The collapse of the French left





France elects its next president this Sunday in elections in which, if what the polls predict is true, the left is headed for a historic debacle. None of the five candidates of the bloc, six if the environmentalist party is included, seems to convince an electorate much less mobilized than that of the right in elections that, according to the polls, will reap a record abstention rate.

The Socialist Party, which only five years ago presided over the Republic, has plummeted to 2% in voting intentions for its candidate in these presidential elections, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo. Among the rest of the block, only highlights Jean-Luc Mélenchon, candidate of La Francia Insumisathe only one that exceeds two figures in the polls with an average of 14.7%, a result that would be five points below the one obtained in the 2017 presidential elections.

What happens to the French left? “They themselves have been asking this question for a few elections”, explains to RTVE.es the professor of Political Science at the URJC Irene Sánchez Vitores. On the one hand, she mentions the obvious fragmentation of the bloc, since “division is not usually a good cover letter for elections”, but also the impossibility of the left to find a political project that it can defend in a political context. current. “You missing a message that can work well, because some issues for the left are clearly uncomfortable and immigration is one of them. For the left in general and the French left in particular”, he adds.

“They accumulate claims, but they don’t even know how to respond to them, or what the priorities should be,” says researcher Héctor Sánchez Margalef in a note from CIDOB. In addition, he points out the lack of a sufficiently charismatic and transversal leadership in a left that “has not been able to draw a future” where it integrates an increasingly diverse electorate with different problems and priorities.

Jorge Tamames, a researcher at the Elcano Royal Institute points to a “right-wing” of French society which is reflected in the results of opinion polls in recent years. “The question is to what extent this has to do with the political preferences of the people or with the topics of the debates,” he explains to RTVE.es. In the French electoral campaigns the national identity, security and immigration issues and inflation are recurring. They are also being so in these elections and they provoke “a framework of debate that favors the positions of the right and especially the radical right.”

You also have to take into account who the bloc’s voters are now and the fact that the French far-right is attracting part of a traditionally left-wing electorate. It occurs, for example, in regions of the north of the country plagued by deindustrialization, where Marine Le Pen’s party, Agrupación Nacional, has managed to attract the popular classes. “It is not that the extreme right always attracts working-class voters, but that Le Pen has made an explicit commitment to defend measures with a certain workerist character“, something that has also fractured part of the electoral base of the left.

Insufficient support beyond fragmentation

The left-wing bloc arrives at these elections strongly divided. The popular primaries organized by independent activists at the beginning of the year with the aim of choose an applicant who would combine the support of the different forces. None of the main candidates and parties committed themselves to the process, and when former socialist minister Chistine Taubira, who was not attached to any party, emerged victorious, one more candidacy ended up being created among the existing ones that finally did not obtain the necessary support to enter. in the race to the Elysee.

If we add the percentages of its six candidates, the left vote represents around 30% of the total. However, joining forces is not an easy task in a block characterized by its heterogeneity. “There are different sensitivities, even within the same bloc, ranging from a reformist center-left to a very radical left,” says Tamames. Many of these voters do not agree with each other and while some would opt for a centrist option like Macron, who already captured votes from the left in 2017, others would opt for a radical leftist candidate, like Mèlenchon or Fabien Rousel.

However, it should be remembered that fragmentation is not an exclusive characteristic of the left and that the French right is also deeply divided. “The difference is that it has three candidates with the possibility of exceeding 10% according to the polls,” Andrés Santana, professor and coordinator of the Department of Political Science at the Autonomous University of Madrid, tells RTVE.es.

At some point, all of them have considered the possibility that it could go to a second round, something that has not happened among the candidates on the left beyond Mélenchon. “What matters most is the under left support as a wholeand above all the Socialist Party, which is leading a debacle in the presidential elections”, argues Santana.

The left-wing electorate arrives unmotivated at elections that will be marked, according to polls, by a high abstention rate of around 30%. The parties that choose to represent them have not been able to find their space, nor project an identity discourse with which to make a difference. “When there is emptiness, the right dominates”, exposes RNE Juan Branco, a French political activist. “When there is no political discourse, conservative forces dominate who want to preserve the system as it is,” he adds.

The worst result of the French Socialist Party

The polls warn that France is not Paris and that the candidate of the Socialist Party, Anne Hidalgo, who won the 2020 municipal elections and was re-elected as mayor of the capital, will not suffer the same fate in the presidential elections. they survey them they predict an insignificant 2% in voting intention which places the socialist below the bet of the French Communist Party, Fabien Roussel (3.5%) or the environmentalist Yannick Jadot (6%). Hidalgo would only be ahead of the two far-left candidates, Nathalie Arthaud, of the Workers’ Struggle, and Philippe Poutou, of the New Anti-Capitalist Party.

Meanwhile, the formation survives at the regional and municipal level, it fails to come back in a presidential election in which Macron still seems to monopolize the useful vote against the extreme right. The divergence between some elections and others occurs because these traditional parties, explains Tamames, “they have an infrastructure that the new formations do not havebecause many times they are a movement around a person, as in the case of Macron”.

Furthermore, in the French case, “territorial policy is much more personalistic and the candidates are closely linked to their territory“, exposes Sánchez Vitores. It can happen, therefore, that a political brand is not necessarily voted for, but rather the candidate himself. “This has allowed that in some territories, although the political brand was devalued, the party survived.”

However, at the national level the situation is very different. The last socialist president before the Macron era, François Hollande, lost popularity after a series of personal scandals and economic policies that were not well received by the left-wing electoral base. In fact, the former president chose not to stand for re-election which seemed unlikely. “There was a great disenchantment with Hollande’s presidency and since then the Socialist Party has not been able to get off the ground,” says Santana.

The double lap system could play its part in the low percentage of votes of the Socialist Party. “In some way it privileges candidates with a certain chance of competing in the second round, and having fallen below Mélenchon and well below Macron in the polls, some may think that the only one worth voting for is the candidate of The Untamed France”. It becomes, says the expert, a kind of “self-fulfilling prophecy”.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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