World View: Far-Right Candidate Le Pen Becomes French Kingmaker

World View: Far-Right Candidate Le Pen Becomes French Kingmaker

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Socialist François Hollande wins in first round of France’s presidential elections
  • Marine Le Pen gives ‘victory’ speech after French election
  • Sarkozy gives defiant speech after French election
  • A Hollande victory in France could change European dynamics
  • Greece faces military reductions in next round of austerity cuts
  • Russia and China conduct military exercises in Yellow Sea

Socialist François Hollande wins in first round of France’s presidential elections

François Hollande (Socialist Party) has won the first round of France’s presidential election, with around 28% of the vote. Incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy (Centre Right UMP party) came a close second with almost 27%. Here are the results for all ten candidates:

Latest official results for all candidates:

François Hollande (Socialist Party) 28.10%
Nicolas Sarkozy (Centre Right UMP party) 26.98 %
Marine Le Pen (National Front (Far Right)) 18.76%
Jean Luc-Melenchon (Far-Left) 10.89%
François Bayrou (Centre) 9.19%
Eva Joly (Green) 2%
Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (Right, Eurosceptic) 1.8%
Phillippe Poutou (Far Left) 1.2%
Nathalie Arthaud (Far Left 0.7%)
Jacques Cheminade (Independent) 0.2%

There will be runoff election on May 6 with just two candidates Hollande and Sarkozy.

The big surprise was the big turnout for far right candidate Marine Le Pen, almost 20% of the votes, far higher than predicted. Exit polls indicate that Le Pen captured the youth vote, with 48% of her supporters between the age of 25-44. The same study showed that Le Pen supporters said immigration and insecurity were their top concerns, whereas Sarkozy backers said the financial crisis was France’s most pressing problem. Many of Le Pen’s voters dislike Sarkozy and believe that he betrayed them, after promising “hope and change” in his first election, and so many of them will not vote for him, or not vote at all on May 6. On the other hand, the supporters of far left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, with 11% of the vote, are all expected to vote for Hollande, making Hollande the likely victor on May 6. France 24

Marine Le Pen gives ‘victory’ speech after French election

French National Front party candidate Marine Le Pen did not win the election, but with almost 20% of the vote, her concession speech sounded almost like a victory speech:

“With honour, courage and dignity the French have defied all expectations and invited themselves to the table of the elite tonight. This first round is not an end in itself but the beginning of a huge coming together of patriots both left and right who love France. The battle for France has only just begun. Dear friends, dear French friends, nothing will ever be the same again. Together we have blown apart the monopoly of the two parties of the banks, of finance, of multinationals, of giving up and abandoning. We have carried the national ideal higher than ever before. We are now the only true opposition to a left that is ultra liberal, and lax.”


Sarkozy gives defiant speech after French election

The incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy actually did fairly well on Sunday, only about a point behind the leader, Socialist candidate François Hollande. His supporters were delighted with this result, as pundits had been predicting a much poorer performance. Sarkozy’s post-election speech was defiant, referring to the runoff election in two weeks:

The French have expressed a crisis vote, one that testifies to their worries, their suffering and their anxiety faced with this new world which is taking shape. I understand these anxieties, this suffering. It concerns the respect of our borders, the battle against companies relocating abroad, it’s about controlling immigration, valuing jobs, protecting families. I know that in a fast moving world, our compatriots are worried about preserving their way of life and that is the central question of this election.

The coming two weeks must enable each and everyone of you to make a clear choice. Everything must be debated, without hypocrisy, without ducking, without equivocation. That is why I suggest three debates should be organised between the two candidates on the themes of the economy, on questions of society and on foreign policy. The French have a right to truth and clarity.

Commentators say that Sarkozy is unlikely to get his wish of three debates with Hollande, but there will probably be one or two debates. EuroNews

A Hollande victory in France could change European dynamics

Socialist candidate François Hollande gave a victory speech referring to Sarkozy as “the outgoing candidate,” and promising changes.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the dynamics of European politics changes after a Hollande victory. In the past few months, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and some other national leaders have openly supported Sarkozy and snubbed Hollande, in an effort to help Sarkozy win. It will be interesting to see how Hollande gets along with these leaders if he wins.

Hollande has promised more substantive policy changes, many of which are similar to those of President Obama. Euphemistically, Hollande has promised “growth” rather than “austerity.” France, Germany, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have all been preaching austerity — reducing deficits and debt levels. But Hollande is promising to pump money into the economy to promote growth, even if it means a substantial increase in public debt, as has happened in the United States. However, there’s a big difference in that France is only one of 17 countries in the eurozone, and there are plenty of countries, led by Germany, that will expanding public debt further.

As I’ve written many times, Europe’s economy is unraveling, with a financial collapse a certainty. So from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, it makes little difference whether Sarkozy or Hollande wins on May 6. However, a Hollande victory could change European political dynamics in a way that will at least be interesting to watch. Euro News

Greece faces military reductions in next round of austerity cuts

While Greece has been cutting the salaries and pensions of civil servants in the last couple of years, the country has been on a weapons buying binge that makes it one of the biggest weapons importers in the world. Military cuts have been exempt so far from austerity budget cuts, but that may have to change in the next round of cuts to be made this summer. However, there remains a great deal of political pressure not to cut the military budget for the following reasons:

  • Greece’s ancient enemy, Turkey, has been growing its own military, and many Greeks believe that they have to be prepared for war with Turkey, not only in Greece, but also on the island of Cyprus, where Turkey and Greece fought a bitter proxy war as recently as the 1970s.
  • Greece faces a flood of illegal immigrants coming through the porous border with Turkey, many of whom take advantage of the European Union’s open borders to travel to other countries. Many people fear that a cut in military spending will lead to an even larger increase in the number of illegal immigrants.
  • This is the juiciest reason of all. While Germany and France were insisting on more austerity in the last two years, leading to slashed spending on healthcare, pensions and salaries, they were still pushing Greece, its best customer, to buy weapons from its manufacturers.

Southeast Europe Times

Russia and China conduct military exercises in Yellow Sea

Two submarines, five missile destroyers, five missile frigates, four missile boats, a support vessel and a hospital ship from the Chinese navy, along with 13 aircraft and 4,000 Chinese servicemen, will conduct six days of military exercises to improve regional stability, according to an announcement by China. They will be joined by a Russian naval task force on Saturday. The military exercises come at a time when China is aggressively claiming complete sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea that historically had belonged to Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei. They also come at a time when the United States and the Philippines are conducting their own joint military exercises. China’s army newspaper warned that the U.S.-Philippines exercises could lead to and armed confrontation over the disputed South China Sea. Manila Standard