French elections, round 1: sending the right signal to Central Asia
- Written by Douglas Green
LONDON (TCA) — If Turkey’s referendum in favour of authoritarianism gave the wrong hint to Central Asia’s former Soviet republics, France’s choice for its next head of state is a message well worth heeding. The possible defeat of the nationalistic party and Marine Le Pen may secure a massive adhesion of other losing camps to Emmanuel Macron, and may encourage former Soviet states to move away from one-man regimes towards government by consensus.
French election results
Centrist Emmanuel Macron won 24.01 percent of the votes in the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday, final results from the interior ministry showed on Monday. Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen won 21.30 percent, conservative candidate Francois Fillon 20.01 percent and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon 19.58 percent. Socialist Benoit Hamon won 6.36 percent and nationalist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan 4.70 percent, Reuters reported.
Not the leading candidates’ support but that of those falling behind are the key to the fact that Macron virtually has the victory in the second round in his pocket. All “losers” without exception made haste to urge their voters’ support for Macron so that additional support for Le Pen among other political echelons remains zero.
The ‘face of the nation’
Most important, however, is that for the first time France’s 5th Republic will have a head of state not representing any of the traditional political parties’ establishment – sentiments which are all too familiar in many a former Soviet republic. Fresh faces, fresh ideas are gaining popularity also in the former USSR where people tend to get tired of seeing the same familiar faces time and again.
Connected with this, there seems to be a remarkable resemblance between France’s political system and that of Kyrgyzstan. While on paper the government is supposed to be in charge of the Republic, the directly elected President is the “face of the nation” and endeavours to play the role of state supremo putting the government in the shadow. The new French trend is a step towards a fairer division of both power and glamour between the two rivalling forces. Whatever party will lead the upcoming parliamentary elections, the new government will have to accept “cohabitation” with the President.
A misleading antagonism
Attempts by commentators to distinguish a political antagonism between the two remaining candidates in the French race sound less than convincing. Macron may be described as an “individual”, but has strong roots in the Socialist Party. As for Le Pen, her Front National has not lost its grip on her, and goes back to a nationalist history.
“Centrist Macron is a passionate Europhile. He is pro-global trade, socially liberal and believes in the European project,” one editorial comment posted by Business Insider read. “He has also been a vocal critic of Britain's decision to leave the 28-nation bloc. In his election manifesto, the former economy minister described Brexit as a "crime" and said it would leave Britain so weak that it would be in "servitude" after completing its withdrawal,” Business Insider wrote. “Front National leader Le Pen, on the other hand, is vehemently anti-EU. She is a staunch nationalist and says she wants France to regain sovereignty and borders from the 28-nation bloc.”
Team work required
The plain fact is that Emmanuel Macron represents a current in politics that is prone to team work in governing countries and the world. His views (he has more than once strongly expressed his disapproval of Erdoğan’s thrive for one-man state leadership) do not represent a tendency towards non-disputed governance. Besides, he will have to work with the current Parliament in which the Gaullist and socialist mainstreams prevail, and will continue to have to do so after the upcoming legislative elections due for June 4 (first round) and 18 (second round). With Le Pen out of the way (her party has only two representatives in Parliament and is unlikely to win considerably more given France’s constituency system), Macron has but himself to fear. If he is successful, it will be a model that deserves the most serious attention from Central Asia’s former Soviet republics.