As with every election since the famous showdown between presidential candidates Jacques Chirac and Jean-Marie le Pen back in 2002, the emergence of the National Front on the ashes of french derilict national governance is having everyone up in arms.
It sounds very much as if political agents and press commentators all suffer from deep Alzheimer, each time rediscovering that about 25-30% of voters (50% of the eligible population) vote FN and each time analysing why this is so. And, each time, coming up with the same diagnostics which they promptly forget once the election is over. This time this effect is further reinforced in the wake of the november 13 shootings in Paris.
The dangerous and counter-productive, anti-democratic turn taken by the Hollande-Valls governement in the name of “security”, the parody of democracy leading to the implementation of the “Security State” for the purpose of clamping down on civil protest, have led to a loss of faith on the part of the progressive electorate, stuck between a hard right and a hard right. There is just no place for them to vote outside of the loose far-left Front de Gauche coalition of radicals and communists. Even the greens have blown themselves up and have all but disappeared from the electoral scene.
That being said, these are regional elections and the stakes are not those of national elections. Most regions, which this year were recombined from 22 down to 13 through yet another ridiculous and pointless political process, are run by de facto coalitions of classical left and right. Regional governements have to keep things running with limited resources and limited authority, and so there tends to be more cooperation than confrontation in regional assemblies. Hence the lack of real issues to vote on, and the overbearing shadow of national politics making people act as if this was indeed an election about national politics.
The Hollande-Valls-Cazeneuve triumvirat was very much hoping to leverage the November 13 crisis to turn the tables on this election, ditching the bane of ever-rising unemployment in favour of virile warmongering, tough talking and justifying anything and everything in the name of “security”. But all it managed to do was to shoot itself in the foot and loose all the goodwill it could hope to rely on only three weeks ago.
Hypocrisy, ineptitude, corruption and lack of vision dominate french politics, both on the governing Socialist side and the conservative opposition. They have just wasted a grand opportunity to climb out of the ditch of small-time reactionary politics. The November 13 event could have led to a resurgence of liberal (in the anglo-saxon sense) intelligence and humanity, to a France picking up the abandonned principles of the Lumières lit up in the 18th century by the likes of Voltaire. But no.
There can be no surprise in the fact that people who have become scared of strangers, muslims and free speech cast their votes for the party that has always portrayed these as dangerous: if even the Socialists are now saying that security is the foremost freedom (the old Le Pen slogan now taken up by PM Manuel Valls), that validates the idea that the National Front was right all along, hence they might as well vote for “the real thing”.
There can be no surprise that many center-right and center-left voters abstain: there is no one for them to vote for. They’ve effectively been suspended from the democratic process.
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