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European Elections : Le Front de Gauche the only glimmer of hope

Translated Friday 12 June 2009, by Kristina Wischenkamper

European elections. The UMP topped the polls, way ahead of the PS, which is collapsing. The Europe Ecologie green coalition made unexpected gains. The Front de Gauche came in ahead of the NPA. Patrick Le Hyaric, Editor of l’Humanité is elected as an MEP.

It’s of no matter to the right that the electors massively snubbed the ballot boxes (around a 60% abstention rate). The watchword started circulating early in the evening yesterday amongst the ranks of the UMP: adopt a triumphalist attitude and rejoice loudly about the majority result for the presidency. Sarkozy’s party, ahead in the polls mid-evening, according to various post-ballot opinion polls was given 28% (16.64% in 2004). Far ahead of the PS with around 17%, followed by the Europe Ecologie coalition with a breakthrough 15 or 16%. The Front de Gauche at the same time was given between 6.3% and 6.8%, ahead of the NPA (about 5%). The Front National had about 6% of the vote, ahead of the sovereignist Libertas party (approx. 5%). As for the Modems, they had a little more than 8%, way below the score of the UDF in 2004 (11.96%). The rise of extreme right parties seen throughout Europe was not seen in France where the UMP continues to capture a large part of the nationalist vote. The rightist governement hopes to use its win to pursue, even accelerate, its ultra-liberal poilicies.

The PS collapses

This deceptive reading – a majority of people voted for parties that oppose Nicolas Sarkozy – is encouraged by the stinging setback suffered by the Socialist Party despite its insistent calls for a ‘vote utile’, a useful vote. Having gained an exceptional 28.9% of the vote in 2004, the PS has just lost half of it. It seems that this spectacular downturn has been felt right into the traditionally socialist bastions like the North. In the poorer districts the PS got catastrophic results. In Île-de-France, Harlem Désir lost support and only got 14% of the votes, far behind the greens (19.5%), while the UMP finished with over 30%. The PS minister Pierre Moscovici called the result an ‘earthquake’ and a ‘stark warning’ for his party. ‘Our socialist party has suffered as a result of the internal struggles and divisions’ explained Martine Aubry.

The green surge

Undeniably one of the striking events of these elections is the huge surge by the Europe Ecologie green coalition. While the greens in 2004 got only 7.14% of the vote, this time they came in third, hot on the heels of the Socialist Party, a sign that environmental issues have become a priority for a large part of the electorate. An environmental urgency that in the eyes of many relegated to the background the ideological options of a Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who was quick in his previous mandate to support certain liberalist directives. By getting José Bové aboard his disparate coalition the onetime 1968 activist managed to make us forget the fierce campaign he led in 2005 in favour of a ‘yes’ to the European Constitution. A campaign during which he didn’t think twice about sharing the rostrum with François Bayrou, whom he has beaten quite convincingly in these elections. For his part, Bayrou has failed to impose himself as Rival Number One to Sarkozy at the end of a largely populist campaign.

The Front de Gauche reaps the rewards of unity

On the left, early results seem to confirm the rise of the Front de Gauche seen at the end of the campaign. With a result of 6.5%, the coalition of the PCF, Parti de Gauche and la Gauche unitaire, made up of ex-activists from the NPA, will outdo the Communist lists of 2004 (5.88%). The Front will gain between 3 and 5 MEPs. The election of Patrick Le Hyaric, Editor of l’Humanité and that of the Communist Élie Hoarau, head of the Overseas Alliance were confirmed yesterday at 22.00. The Front de Gauche, snubbed by the media, reaps the rewards of a campaign on the ground, insisting on alternatives to a liberal Europe based on the Treaty of Lisbon. The ‘reward for unity’ goes to them, while Olivier Besancenot’s NPA, having refused to join the unified front, fails to impose itself as the leader of an alternative left.

‘The progress of the Front de Gauche lists proves that there is a place for a determined left which, as an extension of the social movement, works to create a better life for our citizens’, was the statement from the Communist party yesterday. Nevertheless, the most important thing to note about these elections is the very high rate of abstention. With only a 43% participation rate throughout the Union, Europeans have ostensibly turned their backs on a Europe that is built without their agreement and very often against their agreement.

There’s a graphic to insert at the top.

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