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Friday, 17 May 2013

An alliance between the UMP and Front National - a sign of things to come?

Next year the French - and many foreign residents registered in France, mainly EU citizens - will have the chance to go to the polls here in the country's municipal elections.

They'll be choosing the composition of local councils and, as a consequence, who'll be their mayor for the next six years.

Even though turnout might not be as high as it traditionally is for presidential and parliamentary elections, the chances are that (going on past results) a fair number of people will be exercising their democratic right at the ballot boxes.

And that inevitably means the results will be perceived by many as a sort of mid-term test for the French president, François Hollande, the government and the Socialist party.

That's not all of course. The performance of the other parties will also be scrutinised.

Will the opposition centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a popular movement, UMP) finally be able to smooth over its internal differences and actually "win" an election?

How will the far-right Front National (FN) fare under its leader Marine Le Pen?

Will Jean-Luc Mélanchon's 180,000-strong (his figures - 30,000 according to the police) May 5 demonstration gather momentum to become a ballot box protest vote?

Questions, questions, questions.

Doubtless many will be asked and answered in different ways before, during and after the elections depending on the political spin.

One thing's for sure, with over 36,000 mayors to be elected up and down the country, party machines will have a tough job ensuring local activists toe the line.

That's already happening, with the UMP being forced to suspend one of its members for contravening party policy.

Arnaud Cléré
(screenshot France 3 television)


Arnaud Cléré is, or rather was until Monday, a member of the party in the town of Gamaches in the northern département of Somme.

He doesn't actually hold elected office, but wants to. And last week he announced he would be standing in next year's local elections on a list which also contained members of the FN.

It seems that for the 34-year-old, the proverbial "end justifies the means" - winning at any cost.

"It's all about strategy," he said.

"Gamaches has been in the hands of the communists or socialists for the past 30 years," he continued.

"There's no shame in an alliance with the FN...especially if it helps bring the right to power."

Not surprisingly perhaps Cléré's membership of the UMP has been suspended in line with party policy which the UMP leader Jean-François Copé reiterated in a recent speech in Nice insisting that the Front National was "an extremist party" and there would be "no alliance with that party".

But given the current political, economic and social climate in France, does anyone out there have the sense that Cléré's "political and tactical error" as it was decribed by UMP party officials, might be perceived as something else and instead mark a sign of things to come?

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