A Somewhat Unorthodox Analysis of the French Presidential Election
Two candidates have now been chosen for the final round of voting and both have been defined for the electorate by both national and international mass media. Interestingly, given the hysteria about purported foreign intervention in United States election by Russia (intervention by any other country being seemingly unproblematic), the member states of the European Union as well as the Democratic opposition in United States have been very active in backing their now favorite candidate, Emmanuel Macron.
Monsieur Macron, a pure, orthodox and arch-neoliberal with deep ties to international finance, investors, the military industrial complex and the status quo is the new Clintonesque darling. Marie le Pen, a woman with complex postures on a number of issues, albeit birthed in her father’s xenophobic, racist and ultranationalist Front National, has been drawn as a mere caricature despite her sometimes liberal postures with respect to workers’ rights and equitable distribution of income, and her anti-international armed interference attitude and desire to get along with, among everyone else, Russia. Indeed, the latter posture is being predictably touted in United States mass media as evidence that she, like President Trump, is a Manchurian candidate.
Although I am part French, I am not a French national and thus am not active in internal French politics but I did have a favorite who apparently came in fourth, Jean-Luc Melenchon (disclosure appropriate in determining how objective my unusual analysis is). As is now traditional in the mainstream media, when we are being instructed subliminally to oppose a candidate, the adjective “far” is attached to Monsieur Melenchon’s political views, just as the same adjective is attached to Ms. La Pen, but from the other “extreme”. Both are deemed extremists which equates to bad and is much easier than a thoughtful analysis of their complex political postures. The primordial difference between the candidates is, of course, their perspective with respect to the European Union which by necessary implication impacts the issue of whether investors “rights” trump workers’ rights, whether Russia is a devious and malevolent enemy that needs to be put in its place so as not to impede eastern expansion (finally lebensraum), whether Assad needs to be overthrown, and what to do with the massive refugee factory the middle east has become, etc. The French have been notably unpredictable on the issue of the European Union so although all major political parties in and outside of France (except for the Front National) are backing Monsieur Macron, it may be that as in other bumps in the way of populist waves, surprises may be in store (although in my opinion more likely in terms of degree rather than outcome, I predict a 53% – 47% Macron victory, at least right now).
One observation that seems worth noting is that the French have been provided a choice between a candidate the media defines as center, although his orthodox, pure and classical neoliberal positions ought to lead to the conclusion that he is at best, center right (Monsieur Macron) and one the media has successfully labeled “far right” (Ms. la Pen), although her populist positions on many issues are to the left of Monsieur Macron. The resemblance to the electoral positioning of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump is quite interesting although sexually reversed (not that feminists have noticed though). What appears clear is that the traditional French left has lost; not unreasonable as under Monsieur Hollande the socialists veered towards Clinton-Blair postures and became just another center right party and that Monsieur Melenchon, although he did much better than the socialists, did not do well enough (quel dommage). There is thus no traditional juxtaposition of liberal left against conservative right, even if the media so represents it to the voters.
What should also fascinate political observers at least, from an institutional perspective, is that none of the candidates are from traditional parties, the ones that will control the Parliament and the great majority of municipal governments. At first glance this would indicate that for the first time in the history of the Fifth Republic the executive would have no support in the legislature although that may prove illusory given the immense probability that Monsieur Macron would have support from both traditional parties, Republicans and those who are still called Socialists, at least in name. Still, if lightening were to strike again as it did in the United Kingdom and the United States (unlikely as the defenders of the status quo are now much better prepared), the opposition to a le Pen government might well be based on the same delegitimizing attacks with which the Trump government has been bludgeoned, and the tactics need only be translated into French. How convenient. Be afraid Madame le Pen, be very afraid.
The choices seem terrifyingly interesting, but to be honest, the same seems true for all current options.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2017; all rights reserved