Mainstream politicians are giving up on the old ways of battling the far rightby Jonathan Derbyshire / December 11, 2015 / Leave a comment
In June 2013, the French Parti Socialiste (PS) lost a parliamentary by-election in Villeneuve-sur-Lot in the southwest of France. The PS had been defending the seat previously occupied by Jérôme Cahuzac, the former budget minister who was forced to resign from the government of François Hollande in April of that year after a financial scandal.
In the first round of voting, their candidate, Bernard Barral, was beaten into third place by Etienne Bousquet-Cassagne of the far-right Front National (FN). The FN lost the second-round run-off to the centre-right UMP (since re-named Les Républicains), but Bousquet-Casssagne claimed an “ideological victory” nevertheless, while his party leader, Marine Le Pen, declared: “The so-called ‘republican front’ is dead.” She was referring to the cross-party appeal to anti-FN voters of right and left that had seen her father, Jean-Marie, crushed by Jacques Chirac in the 2002 presidential run-off.
At the time, I wrote the following: “In truth, the republican front has been on life-support for several years, since Nicolas Sarkozy won the presidency in 2007 after a campaign in which he’d tacked right on the FN’s favourite topics of immigration and national identity.” Today, after the first round of voting in France’s regional elections, in which the FN took the lead in 6 of 13 mainland regions (excluding overseas regions in which the FN either didn’t run, or failed to muster the 10 per cent of votes required to advance to the second round), the republican front is dead—although the PS, in desperation, is still trying to reanimate the corpse ahead of this Sunday’s run-off.
Immediately after the first-round of voting ended last Sunday, Sarkozy, now president of the Républicains, announced that his party would not be withdrawing its candidates in regions in which it had finished third behind the PS and FN, or where a combination of PS and Green votes leave the Socialists best placed to challenge the far right. The PS, in contrast, immediately withdrew from the run-offs in Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, where Marine Le Pen and her niece, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, had established commanding first-round leads (40.64 per cent and 40.55 per cent respectively). “When the Republic is at stake,” the Prime Minister, Manuel Valls said, “you don’t hesitate.” (The eastern region of Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine is…