France Divided – What happens next? – Liberal Article
The recent regional elections in France have left the French political situation in disarray. Disappointing results for both Marine Le Pen and President Macron and a presidential election on the horizon mean the future of French politics is far from certain. Arguably the fate of the European Union could be decided in the next election. If the recent results are anything to go off, anything could happen.
Both Macron’s La République En Marche and Le Pen’s Rassemblement national were targeting regions. Instead, regions have remained the same and provided mainstream parties with a much-needed boost. Although low turnout is a factor, this should not take away from these devastating results. If mainstream candidates, both left and right, can gain some traction, there could be a real chance in the presidential election to fight Le Pen and Macron.
Low turnout is generally coupled with political apathy and it appears that this time it is being driven by young voters. This can sometimes make analysis hard to gauge. However, these numbers clearly indicate two things. Firstly, this was the demographic that Macron successfully reignited in 2017. This failure clearly demonstrates he has not done well enough so far and that if he is to win next year he must convince them to go to the polls once more for him. Secondly, for Le Pen, with fewer younger votes, failing to win any regions is an even bigger blow. She is losing previous voters to the centre or to abstention. Therefore, she needs to decide whether to return to a harder position or soften to compete with the centre.
So, if Macron and Le Pen do not bounce back, who else is there?
Currently third in the polls is Xavier Bertrand, a more mainstream centre-right candidate from the party Les Republicains. Bertrand is gaining support from the median voter, especially those who consider Le Pen to be too far right for them to support. In these recent elections, he won around 52% of support in the northern region of Hauts-de-France, one that Le Pen had hoped to win. The nomination for the Les Republicains party’s presidential candidate is yet to be confirmed. However, Bertrand is clearly the front runner and is undoubtedly best placed to challenge Macron.
Should Bertrand make the second round of voting, I believe he would actually be better placed than Le Pen to challenge the incumbent. Previously, when the other candidates have dropped out Macron takes a clear lead but this may not be the case with Bertrand. Whilst Le Pen does not gain the votes of the more centrist right, Bertrand would likely take those of Le Pen in a run-off. to replace Macron with someone somewhat closer to their ideology.
In my opening paragraph, I alluded to the impact on the EU. The EU vaccine sharing programme has been a disaster and the eurosceptics in France have continued to grow in numbers. Should Macron be re-elected, the relationship would remain the same, but with others, it would be very different. Le Pen would push to leave immediately and Bertrand may also look to leave. For example, Bertrand no longer believes in the German-French control at the heart of the EU. Therefore, even if he has not stated a desire to leave, the relationship will be completely different. Should he win via Le Pen’s run-off voters the pressure will be on.
French politics is at a decisive point. The recent elections have given hope to more mainstream political parties and caused despair for the favourites for next year’s presidential election. One has disappointed previous voters once elected and the other is failing to appease those either side of her on the political spectrum. As a result, other candidates, such as Xavier Bertrand have appeared who could join the fight. Should Macron lose, the future of their European relationship will be in question. Whatever the case, this is an increasingly interesting situation that we should all keep our eye on.
Written by Liberal Writer, Fletcher Kipps
Point of Information
France Appears to be in Political Purgatory – A Conservative Response
My colleague does a good job of explaining the current political situation in France. There are large amounts of disenfranchisement with the people and their political system. The low voter turnout mixed with the poor results for Macron and Le Pen does not seem particularly positive in the long term.
A recent politically motivated action that was caught on video seems to sum up the situation in France quite well. However, political violence is obviously never justified. Sadly, the video just seems to show the frustration that the people currently have, strongly feeling let down by their political establishment. It will be interesting to see if Macron can scrape another victory this election.
France has played a prominent role within the EU. But as highlighted by my colleague, this could quite easily diminish after the votes are in after the election. The vaccination rollout was and still is in dire straits. I have a family friend in Germany (aged 68) who is still waiting for his first vaccination, let alone for things to get back to normal. Therefore, the EU scepticism is bound to play a part in the voting this election. Although, how significant it will be is still to be seen as a low voter turnout will definitely play a key part also.
Overall, the article above does a good job of summarising the political situation in France. The people do not seem to have great faith in any of the nominees. More widely, they are politically lost without a path forward. They need a leader with a great vision for helping France recover from the pandemic, and battle (or at least address) the main issues still plaguing the nation due to its EU membership. It shall certainly be an interesting election and not one to miss.
Written by Deputy Chief of Conservatives, Peter Pearce
French Politics is Changing, but how Meaningful are these Elections? – A Labour Response
French politics is changing. Something we can all agree with Fletcher on I’m sure. Prior to the recent regional elections, both Le Pen and Macron were hoping for, and expecting, some more promising results. They wanted to gauge their support for the next election. Evidently, however, the disappointment of these results and the emergence of Xavier Bertrand as a serious contender for the Presidency have certainly left French politics at a crucial point.
Similar to by-elections in the UK, it is difficult to extrapolate these regional results to predict the 2022 outcome. Smaller elections are almost always met with lower turnout and ultimately prove to be a hard basis of any prediction. Fletcher mentions some strong points in relation to the former – low voter turnout. It does give us a small insight into voter demographics and the extent of support for the candidates, particularly for the incumbent Macron. And for Le Pen, this was a test to see the extent of support behind her right-wing party. One that she arguable failed due to the lack of voters behind her.
However, it cannot be glossed over that low voter turnout is also a result of smaller regional elections. Many simply don’t care enough to vote regardless of their party affiliation and extent of support for one candidate/party or the other.
The 2022 election is still very much all to play for. With the incumbent Macron seemingly facing less support than desirable, the emergence of Bertrand as a third option and the risk of the results changing the face of the EU forever, it will certainly be an interesting election to watch. I’ll second Fletcher – do keep your eyes on it.
Written by Chief Labour Writer, Abi Clargo
I am an incoming third year undergraduate currently studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Exeter. I am socially liberal, fiscally conservative editor here at POI. I have been fascinated by politics for many years, from PMQs to late night election results all which has led to the desire to study this at university.
I am going into my second year at the University of Exeter studying a flexible combined honour in Geography and Politics. My interest in politics and geography stems from an interest in current events and the wider world, with geography being the study of all world processes.
I’m Abi! I am a liberal, political enthusiast from the Welsh valleys. Since I was young, I have been captivated by politics. I used to spend so much time watching the morning news before school, and have paid close attention to political campaigns for as long as I can remember. It was a lot later that I decided I wanted to pursue politics academically. Now, I have just finished my second year studying Politics and International Relations at the University of Exeter.