France: the traditional parties of left and right rolled after the first round

The traditional parties of right and left had already been in agony for years in France, the first round of the presidential election on Sunday drove a new nail in their coffin.

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According to the first estimates, the socialist candidate Anne Hidalgo obtains a humiliating, unprecedented result, around 2%, or even less, and that of the Republicans (right) Valérie Pécresse signs a historic defeat at around 5% of the vote.

When the results were announced, the Parisian room where the socialist evening was held froze in silence.

Ms. Hidalgo called for a vote on April 24 for Emmanuel Macron in order to counter the far right, while promising that the fight would continue “to obstruct the unjust projects” carried according to her by the outgoing president.

“We will work to bring together the dispersed left which has not been able to unite (…) to deeply reweave the links (…) with the working classes”, she declared.

The fall of the socialist house, undermined by its ideological divisions and its ego battles, accelerated under the mandate of President François Hollande (2012-2017), who had to give up running for a second term in 2017.

Boosted by a candidate who nevertheless came from its ranks, Emmanuel Macron, the Socialist Party had recorded a historic failure in the first round, its candidate Benoît Hamon only winning 6.36% of the vote.

The mayor of Paris, 62, today records an even more bitter defeat.

She never managed to take off and her campaign was marked by proposals described as unrealistic or demagogic, such as doubling teachers’ salaries, and dithering on the organization of a primary to bring the left together.

Quartered

For the political scientist and former right-wing elected representative Dominique Reynié, who places the beginning of the decline of the PS in the mid-1980s, “the left has never been able to find its popular classes, because instead of making a kind of revolution, they remained a party of elected officials and civil servants. It’s not illegitimate, but it’s not enough,” he said.

On the right, the Gaullist-inspired party LR (Les Républicains) never really recovered after the defeat of its leader and outgoing president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012, and struggled for a long time to find a leader.

The president of the Île-de-France region (Paris region) Valérie Pécresse for a time created the illusion by rising high in the polls after her appointment following a militant primary. But she ends up in the background, with between 4.5% and 5.1% of the vote according to estimates, an unprecedented score for her training.

“It’s a personal and collective disappointment”, recognized Valérie Pécresse, who, recalling “(her) commitment against the extremes”, immediately announced that she would vote “in conscience” for Emmanuel Macron in the second round.

Ms. Pécresse failed to impose a clear discourse between the radicalization of part of LR, and the affirmation of a republican right impervious to far-right ideas.

“The problem with the right today is that it is torn between a moderate electorate who has been with Macron, who does not find himself in his authoritarian, even xenophobic drift, and an aging electorate that is very conservative and tempted by the discourse of extreme right”, explains political scientist Rémy Lefebvre in the journal Grand Continent dated April 7.

“It happens for the right what happened for the PS” in 2017, stuck between Macron and the leader of the radical left Jean-Luc Mélenchon. “Now the right is in a nutcracker between Macron and the far right.”

“New Bipolarity”

The irruption on the political scene of the former ultra-radical polemicist Eric Zemmour, and his avowed ambition to erase the borders between right and extreme right have borne fruit. In the fall, one of LR’s heavyweights, Eric Ciotti, said he would rather vote for Mr. Zemmour than for Mr. Macron, breaking down the already fragile “immune cord” advocated by the historical leaders of the right, including former President Jacques Chirac, who died in 2019.

Socialists and Republicans alike will now have their eyes turned towards the June legislative elections, which promise to be an almost vital issue.

The socialist party currently has 25 deputies out of 577. “It will really raise questions of survival, because in France the public grants which finance most political parties are calculated according to the result of the legislative elections and the number of deputies. . If there is added to the very poor score of the presidential election a debacle in the legislative election (…), the question of the survival of the party in its current form will arise, “said Frédéric Sawicki, professor of political science at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne.

“We are witnessing a recomposition of French political life with this new bipolarity between the centrists and the far right. And with the traditional government parties, the PS and the Republicans, who together have less than 10% of the vote. This says a lot about the political evolution of France,” political scientist Gaspard Estrada told AFP.

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