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Monday, December 14, 2015

French election results and other confusing things impacted by the threat of international terrorism.

Link:  National Front shut out in French regional elections.

Not surprisingly, France's National Front (FN) was shut-out in the second-round of regional elections in France today, with the center-right coalition winning seven regions and the Socialists winning five.  Most of the larger European dailies like the UK's Guardian and Independent, France's Le Monde and Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, are treating the elections results as a huge upset and a potentially fatal blow to the FN.  Its always the same script come election time in France.  The FN, with charismatic and energetic leader Marine Le Pen, storms out to a first-round victory, only to watch the other two political machines work together to keep the FN from finishing in front after the second and deciding vote.  In the past we have seen the center-right commit suicide to deny the FN, and on Saturday the Socialists (PS) instructed two candidates to drop out in order to allow their voters to support the center-right and overcome the small lead that polls showed the FN enjoying.  In this instance, the arrangement apparently denied the FN of control in two regions.  The second-round of voting in France was preceded by a few weeks of non-stop media bashing of the FN and Marine Le Pen. 

France has three political parties.  Others will disagree.  On the right, they will claim that the existence of a few other "to-the-right-of-center" parties increases the number.  It doesn't; those parties end up endorsing the center-right anyways.  The left will claim that France, like the United States, has become a nation of two political parties.  Its highly unlikely that anyone on the left is prepared to recognize the FN as a major political party in France, at least not anytime soon.  But the political realists all recognize that France has become a nation with three major political parties, and bunches and bunches of smaller, insignificant groups.  A quick review of the results in the last few elections will demonstrate that, even though Francois Hollande and the PS now run the show in Paris, France has become more conservative than ever before.  If the votes hold up as predicted, with 7.5 million votes for the center right, 5.8 million votes for the Socialists, and 5.7 million for the FN, we are dealing with 13.2 million votes for the combined right and far-right compared to 5.8 for the left.  Somewhere in this mess is the remains of the once-proud French Communist Party, the Greens, and former President Giscard D'Estaing's United Democratic Front (UDF).  So if France has become so Conservative, why are the Socialists in power and why has the FN been so easily neutralized?  Its not difficult to understand.  When France suffers through a terrorist attack, the FN naturally gets a boost in popularity.  The opponents of the FN tackle this predictable development with two weapons: the French media, and the determination of the two established parties to protect their monopoly on the system.  Once the FN spikes in the polls, the media starts up the fear machine.  You might expect the media to highlight the FN's strong opposition to immigration and the housing of refugees, but the French people are understandably concerned with the issue of foreigners, so the media finds other ways to beat-up on Le Pen's group.  The media onslaught always appeals to the average French person's historic sense of support for the oppressed.  France is seen by many as the true beacon for those marginalized by the greed of the high-born elite and the politically corrupt.  Its very easy to paint Marine Le Pen, who has very little political history, as the heartless fascist bigot who wants to subvert the traditional French nature to help those who are being oppressed and exploited.  The fact the Marine has to permanently wear the legacy of her bigot buffoon of a father, who founded the FN, around her neck.  In truth, the FN is much more than a cement wall built exclusively to keep poor people of color (and Jews) out of France.  Its domestic agenda is in some ways more leftist than the PS.

For those who fear the FN, Sunday's news must have been welcome.  The two mainstream parties continue to find ways to not only keep the FN marginalized, but to also keep the party of having any political representation at the regional level.  The PS and the center-right are celebrating in Paris tonight, and the FN is left to decide what direction to proceed in its up-to-now unsuccessful attempts to find a seat at the political table.  From my perspective, regardless of your politics, how can Sarkozy and Hollande feel justified that such a large percentage of French citizens are not entitled to either parliamentary or municipal representation?  Hollande was able to chase away the wolves at the door this time by quickly deploying French bombers to Syria and playing tough guy.  If, God forbid, France is obliged to suffer through another terror attack, will Hollande drop more bombs, and if so, will it ring hollow this time?  And what of the FN?  Can Le Pen keep her faithful energized in the face of repeated negative electoral results?  Only time will tell. 

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