France Now

Rightists on the Rise in Elections

Sandeep Banerjee

Are we now witnessing the end-phase of Gilets Jaunes (as sceptics may echo Eliot's line "not with a bang but…)?

And, how simultaneously could the French electorate turn more and more right with a stunning Euro Parliament Election in France where Fascists are on the top and LFI becomes a ridiculous fifth with only 6.31% votes (they were in fourth place in round-1 of Presidential election just two years ago with a 'respectable' vote, 19.58%)!

Though things are definitely interrelated, we first see them separately, but switching from one to another repeatedly. And we all know that in a short article like this it is impossible to write even an introduction towards analysing the dynamics of French society now.

Anyway, spontaneous movements are very strange and not very predictable and we may be astonished seeing the Acte XXXI of Gilets Jaunes next Saturday, June-15. (Btw, have we seen any 'non-spontaneous' remarkable movement!) Anyway, movements too suffer from fatigue, people may need some respite after some gruelling schedule.

The participants in the rallies in January to February according to @Le Nombre Jaune was more than 1,00,000. (To be specific: in 19-Jan- No.1,47,365, in Jan-26 -No. 1,23,151& in Feb—9, No.1,18,222). According some source the figure rose to a number rose to about2,69,270 in March 16. Again, the figure gone down to around 20,000 in early June. (In June—1, No.23,622 and in June—8, No.19,654).

What is clear from these figures that there is an almost steady decline in the last two months. But despite this diminishing figures even on the last Acte on 08-Jun, which the interior ministry said had some 10,000 participants only, we saw at least two important pictures (taken from La Liberation and etc.): (1) in Montpellier there were violent clashes and police cruelties, many were arrested by the police, even there was a 'rumour' of a protester died in police atrocity; and (2) in the Paris suburbs there was a rally by "Les gilets jaunes en banlieue, Acte I" who had some banners "ni oubli ni pardon 2005-2019" (not forgetting and not forgiving 2005-2019) commemorating the electrocution-death of Bouna Traore (15), and Zyed Benna (17) in 2005 two innocent boys, one of Black Muslim (Mauritian) African origin and the other of a Muslim (Algerian) African origin who were so frightened by the police that the ran to hide in a substation were they got electrocuted to death and which led to the 2005 riot. So even in decline we see militancy and novelty.

And on the other hand, the Gilets Jaunes fared very bad in the Euro Election in the sense that the movement itself could not put any tangible imprint on the election result. Although, a Euro Election is very different from a national (or local) election and fewer citizens participate. Perhaps after many years more than half of the French and German citizens voted Euro elections, turnout increased in both countries; these two countries are two of the biggest countries in Europe in terms of population and economy. Let us try to gather info on how much votes some of our known 'lefts' and 'rights' could gather:

Party                                  votes     %
LFI                              14,28,548   6.31
PCF                               5,64,949   2.49
Lutte Ouvrière             1,76,339   0.78 <
Debout+Peasants alliance* 795,508   3.51

Total                           21,69,836  13.09

Total would be 9.58% excluding the Debout alliance. However, the *Independents and Peasants alliance is considered by some as conservative.

The Anti-Capitalist party NPA ultimately broke deal with LO (Lutte Ouvrière—a so-called Trotskyite communist workers organisation), but supposedly could not gather enough money to fight elections. What is 'interesting': The so-called lists declaring themselves as Gilets Jaunes or candidates who were Gilets Jaunes could not totally gather more than 0.5%. By the way, without 5% or more there is no chance to play any role in getting a Euro Parliament member or MEP.

Now the rights:

Party                                 votes      %

RN (Mme Le Pen's party) 52,86,939   23.34

REM+(Macron's alliance) 50,79,015   22.42

Total                       103,65,954   45.76

As data analysts of IPSOS revealed—some 58% of the persons 'very close to Gilets Jaunes' went to vote. Out of Gilets Jaunes voters 44% voted for RN—the fascists party. 20% voted for LFI, 4% for PCF, 5% to Debout la France (grown out of that Nuit Debout movement) and 5% for the Europe Ecology—The Greens. Another interesting fact is, EELV or Europe Écologie Les Verts got 3,055,023 votes, i.e., 13.48% and came third after RN and REM+. In a recent article in his blog (13-May) Mélenchon of LFI wrote about "rightisation" of turning-right of the EELV and PS (socialist party). And Debout alliance partner, the Independents and Peasants alliance is considered as conservative. So, more or less, less than or nearly 25% of the Gilets Jaunes voted for the so-called lefts and more than 50% for the rights. And overall, the result is more towards right than was expected, particularly in the ambient of a long-drawn movement.

Perhaps it is again a 'proof' that just a movement being 'spontaneous', 'militant', 'non-party type' movement with 'thousands of people on the streets', is not a sufficient condition for giving a check to right-swing of the society or rise of fascism (as much is reflected in elections)—some spontaneous movements as happened in many countries post-2011. [In a very small scale we saw it recently in and around Mandasaur in M.P., where a militant farmers' movement met police atrocities and five village poor died in firing, which happened under BJP regime there but later the election results did not show any gross swing.]

Incidentally, Die Linke in Germany, another party on which Prof. Prabhat Patnaik put some hope other than LFI of France, also did not fare well in the German election of Euro Parliament. The pro-fascist AfD got 41,03,453 votes (10.97%) got increase of 3.9%, finished fourth in the race, whereas Die Linke got 20,56,010 votes (5.50%), suffered a decrease of 1.9%. This German Euro election also took place on 26-May.

It might be interesting for us Indians to know how RN leader Madame Le Pen characterised LFI and appealed to the voters: LFI is actually La France Islamiste and Gilets Jaunes should not vote those (Le Pen appelle les "gilets Jaunes" à voter pour le RN et qualifie LFI de "France islamiste"). We are quoting the same source RTL of 25-May, "Marine Le Pen notably denounced his [Mélenchon's] "refusal of any control at the borders, (...) the distribution of French nationality to the first that passes, the vote of immigrants and the recognition of a climate refugee status"." Holy nexuses are there even in parlances, it seems.

But had the demands of the GJ movement not reached the hearts of the French people? Once we heard how the people summarised the 42 GJ demands in two: purchasing power and fair redistribution of wealth (see our old articles). Let us see.

On 10-Jun La Liberation reported that many emergency service workers and employees are on strike. Many hospital staff are striking demanding better 'pouvoir d'achat' or purchasing power. We shall investigate more in future.

But recent two publications from 'the top' mention Gilets Jaunes and/or their aspirations. As these are very recent, we could not yet study those properly. (1) INSEE or the national institute of economics and statistics, published a report of 11-Jun, "In 2018, household consumption slows more sharply than purchasing power". (2) ""Yellow vests" measures: The French preferred to save their purchasing power gains"—said the Bank of France governor! on 11-Jun (reports are in many newspapers including Le Figaro—"According to the Banque de France, nearly two-thirds of the extra purchasing power provided by fiscal measures in response to the "yellow vests" crisis fuelled French savings." You can consult the Projections macroéconomiques—Mars 2019 of Banque de France, and INSEE PREMIÈRE, No 1757, Paru le: 11/06/2019. It needs to be seen for which decile the purchasing power increased how much and also the savings. ooo


Vol. 52, No. 1, Jul 7 - 13, 2019