Published On: Tue, Apr 1st, 2014

French Socialists Defeated

The French Socialist Party took heavy losses in local elections yesterday with national implications for its leader, President Francois Hollande.

Only two years into his much ballyhooed presidency, Hollande’s popular support seems to be collapsing all around him.

Francois Hollande

As BBC News analyst Hugh Schofield points out: “Seen in the cold light of the next day, the losses suffered by President Hollande’s Socialists are even more cruel than they first appeared. In all, they have lost more than 150 towns and cities of more than 9,000 inhabitants. True, Paris has stayed pink. But then Paris is different. And when you look at the suburbs (where after all more “Parisians” actually live), they have swung to the UMP like the rest of the country.”

While the center-right UMP has made significant gains in the suburbs, the far-right National Front (NF) drew strong support in the provinces.

Marine Le Pen’s National Front won control of 11 towns of more than 9,000 inhabitants, most of which are in the south, including France’s second largest city, Marseille, with 150,000 inhabitants.

In Paris, the socialists retained control by electing the city’s first female mayor, Anne Hidalgo, the granddaughter of a Spanish revolutionary.

But the overall results were so disastrous that Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault resigned within twenty-four hours, leaving President Hollande and the Socialist Party dangling in the wind.

Much of the voter’s rebuke stems from a lack of economic opportunities in the country, especially among younger voters. Many college graduates are looking overseas for work as private sector jobs dry-up under socialist leadership.

As the left-leaning Le Figaro commented, “[This defeat] sanctions the failure of a policy that has failed spectacularly in economic matters … but also failed to keep its founding promise of appeasing the country and reconciling the French.”

Marine Le Pen of the National Front

High rates of immigration in southern France have strained social services in that region, contributing to the far-right National Front’s success. The NF has argued that failed immigration policies have created parallel societies – one French speaking, the other Arabic. The NF is also expected to do well in the European Parliament’s elections in May.

Cultural issues have also impacted election results. In an unusual display of solidarity, French families staged a mass protest against same-sex marriage last year. This was odd considering France’s well-known “live and let live” attitude toward sex. But the French being the French, cultural contradictions abound. While tolerant toward sexual variation, France is also culturally Catholic and views family as sacrosanct. Even some gay rights groups have rejected same-sex marriage, saying they prefer civil unions which allow them to define their own partnerships rather than being shoehorned into a heterosexual institution such as marriage.

Others have pointed to the hypocrisy of an entitled Socialist political class whose leadership is well-off, well-connected and aristocratic in pedigree.

Their children go to the finest schools, attain the most valuable degrees and intermarry amongst the cultural elite. One commentator on France 24 (an English language broadcast) remarked last night that the Socialists live in the best Parisian neighborhoods, eat at the best restaurants and holiday in the most exclusive hot spots on the Mediterranean.

If this is true (and it is), why must ordinary French citizens suffer while their Socialist President, Francois Hollande, resides in a royal palace? (Along with a revolving door of pretty mistresses!)

These election results have broader implications for the European Union. Conservative parties stand to gain more seats in the European Parliament next month. This shift in political fortunes in rising mostly in southern Europe where mass immigration and the economic recession have been most acute. Areas of discontent are cropping up all along the southern rim of Europe, from Greece to Italy and Spain. Add France to the list and a rightward shift seems to be underway.

This change in political philosophy in Europe may also be reflected in our own upcoming midterm elections and again in 2016. Approval of Obamacare, which has just been implemented, is at an all-time low (39% approve, 52% disapprove), while unemployment for those under thirty remains high (12% – five points higher than national average).

If statist policies in America, such as Obamacare, continue to lose favorability among voters and if job growth remains sluggish – especially amongst the young – a rightward shift may be headed toward our shores, too.

About the Author

- Robert Maley has worked in publishing, banking and – as incongruent as it may seem – the theatrical world. After many years of living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, he now resides in the more pastoral setting of Virginia. A playwright with an MFA from Columbia University, he has had several plays produced off-off-Broadway. Presently, he is a critic of the Cultural Marxism to which he once allied, especially as it pertains to the arts, faith and academia.