The interesting thing about the French presidential elections, which will happen in May, was always who would get into the second round to thoroughly defeat the fascist Marine Le Pen. Depending on who got in with her, France would take divergent paths toward the future.
If the left hadn’t been filled with pig-headed obstinacy, then Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Benoit Hamon would have kissed and made up by now. However, if there’s a chance to split into smaller warring factions, the left will never miss the opportunity. With Benoit Hamon or Jean-Luc Mélenchon as the left candidate, then France could have turned sharply left in repudiation of the current president Francois Hollande’s middling centrism.
Francois Fillon is the Scott Walker of French politics, working in a country with a hard-line secularism. He would have slashed the French state, and burned the country’s welfare systems, in the same way that Scott Walker have turned Wisconsin into an economic basket case. He was the morality candidate, until his own morality suffered a blow under the Penelopegate affair.
Francois Bayrou has dropped out of the race, in favour of the current poll darling Emmanuel Macron, who we’ll get to in a moment. Bayrou is the child of a centrist liberal movement that has spent its powder, and which is dwindling in French politics. After gaining 18% of the vote in the 2007 French election, Bayrou’s party entered the National Assembly with 7.6% of the vote and with three seats. A win for Bayrou, unlikely as it always was, could have re-energized the Democratic Movement party he leads.
And then there is Emmanuel Macron, the ‘radical centrist’ who loves Europe and diversity, and who dares to speak truth to power by admitting that France’s colonialism in Algeria was a crime against humanity. I’ve written too many articles about Macron, and nothing has basically changed. Macron is still the likeliest to get into the 2nd round with Le Pen, and if he does there will be a dust-up with Germany about its policies toward Southern Europe. If Martin Schulz subsequently wins the elections in Germany in September, then the whole of Europe will pivot to the centre-left after a decade or Merkelism.
Each candidate brings different paths to France, and that’s why I said that the most interesting thing about the French election isn’t whether Le Pen will win – she won’t – but who will be the one to beat her. At the moment it looks like Macron, and if he can keep his tongue in check and doesn’t cause too much disaster in his campaign, he’s the one who is most likely to be the next President of The Republic.
This is an important election, and the reverberations across the continent will be large. Europe is at a crossroads, and it is choosing its path this year. And so far, with Gert Wilders appearing to drop like a rock in the Netherlands, it looks like the Anglosphere’s turn to the far-right and fascism will not be repeated in Europe.
We live in interesting times as the tired cliché goes, but as they say to use another equally worn saying, a week is a long time in politics. We’ll all be exhausted by the time the German elections come around.