By Najete Michell
The results of the French départemental elections on 29 March were a devastating defeat for French President, Hollande’s Socialist Party (SP) government and a clear rejection of austerity policies.
In the wake of the grotesque and vile attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris, which left 12 innocents dead, there has been an understandable rush to not only condemn the attack but to gather under the principle of the "defence of freedom of speech".
Large demonstrations in Paris have taken up the slogan "Je suis Charlie” to express their defiance at attempts to intimidate journalists into silence.
Although the March elections in France were only at a local level, they took on a national character. They were the first elections since the Socialist Party (PS) formed the government in 2012 and were therefore the first opportunity to test the level of discontent at its record so far.
Book review by Najete Michell
La Laicite Falsifiée [State Secularism Falsified] by Jean Beauberot
The question of what is known as ‘laïcité’ has raised passions in French politics for more than a decade.
It was in the name of ‘laïcité’ that laws were passed first prohibiting the hijab in schools, then the niqab in the street. Both led to increased Islamophobia. And now this is extending to the consideration of new laws prohibiting children’s nannies and mothers accompanying their children on school trips from wearing the hijab.
The by-election on 23rd June in Villeneuve sur Lot was a wake up call for the French political class. The second round run-off posed the question of whether the National Front candidate would win in the election for this Southern France parliamentary seat.
In the event, the NF candidate lost, but he nevertheless got 46 per cent of the vote in the run off against the UMP, apparently getting 7,000 more votes than in the first round, although the exact figures have yet to be released.
By Jane West
A recent by-election in Oise, just north of Paris, has underlined that the austerity policies of Hollande’s French Socialist Party government are not only leading to a collapse in its support, but also to a dangerous growth of the extreme right.
It should also be a wake up call for the anti-fascist movement in the country, which remains weak and divided.
Since being elected on 6 May the Hollande government appeared to lack direction on several issues, reflecting pressures from the right and the left.
Critique of the government has focused on it ‘not communicating’ and for postponing difficult decisions.
All this hesitation succeeded in was to make nobody happy, reflected in a rising dissatisfaction rate, up to 58 per cent in the latest polls.
By Abelle Moreau
The outcome of the French elections marks a turn in the political situation in France, which will now play out with implications for all parties.
Francois Hollande’s ‘honeymoon’ with French voters has been one of the shortest on record.
Having run his election campaign claiming he would reject Sarkozy’s austerity policies and insist on a ‘growth strategy’ alongside debt reduction, no new policies have materialised.
At last Sarkozy has been defeated! A relief for the French population after 5 years of a huge Thatcher-like offensive against the French welfare state, and the daily injection of racist and Islamophobic poison.
However, despite the opposition to Sarkozy, Hollande only won by 51.6 per cent and with only 1.1 million more votes than Sarkozy – a narrow victory, especially compared to what the polls had previously predicted.
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