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News Analysis: Traditional parties in France face inevitable shake-up

ASIA PACIFIC DAILY | Mon,2017-05-15

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Following the French presidential election victory for Emmanuel Macron -- the candidate for a political party positioning itself neither on the left nor the right -- internal quarrels related to political orientation have been accentuated within the traditional parties, a sign of political upheaval and restructuring.

Will the legislative elections scheduled for June 11 and 18 set the tone for a new political configuration predicted by specialists and observers of the French political scene?

The results of the presidential election which overturned expectations, relegating from the first round of voting the traditional parties to third (The Republicans) and fifth (Socialist Party) place, imply major shifts in the political landscape.

The contours of this new configuration are already being defined ahead of the legislative elections. For the Socialist Party, former Prime Minister Manuel Valls has shown the way forward, in officially announcing his decision to enroll in legislative elections under the banner of Macron's movement "En Marche!"

"This socialist party is dead, it is behind us... I will be a candidate of the presidential majority," Valls declared on Tuesday, saying he was ideologically closer to Macron.

In overtly choosing the camp of the presidential majority, Manuel Valls has thrown back into the open the split in the socialist party between the reformers that he incarnates and the radicals represented by Benoit Hamon. This antagonism which has festered for a long time within the Socialist Party, strongly divided it during the presidential campaign.

The socialists known as reformers (including both elected officials and activists) supported Emmanuel Macron's candidacy from the first round of presidential voting, to the detriment of Benoit Hamon and his political allies, and despite threats from the first secretary of the Socialist Party, Jean-Christoph Cambadelis.

The same variety of internal quarrels has struck the Republicans, obliging certain higher officials such as Alain Juppe to officially take positions.

The Mayor of Bordeaux, of which close allies such as Benoist Apparu and Edouard Phillippe have been named part of the incoming government, has excluded all frontal opposition to Emmanuel Macron.

"I am not in the state of mind for a systematic obstruction and a frontal opposition. I will be necessary to see that France succeeds with the forms for which it has need," declared Juppe Tuesday to the press. Several close allies to Juppe, who represents the moderate wing of the Republicans, have joined the En Marche!

Movement after the defeat of their candidate in the primaries to Francois Fillon, whose program they judged very "radical."

The rest of the group Emmanuel Macron gained following the refusal of rightwing candidate Fillon to step out of the race after he was formally put under investigation for the "Penelopegate" scandal. Bruno Le Maire, another disappointed primary candidate for the right who had campaigned in favor of a renewal of the political class says as well that he is ready to work with the new president, and to run under the En Marche! banner for the legislative elections.

"My actions echo my political reflections, for five years I haven't stopped saying that France needs renewal. It's here. There is a political world which is dying and another which is being born," Le Maire told the newspaper Le Monde. He was the first leader for the right wing party to have abandoned Fillon for not having kept his promise to step down after being put under investigation.

The recent resignation of Christian Estrosi -- in disagreement with the radical wing of the Republicans -- from the presidency of the Regional Council of Provence-Alpes-Cote D'Azur (PACA -- Southeastern France) has also raised numerous questions within the party, even if he has excluded himself for the moment from joining the presidential majority.

Rather than enroll Manuel Valls and Bruno Le Maire on its candidate lists for the legislative elections, Emmanuel Macron's movement decided not to name candidates in their respective districts of Evry and Eure, a political response which leaves the door open for closer ties in the future. As for the Socialist Party and the Republicans, they are once again brandishing the threat of exclusion against all those who would run under the banner of the presidential majority.

Beyond the traditional parties, the far-right party National Front will not escape the massive upheaval, despite the qualification of its candidate for the second round of the presidential election. Almost immediately after the party was eliminated from the presidential run, a flurry of criticism from within the National Front appeared in the press under the cover of anonymity, and against Marine Le Pen, who has for a long time been considered untouchable.

The interventionist economic platform proposed by Le Pen and her lieutenant, Florian Phillipot, has been called back into question by the liberal and conservative camp represented by Marion Marechal Le Pen. Several political observers have interpreted Marechal Le Pen's Wednesday announcement that she would not run again for the legislature as a result of these internal differences.

Nevertheless, several hours from her defeat, Marine Le Pen announced her decision to engage in a deep transformation of her party. As part of this metamorphosis, the National Front will become The Patriots, according to media reports. But this announcement has not visibly convinced allies of Marion Marechal Le Pen.

Contested more than ever within her own party, Marine Le Pen according to some French press reports is hesitating to commit herself to June's legislative elections.


(ASIA PACIFIC DAILY)