French elections… a tragedy for France, a policy nightmare for a united Europe

It is not surprising that the National Rally party, which represents the far-right movement led by Marine Le Pen, came first in the French National Assembly elections held on June 30. This is because the far right across Europe is gradually dominating the political arena.

Perhaps France will become the first key EU country to be controlled by populism after Italy, and then Germany, where the populist right has become the second largest political force, as evidenced by the recent events of the European elections. This means that, as several indicators show, the populist right may completely seize power in the EU in the short to medium term.

Given the central position that France occupies in the European Union and the symbolic significance of what it represents, perhaps the advancement of the French right and its potential victory in the second round of the current elections will be the first step on this path in the political and cultural imagination of modern and contemporary Europe.

In this regard, the factors that we discussed in the first two articles that led to the rise of the populist right and the risk of a totalitarian resurgence that its rise poses for Europe, the French case and its consequences that led and will lead to the polarization between the far right and the left in the current second round of elections and the collapse of the representation of traditional political actors – provide us with a model for studying, on the one hand, the avowed oath, and the issues to which it has wisely invested, between the economic crisis and the questions of identity and cultural values, and, on the other hand, the avowed alternative, the oppositional energy and the role required of French citizens whose origins can be traced to an immigrant background that hinder the rapid domination of the right.

The left and its political forces here represent a model of choice for France, because its discourse and political performance are attractive both within France and on international and regional issues, thus reducing tensions and conflicts in Europe and the Middle East as well.

1- French elections… a crisis of the political system

The results of the French election revealed the profound crisis facing France on two levels:

  • First level: political system

The outcome in all scenarios would lead to a government composed of a political faction opposed to the president that could represent a majority in parliament, which would mean a breakdown in the manifestation of power between the National Assembly (parliament), the government and the president, and the existence of tensions that could lead to political instability. Currently, a consensus between the left-wing faction, which came second in the first round of the elections to the far-right National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen, and the center-right faction led by Emmanuel Macron, indicates that about 214 candidates have withdrawn, which would pave the way for mutual support and prevent the populist right from taking the lead in the elections.

This consensus choice, while affecting the chances of the populist right to easily lead the elections, does not resolve the dilemma of the power crisis, but imposes a new strategy of political and institutional coexistence, which will be difficult given the current situation. There are huge differences in the political and social programs between the left and its various components and the liberal Macron. Instead, the disputes extend to regional and international issues, especially the Russian-Ukrainian war and the aggression in Gaza.

  • Second level: political and social scenes

The elections created a deep polarization between the far right and the far left. This plan has been delayed since French President Emmanuel Macron came to power. In fact, the French president did not wisely invest in existing contradictions and social fears, building on a long political history, like other French politicians who came to power. The populist right at the time.

Macron tried to follow the same strategy after the European elections, since his main bet was to first create divisions among the left-wing elements and then, benefiting from the general impression of the far right, try to face society head-on against the wave of the populist right. However, according to some French writers and experts themselves, reading this book in reality is reckless and does not express an understanding of the trends in French political opinion, which accelerate the creation of a crisis that the political system will witness. be postponed, which could at the same time promote the path to totalitarian power, thus promoting … a sharp social alignment not only in France but throughout Europe.

2) Fear of traditional powers and welcome from right-wing forces such as Russia

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said at a celebration of his party's left wing in Berlin on July 2 that he was in daily contact with the French president via text messages about the current difficult situation and expressed his hope to prevent the formation of a “democratic coalition” government led by a populist right-wing party. Speaking about the common responsibility of Germany and France in European unity, the German foreign minister also expressed concern about the leadership of a party that sees Europe as a problem rather than a solution.

More pointedly, political and media elites in several European countries have expressed a variety of opinions on the French voters' choice between the far right and the left, warning that traditional political values ​​are being seriously harmed and European unity may be damaged.

We are welcomed among the populist right, despite the concerns expressed by European countries about the unfamiliar situation of expressing electoral opinions. In this context, the Italian president called for avoiding demonizing the right, while the Russian media welcomed the results of the first round of elections, which shows that people expect the results of the French elections, in fact, they will directly affect the drawing of the future political map of Europe.

There is a general tension among the European political class, with populist right-wing societies tending to lean moderately left or right. The National Rally is leading in the French election and is likely to win a majority in the second round scheduled for Sunday July 7, suggesting that this political situation could be an incentive for the Alternative for Germany party and other right-wing forces in Europe.

It also promotes collective emotions towards populist trends through investment in communication media and a simple and direct discourse style, in a context where political consciousness has been shaped by cross-border discourse. It is important to emphasize that, both in France and in Germany, new media networks are an effective means for the populist right to reach a wider group through social, political and cultural discourses and slogans that are simplistic in depth but effective in mobilizing the public.

3) Go beyond the implicit consensus among left-wing groups

The French newspaper Le Figaro published an editorial after the results of the first round of elections, calling the election a French tragedy because France faces a dual perspective of political adventurism and institutional blockade. The editorial said that the crisis of the regime has two aspects. In the comparison between the far right and the left, the editorial won, representing the trend and pattern of the media and a group of French liberal elites' fear of the far-right National Rally (RN). The editor-in-chief of the newspaper explained this in the editorial, saying: “The National Front's program is certainly worrying, but on the other hand: anti-Semitism, Islamic leftism, class hatred, financial hysteria, and the New People's Front are carriers of ideologies that will bring shame and destruction to the country.”

This position, opposed by the broad editorial staff of the newspaper, represents an example of the determinants of representation and position formation in the elite and society and forms the basis of the political and cultural debate in France. In general, it has a close relationship with social, economic and cultural policies.

Although the extreme right and left groups or the Popular Front do not differ much from each other on many issues related to the social dimension, such as taxation, retirement age, etc., they are all issues of concern to the general political class. In France, it constitutes an entry point for political actors to create new interactions in the political arena, but it does not completely deviate from the market model, except for some aspects of a social nature in plans and proposals.

But the new Popular Front, composed of Proud France and the French Communist Party, differs fundamentally from the National Rally (RN) led by Marine Le Pen on cultural debates and questions of freedom and pluralism. At its core is the so-called “Islamic left” in France, a characterization previously applied by the Macron government to groups of academic and cultural elites, representing a critical consciousness against the tendency to cloud French political discourse with Islamophobia, and to create a social, cultural and identity crisis in the name of immigration, emigration and the values ​​of the French Republic.

These elites actually expressed a faithful victory for the Enlightenment values ​​of freedom, equality and criticism, but France, due to the accumulation of long-term identity issues and the lack of success in developing social policies that adapt to social diversity, has produced various manifestations of diversity that are seen as the root of crisis and failure, and the crisis lies in the social, economic and cultural policies pursued by France.

Thus, a series of issues related to immigration and migration, another represented by Islam or others, and relations with African and Middle Eastern peoples and societies are manifestations of social, cultural and political dynamics of exclusion and exclusion that concern France and the French model in its totality rather than the components that are themselves excluded or marginalized.

The current crisis of severe polarization between far-right and left-wing groups, and the fear of a possible seizure of power by the populist right, is a manifestation of the general state of anxiety that has prevailed in France over the past decade. Instead of addressing the political, cultural and economic roots of the complex problem, which is narrowed down to its symptoms, manifestations or consequences, there is a fierce competition to produce a discourse that generalizes a state of mutual fear between the components of society and offers a superficial reading of many of the issues that stem from the cultural and identity literature that is concerned with the far right.

The current situation is a manifestation of the irrational dimension of French political life. Therefore, in the current or upcoming elections, the most important aspect to overcome the expansion of the right and its control over power is the need to turn to the rational dimension of French domestic political discourse and study the political roots and economic crisis rather than focusing on cultural and identity aspects and dimensions.

The identity and cultural dimensions, by their very nature, when exploited politically, lead to totalitarianism and social division, while a climate of freedom and pluralism constitutes a state of social enrichment. French cultural, media and political elites need to invest in the legacy of critical rationality and not be guided by right-wing discourses that cater to the public psychology. Moreover, the control of political discourse by slogans and emotions could produce tragedies in the future, if not in the current elections, then in the future, both in France and in Europe.

In summary

We end with this key question: What are the indicators of the French election? What role does immigrant origin or Arab and Islamic countries themselves play in the siege of the far right?

Some observers of the French situation believe that consensus may be a temporary solution to curb the right-wing wave in France, but France is steadily moving towards embracing the populist right. However, truly participating in the process of generating rational political discourse may save France from tragedy or tragedy in the long run. But the opportunism of politicians represented by the French presidential party, who invested in the left to curb the right-wing wave after the failure of the split, may temporarily curb the right, but will cause a profound crisis in the future.

If the far right wins an absolute majority in the second round of elections, Europe will enter a period dominated by right-wing populist forces. Therefore, for those influenced by the far right, in the case of France, the left is considered a rational vision and a practical alternative, both in the second round of elections next Sunday (July 7, 2024) and in the rationalization of political and cultural discourse. Practice what will happen after the second round. This is from a political point of view.

Institutionally, the nature of the political system and its polarization will remain consistent, because if the populist right does not take the top spot, it will become the de facto force of a culturally and politically homogeneous group, and this is the compatibility between the populist right and the Macron group and the left group that may lack. This is a consensus based on momentary interests, but it is a consensus in the context of a democratic system, and perhaps this is a guarantee for the future, even if the totalitarianism of the twentieth century is a product of democracy itself.

The views expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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