Because of the length this part on the French component of the European elections has reached, I’ve decided that this will be posted as a separate part. Continuity on the alphabetical order thus being broken with Finland to come in part four.
When François Hollande was elected as president in France in 2012, many would no doubt have convinced themselves of the virtues of the Socialist Party’s commitments to workers’ and the poor. Alas those virtues wilted under the pressure of international finance, famous tax exiles and the implacable belief of the majority of Europe’s liberal/conservative governments that austerity and rectitude are the only solutions to crises of an economic nature; of course they don’t even need crisis to justify that rectitude to themselves and their lackeys. Valiant attempts at seeing to France’s economic interests on the part of economy minister Arnaud Montebourg not withstanding, the record of the Socialist Party’s government in recent weeks and months has been one of incoherence with a package of welfare cuts being pushed through parliament by the Prime Minister Manuel Valls counter posed with a new law allowing the French government to intervene in the sale of French conglomerate Alstom (which incidentally is important from an Irish point of view in that our own capital’s Luas trams are manufactured by Alstom). That mixed set of policies perhaps says something about the state of affairs in the Socialist Party’s grass-roots, an interesting question would be how many members that intervention on the Alstom sale has prevented from leaving the party? And additionally whether those kinds of interventions rankle with the party’s pro-austerity members who seem to have the upper-hand?
Outside of the context of the Socialist Party’s faltering government, France’s conservatives have been racked with infighting over the direction on the UMP party with an acrimonious leadership contest at the back end of 2012 returning Jean-François Copé as leader. Maybe it could be argued that a part of the reason the UMP has failed to capitalise on the unpopularity of François Hollande’s tenure can be explained by the lack of the old Gaullist dirigisme as an economic policy platform, instead relying on the liberal economics that’s the mainstay of conservatism in the post-social democracy political space of late 20th and early 21st century Europe; I say this as neither Copé nor his opponent François Fillon are strongly in the mould of De Gaulle and thus aren’t thinking in that direction at all. Copé leadership however came to an end just after the European elections, though not because of the UMP’s results but instead because of the €10 million that was syphoned through the party’s accounts using forged invoices during the 2012 presidential election; The money should have been channelled through Sarkozy’s official campaign.
The most troubling story though in recent times in French politics has been the rise of the Front National (FN) under the leadership of Marine Le Pen. Under Marine Le Pen’s leadership the front has managed to remould its image with the French public; an anti-establishment, anti-immigration and dirigiste policy platform have given them support amongst a multitude of French voters variously dissatisfied with either the economic pursued by the Socialist Party and their UMP predecessors, or with the establishment in general. Though for all this rebranding they still can’t shake off their past with Jean-Marie Le Pen making, just after the election, a crude joke about burning “Batchloads” of Jews in bakery ovens.
For the actually socialist forces in France, the march forward of the FN somewhat overshadowed their opposition to the change of direction of the Socialist Party government. Though even without being pushed outside the limelight the fractious relationships inside the Front de Gauche (FG) between it’s main constituents, the French Communist Party (PCF) and the Parti de Gauche (PG), would have blunted their ability to act as a coherent force. More on those rifts can be found in this article from Transform! Europe written by Yann Le Lenn. Outside of the Front de Gauche we have the continued decline of the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA), which was formed around the Ligue communiste révolutionnaire (fourth international; abbr. LCR) in 2009. a precipitous drop in membership, combined with defections to the FG have marked the NPA’s decline; they achieved only 1.15% of the vote in the 2012 presidential election having achieved 4.08% in 2007 standing as the LCR. Their counterparts on the “Extreme Gauche” as the French state insists on terming them, Lutte Ouvrière having been mostly static during this time period with their support in decline, but not as heavily as the NPA’s; they dropped from 1.33% in the 2007 presidential election to 0.56% in 2012.
As to the actual election itself the results speak for themselves with the FN managing an unreasonable 24.86% of the vote, gaining them 24 seats in the EU Parliament which the FN has been feverishly using in an attempt to construct a grouping of the nationalist parties. Being overshadowed by the FN’s performance, the Front de Gauche managed a mild improvement in their electoral state with an increase of 0.13% to 6.61%, though the mathematics of the D’hondt method managed to contrive a loss of 1 seat; incidentally of the 5 Front de Gauche MEPs elected in 2009, 3 were associated with the PCF, but this time around only 1 of the 4 are PCF. The NPA’s decline that was noted in the 2012 presidential election continued into the EU elections with the 4.88% the NPA captured in 2009 turning into only 0.39% in 2014; that decline is exemplified by the fact that they stood in only 5 of the 8 metropolitan constituencies this time around. For Lutte Ouvrière the election was better than the 2012 presidential election though static on their 2009 result with the 1.2% of 2009 turning into 1.17% in 2014. A final thought here is the collapse in the French Green’s vote with a reduction from 16.28% in 2009 to 8.95 in 2014; a high watermark in 2009 that obviously failed to truly reflect their actual support.