France in a state of shock

The extreme-right party in France, Front National (FN) got 25 % in the last European elections.

Are French politicians totally unaware of it’s own people’s discontent? None of the established parties reacted ahead of the election to change this (quite predictable) situation.

Marine Le Pen Marine le Pen

Le Front National:

Marine le Pen, the party’s leader, has managed to charm mainly young voters among whom 30 % voted for her; unemployed (37 %) and labourers (43 %). It’s mostly in Northern and Western France but also in the South that the FN has a majority. The only region where the party hasn’t done so well is in the East, close to the German border.

Since 1979 the FN’s adherents have doubled! Populism is spreading like a destructive fire throughout the French countryside.

A landslide in France:

What does this result signals to the other parties?  Mélenchon, the leader of the leftist party, cried openly in the French television, but the greatest looser is the socialist party whose adherents have left them in favour of the FN. “People are sick and tired of promises that the politicians never keep and want a real change,” a middle-aged man explained to me. “The other parties have let the workers down,” his wife added.

Despite the disastrous election results, President Hollande has affirmed that he won’t make any more governmental changes. From having had 31 socialists in the European Parliament in 2004, they have fallen to 13 this year…

For the European continuous cooperation the result of the French elections is very alarming. “France is one of the founding nations of the EU and all our European countries are dependent on its stability,” said the Swedish Ambassador, Gunnar Lund, just after the results were published. “On top of an economic instability we’re now faced with a political one”. Added to that problem is Putin who’s knocking on our doorstep with his invasion in Ukraine, a sovereign European country.

Hollande’s Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, immediately promised that “there will be tax improvements for the more modest families.”The Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was horrified at the results that he designed as ”un séisme” – a landslide.Valls talked about a “massive shock for all political parties.”It’s not only the leftist parties in this powerful country that not long ago was considered one of Europe’s pillars that need to revalue it’s logic.

The liberal party UMP has also lost hugely: 71 % of 101 regions have gone from UMP to the FN. One of the reasons having been the bickering between its leaders and the scandalous affair of one of them, Jean-François Copé, leading to disastrous consequences for the party.  It still doesn’t have a proper leader. Will they find a unifying one before the 2017 Presidential elections?

Where is democracy heading?

In some parts of the world, people go down and demonstrate in squares and streets, risking their lives as they do so, while we in Europe with our democratic elections, are snubbing our democracy out of comfort or because we don’t believe in the power of our voice any more.

This election’s result reflects a disinterest in democracy: 57 % of the voters didn’t bother to vote… In Strasbourg, one of the European Parliament seats, even less people voted. “I didn’t know who to vote for” admitted Jeanne, 33. “I didn’t want to spend my day off to go and vote”, Jean, 46, said.

The statistics showed that 6 of 10 Frenchmen didn’t bothered to vote. However some regretted that after seeing the results: “had I known what the result would have been, I would have voted,” Patrique, a nurse, admitted.

The European elections interest only a minority and many are disappointed in the mainstream politicians and were therefore unmotivated to go to the urns.

The program of the FN:

How strong will the eurosceptics be within the EU parliament?

Of the 751 parliamentarians within the EU:

The PPE (liberals) got 214 seats.

The left parties got 189 seats.

The Eurosceptics got 140.

So they aren’t in majority and if they can’t unify they won’t have much saying.

What can we then expect from a party like the FN?

The retirement from the Euro with a return to the old currencies.

Leave Schengen and take out our passports again.

Leave the transatlantic treaties and create a French agricultural program with an “Intelligent protectionism” and new customs deals.

Stop immigration by closing the borders, stop the family gatherings and maximise the immigrants to 10 000 per year.

Those are some of their foremost points. How that would be implemented and the consequences that it would have for France, that remains to be seen however.

How is the German reaction of this populist victory and what about the German/French cooperation? In Germany, where the socialist Schultz got a high score, he wondered about “how the rest of Europe would have reacted to such a result in Germany? We would have been treated as Nazis!” Ironically it might be the Germans who’ll save Europe, by becoming the driving, positive force in the near future.

Fear and wisdom seldom go hand in hand and it’s precisely on fear and insecurities that extreme parties like the FN thrive. The spectrum of old ghosts from our two devastating World Wars is once more lurking in the shadows of our old continent.

The FN has destabilized the entire political establishment in France. Scandals, bad economy, corruptions… those are some concerns the French politicians have to consider in their coming agendas if they want to change the public opinion in their favour again.

If the UMP hasn’t found an acceptable and unifying candidate and if the socialists haven’t been able to change it’s descending curb, Marine le Pen and her party have a chance to win the Presidential elections in 2017.

How the European Union will tackle that problem if it occurs one can only speculate about although I shudder at the thought…

Anne Edelstam, Paris.





About Anne

Swedish journalist, photographer, editor and writer. Based in Paris, France.