By Ali Rıza Taşdelen
In France, regional elections will take place within a month, but all the eyes are directed on the presidential elections occurring in one year.
Already today it seems pretty decided that President Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Rally will make it to the second and decisive round, where they will compete against each other.
This situation means that the traditional right and the social democrats will have been eliminated in the first round of the elections.
In the second round, Macron will try to get votes from both the right and the social democrats simultaneously. Le Pen on the other side will focus on the extreme right and the conservative votes.
The generals’ statement and the elections
It is already visible that the topics of security and migrants will dominate programs and campaigns in the presidential elections.
But not all immigrants. The generals’ public letter already demonstrates that Muslim immigrants are and will be targeted.
France finds itself in an economic, social and political crisis, which the country finds itself unable to solve. I have described this systemic crisis in the past two articles. The current neoliberal Macron government is unable to find a way out, and it follows the political line of laying the burden of the crisis on the broad, working classes, while embracing an extreme right-wing discourse at the same time.
This is a discourse that is more authoritarian, more repressive and more security oriented. In these circumstances, the Muslim communities living in France are at the line of fire. Macron has disclosed his positioning with his statements targeting Islam and his law proposal concerning “struggle against Islamic separatism”.
Both public letters published by the generals follow this political line too.
The silence of Macron
Macron has not rejected the letters outright, because the generals’ demands are his own demands. At the same time, he was obliged to take into consideration those political parties that oppose Le Pen (and whose bases will potentially vote for him in the second round). These traditional right wing and the social democrat parties had evaluated the generals’ initiative as “a coup attempt” and called upon the judiciary to step in.
While Macron has not made a statement, Prime Minister Jean Castex said “I interpret this above all as a political maneuver, and I trust in our military which is the honor of France”. The Minister of Defense, Florence Parly stated on the generals’ letter “this is a statement aiming to divide and dissolve our nation by using the extreme right’s rhetoric, vocabulary, style and references”.
When the end of the World War II was celebrated on May 8, Macron used the occasion, gathered the Chief of Staff and the major commanders of the military around himself and delivered the public message “the military is with me and under my command”.
The leader of the National Rally, Le Pen, who is known for her politics against immigrants, said to the generals “I understand you, I share your views, come and join me.”
We can state that this step of Le Pen benefitted Macron. Le Pen has been trying for years to delete her father’s well-known racist and fascist policy marks in her party. She has thus gained the support of broader masses and called the attention with her anti-globalization stance. But with her stance towards the generals’ letters, she strengthened Macron’s hand, providing him a political advantage to be used later.
With this declaration, le Pen has strengthened the Macron front against her in the second round of elections.
Others argue differently. They say that 60% of the French support the generals’ position, according to polls. Thus, they say that le Pen has displayed unity with the 60%.
In the coming months, we will not witness further actions of the generals but a struggle between these political leaders, taking both a harder stance against Muslim immigrants. Macron and le Pen are head on head, according to the polls. If le Pen continues an aggressive positioning against Muslims, then an electoral victory of Macron will not be a surprise, because in order to gain the conservative votes, he will not pursue an open extreme right discourse but a controlled approach.