The Coming French Revolution

Monday, April 17, 2017
By Paul Martin

by Zaki Laidi via Project Syndicate,
ZeroHedge.com
Apr 17, 2017

In a few weeks, France will elect its next president. Given the French executive’s considerable powers, including the authority to dissolve the National Assembly, the presidential election, held every five years, is France’s most important. But the stakes are higher than ever this time.

The two frontrunners are the far-right National Front’s Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, who served as economy minister under Socialist President François Hollande, but is running as an independent. If, as expected, Le Pen and Macron face off in the election’s second round on May 7, it will be a political watershed for France: the first time in 60 years that the main parties of the left and the right are not represented in the second round.

France has not endured such political turmoil since 1958, when, in the midst of the Algerian War, General Charles de Gaulle came to power and crafted the Constitution of the Fifth Republic. That shift, like any great political rupture, was driven by a combination of deep underlying dynamics and the particular circumstances of the moment.

Today is no different. First, the underlying dynamic: the rise, as in most developed countries nowadays, of popular mistrust of elites, feelings of disempowerment, fear of economic globalization and immigration, and anxiety over downward social mobility and growing inequality.

These sentiments – together with the French state’s historical role in fostering national identity and economic growth – have contributed to a surge in support for the National Front. Le Pen’s nationalist, xenophobic message and populist economic policies resemble those of the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Although support for the National Front has been growing for more than a decade, the party has so far been kept out of power by France’s two-round electoral system, which enables voters to unite against it in the second round. And, given the National Front’s inability to make alliances, power has remained in the hands of the main parties of the left and the right, even as France has moved toward a tripartite political system.

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