FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Code Bleu, The French Election

by David Vest

The French presidential election can be variously construed.

One could argue that fragmentation on the Left caused Lionel Jospin, the Socialist prime minister, to miss the run-off, leaving France to choose between Jacques Chirac, an incumbent already rejected by over 80% of voters, and Far Right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen, a sort of French David Duke without the phony polish.

Others will argue that the fact that all the candidates on the Left together carried less than 44% of the vote suggests that Jospin himself is to blame for the situation. His personality is uninspiring, he ran a dreadful campaign, etc.

However, the most significant fact of the French election is that with sixteen candidates to choose from, almost a quarter of the votes cast were for what you and I would call right-wing nut candidates (including Le Pen).

So here are the important totals: Left, 44%, Right 32%, Extreme Right, 24%.

The Right, led by incumbent President Jacques Chirac, will distance itself nobly from the Far Right in the run-off election, in the interests of preserving national “honor.” But the fact is that Chirac will owe his presidency to the Far Right no less than does George W. Bush. Take the extreme Right out of the equation and the Left outnumbers the Right.

As for the French Left, is there another democracy in which three different Trotskyist candidates for president could combine to pull 11% of the vote, as they did in France? Two of them outpolled the Communist candidate, Robert Hue, who got 3.5%.

The French Greens significantly bettered all previous performances in French presidential elections. They had never broken 4% before, and Noel Mamere, the Green standard bearer, got 5.4%.

On the one hand, that’s great. On the other, it was only good enough for a sixth place finish, behind Arlette Laguiller, one of the Trotskyists. Not particularly encouraging in an election in which everyone made the Greens’ case for them by complaining about the blandness and lack of differentiation between the two top candidates, Chirac and Jospin, an election in which 64% of the voters clearly wanted someone else, not to say anyone else.

Chirac will win the run-off in a landslide. The Greens and other Left-leaning parties have thrown their support to him to “stop” Le Pen. The only suspense lies in whether Le Pen will pick up or lose support. Only if he draws more than 25% of the vote can it be argued that the Far Right is really on the rise in France. Best guesses put him at around 22%.

Following the run-off election France will enjoy seven more years of being governed by a man 4 out of 5 voters did not want, a candidate seen as the lesser of sixteen evils, a man whose re-election only serves to postpone the indictment on corruption charges widely regarded as inevitable when he leaves office, assuming he ever does (if Le Pen is the French David Duke, Jacques Chirac may be the French Edwin Edwards).

Suppose Jospin and not Chirac had been the survivor? Few people in France would feel significantly happier about the outcome. The two men’s policies were indistinguishable for the most part.

From an American perspective all this may look like nothing more than the predictable perils of a multi-party system. Or so we may tell ourselves from time to time. Yet our two-party system offered George W. Bush and Al Gore, if anything an even more boring pair than Chirac and Jospin.

I shall sit under the wych elm and ponder three questions tonight:

Is the chief virtue of our “two-party” system the fact that it obscures the extent to which our own political life is dominated by the Far Right?

Is the French election emblematic of things to come in American elections?

What is there about the current state of democracy, in whatever form, with however many parties, that continues to render significant change unlikely, when such large majorities clearly want it?

David Vest writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He is a poet and piano-player for the Pacific Northwest’s hottest blues band, The Cannonballs.

He can be reached at: davidvest@springmail.com

Visit his website at http://www.rebelangel.com

 

DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, have just released a scorching new CD, Serve Me Right to Shuffle. His essay on Tammy Wynette is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on art, music and sex, Serpents in the Garden.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Matthew Vernon Whalan
Obama’s Legacy
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Barbara Moroncini
Protests and Their Others
Christopher Brauchli
Parallel Lives: Trump and Temer
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Alex Jensen
The Great Deceleration
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
David Yearsley
Haydn Seek With Hsu
December 01, 2016
Kenneth Surin
Life and Politics in Appalachia
David Swanson
Why Flag Burning Matters
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail