Written by : Rabbani Khan
Photo credit : Shutterstock.com
Still unknown a few months before the 2017 presidential elections, Emmanuel Macron emerged victorious by crushing Marine le Pen in the second round. His arrival as the head of the State has allowed him to write a new story in French politics. Indeed, he managed to break out of the “right or left” political divide and establish himself as someone “neither right nor left”. Manuel Valls, former prime minister of the left, Jean Yves le Drian, former minister of the left, Jean Paul Delevoye, former minister of the right, Alain Madelin, former minister of the right, Daniel-Cohn Bendit, former member of European Parliament representing Green Alliance, François Bayrou, former minister of the centre, Gérard Collomb, former senator and mayor of the left, Richard Ferrand, former MP of the left, were the main supporters of Emmanuel Macron. This idea of taking the good things from the right and the left has indeed seduced a large number of French people. But it would not have been enough if the mandates of Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande met the expectations of urban middle class. In addition, several other factors helped Emmanuel Macron to emerge victorious from this presidential election, such as the birth of a desire for change among French voters, who since the beginning of the Fifth Republic have seen the right and the left share the keys of the Elysée Palace, the failure of Jean Luc Mélenchon to bring the left together, the tarnished image of François Fillon because of the scandal relating to his wife’s fictitious employment.
Despite the fact that Emmanuel Macron was an advisor to the Elysée Palace in the first part of François Holland’s presidency, then the finance minister of Manuel Valls government which was one of the main actors of economic reform of right-wing nature, but he did come out as the winner in the first round followed by Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front Party. The debacle of Marine Le Pen during the debate before the second round and call for a barrage against the Front National resulted in a landslide victory for Emmanuel Macron. The momentum continued and Macorn’s LERM party won the legislative election with a comfortable majority.
Just a few months before the first round of 2022 presidential elections, is the identity of Emmanuel Macron still sufficient to seduce French voters to elect him for the second time ?
The results of the departmental and regional elections one year before the presidential elections may indeed worry Emmanuel Macron’s camp. LERM party did not win any single metropolitan region. Worse, it has relegated to the back seat failing to play the role of arbiter. One can blame the voters for not turning out to vote, making abstention the biggest winner of these elections. However, Emmanuel Macron’s movement did not manage to impose itself locally. The right and the left, on the other hand, showed a good sign in these elections. However, the internal conflicts surrounding the candidacy in both camps may put a smile on Emmanuel Macron’s face.
The Republicans (LR), the main representative of the right, decided not to go through the primaries, but rather choose the candidate through a congress. Can the left, strongly divided by the choice of the Socialist party, the Unsubmissive France of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and the Ecologists, present a common candidate ? If so, this alliance will not please the President of the Republic.
Key questions about Macron’s tenure as President :
In the 2017 legislative elections, the French people confided their trust in Emmanuel Macron by allowing his LERM party to form a government with an imposing majority in the lower house of the parliament. So what happened in the following years for the latter’s political party LREM to have experienced such a failure in the 2021 departmental and regional elections?
Called by a large section of the French population “the President of the rich”, Emmanuel Macron may have failed to make them change their mind. Although his government has provided a certain amount of financial respite to the people during the coronavirus pandemic in spite of initial mismanagement before and after the first wave, the impact of various reforms which have been put to the test during his five-year term will determine his future.
The poor and lower middle class white French people who are part of “Yellow Vest Movement” consider themselves as victims of violent repression in the hands of state machineries managed by an authoritarian Emanuel Macron.
The union-led street protests and strikes against the French government’s reform plans on the national pensions system has further put Macron in the ranks of right with his neoliberal economic agenda.
The emergence of the Islamic State and terrorist attacks by the radical islamist groups on the French soil and immigration from Muslim countries from the war-torn countries in the Middle-East and Sub-Saharan Africa along with Afghanistan have heightened right-wing sentiment in the French society. It is alleged that the anti-separatism bill adopted by the French Parliament in July 2021 will accentuate the process of demonisation of the Muslim population by the far-right in the French political landscape.
Who is the real ambassador of the far-right ?
After her 2017 defeat, Marine Le Pen has changed the name of party from National Front (FN) to National Rally (RN) for an image makeover from her father Jean Marie Le Pen’s dubias past, with an intent of making herself acceptable to a larger section of the French population as a moderate. But her conflicts with Jean-Marie Le Pen and her niece Maréchal Le Pen have weakened the core base of the political dynasty. It is to be noted that in spite of a barrage against her, Marine Le Pen received 33.90% of votes in the second round of the presidential elections, the highest ever secured by FN in the past.
An alternative extreme right with Eric Zemmour?
Eric Zemmour is a French political journalist, columnist and writer, known for his inappropriate remarks about the Muslims living in France, immigration, who raised questions about their names which he considers are not French, thus lacking the spirit of integration. Despite being a child of a Jewish Algerian immigrants, he propagates controversial views notably that French Jews were protected by the state during World War Two although it is a historical fact that France’s Vichy regime sent thousands of French Jews as well as Jewish refugees to the Nazi death camps.
Although he has not declared himself as a candidate yet, he finds himself rising in the opinion polls. The association “Friends of Eric Zemmour ” also seems to be very active to make him a presidential candidate. The collection of signatures necessary to become a candidate is said to be underway. This is very bad news for Marine Le Pen. Indeed, French voters, who used to vote for her party, see a division within their group. Some of them put Eric Zemmour ahead of Marine Le Pen. Therefore, to say that an alternative extreme right is emerging would not be totally wrong. Eric Zemmour’s candidacy could also interest a number of people on the traditional right who are disenchanted by its lack of potential leadership.
(The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Multidimension’s editorial stance.)
About the author :
Town Councillor at Stains Town Hall
Law student, University of Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas
Founder & Director : French with Rabbani – OFIORA