''France will never be like it was 5-10 years ago''

Experts’ opinions about the first round of the presidential election in France

''France will never be like it was 5-10 years ago'' Photo: Reuters (svoboda.org)

The first round of French presidential election has ended with the victory of young politician and supporter of European integration Emmanuel Macron. The second place with a lag of only 2% has been taken by right-wing leader Marine Le Pen, who in the homeland has been repeatedly recalled of alleged links with Russia. Realnoe Vremya asked experts about reasons why particular these parties have qualified for the second round, the loss of the Socialists, how a victory of a certain candidate will turn out for Russia and Europe, and whether a French version of Brexit is expected.

  • Boris Kagarlitsky

    Boris Kagarlitsky Director of the Institute of Globalization and Social Movements (IGSO) in Moscow, Candidate of Political Science

    There have not been big surprises, except one very important turn that Benoît Hamon, the official candidate of the Socialist Party, has suffered an unmitigated failure. It is French people's assessment of the reign of the Socialist administration of François Hollande. One can even say that he got U grade, not even F. So disastrous was the participation of the Socialist Party in the election, such has never been for the entire history of the Republic in France. The Socialist Party is likely to collapse, break up into groups and currents, and a substantial part of the electorate and of the state, perhaps, will be picked up by the left front led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

    The successful performance of the latter is the main sensation of the election, as a few months ago, despite the fact that Mélenchon is very popular in the country, was not expected to surpass candidates-Socialists by such a margin. The victory of Jean-Luc Mélenchon has changed the configuration on the left flank. A gap between Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen turned out to be a few percent, the gap is very little. In fact, for the Left Front and for Mélenchon it is a very big success.

    As for the leaders of the race — Macron and Le Pen. It is not a big surprise. It is not essential to try to predict whether the first will be Marine Le Pen and the second will be Macron or vica verca because what does mean it is their winning for the second round. The current position of Marine Le Pen as catching up is even more preferable.

    The second point that draws the attention is that the election means a disaster to the party political system as it existed in the Fifth Republic — neither the Socialists nor the Republicans went through to the second round. None of the leading parties, none of the parties which traditionally form the backbone of the Republic, has succeeded to take his candidate to the second round. This is unprecedented for the history of France and, perhaps, for the history of Europe.

    Marine Le Pen's chances are quite high. My prediction before the election was the following — if Le Pen and François Fillon go to the second round, then Fillon wins with a narrow margin. If Marine Le Pen and Macron, then, in my opinion, today Le Pen is more preferable. Why? In fact, whatever Fillon and Hamon say addressing to their constituents, the vast majority of supporters of Fillon are much closer in their sentiments and interests to Marine Le Pen than to Macron. The ordinary electorate of Fillon will split so that the majority will go to Le Pen and the minority – to Macron. The situation with Hamon's electorate will be the opposite. The survived Socialists' electorate will vote for Macron.

    With the victory of Le Pen, France will change. I do not exclude a paradoxical scenario — in case of Marine Le Pen's victory, Mélenchon can be appointed as Prime Minister. And then we will have such configuration when left and right parties will unite to withdraw France from the European Union. It's possible, but it still looks fantastic.

    Macron or Hollande may say that Russian hackers or someone else intervened. But as the US experience shows, it will only have the opposite effect. A lot depends on the election campaign, how voters will react on propaganda. Experience shows that the propaganda of the pro-European democratic establishment, represented by Macron, and which Hillary Clinton represented in another version, can be counterproductive and be very very annoying for voters. Clinton's main problem was — the more they led the campaign against Trump, the more they promoted Trump. It is possible that now a great propaganda attack on Marine Le Pen will change the situation in her favour. I'm pretty sure that they will make such mistake.

  • Vasily Likhachyov

    Vasily Likhachyov Member of Central Election commission of Russia, Ambassador of Russia in European Society in Brussel (1998—2003)

    The political importance of the election and the election campaign has gone far beyond the national borders of France. Almost all the political forces, agencies and organizations of not only Europe but of the West in general are watching and studying the results. Because it was a question of political strategy for development of not only France but also Europe.

    The results of the election clearly show that the French society is split, and such multipolarity of the vote will affect the next elections to the National Assembly of France in June. I am sure that from the point of view of energy gain the winner is Marine Le Pen. On the side of Macron there are huge forces, even those who voted for Fillon have smoothly moved into his camp. On the side of Macron there fought the world business and capital, the countries of the European Union. The number of ''political bayonets'' in the army of Le Pen is less. She had to strain three times more, and it gives us an opportunity to recognise her to be an accomplished politician of the European level, who influences the microclimate of the European community.

    A very interesting thing has been revealed, it is associated with how the French voted for development of the relations with Russia. I count the votes for Mélenchon, Fillon and Marine Le Pen, in the programmes of whom there were points on strengthening of relations with Russia. Fillon had even the point of recognition of the carte blanche in relation to Crimea, its Russian status. It turns out, more than 50% of voters of France supported development and strengthening of Russian-French relations, recognition of Russia as a European player, without which it is impossible to solve many international problems.

    A thaw in relations and even a new wave will appear with a victory of Le Pen, for me it is to be sure. By the way, knowing Le Pen personally and those documents that the National Front puts forward, I can assume that she will think about development of European processes, although emphasis is placed on France's sovereignty and a turn from globalization, of which half of the French society has already tired.

    It will be very difficult for Russian-French relations, I think, in the case if Macron wins. Macron is being led to this mission for many reasons. He will ensure the interests of the global financial giants — he is their puppet. He will provide the relationships of those political forces in Europe that advocate preservation and strengthening of the European Union. There will a new confrontation between France and Germany, although, perhaps, this prediction will not come true. Everything is done to save the Union, but, knowing the nature of Macron and the political forces and the sources on which he relies, and knowing the character and views of Angela Merkel, I can assume that new contradictions will be laid.

  • Oleg Morozov

    Oleg Morozov Member of the Federation Council the Federal Assembly of Russia

    The results were predictable in the part that the names of the finalists we knew in advance, but it should be understood that the supporters of this French nationalism have never received in France such support. We remember that the father of Marine Le Pen qualified for the second round, but the support level is higher now. What I think is most important in this case — it has been the election of not only about what France will be tomorrow, but the most important was the question — what will be its place in Europe. It was the main intrigue. It seems that the most important thing after this election — no matter how much Le Pen will get in the second round, but my prediction is that everyone will take issue with her and her chances are little, but whatever she gets, France will never be what it was 5-10 years ago. It will look for its place in Europe.

    As for my forecast, now everyone will vote not for but against. Now this is going to be a protest vote, everyone will frighten with terrible Le Pen, they will attach all sorts of labels to her, though, I think, it is very far from the truth to label her as a person with views that cannot be appreciated. She says simple things, she says that the old European values have not taken root in France, they have largely deformed it. The way of life of ordinary French people have been destroyed, and it is what Le Pen is trying to make the main in her campaign. But, my prediction is that everyone will unite against her. That is why it is likely that she will lose.

    If we imagine such a miracle that she wins, then I think she will fulfill her campaign pledges, and then, most likely, France will follow the UK in terms of its place in the European Union, this will be the beginning of the final collapse of the European economic and political unity. I think that the policy regarding so-called refugees, migrants will significantly change, and it will become much more stringent. But again, this is a hypothetical situation.

  • Yulduz Khaliullin

    Yulduz Khaliullin Diplomat, the head of the Moscow branch of the International Aconomic Academy of Eurasia

    A choice of French voters between centrist Emmanuel Macron and right-wing leader Marine Le Pen is a very interesting sign: interesting political events are taking place in France. French political structure until recently consisted of two parties, but now — from three-four. We are witnessing a crisis of the existing system. The last forty years in the country there dominated the Gaullists party (Gaulle's supporters) and the Socialist Party, the presidents were only from these political forces.

    The advantage of Emmanuel Macron is that he is much younger than Marine Le Pen (he is less than forty years old) – it is a new generation of political leaders. As it seems to me, the current President of France supports him. He advocates for further liberalization and modernization of the economy while preserving certain social guarantees. He is going to reduce public expenditure by 50-60 billion euros in the next five years of his time in power. At the expense of what — we will see (and whether he will do it). Unlike Le Pen, he is a supporter of the preservation of the European Union. He calls for the preservation of France in the European Union – it is already a plus in all respects. A summit of EU member states takes place on 29 April. I think they will also assist to ensure so that Macron won. Personally I am convinced that he will be the president of France, the representative of a new generation.

    A gap can be narrow — about 4-5%. In case of his victory, significant changes in Russia's relations with the EU should not be expected. In relations with Moscow, he favours a retention of sanctions and their gradual weakening as the implementation of the Minsk agreements moves forward. Difficulties will arise in a few months when France holds parliamentary elections. Macron is a non-partisan person, and he will have to turn to the existing party system.

    At some extent, Le Pen has strengthened her positions by calling to fight against extremism. But her programme includes about 150 different pledges. I don't think they are realistic. She is not satisfied with the EU and normal conservative society of France. If by chance Le Pen wins, it will be the beginning of a collapse of the European Union. We remember her calls: withdrawal from the EU, from the euro zone, NATO. I think the French public will still elect Emmanuel Macron.

  • Maksim Shevchenko

    Maksim Shevchenko Journalist, member of the Council under RF President on development of civil society and human rights

    Macron is a puppet of the European Union, of European Freemasonry and all European neo-liberal financial-oligarchical elites, and Le Pen is the choice of the French people. A true Democrat is not Macron but Le Pen. She far more stands for the tradition of French democracy and says, appealing to the French nation, to the interests of the French people, protecting their values, which the French Republican society actually has, which were formed in the course of the revolutions and events of the 17th-19th-20th centuries.

    Macron is a neoliberal with the beliefs that there is the European house, where, as they say, everyone is equal. Macron is a gay, and everyone knows it (Emmanuel Macron has denied the rumors about his homosexual orientation — editor's note). That is, he is a supporter of the most radical liberal values. So, I don't know whether our paths with a United Europe converge… Usually when Europe unites, it always ends with a war for us. It was united under Napoleon — it ended with the war, it was united under Hitler — it also ended with the war. It is also being united now. The power of a United Europe must always be targeted somewhere. The natural vector of expansion is the East — that is, we.

    But Le Pen speaks from the point of view of France as a state on the European continent. Therefore, in my opinion, this concept is much more preferable. I believe that the European Union is a very dangerous political entity, unstable, led by irresponsible people who do not have direct accountability to peoples of the union. Since the elections in the leadership of the EU are not accented within countries politically, in contrast to, for example, the elections of presidents or prime ministers of the countries in the EU, however, the powers that the EU has are enormous compared even with the national states. Therefore, the pledges of Le Pen to exit from the EU and from NATO are certainly very attractive for us. If France leaves the European Union and NATO — this will strengthen the security of the European continent and Russia. Half of the French people at least want the same (a Brexit – editor's note).

    In answer to your question about the fight against ''so-called ''Muslim enclaves'' in France: I think, from the point of view of interests of any country, it is important that these ghettos did not exist. I am personally a strong opponent that they appeared in Russia. I just do not consider indigenous Muslims of Russia as some ''newcomers'' or people involved in the enclaves. Enclaves are, as a rule, migrants, no matter they are Muslim or Romanians in France, or Gypsies, or Serbs. Once in France there were very strong Serbian organised crime, extremely far from Islam as you know. I think ghettos for any country is a problem, so the openness of such enclosed spaces from the point of view of security of society is a democracy, and that's normal. So there is nothing extraordinary in the demands of Le Pen. Though maybe she expresses them using populist language.

By Damira Khairullina, Lina Sarimova, Timur Rakhmatullin