Monday, 14 December 2015

Un oeuil sur France (an eye on France)

Yesterday, the second round of regional elections in France concluded, the first round having concluded last week. These were based on new and larger merged regions, generally merged only for administrative purposes and largely without any respect for long-established regional and cultural identities, such as those of Alsace-Lorraine and Savoy which did not get regions of their own.

It turned out to be a poor result for socialist and progressive forces in France, with the Parti Socialiste, led by the unpopular and disappointing Francois Hollande, only winning 5 regions on the mainland and finishing third in several despite allying with other left-wing parties. It consequently withdrew in the second round to keep out the dangerous, far-right Front National (FN) led infamously by Marine Le Pen, daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen-a tactic which worked. The centre-right Republicans, still led by Nicolas Sarkozy, won 7 mainland regions although it was hard not to improve on their performance when back in 2010, under the old regional system, the only mainland French province they won was Alsace (meaning that they notionally had control of zero of the new mainland regions had the mergers occurred before 2010). My allies in France, Europe Ecologie-Les Verts, sadly ended up losing nearly half their 2010 vote share in spite of the climate talks in Paris going on at the same time and EELV's respect for civil liberties (the state of emergency declared by M. Hollande has led to the banning of demonstrations within Paris) as well as people and planet.

The one good thing about the French regional elections, though, is that the Front National has failed to win a single region, despite finishing first in the initial round of elections particularly in north-eastern France (aka Nord-Pas-Calais-Picardy). This is not only due to tactical ploys by both LR and PS (depending on region), but also by significantly increased voter turnout in the second round. Turnout was just 49.9% in round one, but it increased to a much more respectable 58.4% in round two; voter apathy is advantageous to extreme-right parties like FN but enough voters eventually came out to stop Mme. Le Pen in her tracks when it mattered.

Amidst all this, a deal was finalised in the COP21 talks in Paris regarding the threat of artificial climate change. Even though this deal still keeps track of the need to keep global warming within this century to below 2 degrees Celsius, it must be made known that the wealthy elite, of whom many of the delegates came from, are the people who most need to make lifestyle changes and consumption reduction overall, and realise the burden of lifestyle adjustment to combat climate change should not fall disproportionately on ordinary people. After all, those at the top are the most responsible for driving unsustainable consumerist culture of all types in the first place which has led to the need for climate talks. There also needs to be a continued long-term focus on green energy and how it can transform all nations, since most current oil/gas/coal reserves need to be kept in the ground for the key targets within the COP21 deal to be met.


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