Whilst Britain absorbs the shock of a parliamentary election which resulted unexpectedly in a hung parliament, France has been holding parliamentary elections of its own. These come a few short weeks after Emmanuel Macron, the ‘insider-outsider’, got himself elected French President.
International reporting of the French parliamentary elections talks grandly of a ‘landslide win‘ by Macron’s party, La Republique en Marche, which together with its MoDem ally is set to win up to 445 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly.
In reality the French parliamentary elections point to the cynicism and disillusion of French voters with their political system. Turnout, admittedly never especially high in parliamentary elections in France, was down to 48.7% compared with 57.2% in the first round in the French parliamentary elections of 2012. Out of this total Macron’s party and its MoDem ally have won 32.3% of the vote. That means that the two parties which support Macron got the support of just 18.47% of the French electorate.
None of this is or should be any consolation to Macron’s opponents. The centre-right Republicans – the party of Sarkozy, Fillon and Alain Juppé – won just under 16% of the vote. The Socialists – the party of François Mitterrand and François Hollande – won just 7.4% of the vote. Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s France Unbowed won just over 11% of the vote.
Marine Le Pen’s National Front (FN) won 13.2% of the vote to emerge as the third largest party in the National Assembly. However this is far below the 21% Le Pen won in the first round of the French Presidential election, and must be a bitter disappointment to her. By all accounts there have been considerable recriminations within the National Front over Marine Le Pen’s failure in the French Presidential election, and this appears to be reflected in the party’s poor electoral showing.
The French political class have by all accounts been congratulating themselves on the skill with which they saw off the twin challenges (as they saw them) of Fillon and Le Pen.
They should be careful. Beneath the cynicism and disillusion there is great anger within French society at the way in which French electoral outcomes have been manipulated. The dismal turnout in this election is a symptom of this. One French student that I know of angrily complained that the choice in the second round of the Presidential election she was presented with amounted to one between “Thatcher” (Macron) and “Hitler” (Le Pen).
She is of course wrong. Emmanuel Macron is no more Margaret Thatcher than Marine Len Pen is Adolf Hitler, but I understand her anger, and I know it is widely shared.
In France cynicism tends to be followed by revolution, and though I make no prediction that that is what is coming, it would not at all surprise me if it did.