By Erik Izraelewicz
Le Monde Paris, 23 April 2012
The crisis has voted, making its voice heard on a massive
scale. The French have not succumbed to democratic
disenchantment. On Sunday 22 April, they went to the polls in
large numbers [79.47% cast their ballots] on a day which was
not marked by the low turnouts for the European and regional
votes of recent years.
We should interpret their actions as an expression and
renewed confirmation of the predominant role played by the
presidential election in our institutional system and the
increasing weight attributed to the presidency in French
politics. In recent years, this has been buoyed not only by
the adoption of a five year presidential term and the
decision to have the race for the Elysée coincide with
general elections, but also by the concentration of power
which has been a feature Nicolas Sarkozy?s hyperactive
Having said that, the high turnout was mainly prompted by
dismay and exasperation at the ongoing economic crisis,
rather than enthusiasm for the political programmes on offer.
In his bid for a second term, the current tenant of the
Elysée Palace was desperate to avoid an anti-Sarkozy
referendum in the first round of voting. However, the results
speak for themselves: the outgoing president was unable to
mobilise the voters who supported him in 2007, or to emerge
as the leader after the first ballot.
Like the peoples of the Arab world, the French have opted to
send a polite but firm message to their head of state. Let
the outgoing outgo: a sentiment that the crisis has also made
a feature of the political landscape in most European
countries in recent years. In France, our compatriots voiced
their dissatisfaction with an imposing surge in support for
Marine Le Pen.
Left still not assured of victory on 6 May
The record-breaking performance by the leader of the Front
National (who took more than 18% of the vote) was clearly
the main development in Sunday?s ballot. The extreme right
party has passed another milestone. With her personality, her
style and her proposals, the daughter of the FN?s founder has
succeeded in the drive to shake off her party?s diabolical
image which has been one of her main objectives.
She has also demonstrated a talent, even greater than Jean-
Luc Mélenchon?s [the radical left candidate], for surfing the
wave of fear that has swept over the working class, which has
been hardest hit by the crisis, and to take advantage of an
electorate that was seeking a means to voice a resounding
protest. It is certain that she aims to build on this
success, and regardless of who is returned on 6 May, the
final winner will have to take this into account.
François Hollande, who topped the first round poll, was
another beneficiary of the popular rejection of Sarkozy, and
a trend for tactical voting, which diverted support from the
Front de gauche as well as François Bayrou [the centrist
candidate]. However, it was by no means a runaway victory.
The left has been reinforced by Sunday?s score, but is still
not assured of victory on 6 May.
As Nicolas Sarkozy remarked on Sunday night, another campaign
is set to begin on Monday. In the run-up to the second round,
the two contestants will attempt to win over protest voters
and in particular the significant number that gave their
backing to the discourse espoused by Marine Le Pen. The best
method of accomplishing this goal is, of course, not to
appropriate Le Pen?s ideas, but to respond to the real fears
and real anger expressed by her supporters.
Translated from the French by Mark McGovern