FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Code Bleu, The French Election

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

 

More articles by:

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.

Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail