Politics Analysis

The world is now a much better place, not just Australia

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

Several recent elections of reformist governments augur well for global collaboration, as Alan Austin reports.

FRANCE IS NOT ‘in turmoil after poll shock’ following the Assembly elections eight days ago and President Emmanuel Macron’s reform agenda has not ‘been thrown into disarray’, as The Australian ridiculously asserts. France does not face ‘chaos and disorder under Le Lame Duck’, as Britain’s Mail Online irresponsibly predicts. And France has not been ‘thrown into limbo after humiliating setback for Macron’, as America’s Politico fearfully claims.

The outcome for Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (RN) – National Rally – was not un tsunami, as her colleague Jordan Bardella declared. They won 15.4% of the seats with 18.7% of the votes. Their support has been between 15 and 20% in almost all elections since 1984. They will have slightly greater influence in the new Assembly, but still not much.

New era of consultation

It is true that re-elected centre-right President Macron lost the strong majority in France’s Assembly he won in 2017, which was 350 of the 577 seats. But he still controls 245 votes. That’s way ahead of the 131 seats won by the second strongest parliamentary grouping, the New Popular Ecological and Social Union (NUPES), led by veteran Socialist presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Macron now needs an extra 44 votes to get his legislation through the Assembly. He could get that support from the established centre-right party, Les Républicains, which collected 61 seats, down from 112 in the last Assembly. Or from among the ten unaffiliated right-wing members, or the four Independent centrists, or the ten Régionalistes.

So he may contrive a permanent bloc or simply rely on support across the parliament on an issue-by-issue basis. This may be unusual for France, but it happens routinely elsewhere, including in Australia.

Macron will certainly need to negotiate. But that’s good for democracy and generally good for outcomes. (Of course, Macron can be brutal as well, as Scott Morrison discovered last November when he copped arguably the greatest sledge delivered to any Australian PM by another national leader.)

Fixing the fractured Left

A curious quirk in French presidential elections is that the six, or sometimes more, reformist parties of the Left all field separate candidates, ensuring none wins. In April, centre-right Macron and far-right Le Pen were the two leading candidates after the first round, with 27.9 and 23.2% of the vote respectively. The most popular candidate from the left, Mélenchon, was eliminated with only 22.0%.

Had any one of these three candidates – Yannick Jadot (Greens), Fabien Roussel (Communist) or Anne Hidalgo (Socialist) – withdrawn and directed their votes to Mélenchon, he would have beaten Le Pen into second place and gone on to the final round. Had Jadot and one other done so, Mélenchon would have beaten Macron into first place.

The subsequent decision by several of those parties to collaborate for last Sunday’s Assembly election was vindicated. Mélenchon’s collective gained 131 seats, up from just 17 his La France Insoumise party won five years ago. Total seats won by the Left were 153 this time, compared with 73 last time.

Leftist progressive partisans learning from this and building stronger future coalitions may be a significant development from Sunday’s election.

Australia renewed and refreshed

This encouraging result in France follows the decisive win in Australia of the reformist Labor Government led by Anthony Albanese and the equally welcome advances of the Greens and several progressive Independents.

This result holds out hope for Australia to make a greater contribution to international affairs than its corrupt and incompetent former Government, particularly on climate change, global economic justice, trade, international tax evasion and responding to the ambitions of Russia and China.

Albanese’s win was hailed worldwide by presidents, prime ministers, global agency leaders, academics and others.

Columbia to combat poverty

In a historic first, Gustavo Petro of the reformist Humane Colombia political party on Sunday 19 June won the Presidential Election in Colombia, the tropical South American nation now emerging as a stable democracy after generations of internal armed conflict.

Petro’s personal story is a fascinating one, having started political life as a 17-year-old guerilla fighter and then having been imprisoned for illegal possession of firearms. During that period, he underwent a complete political transformation.

Petro campaigned this year on climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, ending fossil fuel exploration and fixing economic inequality. He has promised his first presidential act will be to declare a state of economic emergency to combat widespread hunger.

Echoing elements of Australia’s recent election campaign, Petro also foreshadowed more progressive action on women's rights and LGBTQ issues.

As with Macron in France, Petro will not have a majority in the 172-seat House of Representatives or the 108-seat Senado. So he must also negotiate legislation as it comes up. Again, this should enhance rather than weaken cooperation, democracy and the beneficial outcomes for the Colombian people.

Looking ahead

Colombia’s shift leftwards continues what seems a clear pattern in Latin America with several recent decisive wins by reformist leaders. These include President Pedro Castillo in Peru in June last year, President Gabriel Boric in Chile last December, Prime Minister Mia Mottley in Barbados in January, President Xiomara Castro in Honduras also in January and Dickon Mitchell who was elected Grenada’s Prime Minister just last Thursday.

Will this trend towards progressive governments continue? With elections later this year in SwedenLatvia, Bosnia and HerzegovinaBrazil, Austria, Israel and Slovenia, we shall soon see.

Alan Austin is an Independent Australia columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @alanaustin001.

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