23/04/2017

URGENT: ELECTIONS



Dans The Observer ce matin :

"The fourth most prominent candidate, the hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, is occupying space surrendered by the Socialist party, whose campaign has been lamentable. That surrender has much to do with the abject failure of the Socialist presidency of François Hollande. But the increase in support for Mélenchon also reflects a deep yearning across the country for a different, better, more equitable way of running things. How he fares will be closely watched by the Labour party. His performance will be taken as a possible indication of Jeremy Corbyn’s fate in June. In France, as in Britain, the desire for change is palpable. How that desire is expressed says a lot about the sort of countries we have become."



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The Observer view on the French presidential election


After months of political shocks, high-profile scandals and fraught campaigning, the outcome of France’s presidential election remains clouded in uncertainty, but the potentially momentous consequences of today’s first-round vote, for the French, for Europe and for Britain, are clear.
It is often said at election time that this or that country is at a crossroads. On this occasion, this platitude has the ring of truth. With voters apparently split four ways, and with up to one-third undecided on the eve of the poll, this divided country, crying out for change yet uncertain how to achieve it, is undoubtedly at a turning point.

There is no shortage of choices. On the far right stands Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National, whose skilful drive to transform her father’s neo-fascist fringe group into a credible and respectable party may be about to bear fruit. Le Pen has focused on immigration, borders and sovereignty. Aping Donald Trump, she says she wants to put France first. In his usual arrogant way, the US president effectively endorsed Le Pen last week, calling her the “strongest” candidate. Such blatant interference is insufferable. His approval is as good a reason as any for not voting for her. There are plenty of others. Scrabbling for last-minute converts, Le Pen vows to close borders to immigrants. Last week’s terrorist attack in Paris, in which a gunman sympathetic to Islamic State killed a policeman and injured others, may help firm up support, although other terrorist outrages have not had a major impact on voter behaviour. The French have shown admirable resilience in the face of these horrors. But the attack will be exploited by those on the right who decry what they see as the dangers of Anglo-Saxon multiculturalism.
The threat represented by Le Pen stretches far beyond France’s borders. In a post-Brexit, post-Trump world of crude, populist reaction, Le Pen has become the European standard bearer for divisive nationalism, xenophobia and the fear of others. Her advance has encouraged like-minded emulators in Germany. Despite its leadership problems, the far-right Alternative für Deutschland is on the march. So, too, are other rightwing factions across Europe. If elected, Le Pen’s promised withdrawal from the euro and her possible championing of “Frexit” would be potentially fatal for the EU in a way that Brexit is not.

A Le Pen victory would be a disaster all round and there can be little doubt that Theresa May’s government, or its successor, would find either of the other two leading candidates a more congenial partner. Despite his faux-insurgent posturing, Emmanuel Macron, a former economy minister from an elite background, is the sort of French politician London is accustomed to dealing with. Macron is described as a centrist of the left, youthful, modernising, liberal on social issues, Anglophone, with a technocratic background. That makes him more of a Tony Blair than a Theresa May. He could be expected to take a rational, not overtly hostile approach to the Brexit negotiations.
François Fillon, the centre-right’s candidate, is harder to evaluate, if only because he has chopped and changed during the campaign. He has supposedly enjoyed a bit of a comeback since his low point this year over his alleged abuse of public funds, the subject of a criminal inquiry. In the process, he has modified his austerity agenda. As official candidate of the republican right, Fillon has the experience and the backing of an established parliamentary and electoral machine. As campaigning ended, Macron was ahead. But if Fillon can push him aside to reach the 7 May second round, two-candidate run-off, these advantages could make him a more effective opponent for Le Pen.
The fourth most prominent candidate, the hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, is occupying space surrendered by the Socialist party, whose campaign has been lamentable. That surrender has much to do with the abject failure of the Socialist presidency of François Hollande. But the increase in support for Mélenchon also reflects a deep yearning across the country for a different, better, more equitable way of running things. How he fares will be closely watched by the Labour party. His performance will be taken as a possible indication of Jeremy Corbyn’s fate in June. In France, as in Britain, the desire for change is palpable. How that desire is expressed says a lot about the sort of countries we have become.

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