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French Election 2017: Who’s in pole position?

With the rise of communism in Europe happening in an era of industrialisation, in the late 1800s, French politics followed suit. Several left-wing parties sprung up and soon after the Communist Party, the Greens, the Parti De Gauche and most successfully the French Socialist Party (PS) were all established. Since 2011 a revival has occurred with support for PS bringing Francoise Hollande into power. The 2016 election however is showing signs of a dramatic U-turn which is being capitalised on by Marine Le Penn, inciting UKIP style hate and fear across France. This is following the recently established UK/U.S model for politics, the disappearance of the left. The sum support for all the leftist parties of France, in current poles, don’t reach even a third of the electorate. The PS is set to lose 28 Departments of the 96 available in France, half of those the party only gained in 2011, marking the end of their brief resurgence.

France is only following the example of its Europe cousins with the FBO in Austria only being narrowly beaten by the Greens in recent polls and the Dutch Party for Freedom, led by the right wing populist Geert Wilders, was the third largest party in the Netherlands in 2010. The inevitability of people turning to the right during times of economic hardship is realised again and again. We saw Europe turn right in the early thirties, again in the crash of the eighties and now once more. The success of the right-wing stems from their quick fix policies. It is quick to break ties with the EU, withdraw from NATO and give in to savage austerity (Marine Le Penn’s dream) which can look like progress. It is slower to nationalise industries, bring better quality of life or integrate with unions.

In the Republican party primaries Francois Fillon, who received almost no attention from the French media, rose out of obscurity to defeat his rival Alain Juppe. In the year of poll shocking elections, are any of us really surprised? Fillon is being praised by many as a saviour from the French Farage, an easier pill to swallow, the better of two evils. Fillon doesn’t share Le Penn’s anti-EU stance. He stands for better integration as a liberal way to solve the tensions between countries and he demands that Europe tries to bring down the hypothetical new Berlin wall which separates Russia from the EU, for a more cohesive international policy. His policies are not all globally minded however, he applauds the West’s stance on Syria and justifies Europe’s reign of terror by colonisation stating that, “France is not guilty of having wanted to share its culture with the peoples of Africa.” Closer to home, Fillon’s austerity policies are proving harder to accept for many, in a country where a fifth of employees are civil servants, his plans for 500,000 job cuts in the public sector is harming his popularity.

The France of today epitomises the current political sentiment of the developed world. In the UK we currently have one dominant party and an unelected head of state. France have more choice but with the Socialist party falling to a 4 percent satisfaction rate, a rise in headline snatching terror attacks and the National Front seeing a doubling of support since 2011, it looks like the left are in for a tough few years. We must all just hope that Fillon’s popularity doesn’t buckle under the rhetoric of Le Penn and that France can buck the trend of dangerous isolationism.

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