French Election 2012 Veer Far Right

Yesterday, a group on Facebook dedicated to mocking the Right wing in France – including Nicolas Sarkozy’s own UMP Party – posted a status update, encapsulating the attitude in France with regards to Sunday’s poll: “People that are suffering in France, please take 2 aspirin every 6 hours instead of voting for the Far Right every 5 years.”

It would certainly be amusing if it were not so very true.

However, such is the nature of politics in France that in the aftermath of the first round of voting, no new policies have come forth, no fresh ideas shared or manifestos unveiled but, instead, there was an unseemly scramble for Far Right votes.

With the contest entering its final stage, the race is officially on for the far right votes of Marine Le Pen. Both François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy are vying for the 20% vote-share of the Front National. Today, Hollande said: “I must speak to them,” putting their voting choice down to “social anger.” Nicolas Sarkozy did the same routine. Speaking to the press he sought to empathize with Far Right voters, exclaiming that he “respect their cry of suffering.”

Indeed, they “respect” and “must listen to” the 20% of French voters who chose to vote for a party which advocates racial discrimination and forced returns of supposed all immigrants. These voters have chosen to make as their party of choice, one that is profoundly xenophobic, regressive and – in many instances – utterly contradictory in political philosophy to France’s principle of Liberté, Égalité and Fraternité.

Paradoxically, it is now not the majority of the French people who will decide the forthcoming election but the voters of the Far Right, or to be precise the 6,421,773 of them. They can decide to keep Sarkozy or bring in Hollande. Welcome to France’s Ohio, Florida or Iowa; but instead of swing states, they have “swing-people.” As soon as the election results were announced, the two remaining candidates immediately sallied forth into political no man’s land, to pander and please, to promise and pledge, and to convince the Far Right electorate that they are the ones for the job.

Admittedly a majority of those voting for the Far Right in France do so out of desperation or alienation from the mainstream political system. They also do so as a vote of protest or as Sarkozy alluded to: “A cry for help.” There are concerns many feel have not been raised by the main candidates, namely issues pertaining to immigration and security, Europe and national identity. Although not central to the campaign these are concerns many French people want more debate on. However, when none is forthcoming, a minority express their displeasure by voting for the only party that talks about this, almost non-stop: the Front National (FN).

What is the solution? Does France now have to endure the election swinging to the right? The answer is yes. The electoral math dictates that Sarkozy needs those voters in order to squeak through and win by the smallest of margins; whereas Hollande needs to tempt either to abstain or to vote for him to counter a Sarko-comeback.

The least that can be said about France’s presidential election right now is that optimistic idealism is out and cynical politicking is in. Maybe, after all, this is what real politics is about, namely: the win.

On a final note, according to election information; it is now apparent that 569 French voters residing in Morocco voted for Marine Le Pen and her National Front Party. The irony is staggeringly entertaining and face-palm-head-desk worthy. 

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Will Birch

Specialising in Maghreb affairs, William has lived and traveled throughout the MENA region.

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