Statemrnt by Pierre Laurent
The first round of departmental elections, despite a participation rate that was 6.5 points higher than in 2011, was largely boycotted by voters, with 48.5% abstaining. Mistrust is more firmly anchored than ever.
The polling results that have been validated at this time confirm that there is a risk of a massive shift in departmental administrations, with the right and the far right moving into power; the National Front recorded a high percentage of votes, while the number of voters on the left dropped off sharply. Tonight, the situation of the forces of the left in France is worse than critical. In many departments where voters traditionally supported the left, the results clearly reveal how deep the political crisis is. The Socialist Party faces severe losses and there will be no candidates on the left for the second round in many cantons.
Tonight, I hear, we hear, the anger, indignation and disgust that voters have expressed – with their ballots or by abstaining massively. It is the indignation of those who can no longer live decently, who feel that they are taken for fools, who have seen the government give in to financial powers, to shareholders and the CAC 40 stock market, to the diktats of the European Union. It is the anger of those who have made sacrifices in the name of austerity, and yet who have seen that unemployment and poverty have worsened. Voters are bewildered, and do not know where to turn for hope.
The breakthrough of the National Front is the consequence of this bewilderment and the overall exasperation of voters, but it is also the result of the long process of trivialisation of its ideas. Never before was the “FN” given such pride of place in the media and political debates before an election. The right, and in particular Nicolas Sarkozy, fervently advocated of this strategy; a few days before the election, they freely borrowed from the far right discourse.But beyond this case, all media outlets and politicians who have trivialised far right ideology must take responsibility for encouraging this banalisation and the danger that it represents for democracy.
In this context, the Communist Party and the Left Front resist. The results of candidates representing unions with other forces of the left and green parties that joined together for these elections are encouraging for the perspective of a political alternative – which is more vital than ever, given this evening’s outcome. However, these unions are not yet sufficient and clearly do not meet the challenges of a truly dire situation and the despair of the population.
Today’s elections are a wake-up call that bears no prevarication. After the municipal and European elections, this vote sends yet another clear message from the French people, who resolutely reject the policies that the government has implemented since 2012. Will their voices be ignored once again? The message from the ballot boxes tonight is that these policies must be changed, and we must continue to act and unite to do so.
I call for a strong response, first of all next Sunday for the second round; this catastrophe must be mitigated, no further ground can be yielded to the right and the far right.
We need to establish support for the future. In the second round, every vote will count for candidates representing the Left Front, the French Communist Party and other forces of the left and from green parties. These candidates, I am certain, are the united force facing the far right and the right. Every Council member from the PCF and the Left Front will be a voice of resistance to austerity campaigns, in favour of developing concrete efforts and solidarity, and an opportunity to build a perspective for popular change that is truly of the left.
In those places where candidates presented by the Socialist Party, EELV (Europe Ecology – Greens) or any other groups on the left are on the ballots for the second round, I call on voters to stand united against the right or the far right. Second-round victories for the right and the far right can only drastically worsen the already difficult living conditions of the people. The right and far right jointly seek to push harder for austerity, roll back social protection, set people in competition against one another, reduce public spending and public service jobs, privatise the public sector, dismantle welfare policies that have been established on the departmental level by administrations on the left.
In cantons where there is no candidate of the left in the second round, each voter will have to make a decision. The ballot gives us the power to stop the rise of the National Front and the block the worst-case scenario that faces our country. It is no longer the matter of a canton, or of a candidate that might be the lesser of two evils. It is a national matter. It is our duty as women and men of the left to do all that we can to block the victory of National Front candidates; their campaign clearly demonstrated the hateful and racist ideology they espouse. Their election would be an added and significant obstacle to any progressive alternatives in our country.
Lastly, and beyond the results of this evening, I call for the construction of a new left. All of the efforts that have already begun to build a new force on the left must be multiplied. Popular, citizens’ movements must rise to the occasion. All of the forces of the left are concerned. No one can say the fault lies with others. Now is the time to make decisions, take action, leap into the fray, to work with patience and determination to reach the only conclusion possible: the construction of an alternative policy and a new majority, of the people and based on citizen participation, of the left, which will lead us away from austerity and towards a social project rooted in solidarity and concern for the environment. The government’s policies as well as our economic and institutional system have run out of steam. Democracy is threatened. The situation is urgent. Change is inevitable. We are more determined than ever to work towards our goals. Thank you for your attention.
Pierre Laurent is national secretary of the French Communist Party