France: "Le Pen must be defeated"
by Anna Pha The ballot for the French Presidency on May 5 will be between the neo- fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen and right-wing Jacques Chirac. For the first time since World War II, the ultra-right have reached the final presidential ballot. In Paris, Toulouse, Strasbourg and other major cities and towns across France thousands upon thousands of people joined spontaneous anti-Le Pen demonstrations on Sunday when the first round presidential election results became known. Since Sunday, hundreds of thousands more have taken to the streets, as actions continue on a day-to-day basis. Emotions run high. The French Communist Party (FCP), the Communist Youth, trade unions and other left and democratic organisations have taken the initiative in organising actions. Many university and school students have joined in protests. In the shock result the Socialist Party candidate, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, was eliminated from the presidential race, coming third with only 16.3 per cent of the vote. Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the fascist National Front party, came second with 16.95 per cent of votes. The conservative Jacques Chirac topped the poll with 19.71 per cent of the vote. There was a record 16 presidential candidates. The combined vote of the major extreme right candidates rose from 15 per cent in the 1995 elections to a total of 19.3 per cent. The combined vote for right-wing candidates (including Chirac), as against extreme right of Le Pen, was 32.69 per cent, down from 39 per cent in 1995. As a result, the parties of the right and the extreme right have between them gained 53 per cent of votes in the first round presidential elections. The parties of the left suffered a serious setback, not only with a significantly reduced vote but also a very split vote with a record number of candidates standing. The Communist Party in particular saw its vote reduced by 5.25 per cent to only 3.37 per cent in these elections — representing a loss of 1.6 million votes. There was a very high number of abstentions — 28 percent of people eligible to vote did not do so. The Communist Party describes the situation as dangerous and called on all sections of the party to do their utmost to see not only the defeat of Le Pen on May 5 but to ensure he receives as small a vote as possible. "There is no other choice than to ensure the election of Jacques Chirac to avoid that of Le Pen", said National Secretary Marie-Jorge Buffet, addressing the National Council of the FCP on April 23. "The danger is too great", she said. "Le Pen must be defeated." Buffet described the election results as a serious defeat for the party and raised asked why the party did so poorly. Was it in part because of the party's unpopular participation in government with the Socialist Party? Others have questioned the Party's ideological shift over the last decade, which they say has opened the way for Trotskyist and other extreme left-opportunist organisations. As in many other countries the electorate has become very dissatisfied with the failings of both the conservative and social democrat parties. Voters were looking for a genuine alternative to pro-globalisation policies of the two major parties. Le Pen ran a campaign based on racial hatred and xenophobia, and fostered nationalist sentiments. He exploited the frustrations and disillusionment of workers and farmers, promoting anti-European Union, anti globalisation policies. As composer Mikis Theodorakis commented on Le Pen's result, "80 per cent of his voters are farmers, workers, everyday people who suddenly felt unprotected against the wind of globalisation". The left, progressive and democratic forces are now rallying and responding to do their utmost to tightly shut the door on fascism with a resounding defeat of Le Pen on May 5.