Life and death of political parties

(Paris) These are two political parties that have exchanged power over the last half-century. Parties with sometimes glorious pasts, founded by larger-than-life leaders who might not be able to survive the next elections.

Posted at 6:00 a.m.

Parties that, at best, could wait another five years for a possible next chance. But they are more likely to be left for dead once the outcome of the election is known.

Two parties that have not been able to adapt to a new political deal that has evolved without them. And who refused to see the arrival of new parties as a threat.

To Quebeckers to whom this might remind of something they might soon experience, let’s say right away that we are talking about France: the Socialist Party, bearer of the legacy of François Mitterrand, and the Republicans, with that of the traditional right and General de Gaulle.

Let us remember that just five years ago, the occupant of the Élysée, the residence of the French president, was a socialist – even if François Hollande had decided not to seek a second term, so certain was he of losing the 2017 presidential election.


Posters of Emmanuel Macron, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen

The traditional right, grouped around a party that has changed its name regularly and is now called Les Républicains, last held the presidency with Nicolas Sarkozy between 2007 and 2012. It was also the last time that it had a candidate in the second round. Since – and again this year – the Republicans should be eliminated before playing the final.

The weekly The Express headlined last week: “Are the Republicans going to disappear? The question arises and not only in the newspapers.

It would be easy to make the candidate, Valérie Pécresse, responsible for all these misfortunes. And it is true that it must do its part. She’s a poor communicator and even worse as a speaker, yet she’s had two big rallies – televised across the country – the first of which had one of her allies say, “It was like The Ciddeclaimed by a young pupil. »

Mme Pécresse can console himself: the Socialists are doing even less well. Their candidate, Anne Hidalgo, the mayor (sorry, Mme Plant, it is not yet “mayoress” here) of Paris is struggling to point higher than 2% in the polls for the first round. Here too, the traditional message of the Socialist Party no longer passes.

Whose fault is it? To the new parties which have better sensed the mood of the electorate. On the left, Jean-Luc Mélanchon, whose party name, France insoumise, reflects the program quite well. A left that no longer wants to compromise to come to power.

On the far right, which, with about a third of the vote, is the rising force in French politics, it was, at the start, a fight between Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour. But the very harsh speech of the polemicist on immigration and the “great replacement” had the effect of softening the image of Mme The pen.

Above all, it has been able to pivot and exploit the high cost of living and economic uncertainty. In short, to talk about subjects that directly affect citizens.

In the center, Emmanuel Macron had gone to draw on the right as on the left and wanted to govern in the center, far from the old right-left quarrels. But at the end of the campaign, we see that Mr. Macron may not have completely won his bet.

It is not enough to want to replace the old parties, we must also convince that we can do better.

However, by wanting to be above the fray, the outgoing president above all gave an impression of arrogance. An example: he refused to participate in public television programs where all the other candidates were invited – and where they presented themselves.

But by refusing to debate, he also gave a kind of free game to his opponents and, in particular, to Marine Le Pen. While everyone was complaining about the rising cost of living or the weakness of the health system, Mr. Macron found it more important to devote himself to high diplomacy than to the problems of his fellow citizens.

But when we talk to Vladimir Putin, we don’t bother to show the weaknesses of his opponents. With the result that at the end of the campaign, it is Marine Le Pen who goes up and it is Emmanuel Macron who goes down, even if the gap remains in favor of the outgoing president.

But above all, the pollsters are beginning to see a trend: the French increasingly think that it is Mme Le Pen who understands their situation better and that she could improve their lives better than Mr. Macron.

This means that four days before the vote, not only are the traditional parties no longer in the debate, but a surprise result becomes possible. Not yet probable, but possible.

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