Thursday, October 10, 2013

Front National Leads Poll

My apologies to faithful readers for the long absence of news on this blog. I've been traveling in France and away from my computer. Although it is possible to blog, as I'm doing now, with my tablet, it is scarcely inviting. Nevertheless, I am compelled to report the news of a new IFOP poll, which shows for the first time the Front National ahead of all other parties in expressed intentions to vote in the next European election. The FN is at 24%, the UMP at 22, and the PS at 19.

No one will be surprised by these results. It has been clear for some time that the FN is gaining strength. The irony, of course, is that the FN is the most anti-European of French parties, but that may well be the reason for its surge to the top in this particular poll, since for many voters the European elections are mainly a chance to vent hostility against the Union. The European Parliament having little real power, a protest vote in this kind of election risks nothing.

Nevertheless, the results show an increased willingness of voters to profess open support for the FN, so much so that IFOP is no longer correcting for a supposed "Bradley effect" in FN polling. The "de-demonization" of the FN is complete.

The question now is whether anything still places a ceiling on FN support, and I think the answer must still be "yes." Even if the FN becomes the largest party in France, which is not impossible, a substantial majority still believes that it remains beyond the Pale of respectability and will not for it. Nevertheless, the "FN effect" is already obviouus in the decomposition of the Right. Fillon has lately joined his rivals in attempting to appeal to far right voters. Even the recent realignment in the center, with Bayrou joining forces with longtime rival Borloo, reflects a determination that the "center-right" has moved definitively toward the far right, perhaps opening a place (or a black hole?) in the center.

But do the parties continue to matter in the way they used to? With the UMP now ready to join the PS in choosing its presidential candidate by primary, party discipline and organization will no doubt be trumped, as in the United States, by individual entrepreneurship, with each candidate obliged to run from a local power base and to raise funds independent of the parties.

Meanwhile, some observers attribute to Hollande a strategy not unlike Mitterrand's toward the FN: the stronger it becomes, the more it divides the Right, leaving him, despite his desperate unpopularity, as the only "republican" recourse. This is of course a dangerous game. I've talked to a few people in Paris with government connections, and they all reflect Hollande's perhaps overly optimistic faith in an imminent economic recovery, which will rescue him from the difficult pass in which he finds himself. Perhaps they have evidence to back their hopes that is not yet public. I am less sanguine. But the impression I get is that Hollande believes he has very little room for maneuver until economic conditions improve, and he is unwilling to take any risks to improve them on his own. He is counting, like a peasant, on a change in the weather--a fitting attitude for a man who is governing, as one sage observer of French politics put it to me, like the "president of Correze," as if this were still the Third Republic or, worse, the Fourth.


Moz said...

D'après Guy Birenbaum, ce "Front National Leads Poll" ne serait pas vraiment un scoop mais peut-être simplement une construction médiatico-sondagière comme on en voit tant. Vouloir se faire peur à chaque élection en plaçant ce parti d'extrême-droite en tête des intentions de vote montre au moins l'inanité de l'océan des sondages, hélas repris par les médias et que leurs auteurs se permettent de commenter comme des haruspices

Passerby said...

Good to see you posting again.

I don't think that the PS will be playing the FN against the UMP this time. The memory of the 2002 election is still vivid for many socialists. Besides the IFOP polls show the PS behind both FN and the (ailing) UMP.

To your point, Montebourg was invited on France Culture radio yesterday morning explaining that the industry had started to turn around. Of course this is partly a political posture, but I wonder if the government isn't indulging into wishful thinking.

( around 40:00)

Mitch Guthman said...


I agree that the PS will not be playing the FN off against the UMP but not because they remember the 2002 election but because I think we are going to see a repeat of that election. At this point, I would be surprised to see a PS candidate make the second round.

The main difference this time around is that we might see significant defections in the second round by many voters of the non-Gaullist right and a big chunk of the PS base to a FN that is willing to talk about the complaints ordinary French people have about immigration, globalization, and most particularly the Euro and the disconnect between what the classe politique thinks is important and what most people think is important.

PF said...

The most disturbing part of this post was that the PS/Hollande plan for France is to simply wait for recovery. Unambitious and reactive, even after the German election. As ever, they need to change the terrain, re-activating popular support at home and re-exploring abroad intra-European alliance possibilities with Italy, Spain, and eventually the semi-in-power SPD.

Mitch Guthman said...

@ Moz,
Je ne serais pas tout à fait aussi optimiste. Ce mouvement par le FN est plus qu'un blip . Les sondages ont été constants et il y a eu beaucoup d'histoires dans Le Point et Marianne sur les électeurs PS qui se rallient au FN parce que ceux-ci semblaient le seul espoir de changement. C’est devenu un thème constant même dans la presse de gauche.

Le FN a repris bon nombre des causes abandonnées par la gauche comme les droits des travailleurs et la protection de l'état de la sécurité sociale qui favorise les classes moyennes et même la souche particulière de nationalisme qui a infusé la gauche de l'époque révolutionnaire. Seul le FN parle maintenant des problèmes de l'intégration européenne (notamment l'immigration et l'euro). Ironie du sort, le FN a réussi à coopter une grande partie de la rhétorique de la gauche dans son appel avec succès aux travailleurs et aux populations moyennes de la France, alors même que le PS a adopté la langue et les politiques du centre droit .

Pour être clair , je ne pense pas que le FN soit sincère dans ses expressions d'intérêt pour la vie des Français ordinaires. Je pense qu'ils sont comme le loup dans la bergerie et je crains profondément leur agenda caché du fascisme. Ce n’est pas le PS ou le Front Gauche qui parlent et essayent de répondre aux préoccupations que les électeurs français ont exprimées au sujet de l'UE, sur la mondialisation et sur la marginalisation française en Europe.

Le PS est muet au sujet de la destruction économique terrible causée par l'austérité et l'euro. Le PS est muet sur les difficultés d'intégration européenne qui sont ignorés parce qu'ils n'affectent pas les financiers ou les résidents confortables de Saint- Germain-des-Prés. Le PS est silencieux car il devient de plus en plus le parti de la finance qui se soucie plus de l'ordre du jour traditionnel de la gauche que des préoccupations de la finance .

Pour ma part, je pense que le PS et la gauche ont généralement besoin de se réveiller et de cesser d'attendre que la liquidation les sauve. Il est temps pour la gauche d'arrêter de ramper aux pieds de la finance et de reconnaître les soucis qui régissent la vie de la plupart des Français. Oui, il y a un besoin pour une nouvelle réflexion sur la gauche mais il est également nécessaire d'apprécier ce qui a été réalisé par la gauche depuis la fin de la Seconde Guerre mondiale et une volonté renouvelée par les politiciens de gauche de se lever et se battre pour les intérêts de la classe ouvrière et les classes moyennes, aussi.

FrédéricLN said...

Hello again,

I agree in full with this post.

I think the discussion about the PS or Hollande's role in the FN rise, is not so relevant: the PS just cannot manipulate opinion so easily. The drivers for the FN are outside the reach of PS propaganda or influence networks.

I'm just not sure about "a substantial majority still believes that it remains beyond the Pale of respectability". Many people I meet, of whom I would have said one year ago that they could vote for any party but FN, now speak quite in the same tone as Ms Le Pen does. At least, they consider her voice and arguments as absolutely respectable.

Frightening, for sure, but that is the way I feel it these times.