Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Why voters deserted Hollande and Socialists in French local elections or Should we expect the same for the UK traditional parties?

The huge swing to the right in France in the municipal elections was an expression of huge dissatisfaction with president François Hollande and his Socialist-led government.
Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party made huge gains, the Front National exceeded its own official expectations, and the Socialists were humiliated.
So how come the clear winners of the municipal elections were the UMP, with an impressive showing for the FN?
What went wrong for the Socialists?
The government has gradually alienated all its traditional voters…
Many blue collar workers, and another traditionally left-voting category, teachers, are fed up. Many are furious about a change in pensions, and education changes that appear on almost a weekly basis. Immigration has been treated as a subject that shouldn’t be discussed openly.
Public sector workers, nearly always solid Socialist supporters in France, fear for their jobs after Hollande’s pledge to find 50 billion euros worth of savings as part of the highly contentious Pacte de Responsibilité. (Under this pact, businesses will no longer have to pay social charges for their employees, in return they must create jobs - the shortfall in government revenue will be offset by 50 billion euros of cuts in state expenditure).
Many people are angered by the government’s law allowing gay marriage. The government has certainly alienated many of its traditional voters.
Add to that a failure to produce results on the biggest issues which affect the whole country:
Unemployment is at record levels, there has been virtually no progress on reducing the country’s deficit and there is huge resentment over taxes which the president himself conceded in January had reached the limits of acceptance. For many low-income families, a boost in purchasing power is a priority.
The result was the many voters on the left punished the party by abstaining defecting to the Front National.
If Hollande had hoped that a good showing by the Front National would split the right wing vote, he received a bitter awakening. Apart from in some towns such as Avignon, it was often the Socialists, not the UMP, who lost supporters to the FN.
Marine Le Pen, an excellent TV performer, has unquestionably improved the image of the Front National and modernised the party.
Le Pen rejects the label extreme right for her party and has threatened to sue media organisations who describe her party as such, though she has not yet done so.
She is vehemently anti-EU and has gained many working class voters with her insistence that Brussels now runs France.
On immigration, some analysts say there are 2 FN electorates: where, the FN collects voters from the right, sometimes from well-off areas, as demonstrated in a by election in Brignolles last year. In northern France, in towns such as Henin-Beaumont, FN voters appears to come mostly from the disaffected poor .
In opinion polls FN voters frequenlty cite rising crime figures as the reason for their decision to choose the party.
The UMP benefited from an almost tangible dislike of Hollande's presidency and his government and appears to have led to an emotional groundswell of support for Sarkozy’s party..
What happens now?
In May, French voters will go to the polls again in elections to the European Parliament, followed by Senatorial and then regional elections. Hollande is being urged to act quickly to demonstrate that he is listening to voters and will make changes.
Today there will be a cabinet reshuffle, headed by a new prime minister, but on the much more important matter of where France is heading and how it gets there, Hollande is in an almost impossible situation, and knows that if France fails to make economic cuts, both the EU and financial speculators will lose confidence in the country with potentially dire consequences.
One of the most telling aspects of this election was that Hollande and the government were so surprised by the scale of their losses in both the first and second rounds.
It is striking how cut off they and France’s left-wing Paris-dominated intelligentsia and media appear to be from the views of ordinary people elsewhere in France.
They do not appear to understand the annoyance of ordinary non-Parisian French people, who want jobs, more purchasing power, less crime and feel they are never the beneficiaries of government handouts.
Many business people are leaving France in droves for China, London or the USA, attracted by what they see as more business-friendly climates.
But those lower down the social scale often cannot leave France and they’re getting increasingly angry.
This is almost a complete description of the situation in the UK, and unless politicians from the traditional parties wake up and come out of their 'my turn your turn' attitude to elections then they will be in for a complete shock!

No comments:

Post a Comment