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Analysis: France - European Union

French parties field candidates for European election

"No to Brussels, Yes to France" reads the Front National's banner at its May Day demonstration this year
"No to Brussels, Yes to France" reads the Front National's banner at its May Day demonstration this year Reuters/Charles Platiau

France’s political parties filed their lists of candidates for this month’s European elections on Friday. The campaign, which officially starts on 12 May, promises to be lacklustre and turnout is expected to be poor. The only party looking forward to the poll would appear to be the far-right Front National (FN).


The abstention rate is expected to continue its steady decline – with the sole exception of 1994 – since the first election to the European parliament in 1979 with confidence in the European Union shaken by economic crisis and its effects on those countries that have been members the longest.

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Disillusion with the record of the ruling Socialists and the bickering in the ranks of the main opposition party, the right-wing UM,P is likely to cost both France’s largest parties votes and there is further criticism of the political establishment for sacked ministers and mayors who lost their towns on the electoral lists.

All this means that opinion polls show the FN doing well and even, for the first time in its history, winning the most votes, which party leader Marine Le Pen would no doubt hail as a victory for her attempt to clean up the party’s image, although resentment of Brussels and the mainstream parties are certainly helping her efforts significantly.

Here’s a look the best-known parties and some of their candidates:

  • The Socialists have just suffered humiliation in local council elections thanks to discontent with the record of President François Hollande’s government. No one expects a dramatic turnaround in their fortunes in the Europoll. Former education minister Vincent Peillon, who lost his job in the recent reshuffle having run into trouble with attempts to change school hours, leads a list in the south-east.
  • The UMP did not suffer as badly as some had predicted in the local council election but may have more difficulty mobilising its supporters for the European parliament. Sarkozy-era foreign affairs minister Michèle Alliot-Marie also leads a list in the south-east and has been widely derided when she remarked that she would suffer a loss of income in taking the 12,256-euro salary. Other former ministers are Nadine Morano and Brice Hortefeux, neither of whom have been spared their opponents’ scorn in the past.
  • The Front National is the version française of the euroscepticism that is proving profitable for parties like Britain’s Ukip or Greece’s Golden Dawn, all of them exploiting prejudice on immigration, race and religion. Party leader Marine Le Pen, already and MEP, is a candidate in the north-west, as does her father, Jean-Marie, also already an MEP, in the south-east, and vice-presidents Louis Aliot in the south-east and Florian Philippot in the east.
  • The Front de Gauche (Left Front), comprising the Communists and the relatively new Left Party, is also highly critical of Brussels and of the Hollande government and hopes to attract disillusioned voters to the hard left rather than to the far right, although its leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon to do so when he faced Marine Le Pen in the general election. Mélenchon, an MEP, is standing in the south-west.
  • Europe Ecologie Les Verts (EELV) the Green party, did relatively well in the local council elections and then quit the government when Manuel Valls was appointed prime minister. Veteran anti-GM campaigner José Bové, already an MEP, is standing in the south-west.
  • L’Alternative, an alliance of the centrist parties MoDem and UDI, hangs to the right, although its MPs either abstained or, in three cases, voted for, Valls’s economic package in parliament. Jean Arthuis, a finance minister in Alain Juppé’s right-wing government in the 1990s, is standing in the west.
  • The Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (New Anti-Capitalist Party), a recycled Trotskyist party, will compete for roughly the same public as the Front de Gauche, criticising it for being soft on the Socialists at least at municipal level. Telegenic former presidential candidate Olivier Besancenot is standing in Ile-de-France, the region that includes Paris.


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