Political change in France: what consequences for Europe? FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images

Some weeks ago, we witnessed the collapse of the Ayrault government, replaced by the government of former Interior Minister, Manuel Valls. This change comes in the aftermath of a drubbing at the municipal elections in March. As a matter of fact, the left has lost 150 large towns to the right. As a result, a protest vote was given to the left, regarded by many as the only true opposition. 

Nevertheless, it must be highlighted that the Front National, a popular extreme-right party, held a strong media presence. According to the British newspaper "The Guardian", Front National “took control in municipalities and gained more than 1200 seats on local councils.”   

The very next day after the elections, the President stated that "It's an important moment in our national life. You have expressed your unhappiness and disappointment. I have heard your message, it's clear."

Therefore, both the struggle against the abstention, and the victory of the right and extreme right prompted an organizational change. Manuel Valls, liberal socialist, was chosen to reassure the French people and implement the pact of responsibility. But it remains uncertain whether this choice will have a significant impact in reducing unemployment and curtailing the influence of the National Front.

This movement of rejection towards traditional parties seems to be settling throughout the Eurozone. The rise of populismovements is not only a French phenomenon. It is becoming a common trend among the Eurozone countries, increasingly reinforced over the last four years by the financial and economic crisis. However, the latter cannot be held exclusively accountable for the rise of these populisms, since they are actually stronger outside the Eurozone, with the United Kingdom as a case in point, and even outside the European Union, as shown by Switzerland and Norway.

However, the Eurozone crisis has undeniably been a contributing factor towards strengthening right-wing/populist movements and discourses throughout Europe. It provided them with electors in new regions and new social groups. In France, the Front National’s unprecedented result in a city like Paris is symptomatic of these problems

Consequently, we have been constantly reliving the same electoral night throughout the Eurozone. The dream of bipartisanship opposing Liberals and Social Democrats has now clearly rejected in most European countries.  But then, what should we do?

Political parties and civil society groups throughout Europe have to be called on to counteract the rise and strengthening of these far-right and populist parties, movements and discourses. Discussions over the political, economic, financial and social future of Europe must cease to be a taboo. We can and we must criticize, reflect and open our minds to the long-term implications of this political change and its impact on the national and European polities. In order to survive as a system that provides effective solutions for its citizens, democracy must constantly strive to provide alternatives. This is the turbulent context that will frame the upcoming European elections.

Sources: 

"The Economist": http://www.economist.com/blogs/charlemagne/2014/03/french-politics-3

"The Guardian": http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/31/french-local-elections-ayrault-resigns-valls-successor

"La Tribune": http://www.latribune.fr/actualites/economie/union-europeenne/20140324trib000821580/municipales-francaises-un-coup-de-semonce-pour-l-europe.html

 

Edited by: Margarida Hourmat

Photo credits:
FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images via Flickr