Ghislain d’Andlau, Sheffield University, United Kingdom
Some political systems go down smoothly, with a transition period others don’t and in France they mostly never do.
In the first round of this general election, what was known as the “Government parties”, those who had held power since the very beginning of the 5th republic were eliminated. The socialist party suffered from the rise of the Communist party, as well as from the statement of the last president. The Republicans (conservatives) suffered from the scandals related to their candidate as well as from the rise of a little conservative party that took 5 % directly to the conservatives, were only 2% extra would have enabled them to qualify for the second round. The facts are there, both of the historic parties have been tossed out of the race.
Remains “En March”, a movement started by E. Macron and Marine Le Pen’s National. Both parties embody a growing discontent with classic politics. Yet both symbolize also a very different discontent. The fault line between both is the European Union. Le Pen is supported by those who were disappointed by Europe, were Macron by those who benefited from it. We could also replace Europe with Globalization and obtain the same results. We thus have a candidate for those who are fine with the system, and one for those who are discontent from it. This election thus very much draws a clear line in the French political landscape, -well-of/discontent- change/no change-. This election is not about changing direction, it is about keeping or not a system. Does the French political body want to move on with Globalization? Neither candidate will let thing at rest.
The second round has yet to be run, and it is without a doubt that it will mark the end of a bi-party political landscape, a death that will certainly be confirmed by the legislative elections. But the importance might not lie there, nor even the qualification of the National Front in the second round. The importance of such elections, to me, lies in the shifting of the cleavages between electoral bodies. Cultural issues seem to have been replaced by economic ones. Issues in this campaign, up to the fault line between the two winning candidates were economic. A bit like for the Brexit vote we have a shift in the electoral division from cultural to economic.