What the EU Elections Mean in FRANCE – a Personal Test for Macron
Arnold Le Goeuil talks to Michel Grossiord, Journalist at Radio Classique and Cédric Stanghellini – Journalist at LCI about the upcoming European elections and what the political future could look like.
After the 2017 presidential election, France was depicted as an example where the far-right could be beaten. Emmanuel Macron’s initial centrist stances, vowing to replace the old political system with people coming from the civil society or the private sector, gave to the country the fresh air it desperately waited for.
Emmanuel Macron has personally involved himself in the European Elections, making the 26 May vote a test of En Marche and his own future.
And yet only a year and half later the Gilets Jaunes riots cauased major disruption both in Paris streets and in the political system – and fading away of the early enthusiasm for Macron’s En Marche party.
Now deeply unpopular, depicted as a republican monarch and an out-of-touch neoliberal, Emmanuel Macron has personally involved himself in the European Elections, making the 26 May vote a test of En Marche and his own future. Normally, the 5th Republic institutions place the President as ‘above political parties’ and representing ‘all’ French people.
The Rehabilitation of Le Pen
While defeated in 2017 second round of the Presidential elections, Marine Le Pen’s newly renamed Rassemblement National (formerly Front National), has not died and has ambitions to beat Mr Macron’s party, represented by former Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau.
Marine Le Pen’s dédiabolisation (rehabilitation) strategy since 2011 – rejecting most of her father’s fascist-like ideas and behaviours – has been successful so far.
A third round of the presidential campaign will be taking place in a week now on Sunday, paving the way for the 2022 presidential election for both major parties. But for Michel Grossiord, journalist at Radio Classique, Marine Le Pen still does not meet the test of credibility.
Although the RN succeeds in mobilizing its core electorate – young and working class males mainly – it is still perceived as a protest vote rather than a real choice for the country.
However, according to Cédric Stanghellini, Marine Le Pen’s dédiabolisation (rehabilitation) strategy since 2011 – rejecting most of her father’s fascist-like ideas and behaviours – has been successful so far. The RN is now appealing to new voters, including conservative and elderly voters, thus expanding her electorate. And the Gilets Jaunes offered her an easy way of criticizing Macron’s neoliberal policies while attracting to some left-wing voters as well.
For Grossiord, Le Pen’s close relationships with some hard far-right parties in Eastern Europe, its connections with Russia and with Steve Bannon could represent, a potential threat on the long term to her strategy of presenting the RN as a modern, sovereignist and electable party.
Opposing Nationalists and Progressives
Macron tries to emphasize these dark relationships by creating on opposition between ‘progressives’ and ‘nationalists’ – thus eliminating the Parti Socialiste (centre-left), La France Insoumise (left-wing) and Les Républicains (right-wing) from the equation. He has officially entered in the campaign but this could be a risky gamble as his sky-high unpopularity could reinforce the Rassemblement National as the anti-Macron vote.
The left struggles to end its long decline, being divided, cannibalizing itself and ideologically crushed by the right domination on public debate
For Cédric Stanghellini, journalist at LCI, the national success the RN might experience in France does not mean it could take the lead across Europe. Mateo Salvini’s Liga is THE European superstar for nationalists, vowing to present a unified far-right group at Strasbourg – in which Marine Le Pen, who has not been elected in France, could only play the second-role.
Mr Macron who has promised to reshuffle the government if the RN comes first, and could try to launch a post-Gilets Jaunes political period of his 5-years term – a sine qua non for a 2022 presidential election bid.
However, the electoral weakness – not to say burial – of the socialists whot may not be able to reach 5%)and the weakness of the Les Républicains could help him in liberating more space on moderate wings (although to be fair he has vacuumed all he could of the PS and of the liberal wing of LR).
The left struggles to end its long decline, being divided, cannibalizing itself and ideologically crushed by the right domination on public debate. It’s very unlikely that in these conditions any of its main leaders from Jean-Luc Mélenchon (left-wing), Benoit Hamon (socialist left), Yannick Jadot (green) or Olivier Faure (social democrat/social liberal) could hope of being elected in 2022 – leaving Macron and Le Pen’s match undisturbed.