Unintended Consequences

We can all probably agree that Italy’s fit of xenophobia towards Romanians is pretty bad, but it has had one positive consequence; ITS, the extreme-right/nationalist grouping in the European Parliament whose membership can be summed up as “if you want to make some minority unwelcome and you’re in the minority yourself, you’re welcome here”, has fallen apart after the Great Romania Party, one of its less hopelessly unsuccessful members, unsurprisingly walked out.

I say unsurprisingly because the leader of Italy’s “post-fascists”, Giancarlo Fini, has been going around calling his Romanian allies in ITS “animals”. There was always something fundamentally absurd about a group of parties dedicated to lionising their own nations and decrying others trying to cooperate internationally; it was just a matter of time.

On the back of the drag curve

Jean-Marie Le Pen has, as per tradition, called for mass abstention in the second round. He always does this, but it’s likely to be significant this time round—obviously, if he was obeyed, the loss of 10.44 per cent would be a significant change in the rapport des forces indeed.

And you have to wonder why anyone who votes for a party that is little else than a cult of personality around him would not follow his advice. Still, most people seem to think his votes will go to Nicolas Sarkozy. I’m not so sure.

After all, you can rat but you can’t re-rat. If the pessimistic case is true—the FN didn’t do badly, its voters were stolen by Sarko—then they are already gone, leaving only the stahlhelmfraktion of diehards behind. Who are by definition unlikely to shift.

On the optimistic side, as previously noted, the pollsters placed Le Pen at between 10 and 14 per cent at the beginning of the campaign, and depending where they started, at the same value at the finish. Seeing as the trends, or rather trendlessness, all agree, it looks like he started off with 10 per cent and neither gained nor lost votes through the campaign.

That’s pretty dire for a third- or fourth-party insurgent, who you’d expect to benefit from campaigning, more coverage, and especially the last few days’ mandatory equal access. Me, I reckon AFOE’s demographic hobbyhorse is to blame, or credit. Very simply, Le Pen voters are old, like the man himself, and they are dying out. To achieve a positive rate-of-climb, the FN has not only to recruit new voters faster than it loses codgers, it has to find them from new demographics. (This can of course be overstated. The biggest voting block in the first round was composed of candidates who found it necessary to explicitly address people who are still pissed off about withdrawal from Algeria in 1962. And people say Britain hasn’t come to terms with the imperial past.)

Hence, no doubt, Le Pen’s stumping of the ‘hoods. It’s interesting that he has considerable support among the immigrants he railed against at the start of his career, but it’s observable that the FN is struggling to get off the back of the demographic drag curve. Presumably, Le Pen’s active life represents the remaining length of the runway—

In the short term, of course, he has to fend off the danger of being “Marchaised” by Nicolas Sarkozy—in 1981, the Socialists invited Georges Marchais’ Communists into a coalition, where they proceeded to nab much of their support. In the longer term, the chief challenge is to replace enough codgers to ensure a presence.