Sunday, April 22, 2012

2012 French Presidential Election Round One: Political Fragmentation and Rethinking the European Union

Preliminary results for round one of the French Presidential election are emerging. As of Sunday, April 22nd (7:00 PM PDT) the results indicate that Francois Hollande and incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy will move on to the second round.

This election proves that the political landscape in France is extremely fragmented. Together, Hollande and Sarkozy will likely take less than 60% of the total vote. Regardless as to which one of the two eventually becomes President, he will be the first choice of less than one-third of the French electorate (that actually bothered to vote).

Marine Le Pen of the National Front will likely take about 18% of the vote. Jean-Luc Melenchon of the Left Front will likely take about 11% of the vote. Francois Bayrou of the Democratic Movement will likely take about 8% or 9% of the vote.

It is very rare for a Presidential election in a developed-economy, major Western power to have five serious candidates, each of which takes a significant percentage (>5%) of the total vote. The standard model in developed Western powers is the political version of a duopoly. That's noteworthy and signals political fragmentation. The French populace feels alienated and disenfranchised by the current political establishment.

The break-out stars of this election (Le Pen and Melenchon) are very critical of the European integration project (to a degree that would be considered quite radical in several other European Union nation) and that is not a coincidence.

Le Pen wants to take control of monetary policy away from the European Central Bank and return it to the French state. That would necessitate pulling out of the Euro common currency (and presumably returning to the Franc). Le Pen is extremely critical of the Eurozone financial system. She recently said:
"Goldman Sachs topples governments everywhere. [...] Goldman Sachs places its men at the top of Eurozone countries. Goldman Sachs puts its man at the head of the European Central Bank [...] In Greece, Italy, the ECB, oligarchs have taken power." [1]
Melenchon is against the Treaty of Lisbon, one of the foundational documents of the European Union. Melenchon argues that the European Union has been hijacked by technocrats and financial interests and is no longer a democratic project. Melenchon also calls on France to leave NATO.

Even Sarkozy, one of the biggest pro-European integrationists (europhiles in the European jargon) in the world, has taken to nationalism. Sarkozy has threatened to pull France out of the Schengen Area, which allows for greatly relaxed border controls within the EU. Sarkozy took this position as part of his stated policy aim of reducing immigration into France by 50%. Sarkozy likely took this anti-immigrant position in order to stem the loss of voters to Le Pen, the candidate most critical of existing immigration policy.

If this French election is any indication of what we can expect elsewhere on the continent, the European political landscape is in the process of fragmentation and the European populace is seriously rethinking European integration (or at least the form that integration will take).


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