'Electioneering' and the Front National

In the U.S., we use a first-past-the-post system in our elections, meaning that whoever wins a majority of the vote—even if this is only 51 percent versus 49 percent—wins that election. Overall, I like this system. It means that if one candidate wants to win, they need to appeal to as many voters as possible rather than simply sticking to their nook constituency.

If the United States had an electoral system such as “Proportional Representation,” the parties in power could not simply be Republicans or Democrats, but Libertarians, Constitutionalists, Reformists and so on. As is often the case in Europe, many governments are made up of two or three major parties as well as Greens, Communists and other minor parties.

But the system designed to give actual representation to popular political parties can backfire. In many countries, people do not vote for a candidate but for a party list. The catch to being able to see the Librarian gain congressional representation, for example, would be that you could only for the Libertarian Party and leave it up to the party to decide which of its members goes to Lansing or Washington. In practice, this often means that the president of a party becomes the head of government or chief of state.

Some alternatives to this system have been tried. In New Zealand, they use “Mixed Membered Preoperational” where people vote not only for their preferred party, but for their preferred candidate within that party.

In France, similar to how there are primary elections in the United States, there are multiple rounds of voting. In the first round of French regional elections which started on the 6th, the anti-immigration party Front National (FN) came out in top while the Republicans (LR) and the Socialists (PS) were left in the dust.

Or perhaps not.

Just as a party, which receives, say, 45 percent in a Proportional Representation system could form a coalition government with minor parties to top 50 percent, minor parties could themselves form coalitions. It’s entirely possible that three minor parties—each with, say, 15 percent support—could leave a much more popular party with 50 percent support out in the cold.

I think this is what a previous generation would have called “house-trading” and what mine would call “electioneering.”

Such a scenario looks entirely possible in France. "The National Front,” wrote Pierre Briancon in Politico, “could still be defeated in the second round if all or most Socialist voters decide to back the center-right.” But such a move, according to Briancon, would unquestionably be condemned by Marine Le Pen, the leader of the FN, and it’s still unclear weather LR and PS have the political will to bar Le Pen’s political way.

As I write this, the elections in France are still ongoing. I hate to call a race before it’s finished, but I think Le Pen’s party has already won in 2015 and she may very well go on to win the 2017 French president election. (I also said so the night of the Paris attacks, but the it’s-only-because-of-Paris argument doesn't hold water because the FN’s support has been steadily growing for months).

Regardless of who comes out the winner, the lesson Americans should take from the French elections are simple: if you oppose two parties elbowing out third parties in the US, you should oppose it in France too.

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