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A bowling alley election

Émeric Brehier
Member of the French Parliament

A great deal has already been said about this presidential election: a hold-up, an unforgettable election, a coconut-shy election, a populist election, a disaster for the so-called mainstream parties, the demonisation of the National Front … and many many more. In reality all of this can be said to be true. Though these terms are accurate when viewed individually, they cannot provide a true reflection of the meaning of this presidential election which will undoubtedly be remembered in the history books for years to come, of course they will, but also in the political science journals and reviews.

1– it was first and foremost an election of renunciation and defeat for some of the most renowned political leaders of the last twenty years. The incumbent president was isolated on all sides and gave up; a former President of the Republic, two former prime ministers, a former minister and patron of the Green Party (Les Verts) were all abruptly dismissed following their respective primaries.

2– then the election and campaigning called into question the legitimacy of the on-going judicial investigations, both for the right-wing candidate and the extreme right candidate. Nevertheless, one cannot overlook the importance of the two finalist candidates insofar as they both questioned the independence of the power which ought to be delivered by the presidency…independence that they argued only they could provide if they were elected to the presidency!

3– it also seemingly marked the end, quite noticeably for Republican Party support, or should we say support for Fillon – this contrasts naturally to the National Front candidate and her respective rise. This was achieved thanks to the achievements of Jean-Luc Mélenchon who weakened support for Fillon but ultimately was also defeated during the first round of the election. However, it is more concerning that this shift in voter intentions was not the result of a stunning cause and effect but to a historical reversal of fortune. This is not to downplay or attempt to forget the sad memories associated with Communist International (ComIntern) in the early 1930s. But it is evident that the events resonated both within the activist groups of Unsubmissive France as well as the electorate. As for the right-wing, the voters became all too aware of what they had once suspected; a deepening divide within the right between the traditional right and the extreme right.

4– it was, of course, the defeat of the two mainstream parties whose candidates were perceived by many to be too far removed from the moderate centre that left a significant void which Emmanuel Macron steadfastly occupied. Such a defeat, particularly when you consider the extent by which the Socialist Party’s loss, raises serious concerns – Benoît Hamon failed to secure a significant advantage over lesser known opponents barely securing more votes (in voter numbers alone) than the primary for the Belle Alliance Populaire at the end of January. This raises questions about the organisation itself and their future given that we are within reach of a general election.

5– finally, this election saw the emergence and subsequent recognition of new divisions and groups within the political landscape. In the short-term these groups have supplanted the traditional parties and removed the political structure from French politics. These parties did not arrive unannounced or as part of a knee-jerk reaction by the public. The shift in voting intentions had already been witnessed during intermediate elections and referendums but they had yet to achieve any recognition during the fifth Republic until the presidential election. Openness versus closed-mindedness, optimism versus pessimism; such characterisations can also be found to exist within distinct regions around France, which demonstrates that politics is moving beyond the confines of sociological issues.

Whilst it is still too early to state resolutely that this coconut-shy election will shake the foundations of French politics, it will if given time, subvert the political landscape as well as our understanding of the upcoming general election. We have already taken the first step.
Read the original in French here

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