France shifts to the right
France's conservative camp under ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy emerged the clear winner of France's departmental elections on Sunday. The far-right Front National won fewer votes than expected. The conservatives must decide whether they want to make deals with the far right in future, some commentators write. Others already see Sarkozy as the winner of the 2017 presidential elections.
Law of change on Sarkozy's side
Nicolas Sarkozy already has good chances of winning the presidential election in 2017, the liberal-conservative daily Corriere della Sera believes: "The French aren't all that keen to see Sarkozy make a comeback. His image is a bit frayed, his energy is perceived more as arrogance than true power. The memory of his presidency conjures up the economic crisis, subservience to Merkel and the terrible consequences of the Libya operation. … But the law of change favours him. In the last 35 years those in power have always lost the elections. … This, however, has less to do with the politicians than with France itself. It senses its own insignificance as soon as it's not towing along behind the German enemy it so admires. It sees the prosperity it built up for itself in the glorious years between 1944 and 1974 draining away. A decline against which all the leaders so far have proven powerless. Including Sarkozy."
The decisive question for the UMP
After their victory in the local elections France's Conservatives must decide whether they are open to alliances with the far-right Front National, the liberal-conservative daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung comments: "The conservative right must decide whether it would rather team up with the left or with the right-wing populists. Alain Juppé, currently Sarkozy's only serious rival, wants to steer clear of the Front National. The former president, on the other hand, is playing his cards close to his chest: his mantra is that voters should cast their ballots neither for left-wing parties nor for far right ones. He has avoided disassociating himself entirely from the Front National; he has avoided negating the party's 'republican' legitimation, as [Prime Minister] Valls does. How far can or should Nicolas Sarkozy allow himself to be tempted by Marine Le Pen? This question will no doubt be the subject of extensive discussions in the conservative camp."
Sarkozy has no cause to celebrate
The conservatives have no reason to celebrate their victory in France's departmental elections, the left-liberal daily Der Standard warns: "Battered by the crisis, the frustrated voters have just as little faith in Sarkozy as they do in Hollande. Since they voted the former out of office they've had no reason to revise that decision - apart from punishing the latter. The real negative voters, that is those who cast their ballots for the Front National, go away empty-handed: although the party secured more than 25 percent of the vote in the first round, Marine Le Pen won only a few of the 101 departmental councils because of the majority voting law. That may be good news politically - but it's questionable from a democratic point of view. From the left to the far right, the French are growing increasingly angry about the scant choice of candidates and the democratic deficit in their country."
Working class must engage in local politics
Just 97 of all 8,124 candidates in the French departmental elections have a working class background. In his blog for the weekly magazine Marianne, historian Arthur Hérisson calls for the introduction of quotas for low and high-income political representatives: "Promoting equal presence for these two groups in local assemblies would be an effective way of attacking the political consequences of the economic inequalities that divide our country. ... And in certain cases a local mandate could serve as a springboard into the National Assembly or the Senate and bring about a renewal of the political class. By allowing the working class to take part in our country's legislatures, such a measure would diminish the gap that separates today's political class from much of the population. And it would allow the interests of the working class to be better represented than they are today."