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Witchcraft in French politics
by Joseph Gatt
2014-07-02 10:27:49
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When two opponents confront each other in politics, it’s always easier when the opponent has unorthodox ideas. You can call him names, say he’s delusional, launch a media campaign vilifying him, talk about his extremist past, and the election is yours.

France has always preferred second rounds with two opponents confronting each other over proportional elections leading to coalitions. The system has its advantages and disadvantages: the advantage is unorthodox parties are barred from representation, the disadvantage is conventional parties can sometimes run out of ideas in times of crisis.

Today’s situation in France reminds me that of Algeria during the democratization process. Starting in 1989, through a game of witchcraft, the ruling National Liberation Front thought it would have an easier time winning elections if their main opponent was the Islamic Salvation Front, a radical extremist Islamic party intending to create an Islamic state. The National Liberation Front made sure the Islamic Salvation Front would get as much attention as possible, more than other less hardline parties. Polls predicted the Islamic Salvation Front and the National Liberation Front would be neck and neck at most elections, but the result was a crushing victory of the Islamic Salvation Front, leading to the elections being cancelled.

In today’s France, the Socialist Party is trying its best to put all the attention on the National Front. While victory is not guaranteed against the mainstream Union for a Popular Movement at elections, polls say the Socialist Party would beat the National Front by a large margin, as most experts say in the second round the National Front cannot gain more than 35% of the vote.

This again, is a game of witchcraft. Two national debates took an indecent amount of emotional proportion: the debate on the legalization of gay marriage, and the debate on banning comedian Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala from performing at the national level.

The Socialist Party used dirty tactics to impose its views on gay marriage: those who favored it were the good ones, and those who opposed it were either fascists or clerical extremists. The National Front tried to tone down the game, saying it would not take part in the debate as there were more pressing economic and social issues to deal with. While the Socialist Party would have hoped the National Front could oppose gay marriage so it could be framed a fascist party, the usual label given by mainstream parties to the National Front, but Marine Le Pen played her cards well.

Then, there was the debate on imposing a ban on comedian Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala, who was convicted of incitation to racial hatred several times. The debate took delusional proportions, with those against trying to frame themselves as the defenders of free speech and trying to say that in democratic countries you only get punished after you utter a statement, not before, and the Socialist Party trying to frame all those who opposed a ban on Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala as neo-Nazis, fascists and racists.

Again the National Front came out as a winner in the debate. While the ban was effectively imposed, the National Front said that the debate was not an important one and that it had blown out of proportion, while reminding people that such bans could extend themselves over to unorthodox parties who may have views that bother mainstream parties.

This game the Social Party has been playing of framing anyone who opposes them as fascists and racists has had its consequences. In the last European elections the Socialist Party came third with only 13% while the National Front came first with 25%.

The National Front has also won sympathizers among second and third generation Middle Eastern and African immigrants, a population it was once rather hostile to with Jean Marie Le Pen questioning their loyalty to France. The French government has been calling for censorship on the internet which mainly targets those populations, while the National Front promised it would protect the internet from censorship.

What the Socialist Party is trying to do is to bring the party at the top of first round of elections so it can then beat them at the second round, like the Union for a Popular Movement did in 2002. Back then National Front candidate Jean Marie Le Pen came second at the presidential election behind Jacques Chirac, and Chirac has an easy win in the second round.

This time around things may be different. Marine Le Pen’s popularity is rising, and the French population is fed up with people constantly being accused of the great sins of racism and anti-Semitism.

The Socialist Party does have a point. The National Front still lacks recognizable figures other than Marine Le Pen and a few others. It has long been outside the National Assembly or any other form of government. In times of crisis, people often vote for recognizable figures.

But in the meantime the Socialist Party has been playing a game of witchcraft, molding a radicalized opposition to mainstream politics. While Marine Le Pen has taken a more careful approach to politics by taken distances from extremist views, the French may be fed up with mainstream politicians’ games which could lead to a surprise landslide victory of the National Front at major elections.   

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Emanuel Paparella2014-07-02 16:07:06
A well balanced analysis avoiding intemperate extremes. Indeed Aristotle had it on target: virtue is in the center in the realm of harmony and balance, never at the extremes in the realm of fanaticism and intemperance. Wisdom is always ill served by intolerant extreme ideological perspectives.

Leah Sellers2014-07-05 19:36:24
Another long existing Reality is that during "boiling, roiling Points" in the World's Stories one extreme view is always acted upon more than another for a variety of Reaonings. And if Cultures are lucky the struggles between the ywo will eventually lead back to the Center. But the Revelation of the Boiling Point Extremes is important to Reveal, analyze and Understand for a more Healthy Evolutionary Step to emerge and take hold witnin a local, national or Global Culture. That is what is happening all over the World now. We're going through Evolutionary Growing Pains. How we Handle things Differently from the Past will be one of the Real Tests and Measurements of how we all Positively Evolve or Nihilistcally Devolve.

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