World News: France in Earnest Begins its Election Season

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As French President Emmanuel Macron moves his political machine forward, the other hopefuls and their political staffs have fully entered the presidential campaign, highlighting the question of the credibility and political competence of many candidates.

To begin this column, let's dive back, once is not customary in the mid-nineties, when ideologies still imbued with perfumes of Utopia were still current. Thus, almost thirty years ago, the French political landscape was simply broken down, between a liberal right and a progressive gay who regularly competed for power, both titillated by a rising far right but which did not really seem to worry the two major parties of the time, the RPR and the PS.

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Everyone could legitimately present credible, competent, cultured and state-minded candidates during major electoral deadlines, including the presidential election. In 1995, the various General Staffs therefore advanced their pawns and sounded the public in order to know which candidate to propose to the voters in view of the election to be held the same year. 

For the RPR, it was, unsurprisingly, Jacques Chirac, who will also be elected after a remounted that has remained in history against Edouard Balladur. For the Social Party, on the other hand, it was, to the great surprise of many voters, Lionel Jospin, who came out ahead on the evening of the first round. We know the rest of history.

Succession and Weakness

Thirty years later, if the political landscape has changed considerably, it is the same for the candidates who have declared themselves candidates for the supreme office.

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The great figures of national politics, Jacques Delors, Alain Juppé, Robert Badinter, Philippe Seguin, and many others... have withdrawn or simply disparus, leaving behind a desert that their heirs, real or self-proclaimed, have difficulty fertilizing. And while waiting to know if the current president will be a candidate for his own succession, which leaves little doubt however, it is clearthat the forces involved shine by a distressing mediocrity.

Lack of vision, unclear economic and social programs, procrastination, and approximations on the environmental question raise questions about the intrinsic quality of each of them. For while it has become common to affirm that each country has the political class it deserves, this allegation has never been more relevant than at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

On all sides, the political chessboard is bent under the weakness of candidates obsessed with polls and full of baked and annealed resentments. So much so that one could easily wonder if some candidates were not chosen by default. On the left, Anne Hidalgo, won against Stéphane Le Foll, faithful lieutenant of François Hollande, but who remains a relative unknown for all voters. Winner of a worthless primary, Anne Hidalgo is now credited with 5% of voting intentions. To be defeated without peril.

Inertia and Incapacity

On the right, terrorized by the rise of the far-right agitator, Eric Zemmour, the Republicans aspire, via a national congress, to choose a candidate capable of winning while muzzling the Zemmour attraction. But with which candidate? Valérie Pécresse, president of the Île de France region, Michel Barnier, former Brexit negotiator, Xavier Bertrand, President of the Hauts de France?

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All with knives drawn, full of oversized egos, torn between the need to oppose Emmanuel Macron but without too much to avoid offending the center-right electorate but required to carry a firm discourse to avoid feeding the campaign of Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour, if the latter runs, the French right shines by itsinertie when the left disputes a now chronic inability to hold a social and progressive discourse

New. In a five-year period that is ending against the backdrop of a pandemic, it seems that the French political elites are struggling to impose themselves in an elected office tired of tired and anachronistic speeches in view of the current issues essentially related to the energy transition.

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While they provide solutions to try to revitalize a political class out of ideas, overwhelmed five years ago by the Macron phenomenon and today the Zemmour incongruity? Perhaps focusing on the voids of our societies more than the full ones, which have already been full for a long time, could facilitate this revitalization. For it is on emptiness that extremes thrive. So…


Bio: Olivier Longhi has extensive experience in European history. A seasoned journalist with fifteen years of experience, he is currently professor of history and geography in the Toulouse region of France. He has held a variety of publishing positions, including Head of Agency and Chief of Publishing. A jour nalist, recognized blogger, editor, and editorial project manager, he has trained and managed editorial teams, worked as a journalist for various local radio stations, a press and publishing consultant, and a communications consultant.

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