France: The establishment against Le Pen
France “has voted for change,” said The Guardian (U.K.) in an editorial. For the first time in modern French history, no candidate from the two main parties will be in the May 7 presidential runoff. Instead, upstart centrist Emmanuel Macron, who took first place with 24 percent in this week’s first-round presidential vote, will face nationalist firebrand Marine Le Pen, who won 21 percent. The centerright Republican candidate, François Fillon— hurt by accusations that he gave his wife a fake parliamentary job for which she was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars—was third with 20 percent. Far-left populist Jean-Luc Mélenchon was just a hair behind Fillon. The center-left Socialists, dragged down by the historic unpopularity of President François Hollande—who was not running—took an all-time low of 6 percent. This is “a humiliation for modern French party politics of Left and Right.”
Once again, the French Left and Right must band together to stop “a xenophobic, nationalist party in the thrall of a cynical family clan,” said Jérôme Fenoglio in Le Monde (France). When the founder of the far-right National Front, Le Pen’s openly anti- Semitic father, Jean-Marie, went head-to-head with the centerright Jacques Chirac in the 2002 election, the entire French establishment rejected the elder Le Pen’s ugly message. This time, too, the major parties are telling their supporters to vote against Le Pen. But leftist Mélenchon has refused to endorse Macron, telling his many young supporters to vote with “their conscience.”
Republicans should also think twice before voting for Macron, said Ivan Rioufol in Le Figaro (France). The 39-yearold former investment banker served under Hollande as economy minister and advocates appeasement of radical Islam. Those of us “who do not intend to let France sell off its sovereignty and drift into multiculturalism” deserve better. If Le Pen would dump her absurd economic policies— she’s proposed dropping the euro and enacting “intelligent protectionism”— we could vote for her without distaste. Instead, Le Pen is going all in on economic nationalism, said Baptiste LeGrand in Le Nouvel Observateur (France). She’s chasing Mélenchon voters by denouncing what she calls “savage globalization.” But that risks alienating the conservatives who voted for Fillon—the very people she needs to overtake Macron, who polls suggest could win the second round by some 30 points. Whatever contortions she tries to execute, “to catch up in 15 days is impossible.”
Don’t be so sure, said Libération (France). The hashtag #Sans MoiLe7Mai, which means “Without Me on May 7,” has been trending on Twitter as more and more unhappy voters announce their intention to abstain. They see the runoff as a contest “between extreme right-wing xenophobia and blind neoliberalism, between hatred of foreigners and hatred of the poor.” A choice between a fascist and an ultracapitalist, they say, is no choice at all. If this sentiment spreads, turnout will be low, and Le Pen could well win.