Beyond the green waves and new governments: the French political landscape in 2020

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        Le parti de Macron n'a pas bien résisté aux récentes élections municipales.  Crédit photo: président de la Russie


    

La France fait les gros titres à une vitesse ahurissante. D'une «vague verte» à une victoire à l'extrême droite dans la ville méridionale de Perpignan, d'un remaniement gouvernemental imminent à un ancien Premier ministre condamné pour fraude, vous seriez pardonné de penser que le paysage politique de «l'Hexagone» a été bouleversé la semaine dernière. Surtout, ce n'est pas le cas: mais les forces qui alimentent la vague d'événements récents sont néanmoins fascinantes. Théo Boucart du Taurillon et Madelaine Pitt du New Federalist vous proposent leur point de vue.

STRASBOURG, dimanche 28 juin, 19h30. Un bourdonnement d'activité se gonfle de la terrasse du Café Bâle qui se répand sur l'une des places les plus célèbres de la capitale alsacienne. Les militants de «La République en marche» de Macron (LREM) et les républicains de droite, qui ont uni leurs forces à Strasbourg pour tenter de faire élire le soutien de Macron, Alain Fontanel, se réunissent pour les résultats. Ailleurs dans la ville, les militants de la candidate socialiste Catherine Trautmann et de l'écologiste Jeanne Barsegihan doivent également échanger des pas de porte contre des bars. C'est la nuit des élections: les nerfs sont hauts. Le gagnant ici gouvernera la ville de Strasbourg pour les six prochaines années.

The results are there: a surprise surprise for Barseghian and the Greens with more than 40% of the vote. This trend is found across the country: better results than expected for the Greens, a failure to meet the expectations of LREM, especially in places like Strasbourg where they join the right. It was a second round devastated by a delay induced by a coronavirus and a record abstention. Important take-away messages can nevertheless be collected on the state of the French political landscape.

Beyond the green wave: a sea of ​​blue

On the strength of the good results recorded during the European elections (13.5% of the vote), the Greens conquered for the first time several major cities, including Strasbourg, Lyon and Marseille. The socialist mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, was also re-elected forcefully with the support of the Greens.

Despite their European and now local success, the Greens remain almost unrepresented at the national level – arguably the level that is most influential in terms of political results. The Greens results represent a successful step forward, but the idea of ​​a “green wave”, when we consider the sea of ​​blue of Republicans and right-wing alliances behind it, is somewhat exaggerated.

The results show that, while the younger urban populations, more often engaged in professional occupations and based in the most international cities of France, can be convinced of the need for a green transition, the rural populations are less so. This highlights a future challenge for the green party, but also for Macron. Indeed, the movement of “yellow vests”, initially triggered by an increase in the fuel tax which had a disproportionate impact on those of rural communities, indicates that a green transition cannot be achieved if the needs of the communities less successful are not taken into account.

Macron’s centrist movement – from the mainstream alternative

Successfully presenting himself as an “alternative” to the main existing parties in the first round of the 2017 presidential elections, Macron exploited the frustration of voters with the Socialist Party of François Hollande and the Right-wing Republicans to chart a new course in the center of the field . However, the hot press results in last Sunday’s municipal elections are hardly a resounding endorsement of what Macron has accomplished since.

The alliance with The Republicans in several seats for the second round and, in the midst of the government reshuffle, the appointment of a new Prime Minister who, like his predecessor, is firmly anchored on the right, essentially shows that Macron largely gave on the defense of its self-proclaimed centrism. His attempts to reform pensions, various state-owned enterprises and the labor market left him on the right side of the left-right divide anyway, which he sought to overcome. It also shows that voters now firmly view his party as the establishment – Macron became the mainstream he wanted to get away from. Bad scores at the national level could reflect the young party’s lack of local presence, as many claim – but they also represent temperature control over the perceived success of the presidency to this point and reflect the skepticism in which the France sees the response of its government to the coronavirus crisis – 66% are dissatisfied.

Macron can retain influence and admiration across Europe – recent Franco-German proposal to finance a bold stimulus package is the most recent example of his ambition to move Europe forward – but at the national level , the radiance of his appeal continues to fade.

The story of a city

The victory at Marine Le Pen made the headlines of the Rassemblement National (RN, formerly Front National) in Perpignan, a medium-sized town hugging the southeast coast near the Spanish border. However, a closer look reveals that the RN, along with LREM, is a double loser in these elections. First, the selected far-right candidates, including Louis Aliot in Perpignan, chose to distance themselves from the RN label and took care to bypass some of the most controversial sections of Le Pen’s agenda, instead of focusing on local issues and regional identity. Second, the RN obtained only 58% of the council seats it won in the last local elections in 2014.

It is a blow to the party which, after the absorption of Macron and his movement in the image of the establishment, could have hoped to rush into the first place of non-traditional alternatives, in particular by playing on the frustrations aroused by the coronavirus crisis.

Fillon convicted of fraud

Former Prime Minister and former head of the Republicans François Fillon was sentenced last week to embezzle public funds to create lucrative but fictitious jobs for his wife. Faced with two years in prison and heavy fines, he and his wife Penelope plan to appeal.

Whatever the outcome, the scandal and the trial have contributed to an erosion of trust in the establishment and have a bad image of the LREM candidates who were seeking alliances with the right. The tainted reputation of the Republicans does not bode well for a return to the next presidential elections of 2022 and could nevertheless reveal a nail in the coffin of traditional French traditional. Again, Macron’s LREM and Le Pen RN will be the main national forces.

New titles, old trends

This particularly turbulent period of French politics should end now that the new government has been appointed following the reshuffle. The new management team will act under the leadership of Jean Castex, announced three days ago that the new Prime Minister had been chosen to replace Edouard Philippe, despite the high scores of Philippe’s public approval and a convincing victory in the city. from Le Havre, in the north of the country, last Sunday. Jean Castex, newly appointed, is a relatively little known politician who combines links with the powerful (praised as the orchestrator of a successful slow release from the lockout, he was previously an advisor to Nicolas Sarkozy) and the local (he has been the popular mayor of a southern city since 2008).

The kerfuffle of the past eight days has done its best to hide a president who is three-fifths of his term, has not achieved half of his expectations and already has half an eye on re-election. Macron, as he often says himself, wishes to “reinvent” his presidency. With weak opponents and numerous challenges, Macron has every interest in starting his campaign early. The selection of the unheard of Castex on the success of Philippe, considered as a potential presidential opponent, undoubtedly reflects these ambitions and this strategy.

Macron would do well to heed the calls from now green cities for action on climate change as well as the fear of the countryside as to the consequences of this action. With entrenched and skeptical divisions, much of the gloss has left the Macron movement since the last presidential election. He won’t need it anyway to win in 2022.

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