For some reason, this weekend’s first round of local elections in France didn’t really make the headlines on this side of the Channel. Me being me, I tried to understand the results, and avidly read all French mainstream newspapers. The funny thing was that, for once, everybody was happy.
Is my home country in denial?
The socialists, who happen to be in office, thought that it wasn’t as bad as anticipated (they had c. 21.5% of votes nationwide). The right was extremely pleased with its 29% of votes, and said that France was seeking change. The far-right National Front managed to get 25% of votes and declared that they were the first political party in France. This is because traditional parties tend to be coalitions. That said, last Sunday was only the first round, and we should get a clearer picture of where France is heading this Sunday for the second round. Let’s not kid ourselves here: it clearly doesn’t look good.
That said, all was well for everybody. No, really.
I sometimes wish I were a politician, because being able to interpret quite a sad reality in such an optimistic way is either a sign of incredible strength or complete unconsciousness. I suspect it is the latter. The truth is that the far right is gaining ground against traditional parties with its best score ever, but everybody is happy because apparently the poll predictions were giving them an even higher score. The other truth is that no clear leader is emerging, and France is continuing to plod along without any clear strategy apart from blaming everybody else for its slow demise (the immigrants, the rich, the poor, the expats, Europe, and so on, and so forth).
But no, all is well. Seriously.
We are told that everybody should rejoice because the turnout was higher than anticipated. That said, according to what I can read, less than 50% of my fellow Frenchmen went to vote. Not really that high. And if you believe that the French Far Right is similar to UKIP, well, you are mistaken: even UKIP didn’t want to set up a group with the National Front in the European parliament. The ‘closest’ party to the National Front would be the British National Party. Yep, it is that bad. So much for thinking that France was going to unite after the terrible attacks in January.
What is going on in my home country?
I am still French, I still feel French and yes, I am proud to be French. That said, as I moved to London more than 10 years ago I must admit that I don’t understand. Why would such an old and stable democracy vote en masse for an extremist party? The irony is that France has still a lot going for itself. Trust be told, I had to leave France to fully appreciate the quality of healthcare and education there. While still living there, I couldn’t see how fortunate we were. Maybe my compatriots should spend a few months abroad to be less depressed. Now that’s a thought!