Monday, July 08, 2024

Strategic voting saves Macron's (and France's) neck

If France's election this last Sunday teaches us anything it is the value of strategic voting.

In the first round of voting, Jordan Bardella and Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally (RN) party polled well and looked to be firmly in the driver's seat and on course to form a far-right anti-immigration anti-EU anti-Ukraine government (anti-everything really).

But the reality turned out to be far from that. RN came in third place after the New Popular Front leftist alliance and President Macron's own Ensemble liberal alliance. RN is still the largest single party (New Popular Front and Ensemble being composite alliances), and they did increase their seat count from 88 to 140. But they have been kept out of government by a concerted agreement between the parties of the left, a kind of alliance of alliances.

Over 200 candidates from the Popular Front and Ensemble parties voluntarily pulled out of the second round of voting so that a better-placed progressive candidate could stop RN from winning. RN, of course, call this cheating, but it is really just a particularly vivid example of strategic voting, and you can see how effective it is.

You can debate till the cows come home whether President Macron was right to call a general election right after the far right made such large gains in the European Parliament, particularly in France, but he seems to have got away with it. Hard negotiations still remain between Macron and New Popular Front leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon in order to make this alliance of alliances work. But it just goes to show that swallowing pride and establishing cooperation can have dramatic results. 

Canada's Liberals and NDP could learn a lot from this experience. Canada too is saddled with a three main party system, in which two of the parties can be seen to be united in their fear of a Conservative sweep next election (2025). But Canada has the added advantage of time to plan. There is time for the two centre-left parties to swallow their pride and amalgamate in the national interest, particularly given that they are no longer even that far apart politically.

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