The citizens of France expressed their profound dissatisfaction last night – loudly, clearly and unambiguously – in the second and final round of municipal (town hall) elections. Fed up with the dithering François Hollande and his party’s broken promises, not to mention the inept handling of the multiple crises that have gripped the nation for far too long now – recession that lingers while other countries are on the upturn, persistently high unemployment (especially youth unemployment at 26.5 percent), factory closures, political scandals, corruption charges and tax hikes – electors demonstrated their animosity towards Hollande and his party by voting against the government or by not voting at all.
It should be noted that France is a harshly punitive society.
Among the top reasons given in a poll for why Hollande is unpopular: he hiked taxes, he lacks vision, he mishandled fiscal discipline, he didn’t push through structural reform and, overall, he lacks solutions strong enough to pull France out of crisis.
The right-wing National Front
Results from Sunday’s voting showed the anti-EU National Front party of Marine Le Pen (daughter of the party’s founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen) taking control of 14 towns across the country, plus one district in Marseille. The issues that underpinned the National Front’s victory in Henin-Beaumont, a depressed former coal mining town in the north of the country, are the same as those in the south: unemployment, poverty and crime, but also disillusionment with the perceived failures and cronyism of the existing political establishment, at local and national levels.
It is in the poorest cities with the highest crime, immigration and unemployment rates where the National Front presence is the highest: the southern city of Beziers, for example: 16 percent of the workforce is unemployed and a third of the population lives with a net household income below €1,000 ($1,400) per month.
Back in Paris, the freshly-elected (Socialist) mayor of this city is a woman: Anne Hildalgo, but no-one cares about gender. Man or woman, we just want someone competent to tackle some of the preoccupations of Parisians today: the construction of additional and affordable housing, more day-care centers (crèches), fewer automobiles, reduced air pollution, more public toilets to discourage drunkards and partygoers from urinating in the streets, cleaner sidewalks….and all this without raising taxes.