The European Union Elections
This year’s European Union elections are arousing even less interest than usual in France. It’s not hard to understand why. European elections are always a referendum on the sitting president, but this year the Gilets Jaunes and Grand Débat National present a far more interesting theater for venting feelings about Macron than the altogether too diffuse field of candidates for the European Parliament. In any case, European political conversation, such as it is, is dominated by Brexit at the moment, so the debate that might have been joined over Macron’s reform proposals has been completely marginalized. In any case, Macron’s proposals have long since been buried by the cool reception afforded them first by Chancellor Merkel and now by her designated successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who has shifted the CDU sharply to the right and sought accommodation with her anti-Merkel challenger Friedrich Merz, whom she defeated in the party leadership contest but by such a small margin that she has no choice but to compromise with him by, among other things, signaling distinct coolness toward any reformist ideas emanating from France. Macron’s desire to divide Europe between “progressives” and “populists” hasn’t caught fire.
Despite all this, the polls show Macron’s LRM with a modest lead over Le Pen’s Rassemblement National. The left has crumbled, and the scramble for the crumbs has devolved into a rather unseemly spectacle. La France Insoumise is barely ahead of Jadot’s EELV, marking a considerable fall from Mélenchon’s high-water mark. Hamon’s Génération(s) has achieved the feat of halving his presidential score, while the odd decision of the PS to surrender its standard to the political essayist Raphaël Glucksmann seems not to have done much good for either party to the agreement.
Although pundits agree that François-Xavier Bellamy, the conservative Catholic whom the Republicans have made their standard-bearer, has exceeded expectations, that isn’t saying much, since LR at 13-14 percent marks a considerable fall from even the disgraced Fillon’s showing in the presidential.
In short, this is an election in which there are too many candidates of too little stature and too few ideas. Turnout will be low, the stakes are also low, and nothing will change as a result, which will in turn justify the lack of citizen interest. The European Union needs something to concentrate its attention, but the combined crises of the euro, Brexit, immigration, and Russia have not managed to that. What would it take?