I used to be an avid fan of the TV-series House of Cards. Frank Underwood throwing Zoey Barnes under a train seemed to be an apocalyptic caricature of corrupt politics. However, Trump winning against all odds and the UK leaving the EU made me reconsider what I thought twenty-first-century politics were. Two days before the first round of the French presidential elections, I no longer need Netflix to see a political wreckage.
The Australian’s Adam Creighton recently outlined his views on the troublesome political landscape in the lead up to the French election. I cannot disagree with the fact that the stakes are higher than ever in this year’s election, with the appalling 10 per cent unemployment figure showing little signs of improvement, fear of terrorism and a general lack of trust in mainstream politicians. Creighton’s response is that he would give his vote to Marine Le Pen. This is both surprising and disappointing, considering that Independent polling institute Ipsos has noted that the National Front aims at convincing less-educated people who do not have extensive knowledge on politics and economics.
Creighton doesn’t seem concerned about the impact of Le Pen’s economic program on French markets despite acknowledging that “her suggestion France should withdraw from the euro and redenominate its debts in French francs would cause a financial crisis that would make 2008 seem mild”. Should France revert its currency back to francs, it would be greatly depreciate compared to our current currency value. An opportunity for French exports? Not quite since France mainly relies on non-price competitiveness. Equally, the price of our imports would skyrocket, deeply damaging the purchasing power of our citizens. Furthermore, France’s national debt is, without doubt, a concern, but switching back to French francs would cause mayhem in the financial markets, creating a scenario worryingly similar to the Greek government’s debt crisis.
The problems with Le Pen do not stop there. Tribunals summoned Marine Le Pen to court, but she refused to go. The National Front is still fundamentally racist, with a special hatred towards Muslim people. This does nothing for social cohesion and exacerbates confusion and distrust of France’s 7% Muslim population by rendering them guilty by association with Islamist terrorism. There seems to be a belief that the National Front is no longer racist. It is a key focus of Marine Le Pen’s communication campaign that she did her best to kerb the political influence of her father and founder of the National Front. Indeed, he was a Holocaust denier who was prosecuted for his anti-Semitism. But Marine Le Pen is no different, only subtler.
During her last speech, she mentioned the word “immigration” once per minute and associated it to a lexicon, which aims at distilling fear and anger towards immigrants. She wants to suppress the law, which allows people who were born and grew up in France to become French. Instead, only bloodline would determine whether one is a true French or not. Her own sympathisers now fear voicing concern about racism towards Jews and people of colour.
François Fillon, the right-wing candidate, awaits several trials, allegedly owes one million euros to the French government and does not hesitate to court homophobes. On the other side of the political spectrum, prospects do not seem brighter. Benoit Hamon, the candidate of the Socialist Party, which used to have political leadership, is expected to secure a mere seven per cent of votes. On the far-left, Jean-Luc Melenchon, whom the Communist Party support, is neck to neck with the current poll leader, Emmanuel Macron. Macron has a tangible political program with a liberal stance on economics and without a retrograde vision of society. He would thus represent a wind of change in a declining generation of politicians. However, there are concerns that his new political party lacks the voter base needed to secure governing power in Parliament.
With such a dreadful political landscape, there is no doubt the worst may be yet to come.
Update: Emmanuel Macron (23.9 per cent of ballots cast) and Marine Le Pen (21.7 per cent) are finalists of the presidential election. The Socialist Party and Fillon’s party already called for a vote for Macron in the second turn of the elections. His victory is likely, and shows how politicians and voters are aware of the danger of the pro-Russia, Eurosceptic, anti-immigration and economically archaic Marine Le Pen.
Alice Plateau-Holleville studies at the University of Paris-Dauphine
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