John McDonald's conversation with Clément Petitjean — doctoral candidate in American civilization in Paris and a member of Ensemble! — on the French presidential election was first published on the Haymarket Books blog.
John McDonald: I’m hoping that you can start by giving a little bit of context. What were the driving forces of this election, what were people thinking about, and what led people to support the candidates they did?
Clément Petitjean: I would say what’s most striking about the election is that nothing happened the way it should have. The first sign of something strange was in December when the incumbent, François Hollande, who was elected in 2012 against Sarkozy, decided to step aside and not run for reelection. This is unprecedented since the foundation of the Fifth Republic in 1958.
This piece first appeared in Jacobin.
The French presidential election later this month will be a major turning point in the country’s political history. Beyond the campaign’s many twists and turns — from François Hollande’s decision not to stand for reelection to the collapse of the mainstream right’s candidate, François Fillon — the fact that the two candidates most likely to face off in the second-round elections — Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen — do not belong to either the Socialist Party (PS) or Les Républicains (LR) represents a historic development.
Since the Fifth Republic formed in 1958, the PS and LR — or any one of the various Gaullist rights — have alternated power. This year, either social-liberal Macron, from the year-old party En Marche!, or far-right Marine Le Pen of the National Front (FN) will likely become president. Every pollster predicts Macron will win in a second round runoff.
David Broder's report on the French presidential election was first published in Political Critique, prior to yesterday's first round.
Without doubt the French election promises a political shake-up. The governing Socialist Party is at just 8% in the presidential poll while all four leading candidates vying to replace François Hollande declare themselves the challengers to "élites," or even to be "anti-systemic." Certainly the candidates are keen to represent a clean break with the record of both the Hollande and Sarkozy presidencies, associated with continual economic crisis as well as the insecurity attached to the mounting war on terror. Yet the "battle against élites" increasingly appears as a mere marketing strategy, the supposed fight against "vested interests" able to cover all manner of sins, or indeed, vested interests.
First published in Le Monde Diplomatique. Translated by David Broder.
"I'm going to be very clear..." Probably ignorant of the basic logics of the symptom, Emmanuel Macron seems unable to see how this repetitive way of starting each of his answers betrays the deep desire to cover things up — or rather, to recover them — that animates his whole campaign. "Keep on bathing between vagueness and nothingness" — that is what we should take from each of his promises of clarity. In his defence, we will admit that deferring to the obligation to speak when one's intention is to say nothing at all is one of the curses of this "democracy" that we have still found no satisfactory antidote for. Some will object that most of the candidates end up accommodating to this long and difficult moment — a moment one simply has to go through — and that the campaign-season fib is a well-established genre which should no longer be able to surprise anyone. For Macron, however, the problem takes on unprecedented proportions: not just a matter of slipping across a couple of whoppers, even of the calibre of "my enemy is finance" [as François Hollande claimed before his election in 2012]: rather, his entire campaign, and even his very persona as a candidate, constitute an essentially fraudulent enterprise.