What major lesson do you take away from the first round of the presidential election?
These results remind us that any election is unpredictable. Until the week before the first round, it was believed, in other European countries but also in France, that Emmanuel Macron would be in the lead. Then the polls showed in extremis that Marine Le Pen could arrive in first position and Jean-Luc Mélenchon qualify. It was like an electric shock, a reminder to be prepared for any scenario. The second lesson is the fragmentation of the French political landscape, with a center and two extremes. The centre-left and centre-right parties have lost much of their popularity, at least as far as the presidential elections are concerned.
This fragmentation is not specific to France, but it seems to be more worrying there. Why ?
Almost everywhere in Europe, in fact, the popularity of the traditional parties is declining and the extreme right is progressing. This is also the case in Austria, Belgium, Sweden… But when it is in power, it is often integrated into coalitions. This is the big difference with France. If Marine Le Pen were elected, the far right could govern alone. Provided, of course, that the laws do not impose cohabitation.
How do you explain that this progression of extremes crosses Europe?
Throughout Europe, a large part of the electorate considers that the centre-right and centre-left parties are incapable of providing solutions to their concerns, which are of two kinds. On the one hand, there is the feeling of having less control over one’s life than previous generations, of being less able to accomplish what one wants to achieve without facing major obstacles, of no longer having a say about how the country is governed because the power is in the hands of“elites” or of ” Brussels “. On the other hand, there is a concern linked to the transformation of the country: people say “I no longer recognize the city where I grew up”. It is the question of identity. For some voters, the extremes are better able to address these fears than the traditional parties. They vote according to the solutions that are proposed. However, those of the extremes are quite easy, as “Globalization is bad”. Donald Trump and some Brexit supporters were also responding to these concerns by proposing “take back control”.
Today, aren’t “movements” more promising than parties?
Everywhere in Europe, the parties have in fact fewer and fewer members, while movements are succeeding in bringing together a large number of members. These movements are structured around a few ideas – gender parity, the climate – and do not have the ambition of an exhaustive programme. Maybe citizens find it more accurate and have more confidence in their ability to get results when the parties have let them down…
But it is too early to draw conclusions. On the scale of regional or European elections, the results nevertheless show that the parties retain the confidence of voters.