France swings back right in regional elections, just not towards Le Pen

France is shifting political gears again. Nicolas Sarkozy’s Les Republicains grabbed seven regions in the second round of voting last weekend, while the Socialists took five, and Corsica nationalists won Corsica. It seems surprising, on the surface, but shows just how split France is politically. The group which didn’t get any regions was Marine Le Pen’s National Front, but she’s still happy. Via France 24.

The far-right National Front (FN) may have lost out in Sunday’s regional elections, but the party’s record share of the vote has confirmed its leader Marine Le Pen’s status as a major challenger in the race to become France’s next president in 2017…

But despite the setback for Le Pen’s party, the FN’s second-round score was another sign of its growing support base across France. The party recorded its best-ever score for a national election on Sunday with 6.8 million votes, compared to six million in the first round and 6.4 million for Le Pen in the 2012 presidential election.

“Nothing can stop us now,” Le Pen said in a typically bullish speech after polls closed. “We will be the main opposition force in most of the regions of France.”

It seems like the only reason FN didn’t do as well is because the Sociliasts decided to mostly pull their candidates out of three regions, so Les Republicains could win. It’s a tricky strategy to make, but shows what happens when the “anti-FN” voters decide to coalesce around a single candidate.There are obviously still concerns about what’s going to happen in 2017 and whether Le Pen will be able to bring her standing up higher to become president. This doesn’t mean FN is completely defeated, because of how it’s grabbed more and more support as the years have gone on. This was something Le Monde noticed as well (Google translated from French):

Especially, the FN was full of voices. With 6.8 million votes, it surpasses its record set in the first round of the presidential election of 2012 (6.4 million votes). A remarkable performance as part of an intermediate election that constitutes a solid base for 2017. First the European in 2014 and in departmental, in March 2015, the party confirmed its momentum since the accession of the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen for president. The latter should however not cut to question the strategy toadopt to overcome the barrier of the second round. But the time is not yet the challenged.

“There has never defeats at home, we progress every ballot. We spend every election levels, it takes time, but the point is that the curve is upward, pleading Steeve Briois. In 2008, in Hénin is lost with 28% of votes. And in 2014, we won the first round. ”

It’s going to be pretty interesting to see what happens next. Les Republicains appears to be more of a “big tent” party with a variety of factions, much like its predecessor Union for a Popular Movement. FN focuses on immigration, protectionism, social welfare, and appears to be more pro-Vladimir Putin than not. The Socialists are socialist. But one thing France appears to enjoy doing is switching between more right-leaning governments and socialist goverments. The French National Assembly was socialist from 1981 to 1993 before becoming center-right, then switched back to the majority party in 1997, then back to the opposition in 2002, before taking the reins again in 2012. This type of shift makes it hard for any real type of reform to get done, especially for those in Les Republicains who want to institute more free markets. It’s also a pretty big case of political whiplash.

This could be one reason why it seems like Europe remains a continent with more statist governments than not. It seems like more voters there flock towards “strong man (or woman)” candidates, instead of looking at ideology. Even Sir Winston Churchill had a certain air and gravitas about him, as did Margaret Thatcher. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but can become a problem when the election becomes more about “the candidate” than the ideology. There’s been a certain shift towards that in the United States as well. Voters seem more willing to support someone who comes off as almost celebrity in their eyes, with charisma and charm, instead of someone willing to actually stand up and fight for the values of the party. The election of Barack Obama is certainly an example of this, as is John F. Kennedy, Theodore Roosevelt, and, to a degree, Ronald Reagan. Those candidates had a certain flair about them with the American electorate, which is why they were able to stay in power for eight year(the exception being Kennedy, who was assassinated). This could be the nature of politics, specifically with the advent of television. The candidates are now seen and heard, which means they have to look and sound polished. It’s not necessarily about substance, but how things get delivered and what resonates with the public. There’s probably no way to get back to purely substance-driven debate, but it’s worth trying. Politics shouldn’t be about pretty faces and cute slogans, but actually about policy. It’s just unfortunate it’s not that anymore.