Catastrophe since 2017: How to cover France’s presidential election?

November 22, 2021

by Ramin Mazaheri and cross-posted with PressTV

It’s a question which appears almost too basic a starting point, but not when we recall what a catastrophe the heart of Western Europe has been since 2017:

What is to be done about France?

Emmanuel Macron: Marketed as Prince Charming but who quickly became Evil King Manu I of the neoliberal empire of the European Union.

The Yellow Vests: It’s as if France has spectacularly grown a fifth limb, no? Yet there it is – muscled and grasping. By now the followers of France should know what it is and what it wants, but what we can’t say for certain is what it can do to a presidential election because this is its very first.

Eric Zemmour: And you thought Marine Le Pen was repugnant? If the 1% can fabricate a Macron out of nothing and in mere weeks, of course they can create a Zemmour to divert attention/split the right-wing vote/divert attention again.

Marine Le Pen: Joan of Arc was not yet another ineffectual leader (hereditary, even) of a discredited system – Marine has been totally unmasked by the Yellow Vests. After all the authoritarian beat-downs, mosque closures and states of emergency since 2017 – do you still believe Macron was the better choice?

Traditional political parties: Routed. They’re down to their last party-machine fiefdoms, such as the mayorship of Paris.

France’s left: Routed. Always a paper tiger – now barely there on paper.

Unions: Routed by the Yellow Vests. Only the media cares what they have to say anymore, and perhaps also the tiny percent of France (8%) which is still unionised.

Mainstream media: Routed by the Yellow Vests. If in Western liberal democracies politicians are the new aristocracy then media are the new clerical class. The miracle of transubstantiation which they insist on, and which few outside of their class actually believe, is that the universal value of Western relativism means that impiety can be the same thing as piety.

Catholic Church: France, long-known as the “daughter of the Roman Catholic Church”, has just been embroiled (seemingly rather tardily) in a massive pedophile cover-up scandal.

Notre Dame Cathedral: Europe’s most famous house of worship is still closed and will be until 2024. Recall that the fire began just an hour before Macron was due to give an exceptionally rare speech – to finally discuss the then 5-month long Yellow Vest crisis.

France’s polling agencies are so discredited that the most popular newspaper, Ouest-France, has already refused to run any polls ahead of the election. They are perceived as being tremendously biased in large part because they are now staffed at the top by the mainstream politicians who recently lost their public posts.

The French were as appalled by their nation’s part in Afghanistan as anyone else in the Western colonial coalition.

The war in Mali – started by Francois Hollande, and before the initial consent of the United Nations – has been declared an abject failure and withdrawal has begun.

France has been in a state of emergency for most of Macron’s tenure.

The longest labor movement in French history – the general strike of late 2019/early 2020 – failed, and for too many reasons to list here.

In short, it’s a total catastrophe.

I don’t mean to be negative, nihilistic or to sow despair, but who can look back at France since 2017 and see otherwise?

Did you notice that I haven’t even mentioned the coronavirus? Now do you see how bad it is?

Where is the political renewal which Macronism promised? Running a corruption-free administration – following the gaudy Sarkozy and the treacherous Hollande administrations – was truly a top-three plank of Macron’s.

The average person doesn’t fully grasp the complex but nation-appalling Benalla affair or remember Lobstergate, but they can easily imagine the effect of this: Macron set the record for most forced resignations by disgraced cabinet ministers after just two years in office. If corona hadn’t come along to totally disrupt the normal functioning of political life, and of its observation by journalists and citizens, how much worse would this record have gotten?

“The Yellow Vests will triumph” was spray-painted on the Arc de Triomphe, stunning the entire world. It was undoubtedly the defining image of France during the Macron era – a massive communications victory which redefined the image of France in the world, and of neoliberalism, and of Macron. Maybe they will yet?

Corona obviously prevented the Yellow Vests from marching, but their “Season 2” premiered last month. No one can claim that the Yellow Vests do not represent a massive renewal – of some sort – in French politics and still remain credible. To do so is to show either total ignorance or willing complicity.

France is simultaneously synonymous with “liberty” and yet had the most corona restrictions in the West – without a corona passport you can’t do anything indoors here except basic shopping (you can’t even have coffee on a cafe’s outdoor terrace). Corona preserved in amber so many (too many) problems of French life, but soon the intensity of the presidential election will melt these things away and reveal what was encased inside.

While the national corona passport has been extended until after the elections (will it be used to bar people from voting facilities?) the April presidential and June legislative elections will essentially be the West’s first post-corona election. Yes, some unhappy souls will wear masks for the rest of their life, but I think we can predict that this winter’s inevitable surge in illnesses will be the vaccine-rich West’s last chance to ardently wave the bloody flag of corona.

The Yellow Vests are right – it’s the system of Western liberal democracy, stupid: it preserves and perpetuates inequality and anti-democracy. And yet, how should they vote?

Voting out the two mainstream parties and giving Macron’s new party control over the executive and legislative branches has undoubtedly resulted in the most brutal civil political conditions since 1968.

Is that a platform worthy of re-election?

Is it remotely credible to encourage a return of the mainstream parties?

Macron, Zemmour, Le Pen – these are all people on the far-right (either economically, politically, culturally or all three). I wrote this in 2017 but was shouted down by journalist colleagues who insisted that Macron was a “centrist”. Nobody would dare claim that now, and this long-resisted knowledge cost many Yellow Vests an eye, a hand, their rights, their freedom, etc. Should we just acquiesce to the fact that France’s political power lays in the capitalist-imperialist right, and has since about 1794?

In the 2019 elections to European Parliament the Animal Rights Party received – incredibly – more than double the score of all the Yellow Vest lists combined. (However, they have had more time to organise since then.)

I don’t know how to cover France’s election but I will have to figure it out. The initial math does not look good.


Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of Socialisms Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’ as well as ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’, which is also available in simplified and traditional Chinese.

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