Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Le Pen Loses Her Case

The Conseil Constitutionnel has ruled against Marine Le Pen in her bid to have parrainages made anonymous. So the question now arises: Is she bluffing about not being able to obtain the signatures? In an analysis to which I linked previously, Arun Kapil suggested that this time the difficulty might be real, because Sarkozy is so afraid of losing in the first round that he has discouraged UMP mayors and other eligible parrains from signing. But this begs the question of why the Socialists aren't stepping in to replace reluctant UMP officials. After all, they presumably have an interest in seeing MLP on the ballot, since she will drain votes from Sarkozy. And the Socialists, who are much stronger on the local than on the national level, influence many potential parrains.

Of course the PS will not want to be seen as encouraging an MLP candidacy. The cynicism of such a move would remind voters of Mitterrand's cynicism in instrumentalizing the FN in the first place. But there is also a principle to be defended, namely, that there is no democracy in a country if a party representing 16-20% of the electorate is excluded from the race, however distasteful one might find that party's ideology. So the Socialists might have their cake and eat it too, helping Le Pen on principle while helping themselves in practice. But would they dare?

In any case, I think someone must dare, because I think it sets a very bad precedent for those in power to decide who may or may not bid to replace them. It reeks of le suffrage censitaire to allow an elite consisting of those already in place to decide whose ideologies are acceptable and whose are not. No one is less enamored of Ms. Le Pen than I, but she is a reality that must be faced and a force that must be defeated, not sidelined by chicanery to fester in darkness.


Anonymous said...

Where is that "real eruption of anger?"

Anonymous said...

Many mayors are independents, why can't they sponsor her?
I agree, there's a serious democratic problem if a party that represents a substantial chunk of the electorate isn't allowed to run for an election.
"real eruption of anger" will only happen on march 16 if indeed MLP isn't allowed to run. And I think it'll be entirely directed toward Sarkozy who's in part responsible for the reluctance of right-leaning mayors to endorse MLP.
(eruption of anger, I assume, means that people will scream bloody murder on all TV programs that deal with politics -and, in France, that means quite a few hours each week, between late night shows, prime time shows, and "13h15 le samedi/le dimanche", not to mention the programs like C dans l'air, that Paul Amar program, le grand journal, etc, etc.

Mitch Guthman said...


1. In the first place, I think you are unfairly conflating possible gaming of the system by Sarkozy and the fact that the FN is having difficulty gathering the number of signatures required. Unless Sarkozy is actually gaming the system, there is no elite deciding which ideologies are acceptable. There is simply a system (in place long before this election) for qualifying for the first round of a presidential election.

I don’t think there’s anything unfair or undemocratic about expecting the FN to follow the same rules and meet the same requirements as the other parties. If I understand Arun’s post correctly, the FN might not be able to obtain the necessary signatures mainly because the FN has always been less of a political party and more of a vanity organization that promotes Le Pen. It was their choice to promote Le Pen as a charismatic leader and not pay attention to electing local officials or even building good relations with people like the mayors of small towns. It’s not as though this requirement is a surprise that the “elites” sprang on Le Pen as a way of blocking either the father or the daughter (depending on who one thinks is really the candidate) from qualifying.

As to the question of whether the mayors will be reluctant to seem to support or be affiliated with the FN, I again agree with Arun that this requirement would seem to speak to the very purpose of obtaining the signatures of mayors (as opposed to voters). The necessity of gathering the signatures of mayors was known beforehand and there is no justification for changing the rules in the middle of the election. It’s no different than Newt Gingrich neglecting to file the necessary paperwork to get on the ballot in Virginia until it was too late. Yes, some Le Pen supporters will be disenfranchised but that will be because the FN couldn’t be bothered to take the necessary steps to qualify for the ballot. Nobody’s fault but their own.

It’s also worth mentioning that the FN still has a lot of baggage left over from Vichy and any mayor even in the most rural and conservative part of France would naturally think twice before agreeing to become permanently linked with them.

2. I see no moral obligation for the left to help its mortal enemies to get on the ballot regardless of the poll results. Again, if the FN doesn’t get into the first round because of the factors that Arun describes, then it’s their own bad judgment and ineptitude that’s at fault. After reading Arun’s excellent analysis I did some more reading on my own and it seems that the FN has had this problem with getting on the ballot forever, so I would simply repeat that we are not speaking of something which should be news to them or which was recently put in place to keep them off the ballot. I repeat: It was their responsibility to either obtain the signatures or move in a timely manner to chance the rules. They didn't and I see no justification for making a special exception for them on the basis of some early polling results.

It would, however, be reckless beyond belief for the PS to game the system in the manner of Mitterrand. I think there would be a lot of anger on the part of the 82% of voters whose parties followed the rules and got on the ballot. Not to mention the lingering resentments and catastrophic results created by the previous attempt to game the system in this way.

If it is indeed the case that Sarkozy is pressuring conservative mayors not to sign for the FN, I would agree with Myos that this is a political matter between the FN voters and the UMP. As to the anger of the FN voters, the new-Vichyites made (by some estimates) about 30 assassination attempts on De Gaulle and I doubt if they’ve improved much over the years. I think that if Sarko gets the old Citroen DS out of mothballs, he should be just fine