Commentary EU

Commentary: French republicans in crisis

At the May European parliamentary elections the French republicans hit rock bottom: they were only able to win eight of the country’s 79 MEP mandates or 8.48 percent of the votes. Magyar Nemzet columnist Eszter Petronella Soós looks at the party’s crisis.

The EP campaign was not supposed to go this way for the republicans: when they announced that their head candidate will be 33-year-old philosophy teacher from Versailles Francois-Xavier Bellamy, there was some hope that the fresh face could attract additional votes.

Instead, their former voters either did not bother to cast their ballot this time or – even worse – put their confidence either in Macron’s La République en Marche (LREM) or Marine Le Pen’s Ressemblement National (RNin short or National Rally in English).

The blame went to Laurent Wauquiez, head of the party since the end of 2017 who was forced to resign soon after the European elections. The party is now headed towards the election of a new president in October, hoping that a new leadership will be able to lift it out of its most severe crisis yet.

However, both the LREM and RN smell blood and are out for what’s left of the republicans’ voter base while their political platform doesn’t seem to have meaningful traction with the citizens. The sovereign and Gaullist socialist sentiment is presently mainly served by Marine Le Pen’s party while those for a liberal economic policy coupled with a paternalistic state and labor reforms are better served by Macron’s party.

If anything, the Socialists have fared even worse, but for the same reasons: the dividing lines in French politics are now arranged along different dividing lines, with attitudes towards globalization being the decisive factor.

But the republicans also managed to shoot themselves in the foot by establishing that any candidate to the party presidency must promise not to run for French president at the 2022 elections. Time is not on their side and it will be quite an uphill battle to retain at least some of the party’s relevance – or indeed, ensure its survival.

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