From Boredom to Populism: France After the Elections

Two months after the shocking results of the European elections in France, what is the situation of the country? Paul Dransele reports on post-election French politics.

Disillusionment with France's remote "politician politics" has led to a surge in support for the National Front

Disillusionment with France’s remote “politician politics” has led to a surge in support for the National Front

24.85%. One fourth of the vote for the first party of France. 24 MEPs in Brussels and two months of compromises in the corridors of Brussels. Past the shocking results which saw the electoral triumph of the National front, France is now battling again in its usual internal politics. From visionless Socialists to scandal-harassed Conservatives, disinterest is the true winner and is scoring high again as demonstrated by the 71% of people who declared no interest whatsoever in EU elections.

The situation is worsening as polls go by. Despite a reshuffle and the nomination of the media-pleasing Manuel Valls as new centre-left Prime Minister, bad news is piling like tourists on the sandy beaches of St Tropez on a sunny summer day. Growth zero, rising unemployment (10,1% in Q1 2014, Source INSEE), the year’s final exam proved tougher than the government expected.

For conservative student UMP, things are not looking great either. From the police custody of former president Nicolas Sarkozy for “active corruption, influence trafficking and concealment of a violation of professional confidentiality” to suspicions of fraud from former party leader Jean-François Copé who has been accused of favoring private communication companies belonging to friends for the organisation of some 2012 party conventions, the future looks dark. To a point that the messiah of the Conservatives for 2017 looks less and less likely to come back in the next elections. With seven possible judicial cases hanging above him and only 33% positive opinion in the last Ipsos/Le Point poll, Nicolas Sarkozy might remain on vacation from the Elysée longer than he expected.

But politics is like a chemical equation. Nothing is lost, everything is transformed. And clearly now extreme-right National Front is clearly the winner. With 24 MEPs, nearly 25% of the vote for the EU elections, a significant number of local councillors elected in March and the 17% of votes for Marine Le Pen at the national elections in 2012, the National Front is, like it or not, France’s first party. The party has placed a number of local councillors in March. Well-controlled, these people (most of whom are far from the crazy neo-Nazism the party usually promoted electorally) might stand a chance for the future elections. Not to mention that they also vote for the election of senators. Even though their number is not significant enough to make such an impact, their installation in the political environment is a symbol of the changes the country is undergoing.

Tired of “politician politics”, a number of citizens are trying and voting in new ways. And, after all – the sentiment goes – why not vote National Front, whose populist discourse blaming both the EU and foreigners is a simpler cure for a country which is slowly sinking in the quietude of its past heydays? The EU is a simpler scapegoat than impossible reforms of a pension or a healthcare system whose debt starts being compared to the blackhole of all deficits. Not to mention that the EU election campaign did not really bring the change a majority would like to see. From boredom to populism, there is only one step that most are slowly taking.

Image: ‘sarkozy_errrm’ courtesy of Andreas Milles via Flickr, released under Creative Commons.

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