French Regionals 2010

Today is the big day in France, as you might know, with the first round of the regional elections in all 26 regions being held. I’ve been covering the elections on and off through the French Regionals 2010 page still available. Polls close at 18:00 in most places, but major cities such as the Greater Paris close at 20:00, and, as always, results will be released at that time.

The first round, as the popular word of wisdom, is the time to choose and the runoff is the time to eliminate. While it is unlikely that there will be any first-round elections today, the various results today will decide the nature of the runoff and give us an idea of what to expect in the runoff. There are separate keys in the first round for each party, so here is a brief summary of what each major party wants to get out of today:

Abstention hasn’t been discussed much, but interest in these elections have been low and neither left nor right have been able to convince voters. Abstention during the first round of voting six years ago had been 37.9% (and 34.3% in the runoff) which showed that the vote was a real vote for the left against the right and that it was a deep protest vote. In 1998, the record for abstention in regional elections had been set with 42% of voters not turning out. Today, pollsters indicate that abstention will hit a new record, between 45% and 49%. Interest in the elections picked up a bit in the very final moments of the campaign, but was only at 54% according to TNS-Sofres. Yet, some voters who are not interested will vote. What are the implications of low turnout? Nobody knows for sure, but since pollsters usually publish the results of those who were likely or certain to vote, huge surprises are not very likely (and surprises will come only from last-minute deciders and swingers on Friday and Saturday). Polls have shown the right’s electorate, bracing for a thumping, to be unmotivated.

Turnout at 12:00: 16.07% (+1.2% on 2009 Euros, -2.4% on 2004)

The UMP is in a very bad state ahead of next week’s runoffs, but it wants to come it in front in the first round. It believes that being the first party nationally (even if that doesn’t mean anything) even with 27-30% of the vote, could create a “new dynamic” for the runoff and provide a boost for the right. The PS has been closing the gap with the UMP, and polls now place it ahead of the UMP nationally. The UMP in the last days tried to mobilize its electorate with large meetings around Fillon and some rather “bizarre” visits by Sarkozy himself to key regions, although Sarkozy denies any electioneering. As said above, polls have shown the right’s electorate, bracing for a thumping, to be unmotivated.

The PS too wishes to come out in front of the UMP, because it would allow it to reclaim the position of uncontested leader of the French left (a title lost in 2009) but also give it an upper hand in talks with the Greens and Left Front ahead of the runoff, because Greens and Left, with good results on the horizon, will be very, very picky.

The Greens have been maintaining around 65-75% of their 2009 European electorate, a good result in an election where issues and dynamics are quite different. It is hovering between a low of 11-12% and a high of 14-15%, which would place it at best slightly under its 16.28% result in the European elections. Their major goal now is to place ahead of the PS in Alsace, but also to obtain a good result in key regions such as Île-de-France (with Duflot) and Rhône-Alpes, which would allow it to be demanding in the upcoming talks to merge with the PS lists. The Greenies hinted in the past they might not merge the PS in a few regions and fight the runoff, in regions such as Midi-Pyrénées (where there’s an old story of bad blood with PS incumbent Martin Malvy), Rhône-Alpes, Poitou-Charentes (where local Greens aren’t fond of Royal) or Bretagne.

The FN will try to break 10% of the votes and make as many runoffs as possible, hoping to make it in at least 8 to 12 regions. The party’s top regions are PACA, where Jean-Marie Le Pen himself is running, and Nord-Pas-de-Calais, his daughter’s new electoral base. If Marine Le Pen does well in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, it would give her better standing in the upcoming race to take over the party after her father’s retirement, and it could also orient the traditionally Mediterranean FN, with old Pieds-Noirs voters forming its base, more to the north with old miners and working-class voters forming the party’s new base. Marine has been campaigning a lot on populist themes to appeal to voters in the former coal mining centre of France. Here is my rating of the FN’s chances to make the runoff:

Certainty: PACA, NPDC, Picardie
Very likely: Alsace, Champagne-Ardenne, Haute-Normandie
More likely than not: Franche-Comté, Lorraine, Rhône-Alpes
More unlikely than likely: Bourgogne, Centre, Languedoc-Roussillon
Low: Aquitaine, Corse (7% threshold), Île-de-France, Midi-Pyrénées, Basse-Normandie
Extremely low: Auvergne, Bretagne, Limousin, PDL, Poitou-Charentes

The Left Front has been on the upswing in the last week or so, with its voting intetions solidifying between 5 and 7%, as a result of the far-left (NPA)’s rapid decline. A 5-7% result would allow the Left Front’s candidate in almost all regions where it is running to break 5% and merge with the PS, and in some regions even break 10%. A result to watch will be in Picardie, where there is a civil war between the official Left Front candidate and a dissident Communist list led by long-time Somme deputy Maxime Gremetz, a hard-left orthodox within the PCF (also probably a quasi-Stalinist).

A special key, finally, is in Languedoc-Roussillon with Georges Frêche. The result to watch will be the battle between the anti-Frêche, with all 3 candidates of the anti-Frêche left, Mandroux (PS), Roumegas (Green) and Revol (FG) at the same level in polls between 9 and 11%. The best of the three will likely lead a united anti-Frêche left-wing list in the runoff. Raymond Couderc (UMP) should be hoping for a good result of the combined anti-Frêche left, a result which, if sustained in the runoff, could give him hope to sneak up the middle (or the right, in this case!) and have a shot at victory.

The MoDem is facing electoral annihilation tonight, with polls giving it only 4-5% of voting intentions, a result which would be an absolute low for a party which still won around 8% in the European elections! Francois Bayrou’s party will be even less relevant, something which should please the PS (it would render useless internal debates about an alliance with the centre) and the Left Front (which hates the MoDem and refuses any alliance with a PS allied to the MoDem). Its only hope to break 10% is in Aquitaine, where Bayrou’s long-time ally and fellow Bearnese deputy, Jean Lassalle could break 10%. A good result in Basse-Normandie and Bretagne is also likely, where the MoDem has well-implanted and popular candidates.

The far-left (NPA and LO) have come down from their good result in the European elections, especially the NPA whose platform is less and less popular and which has proven to be a very poorly organized party. The NPA seems to be hovering between 1.5% and 2.5% (against 4.9% in the European elections), and LO is between 1 and 2% (against 1.2% in the Euros). It will be interesting to look at the regions where the NPA has allied with Left Party (Basse-Normandie, Champagne-Ardenne, Bourgogne) against a PS-PCF list.

Exit polls will be given at 20:00 for the country as a whole plus 5 key regions: PACA, Poitou-Charentes, Alsace, Rhône-Alpes and Languedoc-Roussillon. An hour later, an exit poll in Île-de-France will be released. These polls are from TNS-Sofres (a rather poor pollster) and will be broadcast on France2, and also online on TNS-Sofres website and Le Monde.fr.

As in the European elections, I’ll be live-blogging these elections starting at around 19:30 Paris time, which means around 14:30 EST.

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Posted on March 14, 2010, in Election Preview, France, Regional and local elections. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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