French National Assembly election throws the country into political turmoil

Image from The Guardian

Contributed by Joe Montero

Results of the second round of the French parliamentary elections this past weekend will have an enormous impact on France. Being the second most powerful economy in Europe what happens there has an impact across the continent, and this is going to be felt around the world.

Although Emanuel Macron got through in the recent Presidential election, it remained that the result proved the nation faced three major political blocks, brought about by a political polarisation of the nation. France is not the only place where the population has turned its back on the traditional political elite. But it has gone further here. In the previous parliamentary election, the two traditional parties, the Socialists and republican were turned into a rump. This year they barely managed to get only 6 percent of the vote between them.

Photo by Ludovic Marine/Reuters: Emanuel Macron on the campaign trail

The political middle has dropped out. National Rally, headed by Marine Le Pen, has carved out a significant political base. It now has 89 seats in the parliament. The big winner is the New Ecologic and Social People’s Union. It is led by the fiery Jean-Luc Mélenchon. This is a coalition of left and green parties led by Mélenchon’s France Unbowed. It won 131 seats. Macron’s Together alliance managed to retain 245 seats. But this is not enough to form a majority government. Put another way, the blocks attracted 42.6, 22.7, and 15.42 percent of the votes, respectively.

Who is going to form the next government is still unclear. There could be a cobbled coalition of some kind, a minority government, or a new election.

A significant 15.45 percent voted for others. Only 46.38 percent of the electorate bothered to vote for anyone at all, which suggests, many remain convinced that it is not worth taking part in the political process.

Photo by Pascal Guyot/AFP: Jean-Luc Mélenchon

Macron might be President. But he can’t pull together a government of his choosing. No ne else can either. This is the making of a political crisis.

And the reason for this. The French are angry. They that feel that their lives and that of their families are getting worse. They see that so-called centrist politics is not operating in their interests.

Key immediate issues were opposition to further integration into the European Union, the plan to raise the retirement age, and the revival of nuclear power. Both National Rally and France Unbowed campaigned against the first two and gained from it.

Deeper down, France wants to go in a different direction and has rejected politics as usual.

It must be noted that France Unbowed faced a massive media vilification campaign, while National Rally were promoted. Securing second place in these circumstances is no mean feat. Now the same media chooses to mostly ignore the fact.

The longer-term significance is that the rise of France Unbowed is that it marks a realignment of progressive forces marked by years of division, impotency, and falling credibility. A conscious will to change this, combined with the economic and political stagnation has produced the result that the world now sees.

Governments across Europe look at France with dismay and worry that what is going on there might spill over into their turf.

Although the New Ecologic and Social People’s Union has done well, especially among younger voters, there remains the fact that National Rally was better able to mobilise its base in the north and among older and more conservative French outside the big cities. The challenge for the future is to turn this around. France wants change. The question is, what sort of change?

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