Saturday, December 03, 2016

Will France Be The Next Democracy To Fall Into The Grasp Of Neo-Fascists?


About a week ago we looked at the upcoming French presidential elections from the perspective of the primary of the center-right party, Les Républicains, which have since had their run-off and selected the further right of the two party front-runners, François Fillon. The betting is now that Fillon will eventually face neo-fascist leader Marine Le Pen. But what about the Socialists, you wonder? French conventional wisdom is that they've made a hash of governing and stand no chance. In fact, this week their standard bearer, President François Hollande, announced that he won't seek reelection, a not entirely unexpected development, although he is the first French President to not seek reelection since the 1940s.
With a satisfaction rating so low it recently dropped to just 4%, the Socialist president appeared shaken and emotional as he said in a live televised address from the Élysée palace that he would not attempt to run for a second term, conscious of the “risks” to the French left if he did so.

Hollande’s decision leaves the way open for a bitter Socialist primary race in January to decide who will run in his place. Manuel Valls, the ambitious prime minister who is a tough law-and-order voice and pro-business reformist on the right of the party, could now decide to run to become the Socialist candidate.

If he does run, Valls will face opposition from several former government ministers who are part of a leftwing rebel movement, including the ambitious former economy minister Arnaud Montebourg, who is fiercely critical of Hollande’s pro-business line.

Hollande’s popularity slumped right from the start of his presidency in 2012. He beat the rightwing Nicolas Sarkozy after a classic leftwing campaign in which he targeted big business and pledged to raise taxes for high earners. He began his presidency with a leftist programme that included a wealth super-tax of 75% on top earners but he shifted course midway through his term.

Grassroots supporters were further alienated by a pro-business switch in 2014, a wavering over security reforms, and labour laws that brought thousands out onto the streets in protests early this year.

Hollande was accused of a lack of preparation, zigzagging on policy and being unable to keep a lid on his government’s internal feuding on how to address the economy. His initial attempt to style himself as a “normal president”-- paying no heed to the superficial trappings of office-- backfired and endeared him even less to the electorate.

Accused of lacking authority and coherence, dithering over policy decisions from tax increases to pro-business reform, failing to kickstart the sluggish economy and failing to protect France from a series of devastating terrorist attacks, he was eventually abandoned by his own core of Socialist party voters who felt betrayed by his muddled, stop-start pro-business reforms.

One recent poll by Odoxa put him at only 7.5% in the first round of the presidential race, behind the right’s Fillon, the far-right Marine Le Pen, his former economy minister and maverick independent candidate Emmanuel Macron, and the hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
The Socialist primary will be next month and then the first round will be April 23 and the runoff will be on May 7. Every recent poll shows Fillon and Le Pen emerging from the first round-- which would be akin to a face-off between Ted Cruz and Trumpy-the-Clown. And polling shows Fillon then trouncing her, in the most recent poll-- with a mammoth sample size-- 67-33%. Recent polls also show that with the Socialist, Valls, or the Independent (ex-Socialist), Emmanuel Macron, making it through the first round instead of Fillon (very unlikely) either would beat Le Pen handily as well.

So is France safe from the scourge of right-wing nationalism sweeping through the neoliberal democracies of the West. Well... as safe as Americans were from Trump. Russia is certainly expected to do whatever they can to make sure Le Pen wins-- from money to whatever kind of stuff that worked for them with Trump. And would left-leaning voters actually vote for a really awful right-winger like Fillon to stop Le Pen if the run-off, as looks likely, is between them? Remember, he's a dull, anti-gay bigot who opposes women's choice and is vehemently anti-union. He bills himself as a disciple of Margaret Thatcher, a widely reviled figure in much of France. Looking at his platform, I can't help but think that despite this month's popularity polls, Le Pen's fascist siren song will crush him, especially if many on the left refuse to vote. If Hillary was the candidate of the status quo, Fillon is the candidate of the stats quo ante.

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At 1:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes. the only alternatives France had have horribly discredited themselves. Sarkozy (a pox be upon him) failed miserably in his attempt to return to power in France, and Hollande took note that France won't tolerate a fool in office, so he's going away quietly. There is now no one but the fascist reich-wing to take power and lead France to a horrible civil war in a misguided effort to rid France of all non-Caucasian non-Christian people.


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