France ceases to be a democracy:‭ ‬Now what‭?

by Karen Szymczyk

December 13 was important for the Middle East in at least two ways.‭ ‬In a move of increasing brinkmanship,‭ ‬a Turkish fishing boat‭ (“‬seine‭” ‬vessel‭) ‬tried playing naval‭ “‬chicken‭” ‬with the Russian guard ship‭ ‬Smetlivy in the Aegean Sea,‭ ‬only backing off when the Russian ship fired on it,‭ ‬using small arms,‭ ‬when it got too close.‭ ‬According to the Russians,‭ ‬at no time did the Turks respond to any Russian communications,‭ ‬before,‭ ‬during or after the confrontation.

December 13 also hosted the crucial second round of French elections.‭ ‬Western papers couldn’t help but predict a win by Marine Le Pen’s far-right‭ ‬National Front party,‭ ‬which topped the results in six of France’s thirteen regions in the first round.‭  ‬Le Pen’s appeals to the French were popular:‭ ‬withdrawing from the European Union,‭ ‬establishing the franc as the country’s currency,‭ ‬strengthening Fortress France in the face of overwhelming MENA‭ (‬Middle East‭ & ‬North Africa‭) ‬Muslim immigrants,‭ ‬and forging better links with Putin’s Russia.

Facing the limp Socialists,‭ ‬headed by a Francois Hollande who only saw a spike in popularity‭ ‬to‭ ‬50%‭ ‬in the wake of the recent Paris attacks,‭ ‬and a Nicolas Sarkozy who’s still considered malodorous by members of his own Republican party,‭ ‬Le Pen’s drawing card was that her rising popularity crossed many traditional socioeconomic voter boundaries.‭ ‬As the‭ ‬LA Times put it,‭ ‬Le Pen had support that‭ “‬included blue-collar workers and bourgeois surbanites,‭ ‬recent university graduates and retirees.‭”

To write off Le Pen as nothing more than a lunatic anti-Semite is to miss much of the economic malaise that has plagued France in recent years,‭ ‬compounded by Hollande’s complete fumbling of the Mistral affair and the subsequent cancellation of a lucrative deal with India involving‭ ‬US$20‭ ‬billion’s worth of Rafale jets.‭ ‬But it’s a convenient label to hang on an increasingly inclusive party leader whose words resonate with ordinary French voters.‭ “‬It’s been like this for years..‭ ‬All the big contracts go to the friends of the president.‭ ‬Little businesses like ours don’t get anything,‭” ‬says a blue-collar worker,‭ ‬again quoted in the‭ ‬LA Times.

Le Pen was campaigning as much against the dominant two parties‭ (“‬two clans from the same political mafia‭”) ‬on economic grounds,‭ ‬as well as social,‭ ‬and it was this mix of messages—a clarion call to recreate the greatness of France—that appealed,‭ ‬as it has done throughout the centuries,‭ ‬to the French.

When Le Pen won so many regions in the first round of elections,‭ ‬it seemed certain that she would consolidate and build on it in the second.‭ ‬Then something happened.

There is a tactic pervasive in French politics,‭ ‬where politicians of Party A will withdraw from a region in order to push support to Party B.‭ ‬The whole idea behind this arrangement is to make sure that Party C doesn’t win.‭ ‬This tactic has been used against the National Front in the past.‭ ‬This time around,‭ ‬with six victories under the NF belt,‭ ‬the Socialists decided to play that card again in two regions but,‭ ‬interestingly,‭ ‬Sarkozy’s Republicans didn’t.‭ ‬The New York Times mentioned that‭ “‬Mr.‭ ‬Sarkozy announced after his party’s second-place showing that its candidates would not join with other parties or withdraw from the race.‭”

One would think that that would throw the second round race open entirely.‭ ‬On the contrary,‭ ‬the results after the December‭ ‬13th second round of voting,‭ ‬were stunning.‭ ‬  Sputnik News put it most succinctly:‭ “‬National Front Fails to Gain Support of Any Region in French Elections.‭”

Something stinks.

How could a party that was polling so strongly,‭ ‬that had so much voter support,‭ ‬lose in‭ ‬every region,‭ ‬including the unemployment-heavy northern ones‭?

One doesn’t have to think very hard to see what a National Front victory would have meant to NATO and the EU,‭ ‬not to mention its actions in Syria.‭ ‬Add to that a possible rapprochement with devil Russia,‭ ‬and the only surprise is that Le Pen was allowed to crow victory after the first round.‭ ‬Someone’s getting sloppy.

What happens now is up to the French people themselves.‭ ‬Are they going to let themselves be cowed,‭ ‬or will they rise up‭? ‬France has always been a country of glorious rebellion and resistance,‭ ‬against enemies ranging from the monarchy to McDonald’s,‭ ‬but are the French up to it in these modern times‭? ‬Or is the tsunami of propaganda too overwhelming,‭ ‬the barrage of immigrants too unstoppable,‭ ‬the cohesion of each community too weak,‭ ‬to fight against what must be seen,‭ ‬at the very least,‭ ‬as a very peculiar election outcome.

Only time will tell.


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Dec 17, 2015 3:19 AM

” … There is a tactic pervasive in French politics,‭ ‬where politicians of Party A will withdraw from a region in order to push support to Party B.‭ ‬The whole idea behind this arrangement is to make sure that Party C doesn’t win.‭ ‬This tactic has been used against the National Front in the past …”

The equivalent tactic in Australian politics is for Party A to direct its preferences to Party B (though both A and B normally oppose each other) to stop Party C from winning certain seats.

Dec 17, 2015 3:33 AM
Reply to  Jen

So in France and Australia, it is the least unpopular party – rather than the most popular party – that wins elections?
And then we wonder why politicians are so small-minded, of diminished stature and so grey in character…….?
It is no better in the UK where focus groups and opinion polls have taken the place of political principles.
Modern democratic politics has all turned into a whole mish-mash load of old rubbish.
But – as Churchill pointed out – all of the alternatives are even worse.

Seamus Padraig
Seamus Padraig
Dec 16, 2015 8:25 PM

“There is a tactic pervasive in French politics,‭ ‬where politicians of Party A will withdraw from a region in order to push support to Party B.‭ ‬The whole idea behind this arrangement is to make sure that Party C doesn’t win.‭”

I have to admit I don’t understand exactly what happened here. I thought France had some kind of ‘preferential voting’ system, where only the two top parties made it into the final round. If so, how does that square with her above statement? Maybe some of the French people here could explain what happened. The Sputnik article she cited sure didn’t.

“One doesn’t have to think very hard to see what a National Front victory would have meant to NATO and the EU,‭ ‬not to mention its actions in Syria.”

Again, I’m really not sure what she’s talking about. I thought these were REGIONAL elections, not national ones. How could they possibly affect foreign policy? Aren’t we talking about the equivalent of governors and state legislatures here?

Dec 16, 2015 9:06 PM
Reply to  Seamus Padraig

Seamus: you are both right. Karen should have been more specific in her examples.
What she means is that when the FN did well in the first round of voting within a region, the “socialist” party withdrew its candidates from the second round in that region so that only the centre-right candidate stood against the regional FN candidate in the second round of voting. The centre-right parties refused to engage in similar actions.
The “socialist” party also urged its supporters to vote for the centre-right regional candidate in the second round, thus ensuring that the combined votes of the “socialist”-supporting voters and centre-right-supporting voters would exceed the number of FN-supporting voters in the second round, thus ensuring the defeat of the FN candidate.
I think that what Karen has in mind is not the regional policies of the FN but their national and international policies, on which they will be standing in the French presidential election in around 18 months time.
What Karen is alluding to is the effect that FN victory or victories in the regional elections might have had on the national/presidential elections in 18 months time.
The regional elections have shown that the (far?) right in French politics is as yet unelectable nationally on its own.
If the FN were to try to engage in coalition with the centre-right, of course, that would be very different.
Similar social forces undermined the popular French government prior to the Fall of France in 1940.

Seamus Padraig
Seamus Padraig
Dec 24, 2015 1:09 PM
Reply to  John

Thanks for the reply.

Dec 16, 2015 5:55 AM

When I started reading the article, I expected Karen Szymczyk to refer to Hollande’s declaration of a state of emergency for 90 days as a rationale for declaring that France has ceased to be a democracy – not minor details relating to the French electoral system.
French MPs voted 551-6 to boost and extend the emergency powers. Three Socialist and three Green MPs abstained.
To my mind, when the French MPs did that, they abandoned the whole idea of France being a democracy.
The sheer hysteria prompted by the murders in Paris has allowed the terrorists to undermine French democracy.
Under the powers granted to the state by a state of emergency, all sorts of actions are being taken which are wholly undemocratic and serve completely to undermine human rights in France.
As of 19 November 2015, ‘…the state of emergency measures already in place had led to 63 arrests, 413 searches, the seizure of 72 weapons and 118 people placed under house arrest since Friday (13 November).’ Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/19/french-mps-vote-to-extend-state-of-emergency-after-paris-terror.
Many more French people will have had their human rights trampled since then too. That must be obvious?
Why is there not more about this aspect of France being reported in the mass media?

Norman Pilon
Norman Pilon
Dec 16, 2015 3:05 AM

Did Diebold get the contract for tabulating votes? That would greatly simplify the complicated horse trading that happens in French elections, making it comprehensible for me. Regardless, the right people won, right? France, NATO and America are still one.

Dec 16, 2015 12:52 AM

Reblogged this on Siem Reap Mirror.

Anthony Hall
Anthony Hall
Dec 16, 2015 12:19 AM

oui! froggieland reeks with democracy, thats why DSK was vaporized by Sarkozy and his thuggish CIA amis.

Dec 16, 2015 12:06 AM

Agree with Le Professeur Pangloss. Moreover, this site should clearly indicate a difference between well – researched informative articles, and opinion. Otherwise your opponents will use it against you.

Le Professeur Pangloss
Le Professeur Pangloss
Dec 15, 2015 11:46 PM

While I enjoy this website, the writer of this article clearly does not understand France, where as a result of the two round voting system there is a real democracy and we have elected representatives who, as a consequence of the local horse trading to get them elected, are generally aware of, and responsive to, the sentiments of their electors. Which is why this intelligent system that ensures that anyone elected has generally won a majority of the votes will never be adopted in the faux democracy of Britain.
In my own region the FN came top in the first round, but the left actually won a majority of the votes despite the low turnout. In the second round unsurprisingly the left won. They always win, we play rugby league and vote for the left, it is just a question of who on the left wins.
The real fear on the left in France is another Presidential election like 2002 where Lionel Jospin was eliminated on the first round (with the media running endless stories that Jospin and Chirac were identical so that many on the left “followed their hearts” on the first round and voted for other left-wing candidates in the first round – coincidences with the last British election?) and we had a choice in the second round between Le Pen (père) and Chirac. Which is why we ended up with the cooked socialist primaries to give us a choice between François Hollande and François Hollande to vote for on the left at the last presidential election.
Personally, I believe the real fear for Langley is that next time the right will ditch the DC suck-up Nicolas Sarkozy and have Juppé as a real Gaullist candidate, which would provide a real quandary – his domestic policies might suck (but so do France’s Tony Blair François Hollande’s) but at least he would let the Americans know that France is an independent country with its own interests.

Dec 16, 2015 9:06 AM

The French vote with their hearts in the first round & their pockets in the second – Sarkozy is a thief & Hollande a donkey and this is one reason why NF will win more & more. DSK would have been the real leader but he got hit in a US/Sarko sex sting as he would (I think) never have allowed the breakdown in relations with Russia.

Young voters don’t identify with thieves & donkeys so don’t vote plus they face the Arab youth threat on the street. Go to any street corner in France & see groups of Arab boys openly selling drugs – the groups of under age boys works as cover being mostly too young to prosecute & each with a qty too low to be booked as dealers. These gangs are NF recruitment centres as we don’t want them.

The older sheep see more a more the utter lack of morality in US wars & the need for getting our Russian tourists back who spent real money here not like the Americans who became a very rare sight since 9/11.

A Gaullism & NF hybrid mix will save France exiting NATO please God & joining Heartland economics on the New Silk Road (Ref Halford Mackinder “Theory of Heartland” 1904) .

Dec 16, 2015 5:26 PM

I take your over-all point but am puzzled by this detail: “In my own region the FN came top in the first round, but the left actually won a majority of the votes despite the low turnout.”

That definitely doesn’t resemble any type of representative democracy. Not unless by “the left” you mean a number of parties which are, for some reason, considered left-of-centre in France, and whose votes, combined, outnumbered those for FN. I say “for some reason considered left-of-centre” because it seems clear that the Socialist Party, for example, isn’t a left-wing party at all any more. Hollande describes himself a social democrat, but even that seems to me a serious misnomer as he’s basically a neoliberal — and, in foreign policy, such an obedient servant of Washington that it was France, i.e. the French Socialist Party, that together with Germany and Poland directly helped bring to power a group of right-wing oligarchs and their fascist and (literally) neo-Nazi supporters in Kiev.

Dec 16, 2015 6:59 PM
Reply to  Vaska

I agree with Vaska. I have a Communist friend who falls into peals of helpless laughter whenever I mention the fact that Hollande is the leader of the French Socialist Party.
The Friday 13th November 2015 Paris attacks played right into Hollande’s hands so he could declare a 90 day state of emergency – overwhelmingly supported by the French political class – which is not the action of a democratic socialist.
Hollande and the terrorists have jointly betrayed French democracy.