France-Massive Abstention Spells Trouble

If the French don’t mobilize for this Sunday’s second round of voting in Regional elections, it doesn’t mean they don’t care. It just means they will find a different, more violent, way to express themselves.

The French will soon be voting in the streets

Once again France’s elite, their political class, and media pundits totally miss the point of how dangerous the massive abstention in the Regional elections is for the coming months. History has demonstrated that when the French don’t express their discontent in the ballot box, they do so in the street. This is a lesson one would think they had learned from the Yellow Vest rebellion.

When the French don’t express their discontent at the ballot box, they do it in the street.

In 1992, 70% of French voters took part in the Regional Elections while this year nearly 70% abstained. Voters understood no more in 1992 about what a Regional Council does than they do today. The point is, elections in France have always been a way for the French to let off steam. It is clear they no longer believe in the system.

Meanwhile, the conservative right Les Républicains are crowing because in some places they obtained 30% of the vote in the first round. Please remind me what 30% of 30% is? Oh, yes, less than14% of the electorate. They fail to draw lessons from what the massive abstention in the 2017 elections meant and from an unjust electoral system which gave Macron’s En Marche party and allies an overwhelming majority of the parliament with only 23% of registered voters (taking 58% abstention into account). Believing they had a clear mandate led to arrogance in pushing through unpopular reforms and sparked the Yellow Vest insurrection.

We are witnessing this arrogance and failure to understand once again.

Poor, Young, and Angry

So, who abstained from voting in the first round this year? Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party voters are the biggest tendency to refuse to vote but especially the youth and those who took part in the Yellow Vest revolt:

  • 87% of those aged 18-24 abstained
  • 83% of those aged 25-34 abstained
  • 71% of Le Pen’s voters abstained—her party was favoured in the polls
  • 75% of those who voted for far left candidate Mélenchon in 2017 abstained

Macron’s En Marche party was erased from the scene which reflects its true representation despite its absolute majority in parliament. The traditional left, Socialists and Greens, didn’t even get enough votes to run in the second round in some Regions.

When did the French cease to believe in the system and stop using elections to let off steam? It could be traced back to the 2005 referendum on the Maastricht Treaty for greater European integration which the French rejected but President Sarkozy went ahead and ratified anyway, albeit under the new name of Lisbon Treaty.

Then when President Macron started pushing through tough reforms in a very authoritarian fashion, using his (artificial) super majority in parliament to issue blank checks and avoid public debate, giving more power to the executive branch, police and prefects to the detriment of the justice services and parading as if he were Jupiter (his nickname), the little guys who didn’t vote, revolted.

It is interesting that these same arrogant commentators and politicians are behaving just as they did at the beginning of the Yellow Vest movement. It wasn’t long before the street forced them to change their tune. If something isn’t done to instill new confidence in French voters, the next mass movement may totally destabilize the country. The Yellow Vest movement nearly brought France to its knees, forced Macron to end his (much needed) reforms and dole out money rather than reduce the deficit.

The warning in the recent and much decried Letter of the Generals that the Army may have to step in to avoid “civil war” should be re-read.

NOTES: In 2017 Legislative Elections, Macron’s party got less than half the votes cast with 57% abstention: