FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Le Pen Factor

As with every election, the readers of the tea leaves often have a habit of misreading the signs. Confusion becomes its own most valued currency.  The first round of the French presidential elections revealed that Marine Le Pen has achieved formidable gains – somewhere between 18 and 20 percent.

Such figures were not anticipated.  The gains made by Le Pen demonstrate that she is more than a mere spoiler. More significantly, it shows  on her part a better performance than that of her father’s effort in 2002, when Jean-Marie found himself a terror of the establishment, and particularly of the socialists.  The socialist candidate Lionel Jospin was well and truly trounced, leaving French voters with the agony of voting for Jacques Chirac in an effort to keep the founder of the National Front out.

Marine Le Pen’s suggestions are colorful and, in many cases, appealing.  The electorate has not been swung by accusations of insanity levelled against her by the supporters of the Front de Gauche contender Jean-Luc Mélechon, who may in time become a damp squib, despite previously doing a nice and inspiring line in rhetoric.  In fact, it might be said that his efforts have gone some way to invigorating what was threatening to be a tedious electoral race.  Those votes cast in his favor will probably be scooped up in subsequent runoffs by the main socialist candidate François Hollande, who Mélechon described as being as ‘useful as the captain of a pedalo in a storm.’

The euro has taken a true trashing, as has its institutional framework, and capitalizing on hostility has been the far right’s trademark in these elections.  Le Pen has promised to abandon the Common Agricultural Policy, to leave the Schengen zone as a matter of formality and reduce legal immigration to France to 10,000 a year.  Nicolas Sarkozy has found himself having to play the game of the right as well, making himself something of an insincere replica.  Inside Sarko is a Le Pen waiting to get out with a certain cruel dedication. Witness, in view of this, the expulsion in 2011 of 32,912 illegal immigrants from France.  His election platform, however, has one more zero in terms of allowing legal immigrants into the country.

The socialists should also have every reason to be worried.  The centre-left Hollande may have obtained 28.6 percent of the vote to Sarkozy’s 27.1 percent, but Le Pen’s voters find themselves as arbiters of the broader electoral consequences at stake.  Blue collar votes have been heading Le Pen’s way, notably from the pools of the estranged unemployed. In some circles, the issue of Europe ranks less than the issue of chronic employment.  The threat of abstention amongst the voters remains ever present, despite the French sense of political engagement.

Whoever wins will find escaping the viciousness of austerity hard to avoid.  Neither of the main candidates is what he claims to be – Hollande having shed his militant stance on protectionism, and Sarko no longer the obsessive high priest of neoliberalism.  While the French will continue to indulge the sense of singularity, their politicians will offer another reality – one where technocratic austerity reigns supreme in a country where public debt levels hover around 90 percent.

BINOY KAMPMARK was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail