“Neither Macron nor Le Pen!”

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French democracy, for the third time in the last twenty years, has been hijacked by the extreme right. “Neither Macron nor Le Pen!” was the slogan of the hundreds of students who occupied the Sorbonne on Wednesday night and forced one of the oldest universities in the world to suspend classes until next Tuesday for reasons of security.

The protest spread on Thursday to other emblematic academic institutions such as the Sciences Po faculty and the Superior Normal School, which experienced occupations and demonstrations abroad. There were also similar actions in Nancy. The common denominator is the frustration felt by many young people in the face of a second round of the presidential elections that forces them into an impossible dilemma: choose between the far-right Marine Le Pen or the current head of state, Emmanuel Macron, whom they see as a guardian liberal. of the dominant economic and social model.

Young people express their anger at the elimination of the main left-wing candidate, Mélenchon

The disappointment of French youth was already evident on Sunday night, at the Winter Circus, in the XI district of Paris, the place chosen by Jean-Luc Mélenchon to gather his supporters after the first round. The leader of Francia Insumisa and candidate of the Unión Popular platform (radical left) obtained 7.7 million votes (21.95%) and was especially strong among young people. Le Pen surpassed him by just over 400,000 votes. Some of the attendees wept, disconsolate. They dreamed of a Macron-Mélenchon confrontation in the second round that, regardless of its outcome, would have completely changed the national debate. It was not possible.

The helplessness of the young people who occupied the Sorbonne is shared by many French people who lament the blockade and the lack of an alternative. This French anomaly first occurred in 2002, when Jean-Marie Le Pen came as a surprise in the second round. He would be overwhelmingly defeated – with more than 88% of the vote – by the conservative Jacques Chirac. The same situation would arise in 2017, this time with the daughter of the far-right patriarch as a candidate and Macron as a rival. The latter obtained a backing of over 66%. The problem is that the extreme right is growing more and more and steals prominence from the moderate options.

The majority of students who mobilized in Paris are part of anti-fascist and anti-racist groups tempted by abstention, invalid or blank votes. This time it is more difficult to bring together a strong Republican front that will build a wall against the extreme right.

The case of Paris is special because in the city Macron won last Sunday, with 35.3% and Mélénchon was second, with 30%. Le Pen only got 5.5% of the vote. In the department of Seine-Saint Denis, bordering the capital to the north, the candidate of the radical left captured 49% of the votes.

The occupation of the Sorbonne is something that is in the genes of the French anti-establishment youth. The university was taken over by students for long weeks during the May 68 revolt and the nearby streets of the Latin Quarter were the scene of violent clashes with the police. In Macron’s first term there were also actions at the Sorbonne and other universities, for months, protesting government policy.

In this latest occupation of the university, students have been reluctant to accept the press, considering it hostile. As always in these situations, there is a mixture of extremism and innocent romanticism. A student who left lockdown and did speak with a colleague from The Figaro He recognized that, inside, “a super atmosphere” reigned and also “surreal”, because “someone played the piano”.

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