Category Archives: Political and Electoral Demographics

A geographical history of George Wallace

George Wallace, who served seventeen years as Governor of Alabama, is known to the world for a variety of things but most notably as the icon of racist resistance to Civil Rights in the 1960s. However, popular views of Wallace are characterized by broad stereotypes and symbols which ignore many interesting aspects of his career and of Alabama politics in general. This post aims not to ‘revise’ popular judgement on Wallace, but rather to offer an analysis of his career and of Alabama state politics between the 50s and 80s through use of one of my favourite mediums, maps.

The map below shows the results of all Alabama elections, including (obviously) primaries in which Wallace (or his surrogate wife Lurleen) was involved in between 1958 and 1982. Results are obtained from, which despite being a headache to navigate offers an unexploited wealth of information about American politics. Its sections on Alabama are particularly top-notch.

Similar to all other Confederate states, Alabama was dominated by the Democratic Party between the end of Reconstruction in 1876 and, at the presidential level, 1964. At the state level, however, Democrats held the governor’s mansion between 1874 and 1987 and the state legislature only fell to the Republicans in 2010. Fairly obviously, the Democratic dominance of the state worked alongside disenfranchisement of blacks and poor whites through poll taxes, literacy tests and documents such as the 1901 Alabama Constitution. A copy of a voter registration form in Alabama is here, and a copy of a sample civic literacy test is here. Both are fascinating documents, and even those with good knowledge of American constitutional law and politics will find some parts of the literacy test hard. Section 182 of the Alabama Constitution, which has not been repealed, provides a good example of legal disenfranchisement of a whole slew of people, notably those who are “idiots” and those convicted of “crimes against nature” (homosexuality), “miscegenation” or “moral turpitude”.

However, unlike Mississippi and South Carolina during the era of the Solid South, Alabama was not entirely a one-party authoritarian state. Those who could vote could do so rather freely, which explains why Democrats never reached the peaks achieved by Democrats in Mississippi and South Carolina where the vote was rigged to result in elections giving over 95% to Democrats. Yet, turnout in Alabama was, like in the rest of the Solid South, ridiculously low.

Prior to the rise of George Wallace, the Alabama Democratic Party lacked a dominant faction or figure similar to Georgia’s Eugene Talmadge, Memphis’ E.H. Crump’s machine or Virginia’s Byrd Organization. There were even some remarkably progressive moderates within the party, most notably Big Jim Folsom, who served as governor between 1947 and 1951 and again between 1955 and 1959 (governors could not succeed themselves until 1968). Folsom, a populist who achieved some social measures, was also a moderate on the race issue, trying to build a coalition of blacks and poor whites to break the dominance of the Democratic Party’s elite leadership. He was also, however, very corrupt.

The 1958 Democratic primary included a whole barrage of candidates, the most notable of which were Attorney General John Patterson and Barbour County circuit judge George C. Wallace. Patterson was a hardcore segregationist and received the endorsement of the KKK. On the other hand, Wallace, who had been a rather liberal judge, ran as a racial moderate and even received the endorsement of the NAACP. Patterson received 31.8% in the first round and Wallace got 26.3%. The map reflects a very friends-and-neighbors type of primary, which is commonplace in a lot of primaries then and now. In the runoff, Patterson handily defeated the moderate Wallace with 55.7% against 44.3% for Wallace. Wallace’s strength was confined to his native southeastern Alabama, notably taking 91.5% in Barbour County.

A bitter ambitious Wallace commented that evening that he had been “outniggered” by John Patterson and vowed to never be “outniggered” again. Most former racists who seek forgiveness years later often claim that they were not racists by conviction, but rather race-baiters by necessity. Patterson, who is still alive and voted for Obama in 2008, commented that you had no chance at winning if you weren’t a race-baiter. Wallace realized that in 1958 and by the 1962 Democratic gubernatorial primary, he was the traditional radical segregationist candidate. Beyond the racial rhetoric, however, Wallace was more of a ‘populist’ than a ‘conservative’ or ‘reactionary’. As a state legislators, he had decried the “Big Mules” – bankers, railroad owners and cotton mill owners. As governor, he had a populist economic policy which included rural development and free textbooks for schoolchildren. When he ran for President, he campaigned as the Southern populist against the wealthy classes and supported a generous welfare state – for those who ‘deserved it’. Yet, economic populism never took the forefront in Wallace’s early campaigns. As he noted, white voters were ambivalent when he talked to them about roads and such stuff, but they “stomped the floor” when he talked about “the niggers”.

Wallace was opposed in 1962 by his former mentor, former Governor Jim Folsom, who was disappointed that Wallace had abandoned his moderate integrationist ideals. Folsom was one of the rare few Southern politicians who remained true to his beliefs, and who despite being a crook, merits some recognition as an early racial moderate. Folsom, although he was from Wallace’s region of southeastern Alabama, built up his electoral base in northern Alabama. Northern Alabama was outside King Cotton’s great empire in 1860, and as such has always had a smaller black population (which led to less racial tensions) and had, after the New Deal, a working-class tradition fueled by the load of TVA dams in the region around Huntsville. Northern Alabama was also slightly less Democratic than the Black Belt, because poorer white farmers and workers felt little attachment to the slave-owning plantocracy of the Black Belt. ‘Less Democratic’ means that Democrats won 65-75% instead of 75-95% of the vote, with the notable exception of Winston County, a hardcore Unionist enclave dating back to 1860 (as such, it was the Republican Party’s only base in the state until the growth of suburbia).

The other main candidate was Tuscaloosa attorney Ryan de Graffenried, who was also a racial moderate. Folsom’s chances were hurt both by the fact that his corruption hurt him with the middle-class voters and because he had already taken to the bottle by 1962 and appeared visibly drunk in a television appearance. Graffenried, strong in urban areas such as Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, beat out Folsom for second taking 25.2% against 25.05% for Folsom. Wallace took 32.49%. Eugene ‘Bull’ Connor, the man who later sent the dogs after black protesters in Birmingham, took 3.6% and ended up in fifth.

Wallace easily beat the moderate Graffenried in the runoff, taking 55.9% against 44.1% for Graffenried who carried Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and parts of Folsom’s primary base in northern Alabama. He also won heavily black Macon County with 60.3%, which means that blacks had gained the right to vote there prior to the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Wallace, however, easily trounced him with over 70% of the vote in the rest of the Black Belt and southeastern Alabama. Wallace won the general election, and upon his inauguration in January 1963 pronounced the words for which he will stick to him: segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.

Deeply ambitious and with eyes on the Presidency, Wallace did not like term limits much when his term came to a close in 1966. He attempted to change the constitution, but when that failed, he got his wife Lurleen (who already had cancer) to run as his surrogate. Lurleen Wallace won the primary by the first round, taking 54% against 19.4% for Alabama’s liberal Attorney General Richmond Flowers. John Patterson won a pitiful 3.5% and Folsom won 2.7%. By 1966, blacks had started to be registered en masse following the VRA, and they largely voted for the liberal Flowers over the Wallaces. Wallace won with only 63.4% in the general election, with conservative Republican representative (elected in the 1964 Goldwater landslide of the South) James D. Martin winning 31%.

Lurleen Wallace died of cancer on July 5, 1968; while her husband was running for President for the American Independent Party. Discussion of Wallace’s presidential campaigns would require a whole new post, so this will focus only on the results of the 1968 election in Alabama. Needless to say, Alabama was Wallace’s best state with 65.9% of the vote against 18.7% for Humphrey and 14% for Nixon. Blacks had started to be registered by 1968, but they hadn’t started voting en masse. As such, Wallace won most of the Black Belt, albeit by narrow margins while Humphrey won only three heavily black counties such as Macon. Wallace had tremendous appeal throughout Alabama, even in the least Dixiecratic area of northern Alabama (he even won Unionist Winston County).

As much as Wallace had fought tooth-and-nail against desegregation in 1963, by 1968 he had slightly modified his rhetoric to fit the day. Instead of going with outright racism and direct abuse on African-Americans, he preferred to talk in terms of ‘states’ rights’, ‘law and order’ , ‘welfare cheats’ and an African-American ‘bloc vote’. As such, Wallace’s 1968 campaign was different from the one-issue ephemeral Dixiecrat campaigns such as Strom Thurmond’s 1948 campaign. He had a broader message, and appealed to a much wider electorate than the traditional racist Dixiecrats of the Deep South.

Lurleen’s Lieutenant Governor, Albert Brewer, succeeded her in office in 1968. Originally a Wallace conservative, Brewer completely overhauled his rhetoric and became a moderate, perhaps because that would be the only way for him to stay in power in his own right. To stay in power, Brewer was the first governor to directly appeal to black voters in an attempt to build himself a liberal coalition of blacks, working-class poor whites and urban intellectuals. Wallace, who lived for electoral campaigns, was eying a comeback in 1970 which would consolidate his local power ahead of another run for President in 1972, this time as a Democrat.

The 1970 primary was Wallace’s toughest and his local and national political career hinged on its outcome. Nixon, carefully calculating that a Wallace defeat would likely weaken Wallace’s chances in 1972, endorsed Brewer. Wallace retorted with one of Alabama’s nastiest campaigns, calling Brewer a sissy. Brewer made much of Wallace’s ambitions, notably by hammering that he’d be a “full-time governor”, while Wallace campaigned on more national issues such as busing. In the May 5 primary, Brewer edged out Wallace with 42% against 40.8%. Businessman Charles Woods took 14.7%, with arch-racist KKK leader Asa Carter taking 1.5% and Folsom taking 0.4%. Wallace lost the Black Belt and the urban centres of Birmingham, Montgomery, Huntsville and Tuscaloosa while performing poorly in northern Alabama.

In the June 2 runoff, Wallace saved his political career, edging out Brewer with 51.56% against 48.44% for the sitting Governor. Brewer trounced him in the Black Belt, Birmingham and the Huntsville area, but Wallace prevailed almost everywhere else. Wallace won 74.5% of the vote in the general election, with his closest contender being black activist John Cashin of the pro-civil rights Alabama National Democratic Party. Cashin won four majority black counties.

An assassination attempt on May 15, 1972 left Wallace paralyzed and aborted his successful presidential campaign, but Wallace ran for reelection in 1974. It was his easiest primary ever, trouncing Gene McLain 64.8% to 30%. Folsom took 3%. McLain did well in the Black Belt but only won Macon County. Wallace served as governor until 1978, at which point the Democrats nominated former Republican Fob James, a conservative, who was not connected to any old faction and won the primaries. Fob James was a poor governor, though he returned to power in 1994, this time as a Republican.

By this time, Wallace had converted to George Wallace version 4.0. He had become a born-again Christian and apologized to the black community for his past wrongs. A shadow of his past self, Wallace sought a final term in 1982. He faced Lt. Governor George McMillan and Speaker Joe McCorquodale in the primary. Wallace dominated the first round, taking 42.5% against 29.6% for McMillan and 25.1% for McCorquodale. For the first time in his career, Wallace won a substantial amount of black votes, enough black votes to save him in the runoff. Wallace defeated McMillan 51.2% to 48.8%. Unlike Brewer in 1970, McMillan didn’t trounce Wallace in the Black Belt (though he probably narrowly won it). For the first time since 1966, the Republican candidate, Montgomery mayor Emory M. Folmar, was not a sacrificial lamb and stood a decent chance.  Wallace won 57.6% of the vote against 39.1% for Folmar. Folmar won the urban areas of Montgomery, Birmingham and Huntsville. However, Wallace won the Black Belt for the first time in the last election of his career.

George Wallace was perhaps not the arch-racist he was made out to be. Arguably, he was never a hardcore fanatic racist. Instead, he was an opportunistic race-baiter who used race to get elected, as Patterson admitted. When Wallace lost in 1958, perhaps running as his true populist self, he jumped on the race-baiting discriminatory rhetoric which Patterson had won on and went on to win on it in his own right in 1962. However, when the days of segregation were past, Wallace adapted his views. While he hadn’t done a full 180 by 1968 and 1970, he had moderated the race-baiting and turned it into a mix of traditional Dixie populism and right-wing law n’ order rhetoric. The question is whether Wallace and others’ opportunistic race-baiting is better or worse than the ideological fanatical racism.

His 1968 campaign for President laid the groundwork for the Southern Strategy which Nixon won on in 1972 and, arguably, previewed the gradual evolution of working-class white voters, dismayed by the violence of 1968 and the liberal society of the national Democrats, away from the New Deal Democrats towards the Republicans. This shift perhaps culminated in 2008, when Obama did almost historically poorly for a Democrat with certain old white working-class voters. In this, Wallace’s campaign was significant in that it previewed the future Republican rhetoric which has moved away from old ‘intellectual’ conservatism towards the ‘populist’ conservatism of people such as Sarah Palin. As such, maybe it isn’t shocking that George Wallace’s politically unfortunate son is a Tea Partier.

That’s the way it was… in 1936.

A fascinating thing in electoral geography and the study of voting patterns is to take the study back in time, to look at wider trends and evolutions in a nation’s voting patterns. What better time than right before World War II, in an era where democracies fell and those who stood on faced serious threats from both left and right? What better place than France in 1936, the historic election which saw the victory of the Popular Front, the historic alliance of the left from the Communists to the Radicals?

France is a third-world country when it comes to making old election returns easily accessible to the wider public through the magic of the interwebs. As a result, getting your hands on election results from those days requires friends and lots of wily hunting around. Through help of Alain Lancelot’s old Atlas des circonscriptions électorales en France depuis 1875 and the online database of parliamentarian from the National Assembly, I’ve managed to put together a map which shows the winning party in each constituency in the French legislative election of 1936. The map certainly isn’t perfect, and more likely than not contains more than one mistake. Yet, this map, probably the first of the type on the magnificent series of tubes called the internet, reveals fascinating things about how French politics were shaped back then and how voting patterns have changed since then.

Explanation of this map requires a few comments about the nature of French parliamentary politics during the Third Republic and other general comments about the political forces of the era and how they operated.

The basic thing to remember about French parliament during the Third Republic was that, unlike in some other countries, individual parliamentarians retained considerable autonomy while there were few organizations which could really be qualified as ‘political parties’ in our modern conception of the term. Especially on the right, parties were loosely structured and often nothing more than a coalition of different local elected officials and local committees. Though both the Republican Federation (FR) and Democratic Alliance (AD) adopted some form of structure in the interwar years, they remained the epitome of the partis de notables for which the Third Republic is famous for. In reality, only the PCF and the SFIO were structured party with a membership and caucus which largely adhered to the party’s platform, the PCF of course being centralized along Moscow’s democratic centralist lines. The Radicals had a national structure as well, and held yearly congresses where resolutions expressing the party’s mood of the day were passed, but in reality the party remained dominated by local committees and local elected officials (the famous Radical notables or barons in the small towns of rural France). And despite adhering to the party, a number of Radicals in reality ran against the party’s electoral platform. Once elected, a number of parliamentarians elected under one theoretical label ended up joining the parliamentary group of another faction or party. Often times, they joined a group which was more left-wing than they were, in the process hijacking the group and slowly transforming it into a more right-wing outfit.

The transformation of the notions of left and right are another key point in understanding the politics of the era. Known as sinistrisme, political forces evolved from the left to the right. Parties which emerged on the far-left (such as the Radicals) ended up on the centre or centre-right in 1940. Yet, the parties which were in reality right-wing by 1936 did not actually claim the label ‘conservative’ or ‘right’. The reluctance by the right to assume its conservative ideology is another aspect of sinistrisme. As a result, members of parties such as the centre-right AD sat in groups often known as ‘Left Republicans’. The FR’s members were originally known as progressives, when in reality they were everything but progressive. The reason for this reluctance of the right to identify themselves as such is that conservatism and the right in France have been associated, perhaps forever, with the ‘far-right’ legitimists and ultramontane Catholics.  As a result, the right of the 1930s, which had its roots in early republicanism, did not identify as right-wing. But even the Ralliés, those Catholics who rallied the Republic, shrieked away from the appellation and became known as the Popular Liberal Action, when in reality they represented anything but economic liberalism. The fascinating concept of sinistrisme didn’t die with the Third Republic, and it was carried through to the Fourth Republic (with the right-wing Rally of the Republican Lefts) and even to the Fifth Republic where modern right-wing politicians, while identifying with the right, rarely use the term ‘conservative’ and instead use terms such as Gaullism, radicalism, liberalism or Christian democracy.

As a result of the above comments, one will understand the difficulty of placing deputies, especially those on the right, into a particular party. For purposes of this map, I have privileged parliamentary group affiliation over partisan affiliation. Thankfully, by 1936, partisan affiliation lined up a bit more closely with parliamentary group membership than it had in the early years of the century. Indeed, the Radicals sat, after 1914, in a unique group. The members of the FR often sat in one group clearly identified with the party. However, there are still a good number of blank spots when it comes to partisan affiliation and all that. A brief review of the various parliamentary group is thus indispensable.

The PCF, SFIO and Radicals are clearly defined groups which merit no explanation or clarification. That being said, there were a small number of members of the Radical Party who did not join the party’s group after the election, joining another, often more right-wing, group.

Starting from the farthest left, the first party we fall on is the Party of Proletarian Unity (PUP, or Parti d’unité prolétarienne), a party founded in 1930 as a slightly right-wing split of the PCF. It had an ambivalent ideology, mixing some sort of early reformist communism with international pacifism. In reality, it was a representation of local French communism which didn’t appreciate the fact that they were supposed to be sheep controlled by Stalin in Moscow.

The Socialist Republican Union (USR, Union socialiste républicaine) was a heterogeneous political coalition composed of a plethora of small, new and old left-wing parties which supported the Popular Front. The biggest component of the USR was the old Republican-Socialist Party (PSR) which was formed by those independent socialists who refused to join the SFIO (and thus its internal party discipline) in 1905 and who represented a moderate, reformist socialism in opposition to the SFIO’s original Marxism. Though largely a minor party with a loose structure and independent parliamentarians, it did include some famous figures of the contemporary left, notably Aristide Briand or René Viviani (France’s first Labour Minister in 1906). The two other components of the USR were two small right-wing splits of the SFIO, the French Socialist Party and the Socialist Party of France-Jean Jaurès Union (PSdF). The latter was a 1933 split of the SFIO’s right-wing, represented by the neosocialist tendancy of Marcel Déat (whose name will live in infamy, for his active collaboration with Vichy). Déat believed that the revolution would not happen, and thus socialists should use the state to control capitalism. From this basic idea, close to fascist corporatism, Déat later morphed into a full-blown fascist with his slogan ‘order, authority and nation’. That being said, the PSdF also included a moderate wing, led by Paul Ramadier, who was one of the Vichy 80. The smaller and older French Socialist Party was also a right-wing splitoff, though amusingly it included at the outset in the early 20s Marceau Pivert, later the leader of the SFIO’s revolutionary left-wing.

The Frontiste Party was a small fringe party on the left known only by its two members. Seine-et-Oise deputy Gaston Bergery was a former Radical, a member of the party’s small left-wing fringe (he was known as a ‘radical-Bolshevik’), later evolved towards the right and hard-core collaboration with Vichy. Its other deputy, Georges Izard (Meurthe-et-Moselle), was a Christian leftist and close to Emmanuel Mounier’s non-conformist personalist theory of the 1930s. Izard later became a resistant.

The Radical-Socialist Party Camille Pelletan (PRCP, or Parti radical-socialiste Camille Pelletan) was a 1934 left-wing split of the Radical Party at the party’s Clermont-Ferrand Congress. Led by Gabriel Cudenet, it opposed the Radical Party’s participation in Gaston Doumergue’s centre-right ‘national union’ cabinet in 1934 following Daladier’s fall after the February 6, 1934 riots. The party’s name was a reference to early Radical thinker Camille Pelletan, the main leader of the early party’s most leftist wing (known as the radicaux avancés) in the early twentieth century.

The Independent Left or gauche indépendante was a parliamentary group including a plethora of pro-Popular Front left-wing independents and the members of a few fringe left-wing one-man parties. Though represented on the map as separate, the Frontistes, PRCP and PJR all sat in this group. The group had existed under the same name in the 1932 legislature, but it is not to be confused with the Independents of the Left group in the 1932-1936 legislature which was one of the centre-right’s groups.

The Party of the Young Republic (PJR or Parti de la jeune république) was a small Christian left party originally founded in 1912 as a continuation of Marc Sangnier’s progressive Catholic/social Christian Le Sillon movement which had been disavowed by the Pope. The PJR supported a ‘personalist socialism’ along the line of Emmanuel Mounier’s aforementioned theory of personalism which sought a humanist third way between Marxism and capitalism. The PJR stayed around in the post-war era, but remained a fringe party squeezed by the larger right (MRP) and left (SFIO, PCF). In 1957, the PJR merged with two small groups to form the Union of the Socialist Left which later evolved into the Unified Socialist Party (PSU), a party which despite its perpetual weakness in the 60s had a profound effect on France’s electoral geography and party structure.

At this point, we cross the line into the right-wing. The Independents of Popular Action group (IAP, or Indépendants d’action populaire). The IAP was a largely centre-right group made up of Alsatian and Mosellan deputies. Following the war, Alsace and Moselle rejoined France with the specific particularity that the 1905 law did not apply to it (in fact, it still doesn’t). Despite this, interwar politics in Alsace and eastern Moselle were dominated by largely centre-right regionalists who sought to defend the region’s particularism (the Radicals wanted to remove the special status and extend the 1905 law into the region) and win some sort of political autonomy. In Alsace, the strongest regional party was the Popular Republican Union (UPR) while in Moselle the Lorrain Republican Union (URL) was the main part of the regionalist right. The UPR and URL were both clerical, largely Catholic That being said, Alsatian regionalism also included a strong communist contingent. The PCF did well in Alsace in both 1924 and 1928, but most of the party’s organization was expelled in 1929 following a broad alliance with the regionalist right in Strasbourg against the centralist SFIO incumbent. Most of the PCF’s organization evolved into the Alsatian Workers’ and Peasants Party (often known as the Communist Party of Alsace-Lorraine, PCAL). Jean-Pierre Mourer and Charles Hueber, former members of the PCF, were the PCAL’s two main deputies and they sat in the IAP group following the 1936 election. Mourer and Hueber both evolved towards the far-right and became stalwarts of the Nazis following Alsace-Lorraine’s annexation by Nazi Germany. Alsatian regionalism largely died out post-war, from its association with Nazism and the decline of the Alsatian language, which had played a major role in defining the regionalist movement.

The GDRI, or Democratic and Independent Radical Left (Gauche démocratique et radicale indépendante) was a group which stood largely on the centre-right and was composed largely of the old independent Radical nebula. Independent Radicals had been around since 1914, originally composed of largely ‘opportunist’ Radicals who refused the party’s semblance of structure but which expanded in 1926 to include those right-wing Radicals who opposed the alliance with the left, then as part of the Cartel (which the Radicals ran into the ground, for a change) and in 1936 as part of the Popular Front. In reality, the GDRI tended to be a group of swing ‘opportunist’ parliamentarians who liked to whore themselves to governments who needed their votes.

The Democratic Popular Party (PDP, Parti démocrate populaire) was the predecessor of the post-war Christian democratic MRP. Founded in 1924, the PDP was to the right of the post-war MRP. The PDP, which was rather weak and nothing more than a collection of various local notables, faced opposition from the FR, which had integrated in 1919 the Popular Liberal Action (ALP), the pre-war electoral machine of the Catholic Ralliés. Generally speaking, the PDP was slightly more moderate than the FR, whose Catholic base represented the most traditionalist and conservative faction of the clerical electorate.

The Alliance of Republicans of the Left and Independent Radicals (ARGRI, Alliance des républicains de gauche et des radicaux indépendants) was in practice the group which included most of the Democratic Alliance’s parliamentarians. The AD’s parliamentarians had historically been divided between three or four groups, indeed in the 1932 legislature the AD had three groups each representing one faction of the very factionalized AD. That being said, the ARGRI did not include all AD deputies (other continued to sit in the GDRI group, the Independent Left or groups further right) and not all members of ARGRI were members of the AD, far from it in fact. The ARGRI was born out of Pierre-Étienne Flandin (the AD’s president since 1933, and leader of the majority right-wing pacifist faction)’s desire to unite the AD deputies and the plethora of centre-right independent deputies (especially independent Radicals) in one group. This attempt failed, as the AD remained divided and right-wing independents and independent Radicals continued to sit in other groups.

For purposes of this map, I’ve identified members of three right-wing groups under the etiquette ‘FR’. This is not to mean that all those coloured as such were members of the Republican Federation (FR) but it is largely accurate that way. The three groups are the FR’s central group, which took the party’s name and caucused with the small Independents of National and Republican Union (IURN); the Independent Republicans and the Independent Republicans of Social Action (RIAS). The RIAS group tended to be the most ‘left-wing’ of these three groups in that it condemned the FR’s move to the right after February 6 1934. The RIAS also had a corporatist and social-nationalist undertone. The Independent Republicans was a broad group of right-wing nationalist and borderline far-right deputies, which included the likes of Jean Ybarnegaray, George Mandel and Henry de Kérillis. A lot of its members joined La Rocque’s French Social Party (PSF) in 1938. The FR group also included far-right figures, including the infamous Philippe Henriot (Vichy’s propagandist) and Xavier Vallat (the antisemite General Commissar on the Jewish Question under Vichy).

The Agrarians denote the agraire indépendant group, which caucused with the RIAS but whose members largely came from a small agrarian part, the French Agrarian and Peasant Party (PAPF). The PAPF was close to Henri Dorgères’ rural ‘green shirts’ quasi-fascist league and was largely a hard-right party.

The non-inscrits have been divided for purpose of this map as ‘DVD’ or ‘DVG’. The only which I haven’t classified as such is Jacques Doriot, elected in Saint-Denis (Seine), the former PCF member who evolved into fascist anti-communism through his French Popular Party (PPF, which became one of the two main parties of the Vichy era).

Now that these essential comments are made, some comments can be made on the map itself.

The most striking thing on the map is how the right, in general, is relegated to the fringes of the country; that is Brittany, Alsace-Lorraine, the inner west, Normandy, the Basque Country and Flanders. All these regions have in common a strong history of clericalism, and the conservatism and traditionalism which it insinuates. In fact, the patterns of clericalism and Church attendance seem to correlate almost perfectly with the bases of the right on the map. The regions of the southern Massif Central; that is parts of Aveyron, Lozère, Haute-Loire and Ardèche; are all strongly right-wing and traditional clerical areas. The ‘fringes’ of France, aforementioned, were similarly strongly Catholic and conservative. A lot of these patterns can still be seen to this day, but the secularization of society has turned the old right-wing fortresses such as Brittany into either swing or left-wing regions. In urban areas, the stability of the right’s base between 1936 and 2011 is fascinating. Then and now, the right’s strongholds are in the bourgeois areas of the major cities. In Marseille, the right’s base has always been the wealthy 8th arrondissement (Le Roucas Blanc-Les Goudes) though the right’s hold on the downtown core has become more strenuous in recent years (a trend observed in most of the formerly very right-wing bourgeois downtowns). In Lyon, then and now, the traditional right’s base are the 2nd and 6th arrondissements, the wealthiest parts of the city. In Paris, fairly unsurprisingly, the division of the city between left and right was largely similar to what it is today. Even in the Parisian suburbs, Neuilly (represented by nationalist Henry de Kérillis, the only right-winger to vote against the Munich Accord), Vincennes and Versailles were the right’s base when the rest of the Seine and Seine-et-Oise formed a solid Red Belt. In Lille, the downtown areas and the north were on the right in a city which was, like today, a Socialist stronghold. In Bordeaux, the FR’s Philippe Henriot represented the northern bourgeois suburbs of the city.

The other aspect of interest in this era is the left’s base, which formed a string stretching from north to south and including, crucially, Champagne and Bourgogne which are regions thought of as right-wing in today’s context.  Here again clericalism and anti-clericalism is a major point, given that the aforementioned region as well as the Centre are traditionally republican anti-clerical regions. All these regions are largely dominated by small landowners and small town middle-classes, key republican constituencies since the 1870s. These small landowners, not extremely wealthy but averagely well off, in addition to the notables and middle-classes of small provincial towns were key components of the Radical electorate. However, hit hard by the Depression, the 1936 election saw the SFIO make important gains with these voters (in the process becoming the largest party, for the first time). Certainly these folks who had voted Radical in 1932 were disillusioned with the party’s orthodox economic policies when it held power between 1932 and 1934. The Radicals also suffered loses in Lyon, whose large middle-class petit bourgeois electorate made it one of the party’s electoral bases. In 1932, they held all but two of the city’s nine seats. In 1936, the party ended up holding only two. It suffered loses in the wealthiest areas (the 6th) to the right and loses in working-class areas to the SFIO and the PCF.

The realignment of Champagne and Bourgogne (outside the Nièvre) with the right is often dated to May 1946, when these regions voted against the constitutional project largely supported by the left and opposed by the right. Other realignments occurred later on, most notably the realignment of the Côte d’Azur on the right, which started only in the late 70s.

The 1936 election is also notable for the PCF’s strong showing. The party won 15.3% and 72 seats, when it had won 8.3% and 10 seats in 1932. Part of that comes from the party’s new strategy adopted in 1934. Indeed, the party’s volte-face from the old “class against class” strategy of the pre-Hitler years to the “popular front” strategy of the post-Hitler years played a major role in allowing for the creation of the Popular Front. The strategy of confrontation with the “social-traitors” of the SFIO and of electoral isolation had resulted in the party winning only a handful of seats between 1924 and 1932. Following February 6, 1934 and prior to that, Hitler’s seizure of power in Berlin, Stalin ordered the Comintern’s member parties to create an alliance with the bourgeois parties it had previously targeted with all its venom. The PCF had been a precursor in this regard, as it started overtures to the Socialists and Radicals by February 1934 when Moscow changed its strategy only in May 1934. Certainly the events of February 6 and the real threat of a fascist coup in France hastened the alliance between the PCF and SFIO through a general anti-fascist strike linking PCF and SFIO on February 12, 1934. The PCF and L’Humanité operated a stunning about-face, with grand demonstrations of patriotism unusual for the PCF and later with tons upon tons of flowery rhetoric directed at the Radicals. Maurice Thorez, the Stalinist hack, turned into the defender of democracy from fascism. The electoral alliance with the SFIO and Radicals as part of the Popular Front – whereby all parties could field candidates against one another in the first round, but would drop out to endorse the best placed Popular Front candidate in the runoff – worked wonders for the PCF. One the one hand, SFIO and left-wing Radical votes flowed to it in runoffs, even where it had trailed in the first round, and allowed it to win some spectacular victories. On the other hand, a very good transfer of votes from the PCF to other left-wing parties in the other constituencies allowed the Popular Front to win a major victory.

The PCF made most of its gains, which came largely at the SFIO’s expense, in working-class areas. Workers had been hit hard by the Depression as well. The PCF thus made gains which would stay with it until now (or if not today, until not long ago). The northern suburbs of Marseille elected their first PCF deputies in 1936 (the PCF lost its last seat in Marseille only in 2007). The party made some strong gains in rural areas as well, notably in the Lot-et-Garonne where it had been strong since the Tours Congress thanks to the local leadership of Renaud Jean, a peasant organizer. The PCF’s base in the Limousin (totally destroyed in the 80s by the Marcel Rigout split) is more post-war, but the party did well there by 1936. It won the Cévennol mining basin around Alès, a region which remains one of the party’s strongest areas to this day. Later PCF strongholds in the Lorrain metallurgical basin around Longwy are not yet visible, and in fact they only started voting for the left in 1936. Most workers in these areas were Italian immigrants, and they only got naturalized in the late 30s. The Communists made further gains in the northern mining basin, but again the PCF’s strength in the mining basin was limited to those parts of it in the Nord department while it remained weak in the Pas-de-Calais. The causes for this perpetual weakness of the PCF in the Pas-de-Calais seem to stem from the reformist, rather than Marxist, faction prevalent there, both politically and within the union movement.

However, the PCF’s most striking gains came in the Seine and Seine-et-Oise. The 1936 election is indeed considered the peak of the PCF’s strength in the world famous Red Belt. It would never be that strong in that region as in 1936. All but five seats in the outer Seine department escaped the PCF’s reach (Doriot’s seat was later gained by the PCF in a by-election during the legislature). Communist strength also extended to much of the outer suburbs in the Seine-et-Oise. Unlike today, the Red Belt in 1936 meant something. It was a true working-class faubourg almost all around (except for islands of wealth in Neuilly and Vincennes). Its population had grown rapidly during the First World War, and was largely composed of migrants from other regions of France. Migrant workers from the province, both in Paris and in other parts of France (such as the Loire), voted Communist early on. A mix of poor living and working conditions added on to the stress and awkwardness of adapting to a new environment made these voters particularly open to the PCF’s themes. It is also worth noting that in 1889, Boulanger had done best in those parts of Paris where the population had immigrated to the city recently. Within Paris itself in 1936, the PCF built themselves a quasi-continuous block of support in eastern Paris (the most working-class parts of Paris, then and now) stretching from the 17th to the 15th arrondissements.

The inner west forms a solid right-wing fortress. The left is shut out of Lower Normandy altogether and holds basically nothing in Maine and Anjou. It does perform a bit better in parts of Poitou, notably around Melle and Niort (which correspond to Ségolène’s electoral base) but also Fontenay-le-Comte in conservative Vendée. Part of the plaine poitevine, an anti-clerical small holder’s territory, these areas have been republican strongholds in contrast to the conservative bocage. In Brittany, the left has always enjoyed isolated islands of strength: Saint-Nazaire, Nantes in Loire-Atlantique, the working-class cities of Brest and Lorient (Brest having voted socialist very early on, and being isolated right smack middle of ultraconservative Léon) and the Trégor/eastern Léon around Morlaix and Lannion. François Tanguy-Prigent was first elected in 1936 in the Morlaix area, which has always been (along with the radical republican Monts d’Arée) an anti-clerical republican stronghold. Also noteworthy is Radical strength, with Albert Le Bail and Jean Perrot, in the Cap Sizun/Pays Bigouden area of Cornouaille. Cornouaille is often wrongly tossed with the Léon as a right-wing stronghold, when it fact it isn’t so. The Cornouaille has actually been traditionally republican, and also an area of small property. It has certainly voted for the right, but it doesn’t make it a right-wing stronghold.

In the right’s other fortress, the southern Massif Central (which remains right-wing to this day), the left breaks through only in predictable areas. In the Haute-Loire, around the Brioude basin (industrial and anti-clerical). In Lozère, where voting patterns haven’t changed since, what, the Middle Ages, the left was and remains very strong in the Protestant and anti-clerical Cévennes while the right won huge majorities in the Catholic plateaus. In the Aveyron, the anti-clerical and industrial (Descazeville, a mining town) areas elected Paul Ramadier while the rest voted for the right. In the Ardèche, the right, which included Xavier Vallat, won solidly in the mountainous and more Catholic parts of the department, confining the left to more industrial and more Protestant areas in the Loire valley. The Cantal, especially the election of a left-leaning independent in the traditionally hardcore clerical Saint-Flour plateau is a bit puzzling, but I think this result shows that a lot of emphasis should be placed on the identities of candidates. In legislative elections, then and now, the notability of candidates and they weight they can carry around as a local mayor, councillor or even public servant, lawyer or provincial town doctor were worth a lot. This is of course especially true in rural areas, and it remains true to this day.

Somewhat surprisingly for a region which is now the most solidly blue region, the Socialists and Communists were particularly strong in Alsace during the interwar period. In 1919, the SFIO won some of its best results in the country in Alsace, with a largely Protestant and working-class base and benefiting from the strong pre-war organization of the SPD in Alsace (which dominated urban areas such as Mulhouse, Strasbourg and Colmar). The 1929 split destroyed the PCF, which nonetheless managed to elect one deputy, Alfred Daul, in Strasbourg’s industrial suburbs around Schiltigheim. The PCAL’s deputies represented downtown Strasbourg, while Camille Dahlet, leader of the liberal secular Fortschrittspartei (similar to the Radical Party, of which Dahlet had been a member), represented the largely Protestant Saverne region. In the Haut-Rhin, only Mulhouse, an historically Protestant city (though largely Francophone and Catholic by 1936), was represented by a member who did not sit with the IAP.

This map probably isn’t fully accurate, but it offers a fascinating peek into the details of electoral politics and political behaviour of the era. And, from another vintage point, it’s one of the first online maps, to my knowledge, showing the results of the 1936 French elections in such a way.

Mapping the Ivorian vote

The Côte d’Ivoire’s Independent Electoral Commission (CEI), the commission which proclaimed Alassane Ouattara as the winner over incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo with 54% of the vote, released its version of the results of the second round by region.

The basic structure of Ivorian politics since 2000 or so is the very apparent north-south divide. The south, fertile and green, is largely Christian. It is the centre of the cocoa and coffee economy which made the country’s fortune until the 1990s. The north – the northwest in particular, is drier and largely Muslim. There has also been important immigration to the northern savannas from Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea; immigration which has played a major role in Ivorian ethnic tensions since 1994 and have changed the ethnic makeup quite considerably. As in most of West Africa, tribal allegiances are the single most important factors in Ivorian elections. First rounds usually see a very divided vote which candidates representing one or more of the major ethnic groups, while the runoff traditionally sees two candidates (often those backed by the two dominant ethnicities) who build unholy ethnic alliances to win. In Côte d’Ivoire, the Baoulé, the dominant elite under Houphouët-Boigny, backed the Houphouëtiste candidate, Bédié, in the first round but heavily backed Ouattara in the runoff. Ouattara, who had only heavy backing from the Malinkés and Sénoufos in the first round, built an unholy alliance with the Baoulé (and the Yacoubas) to win in the runoff. Gbagbo had backing from pretty much every other ethnic group in both rounds.

Ivorian regions are further subdivided in departments, which often change boundaries, and which are pretty useless. Nonetheless, they are an interesting level for analysis. The CEI did not report results by department in the runoff, instead reporting them through centralized coordinating centres whose boundaries still largely follow departmental boundaries.

This map shows that reducing Ivorian electoral politics to a nice north-south is quite misleading. The reality is that in Côte d’Ivoire, like in most of former French West Africa, all politics is ethnic and about the alliance of ethnic groups to obtain power. Ouattara had the quasi-unanimous support of the northwestern Malinkés and Sénoufos, which was his original base, and expanded to include strong support in the 65-85% range from the Baoulés (which had backed Bédié in the first round) and the smaller Yacouba minority which backed, as visible here, a small candidate (Albert Mabri) in the first round. Not much should be read into this alliance other than an opportunistic alliance created by two traditionally rival politicians to obtain power and wrestle it from the hands of an opposing ruling class.

On the other hand, Gbagbo obtained the support of most of the country’s other ethnicities. Gbagbo himself is a Bété and in the past he enjoyed strong support, but surprisingly in this election his best results did not come from Bété areas. This could mean that Gbagbo once in power distanced himself from his traditional clan, or that mixing of ethnicities in the south (but not in the north) brought about by a very extensive Baoulé migration from their heartland in the Lacs and N’zi Comoé region to other regions of the country (notably Bas-Sassandra, the only coastal region won by Ouattara, which had backed Bédié in the first round) have served to muddle up traditional ethnic lines. Ironically, Gbagbo’s strongest support seems to have come from ethnicities akin to the Baoulé (an Akan tribe) such as the Agnis and Attiés which are concentrated in the Lagunes, Agneby and Comoé regions. I don’t know much about inter-Akan family relations, but one could realistically assume that the Agnis and Attiés have felt alienated from the Baoulé due to the latter’s omnipotence in Ivorian politics in the past. Gbagbo also performed strongly amongst ethnicities akin to the Bété (in the Kru family), notably the Wés south of Man in the west.

Abidjan, like most major African cities, has been extensively affected by internal migrations of various ethnicities. In the end, Gbagbo very narrowly won the city with roughly 51% against 49% for Ouattara. It should not be surprising that such ethnic mash-up cities end up being the focal points of riots, conflicts and sometimes civil wars in Africa.

An electoral revolution: the political evolution of Brazil’s Nordeste

Changes in a region’s voting patterns and overall political mood are often spread out over a long period of time, rarely happening overnight in one election. Possibly, the electoral evolution of the Northeast Region, or Nordeste, of Brazil, is an exception. The traditional image of the Northeast being a backwards region dominated by powerful landlords who oppressed a large and poor peasantry has changed considerably, though that, of course, did not come overnight. The change in voting patterns, however, have changed rather drastically in a short period of time.

The Nordeste was the centre of Portuguese Brazil’s colonial economy and was the colony’s wealthiest region – by far- until at least the mid-nineteenth century. Helped by a favourable location and climate, the (coastal) Nordeste’s economy grew, lived and prospered thanks to sugar cane. The need for manual labour on huge sugar plantations especially after the quasi-extermination of the Tupi natives (who were also inadequate for the task) led to the largest slave trade in the western hemisphere. Most African slaves sent to work in the Americas were sent to Brazil, a fact which contributes to the Nordeste’s cultural and racial diversity. As coffee gradually replaced sugar as Brazil’s main export, the Nordeste suffered a quasi-constant decline and degeneration which has, over time, transformed a region which was once the country’s wealthiest into the country’s poorest.

To understand the region’s politics and societal structure, one must first understand the vegetation and precipitation patterns of the region. Basically, the Northeast is divided into three geographical regions (there are actually four, but nobody cares about the fourth). The first is the zona da mata, a wet and green region which forms a long, thin and narrow strip along the Atlantic coastline. This region actually used to be covered by thick rainforest similar to the Amazon, though it was all wiped out by the Portuguese who established sugar cane plantations all along the coast. Sugar cane was and is produced on large estates called engenhos, who were led by wealthy sugar barons who maintained tremendous political influence. After the green zona da mata, another – inland this time – long and thin strip is formed by the agreste, a kind of transitional region between the wet green coastline and the dry dusty interior. Already in the agreste, rainfall is much scarcer and the landscape is much less green. Small agriculture is dominant here. Further inland lies the vast, semi-arid and dustier sertão, the most well-known of the three geographical regions. Prone to long droughts, the sertão is generally unfertile and most agriculture is based around cattle herding. Most herding used to be done on huge estates, the well-known latifundios, led by landowners who dominated a large, poor peasantry. Drought, poverty and lack of income encouraged a massive migration from the dirt poor sertão to major cities of southeastern Brazil.

Slavery and its legacy, as well as a tradition of hegemonic control, unsurprisingly engendered poverty, oppression and an oligarchic paternalist society. Wielding much political and economic power, oligarchs and landowners controlled the economic and political life of their turf, a system which became known in Brazil (and elsewhere) as coronelismo, whereby a local oligarch (a ‘colonel’) controlled a tightly regimented society and delivered their votes en masse to the highest bidder. This power, which came as a result of their wealth and dynastic status, conferred them with considerable power. Their support for the republic in 1889 played a crucial role in its establishment and survival. The system of coronelismo was quasi-universal in Brazil during the café com leite Republic (1889-1930) and continued unfettered in rural areas throughout the country until the 1980s (in some cases, to this day). However, even in the Northeast, the influence and field of action of these bosses was quickly confined to rural areas (where a great majority of the population still lived) while wealthier urban areas became holdouts of organized urban labour or a progressive educated elite. Recife, after all, was a stronghold of the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB) which polled over 15% in Pernambuco in 1945 and 1947 (industrialist backing of the PCB also explains that in parts).

It is important to note some important things about these ‘colonels’, oligarchs and political bosses which literature on Brazilian history refer to. There is sometimes the image of these men all being the same and favouring the same thing. While it is true, certainly, that most of them largely supported a conservative, elitist (or oligarchic) society which paid little attention to the plight of rural workers or to land reform; some bosses were more progressive than others and some were more nationalistic than others. For example, the elite in Pernambuco was much more progressive than the elite in, say, Bahia or Alagoas. Certain members of the elite had nationalist leanings, and some – I dare say – were somewhat progressive! Not all members of the elite were bad, some did some good for their region, notably by encouraging industrialization. Lastly, a fundamental aspect of the elite was that it was still very much flexible – within the confines of the status-quo – and had no exclusive ties to any political party. During the 1945-1964 era, for example, while the conservative UDN was often noted as the party of the old Northeastern elites, and, true enough, the region was consistently the UDN’s strongest, the local PSD and even PTB were very much dominated by the local elites as well.

It might be surprising to some that even with the advent of the secret ballot and apparent democracy in 1945 that the elites could still hold the power they held. As in much of South America, their power was largely hegemonic, indicating some sort of consent from the base. These political bosses still commanded peasants and through veiled threats of losing their jobs, shelter and source of sparse income they could easily control their voting habits.

Getúlio Vargas’s policies were only aimed at organizing urban labour and using the urban working-class as a base of political power similarly to how the old conservatives used Northeastern peasants as their base of political power. Vargas, himself a landowner (though in a society almost a world apart from that of the Northeast) had no interest in organizing the rural workers or disturbing the conservative status-quo in the vast swathes of the Nordeste. Vargas was never a true left-winger, let alone a radical or a communist. Given the nationalist leanings of certain political bosses in the region, he was able to garner the loyalty of the powerful Northeastern elite; though the Getulist (or PTB) organizing was weaker in the Northeast than anywhere else.

The 1946 Constitution, which restricted franchise to literate voters did much to ensure that the elite would not be disturbed by pesky dirt poor peasants. Encouraging literacy, something promoted both by the church and the government (after 1961), was thus seen as a danger by the elite. João Goulart’s 1963 push for ‘basic reforms’, most notable of which were agrarian and political reform, scared the elite more than a bit. Agrarian reform, of course, would break up the large latifundias which still dominated the sertão and break up the oligarch’s main source of power. Political reform, notably encouraging literacy and expanding franchise to illiterate voters, would transform Brazil into a mass democracy (throughout the 45-64 era, only 15-20% of the population actually voted) and would likely break up the power of the elite; because while the poor (and illiterate) peasantry was tightly controlled by the elites, they were also easy targets for nascent radical movements. What Goulart proposed Vargas would never have done, so the elite was shaken to its base by these reform. They had cared little, in the end, about Vargas’ shenanigans with the urban workers and his flirtation with left-wing nationalism because he didn’t dare disturb them. However, Goulart’s reforms endangered the system altogether. The Northeastern political elite was, therefore, entirely behind the 1964 coup which overthrew Goulart. While the support of the middle-classes and the legalist wing of the military for the coup was crucial, the support of the Northeastern elites undoubtedly played a great role. Conveniently, the 1964 coup and the subsequent decades of military dictatorship killed off the nascent radical political movements and stalled the question of land reform (as a political issue) for a long time.

In this context, the experience of Miguel Arraes in Pernambuco is perhaps of importance in highlighting what the political elite feared would happen. A democratic socialist supported by the PCB, Arraes narrowly won the governorship of Pernambuco in the 1962 elections, in an election which proved to be a major defeat for the ruling conservative elite. Certainly funding and monetary support from José Ermírio de Morais, a big (nationalist PTB) industrialist who was elected Senator the same day helped, but Arraes had been able to win by assembling a coalition uniting urban areas with sugar cane workers who were literate enough to vote. Perhaps Arraes would have been the beginning of the end for the elite if the military hadn’t turned back the clock.

The elite supported the military well until the end, at least until doing so stopped being a good strategy and when the military stopped providing the benefits it had done in the past. Master chameleons, the elite, or at least a good part of it, became, or so they claim, convinced democrats right around the time of the mass protests in favour of direct elections in 1984. Those who didn’t change colours then did so the following year, when the ruling majority’s nomination of Paulo Maluf, an unsavoury man, for the presidency alienated much of the regime’s Northeastern power brokers. These people split from the ruling PDS party and formed the Liberal Front Party (PFL) and promptly supported Tancredo Neves in the indirect 1985 election. For them, it couldn’t have been better given that Tancredo Neves (a fundamentally good man) tragically died right before taking office and José Sarney, one of these master chameleons, became President.

While urbanization, the growth of an independent media and higher literacy disturbed the elite by the 1980s, they still held much sway over the region. In the 1982 election, the pro-military and very conservative PDS swept the Northeast, taking nearly 67% of the vote against 43% nationally. That was a bit before the aforementioned change in colours, and in 1986 the old PDS (which was, by then, a far-right party) collapsed and the main fight in the region was between Sarney’s PMDB (which swept the country) and the PFL. The PFL’s ranks included well-known old conservative oligarchs who had supported the military and now played a key role in the new democratic regime; people such as Antônio Carlos Magalhães (ACM, the strongman of Bahia), Marco Maciel and José Agripino Maia. José Sarney himself, as far as I know, never joined the PFL (but at the same time played a major role in the creation of the party), but he also controlled the PFL organization in his home state of Maranhão. His daughter Roseana, for example, was a longtime member of the PFL (until they kicked her out). That being said, the PFL was not the only party for the old elite, and its support was not even throughout the region (in Ceará, the PSDB was dominant, for example). That being said, the PFL is best thought of as the main party of the elite.

Out of the vacuum on the right in 1989 emerged a political outsider and political novice, the young and flashy governor of Alagoas, Fernando Collor. Collor, whose father killed a fellow Senator and whose grandfather had been one of Vargas’ labour ministers, was the perfect representative for the elite. He was conservative, but also detached from the Sarney government in a way which allowed him to be the candidate of change. Collor was the symbol par excellence of the elite: conservative, dynastic and flexible within the system. After all, he had supported Sarney when it paid to do so, but broke all bridges with him when it was bad PR to do so. The darling of the right-wing media and the elite, Collor was the best candidate to take on the left, led by Lula and Leonel Brizola.

Collor defeated Lula with 53% in the runoff and took 55.7% in the Northeast (which was only his third-best region), but lost to Lula in the state of Pernambuco by a narrow margin of 50.9% to 49.1%. Lula had also done well in Bahia (48.3%), Rio Grande do Norte (47.4%) and Paraíba (45%), and his results certainly were a success for the PT which was extremely weak in the region. It did show that some peasants, formerly strictly regimented into political machines, rebelled in the isolation of the voting booth; but the bottom line was that the political bosses still held considerable sway, especially in rural areas. A better understanding of the nature of the election in the region is provided by a look at results in the context of municipalities.

Nordeste, 1989 election (runoff); source: Eleições em Dados

The map to the left reveals a quasi-perfect urban-rural divide, a divide which was seen throughout the country. Collor won the election almost solely on the power of the rural vote, getting obliterated by varying margins in the quasi-entirety of the country’s major urban centres (he may have won São Paulo narrowly). Maceió, AL is an exception to this rule; but Collor’s ownership of the state (and city) likely explains that. Certainly, however, in cities like Salvador, Recife or Fortaleza; Collor did very badly. Aside from the fact that Northeastern cities, which are far wealthier than the rural areas surrounding them, have been holdouts of urban labour or urban progressives against the ultra-conservative countryside; the urban centres were also the only one in 1989 to have had access to unbiased independent media sources which highlighted Collor’s shady side. His status as an old oligarch and his candidacy as one of the old right was certainly not an advantage in any urban centre, especially the most progressive ones like Recife, Salvador, Fortaleza or Rio.

There are various outspots of red in rural areas, likely explainable by a weak political machine in the specific region or an economy less reliant on agriculture and herding. The best example of such areas are in the São Francisco Valley, in towns such as Juazeiro, Petrolina and Petrolândia, where the economy revolves more around hydroelectricity and industry than around herding. But the main thing here is that the rural areas are varying shades of blue, more often that not darker shades of blue. Certainly Collor dominated in the vast majority of the herding-reliant sertão, which was the base of the political bosses of yesterday, more so than the coastal areas which were slightly less conservative.

Collor’s impeachment in 1992 didn’t end the power of the elite, which showed its flexibility in its relations with Fernando Henrique Cardoso (FHC). As a rather leftie sociologist and intellectual, FHC likely had little love for the elite and they barely hid their contempt for him. The Bahian baron of the PFL, Antônio Carlos Magalhães, criticized FHC’s anti-inflation Plano Real right at the outset. However, when the Plano Real proved to be a resounding success and Cardoso showed his interest in taking the top job in 1994, the elite widely acclaimed Cardoso as the candidate of the right and his running-mate, Marco Maciel (PFL-PE) gave from their ranks. Cardoso certainly wasn’t their natural choice, and probably not their preferred choice. But pragmatically, FHC was the Brazilian right’s only hope against Lula, who had been leading in all opinion polling until at least mid-summer 1994.

FHC defeated Lula on the back of the resoundingly successful Plano Collor by the first round, taking 54.3% nationally by the first round and 57.6% in the Northeast. Lula won 30.3% in the region, slightly more than what he got nationally and did well in Pernambuco (37%), Sergipe (36.9%), Bahia (35.2%) and Piauí (32%). Contrarily to Collor in 1989, FHC also performed very well in urban areas. Of the state capitals, all but one of which had been swept by Lula in 1989, FHC won five of them and Lula’s win in Salvador was not as massive as it had been in 1989. Certainly, FHC had a better image in urban areas than Collor did. Largely the same thing happened in 1998, though FHC did worse in the Northeast than nationally (47.7% vs. 53.1%) though not as much to Lula’s benefit (31.6% regionally vs. 31.7%) but to the benefit of Ceará’s favourite son Ciro Gomes who won 16% regionally and 11% nationally (and narrowly won his home-state, which was practically a 3-way tie).

Some will argue that 2002 represents the turning point in the Nordeste’s voting patterns, but I disagree. Certainly, Lula won big in the Northeast and that is not a small fact. He turned the region red, but at the same time he turned the quasi-entirety of the country red, even the wealthy, white conservative states of the south. Lula’s appeal in 2002 was broad, something which comes both from his campaign style and rhetoric, which was unusually moderate and ‘calm’ (gone, obviously, was the angry bearded Lula); and from FHC’s widespread unpopularity after a bad second term. That explains why the regional results in the runoff were all within 3-4% of the national result (61.3%). With 61.5% in the Northeast, it was hard to say then that the region was the key stronghold of the new left. What’s more, the only state which Lula lost was in the Northeast – Alagoas, the last holdout of the conservative elite; and a look at results by municipality reveals that you still had a fair number of random patches of conservative blue in the traditional rural strongholds of the elite.

Results of state-level results in 2002 also provide ample evidence that the realignment had not occurred by 2002. With the exception of Piauí where Wellington Dias (PT) defeated incumbent PFL governor Hugo Napoleão, the parties representing the old order held on in most states. In Pernambuco, Humberto Costa (PT) was badly defeated by right-winger Jarbas Vasconcelos (PMDB), while in Bahia Paulo Souto (PFL) easily defeated Jaques Wagner (PT). The candidates of the right, generally speaking, also performed well in the senatorial election. Thus, while Lula won big in the region even in 2002, an analysis of results both at a micro level and a downballot level provides evidence to claim that 2002 was not a realignment and the presidential results were merely part of the wave which swept Brazil.

Results of the 2010 presidential election by municipality (own work)

The realignment came in 2006, which was a defining election in terms of defining the effects of the first left-wing government in Brazil since the 1960s on the voting behaviours of Brazilians. In 2002, in the first round, Lula had done about as well in the Northeast than in Brazil (slightly worse, in fact). In 2006, he performed 18% better in the Northeast than in the country as a whole. In the runoff, that figure was 16%. Overall, he won 66.8% in the region by the first round and took a crushing 77.1% of the votes in the runoff. Just by those results, as well as his sheer domination – even by the first round – in most of the backwoods of the sertão, it was clear that a major realignment had taken place.

At the state level, unlike in 2002, the forces of the left did well. Of course in Bahia, Jaques Wagner unexpectedly defeated incumbent PFL Governor Paulo Souto by a ten-point margin in the first round. In Pernambuco, with the quasi-unanimous backing of Humberto Costa’s first round voters, Eduardo Campos (PSB, Arraes’ grandson) easily defeated governor José Mendonça Filho (PFL) in the runoff. In Ceará, Cid Gomes (PSB) defeated governor Lúcio Alcântara by a crushing 28-point margin in the first round. Finally, in Maranhão, governor Roseana Sarney (PFL) was narrowly defeated by Jackson Lago (PDT) in the runoff, a victory which, at the time, was considered a major blow to the Sarney clan, dominant in Maranhense politics.

The results of the first round of the 2010 election provided no indication that the 2006 result were an aberration. Quite to the contrary, it arguably showed, to some extent, an amplification of the 2006 realignment. With the notable exception of Rio Grande do Norte (which was caused by local conditions), big names on the old right went down to defeat badly. Tasso Jereissati, a dominant Cearan politician of the PSDB, was badly defeated running for what was thought to be easy re-election to the Senate. Marco Maciel, a key figure of the old PFL and a key symbol of the old conservative oligarchs who had supported the military, was badly defeated. César Borges, though allied with Lula, lost badly in Bahia; where Jaques Wagner won a landslide reelection over his 2002 and 2006 rival Paulo Souto. In Pernambuco, finally, Eduardo Campos (PSB) was reelected with one of the biggest margins in Brazilian political history, over a well-known politico (Jarbas) no less.

An amusing anecdote showing the new force of the left in the region is how even those on the right are attempting to place more emphasis on their relations with Lula than their relations with their party. A notable example is that of Teo Vilela Jr, the incumbent PSDB governor of Alagoas in a tough fight for reelection. Nothing on his website indicates his party, let alone his party’s presidential nominee, but instead had a nice article on how Lula had praised his work. He himself also had lots of nice things to say about Lula, all part of a strategy to confuse voters into thinking that he was Lula’s candidate, when technically he’s a member of the main opposition party to the President.

An analysis of the results of the 2010 elections by municipality shows the utter dominance of the left in the sertão. This is where the electoral realignment occurred and where it was most dramatic. In large swathes of the massive sertão, which covers most of the region’s interior, Dilma won well over 60% of the votes and in parts of Bahia, Pernambuco, Ceará, Piauí and Maranhão her results in the sertão were even well into the 70-80% range with a few municipalities (mostly small) giving her over 90% of the votes. Only eight years ago, a fair share of those had still given Serra a near majority of the votes. An interesting case study in the voting shifts at work in the sertão is the municipality of Caetés, Pernambuco. Caetés is the birthplace of Lula, and is a typical dirt poor village in the sertão. In 1994 and 1998, Lula lost the village by a big margin (FHC had even taken over 60% there in 1998). Dilma won 81% this year (Serra won 15%). In 2002, Lula had won 54% in the first round. Most of the littoral remains left-wing, though by somewhat smaller margins. Conversely, the left’s strength in the region’s urban centres (which are much more well-off than the rural areas) has abetted somewhat since the highs of 1989, a trend observed in a number of major urban centres throughout Brazil (ironically, Lula’s average voter in 1989 was probably wealthier than Collor’s). Marina Silva did very well in the region’s major cities this year, in line with her strong performances in well-educated and averagely well-off urban areas; though Serra did very poorly, though Marina likely took a lot of votes which otherwise would have gone to him. That being said, most urban centres, especially Salvador, remain staunchly left-wing; with the exception of places like Maceió and Aracaju.

How did such a realignment happen?

While the Northeast was demographically perfect ground for the left in any western democracy, like in most of Latin America the tight control of the population by an oligarchic elite kept the region safely in conservative hands for most of the twentieth century. The slow moves towards agrarian democracy and somewhat equitable land distribution as well as the gradual loss of power by the old elites through increased education, awareness, freedom and wealth undoubtedly played a major role in ending the power of the conservative dominant class. The increased literacy rate and educational level in the region are also exemplified by the massive collapse in invalid votes. Illiterates can vote since 1988 (though, unlike literate voters, they are not legally compelled to do so), and the vote is now done electronically (since 1994). Unsurprisingly, there is a definite correlation between illiteracy and a high percentage of blank votes. The percentage of invalid votes in the region has dwindled from roughly 30% in 1994 to slightly above 10% this year.

The PT was, at its foundation, a largely urban party based in urban, organized labour. While it did have a few bases of more rural support (notably in Acre), the party was especially weak in the rural Nordeste where it had no natural base with rural workers. It was only the experience of the left in power which allowed the party to build a solid base in the region, thanks to the social policies of the Lula government which are of great importance to the region. There is a very high positive correlation between votes for the left in a municipality and the number of Bolsa Família beneficiaries in said municipality. What Lula and the left has achieved is, in a way, the eternal and unrealized goal of most of the Latin American left: creating a durable alliance between urban and rural workers. That was what Goulart wanted to achieve in 1964, but he was far ahead of his day in that regard.

Some of this would probably not have happened without the flexibility and opportunism of the elite. The elite might have been conservative and downright horrible in most senses of the term, but they certainly weren’t inflexible or stubborn. Their flexibility within the confines of the established system allowed them to survive, and will allow some of them to survive in the future. Brazilian politicians, of course, are not known for their moral stature or their ideological consistency. Most don’t see an issue with supporting two ideologically opposed governments, and most choose their allies based on the amount of money they can offer them. A fair share of the formerly conservative elite thus realized that their new interests lay with Lula, and so they choose to support Lula even though they were all diehard opponents of his back in 1989. Notable Northeastern oligarchs who took this route include José Sarney (PMDB), who has become one of the President’s biggest allies; Fernando Collor (PTB); Renan Calheiros (PMDB); Roseana Sarney (PMDB), a former pefelista expelled for supporting Lula in 2006; Henrique Eduardo Alves (PMDB) and César Borges (PR). People like Garibaldi Alves Filho (and his father) can also be counted as allies, albeit less reliable than Sarney, of the left. Those who haven’t abandoned their right-wing roots, haven’t done so well. Marco Maciel and Tasso Jereissati are good examples. As corrupt and distasteful as they might be, the old elite still carry a lot of weight around with their family names and they are still able to bring pork back to their regions. They might not be doing so well as in the past, but the contemporary coronels who’ve understood where the advantages lie aren’t going to kick the bucket just yet.

Evolution of votes for the PFL in elections to the Chamber of Deputies since 1986

A telling story of the decline of the conservative oligarchy in the region is that of the PFL. While not representative of the entire ruling elite, which was spread out over a whole slew of parties, the PFL is the most representative of the old elite and is intimately linked to conservative oligarchs who allied with the military in 1964, supported it until it became the bad thing to do and quickly converted themselves into convinced democrats, or so they claim. For any right-wing candidate, the support of the PFL was crucial. FHC understood that in 1994 and 1998, and thus accepted an alliance with them, even though it kind of went against everything he stood for as a progressive intellectual opponent of the military regime. The PFL controlled a near majority of governorships and senate seats in the Northeast, and their support was thus key to the right (read, the PSDB). The PFL wasn’t strong in all states of the Northeast, for example they always lacked a base in Ceará and were weak in states such as Alagoas or Paraíba; but overall, they were the dominant party in the region. They held the plurality of the region’s seats in the Chamber of Deputies between 1990 and 2010, and between 1990 and 2006 they controlled at least two governorships in the region, often more than that.

However, as the direct representatives of the old order, they stood to lose the most from the realignment described above. And indeed it did. The chart above shows the evolution of the votes for the PFL in elections to the Chamber of Deputies between 1986 and 2010. 1986 is perhaps abnormaly high given the two-party nature of Brazilian politics that year, but between 1990 and 2002 the PFL won over 24% of the votes in each election region-wide. In 2006, for the first time, their vote fell below 20% to reach 17%; but even then they still controlled a narrow plurality of the seats in the region and topped the poll in the region. It was to be their last hurrah. In 2010, their vote collapsed below the 10% line to reach a paltry 9.41%. A spectacular decline of nearly 15% in a period of 8 years. That has significantly reduced the party’s caucus in both chambers, and they are no longer the region’s dominant party (the PT and PMDB, like in the rest of Brazil, have taken up that role).

The story of the Nordeste’s drastic electoral evolution in such a short period of times highlights not only the decline and perhaps upcoming fall of the coronels and caciques of yesterday, but also highlights a fundamental realignment in the voting patterns of Brazilians in the wake of the first left-wing government in the country since the 1960s. The story of one of Latin America’s most fascinating regions is also the story of many regions of Brazil and Latin America as a whole.

The FN and the French Regionals

The FN’s success of sorts, polling 11.42% and qualifying for the runoff in 12 regions, has been one of the major points of the first round of the regional elections. While the FN’s result is around 3.3% below its result six years ago, and that it will lose seats in a handful of regional councils as a result, the FN’s result is superior to the 10.4% polled by Le Pen in the 2007 election, but also to the FN’s results in the 2007 legislative and 2009 European elections, both of which were below 10%. The media has tried to answer the question of what caused the FN’s “revival”, but very few have attempted to answer the other question of who voted for the FN on March 14 but who hadn’t voted FN in 2007 and 2009.

A look at the FN’s electorate on Sunday provides a basic start, but provides little surprises. The FN’s best performances are with younger voters, but young voters with lower education, but most notably with blue-collar workers (19%, according to OpinionWay, with the traditionally blue-collar ouvriers) and also with smaller lower middle-class employees (15% with employés according to OpinionWay). The FN’s results are obviously much weaker with more educated and more liberal categories, such as cadres (only 5% in this category including managers, researchers and professionals). On the other hand, the exit poll shows that 12% of artisans, traditionally small business owners, who tend to be white and share concerns about insecurity and immigration. These numbers only provide a cursory overlook of a complex situation, given that the FN’s electorate, being one which is based a lot around protest voting, dances around a whole lot.

Below is a map of the FN vote by canton produced by geoclip.

The FN’s electorate has always been concentrated in the east, which is traditionally the most industrial region of France. No surprises on that front. Firstly, the traditional patterns of FN areas of strength are there, along the Mediterranean coastline with either Pieds-Noirs voters or middle-class voters voting against immigration and insecurity. Secondly, in the Garonne Valley from Bordeaux to Castres (Tarn), an area of traditional Pieds-Noirs settlement, forming a line of support for the far-right ever since 1962. However, in PACA, the FN’s traditional electoral base, had been seriously hurt by Sarkozy in 2007. His tough stance on immigration and security issues appealed well to both white blue-collar workers around Marseille (where immigration is high) but also to the wealthier middle-class electorate in areas such as the Var and Alpes-Maritimes. Yet, in 2010, the FN’s strongest gains came from the Alpes-Maritimes, where Le Pen had polled only 13.47% in 2007 but jumped to 22.01%. Here, an electorate attached to what the media calls the “value of (hard) work” and “meritocracy” have turned rather en masse against Sarkozy’s party, angered perhaps by Sarkozy’s ‘green’ policies such as the carbon tax proposal but also by the scandal concerning Sarkozy’s nomination of his son to head a major public agency. A closer look at the FN’s vote in 2010 along the Mediterranean shows important gains in traditionally more bourgeois quarters, in places such as Cagnes-sur-Mer, Antibes or Cannes. However, perhaps Le Pen’s personality as a candidate further sped up the party’s gains here.

A same pattern could be seen in other areas of France with similar concentrations of small employees, middle-class voters or middle-class retirees. For example, the FN’s vote in rural areas such as the Marne and the Aube have come back to the party’s fold, and sometimes even improving on Le Pen’s 2007 showing in these areas. The high FN vote in these often poor (for rural areas), isolated and “forgotten” areas is not local only to Marne or Aube. The same pattern can be seen in parts of the Centre, the Yssingelais in Haute-Loire, parts of the Drôme, eastern Orne, parts of Eure, and so on.

Another area where the FN gained vis-a-vis 2007 was the Greater Paris area, with the party’s vote returning in exurban or suburban white middle-class areas similar to those described above. Such areas, located in Seine-et-Marne, the Oise, Eure-et-Loir or Val-d’Oise were prime areas for Sarkozy in 2007, and he gained considerably there. Closer to Paris, gains in areas with high immigration and local security problems have also turned back to the FN, with the party considerably increasing in areas of eastern Val-d’Oise. In Villiers-le-Bel, which saw riots in 2007, the FN polled 15.2%, against 10.3% in 2007. The same pattern is seen over and over again in the eastern reaches of the Val-d’Oise, northern Seine-Saint-Denis and further extending into the Oise and Seine-et-Marne. Perhaps the perceived failure of Sarkozy’s security policies by these voters can explain these gains?

The other aspect which one must look at is the effect of unemployment. According to the exit poll, the FN polled around 16% with those voters and the correlation is strong between unemployment and a high FN vote, though this isn’t a new thing. Lorraine provides a perfect example, as it gave the UMP a surprisingly low vote  (24% in a traditionally right-wing region) and the FN polled nearly 15%. There is a correlation between working-class and a high FN vote in a lot of places, but we need to be careful of assuming a working-class locale leads to a high FN vote. A lot of old mining areas in the southwest don’t distinguish themselves for their high FN vote. Neither do or did left-leaning mining or industrial areas in Lorraine, such as the traditionally Communist areas around Longwy or Moyeuvre-Grande in Moselle. The FN’s best results come from working-class areas which have recently suffered from high unemployment, factory closures and the like. Gandrange, the nationally famous town where Sarkozy promised in 2007 that a steel mill wouldn’t close but did close is located in Moselle. Now, Gandrange isn’t a right-wing stronghold or any of that kind but Sarkozy won narrowly in the runoff, and it is a good example. The FN polled 15.8%. The FN’s results are even stronger as you reach the area around Forbach, a Catholic but very industrial steel and coal driven area (it isn’t a stronghold of the left as one could assume because of its clerical Catholic traditions), and also an area with a high unemployment rate (7.6% in 2008 in the Forbach area, third highest in Lorraine). In Freyming-Merlebach, the FN polled 25% (19% in 2007). In Stiring-Wendel, another base of French coal mining in the past, the FN polled 23.4%. In rural areas of Lorraine (Meuse), areas which tend to be isolated and “forgotten” by Paris and also have high unemployment, the FN neared 20%. The same pattern extends to Marne, Aube; other rural areas described above.

In the Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Marine Le Pen’s strong groundwork in the old mining basin of the Pas-de-Calais and local strength undoubtedly helped, but the patterns are similar. The same link between unemployment and a high vote for the FN is seen again. The FN is easily over 20% in most of the old mining basin of the Pas-de-Calais, and it even nears 40% in Henin-Beaumont, Marine’s new electoral base (where a divided local left and corrupt PS has helped the FN even more). The same pattern cannot be seen entirely as clearly in the Nord, especially in the electoral base of Alain Bocquet, the Left Front candidate, who is a popular deputy for an old part of the Nord stretch of the mining basin, but whose vote reflects the same pattern as the FN vote does. A similar thing happened along the Channel coast of Seine-Maritime from Le Havre till Dieppe, where the strong locally-based candidacy of Jumel for the Left Front likely took votes that could have gone FN otherwise.  In this region as well, the FN did well in rural areas, though some of that strength likely comes from hunters formerly in the CPNT fold more than the “isolated forgotten rural vote” pattern described earlier.

This link between unemployed voters and FN voters is nothing new, it is just a second coming of the patterns already seen in 2002 or even 2004, but patterns erased a bit in 2007 or 2009. Neither is it a factor local to the Pas-de-Calais and Moselle. The FN vote saw a similar jump around the “Peugeot” area of Belfort-eastern Doubs, polling up to 22% in Sochaux, an industrial city.

A pattern which is new, however, is bourgeois support for the FN. Bourgeois not of the kind found in Provence, who tend to be a bit less affluent and historically concerned by immigration and the like, but bourgeois of the old type, wealthy, right-wing and moderate on issues such as Europe or even immigration. These are found in the stereotypically wealthy areas of Paris, in the 16th arrondissement, in the Yvelines, or in Lyon’s 2nd and 6th. Back in 1979, when the FN polled 1%, it got a “good” share of its vote from these very wealthy people, but the 1980s shift in emphasis to unemployment, immigration resulted in the “popularization” of the FN vote (both in terms of popularity, yes, but also a shift to the quartiers populaires, or poorer areas). The FN’s best arrondissement in Paris was the 16th, with 7.1% of the vote. Now, you’ll tell me that isn’t a lot, but it remains above city average and is considerable. The other high points are also to be found in the wealthy Parisian west, 6.8% in the 17th or 6.7% in the 8th (both very wealthy as well) and not as much in the poorer east (though the vote is still high there). The FN’s results in other areas synonymous with wealth are also high: 8.7% in Versailles (7.6% in 2007), 6.3% in Neuilly-sur-Seine (3.8% in 2007) and so on. The vote here reflects a protest vote from a right-wing electorate with traditional values who disapprove of Sarkozy, perhaps disillusioned with Sarkozy’s policies of left-leaning cabinet ministers? A similar pattern is seen in Lyon, but not as much in Marseille (though even there it has shifted around).

Because Marseille is much more pied-noir, but also much more ethnically diverse and economically polarized (Paris has poor areas, but no real inner-city poor areas like the old PCF areas of Marseille’s 8th sector; Lyon is even wealthier and middle-class on a general outlook) the FN vote is a bit more based on old insecurity/immigration issues than it seems to be in Paris and Lyon, as well as a bit more stagnant, though not entirely, this election shows it well. This time you had much stronger showings in UMP areas than in old left-wing areas. It highlights well the nature of the protest vote this time around.

A final note on Corse, where Le Pen polled nearly 15% in 2007 but where the FN, regionally, is quasi-inexistent. A surprisingly large number of Corsican nationalists vote FN in national elections, perhaps the result of a quasi-xenophobe and ‘closed down’ attitude of a fraction of the Corsican nationalist vote.

The UMP should look at this trend, if it confirms itself in later elections, worryingly. The electorate which shifted back to the FN had carried Sarkozy to a comfortable victory in 2007, and this time, disappointed with Sarkozy, they might not be as tempted to carry Sarkozy or the UMP in 2012. At all.

The Cantons of France

French departments are governed by General Councils, a timeless institution in existence, in one form or another, since the Revolution. Since 1982, their powers have been unclear and of little importance nationally, but they remain the basis of departmental institutions. The General Council is, in a way, a National Assembly at the local level. After all, both use constituencies, and in General Councils, they’re called cantons. These cantons nowadays serve mostly as electoral constituencies for electing one councillor to the General Council, and this person is election using the same system as the one used to elect deputies to Paris – a two-round majority uninomial system. The only difference is that the cantonal elections have a lower threshold for getting into the runoff: 10% of registered voters against 12.5% nationally. The other major difference is that, normally, councillors have a six-year term, sometimes extended to seven; and that they’re renewed by halves every, what, three or four years (as of now, in 2004 and 2008, with the 2004 series up in 2011 and the 2008 series up in 2014).

Cantons are awful things, really. Rural cantons hold disproportionate influence, though that doesn’t really help the right much since the rural-urban divide is not as important as other divides in France, and the 2004 and 2008 were massive anti-government elections and anti-government feelings affected urbanites as much as rural folks. Cantons, apparently, must hold around 20,000 people. But since France has this thing against redistricting, some rural cantons have barely 1000 people while urban cantons hold over 30,000 people. Aix-en-Provence-Sud-Ouest has 68,774 people while Barcillonnette has 353 inhabitants!

Because of the electoral system and also due to the electoral role and composition of political parties, these elections have known to favour the moderate parties of the system over the extremes. For that reason, the Communist Party has never ruled many departments and despite past electoral results well up in the 20s, they never had that percentage of councillors nationally. Parties such as the old Radical Party, which was known to be a party of notables, or well-known local political machines, were favoured by this system and they held a disproportionate amount of seats and presidencies. Other centrist or moderates parties such as the Christian democrats (MRP and successors) and the CNI were important players. In a way, the Fourth Republic lived on in the General Councils until the late 60s or 70s. For example, in the 1961 cantonal elections, the PCF won 18.6% of the vote and 52 seats. Meanwhile, the Socialists (also a local machine back then, and even today) won 271 seats on 16.8% and the Radicals won 211 seats on 7.4%! The same has happened today to marginalize the far-right (FN) in General Councils. Local political dynasties are also very important, and sometimes these dynasties don’t even die out after the instigator of the dynasty has himself kicked the bucket!

I undertook the massive project of mapping the ‘political colour’ of all of these cantons or constituencies, around 4,000 of them. To my knowledge, such as a national map of all cantons cannot be found online or publicly. The map is up-to-date as of October 2009, therefore including changes in political affiliation since the 2004 or 2008 cantonal elections. There are by-elections in one or more cantons about weekly in the ‘school-year’.

Some of the actual classifications in each canton may be a matter of debate, but I used my best information and sources. And some borders might not be fully accurate, especially when my base maps didn’t include inner-city areas.

Cantons Ouest

A larger version (huge) can be found here. Parties should be relatively straightforward. ExG refers to the far-left, in this case the Independent Workers’ Party (POI) and also Les Alternatifs, a rough confederation of eco-socialists, anti-globalizations and that type. The CAP, Convention for a Progressive Alternative, is a party founded by reformist Communists (Marcel Rigout in Haute-Vienne) and also eco-socialists and New Left types. It’s mostly a local party in Haute-Vienne. Ecolo refers to ecologists who are not members of the Greens. Basques refers to a Basque Regionalist councillor, and PNC refers to the Party of the Corsican Nation (Corsican nationalists/autonomists). AC refers to the Centrist Alliance, a centrist outfit founded by Senator Jean Arthuis. Finally, Alsace d’abord is a far-right Alsatian regionalist party. On the note of DVD and DVG, these people are oftentimes, especially in cantonal elections, independents classified by the state as right-wing or left-wing. They sometimes refer to some small parties which the state doesn’t classify under a specific etiquette (in this case, the MPF and DLR), but most of the time I’ve tried to figure out if they belonged to a small outfit or not and classified them as such. DVD and DVG usually dominate rural areas, where party etiquette is less ‘solid’ and important.

The map is obviously a sea of pink, due to the absolute dominance of the left in the 2004 and 2008 elections. The old Southwest, the base of French radicalism and later socialism is a sea of almost unbroken PS pink. The Socialist tradition in this area, an old area of secular opposition to Paris and the Catholic-bourgeois regime of the time, is strongest in rural areas and even stronger in the high isolated mountain villages high up in the Pyrenées Mountains. The urban cores of this area: Toulouse, Carcassonne, Tarbes, Castres and so forth were wealthier and had less of a tradition of opposition to Paris than the rural areas did. However, the gentrification of Socialism in France as a movement acceptable to the middle-class has turned even those isolated blue areas into pink areas. Although, it should be noted, the few blue cantons tend to be in this area.

Also notable on this map is the rough shape of a C or G starting around Haute-Saône in the east, circling through the Red Allier and Limousin, and then the Southwest before lining the Mediterranean coast until Aubagne and the outskirts of Marseille and ending in the Alps. This ‘C’ shaped pattern used to be the map of French socialism, especially visible in the 1965 runoff. Then, however, the Var and Alpes-Maritimes were left-wing strongholds!

On the topic of the Var, it’s interesting to see the remnants of backwoods left-wing support here! The old Var rouge, also an area of old secular opposition to Parisian institutions made the department an old left-wing stronghold before Pieds-Noirs from Algeria and old wealthy retirees transformed the region entirely.

The Limousin in central France is an old left-wing stronghold, and a base of rural communism though now rural socialism. The tradition says that Limousin workers who worked in Paris brought home with them socialist ideals. The Limousin is France’s most socialist and left-wing region.

The industrial northern quarter of France, encompassing the Nord, Flanders, the Artois and Pas-de-Calais, Picardy, and parts of Normandy around Le Havre, Rouen and Dieppe are still visible.

Outside of the aforementioned areas, where socialism is an older trend albeit somewhat evaporated in parts, the ‘new’ Socialist areas are in Bretagne (the region which trended the most to the left between 1974 and today), parts of the Pays-de-la-Loire, and in other urban and suburban areas. In Bretagne, once a rural strongly Catholic (clerical) region and the left’s worst region, the rise of the left is remarkable. Most of it is due to the experience of the left in power and the destruction of the clerical’s myth that socialism in power meant communism in power and the second coming of Stalin but more importantly to the gentrification and centrist drift of the PS in Bretagne. This shift has turned the tide in Bretagne, a strongly pro-European and moderate region in favour of the PS. The left’s first gains came in urban cores such as Rennes, Brest, Quimper, Nantes and so forth. In the late 1990s and during Chirac’s second term, the PS gained in suburban areas, generally middle-class and growing. While these suburban areas lean more on the right in national elections, they have been the key to the Socialist domination of the departments and regions. However, this isn’t to say that Bretagne was an entirely blue map in 1970 or so, far from it. There has always been a strongly left-wing area in the Guingampais Country, which is located west of Saint-Brieuc in the southwestern areas of the Côtes-d’Armor department. This also extends into the northwestern areas of Morbihan and to the north-eastern areas of the Finistère around the city of Morlaix. This is a rural though anti-clerical area, and it is also known as the Breton Red Belt, as it too elected Communists. Interestingly, the city of Douarnenez, whose canton is ironically held by the UMP today, elected the first Communist mayor in France. In Douarnenez, but also in Concarneau and other coastal towns in Cornouaille-Finistère Sud, there was a strong Communist tradition known as le communisme sardinier (‘Sardine communism’!), referring to the fact that workers in the sardinières (sardine processing factories) voted PCF by 1920 or so.

The aforementioned urban-suburban support of the PS is also visible around Nantes (huge suburbia), Tours, Caen, Rouen, La Rochelle, Nancy and so forth. In some cases, though, it’s just urban support because the suburbia is not middle-class but upper-class (Strasbourg, Orleans, Le Havre etc). In fact, the destruction of the right in urban cores is very marked here, and quite amazing. Some cities, such as Rennes, are all left-wing, while most have just one or two right-wing cantons, mostly in the wealthy city centre.

A note on the PCF over here, there’s still a fair share of red in here. What are these areas? Firstly, you have a strongly Communist belt of support in the old coalfield of the north, though it is limited to only the Nord department and does not extend into the Pas-de-Calais. In the Pas-de-Calais, there is a very strong PS fed in the Pas-de-Calais. Not only in terms of members, but also in terms of organization and power on the ground. In the Nord, the PS fed is powerful on its membership numbers, but the PCF organization in strong in the old mining areas. The PCF has held its Meurthe-et-Moselle minefield strongholds very well, not so well in Moselle. Here again, you’re probably seeing the effects of local economic and party organization factors (though the PCF’s Lorrain base was much more Meurthe-et-Mosellan than Mosellan). Other mining areas, such as Firminy (Loire), Carmaux (Tarn), Montceau-les-Mines (Saône-et-Loire) also have PCF councillors. The industrial [harbour] suburbs of Marseille (Fos-sur-Mer, Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône), Le Havre (Gonfreville-l’Orcher and part of the city proper) are Communist strongholds, but the poorer working-class suburbs of Lyon (Vénissieux), Paris (the 93 department, part of the Val-d’Oise, Nanterre, Trappes, Argenteuil, Mantes-la-Jolie), Grenoble, Tours, and so forth are also old PCF areas though the decline in most marked here. Due in part to the influx of immigrants, who end up being less likely to become solid PCF voters than old white workers are. The PCF also holds a few seats out in Champagne, in places such as Romilly-sur-Seine, which are old industrial cities built along the Paris-Lyon railway. The PCF has survived well in the backwoods areas of the Cévennes mountain range (Gard and parts of Lozère). These are old mining areas, but also old Protestant (French Protestants are left-wing, save for Alsace) areas and old republican areas in the middle of ultra-conservative Catholic low-lying land (atleast compared to the surrounding mountains) of Lozère. Voting patterns in this area are very funny. The PCF holds the Allier General Council, where it is strong in the rural areas in the west of the department. This area of rural communism, which extends into the Cher and Indre too, is based on old sharecropping in the area but also poor communities where miners from Commentry lived. Commentry, ironically held by the right, an old industrial and mining town, was the world’s first socialist city in 1882. In the Allier, the cities are usually more right-wing. Especially Vichy (insert snarky comment here).

“Local parties” are also very funny to see. Most hilarious has to be the survival of the PRG in La Rochelle. They almost have a majority of seats, more than 10 years after Michel Crépeau’s death. Michel Crépeau was the Radical Mayor of La Rochelle for many years, and it seems as if the traditional prevails again today. Other interesting local strongholds include the MoDem in Bayrou’s Pyrenées-Atlantiques, the MPF in Philippe de Villiers’ Vendée, the PG in Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Essonne, and the PRG in Haute-Corse (family dynasties) Tarn-et-Garonne (Jean-Michel Baylet’s turf) the Lot and so forth. The CAP in Haute-Vienne is also a local factor, which also has a base in the Val-d’Oise.

So, you ask, where the hell does the right survive today? On this map, it’s obviously wealthy areas (coastal, urban, suburban or exurban), old rural Catholic areas (part of Bretagne, Lozère, Cantal, Haute-Loire, parts of the Aveyron, southern Doubs, Moselle and so forth), Chirac’s turf in Corrèze (fast disappearing under Sarkozy), the conservative rural areas out east, and Alsace (also Catholic, though Protestants vote right-wing, though Protestants voted Gaullist and not as much Christian democratic UDF in the past). As you can see, there’s not much categories here! Alsace is actually very interesting politically, but would take too long to write about here.

That’s about all I can think of for now, but I leave this post open to questions on any specific thing. In the end, I’ll also publish this post on a special page of its own.

Norway 2009: Analysis

Since it’s a country with which I’m fairly well versed politically, I’ve decided to do a little sociological, geographic and run-of-the-mill pundit analysis of the Norwegian election. Results and the like are posted here.

The results were quite predictable, though the Red-Green narrow majority was a bit of a surprise – though when analyzing further, they can thank the Liberals for their majority. Labour’s vote increase is a reflection of the personal popularity of Jens Stoltenberg, who seems to be more popular than his coalition government. Progress was likely hurt a bit by the resurgent Conservatives, who slowly increased their ratings in polls over the last days of the campaign. It seems as if the Conservatives also took some votes from smaller centrist parties, notably the Liberals who fell short of the 4% threshold for the additional seats. If the Liberals had broken 4%, which they almost did btw, they would have won 8 seats and Red-Green wouldn’t have had its majority mandate.

The result is certainly quite deceiving for Siv Jensen and Progress, who undoubtedly wanted to have a bit more seats than this after the good ratings the polls gave the party for most of its campaign. Still, it’s the party’s best election result to date, but such a result shocks much less today given it was quite inevitable that 2009 would be a good year. SV’s result is quite a disaster from the party, continuously falling since the party’s excellent result in 2001. Most voters probably shifted back to Labour, like a lot had done in 2005 since 2001 was also Labour’s nadir. However, SV has been able to recover from such nadirs, most notably after the party polled absolute crap in 1997 came 2001.

The Centre’s vote has proven remarkably stable since 1997, and, if one excludes the huge glitch in 1993 (Centre did well because it was the large anti-EU party), since 1977. I would guess that the Centre’s rural bloc has had little reason to move since then.

In terms of small parties, always fun to observe, the Coastal Party (which held a seat until 2005) did awfully this election, due to internal rivalries and its top figure leaving the party. It was reduced to crumbs even in the party’s top two municipalities in Trømso County. The party placed fourth of the extra-parliamentary parties, behind Red (of course) but also the Pensioners and Norway’s small Green Party. The old Communist Party (NKP) won 697 votes in all. In terms of extremists, the moralfag Abortion Opponent’s List (which hates abortions, evolution, feminism, homosexuals, non-Christians, everything damn it) won 177 votes, ahead of the Nazi-Norse mythologic Vigrid (174 votes) but behind the racist Patriots (184 votes). A party wishing to abolish Nynorsk as a written language got 107 votes running only in Akershus County.

Below is a map of the results of the various relevant parties (all parties winning seats and Rødt) in each of Norway’s 19 counties.

Norway 2009 - Parties

Labour’s vote has seen little switches since the 1950s (I have a few old maps of Norwegian elections from those days). It is clear that the Labour Party itself is strong in the bokmål-speaking areas of Norway, which is pretty much everywhere except the south-western coast of the country. Its best results come from inland areas and also Nør-Trøndelag – which, if I remember correctly, are major logging areas but also from mineral-rich northern Norway, especially Finnmark, the northernmost county. Trømso, which is a lighter glitch on a sea of dark Labour red is more conservative and the fishing industry, more conservative, remains important there. It was also the base of the old Coastal Party.

Looking at the patterns of the Socialist Left could give the impression of a vote coming exclusively from hippies and the like, but it is not so although it’s vote in Oslo is more like that. In the city of Oslo, it’s strong in the urbane, diverse and yuppie areas downtown, most of which are former working-class areas. Those areas now have a high number of immigrants. I wouldn’t know exactly who votes for them in those areas, though. It is also strong in other areas which have suffered economically due to the loss of industries, such as iron ore in SV’s strongest northern municipalities or in Oslo’s poorer suburbs.

Centre is strong in central rural areas, obviously, and there seems to be much less of a linguistic divide than there is for Labour or the right. It seems to have been destroyed in the Bible Belt.

Progress is strong, in general, along the coasts of Norway, dominated by the fishing industry, a pattern even more striking if you look at the town maps in the various counties. It is also strong in the very conservative ‘Norwegian Bible Belt’. It is not as strong in the posher and urbane areas such as Oslo and its (albeit right-leaning) suburbia, Bergen and Trondheim. It would seem that Progress is stronger in lower-income fishing areas than anywhere else, though oil drilling is important off the western coast of Norway so it might be more of a drill-baby-drill vote than anything else.

The Conservatives main base remains larger cities, especially Oslo and notably its posh suburbia, where the party polled best on Monday. However, saying that the Conservative vote in Oslo and cities is a hippie vote would be very wrong – those types vote SV or Red. However, the Conservatives seem to hold on to a coastal and rural vote in the conservative Nynorsk-speaking coastal areas.

The Christian Democratic vote is a map of the religious, conservative, rural and Nynorsk-speaking Norwegian Bible Belt. It polls absolute crap in Oslo, predictably.

The Liberals seem to have been reduced to a upper middle-class and some yuppie vote in Oslo and its posh suburbia. Some of the Liberal Party’s best areas in Oslo also have a high SV vote, amusingly.

The Red vote is mostly a urbane hippie vote, as most of Red-type parties in Europe tend to be by far and large. It polled best in Oslo County but also well in Ordaland (Bergen) and Sør-Trøndelag (Trondheim).

Election Preview: British Columbia 2009, Part III

British Columbia is voting as I’m writing this, and results will come out late tonight for us people on the eastern seaboard of North America. If you do happen to follow the results, either on the telescreen or the interwebs, I thought a few demographic maps by riding would help out a bit for comprehension of the results. These maps are quite few, since they take time to do, and not all are useful. The insets are Greater Vancouver (on top) and Victoria (on the bottom).

Visible minorities (aka, non-white people). Larger.

BC Vis Min

Largest visible minority group by riding. As I say in fine print on the map, results in riding with very tiny percentages of visible minorities are obviously based on a “small sample”, so to put it. The map is more useful for ridings with higher percentages, especially in Greater Vancouver. Larger.

BC Vis Min Largest

Labour maps, for important occupations. Manufacturing, managerial (unlike in the US, the definition is narrower and wealthier), trades (a traditional blue-collar occupation which isn’t manufacturing). Larger

BC Work

Median HH Income, self-explanatory. Larger.

BC Income

Aboriginal people, also self-explanatory. Larger.

BC Aboriginal

Eh, not much time for analysis, so I’ll leave that up to you. Enjoy, and needless to say, this is just the beginning of posts on BC!

As for the editorial endorsements, Greens for legislature and STV for the referendum.

The Kaiserreich and Polish elections

This map was posted a few days/weeks ago on and other places on the interwebs. Quite an interesting division. The map superimposes the borders of the old Kaiserreich on the results map of the 2007 Polish Sejm election. PO, Civic Platform, is a centre-right party and generally the most liberal and pro-Western. PiS, Law and Justice, is ultra-conservative, nationalistic, and populist. The other parties, which win anywhere from 8 to 15%, are less significant. LiD, Left and Democrats, which doesn’t exist anymore, was a coalition of mainly European social democratic parties with a small social liberal party (Democratic PSL, Polish People’s Party, used to be a socialist party, but is now a centrist/Christiandem agrarian party. Other parties not on this map include the LPR, League of Polish Families, a ultra-conservative Christian right (and slightly anti-semitic party) party; and Samoobrona, a leftie nationalist and very populist party. Also a bunch of hypocrites (see the EU membership referendum in 2003). LPR and Samoobrona did well in the 2004 EU elections and 2005 Sejm elections, but were wiped out in 2007.

The divide between PO and PiS is quite interesting, especially when compared to the Kaiserreich. The PO generally wins the formerly German areas (now, don’t get fooled, there are very little Germans actually left there, save for a bit in Silesia) while PiS wins the formerly Russian areas. PiS seems to do best in the rural, settled areas, such as the old Polish lands around the Vistula. And also the old Hapsburg Galicia (they seem to have done especially well there).  Galicia seems to be the region that prefers xenophobia and Bible-thumping the most. The very scary LPR also did best in the east in the 2004 EU elections. The west is much more urban (look at a railway map of Poland, you get the same pattern) and the population is much less settled, quite a big percentage of the people there got dumped there post-war. PO is the generally pro-business party, so they also do well in the most economically liberal areas, such as Warsaw, which was part of Czarist Russia and not the Kaiserreich. Western Poland benefited the most from the post-Communist reforms.


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