Five quick takes on the French elections

Yes, neither France is in tFlag_of_France.svghe Middle East, nor have I worked as a correspondent there … But sometimes Tunisia’s La Marsa seems the “hidden” province of the Hexagon. And I just can
‘t avoid it. So this is why here you have my five takes on the 2017 French presidential election

1) History being done. No matter from which perspective we look at this election, it has been and will be a historic one -this is a neutral observation, history not always is positive-. Let’s see: none of the two major parties makes it to the second round for the first time in history; a centrist candidate wins after so many failed efforts; the Socialist party candidate becomes a distant fifth; the “far” (or just “new”?) left reaches almost 20% of the votes, and the far right passes this same threshold for the first time … it is hard to have an election with so many “first times”. France politics is undergoing a deep (and permanent?) reestructuration. 

2) An election with three rounds. In Political Science Faculties professors teach you that French presidential elections have two rounds. Well, they should make an exception for 2017, since there will be three. The likely winner (around 99,9%), Mr. Emmanuel Macron has a new party with no institutional base, so his supporters will most likely be a small minority in the upcoming legislative elections (next June). French system is not presidential, but semi-presidential, which means that the Parliament has a strong hand in choosing the cabinet. Taking into account the size of Macron’s En March party, and his centrist ideology, the composition of the Parliament will be decisive for the policies adopted the next five years. More decisive than ever.

3) The relative failure of Le Pen. The performance of Le Pen is a typical case of half-full/half-empty glass. Yes, she made it to the second round. Yes, she got the best result in the presidential elections for her Front National. But electoral expectations are based on the previou elections and polls, not those 10 years ago. And until recently, Le Pen was leading in polls with around 29%, almost the same percentage FN got when it won the 2015 regional elections. Since then, its members have boasted being “le 1er parti de la France”. If you add to that the big expectations raised after Brexit referendum and Trump’s victory, yesterday result can only be disappointing for Le Pen. The winds were blowing strongly on her favour, and not only due to the international context. Let’s not forget that his adversary on the right -and great favourite to be president until s**** hit the fan- , was tainted in a shaming corruption scandal. Establishment fatigue, economic crisis and a softening of her image has only brought Marine around four meager extra points. Pas beaucoup.

4) The birth of the new left? Probably, Jean-Luc Melenchon, the new caristmatic leader of the “far” left, is the moral winner of the first round. He did not only defeat his Socialist adversary -which per se, is a milestone- , but he trounced him: 6% vs 19%. This result places him in an optimal position to lead the construction of a wide movement that disputes the hegemony within the left that the Socialist party has enjoyed during the last 50 years. He is not the only one. Syriza and Podemos have already done it. A trend is consolidating in the south of Europe. 

5) The EU takes a breath. The French elections have always been important for the future of the EU, but never as much as this year. Battered by Brexit and the rise of “eurosceptic” parties, which already rule in Poland and Hungary, the health of the EU project is very fragile. It could resist a blow from London, but hardly one from a core member. And this was what a Le Pen victory would mean and, to a lesser extent, even a Melenchon or Fillon victory. Macron is the only candidate of the “big four” that put the EU at the center of his political project. And now he is at the gates of the Elysée Palace . Yesterday at 20:00, a long deep breath was heard all over Brussels.


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