The Guardian • Issue #1995

Far-right surges as French elections draw near

With the French presidential elections little over two months away, the first round scheduled for the 10th April, polls show a surging far right and a historically weak left.

Despite a disapproval rating of fifty-eight per cent, French President Emmanuel Macron is favoured to win re-election for a second and final term, despite not yet officially announcing his intention to seek re-election.

“There is no false suspense. I want to,” Macron said.

“Once the health situation allows it and I have made everything clear – inside myself and with respect to the political equation – I will say what it (the decision) is.”

Politico’s most recent poll of first-vote intentions places President Macron clearly in front with twenty-four per cent support, followed by far-right Marine Le Pen with seventeen per cent, Valérie Pécresse of the right-wing party The Republicans with sixteen per cent, and far-right media pundit Éric Zemmour with fourteen per cent.

This shows not only a strong support for the right, but a significant increase in the support of the far-right with the emergence of Zemmour as a far-right opponent to Le Pen.

While both Macron and Pécresse have adopted far-right vocabulary and policy in an attempt to win far-right voters, this has done little to stave off the far-right itself, strengthened by the entry and popularity of Zemmour.

Zemmour, likening himself to Boris Johnson, has proposed an election strategy of “an alliance of the working class and that part of the patriotic bourgeoisie who wish to restore French sovereignty and defend an identity tragically under threat.”

An extreme nationalist, Zemmour has pledged “zero immigration,” claiming politics is now a clash of civilisations between “Islam and the Christian world in Europe.”

Zemmour was recently found guilty of hate speech and fined €10,000 by a Paris court for a TV appearance in September 2020 where he referred to unaccompanied migrant children as “thieves,” “rapists,” and “murderers.”

Zemmour is considered to represent the more outwardly and extreme far-right as compared to his rival Le Pen who carried out a “de-demonisation” program of the National Front to make the fundamentally far-right party seem less radical and more appealing.

Zemmour draws support from wealthier voters, while Le Pen draws support from disenfranchised and reactionary elements of the traditional working class.

In comparison, the left-wing is historically weak and divided.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon of La France Insoumise leads the left in polls with ten per cent of support, followed by Yannick Jadot of The Greens with five per cent, Christiane Taubira as a “unity left” candidate of the 2022 French People’s Primary with four per cent, Fabien Roussel of the French Communist Party with three per cent, and Anne Hidalgo of the Socialist Party with three per cent.

This represents not only a decline in support for the French left, but highlights the continued collapse of the Socialist Party, the social-democratic party that has been the traditional opposition in France since the Second World War.

In contrast, Roussel’s election campaign is the first from a Communist Party candidate since 2007, when the Party gained two per cent of the vote. The French Communist Party is seeking to preserve its relevance and assert its independence after supporting Mélenchon in 2017.

Sensing the upcoming defeat, activists organised a “Popular Primary” that called on candidates to sign up to a “Common Ground” charter of ten measures surrounding the environment, social justice, and democratic reforms.

While 300,00 people joined the group, Mélenchon, Roussel, Jadot, and Hidalgo refused to participate, making the election of Taubira and her subsequent campaign only serve to further fracture the left’s support base.

Yet with polls indicating the entire support base of the fractured left accounts for only twenty-five per cent of all voter intentions, it’s clear that the French left’s issues go beyond disunity.

It is unlikely that any current left-wing candidate could win the second round of the election even if they managed to make it past the first round.

As the decay of French capitalism continues, the left must struggle fiercely to win the support of the working classes in the face of rising fascism.

The Guardian can also be viewed/downloaded in PDF format. View More