The next stage of the primaries in France’s upcoming elections (for the Socialist Party) wrapped up this weekend and one thing seems to be coming increasingly clear. There’s a showdown on the horizon between the left and right camps over there and there is little to no interest in any sort of moderate, middle ground candidate. Competing for the Socialist vote, ex-Prime Minister Manuel Valls (who was closely associated with current, unpopular President Francois Hollande) had at one point been expected to win this stage handily. But the final results turned out quite differently and a man with almost no political experience but a “free money for everyone” socialist platform wound up carrying the day. Your winner is Benoit Hamon. (Fox News)
Benoit Hamon, riding to victory from left-wing obscurity on a radical proposal to a pay all adults a monthly basic income, will be the Socialist Party candidate in France’s presidential election after handily beating ex-Prime Minister Manuel Valls in a primary runoff vote on Sunday.
Hamon’s win sends the divided Socialists, weakened by the chronic unpopularity of outgoing President Francois Hollande, into a tough presidential battle behind a candidate with limited government experience and hard-left politics that could alienate some center-left Socialist voters.
With ballots counted at 60 percent of polling stations, Hamon had almost 59 percent of the vote to Valls’ 41 percent. Valls immediately conceded defeat in the face of the result that appeared like a clear sanction of both his and Hollande’s polices.
What was the magic that put Hamon over the top? Part of it may have had nothing to do with him and is just a reflection of the unpopularity of Hollande and the old guard. But part of it might be his recent endorsement of a national basic income of 750 euros (or roughly 800 dollars) per month for every adult citizen. That may not sound like much, but it’s a socialist dream which has cropped up as a serious suggestion in many nations. (And yes, we’ve had some liberals in the United States pushing for it also.) It will likely bankrupt the country, but why let that stop you?
For those keeping score at home, this will make the final elections much more interesting. France’s presidential elections run in a number of stages. The various parties all hold primaries for qualifying candidates and they go on to the first stage of the general election which will be held on April 23rd. If anyone gets a majority of the vote at that point the process is over and the new president is elected. But that’s a virtual impossibility, so the top two candidates will go on to a runoff on May 7th. At this point the Socialists are saddled with Hamon who may be too radical for the more centrist voters in his party. He’ll be facing at least three other candidates who garner enough support to be taken seriously. One is François Fillon, representing the Republicans. (Formerly the Union for a Popular Movement, not to be confused with our Republicans in the United States.) He was looking strong for a while but is currently under a cloud of scandal after it turned out his wife had been “working” at a high paying job for years which may have been entirely fictitious. Emmanuel Macron will represent the new En Marche party, but he’s not polling all that well. And then there’s Marie Le Pen of the National Front.
If it comes down to a battle between Hamon and Le Pen, popular polling still indicates that Hamon would take it, but who knows? And no matter how it comes out it would be a battle of very diametrically opposed points of view. I wonder if France will find itself with massive protests in the streets this May? All in all, we’ve certainly lived to see Interesting Times, and that’s probably going to apply to Europe as well as America.