Tuesday, March 25, 2014
France Moves To The Right
France's municipal election returns are in, and the results may show a coming trend not just in France, but in Europe as a whole.
Less than two years after Socialist François Hollande decisive victory, the French Left has suffered major defeats in France's municipal elections that look to be a trend for the national elections in 2017.
Hollande's socialist policies of sky high tax rates on businesses and 'the rich' and his failure to produce economic growth as a result have resulted in a huge surge in unemployment and economic stagnation in France as well as an exodus of talented professionals and entrepreneurs.
And his support for social policies like homosexual marriage(still anathema in predominantly Catholic France)and the growing unpopularity of the EU and the problems inherent with Muslim immigration and high crime rates in the cities as well as Hollande's personal involvement in a front page scandal involving his partner French journalist Valérie Trierweiler and Hollande's new love interest, an actress named Julie Gayet 20 years his junior have all combined to make him extremely unpopular with all but the Socialist's hard core base.
Disaffection has definitely set in with the French and the record low voter turnout of around 60 per cent(extremely low for France) mirrors America's own low turnout in 2012.
Marine Le Pen's National Front, which took a populist stance on low taxes,immigration and crime garnered some of the best results in their history.
The FN won an outright majority in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont and was first-placed in the eastern town of Forbach and the southern towns of Avignon, Perpignan and Béziers. Nationwide, the FN scored seven percent of the vote, according to pollster BVA – a high national tally, given that it only fielded candidates in some 600 of France's total 36,000 municipalities. The FN could be in position to win 10-15 mayoral contests in the second round of voting ( France's election laws mandate a runoff between the two top vote getters if no candidate has above 50% of the vote for a majority).
Mdm. Le Pen said that it had an been “exceptional” election for the party.
“The National Front has arrived as a major independent force – a political force both at the national and local level," she said. Indeed it has.The FN appears more and more to the French as an alternative, capable of taking responsibility and governing. The FN is expected to do quite well in the May runoffs, and will certainly move parties like the UMP further Right.
Nicholas Sarkozy's center right UMP also did fairly well, as parties on the Right overall including the UMP party but not the FN, secured 48 percent. This could put Le Pen's National Front in a 'kingmaker' position in the national elections if these trends hold.
Left wing parties including Hollande's Socialists garnered 43% of the vote but their support was concentrated in certain areas, taking away from their overall strength. One surprise in the election was was the Socialists’ terrible showing in the southern port city of Marseille, where veteran UMP mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin is likely to win a fourth term. The Socialists had expected to do well in Marseilles because of its Muslim population and unionized workers, but Socialist Patrick Menucci was only able to place a distant third behind Gaudin and the FN candidate.
Paris is going to have it's first female mayor, as the runoof will be between Socialist Anne Hidalgo and the UMP's Nathalie Kosciusko Morizet. Hildalgo is favored because the Greens are expected to vote for her,but Morizet might get enough FN and other Right-leaning voters to offset that. Cherchez le femme!