while the rest of the National Front is focused on its heartland in the socially conservative southeast. Read more “French Right Struggles to Unite Against Macron”

Other Conservatives Should Be Wary of Imitating Kurz and May

Sebastian Kurz is seen leaving an Austrian People's Party meeting in Vienna, May 14
Sebastian Kurz leaves an Austrian People’s Party meeting in Vienna, May 14 (ÖVP/Jakob Glaser)

Center-right parties in Western Europe are responding to competition from the nativist right in radically different ways.

Whereas Dutch prime minister and liberal party leader Mark Rutte argued against the “pessimism” of the nationalist Freedom Party in the March election and won, conservative leaders in Austria and the United Kingdom have chosen to appease reactionary voters. Read more “Other Conservatives Should Be Wary of Imitating Kurz and May”

After Presidential Defeat, French Parties Divided

Martin Schulz Benoît Hamon
German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz and the French Socialist Party’s Benoît Hamon deliver a news conference in Berlin, March 28 (Facebook)

Neither of France’s two major political parties was able to get their candidate into the second voting round of the presidential election last week. That failure, without precedent in the history of the Fifth Republic, has plunged them both into a deep crisis.

The situation is worst in the Socialist Party, which has lost the presidency and is almost certain to lose its majority in the National Assembly next month.

The party’s failed candidate, Benoît Hamon, has announced the start of a new left-wing “movement” despite winning just over 6 percent support in the first presidential voting round.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who placed fourth with 20 percent support, has called on Hamon to join him.

The two leftists failed to do a deal during the presidential contest. Two things have changed: Hamon may no longer feel he owes loyalty to a party that failed to unite behind him and Mélenchon has lost the backing of the French Communist Party. It is fielding candidates against his La France insoumise in the legislative elections in June, splitting the far-left vote. Read more “After Presidential Defeat, French Parties Divided”