Monday, June 12, 2017

Big Story from the First Round of French Vote: Low Turnout

The French polls in the run-up to yesterday's election for the National Assembly ended up being accurate. Emmanuel Macron's En Marche!, according to France24, won 32% of the vote, and is projected to glide to a robust majority in the second round. The Republicans came in second with 22%, followed by the National Front with 13.5% and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s France Unbowed Party with 11%. The Socialists' collapse in the presidential election was confirmed yesterday; the party won only 7% of the vote.

The big story of the first round is the number of no-shows. France24 summarizes:
Commentators however point to one major caveat that comes with this crushing victory: the record-level of abstentions. On Sunday, over half of the voters did not cast their ballot (51.29%).
“To govern properly, it is better to have strong support for a project and to have opposition in parliament rather than in the street. For now, there is neither,“ writes Michel Urvoy in Ouest-France.
L’Humanité regrets the low voter turnout: "A record absention leads to the risk of having a ‘blue Macron’ parliament."
“Emmanuel Macron runs the risk of winning a massive majority, which will be very hard to rein in," warns Cécile Cornudet in the financial daily Les Echos.
The lack of any strong opposition could turn France into a "monarchy", warns Christian Wernicke in Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung: “The irony of this 2017 election is that France is returning to a republican monarchy.”
Alissa Rubin, writing in The New York Times, appears skeptical that Macron can push through his shock doctrine in the National Assembly.
Turnout this year was lower than in the past two legislative elections, 57 percent in 2012 and 60 percent in 2007.
Whatever the outcome, a nation that a year ago seemed to be on the verge of being swept up in an anti-European, anti-immigrant wave has instead rallied behind Mr. Macron, a centrist and unabashed globalist who has called for weakening France’s protective labor laws, changing tax laws and reducing retirement benefits for some workers.
If a majority of Mr. Macron’s candidates win in the runoff, as it appears they will, the election seems to reflect the voters’ readiness to get on with his agenda — at least those who showed up at the polls. The French president needs a majority in the National Assembly to pass legislation. However, France has elected a series of presidents promising to change its labor and pension laws — both Nicolas Sarkozy on the right and François Hollande on the left, for example — only to find their support wane when they tried to follow through.
Rubin misleadingly refers to the French nation rallying behind Macron. How can 30% of the lowest turnout in over 50 years be interpreted as a nation unified?

En Marche! is an impressive propaganda achievement of a terminally ill system. But it is propaganda nonetheless. The low turnout proves the lack of popularity for the same old neoliberal agenda.

It is going to be difficult for the the mainstream organs of opinion to compare En Marche's performance at the polls to Corbyn's Labour. Corbyn brought in a record number of young people, an incredible feat.

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