May 01, 2022

French Presidential Election: Three-Way Fight

EMMANUEL Macron has been elected president of France defeating the neo-fascist Marine Le Pen in the presidential run-off election. While Macron got 58.5 per cent of the vote, Le Pen received 41.5 per cent vote.

There is relief in France and Europe that the far-right Le Pen has been stopped from capturing the key executive position in the country. But it is also a fact that this was a run-off contest between a “president of the rich” and a candidate of the neo-fascist far-right. 

Given this choice, the turnout was one of the lowest in recent times with 28 per cent of the eligible voters not turning up to cast their ballot; another 6.35 per cent cast blank ballot while 2.25 per cent spoiled their ballots. The mainstream and global corporate media have had posed this election as between a moderate Macron and a far-right, ultra-nationalist Le Pen.

But this does not depict the real political picture in France today. There were actually three political forces at play – the neo-liberal rightwing candidate posing as a centrist, i.e., Macron and his party En Marche; the far-right, neo-fascist Marine Le Pen and her party, National Rally; and the radical Left represented by Jean Luc Melenchon and his movement, La France Insoumise. In the first round of the election Macron had got 27.85 per cent of the vote; Le Pen got 23.15 per cent.  Melenchon got 21.95 per cent of the vote and narrowly missed getting into the first round by beating Le Pen.  He improved over his 2017 presidential election performance, when he had polled 19.6 per cent. 

During his five year term as president, Macron had pursued nakedly pro-corporate, pro-rich policies. He cut taxes for the rich and heaped burdens on the working people. He took away hard-won labour rights and unleashed repression on the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) movement.

Melenchon, fighting on a Left platform, polled over 7.7 million votes drawing support from the substantial sections of the working class, youth and racial and religious minorities. If the French Communist Party and the two Trotskyite party candidates had not contested (they got only 2.3 per cent and less than one per cent each respectively), Melenchon could have displaced Le Pen and emerged as the contender in the run-off. 

After the first round, Melenchon called for not a single vote to be cast for Le Pen but refused to endorse Macron. This was the correct class approach to the fight between an anti-working class neo-liberaliser and a neo-fascist.

The political situation cannot be, therefore, accurately summed up by only looking at the narrow electoral framework of the run-off contest.

Macron has won, despite his unpopular policies, only because a large section of people did not want the reactionary far-right to come to power.  At the same time, the threat from the neo-fascist forces is real as Le Pen could poll over 41 per cent vote on a far-right platform.

The Left will play an important role in the coming days in the fight against the neo-liberal regime and the neo-fascist forces.  La France Insoumise should be able to take the lead to unite all the Left forces and to put up a credible fight in the forthcoming parliament election. 

(April 27, 2022)