(Photo: Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images)
Apr 11, 2022
Sunday's first-round French presidential elections left progressives with the unsavory choice of right-wing and extremist candidates in a decisive runoff later this month, with some defeated leftist contenders urging their supporters to avoid a far-right takeover by casting their ballots for incumbent President Emmanuel Macron.
"The situation is serious--never has the far-right been so strong in France."
The combined vote haul of the left-wing France Unbowed (LFI), the center-left Socialist Party (P.S.), and the Greens was less than 30%. Anne Hidalgo, the Socialist mayor of Paris, received just 1.8% of the vote.
As Neal Lawson, director of the U.K.-based progressive advocacy group Compass noted, "the debate in France was all about how right-wing the country is and should be."
\u201cI feel for progressive French voters. They are forced to choose between the Right and the far Right. Again.\n\n(I don't buy Macron's narrative of being neither Right nor Left. From reading French newspapers my impression is that French progressives don't either)\u201d— Saskia Bonjour (@Saskia Bonjour) 1649622414
However, LFI candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon came tantalizingly close to Le Pen, falling around 420,000 votes--or just over 1%--short of a second-place finish in Sunday's first round. In a concession speech in which he did not mention Macron, Melenchon advised his supporters to not vote for Le Pen in the second round.
"Everyone is up against the wall of their conscience as they are each time faced with a difficult decision," he said. "I know all of your anger, but I don't want it to lead you to an irreparable mistake. We must not be misled, we know who we will never vote for. We must not give a single vote to Ms. Le Pen. I repeat: not a single vote for Ms. Le Pen."
Hidalgo, as well as the Greens' Yannick Jadot and Fabien Roussel of the Communist Party, implored their supporters to vote for Macron.
Lamenting that "ecology... will be absent from the second round," Jadot nevertheless called on voters "to block the far-right" by casting their ballots for the president.
\u201c2/23. Ni Emmanuel Macron ni Marine Le Pen ne proposent un programme contenant les changements radicaux n\u00e9cessaires pour faire face \u00e0 l\u2019urgence climatique et l\u2019effondrement de la biodiversit\u00e9.\u201d— Greenpeace France (@Greenpeace France) 1649674001
\u201c18/23. Au-del\u00e0 des enjeux environnementaux sur lesquels nous nous concentrons habituellement, nous tenons aujourd\u2019hui \u00e0 vous exprimer notre vive inqui\u00e9tude face \u00e0 la perspective de l'\u00e9lection d'une candidate d'extr\u00eame-droite \u00e0 la Pr\u00e9sidence de la R\u00e9publique.\u201d— Greenpeace France (@Greenpeace France) 1649674006
Roussel warned that "the situation is serious--never has the far-right been so strong in France."
"I will never allow a policy of hatred and division," he added. "That is why I call for defeating the extreme right on April 24."
For French progressives, choosing between what Workers' Struggle candidate Nathalie Arthaud called "two enemies of the working class" will prove a bitter pill that many may choose not to swallow--a situation some observers say could prove Macron's undoing.
A post-election Ifop Opinion survey of Melenchon voters found 44% planned to not vote in the second round, and while major polls show Macron leading Le Pen in the runoff round, the incumbent's lead is in the single digits and within some surveys' margin of error.
\u201cA second poll, from @IfopOpinion, is narrower still:\n\nMacron 51%, Le Pen, 49%.\n\nIt found supporters of left, green, conservative parties all likelier to vote Macron than Le Pen, but large shares said they won\u2019t vote. Q if *that* changes as Le Pen victory looks more possible.\u201d— Taniel (@Taniel) 1649615773
The steady and inexorable drift to the right is the real underlying problem. A divided left loses and becomes weaker... The cycle repeats itself and becomes self-fulling. Of course, the right in France are also divided but they find much better second-round representation in the shape of center-right Marcon or far-right Le Pen. For the left, in Macron, there is no fig leaf of progressivism remaining. The only reason to vote for him is to stop Le Pen but in so doing support the right-wing shift--just at a slower pace.
"A divided left mostly loses to a united right," Lawson warns. "A left unable to see what it has in common, or who don't see who the real enemy is, is not serving the people it claims to."
Mandu Reid, head of the U.K. Women's Equality Party, tweeted that while "many progressives are expressing relief" at the first-round results, "I don't feel that at all."
"I see the fact that millions of French people voted for Marine Le Pen as a dire warning," she wrote. "Progressive values are more under threat than ever--we have to wake up."
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