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Guest Post: What Just Happened in the French Presidential Elections?
Exploring the intricacies of political wrangling and elections in France
I had intended to complete a couple of articles by now that I have unfortunately not yet been able to, mostly because of Passover which knocked out an entire Sunday, which is when I get most of my writing done.
This article is guest written by a heroic activist from France, who unfortunately due to the exigent realities on the ground in France and around the world thought it prudent to remain anonymous. It offers an unvarnished and pragmatic account and perspective on the state of affairs across the Atlantic. I lightly edited for style and form, and added an introductory paragraph.
What Just Happened in the French Presidential Elections?
As most of you are probably by now aware, Emmanuel Macron won reelection as the President of France by a comfortable margin in the French presidential runoff. This was definitely a disappointing result after there seemed to be a real possibility of him being unseated by Marine Le Pen.
While I'm skeptical of the accuracy of the initial result numbers given on Sunday, I'm confident that Macron did indeed win fair and square (even after allowing for a minimal amount of fraud, which no doubt happens in every election).
What I have always been most curious about on election day here is how all major news media refrain from calling the election as the day progresses. (I imagine it is some unwritten rule, though I admit I watch little TV so I don't know if all networks follow this convention.) The entire country has to wait until exactly 8pm on the day of the election to know who wins. There seem to be no hints, predictions, or running scores given, as is done, for example, in the US, where you have every network scrambling throughout the day to provide estimates and to be the first to correctly call the race.
At exactly 8pm on Sunday (with a slow buildup over the final hour leading up to a dramatic 60-second countdown at 7:59pm), the victorious candidate is revealed in a manner that's always reminded me of a gameshow: every TV news channel displays the same backdrop of the Elysee Palace, over which a photo of the smiling winner is suddenly flashed, complete with their name below their image, like some over-sized photo ID.
A few seconds later, screens in TV land all show a large campaign photo of the loser, and the two images are placed side by side, now revealing each candidate's percentage of the total votes. This process -- of having to wait until exactly 8pm to see who wins by how much -- has always made me wonder how such an accurate count could be reached for a country of this size in the span of a single day (when, in a country like Ireland, for example, arriving at a full and accurate count can take up to 4 or 5 days sometimes).
But I was told just yesterday by a friend that the number given at 8pm is, in essence, an estimate. According to her son, who recently learned about the calculation in school, the results from a sampling of regions are extrapolated to the rest of the country, using some mathematical formula that must also estimate abstention levels. The final, exact number/percentage is then revised upwards or downwards later on. (Reminds me of how the US arrives at its annual all-cause mortality figures.)
In any case, Macron's high score, while shocking, is actually not surprising. During the two weeks separating the first round and second-round runoff, all the necessary political alliances were made to ensure his victory. The major center-right candidate Valérie Pécresse publicly endorsed Macron, as did the Socialist leadership and Green Party.
For her part, Le Pen was endorsed by right-wing Eric Zemmour, a brilliant, controversial, courageous, firebrand public intellectual who surprised everyone last year with his announcement that he was going to run for president; former candidate Florian Phillippot, the politician whose anti-corona totalitarianism protests I have been attending for a year; and right/far-right candidate Nicolas DuPont-Aignan, who has been one of the two consistently outspoken critics of corona-totalitarian measures in the lower house these past two years (and who also teamed up with Le Pen five years ago in the runoff, appearing as her running mate after Le Pen publicly committed to appointing him her Prime Minister if she won -- a move that broke somewhat with conventions).
Had these been the only party leaders peddling electorates, the race might have gone to Le Pen. But there was one other political party that tipped the balance and ensured Macron's victory: the far left's "France Unbowed" party, led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
After losing his bid in the first round on April 10th, Mélenchon more or less repeated the message he addressed to his base in 2017, in the wake of his defeat in that first round presidential election. While not openly endorsing Macron, he urged his supporters to not vote for Le Pen. As a sworn, life-long enemy of the far right, Mélenchon, who never misses an opportunity to blast Le Pen father and daughter, surprised no one by saying this, but disappointed many, including myself.
It was rumored that Mélenchon spoke with Macron by phone the day after making this public statement and told the president something to the effect that he had gone as far as he could in publicly supporting Macron and now it was up to the president to woo his far-left electorate. In the following days, Mélenchon, in a series of speeches and high-profile television and radio interviews, urged the French people to make him Prime Minister in the upcoming legislative elections (by electing large numbers of parliamentary candidates from his party to the lower house), revealing what he had been up to.
The media propaganda machine did the rest. For two weeks leading up to the runoff, anti-Le Pen messaging was everywhere: on TV and radio programs, trendy magazine covers, social media, street graffiti etc., mostly with the aim of stoking fears over racism and xenophobia.
Also playing a significant role in the outcome was abstentionism - people who deliberately chose to not vote in the runoff after having voted in the first round of the presidential elections - reaching 28.2% in Sunday's second-round runoff.
The ironic thing is that Mélenchon's far-left "France Unbowed" and Marine Le Pen's far-right "National Rally" parties, as reflected in their respective policy proposals, were much more similar than different. According to one study, their platforms were 70% similar.
In the end, Mélenchon's party seems to have voted in the following way in the runoff: 12-or-so percent actually voted for Marine Le Pen, while 40% or so voted for Macron, and 38% or so abstained or voted blank.
One of my friends, also a colleague, fell into this latter category. As a life-long supporter of the communist party, he supported Mélenchon in his last two bids for the presidency and could not bring himself to vote for Le Pen in the all-important runoff two days ago. A fairly regular participant at the freedom rallies I attend, he is fully aware of the extreme danger of another Macron presidency, in addition to acknowledging that France has already ceased to be a free country since March of 2020, having turned to soft totalitarianism -- yet he simply could not bring himself to cast a vote for Le Pen. As he put it, the ideological, emotional and psychological block was just too great. (Though he did admit that his fears had less to do with Le Pen the person and more about the people in her inner circle, as well as many leaders of the party's rank and file, whom he believes are outright racists and fanatical brutes.) So, along with 28.2% of eligible voters (the second highest level in the last few decades) he abstained.
It was this abstention level, even more than the choices made by the bulk of Mélenchon's electorate, which ultimately ensured Macron's re-election.
Le Pen’s Failure to Confront the Covid Tyranny
The biggest disappointment for me -- aside from the election outcome itself -- was Le Pen's near total avoidance of the covid issue during her single debate with Macron. What a missed opportunity to address the crimes and outrages of the corona measures.
While she did seize two opportunities to criticize the Macron government over its fanatical enforcement of the muzzle mandate outdoors as well as its suspension of over 15K health care workers who refused to get the jab (who are still suspended without pay), at a time when the hospital system is still suffering shortages in resources and staff, her attacks lacked the depth and gravity that should have given rise to a whole discussion of the topic.
Instead, her rebukes came across more like barbs in retaliation over some misrepresentation or unfair accusation, as though made in passing. In one instance, while Macron was questioning her about how she planned to enforce her public veil ban, he asked her, in disgust, if she planned on having police go running after women in the street to tear off their veils. This prompted Le Pen to say something along the lines of: "Well, you're one to talk about veils! Look at how your police have been going about harassing people in public about not wearing their masks properly." While her tone conveyed some outrage, it seemed to be in reaction more to his hypocrisy rather than to the evil measure itself.
In the other instance, she scolded him for suspending the health care workers, saying it was shameful and that, if elected, she would reinstate them immediately. But she said nothing of the 5 million-plus others, like myself, who were made second-class citizens on the president's orders, and, clearly, was carefully avoiding any discussion of the topic. In some ways, the worst part is how she allowed him to get away with saying 4 times that Sars-CoV-2 represented the worst public health threat in 100 years...4 times and not a single word to challenge him.
So now all attention will be focused on the June legislative elections. It is widely expected that the President's party, "The Republic on the Move," will lose its majority in the Assemblée. But just how many seats it loses and to whom are the big questions. Mélenchon's far-left party, which won enough seats five years ago to form a small, combative group in the assembly, is hoping to expand its numbers considerably, based on Mélenchon's strong performance in the first round of the presidential election. (He came in 3rd place, with 21.95% of the vote, right behind Marine Le Pen, who got 23.15%.)
It's a long shot, and highly unlikely, but it's still within the realm of possibility that Mélenchon's party gets enough new members elected to the lower house as to constitute a parliamentary majority -- in which case, Mélenchon could indeed become Prime Minister. Such an arrangement is called a "cohabitation," and is unusual, but if it came to pass, based on the last time it happened (with the center-right Jacques Chirac as president and socialist Lionel Jospin as his Prime Minister), it could be hoped that Macron's future involvement in matters of legislation would be severely restricted and his main activities would be refocused on foreign affairs, or -- even better for France -- on giving speeches and cutting ribbons at ceremonies.
But as many have pointed out, such an outcome is more of a fantasy. If Macron's party loses its majority, it will likely not result in another parliamentary group decisively taking its place. And it's too early to speculate about coalitions.
With that said, and in light of Macron's victory on Sunday, I nonetheless wouldn't be surprised if the president's fanatical party retains its majority in the lower house. The French people (along with so many other people in Europe) just don't seem to have grasped, or accepted, the absolute insanity and criminality of everything that has happened in the last two years, including the state of institutional lawlessness into which their country has fallen. There is hardly any awareness among the general population of the staggering amount and variety of lies, distortions and propaganda that have transformed their society since March of 2020 and, even more tragically -- in my experience, at least -- there is almost no indignation or anger felt by the average person over what has been taken from them and what they have been subjected to in the name of public health.
On the Horizon: WHO Pandemic Treaty
My concerns have shifted to the Global Vaccine Treaty initiative and Europe's relentless pushing for permanent vaccine and health passes. Beginning this September, the Bologna region of Italy is set to pilot a smart citizen wallet, a phone app aimed at promoting "virtuous" behavior. (Virtuous as defined by the state, of course.) Those taking part in this Orwellian project will receive rewards, in the form of points or a score of some sort, in return for recycling or taking public transportation or consuming less energy. Presumably, the good citizens will then be able to redeem their rewards for something tasty at a future date.
So it seems, just like two years ago, Italy will be taking the lead in introducing Chinese-style totalitarian measures into Europe, this time importing its "Black-Mirror"-like social credit system. Naturally, this news has gone virtually unreported and, devastatingly, the feeling among many in my French circle is one of hopeless, helpless cynical resignation. It's very depressing, but I'm doing my best to remind people to speak out and engage others at every opportunity, especially in their day-to-day interactions, as I myself do, sometimes stridently, inside shops and with friends and family.
In addition, I'm going to start to write to members of the EU Parliament and urge them to see the clear and present danger to what's left of our freedoms posed by these new technologies they have become so dazzled by.
I am very concerned about what may be in the works for this fall here in France. Macron has already stated that he would bring back the vax passes in the fall "if necessary," while the dehumanizing, medically meaningless mask mandate is still in place for those using public transportation. It seems to me, not allowing this latter absurd aberration to lapse in the warm months would be an absolute red flag, a clear sign that the regime does not want people to get used to living normally again, if only for a few weeks. This can't presage anything good.
Will Elon Musk’s Acquisition of Twitter be a Gamechanger Across the Atlantic?
We are all holding our breaths over here with regard to Musk's next steps. It's being talked about a lot on social media but I don't have a sense of how much play it's getting on mainstream media. No doubt what little it gets will be negative. The censorship is indeed worse over here. On top of a much more limited scope of protected speech to begin with, compared with the US, France's social media censorship has made things suffocating.