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

February 28, 2017
Abel Cohen
The Trojan President: America Never Saw It Coming
February 27, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Media Ban! Making Sense of the War Between Trump and the Press
Dave Lindorff
Resume Inflation at the NSC: Lt. General McMaster’s Silver Star Was Essentially Earned for Target Practice
Conn Hallinan
Is Trump Moderating US Foreign Policy? Hardly
Norman Pollack
Political Castration of State: Militarization of Government
Kenneth Surin
Inside Dharavi, a Mumbai Slum
Lawrence Davidson
Truth vs. Trump
Binoy Kampmark
The Extradition Saga of Kim Dotcom
Robert Fisk
Why a Victory Over ISIS in Mosul Might Spell Defeat in Deir Ezzor
David Swanson
Open Guantanamo!
Ted Rall
The Republicans May Impeach Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Why Should Trump―or Anyone―Be Able to Launch a Nuclear War?
Andrew Stewart
Down with Obamacare, Up with Single Payer!
Colin Todhunter
Message to John Beddington and the Oxford Martin Commission
David Macaray
UFOs: The Myth That Won’t Die?
Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail