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Majority of French voters have rejected traditional political forces, Left and Right, opting for something new

By Sadhan Mukherjee*
France has won its first battle against ultra-nationalism by electing Emmanuel Macron as President with nearly two-thirds of valid votes. His rival was Marine Le Penn, the ultra-right candidate. After Netherlands, France has thwarted the rightist bid to power in a European country. However, over 25% French voters either abstained or opted for NOTA.
France’s political battle is thus not yet over. The next round is in the offing – the June parliamentary elections (National Assembly - NA) which will decide who will govern France. If the rightist forces are defeated in that election too, France truly will have stalled the “wave” of ultra-nationalism in Europe.
France’s motto of Liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, fraternity) has demonstrated its innate strength that has marked the French politics since the Bastille days. But what sort of a government is France is going to have is the moot question today. Macron’s only one-year-old infant party is a centre party.
The French President has a lot of powers but he does not govern as such. He appoints the Prime Minister (PM) but that PM has to have the confidence of the NA as it can dismiss the PM and force the President to name a new PM. The PM and the NA oversee the day to affairs of the country though the President has considerable authority in regard to national security and foreign policy. All laws passed by the NA require presidential assent and are promulgated by him.
The problem arises when the NA has views opposite to that of the President. It is then a question of a political coexistence between the President on the one hand and the PM and NA on the other. It the latter case the PM and NA wield de facto power. But when the majority of the NA supports the President, he can even direct the government policy and replace the administration at will.
The majority of the French voters have rejected both the traditional political forces – the Left and the Right, and opted for something new and unique. They have opted for a change, and they have done so consciously, not swayed by any demagogy or false promises. Educated as they are, they have clearly expressed their choice, unlike in less developed countries.
In a way Kejriwal can be compared to Macron. Voters of Delhi seeking a change rejected the traditional parties and brought Kejriwal to power. But Kejriwal has not been able to remain true to voters expectations, due to many factors including the fact that his government does not have full power to govern Delhi which is a union territory. The same will apply figuratively if the next French government is not in tune with the President.
One cannot write off the Left or the Rightist in France notwithstanding the debacles they have suffered in the forthcoming National Assembly elections. There are 577 members in the French National Assembly and they are elected also in a two-tier voting. By 19 May candidates will declare their candidacy. In the first round of votes on 10 June, any candidate who gets an absolute majority of valid votes cast but not less than 25% of the registered voters will be elected.
In the second round, only those first round candidates who have obtained votes totalling at least 12.5% of registered voters are permitted to contest. If no candidate meets this condition, then two candidates who have got highest number of votes in the first round is allowed to contest and who among them wins a relative majority is elected.
In the French Presidential election, capitalism has won and the Left lost its lustre. One thing is quite clear. The socialist system of economy which came into existence in 1917 has lost its strength and is virtually eliminated within 100 years. But the capitalist economy survived due to its capacity to renovate itself. The new format of capitalism is globalisation.
It is at the same time true that the toiling poorer people find a lot of difficulties in globalisation that overrules national economies. They also become impacted by adverse and false propaganda which already resulted in Brexit. But obviously in France, it did not work in the same way and the ultra-nationalism was subdued by cooperation and openness, at least in the presidential election. Even in France, 25% of voters did not vote and the ultra right got 33% votes. The workers and the poorer sections of people in France did vote in large numbers for Le Penn, and they truly thought that Macron represents capitalism. However, the French presidential vote was not really between the Left and the Right.
Now France’s destiny will really be decided by who or which group wins majority in the National Assembly and on that will depend what sort of a government the new President will have. Will it be a Centre-Left or Centre-Right government? If the adversarial groups win majority, Macron will have great difficulty in running France.
As in our country, many political parties vie with each other to come to power; so also is in France. Already there are two new parties, LO (Workers Struggle) which is an anti-capitalist party, and FI (ultra-left party) in the French political arena. Besides there are the French Communist Party, Socialist Party, En Marche of Macron in combination with Democratic Movement (MoDem), The Republicans and its allies, Union of Democrats and Independents (UDI), DLF- a Gaullist Party, and the National Front of Le Penn.
According to an opinion poll, in the first round of votes, EM and MoDem together can win over 26% votes giving them 249-286 seats, UDI 22% with 200-210 seats. But one opinion poll gives Socialist Party and its allies over 29% votes and 280 seats. This indicates that France is likely to have a Centre –Left government.
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*Veteran journalist

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