||Issue No. 133||26 April 2002|
The Struggle Continues
Interview: If The Commission Pleases
History: Protest and Celebrate
Unions: A Novel Approach
Industrial: Hare Tony, Hare Tony
International: Never Forget Jenin
Politics: Left Right Out In France
Health: Delivering A Public Health Revolution
Review: The Secret Life of U(nion)s
Poetry: May Day, May Day
Shonky Bosses Get Contract Brush
Deep Pocket Syndrome Stalks IRC
Court Decision Threatens Thousands Of Jobs
Safety Summit to Set Accident Targets
Detention Centre Vets Song Lyrics
Fat Sheep Dip Into Workers Pockets
Government Con Drives SA Vehicle Blue
Dead Worker’s Family Calls for Safety Crime Laws
Aussie Agency Backs War Crimes Call
Thumbs-up For Union Immigration Role
DOCS Worker Assaulted In Courthouse
Queensland Unions Move on Youth Exploitation
The Locker Room
Week in Review
Gold Star Student
Time for a General Strike?
Labor Council of NSW
Left Right Out In France
The result of 19.88 % for incumbent conservative Jacques Chirac, 16.18 % for socialist Lionel Jospin and 16.86 % for the far right nationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen means that, for the first time since 1945, the second round of the presidential elections, due on May 5, will be contested by two right-aligned candidates.
The defeated Socialist candidate was Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, an uninspiring technocrat with a patchy and unusual political background that includes time in the 60s with an underground Trotskyist sect known as the International Communist Organisation. Jospin, who has announced his intention to quit politics, is sure to be remembered as the man who led his party to it's most glorious defeat since World War I.
Many are hailing the significant result as a great personal victory for Le Pen and aa a signal that the far-right is on the rise in Europe.
However, all is not as it seems. The rise of Jean-Marie Le Pen is not as "meteoritic" as some are claiming. Le Pen has stood for the Presidency four times and his "National Front" party has been on the mainstream political scene for over 25 years. Le Pen received a result of 14% in 1988 and 15% in 1995. So an increase of his vote to 16.86 % is not surprising in light of the post September 11 environment and the rising French unemployment rate.
Despite some commentators claiming in the lead up to the election that Le Pen had "mainstreamed" his policies he still calls for the isolation of France through withdrawing from the European Union, re-establishing the Franc as the national currency, stopping immigration, restoring the death penalty and for the doubling of current defence spending to name a few.
However the reality for Le Pen is that this result is nowhere near what he should have received. In 1999 Le Pen's National Front went through a devastating split resulting in the formation of a "split" party known as the National Republican Movement led by Le Pen's former deputy Bruno Megret. Megret received a modest but not insignificant result of 2.34 % at the election. Had the split not taken place one could assume that Le Pen's vote could been as much as 19.2 % only 0.6 % behind Chirac.
In fact, the "Le Pen" factor is not the major point of change in this unusual crisis. What is interesting is the splintering of the Left vote, which has not happened in such a major way since the 1970s, through the genuinely meteoritic rise of the Trotskyist far left, whose combined vote amounted to an astounding 12.29 % and the collapse of the Communist Party vote.
The death of the French Communist Party (PCF) is not anything to be over-looked in this result. The PCF was the largest party in the National Assembly from 1945 until the late 1980s and has dominated the French Trade Union movement and the left in general for decades. The PCF was known as a "Euro-Communist" party, it distanced its self from the USSR following the 1956 Hungarian Uprising and evolved into a moderate left social democratic party which was in a de-jure coalition with the Socialists since the early 1980s.
The high profile PCF candidate Robert Hue scored a result of 3.37 % (957,385) compared with the a result of 4.25 % (1,203,757) for the Trotskyist Revolutionary Communist League's (LCR) candidate, a relatively unknown postal worker Olivier Besancenot and overall fifth place winner Arlette Lagullier of the far left sect Workers Struggle (Lutte Ouvrière) who received 5.72 % (1,621,096) of the vote. Lagullier is a cult figure of the French Far Left and is also a Member of the European Parliament.
Over all, the Left vote was 44.77 % (including the Greens), the moderate right vote was 36.05%, and the far right vote 19.2%. Presuming all Left preferences would have flowed to Jospin and all Right preferences would have flowed to Chirac, with the rest split evenly, the eventual result would have been close to 44.77 % for Jospin and 55.23 % for Chirac.
If France had a preferential system of voting similar to our system in Australia the two party preferred result would be 44.77 Socialist and 55.23 Conservative compared with the result of the 2001 Australian federal election 48.97 ALP and 51.03 Coalition it doesn't look so bad.
Not to mention that the Socialist Party still governs the National Assembly whose powers supercede that of the Presidency. It is likely that the Socialist's coalition with the Greens and Communists is likely to continue and based on the results of the Presidential election it is likely that their coalition will retain power.
With the Second round of voting only one week away the French Left are mobilising to re-cover as much ground as possible in the lead up to the National Assembly elections I June. Massive demonstrations are planned for May 1, which will clash with National Front demonstrations planned for the same day.
Leaders of the French Left with representatives of the Catholic Church and French Jews are rallying around the conservative Chirac calling on their respective constituencies to put their support behind Chirac to "save the republic". Realistically Le Pen does not stand a change and will be lucky to increase his vote beyond 19.2 % Far-Right vote given Chirac the largest majority for a French President since De Gaulle.
So whilst the debates are sure to rage in cafes across France on how to resurrect the Socialist Party surely another debate needs to take place on how to reform the French electoral system to ensure this farce does not take place again.
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