A hammering for France's traditional parties

For the first time since direct voting was introduced in the French presidential elections neither the Socialist nor the conservative candidate has made it to the second round. The traditional parties only have themselves to blame for their decline, some observers point out. Others predict a new beginning for the French party system.

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Le Soir (BE) /

Unrest fermenting in the parties

The two hitherto most important parties are simply too focussed on themselves, Le Soir writes:

“If they bore or dissatisfy voters it's often because they waited too long to renew themselves or because their rigid ideas and structures have prevented them from facing the challenges of the day. Emmanuel Macron could never have developed his programme, a liberal mix of right- and left-wing ideas, in the Socialist Party, which is paralysed by personal and ideological conflicts. As for the Republicans, they will perish as a result of the long line of egocentric, self-interested leaders who have only been unmasked as such by the press. Ideas need organised structures to become applicable - and applied - policies.”

Revista 22 (RO) /

The system is renewing itself

Political scientist Alexandru Gussi explains in the weekly magazine Revista 22 why Macron's first-round victory is not the end of the French party system:

“Parties have always been fragile in the French semi-presidential republic. … The current earthquake is so strong that the parties are on the verge of complete collapse. But from their ruins others will emerge, the political landscape will be redefined. The French parliamentary election in June will be decisive in this respect. Will Macron be able to form a grand coalition? There will be such a coalition for the second round of the election, but when it comes to governing there will be a fierce struggle for every seat in the National Assembly.”

Duma (BG) /

Conservatives and Socialists have themselves to blame

France's traditional parties are paying the price for having becoming almost indistinguishable from each other for the sake of gaining power, Duma criticises:

“The conservatives who used to call themselves Gaullists no longer have anything in common with the principles bequeathed to them by the founder of the Fifth Republic, General de Gaulle. The left, for its part, has gradually turned its back on social policies to the point of giving up even the traditional social achievements that formed the basis of the French social welfare state and which are the reason France is known as one of the most socially just countries in Europe. The symbiosis created for the sake of retaining power has destroyed the traditional parties. The fruit of their love, the nebulous Macron phenomenon, has ultimately put them both to sleep.”

ABC (ES) /

Macron the only centrist option

Instead of seeking votes from the far ends of the political spectrum the traditional parties should focus on the centre once more, ABC advises after Macron's victory:

“Europe's traditional parties - including the Spanish ones - would do well to analyse carefully the result of the first round of the French elections. The voters supported an apparently marginal phenomenon like the movement represented by Emmanuel Macron, which is not a party but which they have identified as the best model for stopping the extremists and the demagogues of the far left and far right. … So while the Republicans made the mistake of trying to lure the Front National voters with radical concessions and the Socialists did the same in selecting a candidate who is as left wing as possible to try to steal votes from Mélenchon, the voters opted for someone who has displayed a moderate and flexible stance.”

Dennik N (SK) /

Macron needs the system

The election has seen the complete defeat of established political elite but Macron and those he has defeated nonetheless need each other, Dennik N suspects:

“The losses of the traditional parties can't be good news for Macron. He is not an anti-system politician. He wants to reform the system, not destroy it. To realise his policies he needs a sufficiently strong and stable government and a workable parliamentary majority. … The upcoming parliamentary election may take a completely different direction to the presidential election and give the traditional parties a chance to make a comeback. Macron will cross his fingers for them. And for their part these parties must seek to join forces with Macron to stop the extremists and preserve the democratic system. Their pledges of support for Macron ahead of the runoff show that they haven't lost their instinct for self-preservation yet.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Macron won't be able to govern

No matter who wins the runoff France's Fifth Republic is finished, Der Standard comments:

“Even if Le Pen doesn't make it into the Élysée Palace the problems that are giving her and other populists in Europe such a boost are by no means solved. … The entire constitutional system is based on the strong position of the president. But now his legitimacy will be weak right from the outset: the best-positioned candidate, Emmanuel Macron, didn't even garner a quarter of the vote in the first round - and significantly less than François Hollande whose entire term in office was paved with suffering. Macron will also face the accusation that he only won the second round thanks to the entire republic joining forces against Le Pen, just as Jacques Chirac won almost 'automatically' in 2002. But even Chirac was barely in a position to govern back then.”

Le Soir (BE) /

A French revolution

For Le Soir the current election is making history:

“An unprecedented duel and a clash of ideologies - that's what the French have chosen for the second round of this presidential election. On Sunday they staged a revolution, sweeping away the traditional parties and politicians on the left and right and preferring to watch two political outsiders battle it out. ... The two big parties that have formed the backbone of French politics for decades, the PS and Les Républicains, are both out of the running. ... This vote is also historic for pitting a young (39 years old!) man without political experience or a party, who has refused to side with either the Socialists or the conservatives and who had never run for political office before these presidential elections, against a woman who embodies the values and the heritage of the far right, considered to be an enemy of democracy.”

Kurier (AT) /

Established parties proved incompetent

Election winners Macron and Le Pen have benefited from the established parties' failure to provide answers to France's political problems, Kurier comments:

“Everywhere in France uncertainty prevails. Emmanuel Macron, a former banker turned socialist minister, benefited most. His 'En Marche!' movement has yet to display a political direction but his young face at least offers hope. The corruption of the old political class was not the main factor behind the weakness of the traditional parties - the French are more prone than others to forgive their politicians for dipping into public funds - but rather their inability to deal with the country's problems: although unemployment didn't have rise during François Hollande's term of office, it remained constant at around 10 percent without prospects of improving. And almost a quarter of the country's youths have no work or future.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

An election for the political textbooks

Le Figaro is particularly disappointed at the results of The Republicans:

“The Republicans have thrashed the Socialists in every election for the past five years. Their ideas and values have never been more deeply anchored throughout the country and so widely shared by a majority of the population. These Republicans who were predestined to win were eliminated yesterday without further ado. Although the desire for political change has never been so strong after a presidency unanimously deemed a catastrophe, for the first time in their history The Republicans will not be present in the second round of a presidential election. An appalling sleight of hand that should be taught in the political science classes: Emmanuel Macron will most certainly be the next president of France.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Primaries a bad move

With the decision to hold primaries to decide the presidential candidates the conservatives and Socialists didn't do themselves any favours, El Mundo concludes:

“The two traditional parties have paid a heavy price for the misguided concept of direct democracy which prompted them to hold open primaries to elect their candidate and resulted in a genuine fiasco. In both cases militants and sympathisers opted in a suicidal manner for the worst possible leaders. The unexpected defeats of Valls with the Socialists and Juppé with the Republicans forced both parties to compete with worse candidates. … In two weeks the French may stop Marine Le Pen with their vote, but Europe remains threatened by the crisis of credibility that is boosting populism and that has undermined the traditional parties.”