Ivan Blot, Former member of French and European parliament; “Rethinking Russia” expert
The ongoing presidential race reveals the decay of the old parties. The result is a rebuke to the mainstream socialist and conservative political parties. Benoît Hamon of the Socialist Party has been trounced into fifth with 6.5%. François Fillon of the Republicans came third with only 19.8% of the votes. He did better than the Socialist Party candidate, but that is not the electoral strength to be expected from the coalition of the right wing and the centrists.
The new Social Democratic party represented by Emmanuel Macron of the En Marche! (Forward) movement topped the first round with 23.8% of votes. It is a positive result for President François Hollande, who suggested the evolutionary strategy, with the former socialist statist party transforming into a new social-democratic party.
The National Front, in a way a political novice, took the highest score ever exceeding its previous results by 1 million votes as its presidential candidate Marine Le Pen won 21.7%. The opinion polls suggest a second-round victory for Macron by 62% to 38%. That is to say that the National Front alone enjoys the backing of 40% of the electorate.
The Republicans mistakenly appealed to their constituents to cast their vote for Macron. As a result, the conservative vote consolidated around Le Pen. Besides, this party’s core constituency includes the rich and the senior, which is insufficient to expand the electoral base.
The National Front untapped the reservoir of support among the young, with 45% of those under 25 casting their ballot for Le Pen. It proves that in the years to come the National Front will build up its electoral strength while the Republicans will be losing the support of the French.
The unprecedented division of the French society into two classes is somewhat reminiscent of the 19th century landscape. The new class warfare is no longer waged between employers and employees. The French society is split into those who reap substantial benefits from globalization and those who suffer from mass migration, an ever-increasing crime rate, and rising unemployment. And the latter group has been growing in size.
The two groups are antagonistic towards each other. The cosmopolitan bourgeoise places heavy emphasis on economic matters rather than migration, crime rates or unemployment. Meanwhile, 25% of those under 25 are jobless. While the subordinate classes feel neglected and scorned by the establishment, the oligarchy denounces poorer citizens as racists, calling them narrow-minded and reactionary people.
Marine Le Pen proposes amending the Constitution, thus providing for Swiss-style popular initiatives in France. Thus, the establishment will seem aware of the people’s aspirations. By contrast, Macron seeks to maintain the oligarchic system, with power concentrated in the hands of the state, trade unions, and the media. Therefore, oligarchic and democratic forces, as well as cosmopolitan elites and patriots, are jostling for power in France. While the National Front follows Charles de Gaulle’s policies, the Republicans and the Social Democrats are committed to globalization, the non-elected European Commission, and the US. As regards foreign policy issues, the National Front, unlike the Social Democrats, favors better relations with the West and Russia.
Thus, the French political map is being rapidly redrawn. If the National Front is defeated in the run-off, the country will further endure hardships, with Hollande’s policies adding to France’s strain. The National Front has good chances of winning government power in the medium term.