Analysis

French Left's Next Challenge: Fighting Macron’s Policies While Eradicating Roots of Le Pen's Power

If it fails, Macron is liable to hand Le Pen victory in the next election

Supporters of Emmanuel Macron wave French flags while reacting as vote projections are announced in the second round of the French presidential election in Paris, May 7, 2017.
Christophe Morin/Bloomberg

All the in-depth polls conducted before, during and after the exit polls point to one important trend: People didn’t elect Emmanuel Macron as president of France because of his political agenda (only 16 percent of Macron voters said they did so), and still less because of his economic agenda, and least of all because of his character (only eight percent cited that as their reason for supporting him).

As in 2002, the French voted against what they rightly perceived as a national disaster. Fully 43 percent of Macron voters said they were really voting against Marine Le Pen, and lacking any other alternative, they voted for the only compromise candidate on the ballot.

Yet despite fear of the fascist lady, more than four million French voters cast a blank ballot.

Here we must put in a good word for the left, which has been assailed on all sides in recent weeks. Had it not been for supporters of Jean-Luc Melenchon, and for traditional supporters of the Socialist Party, who had somehow melted away in recent years, Macron would have been wobbling, if not even worse. Like grown-ups they headed to the polling stations, held their noses and, in an impressive display of political maturity, cast a ballot for the man who to them symbolizes government by the wealthy.

All the warnings in the mainstream media that the “radical left” would bring Le Pen to power proved false. It’s certainly reasonable to assume that the large number of abstainers didn’t come from the left, or at least not only from the left.

And after all this, starting Monday morning, French society in general and French politicians in particular will have to roll up their sleeves and stick their arms deep into the mud if they want to survive. This isn’t just because the upcoming elections for the National Assembly are liable to expose the fragile weakness of the president-elect, who lacks any real political base. It’s also because Le Pen succeeded (in her concession speech, which sounded like a terrifying victory speech) in defining the presidential election as a choice between two alternatives: patriotism and globalism. The patriots are for the Republic and the nation, while the globalists are against them.

Le Pen is already preparing for the next political stage. It’s no accident that she urged “all patriotic forces” to join up with her.

The big question is whether the French left can manage to pull all its pulverized pieces together to address the most important task it now faces: fighting Macron’s policies while at the same time eradicating the roots of Le Pen’s power. If the left succeeds, it’s likely to exert a positive influence on whatever government Macron sets up. But if it fails, Macron is liable to hand Le Pen victory in the next election.