Category Archives: Regional and local elections

EU 2014: Italy

ep2014

The European Parliament elections were held in Italy on May 25, 2014. Alongside them, the first round of municipal elections in nearly half of all communes and regional elections in two regions were held.

Italy is famous in Europe for its convoluted, complicated, arcane, peculiar and often very theatrical politics – in short, a political system which may often confound general explanations of European politics. The past five years, in particular the last two or so of them, have been extremely rich in momentous and consequential events which have fundamentally changed the way Italian politics had operated since 1994. Perhaps less dramatic and rapidly than in Greece, it would certainly appear that Italy is undergoing a major political realignment whose final outcome is still very uncertain and whose evolution has continued to defied all predictions. The ongoing changes in the party system and upcoming changes to the electoral system and constitutional structure of Italy may augur the creation of a ‘Third Republic’ to replace the Second Republic (1994-?). The EP elections added to the increasingly open-ended and unpredictable nature of contemporary Italian politics: Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s governing centre-left Democratic Party (PD) won an unexpectedly massive victory at the polls.

Electoral system

Italy elected 73 MEPs to the European Parliament, one more than in the 2009 election (under the Nice apportionment rules) – but Italy had received its 73rd seat in 2011, following ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon. The Italian electoral law for the EP was adopted in 1979, for the first EP elections, making it the oldest electoral law in Italy. Under the current version of the law, members are elected by semi-open party-list proportional representation with a 4% threshold (adopted in 2009) in five multi-member constituencies: Northeast Italy (Aosta Valley, Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy – 20 MEPs), Northwest Italy (Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Emilia-Romagna – 14 MEPs), Central Italy (Tuscany, Umbria, Marche, Lazio/Latium – 14 MEPs), Southern Italy (Abruzzo, Molise, Campania, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria – 17 MEPs), Insular Italy (Sicily and Sardinia – 8 MEPs).

Unlike in France, the threshold is applied nationally rather than regionally, and the parties’ seats are then distributed to the individual constituencies based on the lists’ results therein (Hare-Niemeyer method, highest remainders). Italian voters may cast up to three preferential votes for candidates on a party list, but under a recent amendment, a voters’ preferences will be ignored if they are not distributed between candidates of different genders. Lists must therefore obtain 4% nationally to win seats, but there is an exception for linguistic minority parties (French, German and Slovenian) who may ally themselves with a national party, pooling their votes together and receiving a seat if the minority party wins over 50,000 votes nationally.

In Italy, candidates may run in more than one constituency, something which is extremely rare in other EU member-states. In 2009, for example, then-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was the lead candidate of his party, the People of Freedom (PdL) in every constituency and was elected to the EP from every constituency. That same year, the then-leader of the Lega Nord, Umberto Bossi, was also the Lega’s top candidate in every EP constituency.

Turnout in Italian elections – at all levels – have traditionally been extremely high, especially given that voting is not mandatory. There has, however, been a very obvious downwards trend in turnout in all elections in the past decades, with turnout in national elections falling from over 90% in the 1970s and 88% in 1983-7 to historic lows of 78.1% in 2008 and 72.3% in the last election in 2013. In EP elections, although Italy remains one of the few EU countries without mandatory voting where turnout has remained over 50%, turnout has declined quasi-consistently (with the exception of an increase in 2004) from 86% in 1979 to 66.5% in 2009 and a new low of 57.2% this year.

Like everything in Italian politics, the history of EP elections since 1979 is marked by a pre-1994 and post-1994 difference, between the First Republic (1979, 1984 and 1989 EP elections) and Second Republic (1994, 1999, 2004, 2009 EP elections) elections. Under the First Republic, in line with the general tradition of that era of the partitocrazia, the EP elections did not see major differences from the results in national elections or wild swings from one election to the next. Nevertheless, the 1984 EP elections were the first and only national elections in which the Italian Communist Party (PCI) surpassed the natural governing party, the Christian Democracy (DC), due to the recent death of popular PCI leader Enrico Berlinguer (though even in that case, the differences between EP election and 1983 national elections were minor). Since 1994, EP elections have seen – in line with the political culture of the Second Republic – wilder swings and an exploded and unstable party system. The 1994 EP elections, right in the aftermath of Silvio Berlusconi’s victory in the 1994 elections, saw Berlusconi’s party win its best national result ever (30.6%). The 1999 EP elections, held during a centre-left government, saw Berlusconi’s party – in opposition – win the most votes (25.2%) and set the stage for his return to power in 2001. However, in 2004, held when Berlusconi’s three-year old government was at its lowest point in popularity, the centre-left coalition (L’Ulivo) swept the board with 31.1% against 20.9% for Berlusconi.

Background

In the 2009 EP elections, then-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi – the histrionic business magnate at the centre of Italian politics since 1994, won yet another convincing electoral victory over the left, one year after Berlusconi was elected to a third term in power (Berlusconi won the 1994, 2001 and 2008 elections and served thrice as Prime Minister, from 1994 to 1995, 2001 to 2006 and 2008 to 2011). Berlusconi is a highly controversial but also highly interesting and unique political figure in contemporary Western Europe. A prominent businessman, Berlusconi made his fortune in the 1980s with Fininvest, a financial holding company which still controls a football club (AC Milan) and a powerful private media empire (Mediaset, which controls about 35% of the TV market in Italy).

In 1994, the ‘First Republic’ collapsed, opening a major void on the right of the political spectrum which was up for grabs. The First Republic a fairly stable (the heavy turnover in cabinets obscured constants in the partisan makeup of said cabinets and electoral trends) but also very corrupt fossilized political system structured around the catch-all Christian Democracy (DC) party and its minor allies (Socialists, Liberals, Republicans and Democratic Socialists) and united by the very potent threat posed by the Italian Communist Party (PCI), one of Western Europe’s strongest and most influential communist parties during the Cold War. Since 1991, the First Republic collapsed first as the Cold War ended and huge corruption scandals and investigations which revealed that the governing parties, led by the DC, were rotten to the core. The DC and Socialists scuttled themselves altogether, the PCI responded to the fall of communism by transforming itself into a modern social democratic party (the PDS), the old neo-fascist/far-right Italian Social Movement (MSI) rebranded itself as the post-fascist and moderated National Alliance (AN) under Gianfranco Fini and new parties emerged forcefully – most notably, the regionalist/separatist populist Lega Nord in northern Italy. The DC’s collapse opened up a big void on the right and centre, one which would not vote for the ex-PCI under any circumstances (thanks to decades of instinctive anti-communism), but which was left homeless by the collapse of the DC and other parties. Berlusconi, a very shrewd and talented political operator, understood the opportunity which existed (and realized the consequences that the likely left-wing victory in the 1994 elections would have on his personal business empire, built up in good part due to his ties to prominent politicians in the old system) and decided to ‘enter the field’ with a new party, Forza Italia, founded just months before the 1994 elections. In regionally-differentiated coalitions with the Lega Nord and the AN (and small centre-right remnants of the DC), Berlusconi won the 1994 elections but his government quickly collapsed due to conflicts with the Lega. In 2001, Berlusconi, who had reconstructed a right-wing coalition with the AN, Lega and the ex-DC centre-right (what is now the Union of the Centre, UDC) since his 1996 defeat, won a large victory over the left. Despite many coalition crises and his growing unpopularity, Berlusconi accomplished a rare feat – remaining Prime Minister throughout the term of Parliament (until 2006) – but was defeated by a hair in 2006. In 2008, Berlusconi roared back like the proverbial phoenix and merged his Forza Italia with Fini’s AN in a new party, The People of Freedom (PdL).

Forza Italia, especially at the outset, was much more of a marketing product than traditional party (academic literature has described it as a ‘media-mediated personality party’, ‘patrimonial party’ or a ‘business firm model party’) – hierarchical, limited membership, a heavy personalist focus on the media-savvy personality of the leader and political strategies imported from the private sector (focus groups, marketing techniques, reliance on polling). Ideologically, Berlusconi’s parties, although nowadays affiliated with the EPP, have been populist more than traditionally conservative – despite being in power regularly since 1994, Berlusconi’s anti-system and anti-establishment rhetoric (in which Berlusconi presented himself as the businessman who challenged a corrupt party system and promised to apply his ‘entrepreneurial success’ to politics) continued to prove electorally successful. While Berlusconi has used neoliberal language of low taxes and small government since 1994, in practice he has mostly sought to adapt his politics to pre-existing socioeconomic contexts and he has a deft ability to switch positions according to context and region (appealing to both anti-tax and anti-government northerners and state-dependent southerners). Despite countless corruption scandals and a fairly mediocre – at best – record while in government (indeed, he basically spent most of his last term as Prime Minister fighting his own judicial battles and staying out of jail), Berlusconi’s political survival through countless tests since 1994 has been nothing short of remarkable. Although he has been defeated in three legislative elections, two of them were unexpectedly close and the last one (1996) was largely due to the division of his original 1994 coalition. Each time, Berlusconi has made good use of his domineering media personality to shift the focus on him in every election and seize the spotlight through various carefully-staged media events or rhetorical flourishes (his 1994 ‘entrance into the field’, his constant anti-communist rhetoric, the constant use of the myth of the ‘creative entrepreneur’ fighting a vast leftist conspiracy, a ‘persecution syndrome’, his Manichean outlook of good and evil, his 2001 Contratto con gli Italiani, his 2006 and 2013 promises to abolish – and, in 2013, refund – a property tax on primary residences).

The left – with weak leadership, deep divisions between its countless parties and factions defined largely in opposition to Berlusconi and its inability to challenge Berlusconi’s control of the media campaign – failed to measure up to Berlusconi, especially in 2001 and 2008, but the left’s narrow victories in 2006 and 2013 when they should have won by a mile were also quasi-defeats. The Italian left since the 1990s has been a very complex web of alliances, parties and factions – ideologically, it runs the gamut from old-style communists (usually outside the mainstream left and irrelevant since 2008) to ex-DC moderate centrists and liberals. The main ideological groupings traditionally being social democrats (most with PCI roots and former members of the PDS/DS) and moderate centre-left Christian democrats (most with DC/PPI roots and former members of the Daisy party) – but in all cases, the participation of groups to the left (communists, socialists, ecosocialists) and right (conservatives, libertarians) of these main factions have complicated governance (notably in the days of The Olive Tree coalitions) and election strategies. Since the creation of the PD in 2007, the traditional ideological lines have remained important, but there has been a growing divide between an ‘old guard’ of the party – mostly traditionalist social democrats with centrists and younger leftist allies (Young Turks) – and a ‘modernizing’ and reformist wing – traditionally liberals and centrists, with some social democrats. The ‘old guard’, whose most famous name is former Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema, suffers from an increasingly negative image because of its association with backroom politics, underhanded political maneuvers, stale leadership and inability to successfully take on Berlusconi.

Berlusconi’s charm and political power worn off beginning in 2010. That year, Berlusconi’s parliamentary majority was severely reduced with the defection of Gianfranco Fini, the former AN leader and Berlusconi’s one-time heir apparent, and his colleagues. Berlusconi’s undoing, however, came with the worsening of Italy’s economic situation in 2011. Since the 1980s, Italy’s economy has generally been struggling largely due to weak governments unable or unwilling to reform Italy’s economy, tackle ingrained corruption or challenge established economic and political structures, but also to its lack of competitiveness (unit labour costs in Italy since the birth of the euro in 1999 have risen must faster than in other EU countries and productivity declined). In 2011, Italy’s debt-to-GDP ratio was actually the second largest in the EU behind Greece (121% of GDP), although because most of Italy’s debt is domestically-owned and Italians have a high level of savings and low household debt, the impact hasn’t been as catastrophic as in Greece. However, in 2011, because of weak growth (Italy was in recession in 2008-2009 and only grew by 0.4% in 2011), budget deficits and debt levels over EU limits, the risk of ‘contagion’ and Berlusconi’s poor economic stewardship (preoccupied with his own financial and sexual scandals), Italy’s economy teetered on the cliff and was said to be on the verge of default. In November 2011, Berlusconi finally lost his majority in the Chamber of Deputies and resigned after the Parliament passed a final austerity package. Berlusconi’s own political failures since 2008 and doubts over Berlusconi’s leadership and personal behaviour were widely blamed for fueling market and EU anxieties about Italy’s precarious economic condition. Berlusconi maintains that he was forced out of office by a conspiracy led by his EU partners (indeed, EU leaders such as Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy had grown exasperated with him and lost faith in his abilities, and contributed to the pressure which led to his ouster). At home, after remaining popular in 2009 and 2010, Berlusconi was quickly becoming very unpopular – the PdL suffered some stunning defeats, including in Berlusconi’s Milanese heartland, in the May 2011 local elections and the government was defeated on ‘abrogative referendums’ in the summer.

The ceremonial President, Giorgio Napolitano, got the main parties – including the left and right – to agree to a technocratic (or ‘technical’) government led by Mario Monti, a former European Commissioner and a respected economist. The new government’s immediate task was to ‘save’ the Italian economy from collapse through urgent reforms. Monti immediately set to work on passing an emergency austerity package which significantly raised taxes and cut pensions. His government also undertook several other major reforms aimed at liberalizing and reforming the Italian economy. His government passed measures aimed at introducing more competition in monopolized and noncompetitive sectors (taxis, pharmacies); a pension reform which pushed the retirement age to 66 and attacked ‘special retirement plans’; a labour market reform along the lines of Denmark’s flexicurity model which reduced guarantees for employees; and got serious on targetting the very high rates of tax evasion in Italy. Monti managed to save Italy from default and he took the first steps in righting the ship before it sank. His reformist policies won him the plaudits of investors, foreign markets and his European partners and he reduced the deficit to 3% of GDP in 2012. However, Monti, while still respected by most Italians, lost in popularity because his policies contributed to increased unemployment (from 9.3% when he took office to 11.9% in February 2013 and 12.6% today) and a severe recession in 2012 and 2013 (-2.4% and -1.9% respectively).

Monti resigned in December 2012 after the PdL withdrew its support from his government, and called for elections in February 2013 after Parliament approved the 2013 budget. The 2013 election should have been a cakewalk for the centre-left coalition: Berlusconi and the PdL were both badly weakened in 2012, Berlusconi’s own uncertainty about his candidacy in 2013 (he originally announced he would not run in October, but changed his mind two months later and the Lega – which had been a powerful and influential junior ally in Berlusconi’s last government – saw its high support evaporate after the Lega’s longtime leader Umberto Bossi was implicated in damaging corruption scandals. However, the centre-left coalition’s candidate – elected in an open primary in late 2012 – was Pier Luigi Bersani, a competent administrator but a very bland, unexciting and dull campaigner. The centre-left was victorious, but with a majority of less than 1% over Berlusconi’s PdL-Lega coalition (29.5% to 29.1% in the Chamber election), whose strong performance – despite major loses from 2008 – was one of the main surprises of the election. Although Berlusconi didn’t work for everybody, his populist anti-austerity and soft Eurosceptic message allowed him to roar back with a strong result and another near-win. The other momentous event from the polls was the remarkable result won by the Five Star Movement (M5S), a radical anti-system/anti-establishment populist party led by Genoan comedian Beppe Grillo, who won 25.5% in its first election. Mario Monti’s centre-right, liberal and pro-austerity alliance (with the UDC and Fini’s FLI) did poorly (10.5%).

Beppe Grillo’s M5S (founded in 2009) is often lumped with other populist and Eurosceptic parties in Europe, but the M5S is an extremely peculiar party which is quite unlike the traditional right-wing populist party or the radical left (SYRIZA types). The movement – it refuses the pejorative ‘party’ label – was born from and remains centered on Beppe Grillo’s very popular website/blog, and the M5S places a large amount of emphasis on ‘internet direct democracy’ – it often asks its loyal activists to vote on major issues (policy, strategy, candidates, party discipline) online and the M5S’ leaders have used social media to reach out to their supporters and organize Grillo’s large public meetings. With the internet forming the M5S’ backbone and considering the importance it plays in organizing and mobilizing its dedicated online activists, the M5S has some similarities with the Pirate movement in the rest of Europe. Ideologically, the M5S is primarily a populist anti-establishment movement – a rather radical one at that. Grillo grew in popularity for his foul-mouthed tirades against Italy’s corrupt ‘parasitic’ political ‘caste’ (la casta, which enjoys famously generous benefits and conditions) and calls for the destruction of the ‘rotten’ political system and its replacement by vaguely-defined direct democracy. Grillo strongly opposes the public financing of parties (the M5S itself has refused its public funding and its parliamentarians have restituted parts of their wages to help pay off the debt or promote small businesses). Like Berlusconi, Grillo enjoys provocative statements – he said that politicians were worse than the mafia and issued a tongue-in-cheek call on terrorists to blow up Parliament – and theatrical politics – he swam across the Strait of Messina to Sicily during the campaign for the Sicilian regional elections in October 2012. Grillo was successful because, in times of hardship, his radical anti-system message resonated well: most Italians do perceive their politicians (and oftentimes rightly so) as corrupt, selfish, self-absorbed, incompetent or stale hacks and careerists.

Given the centrality of the populist rhetoric, it is hard to define the M5S ideologically. Originally, the M5S was on the left or far-left: the party’s “five stars” refer to public water, public transportation, development, connectivity (internet freedom) and the environment. The M5S supports ‘degrowth’, a radical green and anti-consumerist ideology who argue for lower production and consumption because overconsumption has caused environmental issues and social inequality. As a result, the M5S has been hostile to large infrastructure projects (the Strait of Messina bridge and the Lyon-Turin high speed rail in the Val di Susa) and strongly supportive of clean energies and public transportation. The movement has also taken more left-wing stances on same-sex marriage, internet accessibility, public services. On the other hand, Grillo himself has adopted tough stances on immigration: he opposes jus soli and in October 2013, he attacked the efforts of two M5S parliamentarians to repeal the Bossi-Fini law which criminalized illegal immigration; however, in early 2014, Grillo was defeated by his own supporters on the issue – in an online vote, M5S activists voted in favour of efforts to repeal the law (which has since been repealed with the left’s support). On economic matters, the M5S does not fit traditional ideologies: it is against monopolies and anti-tax, but also anti-austerity and generally opposed to the power of big businesses and corporations (private or public). Grillo opposes the Euro and has lamented the ‘lovely old days’ of the lira when Italy could devalue its currency by 40-50%. (you can download the M5S’ platform in English here)

Grillo is a highly controversial figure. To his critics, Grillo is an irresponsible and dangerous demagogue who runs his party with an iron-fist (to many, direct democracy is but a façade and Grillo and his éminence grise/guru Roberto Casaleggio run the show). Indeed, since the party gained prominence in the 2012 local elections, several M5S members and elected officials have been expelled from the party (after being pilloried by Grillo on his blog) for going against the party line on various issues (for example, appearing on TV shows when Grillo strictly prohibited M5S members from doing so).

Because of Italy’s notoriously horrible (former) electoral law, Bersani’s coalition won an absolute majority in the lower house – the Chamber of Deputies – by virtue of having won the most votes nationally and being entitled to a majority bonus granting the largest coalition an absolute majority. But since the Senate has such bonuses apply only regionally, Bersani’s coalition fell short of an absolute majority in the upper house – with 123 seats to Berlusconi’s 117 and Grillo’s 54. Under Italian ‘perfect bicameralism’, a government requires the confidence of both houses; but from the results, it was clear that Bersani would not be able to govern (even in coalition with Monti’s amenable centrist coalition) unless he allied himself with Berlusconi (which would defeat the left’s entire raison-d’etre since 1994) or convincing some Grillists to support him. Bersani unsuccessfully tried to convince the M5S or parts thereof to back him in a stopgap coalition committed to constitutional, electoral and political reform. Grillo and Casaleggio, neither of whom are elected, strongly opposed Bersani’s overtures and blocked the M5S from allying with Bersani.

In April 2013, when it came time for Parliament and delegates from regional councils to elect Italy’s ceremonial President, the political crisis and infighting on the left boiled over to create utter chaos. The PD unwisely allied itself with Berlusconi and the centre on a common presidential candidate, but this alliance (and the candidate – Franco Marini, an 80-year old former trade unionist and technocrat) incensed the PD’s ally to the left (Nichi Vendola’s Left Ecology Freedom or SEL) and Bersani’s rival within the PD, Florence mayor Matteo Renzi. The alliance failed to elect Marini due to defections on the left. On a fourth ballot, the PD and the SEL supported Romano Prodi, a former centre-left Prime Minister and respected senior politician, but Prodi fell far short of the required votes because his candidacy was likely an underhanded ploy by Massimo D’Alema (and perhaps Renzi) to scuttle Bersani. An unprecedented last-ditch exit route was found prior to the six ballot: the left, right and centre convinced incumbent President Giorgio Napolitano, due to retire like all his predecessors before him, to run for reelection (and win) as a solution to the crisis. In return, Napolitano compelled the left and the right to form a grand coalition led by Enrico Letta, a 47-year old centrist from the PD.

Letta formed a coalition with Berlusconi’s PdL Mario Monti’s Civic Choice (SC) party, the PD and independents. Angelino Alfano, then seen as Berlusconi’s dauphin, became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior and the PdL had four other ministers (Infrastructure and Transports; Health; Agriculture, Food and Forestry; Constitutional Reforms). The opposition was led by the fiery M5S, the Lega Nord and the SEL. Letta’s government quickly found itself undermined by both the PD and the PdL. The former was setting up for a leadership crisis after Bersani’s resignation in the wake of the presidential election chaos, and Matteo Renzi – hardly enamoured by Letta – was the favourite to win the PD’s leadership in December 2013. Berlusconi understood that he held the government hostage, and would grudgingly tolerate it as long as it served his own interest. For example, he managed to get Letta’s government to scrap the IMU, the property tax on primary residences which Berlusconi had successfully campaigned against in February. Later, in May-July, Alfano got into hot water when the wife of an exiled Kazakh political dissident was unceremoniously arrested by Italian authorities and deported to Kazakhstan. Alfano was widely suspected of having intervened in the operation (because Berlusconi is a good friend of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Italy’s main oil firm (ENI) has an 17% stake in a Kazakh oil field). Berlusconi stepped in to prevent Alfano from getting into any sort of trouble, and it worked: the PD (minus a few Renzi allies) voted against a M5S-SEL motion of no-confidence in Alfano.

Economically, Letta’s government main priority was to restore investor confidence in Italy and reorient economic and fiscal policies in a ‘pro-growth’ and ‘pro-jobs’ direction in the midst of prolonged recession and rising unemployment. The government promised to cut employers’ welfare contributions, tax breaks for energy-saving home improvements, expand a guarantee fund for small and medium enterprises and it said it would consider benefits for families and children. Once in office, the government sped up payments of €40 billion in public administration debts, approved tax incentives for employers to employ young workers and began working on a privatization program. For some, Letta’s government has been insufficiently bold in tackling vested interests and promoting competition, largely because both the PdL and PD are tied to special interests and have little interest in disturbing that.

In the meantime, attention turned to Berlusconi’s judicial travails. Il cavaliere‘s innumerable run-ins with the law is nothing new; the business magnate has been indicted on charges of tax fraud, embezzlement, tax evasion, bribery, false accounting, violation of antitrust laws, libel, defamation and under-age prostitution. However, until August 2013, Berlusconi had never been convicted of anything – he was acquitted, cases dragged on exceeding the statute of limitations, aptly passed amnesty laws to save himself or changed the law to legalize the alleged offences. In October 2012, an appeals court in Milan confirmed a lower court judgement in late 2012 which had found Berlusconi guilty in the ‘Mediaset’ case, where he and his media giant company (Mediaset) were accused of tax evasion and tax fraud for illicit trade (and false accounting) of movie rights between Mediaset and secret fictive foreign companies in tax havens. The appeals court sentenced him to four years in prison and a five-year ban from holding public office. Berlusconi appealed the case to the Court of Cassation, Italy’s highest appeals court. Much to Berlusconi’s chagrin, the Court of Cassation proved exceptionally quick at issuing a decision on the case – on August 1 2013. The court confirmed the lower courts’ verdict, with a four year prison sentence but asked the Milanese appeals court to review the length of the ban from public office. A 2006 amnesty law, ironically voted by the left to reduce prison overcrowding, automatically commuted Berlusconi’s jail sentence to one year and since he is over 70 and not a repeat offender, he will not serve any jail time: he was given a choice between house arrest or community service, opting for the former. The Legge Severino, adopted in December 2012 by the Monti government, bans any politician convicted to over two years’ imprisonment from holding or running for public office for six years and supersedes the October 2013 judgement of the Milanese appeals court, which shortened Berlusconi’s ban from public office to two years

On June 24, a penal court in Milan had found Berlusconi guilty of child prostitution and abuse of power in the world-famous Rubygate case, where Berlusconi is accused of paying for sex with nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug, who was a minor at the time (in 2010) and abusing his powers to have her released from police detention in 2010 (on the pretext that she was Hosni Mubarak’s niece). The court sentenced Berlusconi to seven years in prison and a lifetime ban from public office, but he will appeal the decision. The Appeals Court is set to rule in July 2014. Berlusconi is still involved in three other ongoing cases. A trial on the bribery of a centre-left senator in 2006 to topple Prodi’s government will open next year; in March 2013, he was sentenced to a year in jail in the ‘Unipol’ case (confidential wiretaps by Il Giornale, a newspaper owned by Berlusconi’s brother, on conversations between a former Governor of the Bank of Italy and a centre-left politician); the Constitutional Court is set to rule on a defamation case concerning Antonio Di Pietro, a former magistrate (famous for his corruption-busting work during the 1990s Mani Pulite operations) and the former leader of the Italia dei Valori (IdV) party. Berlusconi, in 2008, had accused Di Pietro of obtaining his degree only with the complicity of the secret services. In 2010, a court in Viterbo acquitted Berlusconi because parliamentary immunity bans any prosecution against words spoken in the exercise of a parliamentary mandate; however, a higher court overturned the decision in 2012.

Berlusconi now faced the threat of expulsion from the Senate. A defense organization sprung up around the embattled leader, who argued – again – that he was the target of a political witch-hunt by ‘red’ judges and complained that the ordeal was taking a toll on him (unable to sleep, lost 11kg and that he was psychologically tormented). Berlusconi’s closest allies pleaded that he be granted agibilità politica (political freedom) through a pardon by President Napolitano or Letta’s intervention. The PD knew that Berlusconi would condition his support for the government to his agibilità politica, but it also knew that intervening in Berlusconi’s favour would be the last straw for the left’s supporters. Meanwhile, Berlusconi announced that the PdL would be disbanding and that Forza Italia would return. Posters in major Italian cities announced that il cavaliere was ancora in campo per l’Italia (‘still in the field for Italy’).

However, the Berlusconian right began showing public cracks in September 2013. That month, while a Senate committee began debating Berlusconi’s expulsion (decadenza), Berlusconi huffed and puffed and, on September 28, ordered the PdL’s ministers to resign from Letta’s cabinet. The pretext was the government’s decision to raise the VAT by 1%, but nearly everybody saw through that – the real reason was that Berlusconi was threatening to pull the plug on Letta over his judicial travails and upcoming expulsion vote. Letta called for a confidence vote on October 2, in the run-up to which Berlusconi continued breathing fire and attacking the government. However, when the vote came, Berlusconi did a double-face and the PdL joined the left and centre in voting for Letta, who won the Senate’s confidence easily 235 to 70. It appears that Berlusconi twisted and turned in agonizing indecision, facing an extremely rare internal revolt. Indeed, all but one of the PdL ministers – who obeyed Berlusconi’s original order – shortly thereafter said it was perhaps a bad decision. One of them was Alfano, who led the doves (colombe) in the PdL – moderates (ex-DC and ex-Socialists) and ministers who placed political stability over Berlusconi’s personal interests. The doves faced the hawks (falchi) and loyalists (lealisti), hardline supporters of Berlusconi who came from the party’s right-wing liberals (Giancarlo Galan, Daniele Capezzone), hard-right (Daniela Santanchè) or camarilla (Raffaele Fitto, Mara Carfagna, Renata Polverini). The hawks-loyalists lost, the doves won and Berlusconi, to save face at the last minute, went with them. It was a shocking twist from Alfano, a Sicilian Christian democrat who had been a subservient justice minister between 2008 and 2011 (passing laws to save his boss from prosecution) and been groomed as Berlusconi’s loyal successor and political ‘son’ (despite Berlusconi publicly insulting him).

On October 4, the Senate committee voted to recommend Berlusconi’s expulsion, sending the matter to the Senate as a whole, and at the end of the month the rules committee called for it to be a public vote (in a private vote, Berlusconi may have tried to bribe PD lawmakers as he had in the past).

Still undeterred, Berlusconi pressed on with the transformation of the PdL into Forza Italia. On November 16, Berlusconi dissolved the PdL into a new Forza Italia. However, one day prior, the ‘doves’ led by Angelino Alfano announced that they would not dissolve into Forza Italia and formed their own party, the New Centre-Right (Nuovo Centrodestra, NCD). The NCD includes all five centre-right ministers in the Letta government, the former Lombardian regional president Roberto Formigoni and his allies, members of the Catholic lay movement Comunione e Liberazione, former members of the DC who joined the centre-right from various post-DC Christian democratic parties (Carlo Giovannardi, in the UDC until 2008), former members of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI), Renato Schifani – the former President of the Senate and architect of an unconstitutional immunity law in 2004 and the incumbent regional president of Calabria Giuseppe Scopelliti. Today, Berlusconi’s Forza Italia has 69 deputies and 58 senators against 28 deputies and 33 senators for the NCD.

On November 26, as the government was preparing to pass the 2014 budget, Forza Italia withdrew its support from the government and, the next day, voted against the budget which nevertheless passed the Senate 162 to 115, with the NCD’s support. That same day, the Senate finally voted on Berlusconi’sdecadenza under the Legge Severino by public ballot. Berlusconi’s supporters, symbolically dressed in black in the Senate or rallied in front of Berlusconi’s Roman residence, desperately tried to delay the vote or have it held by secret ballot. Berlusconi warned the PD and M5S senators from voting against him, so that they were not later “ashamed in front of their children”, he also insisted on a re-trial, claiming new evidence and witnesses. All to no avail, as the Senate voted 192 to 113 to expel Berlusconi from their ranks. The PD, M5S, SEL, SC, UDC and two small centre-left groups voted in favour, while Forza Italia, the Lega Nord, the NCD and a centre-right autonomist group voted against. The NCD in doing so signaled that their split was not as much against Berlusconi himself as against Berlusconi’s political strategy, which makes the Alfano dissidence different from Gianfranco Fini’s very public split with his former ally in 2010. Indeed, Alfano said that he was still Berlusconian – but “in a different way”.

On December 8, the PD held its long-awaited leadership election. Matteo Renzi, the 39-year old mayor of Florence, who had lost the 2012 centre-left primaries to Bersani, was the favourite. Unlike Bersani, Renzi comes from a PPI (one of the DC’s successor parties) background and joined the PD from the centrist Daisy. Renzi made in name in politics, as president of the province of Florence between 2005 and 2009 and as mayor of Florence since 2009, as a ‘scrapper’ (rottamatore) who took on the political elites (within his own party) and reducing waste, mismanagement and the size of the local public administrations. Despite being only in his first time as mayor and fairly new to politics, he made a name for himself largely by being a competent municipal administrator and his populist/anti-establishment persona which is popular in Italy. Ideologically, Renzi is on the party’s right and challenges the traditional ‘dogma’ of the centre-left (which is nevertheless very moderate in practice). In 2012, Renzi proposed tax cuts for employees, a €100 increase in employees’ net salary paid for by a 15% cut in the costs of public administration, financial support and credit for SMEs, labour market flexibility (flexicurity) along the Scandinavian/Danish model, financial incentives for foreign investors, cracking down on tax evasion and civil unions for homosexual couples. A ‘straight-talker’, he also took strong stances against corruption – abolishing public subsidies to parties (abolished recently by Letta, responding to a M5S demand), reducing the number of parliamentarians, greater accountability of public officials to their constituent (he favours a French electoral system) and constitutional reform to reduce the Senate’s powers. He is often compared to (and accepts such comparisons himself) to Tony Blair and his New Labour.

In 2012, Renzi’s anti-establishment and reformist ‘Third Way’ policy proposals  worried some left-wing voters and he won only 39.1% in the second round of the primary against Bersani, the PD’s leader and candidate of the traditional ‘old guard’ and PD establishment. However, after the 2013 election debacle, the PD was ready for a shake-up with Renzi. In the open primaries which attracted 2.8 million voters, Renzi won 67.6% against 18.2% for Gianni Cuperlo (the oldest establishment candidate, with a PCI background and backed by Bersani/D’Alema and the ‘Young Turks’ on the left) and 14.2% for Pippo Civati (a young anti-establishment candidate from the left, who supported an alliance with the SEL and M5S and had opposed Letta’s government).

The day before, incidentally, the Lega Nord held a leadership election of its own. The historic leader of the party, Umberto Bossi, had been forced to resign from his leadership positions in April 2012 following a crazy scandal in which Bossi and his ‘magic circle’ were accused of embezzling the party’s public financing funds and using the money to pay Bossi’s son. The scandal badly hurt the party, which suffered major loses in the February election, and led to Bossi’s replacement by his rival and one-time deputy, Roberto Maroni. Although the Lega still allied (reluctantly and in return for juicy concessions) with Berlusconi in the last election, Maroni and his followers have tended to be far less supportive of the Lega’s traditional ties to the centre-right (Bossi strongly supported the alliance with Berlusconi in the last few years). The leadership battle opposed Umberto Bossi to Matteo Salvini, a MEP. Salvini was supported by Maroni. Salvini won in a landslide, 81.7% to Bossi’s mere 18.3%. His election signaled a return to fundamentals for the Lega Nord: more independence from the centre-right, hardened ‘Padanian’ nationalism/separatism, strong anti-immigration stances and Euroscepticism (Salvini once decried the euro as a crime against humanity).

On December 4, the Constitutional Court two key parts of the electoral law were unconstitutional. The Italian electoral law (known as the Legge Calderoli, or unofficially the legge porcellum – piglet law – or porcata literally ‘shit’, as described by its own sponsor, Roberto Calderoli) was passed by Berlusconi’s government in 2005 in an unsuccessful attempt to save the right in the 2006 elections. The law, whose effects we witnessed in the February election, guarantee an absolute majority in the Chamber to whichever coalition wins the most votes nationally by granting them 340 seats (55%), even if said coalition wins only 29% as in 2013! In the Senate, however, the majority bonus is applied regionally (but three regions have no majority bonus) so there is no guarantee that the winning coalition will have an absolute majority in the Senate. This means that the winning coalition either lacks a majority in the Senate (2013), has so tenuous of a majority that it makes it vulnerable to any dissent within the often-fractious coalitions (2006) or the majority is strong but still vulnerable to large blocs of dissent within the coalition (in a landslide election like 2008). The Court declared that the majority bonuses in both houses were unconstitutional and also ruled against the closed party lists, which prevent voters from indicating preferences for candidates on a party list.

In January, Renzi wasted no time and negotiated an agreement over a new electoral law with Berlusconi – the two men agreed to adopt a new electoral system which would guarantee strong governing majorities, abolish perfect bicameralism and reduce the cost of politics. Renzi’s alliance with Berlusconi on the electoral law and his announcement of two other priorities (civil unions and a new immigration law) signaled his energy and stamina, but it also made some in the PD uncomfortable about the moral implications of allying with somebody sentenced by a court and created troubles with the PD’s governing partners – the NCD and the centrists – who feared what an agreement between the two major parties over the electoral system would mean for them. The new electoral law, adopted by the Chamber of Deputies in March 2014, will only apply for the Chamber (a constitutional reform to significantly reduce the Senate’s powers and perhaps turn it into a much less powerful regional chamber like the Bundesrat) and is known as the Italicum. It does not make the electoral system any less convoluted: under the new law, closed lists with 3-6 candidates will run in about 120 multi-member constituencies in Italy – either individually or in coalition. A coalition will need to pass a 12% national threshold, individual parties a 8% national threshold and parties within a coalition will need 4.5% nationally. If a coalition/party obtains 37% of the vote nationally, it wins a 15% majority bonus meaning that it may win up to a maximum of 340 seats (there is no majority bonus if a list wins over 340 seats). If no coalition or party wins 37%, a runoff between the top two lists is organized, in which the winning list receives 321 seats with remaining seats attributed to other lists who met the thresholds in the ‘first round’ (as I understand it). The Chamber of Deputies has produced research files simulating the new system on the last three elections, including a runoff in 2013. It also has, in Italian, some handy infographics which clarify things somewhat. The Chamber rejected amendments to alternate men and women on party lists to ensure gender parity.

By February 2014, Letta was increasingly isolated and facing rumours that Renzi was pressuring him to resign in his favour. Letta’s government was criticized, notably by Renzi, for the slow pace of reforms. By February 11-12, Letta pressed Renzi to publicly detail his intentions and tried to appear tough, but unlike in October 2013, he found himself beaten by Renzi. On February 13, the PD executive voted 136-16 in favour of Renzi’s proposal for a new government for a new phase and to speed up reforms. Despite his very public displeasure with what had transpired, Letta had no choice but to hand his government’s regination to Napolitano the next day. On February 17, Renzi was officially tasked with forming a new government, which was sworn in on the 22nd. The Renzi government includes only 16 full ministers (one of the lowest), half of which are women (but if junior ministers and secretaries of state are included, the government remains overwhelmingly male) and has the lowest average age (47) of any Italian government. The government’s junior allies – the NCD, UDC, SC and minor centrist parties – remained in government, and there was little turnover of their ministers – Angelino Alfano remains Minister of the Interior, although he is no longer Deputy Prime Minister. There was significant turnover of PD ministers, with younger pro-Renzi members filling portfolios and women taking some important portfolios (foreign affairs, defense, constitutional reform). The economy portfolio was retained by an independent technocrat.

The very rapid (and, to casual followers of Italian politics, unexpected) succession of events which led to Renzi’s accession to power was received negatively by most Italians, including PD voters with an otherwise good opinion of Renzi. PD supporters felt that Renzi was making an enormous mistake, because of the optics of the situation (making him look like a backstabber, and the very traditional First Republic backroom replacements of governments without elections) and the potential that actually leading government would tarnish Renzi’s star profile. Few predicted that the government will be able to last until the end of the legislature’s term in 2018, as Renzi wishes.

Renzi unveiled his proposal for pro-growth stimulus reforms in March. His landmark initiative is a proposal to cut income taxes on lower income taxpayers, giving them a tax credit of about €80 per month for an overall cost of €10 billion to the state, to be financed by some deficit spending (but Italy has pledged to respect its European commitments), cuts in unproductive spending and administrative reforms, a raise in capital gains taxation and savings from lower interest rates. The government also plans to cut taxes on work, speed up the payment of the debt and a labour reform which would include universal unemployment benefits. These measures are ambitious and greeted with cautious optimism from voters, but the government will need to work with a difficult economic situation: although Italy’s economy should grow in 2014 (+0.6%), the debt is at over 135% of GDP and unemployment remains frustratingly high at 12.6% (far higher for youths).

EP election

The EP election was fairly important, as it was the first nationwide test of public opinion since 2013 (there have been local elections and several regional elections since, though) and the first electoral test for Renzi. EP elections in Italy, like in other countries (notably France), are an opportunity for smaller parties to test their strengths running individually. It was unclear where public opinion really stood, although most polls indicated that the centre-left had a narrow lead over the Berlusconian right coalition and the M5S was moving closer to its 2013 results after dropping off a bit after the election.

The PD renewed its ranks somewhat, once again promoting younger women to top spots on the party’s lists (but in the open-list system, their election is not guaranteed even with a top placement on the list). The PD’s campaign was pro-European and emphasized that ‘Italy was changing course’ and that Europe should follow suit. The party promoted a pro-growth agenda to reduce youth unemployment, grow the economy and build a ‘social Europe’. The PD was associated with the the South Tyrolean People’s Party (SVP), the dominant centre-right party in the German-speaking province of Bolzano (Südtirol/South Tyrol) whose sole MEP (elected thanks to the threshold exception for linguistic minority parties) sits with the EPP group (the PD sits with the S&D group). The SVP itself was allied with an autonomist party in the neighboring province of the Trentino (the PATT) and the party representing the Slovenian minority (SSK) in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region.

The M5S has been uncompromising in its opposition to the government, and Grillo, leading his movement from outside Parliament, has remained controversial and abrasive. However, the M5S has struggled somewhat since February 2013 (even if it retains solid support). A new party in Parliament, with a caucus heavily made up of first-time, inexperienced novice politicians drawn from different social horizons and drawing on different political traditions and ideologies, it has had a tough time adapting to Parliament – especially how their leadership and many of the parliamentarians themselves consider the Parliament to be a corrupt and illegitimate institution which should, in a perfect world, be abolished and replaced by internet-based direct democracy. Beppe Grillo is an autocratic leader, who is rather intolerant of any dissent or criticism, and doesn’t hesitate to insult any critics – internal or external, politicians or journalists – with crude ad hominem attacks. Grillo just recently allowed his followers to go on TV, which he had until then boycotted. His angry followers often enthusiastically join Grillo’s countless attacks on his ‘enemies’ launched from his blogs. By now, several deputies and even more senators have been expelled or voluntarily left the M5S – from 109 deputies and 54 senators, the M5S is down to 104 and 40 respectively. Most recently, in February 2014, four M5S senators were expelled following an internet vote (in the unique Grillist tradition, expulsions are voted on by M5S’ online activists) for criticizing Grillo’s behaviour during a consultation with Renzi, which Grillo had been forced (by his members) to attend.

The M5S’ European campaign focused on seven points: a referendum on Euro membership, abolition of the Fiscal Compact, adoption of Eurobonds, alliance of Mediterranean countries for a common currency (Euro 2), investments in innovation to be excluded from 3% deficit limit calculations, financing for domestic agricultural activities and abolition of the balanced budget requirements.

Forza Italia – Berlusconi’s party, now centered around the pro-Berlusconi hawks (falchi), loyalists (lealisti) and mediators (moderates) – has remained a significant force, despite Berlusconi’s expulsion from the Senate in November 2013. Berlusconi is still facing pending trials, most significantly in the Rubygate prostitution case, and is also forbidden from leaving the Italian territory without a judge’s permission (his passport has been seized). Berlusconi announced his intention to run for the EP in May 2014, despite being barred from holding or running for public office. In March 2014, the Court of Cassation confirmed the judicial two-year ban from holding public office, effectively barring Berlusconi from running for the EP. In early May 2014, Berlusconi began serving his one-year community service at a home care centre for elderly dementia patients, where he must work for four hours a week. Some of Berlusconi’s closest allies have also felt the pressure of the judiciary: Marcello Dell’Utri, one of Berlusconi’s oldest allies, was sentenced by the Supreme Court to seven years in jail in 2014 for tax fraud, false accounting and complicity in conspiracy with the Sicilian Mafia. Dell’Utri had fled to Lebanon before the sentence fell, but he has since been arrested by Lebanese authorities and is awaiting extradition to Italy.

There is increasing speculation that Berlusconi is preparing a dynastic succession. Marina Berlusconi, his eldest daughter (at 47) and president of the Fininvest holding company, is often cited by the media and Berlusconians alike as the preferred heir, but she does not appear interested. Her younger brother, Pier Silvio, vice-president of Mediaset, is more discrete and denies any political ambition even if he is said to be brilliant. Barbara Berlusconi, the eldest (29) of three children with his ex-wife Veronica Lario, now has a position on the board of AC Milan but is not usually seen as a future politician.

Forza Italia ran a populist, Eurosceptic and anti-German campaign. Berlusconi, his usual self, said that “for Germans, the concentration camps never existed” and continued babbling about the President (who didn’t pardon him) and the judges (who took a political decision). The party ran in coalition with smaller parties: whatever is left of UDEUR (the party of venal and corrupt incumbent MEP Clemente Mastella who was formerly allied with the centre-left until he pulled the plug on Prodi’s cabinet in 2008), the Grande Sud (a southern ‘regionalist’ party made up of three regional parties in Sicily, Campania and Apulia largely made up of PdL or MPA dissidents) and The Populars of Italy Tomorrow (an empty shell of pro-Berlusconi UDC dissidents in the south).

Under Matteo Salvini, the Lega Nord has regained some lost support and the party has been reoriented on a more anti-EU and anti-immigration platform. For example, under Salvini, the Lega, whose MEPs sat with the UKIP’s EFD group in the last EP, allied himself with Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders and Heinz-Christian Strache in the EAF; for the EP elections, the Lega Nord dropped the traditional word ‘Padania’ at the bottom of the logo in favour of the slogan ‘Basta €uro’ or ‘enough Euro’. The Lega ran in coalition with Die Freiheitlichen, a right-wing populist German party which is the second-largest party in the German-speaking province of Bolzano (Südtirol/South Tyrol) and the Movement for Autonomies (MPA), the Sicilian-based party of former regional president Raffaele Lombardo. Matteo Salvini was the party’s top candidate in every region, something which is legal and somewhat commonplace in Italy (in 2009, Berlusconi was the PdL’s top candidate in all EP constituencies despite being the sitting Prime Minister, and Umberto Bossi also topped all the Lega’s lists that year).

On the right, the new Brothers of Italy (FdI), a national conservative party founded by PdL members in December 2012, ran independently. The FdI emerged in late 2012, largely founded by ex-AN members of the PdL who had come from the AN’s moderate pro-Berlusconi ‘liberal conservative’ faction. Although they were somewhat critical of Berlusconi, the FdI received Berlusconi’s blessing as he hoped that it would create an outlet for right-wing and nationalist voters who were a bit queasy with him but could nevertheless be brought to still support him indirectly. The party joined the centre-right coalition in the 2013 election, but opposed the Letta government. Under the leadership of Giorgia Meloni, the FdI has shifted towards the right, making a clear bid to reclaim the identity of the former AN (whose members are divided between Forza Italia, the FdI and various small hard-right parties) but also informally associating with Marine Le Pen at the pan-EU level (although there is no formal alliance, unlike in the case of the Lega). The former mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, a former fascist who was defeated for reelection in 2013, has since endorsed the party. The FdI successfully won the right to rename itself ‘Brothers of Italy-National Alliance’ and use the logo of the old AN in its logo. The FdI’s appropriation of the AN identity has irked smaller parties with roots in the old party, notably Francesco Storace’s La Destra, a hard-right splinter of the AN (from 2007) now allied with Berlusconi. Giorgia Meloni was the FdI’s top candidate in every constituency.

Angelino Alfano’s NCD, for its first election, ran in alliance with Pier Ferdinando Casini’s Christian democratic Union of the Centre (UDC), which had found itself obliterated in the 2013 election (1.8%) when it ran in coalition with Mario Monti. The alliance is unsurprising: the NCD and UDC are both likely too weak to win more than 4% on their own, both are junior allies in the Renzi government, the UDC has been looking (unsuccessfully) to build a new centre-right/centrist coalition (often seen as a neo-DC) with Berlusconian dissidents (first Fini, now Alfano) and both the NCD and UDC are ideologically very similar (most of the NCD’s members are ex-DC southerners, and the NCD is effectively a Christian democratic/social conservative party similar to the UDC). Both Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the NDC-UDC are part of the EPP, but given Berlusconi’s new anti-EU (and anti-Merkel) populist campaigns, the NCD-UDC fits in much more nicely in the EPP mainstream while Berlusconi is a bit of an Orbán in the EPP. Two NCD cabinet ministers were top candidates: Maurizio Lupi (transports) in the Northwest and Beatrice Lorenzin (health) in the Centre.

Mario Monti’s hastily assembled and fractious party for the 2013 elections, the Civic Choice (SC), had managed to win 8.3% of the vote in the 2013 election (in the process, decimating Casini’s UDC and killing Fini’s FLI) but the SC has since collapsed. Monti lost control over his party, and in response to the growing tensions between him and other SC members, decided to resign as the SC’s president in October 2013. The party then split between the pro-Monti liberals, who supported a centrist strategy (anti-Berlusconi but also anti-UDC) and were liberal reformists and the Christian democrats, including Mario Mauro, who were open to alliances with Berlusconi and close to the UDC. The party was pretty equally divided between both wings, but the liberals took control of the SC and have since aligned it even closer to the PD-led centre-left alliance and the Renzi cabinet. The Christian democrats split off and created Populars for Italy (PpI), which formed a common group with the UDC in Parliament (Per l’Italia). The PpI-UDC group has 10 senators (7 for the SC) and 18 deputies (27 for the SC).

The SC participated in a common liberal list for the EP elections, European Choice (SE) with the smaller Democratic Centre (CD), the neoliberal/libertarian Act to Stop the Decline and other tiny parties. The SE affiliated with the ALDE at the pan-European level (although one MEP who supported the SE, ex-AN member Cristiana Muscardini, sat with the ECR) and was endorsed by ALDE presidential candidate Guy Verhofstadt and former Italian Prime Minister and President of the EU Commission Romano Prodi.

On the left, several communists and ecosocialist/radical left parties in opposition to the government formed a common alliance, L’Altra Europa con Tsipras, to support the GUE/NGL presidential candidacy of Greek SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras. Although launched by independent left-wing intellectuals, the partisan base of the alliance was formed by Nichi Vendola’s Left Ecology Freedom (SEL) – the only party of the radical left with seats in Parliament (3% in 2013 in alliance with the PD), the moribund Communist Refoundation Party (PRC), Antonio Ingroia’s anti-corruption movement (Ingroia, a leftist magistrate, was the top candidate of the leftist Civil Revolution alliance in 2013 with the PRC, Greens, Italian Communists and IdV, but won only 2.3% and has since collapsed), the Italian Pirates (seemingly a very tiny party) and the South Tyrolean Greens (already allied with the SEL in 2013). The SEL, which did fairly poorly in 2013, saw its support increase somewhat in the early days of the Letta government but it has since struggled. Nichi Vendola is less active in national politics and the SEL has been hurt by internal divisions, as a few parliamentarians have left the caucus to cautiously support Renzi (encouraged by his tax policies) while the SEL leadership remains firmly in the opposition. The Other Europe with Tsipras led an anti-austerity but pro-European leftist campaign and hovered around the 4% threshold for most of the campaign.

The weak and irrelevant Italian Greens ran a separate list, Greens Italy-European Greens – an alliance of the old moribund Federation of the Greens and the new Greens Italy, a party founded in 2013 by environmentalists from leftist and rightist parties (PD, MSI-AN, PdL, FLI, Radicals) and led by prominent Italian Green leader and former MEP Monica Frassoni.

Italy of Values (IdV), an anti-corruption party formerly led by famous Milanese magistrate Antonio Di Pietro (who is Berlusconi’s bête noire), won 8% in the 2009 EP elections at the peak of the IdV’s success as part of the centre-left coalition with the PD. Since 2009, however, the IdV has collapsed due to significant infighting between Di Pietro’s centrist/moderate leadership and the far-left direction supported by Luigi de Magistris, a former prosecutor and mayor of Naples. de Magistris’s supporters left the party, but IdV was left badly beaten and further worn out by corruption allegations and the M5S’ growth as a more forceful and radical anti-establishment protest option. Di Pietro has since left the party’s leadership and the IdV appears to be quasi-defunct. The IdV’s MEP sat with the ALDE, although the IdV was an Italian oddity with its anti-corruption populist politics and hardly your usual EU liberal party.

Results

Turnout: 57.22% (-7.83%)
MEPs: 73 (+1)
Electoral system: Limited preferential list PR (up to 3 preferences), 4% national threshold (50,000 vote threshold for linguistic minority parties allied with a national party), five constituencies (Northeast Italy, Northwest Italy, Central Italy, Southern Italy, Insular Italy)

PD (S&D) 40.81% (+14.69%) winning 31 seats (+10)
M5S (EFD) 21.15% (+21.15%) winning 17 seats (+17)
Forza Italia (EPP) 16.81% (-18.45%) winning 13 seats (-16)
Lega Nord (EAF) 6.15% (-4.06%) winning 5 seats (-4)
NCD-UDC (EPP) 4.38% (-2.13%) winning 3 seats (-2)
L’Altra Europa con Tsipras (GUE/NGL) 4.03% (-2.49%) winning 3 seats (+3)
Fratelli d’Italia-AN 3.66% (+3.66%) winning 0 seats (±0)
European Greens-Green Italy (G-EFA) 0.91% (+0.91%) winning 0 seats (±0)
Scelta Europea (ALDE) 0.72% (+0.72%) winning 0 seats (±0)
IdV (ALDE) 0.66% (-7.34%) winning 0 seats (-7)
SVP (EPP) 0.5% (+0.03%) winning 1 seat (±0)
Io Cambio-MAIE 0.18% (-0.05%) winning 0 seats (±0)

Italy 2014 - EP

In the EP elections, Matteo Renzi’s PD won an unexpectedly massive victory with 40.81% of the vote, the largest percentage share of the vote for an Italian party nationally since 1958 and the PD’s best result in any national election. Despite significantly lower turnout (-18%), the PD also won more votes (11.2 million votes) than in the 2013 general election (8.6 million votes in the Chamber). Electing 31 MEPs to Brussels, the PD is now the largest single national party in the EP and in the S&D group (ahead of the German SPD). The PD’s landslide was totally unexpected: the last public polls before the legal polling blackout during the last two weeks of the campaign showed the PD leading the M5S by about 6-10 points (the PD beat the M5S by nearly 20, and all polls showed the PD at 30-33%) and there were apparently well-founded rumours during the blackout that the M5S was polling closer to the PD in the final stretch (Grillo notably attracted a much larger crowd at his big rally in the Piazza San Giovanni in Rome than Renzi did a few minutes away at the Piazza del Popolo). Many were taken aback by the PD’s success, notably Grillo who had been characteristically virulent and hyperbolic in the days preceding the vote (saying that if the M5S won, ‘the system would fall’). For Renzi, the PD’s victory is not just pleasing information – it provides him with much-needed democratic legitimacy from the Italian electorate. Grillo and Berlusconi never failed to remind their listeners that Renzi took office without any popular mandate and therefore lacked democratic legitimacy. In a major boost for Renzi’s standing as Prime Minister, he can now fall back on the PD’s landslide victory to strengthen his leadership.

Gains and loses (raw votes) since 2013 election (own work)

Gains and loses (raw votes) since 2013 election (own work)

He has already used his new weight in the PD to his own advantage: a PD senator who was proving a thorn in the side in a Senate committee was turfed from the committee and chose to ‘auto-exclude’ himself from the PD.

The M5S did poorly, with only 21.2% of the vote and suffering major loses from the party’s record 2013 result, falling from 8.7 million votes and 25.6% to only 5.8 million votes. It was a very poor performance for Grillo, who had made the EP election about Renzi and forcing Renzi to enter the fray personally to defend the PD – Grillo attacked Renzi’s tax measures (his ‘€80 charity’) and was certain that the M5S’ tremendous activist base and mobilizing capacity in the piazze would certainly translate into strong support. Immediately after the election, Grillo tried to spin the M5S’ poor performance by noting that it was Italy’s second largest party and attacked retirees (the M5S’ weakest demographic, by far) for ‘not wanting change and not preoccupying themselves with the faith of their grandkids’. He promised that while the M5S did not vinciamo noi (we win [now]) it will vinciamo poi (win [later]). However, the M5S and Grillo proved more pragmatic and reasonable as the immediate furor died down. An internal party document leaked by the media blamed a ‘destructive energy’, a ‘disturbing message, unreassuring and unrealiable’ campaign and lamented the M5S’ decision to ignore TV shows in a country where 15-20 million inform themselves through television. Grillo, on June 15, said that his party was ‘serious’ and open to talking to the government over the electoral reform (for which the M5S has published its alternative to the Renzi-Berlusconi Italicum, with preferential PR in a single round).

Which group the M5S would fit in in the new EP was always a major mystery, because of the M5S’ ideological peculiarity compared to other parties in the EU, even ‘fellow’ populist movements. Although some assumed that given the little obvious links with existing groups, Grillo would prefer to have his MEPs sit as non-inscrits, it would seem that the advantages which accrue to MEPs aligned with a EP group convinced Grillo to push for the M5S’ membership in a parliamentary group. By virtue of the M5S’ rather leftist views on many issues, many presumed that the Greens-EFA or even GUE/NGL groups would be the most likely candidates, but Grillo instead decided to meet with UKIP leader Nigel Farage although the M5S still opened talks with the G-EFA as well. It soon became clear that Grillo’s sympathies leaned strongly towards Farage and the UKIP’s EFD group, which led the G-EFA to reject M5S’ advances in early June. ALDE also rejected working with the M5S, although I doubt that ever was a serious possibility. On June 12, the M5S finally held an online referendum for its members to decide on the M5S’ group membership in the new EP – the choices were between EFD, the ECR and non-inscrit status, although the cards were heavily stacked in favour of EFD. In a low turnout vote, 78% of M5S supporters voted for the EFD – the anti-EU, Eurosceptic, anti-establishment rhetoric of Farage and his colleagues and the EFD’s status as a fairly ‘loose’ group likely heavily pushed the M5S’ supporters towards them (over a ECR group which is far more ‘establishment’, as Farage pointed out in a video recorded for M5S supporters). Likely as a result of the entrance of the 17 new Grillist MEPs, the EFD group renamed itself ‘Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy’ or EFDD.

Berlusconi did even worse: with only 16.8%, it is an absolute disaster for Forza Italia – its 4.6 million votes on May 25 a far cry from the 7.3 million won by the PdL in 2013. It is worth pointing out that Berlusconi was not a candidate (he still has an ability to draw out additional votes which his party itself is unable to get out in local or regional elections) and the party likely put less effort into these elections than it would in a general election (and it was a bit sidelined in the media with a focus on a Renzi-Grillo battle), but it’s still a very poor result for the party given that Berlusconi still took centre-stage in the Forza Italia campaign. Berlusconi downplayed the results by blaming the low turnout – 57.2% is very high turnout for a EP election in a country where voting is not mandatory, but it is quite low compared to past EP elections in Italy and all other types of elections in a country with a high-turnout tradition. He regretted not winning over 20%, but, of course, there’s no questions asked about his leadership. Berlusconi remains a major political player and a force to be reckoned with in Italian politics, to the displeasure of many EU countries and Italians.

The Lega Nord won 6.2%, a small but significant improvement from the Lega’s disastrous 2013 results (4.1%) and a gain in raw votes as well (up to 1.68 million). However, it is down from the Lega’s record-high performance in the last EP election, when it had won over 3 million votes and 10.2% (electing 9 MEPs). Matteo Salvini has managed to slowly lift the Lega’s fortunes after the 2012-2013 disaster, although it’s still a tough spell for the party. The Lega scored minor gains outside of ‘Padania’ with its primarily anti-immigration/Eurosceptic creed, but it remains – obviously – a northern regionalist party in terms of support.

On the centre-right, the NCD-UDC alliance won 4.4%, down 2.1% on the UDC’s performance alone in 2009 and still a fairly weak showing for Alfano’s new party (and another terrible result for a UDC which appears in terminal condition since 2013). As with past Berlusconian splinters – Fini’s FLI in 2010-2013 (reminder: for all the talk of Fini replacing Berlusconi as the leader of the right, the FLI ended with 0 seats in Parliament and less than 0.5% in 2013) – the Italian right-wing electorate still prefers Berlusconi to any ‘polished’ or ‘moderate’ dissident. Berlusconi is a polarizing figure, with a majority of Italian voters having no time for him but who still commands the often quite motivated support of millions of Italians through his charisma and stamina after 20 years in the political arena. Unsurprisingly, it looks quite unlikely that Alfano will succeed in his goal of preparing the field for Berlusconi’s retirement/death and the realignment of the right which will naturally ensue – in a general election with the new electoral law, a NCD-UDC coalition which wins 4% will not have any seats! The only thing which Alfano could say to spin the poor result was that he remained one of the main pillars of the government – a silent call for Renzi not to get carried away and forget about his increasingly minor allies?

Fratelli d’Italia-AN was the largest party below the threshold, at 3.7% and just over 1 million votes. It is far from recreating the old AN, but the FdI is up from just below 2% and 666k votes in 2013.

The radical left Tsipras list landed just above the threshold, with 4% and 1.1 million votes; up marginally from the SEL’s 3.2% in 2013 but actually down from the combined result of the parliamentary SEL+extraparliamentary RC in 2013 and the combined result of the proto-SEL coalition and a communist list in the 2009 EP election (3.1% and 3.4% respectively for a total of 6.5% in what was hardly a good year for the Italian radical left). The IdV collapsed to only 0.7% of the vote, as expected.

The other list ‘supporting’ a EC presidential candidate – the pro-Verhofstadt SE, did far worse than expected with only 0.7% of the vote – actually landing behind the Greens list, which won 0.9% (not too shabby considering the miserable state of the green movement in the country). This confirms that, come the next general election, the SC will be the latest short-lived Italian fad party to join the long list of such parties since 1994.

Analysis

The PD’s large victory is the result of a few different factors. Firstly, there was a clear Renzi effect which saw a direct transfer of votes from voters who had backed other parties in 2013 to the PD in 2014 (despite the lower turnout). The effect is the result of significant albeit cautious optimism in Renzi’s new government and his leadership – his energy, youthfulness, frenetic activism and his ability to do something concrete for once (electoral law, tax reform, gender parity). This article (in Italian) by the Centro Italiano Studi Elettorali shows that the PD was rated as the most credible party, far ahead of the M5S and FI, on nearly all issues – most notably on the economy and employment, although it does seem important to note that on nearly all top issues, a larger number of voters found no party whatsoever to be credible. Nevertheless, the PD had a significant advantage over the M5S and FI on issues which mattered, while FI lacked a single ‘niche issue’ (besides taxes) and the M5S was limited to expertise in its ‘niche issues’ of fighting la casta and the costs of politics. The article also found that voters’ assessments of party credibility mattered most to PD and M5S supporters, while Forza Italia’s supporters voted for Berlusconi’s party for ideological reasons rather than assessments of party credibility on issues (unsurprisingly). The problem for the M5S here is that, by focusing quasi-exclusively on issues such as political corruption and the political system, it fails to appear credible on issues which matter to more Italians.

According to an IPR analysis, about a quarter of the PD’s vote was cast ‘thinking only about Renzi’ (the rest was cast ‘thinking solely about the party’), which would mean that the Renzi effect was worth 10.8% to the PD, adding that amount to the 30% of votes which went to the PD for traditional partisan reasons – a number which would make sense, given that the PD’s base in normal circumstances seems to be about 30% of the vote or a bit lower. The Renzi effect has had people asking if the election was a victory for the PD or rather a victory for the ‘Party of Renzi’.

Of course, the flip side here is that a vote based on cautious optimism and the temporary credibility of one party over another is very volatile. Indeed, the other main lesson of this election is the confirmation of the extreme volatility of the Italian electorate in recent years. According to a study by Demopolis, only 53% of those who voted in 2013 ‘confirmed’ their vote in 2014 by voting for the same party while 45% of 2013 voters either did not vote or voted for another list. The 2013 election was also quite volatile – only 54% of 2008 voters ‘confirmed’ their vote in 2013 and 39% voted differently or did not vote. With this in mind, the PD’s success in 2014 could prove remarkably short-lived if Renzi and his government don’t live up to expectations.

The other major factor behind the PD’s vote is differential turnout. Geographically, turnout was down from 2013 (-16.5%) in every region and down from 2009 (-7.8%) in all but two regions. As is usually the norm in Italian elections, turnout was lowest in the Mezzogiorno and the islands, with 51.7% turnout in the Southern EP constituency and 42.7% turnout in the Insular EP constituency, compared to 61.8% in Central Italy, 64.5% in Northeast Italy and 66% in Northwest Italy. It is tough to see obvious links between turnout and partisanship geographically, although the central zona ‘rossa’ – the historic left-wing (formerly PCI) strongholds of Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna, Umbria and Marche – saw the highest turnout at 68.2% overall (over 70% in Umbria and Emilia-Romagna) and also the lowest decline in turnout (-12.3%) of any major region (north, south and Red Zone) from the 2013 election.

Exit polls and vote flow analyses, however, showed clear differential turnout in the PD’s favour. The centre-left, in short, was able to mobilize its electorate far better than the M5S or the Berlusconian right, who had many voters sit out the EP elections. Several pollsters and academics have done their own analyses of vote flows compared to the 2013 election, and despite different numbers in the details, the broad picture is similar. Demopolis looked at the 2013 votes of ‘new non-voters’ – those who voted in 2013 but did not vote in 2014 – and found that 34% had voted M5S, 31% had voted PdL, 22% had backed another party and only 13% supported the PD. Looking at it from a different angle, Tecnè reported that 42% of the PD’s 2013 voters did not vote, compared to 53% of Grillist supporters in 2013 and 50% of PdL voters. SWG had the most complex and detailed vote flow analysis, and found that the M5S lost 2.660 million votes to abstention, the PdL/FI lost 1.750 million and the PD lost only 1.400 million of its 2013 voters to abstention.

Vote flow analysis from 2013 to 2014 in five major Italian cities – Turin, Venice, Parma, Florence and Palermo (source: CISE in ‘Renzi, alta fedeltà e nuovi voti a 360°‘ by Roberto D’Alimonte)

This article published by the Centro Italiano Studi Elettorali calculated voter flows in major cities using election results while another article looked at Milan and Rome in more detail. In all seven cities sampled, the PD’s retention of its 2013 vote was quite extraordinary – ranging from 95% in Florence to 71% in Palermo. Outside Palermo, the the PD did not lose more than 10% of its 2013 vote to abstention – for example, in Milan, only 2% of the PD’s 2013 voters did not vote in 2014. It is even more striking if you compare the PD’s electorate’s behaviour to that of M5S and PdL voters in 2013. In Venice and Palermo, over half of the PdL’s supporters did not vote in 2014, and over 40% did not vote in Rome. In Rome, Milan, Parma and Palermo, over 40% of the M5S’ supporters did not vote in 2014 (and 38% in Florence and 35% in Venice). The radical left – SEL and RC in 2013 – also saw a number of their voters sit out in May 2014, notably in Venice (where 50% and 45% of RC and SEL voters respectively didn’t vote).

The PD’s ability to retain its 2013 electorate so well combined with the demobilization of M5S and Berlusconian supporters from 2013 contributed heavily to the PD’s success. But the PD also gained votes from other parties, given that it not only ‘held’ its 2013 votes it also gained votes from 2014 despite lower turnout (the only other lists who increased their votes from 2013 were the Lega and FdI). The main source of new votes from the PD was, unsurprisingly, Mario Monti’s old SC, which is practically dead. According to SWG, the PD gained 1.270 million votes from the SC – only 170,000 of the SC’s 2013 voters went for the ‘European Choice’ list in this election and 250,000 went for Alfano’s NCD-UDC. 850,000 of the SC’s 2.82 million voters from last year did not vote in 2014. The flow analyses cited above confirm the exit polls: in the seven cities sampled, the PD won between 44% and 60% of the SC’s 2013 voters while another 10-15% went for Alfano. According to SWG, about 1.090 million M5S voters switched to the PD (that’s about 12.5% of M5S supporters from 2013) – again confirmed by flow analysis at the municipal level – in five of the seven cities (not Milan and Rome), the PD won between 6% and 17% of M5S votes. A smaller amount came from the ex-PdL (430,000), again a small transfer corroborated at the local level. The PD also gained smaller number of voters from the radical left (420,000 from ‘other centre-left parties’ in SWG, presumably SEL), the UDC-FLI (110,000) and other centre-right parties in 2013 (90,000). The PD only ceded 350,000 votes to the M5S, 230,000 to the Tsipras list and very small numbers to the right – for a total of 2,050,000 2013 votes lost (largely to abstention) more than compensated by the 4,570,000 votes the PD has gained since 2013 – including 1.14 million from people who hadn’t voted in 2013 but did so in 2014.

Demopolis reported that 66% of the PD’s 2014 voters had already voted PD in 2013 – it gained 13% from the SC, 9% from Grillo, 7% from non-voters and only 5% from the PdL.

The M5S and FI suffered the bulk of their loses to abstention – overall, SWG estimates that the M5S lost 4.56 million votes (and gained 1.66 million) from 2013, while Forza Italia lost 3.69 million and gained only 960,000 votes from 2013. As noted above, a small albeit not totally insignificant percentage of M5S and FI voters from 2013 switched to the PD this year. The M5S lost some votes to the Lega (-240k), FI (-130k), FdI (-130k) and Tsipras (-120k); FI also lost some support to the M5S (-410k), the NCD (-470k), the Lega (-340k) and FdI (-220k). Forza Italia gained very little votes from other parties. The flow analysis in the seven cities found similar results, with local differences – in the north, FI lost up to 6% (in Milan) of its 2013 vote to the Lega Nord; throughout the country, FI lost about 2-5% of its 2013 vote to Alfano’s folks and about 7% to the FdI.

For Tecnè, Grillo and Berlusconi only held 34% of their 2013 vote and lost most heavily to abstention with single-digit loses to the centre-left. IPR’s analysis unwisely focused only on 2013 voters who voted in 2014 and ignored the significant number who didn’t do so.

According to SWG, the Lega Nord lost 500,000 votes – the three-fifths of those votes were lost to abstention – and gained 800,000 votes – +340k from Forza Italia, +240k from the M5S, +140k from other parties and +80k from 2013 non-voters. Interestingly, the vote flow analysis in the cities shows that the Lega’s 2013 electorate may not have been all that loyal – it held only 46% of its 2013 vote in Milan, 43% in Turin and 44% in Venice (although these are three northern cities where the Lega is particularly weak), with a fairly significant number of 2013 Lega voters opting for other parties in the EP election (in Venice, 36% apparently voted PD; in Milan, it shed 18% to FI and 10% to the PD).

The NCD-UDC list, in SWG’s analysis, found 470,000 of its 1.2 million votes from the PdL, 200,000 from the UDC and 250,000 from the Monti SC. It gained a small number of votes from the M5S, and even less from others, the PD and 2013 non-voters. In the Rome and Milan analysis, the study showed that the NCD-UDC’s voters in 2014 had split their votes fairly equally between Monti and Berlusconi in 2013 (in Milan – where it did well – it got 44% from the PdL and 36% from the Monti list, in Rome it got 47% from Monti and 37% from the PdL.

The vote flow analyses reveal, unsurprisingly, that we cannot assume that the Tsipras list simply won the votes of those who had backed the SEL and RC lists in the 2013 election. According to SWG, the Tsipras list gained the most votes (440,000 out of 1.1 million) from the SEL with smaller amounts from the PD (230k), RC (200k) and M5S (120k). This would mean that about 40% of the SEL’s 2013 voters and only 26% of the RC’s 2013 voters went to the Tsipras list this year – a result confirmed municipally, with between 35% and 58% of the SEL’s voters in our seven cities voting Tsipras and between 13% and 31% of RC voters from last years going for Tsipras. The RC’s 2013 voters also went to the M5S in fairly significant numbers (between 12% and 40% across the seven cities) and a good number – up to half in Venice – not voting. The SEL, in contrast, lost mostly to abstention and the PD with only minor leakage to the M5S.

Finally, as noted above, the 2013 SC Monti vote went heavily towards the PD (45% in SWG) – no surprise here – and only 6% per SWG went to the SE list (in the municipal election, the SE polled too poorly for it to be analyzed). Another 250,000 (per SWG, or 8%) went to the NCD-UDC and 850,000 did not turn out (30%).

In Rome and Milan, the FdI’s electorate was largely made up (about 40%) of people who had already voted for the Berlusconian centre-right in 2013 (the analysis linked to above includes 2013 FdI voters with the PdL), but it also drew a significant (but not very large) number from Monti, M5S and the PD.

An Ipsos Italia exit poll also reported similar results in its flow analysis – the tremendous retention of its base by the PD, the heavy loses of nearly all other parties to abstention, the PD gains from the old Monti centre (and some from the SEL+RC) and a fairly good vote retention from the Lega.

Largest party by comuni (source: YouTrend)

The PD’s victory changed the demographic makeup of its electorate somewhat. The most remarkable result, noted by most Italian pollsters, was the very marked improvement of the PD with entrepreneurs and self-employed workers – a demographic which had voted heavily for the right in 2008 (68%) and split between the M5S and the right in 2013 (40.2% for Grillo vs. 34.6% for the right and 16.4% for the left). According to Demopolis, the PD now won 33% of their votes and EMG reports that the PD took 30.7% with them against 25.1% for the M5S and 18.5% for FI. Ipsos’ data differentiates between entrepreneurs/managers/liberal professions and self-employed/traders/craftsmens – mixing the traditionally anti-leftist vote of self-employed workers and entrepreneurs with the anti-Berlusconi vote of liberal professions, but the PD won 35.3% with the former category and 30.1% with the latter (vs. 25.6%/31.2% for the M5S and 14.2%/17.8% for FI respectively), confirming a major swing to the Renzi-led PD with self-employed workers and entrepreneurs. According to Ipsos’ more detailed socioprofessional breakdown, the PD did best with pensioners (50.5%), employees/teachers (43.1%), students (41.1%), housewives (38.5%) and workers (35.8%) – more broadly, with public sector dependent employees (42.8%). The M5S did best with the unemployed (32.7% – first ahead of the PD) and workers (30.5%) but very poorly with housewives (15.4%) and pensioners (7.4%). FI did best with housewives (24.3%), the unemployed (20.1%), pensioners (20%) and self-employed traders and small businessmen (17.8%). The Lega Nord, at 8.2%, also did best with self-employed traders and small businessmen, and also performed well with workers (7.1%) and pensioners (6.9%). The NCD-UDC did best with entrepreneurs, managers and liberal professions (6.1%) and students (6%). The Tsipras list won 8% with students and 5.7% with employees and teachers, doing strikingly better with public sector workers than private sector workers (7.1% vs. 3.5%).

There is, as you may have guessed from Grillo’s comments about retirees not voting for their ‘grandchildren’s future’, a huge generational gap in the M5S’ support – nothing surprising for a new and flashy party – the party’s support is highest with younger voters (according to EMG, 32.5% with those 18-34) – or, for Ipsos, particularly middle-aged adults (33.5% with 33-44, 26.6% with those 45-54) – but, at any rate, the M5S’ support with older voters is extremely weak: Ipsos reports only 17.4% for Grillo with those 55 to 64 and 6.4% with those over 65, a result corroborated by EMG and Tecnè. In 2013, according to the CISE, the M5S’ support dropped from 38.4% with the youngest cohort (18-29) to 8.8% with the oldest (65+), a 29.6% gap compared to 12.7% for the PD and 18.5% for the PdL. Again in 2014, the PD and FI’s support both increased with the age of the voter – peaking at 50.2% for the PD and 22.1% for FI with voters over 65. The PD’s age gap is not as wide, because it still retains solid support with younger voters (32.9% with those 18-29 according to EMG, compared to 11.4% for FI), but both it and FI had about half of their 2014 electorate made up of voters older than 55 (compared to only 20% for the M5S). On the left, the Tsipras’ list support was much stronger with younger voters – up to 7.6% with those 18-24, attracting a crowd of well-educated young professionals and especially students (up to 8-9% with students).

The M5S did well with fairly educated voters – only 11% with those without any diploma or only elementary education (but I suppose this educational group is disproportionately old) – although with those who have a high school diploma or middle school education (27.4% and 20.5% respectively in Ipsos) and not with university graduates (17.8%). The PD did best both with university graduates (as did Tsipras) and those with no education (unlike the Tsipras list, but like FI); FI’s support decreased with higher educational achievement.

Ipsos’ exit poll also included interesting data on the ‘media gap’, religiosity and ideology. Unsurprisingly, the M5S did best – by far – with voters who inform themselves mostly through the internet, winning 38.7% against 28.8% for the PD, while M5S support was below national average for all other media sources, although in terms of makeup of its voters, 32% informed themselves mostly through TV (and 31% through the internet, obviously far more than the 15% of all voters who get most of their news online). Unsurprisingly, FI did best – 22% – with voters who inform themselves solely through TV, while PD voters are more likely to read newspapers or inform themselves mostly through TV. Religiosity continues to impact vote choice, although not where one may expect it: the M5S and Tsipras list did significantly better with non-religious voters or lapsed Catholics (27.7% M5S support with those who never attend mass, and they make up a third of the party’s electorate; half of the Tsipras list’s voters never attend mass) while the NCD-UDC’s support was heavily biased towards the most religious voters – half of its voters attend mass weekly. The PD showed no correlation with religiosity, and actually scored major gains since 2009/2013 with weekly mass-goers, winning 43.3% of their votes. Berlusconi’s support with the most religious Catholics has declined significantly from 2009, but he remains strongest with monthly mass-goers (22.9%) and weakest with irreligious voters.

The ideological self-identification of voters offers an interesting portrait of the M5S electorate. While the PD, FI, Lega, NCD-UDC, Tsipras and FdI voters identify neatly with their ideological families – half of the PD and FI’s voters identify as centre-left and centre-right respectively and most of the remainder as left or right – the M5S’ electorate draws from all ideologies. 20% of the M5S’ voters identify as left-wing, but 15% identify as right-wing; overall, 38% identify with the left/centre-left and 32% with the right/centre-right. Compared to all other parties, however, a very large proportion of the M5S’ supporters do not identify with any ideology (they make up 17% of its electorate and the M5S won 53.5% with these voters). Unsurprisingly, Grillo has picked up voters across the spectrum, combining voters who identify with both extreme ends of the ideological spectrum and many voters who do not fit anywhere.

% vote for the PD by comuni (source: YouTrend)

YouTrend has an excellent interactive map of the results. The PD won all but three provinces in the country – FI won the province of Isernia in the southern region of Molise, the Lega Nord was victorious in the Alpine Lombard province of Sondrio while the SVP (allied to the PD) won 48% in South Tyrol (province of Bolzano-Alto Adige/Bozen-Südtirol). The PD did very well in the traditional left-wing zona ‘rossa’ in central Italy, winning 56.4% in Tuscany and 52.5% in Emilia-Romagna. In Matteo Renzi’s home province (and longtime left-wing stronghold) of Florence, the PD won its best national result, 61.8%, up over 17% from the PD’s result in 2013. The M5S’ support was generally similar to its 2013 spread, although it took a much more ‘southern’ orientation in 2014. The Grillists sustained their heaviest loses in central Italy and parts of the north, and help up better in the south – and even improved on the 2013 result by 0.8% in Sardinia (where the PD’s results were mediocre), taking 30.5% on the island (its best national result). In contrast, the M5S won only 16.7% in Tuscany (-7.3%) and 15.7% in Lombardy (-3.9%). Forza Italia also did better in the south and Sicily, although it still won good results in traditionally conservative provinces of the Piedmont and Lombardy. Compared to 2013, the Lega Nord’s biggest rebound came from the Veneto, where the Lega won its best national result (15.2%, compared to 14.6% in Lombardy, the Lega’s other major northern base) – up 4.7% from the 2013 election. Many noted that, in the Veneto region and notably the province of Verona, where the Lega received its third-best result (19.6%), top candidate Matteo Salvini was outpolled by Flavio Tosi, the mayor of Verona and leader of the Liga Veneta. Tosi is a more traditional conservative (keener on the free market and not anti-Euro), who had opposed Umberto Bossi but now seems to be taking his distance from Salvini’s anti-Euro line and alliance with Le Pen. The NCD-UDC list did best in the south – taking 6.6% in the Southern Italy constituency and 7.5% in the Insular constituency, compared to about 3% in the north of the country. The Christian democratic tradition remains strongest in the south, where old clientelistic political traditions remain strongest – although the leadership of both the NCD and UDC, drawn from the old DC, are largely southern (Alfano is Sicilian – the list won 9.1%, its second best result, in Sicily). Tsipras’ support was far less reflective of old Communist support and was instead largely urban (particularly urban areas with a university) – its best provinces (except for South Tyrol, where it was backed by the local Greens, and the Francophone Aosta Valley where no local list ran in 2014) were Florence (6.5%), Bologna (6%), Livorno (6%) and Trieste (5.9%). It also performed above its national result in Milan, Rome, Turin and Pisa. Finally, FdI’s support was strongest in the Lazio (5.6%), a traditional base of the neo-fascist or post-fascist right.

Regional and local elections

Regional and local elections were held alongside the EP elections.

In Piedmont, an early regional election followed the cancellation of the 2010 regional elections by the regional court on account of irregularities (falsification) in signatures for a small list allied with the right. The president of the region, Roberto Cota (Lega Nord), had already been placed under investigation and later indicted (in January 2014) for embezzlement, fraud and illegal financing. He is notably accused of using his expenses to pay for items including green underpants and sex toys. The region, traditionally the major swing region between left and right in northern Italy, had been gained by Cota – backed by Berlusconi’s PdL and the Lega – in 2010, notably due to an early M5S winning 4.1% and allegedly ‘spoiling’ the election for the centre-left incumbent. Piedmont has long been one of Italy’s major industrial heartlands, notably around the regional capital of Turin but also in other towns across the country. Historically, the PCI had strong support with working-class voters in Turin’s suburbs (which welcomed a large population of immigrants from southern Italy) and other industrial centres (Alessandria, Novi Ligure, Vercelli); today, the left has been weakened outside of Turin, but retains strong support in the province of Turin itself. The M5S has been very strong in the Val di Susa region in the province of Turin since 2010, due to its identification with and support of the very strong local movement against the Turin-Lyon high-speed train (TAV).

The left’s candidate was Sergio Chiamparino, the former PD mayor of Turin (2001-2011), supported by the PD, SEL, a civic list, a local centrist party (Moderati), SC and IdV. Roberto Cota did not run, and the right’s candidate was Gilberto Pichetto, a former regional vicepresident and senator from Forza Italia, supported by FI, the Lega and small parties. Davide Bono, an incumbent M5S regional councillor who had already won 4.1% in 2010, ran for the M5S. There were also FdI and NCD-UDC candidates.

Sergio Chiamparino (Centre-left/PD) 47.09% winning 32 seats (10 president’s list, 17 PD, 2 civic list, 1 Moderati, 1 SEL, 1 SC)
Gilberto Pichetto (Centre-right/FI) 22.09% winning 9 seats (6 FI, 2 Lega Nord, 1 president’s list)
Davide Bono (M5S) 21.45% winning 8 seats
Guido Crosetto (FdI-AN) 3.73% winning 1 seat
Enrico Costa (NCD-UDC) 2.98%
Mauro Filingeri (PRC) 1.12%

In the list vote for the regional council, the Lega Nord’s support fell from a strong 16.7% in 2010 to 7.3%. The FI’s result was about 10% lower than the PdL’s 2010 showing, while the PD’s list (36.2%) gained 13% from 2010. Detailed interactive maps are available here.

Abruzzo is a largely mountainous or hilly southern region, traditionally right-leaning, which has become the most affluent region in southern Italy. The right had gained the region from the left in a narrow battle in 2008, an early election which had followed the arrest of the incumbent centre-left president, who had himself gained the region from the right in 2005. The incumbent president, Giovanni Chiodi of Forza Italia, has also been mixed up in corruption scandals. The left’s candidate was Luciano D’Alfonso, a former Christian democratic mayor of Pescara.

Luciano D’Alfonso (Centre-left/PD) 46.26% winning 18 seats (10 PD, 4 civic lists, 1 CD, 1 SEL, 1 IdV, 1 president’s list)
Giovanni Chiodi (Centre-right/FI) 29.26% winning 7 seats (4 FI, 1 NCD-UDC, 1 civic list, 1 president’s list)
Sara Marcozzi (M5S) 21.41% winning 5 seats
Maurizio Acerbo (PRC) 3.07%

The right’s defeats in Piedmont and Abruzzo, along with a (narrow) defeat earlier this year in Sardinia, means that the Italian right only holds the regions of Lombardy, Veneto (both with the Lega Nord), Campania (with FI) and Calabria (with the NCD). The Aosta Valley is led by a local centre-right coalition, excluding the Italian right, because Aostan politics operate in their own cocoon. Since the last regular regional elections in 2010, the left has gained no less than seven regions from the right in early or regularly-scheduled regional elections.

Municipal elections were held alongside the EP elections on May 25, with a runoff on June 8. According to La Repubblica, the centre-left won 164 out of the 243 largest communes which held local elections, against 41 for the centre-right and 24 for civic lists. The M5S won three communes. In terms of provincial capitals, the PD gained 11 and lost 6.

The left gained Pescara (Abruzzo), Bergamo (Lombardy), Cremona (Lombardy), Pavia (Lombardy), Campobasso (Molise), Biella (Piedmont), Verbania (Piedmont), Vercelli (Piedmont), Sassari (Sardinia), Caltanissetta (Sicily) and Prato (Tuscany). The right gained Potenza (Basilicata), Urbino (Marche), Foggia (Apulia), Perugia (Umbria) and Padua (Veneto). The M5S gained Livorno (Tuscany). The left’s defeat in several cities, after its landslide in the EP elections, somewhat mitigated the talk about the PD landslide, and may confirm the theory that the PD’s victory held quasi-exclusively to Renzi and that in a runoff ballot without any Renzi effect, the PD’s performance was far less impressive. Nevertheless, the PD still gained several cities – including large ones such as Bergamo and Pavia – and easily held others such as Florence (with 59.2% in the first round).

Two of the most striking defeats for the left came from Livorno and Padua. Livorno, a major working-class industrial and harbour city in Tuscany, had been governed by the left (the PCI, historically) since 1946 and it is a left-wing stronghold to this day (in the EP election, the PD won 52.7% vs 22.5% for the M5S), with a strong base for the radical left as well. The incumbent PD mayor was retiring this year. In the first round, the M5S candidate placed a distant second with 19% against the centre-left’s 40% and 16.4% for a radical left candidate. In the second round, the M5S candidate won 53.1% against 46.9% for the PD. Between both rounds, turnout dropped from 64.6% to 50.5%, and the PD was particularly hit by demobilization from the EP election (the PD candidate’s raw vote declined from the first round), but the M5S candidate likely won the votes of those who had backed the radical left and maybe the weak centre-right (7.3%) in the first round. In the M5S’ other municipal victories, they have usually come after weak distant second showings in the first round, through the mobilization of all voters who had backed other eliminated candidates in the first round – left or right. For example, in the port city of Civitavecchia (Lazio) – an old PCI stronghold which has drifted right since 1994, where the M5S defeated the centre-left incumbent, the M5S polled 18.3% in the first round to the left’s 26.6% and won 66.6% in the runoff thanks to low turnout (from 72.7% to 52.7%) and support from eliminated centre-right candidates (18.2% and 12.2% in the first round) and the radical left (10.9%).

The left suffered a bad defeat in Perugia (Umbria), where the right overcame a 20-point gap in the second round to win 58%, although turnout fell by 20%. In the southern city of Potenza, an FdI candidate backed only by Mario Mauro’s small Populars, gained the city with 58.5% in a runoff against the left, which had polled 47.8% in the first round against only 16.8% for the FdI (the centre-right and centre won the bulk of the remaining votes). Turnout collapsed from 75.1% to 48.4%.

In Padua, the third largest city in the Veneto, Lega Nord senator Massimo Bitonci, supported by FI and the centre-right, defeated the PD incumbent with 53.5%, with turnout 10 points lower than on May 25. It is interesting to point out that, in the election for city council, the Lega did poorly with only 4.9% (down from 11% in 2009), while the top scoring list on the right was a civic list with 16.7%. On the other hand, the PD did quite well in northern Italy (especially Lombardy). Its most notable victory was in Pavia (Lombardy), where the centre-left candidate defeated FI incumbent Alessandro Cattaneo, a young ambitious politician sometimes described as the centre-right’s Renzi. With turnout nearly 15 points lower, the left overcame a 10-point gap in the first round to win with 53.1% (the right’s support, in terms of vote, fell from the first round).

Although I speculated about a potential ‘Renzi effect’ in the first round and its drop-off in the second round, preliminary research suggests that it may have been the municipal elections which had the greater impact on the EP election than the other way around. A CISE study reports that turnout on May 25 declined by 23.5% from 2013 in communes with no local elections while it fell by just 3.4% in those which did hold municipal elections. The gap in turnout change is greatest in the south, where the difference between the two types of communes is 26.8%, over 10 points more than the region with the second-highest difference. In the south, turnout in local elections was even higher than in the 2013 election!). Additionally, while the PD performed better by an average of 2.5% in communes without local elections than those with, Forza Italia’s support declined less (-3.3%) from 2013 in towns with local elections than those without (where it was about -4.5% lower than in 2013).

The EP elections saw a rather phenomenal showing for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s centre-left PD, a vote of cautious optimism and confidence in his new government which has gotten off to a solid and energetic start – but also a vote which is more reflective of the pitiful state of the PD’s opponents. The result is quite significant – more significant than a low-turnout EP election would normally be – because it is effectively a popular mandate, indirectly, for a Prime Minister who won that office through backroom wheeling-and-dealing rather than through the polls. That unexpected popular mandate has left the PD’s opponents, particularly Beppe Grillo, quite confused. In polls taken since the EP elections, the PD has suddenly surged into a significant lead over the right and Grillists, averaging about 40-42% against 19-21% for the M5S, 15-16% for Forza Italia and 6-7% for the Lega Nord. Somewhat ironically, the PD’s landslide makes a snap election less likely, because the opposition and the PD’s junior allies have no interest in an election now. It is now a fairly serious possibility that the Parliament elected in 2013, widely seen as an unworkable mess which wouldn’t last two years, may actually serve its full term to 2018. However, Italian politics remain in a fascinating state of flux – nothing here indicates that the PD’s current success will endure for a long time, and nothing indicates that Italian politics are anywhere close to stabilizing at some level.

Guest Post: Great Britain 2014

ep2014

Chris Terry has contributed this excellent guest post on the recent local and European elections in Great Britain. Chris is a Research Officer for the Electoral Reform Society and you can follow him on Twitter here.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland held local elections on the 22nd of May. As Northern Ireland has an entirely separate party and electoral system, it shall be dealt with separately.

Political Context

Since 2010 the UK has been ruled by its first coalition government since the end of World War II between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats.

The 2010 election put an end to thirteen years of Labour governance following the landslide of 1997. Thirteen years in government had taken their toll on the party, as had the financial crisis and strategic mistakes by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who had taken over from Tony Blair in 2007.

However, the Conservative Party suffered from image as an out of touch party for the rich which did not understand the lives of ordinary Britons and toxicity amongst multiple demographics including ethnic minorities, public sector workers, the Scottish and the young. The party also suffered from the cruel effects of Britain’s First Past the Post system due to its highly inefficient vote spread.

The election had been seemingly blown open by the performance of the unknown leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, in the first Prime Ministerial debate in UK history. This unleashed ‘Cleggmania’ as the Lib Dems climbed to first in some polls. In reality Cleggmania was overblown and overstated, and mostly based on a large pool of don’t knows drifting into being very soft Lib Dems in polls. It began to dissipate by polling day and though the Lib Dems achieved 23.0% a vote, their best popular vote since 1983, they lost six seats.

The Conservatives gained almost 100 seats, but their 306 left them sort of the 326 needed for a majority in the UK. Britain was thus treated to the sight of coalition negotiations. While most of Britain’s European cousins view this as a norm post-election, this was entirely new to the British and journalists, politicians and academics rushed around trying to explain the phenomenon.

The final deal saw Clegg become Deputy Prime Minister in a coalition led by the Conservative Party’s David Cameron, an Eton educated former PR man and Treasury special adviser with aristocratic connections who many Brits view as the very personification of the British elite.

The new government had to deal with a yawning budget deficit of more than 10% of GDP, though Britain did not face the same problems as other Western nations regarding its ability to pay its debts. Nonetheless the government implemented an austerity agenda.

This pushed the Liberal Democrats into agreeing to some policies which they had specifically campaigned against in the 2010 election. Most infamously the party agreed to the trebling of the cap for university tuition fees from £3,000 to £9,000 a year (the system acts something like a tax, however, with no payback before you earn above £21,000 pa, very low interest rates and debts written off 30 years after they are taken out if not fully repaid). Abolition of university tuition fees had long been one of the Lib Dems’ most recognisable policies, and the party’s MPs and candidates had signed a pledge organised by the National Union of Students to vote against any rise in tuition fees.

During Labour’s years in opposition the Lib Dems had cultivated a young, academic, left-liberal  base based on their opposition to the war in Iraq and left-leaning policies under Charles Kennedy. While Clegg had always intended to take the party to the centre, the party retained a strong left-leaning vote which had, in many cases, rejected Labour on the basis of insufficient leftism. To such voters, the party’s coalition with the Conservatives was anathema.

The party also found its traditional campaign strategy somewhat blunted. Since the 1960s move to ‘community politics’ the Lib Dems have focused on a localist form of politics, with individual Lib Dem MPs pointing left or right depending on the constituency and adopting strongly localist campaigns. The Lib Dem mantra ‘where we work we win’ attests to a traditional belief in the party that there is no obstacle which can stop a determined local party as long as it pounds the pavements, leaflets relentlessly and provides excellent constituency service. Yet the party’s national exposure in government gave it a national profile and not a positive one, with Clegg moving from the most popular politician in the country to the least in less than a month.

The Lib Dems have been devastated in successive waves of poor election results, though the signs are that the party performs much better in areas where they have incumbent MPs, where the party’s traditional strengths of solid constituency representatives work in their favour.

Labour followed the election with a leadership race, which pitted two former ministers and brothers, David Miliband, the former foreign minister, and Ed Miliband, the former Energy and Climate Change minister against one another. The fight took on extra potency as David had been a key aide and ally of Tony Blair, and Ed had been one of a pair of Gordon Brown’s most trusted advisors with Ed Balls, another prominent minister. Hence the two had been on opposite sides in the often extremely volatile relationship between the two former Prime Ministers.

To the surprise of many, Ed narrowly won the leadership race albeit on the votes of the trade union section of Labour’s complex leadership election electoral college (with David winning MPs and party members).

Ed represented a clearer break with the past, wanting to take the party in a more clearly left-leaning direction. He almost immediately apologised for the Iraq War, for instance. The Conservatives quickly attempted to brand Ed as ‘Red Ed’. However research found that voters found Miliband not to be so much a scary 1970s socialist, as the Conservatives had hoped, but just rather ‘weird’, due to poor presentation on his part.

Ed, is the son of a famed Marxist academic, Ralph Miliband, and who therefore, grew up in a home which was at the very nexus of the British intellectual leftist elite, with frequent visitors such as the academic Tariq Aziz and the famed radical left Labour MP Tony Benn (who sadly passed away earlier this year). He took a sabbatical from politics to teach at Harvard in the early 2000s. He thus affects an academic, some critics say ‘geeky’ persona. He is unusually interested in ideas for a modern day politician, and is known for his series of ‘gurus’, often academics such as the American philosopher Michael Sandel, or the sociologist Maurice Glasman.

Miliband’s instincts tend towards a metropolitan kind of leftism, but he has also taken on some of the issues of Glasman’s ‘Blue Labour’ ideas which posits a more socially conservative Labourism which rejects the managerialism of traditional British Fabian socialism. Blue Labour embraces a more conservative stance on immigration, crime and Europe, but prefers a more continental style of corporatist economics to markets. It is localist and vaguely anti-statist.

Realising that his party would be forced into austerity measures in government, Miliband has come to embrace more state interference in markets, with policies such as the introduction of rent controls and a forced price freeze on energy prices to undercut what Miliband consistently refers to as a ‘cost of living crisis’.

Conditions since 2010 have provided perfect ground for the unleashing of a quietly rising tendency in Britain – right-wing populism. Right-wing populism and anti-immigration politics has been present in the UK for a while, but has been divided between multiple parties, predominantly the Eurosceptic UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the far-right British National Party (BNP). In many constituencies in 2010, especially in the North, these two parties and other minor right-of-conservative parties together won over 10% of the vote. This was largely unnoticed because it was split between multiple parties. After 2010 the BNP went into meltdown. UKIP’s leader, Nigel Farage, specifically targeted them by his own admission, saying that most BNP voters are decent people simply angry about immigration. He even claimed responsibility for destroying the party.

The party has traditionally performed best in European elections. The political scientists Rob Ford and Matthew Elliott have compared UKIP’s previous pattern to being like a hibernating bear which emerged from its cave once every five years for European elections, would frighten the villages and then retire to its cave to sleep. As an illustration the party came second in the 2009 European election with 16.5% of the vote. It then fell to 3.1% in 2010 as it won strategic defectors from the main parties who opposed the EU. UKIP now polls between 10% and 20% of the vote in general election voting intention. The party has also won a string of second place finishes in by-elections, most notably in Eastleigh last year, and won an incredible victory in the 2013 local elections.

UKIP also benefitted from the coalition. Britain’s three main parties have now all been in power in the last five years. None thus provides a clear oppositional role. The Conservative Party has been unable to reduce immigration to the 10s of thousands as they promised a goal which always lacked credibility. In order to reduce immigration the Conservatives, unable to deal with ‘bad’ immigration, have restricted immigration which most Brits think is ‘good’ such as student visas.

The Lib Dems’ traditional role as a protest vote was also lost as the party entered government.

An additional boon to UKIP is that all three party leaders are from different wings of the British elite. Cameron originates in the traditional, aristocratic, upper class elite. Miliband originates in the academic, intellectual, left-wing elite. Clegg’s ancestry lies in the European aristocracy. A speaker of five languages he is a former MEP, and a former advisor to the ex-European Commissioner Leon Brittan. Clegg is thus of the Eurocrat elite.  All three are around the same age (Cameron and Clegg are 47, Miliband is 44). Both Clegg and Cameron were privately educated, while Miliband went to a state school, it is known as the ‘Eton of the left’ due to the large number of prominent left-wingers educated there. Miliband and Cameron both went to Oxford University, and studied PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics). Clegg went to Cambridge. All three later worked as political advisors and critics allege they have never had a ‘real job’. In this respect all three have lived elite lives out of step with the lives of average Britons, leading to the impression of a ‘political class’ dominated by an increasingly narrow group of identikit politicians.

The famed UK expenses scandal of 2008-9 has also damaged the reputation of British politicians, and the public increasingly distrusts politicians on the issue of immigration.

Farage is part of the elite as well, a privately educated former metals trader from the London financial centre who has served as a MEP since 1999. Yet he successfully affects an authentic style, almost always being filmed drinking real ale in pubs up and down the land, or smoking a cigar, he dresses in a colourful, rural style, appears to speak his mind and goes on tirades against the political class. Under his leadership UKIP’s traditional Euroscepticism has been expanded. In particular the party has increasingly conflated the EU and immigration, stoking fears of renewed immigration from Bulgaria and Romania when the need for Bulgarians and Romanians to get work permits to work in the UK was lifted at the start of 2014 (initial figures suggest that the number of both groups working in the country has actually fallen since the 1st of January).

Britain has a long tradition of Euroscepticism, but for UKIP’s voters the EU has come to represent everything they hate about politics: an out-of-touch bureaucratic, dull elite (in a foreign country no less!) forcing open borders onto Britain.

Analysis of UKIP’s support base suggests it is composed overwhelmingly of older, poorly educated, male working class voters. These voters are deeply pessimistic about the direction Britain has been going in for decades. While Westminster journalists have often stereotyped UKIP as simply taking support from the Conservatives, the party takes around the same amount of support from Labour. The party is increasingly target traditional Labour party supporters. The recent book Revolt on the Right provides fascinating reading for anyone interested in UKIP’s rise.

UKIP’s support is predominantly English, and it is much weaker in Scotland, though it has some strength in Wales, especially in the North.

Like other right-wing populist parties, UKIP has had its fair share of controversy. A UKIP councillor received national attention and widespread mockery earlier this year when he claimed that flooding in the South West of England was the result of the legalisation of gay marriage. UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom was forced to resign from the party after he drew attention away from Farage at the party’s 2013 conference for suggesting that women who did not clean behind the fridge were “sluts”, and then, as a journalist who questioned why UKIP’s conference brochure did not feature a single ethnic minority face, hitting said journalist over the head with a copy of said brochure.

Farage himself has received criticism, for instance, for saying that he felt uncomfortable when people spoke languages other than English on trains, or by saying he would feel uncomfortable if Romanians moved next door to him.

Scotland has seen the rise of a different type of populist outsider, as the Scottish parliament saw the Scottish National Party win a majority in 2011, which wasn’t supposed to be possible. The UK and Scottish governments have agreed to a binding referendum on Scottish independence to be held on the 19th of September. The SNP has a strong base in Scotland, and has appeared to be newly dominant in Scotland since 2011 due to a perennially weak and incompetent Scottish Labour Party.

Other parties of note are Plaid Cymru, the much weaker Welsh nationalist party, and the Greens, who in Britain are of a rather eco-socialist variety. They hold only one MP at Westminster, in the radical left wing seaside city of Brighton, known for its gay community and liberalism, but have strength in some regions of the country and do well in PR elections.

The Structure of British local government

British local government has a complex structure which differs widely between different regions due to both repeated reform attempts from central government and different histories.

The UK has a highly centralised political system and is often described as one of the most centralised countries in the world. Most of the local councils’ money has traditionally come from central government grants. The only tax that local government can levy in the UK is council tax, a property tax based on house prices, which is widely disliked as it is the only tax that comes in the form of a bill, and is perceived as regressive, hitting poor pensioners the hardest. Many would like to see a more devolved tax system, but Britain suffers from yawning regional disparities in wealth and hence a more localised tax system would tend to result in essentially taking money from poorer regions without a system of equalisation payments.

British local government has often been treated as little more than a delivery mechanism for central government policies. In the Labour years, when money was good, there was a tendency to create extra funds of central government money for local government but to ruthlessly ‘ring-fence’ it (make sure that the money could only be spent on that one area). The coalition substantially reduced ring-fencing in government and introduced a general power of competence which vastly expanded what councils could theoretically do but also substantially cut central government funding to councils (which was cut by 30%) meaning that councils could rarely afford to be more than managers of core services. No other government funding has been cut so radically. The Local Government and Communities minister, Eric Pickles, has also been fond of occasional diktat from Whitehall, trying to force local government into keeping weekly waste collections (some had gone to fortnightly as a cost-saving measure) and freezing their council tax rates. Under the coalition’s localism act councils must hold referendums if they raise council tax by more than a certain percentage. In response some councils have instead raised their council tax by 0.01% less than the limit to avoid a referendum. In theory, councils receive extra funds from central government for freezing their council tax but councils fear this money will evaporate with time putting them into further financial strain.

As local government is so anaemic in the UK turnouts have historically been low in UK local elections. Concern has been quite strong about turnout in local elections for a while, but in truth turnouts bottomed out in the period between 1998 and 2002 with a string of sub-30% scores and have now stabilising in the mid-30s. This is low compared to local elections in other countries but historically turnouts were not much higher than this in the 1970s. Turnout is very down when compared to the 1980s, but this was a period of extreme political polarisation in the UK which boosted turnouts and political engagement across the board.

Another aspect for the anaemic quality of local government is that local elections are most often used to comment on the performance of central government rather than to vote on genuinely local issues. Local elections in the UK are rarely truly ‘local’ as a result. In the vast majority of council areas traditional political parties vie for control, though the Liberal Democrats have often pursued a strategy of running much more heavily localised campaigns.

Local elections, as a result, suffer from a notable differential turnout effect whereby supporters of the opposition tend to tend out much more than supporters of the government (as in other mid-term elections internationally such as US mid-terms).

There are different types of councils in different parts of the UK with differing responsibilities and different systems of election.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, councils are single-tier and elected by the Single Transferable Vote system of proportional representation in all-at-once elections. The Scottish councils were last elected in 2012, whereas the Northern Irish councils are up for election this year (more on this in a forthcoming article).

In Wales, there is also a system of unitary councils elected all at once using a bloc voting system in multi-member wards.

In England the systems become much more complex.

By far and away Britain’s largest city, London is governed by 32 ‘borough councils’. London is a massive international city, with a population of 8.5 million – as much as Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland put together. It represents 15% of the UK population. London’s boroughs are technically single-tier but since 2000 they share power with a directly elected Mayor of London, currently the Conservative Boris Johnson, famed for his eccentric, ‘upper class buffoon’ persona.

Nevertheless the vast majority of local services are provided by the boroughs, with the Mayoralty controlling economic structuring, transport and police across London.

The London Boroughs are all elected all-at-once on a four year cycle. The boroughs feature multi-member wards (the constituencies of local government) generally with 3 councillors each (though some 2 member wards have recently appeared).

18% of the population of the UK lives in the Metropolitan counties of the North of England. These six counties, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, South Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear, West Midlands and West Yorkshire are highly urbanised areas and essentially vast urban conurbations around the cities of Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle and Sunderland, Birmingham (Britain’s second largest city and the largest municipality in Europe), and Leeds.

The Mets used to be two-tier authorities, with the Metropolitan counties having their own higher level. This was abolished in the 1980s though there is some joint working at the county level. This collaboration has recently been increased as a way of reducing costs, with the most notable being the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

The Mets are elected by a system of election by thirds. All wards in the Metropolitan councils have three councillors. One of these is elected each year to a four year term with one ‘fallow’ year. This system is supposed to provide a regular injection of accountability and new blood, but is increasingly criticised as costly, reducing turnout due to electoral fatigue and causing poor governance as councillors are distracted by elections for multiple months most years.

The most common type of council in the UK is district councils. These are two-layer councils with a county council above them.  District councils handle housing, planning, leisure and recreation, waste collection, collection of council tax and environmental health. County councils handle local education authorities, transport, fire, social services, libraries and waste disposal.

Counties are elected in a four year cycle in the traditional first past the post single-member style. They were last up for election in 2013. Districts are allowed to choose between election by thirds (hence some wards have a local election literally every year as county councils are elected in the ‘fallow’ year), election by halves and election all at once. Most of those elected all at once were last elected in 2011 and will be next up in 2015.

Most of the district councils are rather small and rural.

In recent years there has been an increasing move towards the creation of unitary authorities, merging the responsibilities of districts and counties to reduce duplication and to create clearer lines of accountability. Unitaries come in two types. The first covers large towns or small cities outside the metropolitan areas which have been deemed large enough to support the necessary tax base to support one, such as Plymouth, Bristol, Peterborough or Portsmouth.

The other fashion has been to merge districts in large rural areas into one massive county council with the powers of the district councils in areas where district councils are deemed too small to support themselves. This has happened in areas such as Cornwall, Wiltshire, Northumberland and County Durham. These areas are typically largely rural or covered by small towns.

Most councils in Britain are governed by a fairly typical cabinet model, but since 2000 councils may introduce a directly-elected mayor with wide-ranging executive powers, usually this is done by referendum. Only fifteen councils have introduced the elected mayor model, four of which are London boroughs, Hackney, Lewisham, Newham and Tower Hamlets. A fifth elected mayor, in Watford, was up for election this year as well. Elected mayors are elected using a preferential system known as the Supplementary Vote system. SV features ballots laid out like a traditional British ballot paper except with a second column for a second preference. Voters may thus cast two preferences. A mayoral candidate who wins 50%+1 in the first round is deemed elected, if this does not happen then all but the top two are eliminated and second preferences redistributed. The plurality winner then wins. The system thus guarantees a wider mandate than First Past the Post but does not guarantee a majority as in AV or a two round system. SV means that voters must strategically vote for one of the top two candidates with their second vote. There is evidence that voters do not properly understand the system, with a significant minority of voters casting two preferences for one candidate (which obviously cannot transfer).

However, elected mayors themselves are widely seen as a success, improving governance, transparency and visibility for their communities. Polling suggests that 50% of the public in councils with an elected mayor can name their mayor, whereas only 10% of the public in councils with the usual model can name their council leader. Central government has often tried to push the elected mayoral model, especially in councils seen as poorly run and in big cities. Local government has often pushed back against the model, however. Councillors often fear losing power to elected mayors.  In 2012 the government held referendums on elected mayors in the 10 biggest cities in England outside London. In Liverpool and Salford the referendums were, in essence, pre-empted, but of the remaining 8 cities only Bristol chose the mayoral model.

Prior local elections held alongside EP elections have shown a noticeably stronger result for UKIP.

The seats up this year were last up in 2010 and held alongside the general election. This means that they represent the last set of good results for the Lib Dems since before coalition, but also that Labour performed well in 2010 due to the high turnout.

European Parliament Elections in the UK

Since 1999, European parliament elections in Great Britain take place in the framework of a closed-list proportional representation. Britain elects 70 MEPs (3 more are elected in Northern Ireland) in regions, with one region representing Scotland and one Wales, and England split into the nine regions of East of England, East Midlands London, North East England, North West England, South East England, South West England, West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber.

The regions range from 3 seats (North East England) to 10 seats (South East England) in size creating effective thresholds between 7% and 20%. This makes the UK system fairly disproportionate, but it does also mean that the SNP and Plaid can win seats in their regions which a single constituency with a national threshold would stop (neither party would be capable of winning more than 3% nationally).

The PR system has allowed for the entry of smaller parties into the European Parliament, most notably UKIP, but the Greens, Scottish and Welsh nationalists and the far-right BNP also won seats in 2009.

Eurosceptic parties tend to perform better in EP elections. The prior success of UKIP in these elections is especially notable but the Conservatives also tend to perform better than in European elections on the same day.

The Campaign

The campaign was predominantly notable for an attempt by the Liberal Democrats and UKIP to polarise the election for their own interests.

In March Nick Clegg challenged Nigel Farage to a televised debate about whether to stay in or get out of the European Union, an eternal British political debate which practically predates UK accession itself. Clegg’s challenge was issued on his LBC radio show. By sheer coincidence, Nigel Farage decided to accept his challenge the next day, on his LBC radio show. It may not surprise readers to learn that one of the debates was hosted by LBC.

Both leaders sought to portray the other parties as scared of participating in a debate on this subject. Clegg sought to portray the Conservatives as taking a confused position on Europe (the Conservatives, who have a softly Eurosceptic stance re pledged to support a referendum on the EU in 2017 if they are re-elected), and to portray Labour as having no position at all (Labour’s campaign was noticeably silent on EU issues). Farage merely hoped to present all three leaders as in hoc to an EU elite which ‘truly’ made the laws in the UK.

The first debate was widely seen as a victory for Clegg by the press, until the instant polls came out and revealed that voters saw Farage as the winner, a reminder of just how unpopular Clegg was (and some might argue, how out of touch London-based journalists are with the population at large).

Clegg was also deemed to have lost the second debate, by a more convincing margin. Clegg’s hope had not been, in truth, to convince a majority of the British public of his view, however. While a majority of Brits are Eurosceptic, the Lib Dems’ potential vote is highly Europhile and he hoped to galvanise this support. There was also a sense that with the party in for a poor result that Clegg was attempting to demonstrate that the party at least lost by standing up for what it believes in.

In the end the effect of the debates on the polls seemed to be to help UKIP while the Lib Dems did not move.

Labour fought a campaign entirely on national issues. Using the campaign to mercilessly attack Nick Clegg, hoping to lock down the defectors from the Lib Dem left it has won since 2010 and to gain further votes from 2010 Lib Dems who are now ‘Don’t Knows’, which represents as much as a third of their 2010 vote.

One of their party election broadcasts was named the ‘uncredible shrinking man’ and portrayed Nick Clegg giving up all his policies in government before literally shrinking in size until he reaches the point that a tiny naked Nick Clegg is chased across the cabinet table by the Downing Street cat.

Labour knew that much of its base was in both the Eurosceptic and Europhile camps and so avoided talking about Europe for this reason.

Labour hoped to win the election through a low profile campaign focused on winning through the momentum of being in opposition.

The Conservative campaign predominantly focused on its European referendum pledge and on its promise of EU renegotiation. The Conservative campaign claimed that UKIP “can’t” give you a referendum, that Labour and the Lib Dems “won’t” give you a referendum and only the Conservatives could.

The Scottish National Party focused on Scotland’s current obsession, the Independence referendum, hoping to use evidence of a strong result as a way to parle into the referendum. The SNP party election broadcast was entirely focused on the independence referendum.

The Greens were perhaps the only party to run a campaign based upon what they’d actually done in the European Parliament, with a well-crafted party election broadcast. The party complained of poor media attention compared to UKIP.

Polls generally showed a tight battle between Labour and UKIP for first place, with UKIP gaining throughout the campaign, opening up a wide lead over Labour. The party then fell back at the last minute, but remained ahead in polling intention. Polls showed that UKIP voters were, ironically, the most interested and engaged in the European election campaign.

Most polls showed the Conservatives in third, and the Lib Dems and Greens battling for fourth place.

Local Election Results and Analysis

Note: Vote share in the below is ‘Projected National Vote’. Due to the fragmented nature of UK electoral administration, and the variances in electoral system, it is impossible to get a total vote count for the UK on Election Day and this measure is based on sampling key indicator wards across the country to produce a figure of what the popular vote would have been if every single part of the country was voting at the same time.

The measure is obviously not perfect. I am cynical that it deals well with the rise of UKIP as it has nothing to compare against from previous results. Hence take the below figures with a pinch of salt.

Projected national vote share compared against 2013. Seat change compared against the last time this swathe of seats was up: in 2010. Councils are change in control from the day.

Labour 31% (+2%) winning 2121 councillors (+324), and winning control of 82 councils (+6)
Conservatives 29% (+4%) winning 1364 councillors (-236) and winning control of 41 councils (-11)
Liberal Democrats 13% (-1%) winning 427 councillors (-310) and winning control of 6 councils (-2)
UK Independence Party 17% (-5%) winning 166 councillors (+163)
Independents winning 89 seats (+36)
Residents Associations (local alliances of independents similar to the Free Voters in Germany) winning 53 seats  (+14)
Green Party winning 38 seats (+18)
Other parties winning 4 seats (-7)
32 councils (+8) now under No Overall Control.

This is a remarkable election result for UKIP, who, for the second year in a row, have made significant gains in the local elections. While the party’s PNV is down from 2013, I am cynical of PNV’s capability to properly measure UKIP as there is no previous record to go on with its support in local elections. This is also a very different set of councils to 2013. 2013 saw elections principally in the County Councils covering rural and small town England. 2014 sees elections predominantly in London and the metropolitan authorities of the North. In that regard UKIP’s success is all the more impressive.

Post-election council control in local authorities with elections in 2014 (source: Wikipedia)

UKIP won a decent number of seats for its strong popular vote, albeit not as many as other parties. UKIP suffers from a highly inefficient voter spread, spread across the country. Its principal demographics of the elderly, the working classes and the low educated rarely cluster together in a way which makes it the largest party, making the UK’s plurality voting systems a significant barrier to its electoral success.

Opponents of UKIP have pointed out that UKIP still does not control a single council. Yet due to the elections by thirds system used in almost every council outside London it is literally impossible to take control of councils. If a party wins every seat up in a council elected by thirds it will only control one third of seats on that council.

UKIP did, however, win the most seats and votes in Great Yarmouth, Thurrock and North East Lincolnshire. These are all depressed areas on the Eastern coast of England, which have recently experienced their first ever waves of immigration. They are white, working class and relatively elderly places. In winning these areas UKIP threw them into No Overall Control. Local politics is likely to be difficult in these areas – largely split between Labour, Conservatives and UKIP. These areas will undoubtedly form key UKIP target seats in 2015.

UKIP also won the most votes (but not the most seats) in Rotherham, an area of South Yorkshire which has been one of the most punished cities by the financial crisis and has one of the worst economies in the UK. UKIP performed well in a by-election there in 2012, winning what was then a record of 21.7% of the vote, due to a scandal hit Labour MP and another scandal regarding social workers removing three non-white children from the care of their foster parents on the basis that they were UKIP members and therefore they had ‘concerns’ about their views.

The party also won the popular vote in Dudley, a suburb of Birmingham.

The party did very well in Essex, the county directly East of London, long associated with the white working class. The party managed to surpass Labour on Basildon council, and now controls 12 seats to 17 for the Conservatives and 10 to Labour. The party took 5 seats from the Conservatives on Castle Point council, and is now looking to form a coalition with Castle Point’s only other party – the Canvey Island Independents Party. The party also threw Southend-on-Sea into NOC, taking 5 seats (though Labour also gained 3 to go to 9 and there is a big Independent group).

Essex is traditionally a very socially conservative white-working-class-done-good area, and ‘Essex Man’ was considered the key component of Margaret Thatcher’s winning coalition. Yet in areas like Rotherham and North East Lincolnshire, it demonstrated a capability to win in core Labour areas.

The exception to the UKIP surge was most noticeably London.

UKIP won 12 councillors in all of London in three boroughs, Bexley, Bromley and Havering. All three of these councils are located in the Eastern outskirts of the city. Bexley and Havering were formerly part of Essex, and Bromley was part of Kent. Havering, where UKIP won 7 seats, is often said to be ‘culturally Essex’, a predominantly white, upper working class area.

By contrast, Labour won its best successes in London. Probably its most vaunted success was taking Hammersmith and Fulham from the Tories. H&F has been nicknamed ‘David Cameron’s favourite council’ and was seen as an austerity success story. It actively cut council tax, when most councils suffered serious budgetary pressures. Yet controversy over a local hospital closure, and local concerns over housing seriously hurt the Conservatives. H&F has historically been viewed as a strongly Conservative area, Fulham, in particularly, is identified with wealthy Conservatives and the borough is in London’s more affluent West. Labour also took control of the South London borough of Croydon from the Conservatives. While the party controlled Croydon between 1994 and 2006 this was actually because of the inequities of plurality voting. 2014 represents the first time Labour has ever won the most votes in Croydon.

Croydon has become more and more ethnically mixed in recent years, aiding Labour’s victory. During the election campaign, UKIP, suffering from accusations of racism, held a carnival in Croydon, hiring a steel drum band. The event was widely seen to be a disaster and ended with Nigel Farage apparently cancelling his planned visit to the carnival as the steel drummers refused to play on realising that it was for UKIP and protesters and UKIP activists hurled abuse at one another. Winston McKenzie, a black UKIP council candidate who attended the event described Croydon as “a dump”.

Labour also took South London’s Merton and North East London’s Redbridge from NOC. This is the first time Labour will have control of Redbridge, which, like Croydon has become more ethnically mixed.

Labour also took back control of Harrow after a damaging internal split which had seen Labour councillors break away and form a coalition with the Conservatives.

Labour narrowly failed to take North West London’s Barnet, where a local programme titled ‘One Barnet’ has run into controversy. One Barnet is an attempt to outsource almost all elements of the council, essentially transforming the council into a commissioner of services rather than a provider of them. Labour won 27 seats to 32 for the Tories and 1 for the Lib Dems.

In its heartlands in London, Labour ran away with the election. Labour once again won every single seat on the East End’s Barking and Dagenham and Newham councils.

In the North West councils of Islington and Haringey the party has long been opposed by the Lib Dems with hardly a Conservative to be seen.  This was, in a sense, a battle of two lefts. Labour representing the working class and ethnic minorities and Lib Dems representing the left-liberal bohemian public sector professionals, academics, journalists and media types that live in that region of London. The Lib Dems had controlled Islington between 1998 and 2006 and ran a minority administration until 2010. The Lib Dems have now been totally wiped out on Islington council. Labour’s sole opposition will be a single Green Party councillor.

The Liberal Democrats managed to retain 9 seats on Haringey council however. Haringey has something of a reputation as a poorly run council, but the seats were more likely saved by the association with a strong local MP – Lynne Featherstone, who is currently serving as a junior minister in the Department for International Development. Featherstone is a left-leaning Lib Dem who is known for her local campaigns.

Central London’s Lambeth and Lewisham in South East London also saw their sizeable Lib Dem groups, both serving as official oppositions, totally wiped out. Once again, the Greens benefitted, with the sole opposition member on Lewisham being a Green and Lambeth gaining a single Green councillor to act as the only opposition.

The Greens also won the second largest number of votes in North East London’s Hackney. Hackney, once a synonym for crime, deprivation and poor governance is highly diverse borough which has been utterly transformed in the last 10 years as it has become synonymous was gentrification and London’s ‘hipster’ community of young professional bohemians which is based around the Shoreditch, Hoxton and Dalston areas of the borough. Hackney has benefitted from the leadership of its technocratic Labour mayor, Jules Pipe. Despite coming second in votes (as they did in the other boroughs already mentioned) the Greens failed to win any seats as they came second in almost every ward in the borough, as well as in the mayoral election.

The Green Party has long failed to do well in central London even though it would seem to be a perfect match for the area. This is probably because the Lib Dems, always successful at turning to face whichever direction is electorally convenient, have largely adopted the sort of green liberalism familiar to continental European Green parties. This has obviously been extremely mismatched with their participation in government with the Conservatives, however, causing left-liberals to flee to Labour and the Green Party.

The Green Party will now need to build on its high vote in this election and start targeting seats to build up a local infrastructure, but there is a lot of potential for the party in the North of London in particular, but also in central London and in Lewisham.

The biggest disappointment of the local elections for Labour was perhaps Tower Hamlets, an incredibly diverse borough which is 41.1% Asian (32% of which are Bangladeshi) to 45.2% White and 7.3% Black.

Tower Hamlets politics has long been strained by the importation of a certain style of tribal politics from the Indian subcontinent. The local branch of the Labour Party is under ‘special measures’, a 1980s invention designed to stop entryism by the Trotskyist grouping Militant Tendency. In Tower Hamlets Labour Party’s case special measures was imposed due to what is known in Australia as ‘branch stacking’ whereby members are recruited to a party for factional reasons. In Tower Hamlets selection meetings would often see the arrival of huge numbers of members who the party had never seen before. These members were, in reality, an attempt by Bengali community leaders of two rival factions to literally buy Labour Party selections. The party discovered that in many cases members did not even realise they were members of the party, or in fact admitted to usually voting for another party. The two factions are not ideologically different, in reality this is a battle along tribal lines.

Special measures essentially places the local party under the direct control of the central party, which has imposed its own selection of candidates upon the local party, balancing candidature along ethnic lines to stop any one group from gaining total control. The Labour Party is not the only party that has suffered from this in Tower Hamlets, but as the dominant party in the borough the party has perhaps suffered the most and perhaps has the most meaningful impact.

2005 saw the election of George Galloway, a former Labour MP who had opposed the Iraq War, on his far-left RESPECT ticket in one of the Tower Hamlets parliamentary constituencies. Galloway was accused of whipping up ethnic discord against his predecessor, Oona King, one of Britain’s few black woman MPs. Galloway had been elected almost entirely on votes from the Bengali community. While Galloway lost his seat in 2010, ethnic discord continued to build.

The elected mayoral model was adopted for Tower Hamlets in 2010. The elected mayoral was hoped to bring better governance to Tower Hamlets, which has been afflicted by serious amounts of infighting amongst the dominant Labour group. The elected mayoral model has, in neighbouring Labour dominated boroughs in Newham and Hackney served to unite the Labour group around the mayor.

The regional board decided that, for the mayoral election, the local Labour Party would be allowed to select its own candidate for the mayoralty rather than having one imposed.

The selection was won by Luftur Rahman, a Bengali former council leader who had been repeatedly judged unfit for selection for mayor by regional and national figures. Rahman was viewed as an ethnically divisive figure with low loyalty to the party (he failed to endorse the two Labour candidates for Westminster running in TH in 2010). Rahman had only gone through to selection after a series of legal challenges.

Post-selection other candidates complained of electoral fraud in the process, with evidence that very large numbers of people had voted who had not been resident in the borough. The party thus removed Rahman from the position and put into place Halal Abbas, another Bengali who had come third in the selection.

Rahman subsequently decided to run as an independent candidate. Despite the fact that Rahman had backed the ‘Blairite’ David Miliband for leadership of Labour Rahman received support from the left, gaining the endorsement of RESPECT and George Galloway, and support from left-wing factions of Labour such as the entryist Trotskyists of Socialist Action. Most damagingly, he received support from Ken Livingstone, the maverick former Mayor of London, and the candidate in 2012’s London mayoral race. Livingstone had formerly won the mayoralty as an independent himself after Blair had deemed him an unacceptable candidate in 2000. Livingstone later claimed he had only backed giving a second preference to Rahman.

Rahman won the mayoralty. As mayor of Tower Hamlets he has been deeply controversial. Rahman’s cabinet has been entirely made up of Bengalis. The Daily Telegraph’s Andrew Gilligan accused Rahman of links to the Islamic Forum of Europe, based in the East London mosque, which is itself accused of being a front for radical Islam. He has been accused of misusing public funds, and of consorting with criminals. In March 2014 the BBC documentary series Panorama alleged that the mayor had diverted £3.6m worth of grants to Bangladeshi and Somali community groups in exchange for political support. Tower Hamlets is now the only council in the country which publicly funds faith groups, with most money going to the Muslim community. Panorama also accused TH council of bribing journalists and Rahman of failing to answer questions at council meetings. In response, the Local Government and Communities Minister, Eric Pickles, sent fraud investigators to Tower Hamlets. Both TH and Rahman deny any wrongdoing. All in all, Rahman has been accused of basing his administration in the needs and desires of only one very narrow community.

Tower Hamlets politics has long been stained by accusations of electoral fraud. Fraud within the Labour Party has been covered above, but there are accusations of fraud in the electoral system itself.

Britain’s electoral system is surprisingly open to fraud. The electoral registration system is based upon a system of ‘household registration’ where a ‘head of household’ registers all names living in the house. No unique identifiers are required, and no ID is required at polling stations, it is possible to vote by just giving your name and address.

Since 2003 Britain also has postal voting on demand, an attempt to raise turnout. In 2005 in an electoral fraud case in Birmingham the presiding judge described the postal voting system as one which would disgrace a ‘banana republic’. The system has since been made much more secure, but allegations of fraud continue.  Britain is a country which has long run on a culture of trust. In part this has been deserved. Britain has never had a written constitution, in part, because Britain has never truly needed a written constitution. Britain is moving to a system of individual electoral registration by the 2015 general election, and the Electoral Commission has proposed a system of voter ID.

Accusations of postal voting fraud are common in TH, with activists claiming that some houses are registered for far more postal votes than could possibly live in the homes in question.

This year, in response to fraud allegations, police officers were stationed at polling stations in Tower Hamlets. Since 2010 Rahman has formed his own party, Tower Hamlets First, and the party was accused of fraud, voter intimidation and of illegally placing election posters in polling stations.

There have actually been very few investigations and arrests for fraud, and some argue that these allegations are overegged by political opponents seeking to delegitimise each other. In truth it is difficult to tell because Britain’s electoral system makes it difficult to detect and prove fraud.

The count in Tower Hamlets took 119 hours to count its ballots. No other council took more than a day to count its ballots. The extra level of security in Tower Hamlets was largely to blame. The count was widely derided as a ‘farce’, and the Electoral Commission is launching an inquiry into the count.

Rahman won 43.4% of the vote in the first round, largely believed to be almost entirely from the Bengali community. John Biggs, his Labour opponent, won 32.8% of the vote. In the second round Biggs won 6,500 second preferences compared to just 856 for Rahman, with Conservative and Lib Dem support flowing behind Biggs. However, despite receiving 88.4% of second preferences Biggs still lost to Rahman in the second round. Notably, 12,696 of the votes not cast for Rahman and Biggs in the first round did not contain a valid second preference, demonstrating the problems of the Supplementary Vote system.

Additionally, Labour lost control of TH council, winning just 20 seats to 18 for Tower Hamlets First and with 4 for the Conservatives. 3 seats lay vacant as in Blackwall and Cubitt Town ward the election was delayed due to the sad death of a THF candidate the day before the election. Hence there will be a by-election for these seats. It is likely that the Conservatives will team up with Labour during the next four years in an attempt to weaken Rahman as much as possible. Tower Hamlet’s divisive, ethnically polarised politics are likely to continue however.

Labour’s success in London extended to the London commuter belt, to cities and towns such as Reading, Basingstoke, Crawley and Milton Keynes.

The Conservatives perform better in the outer ring of London and in the West. The party’s strongest result was in Kensington and Chelsea, a central London borough synonymous with wealth, today known as the home of Russian oligarchs who treat London as their personal playground. The Conservatives held a reduced majority in Wandsworth in South London, well known as the council in the UK with the lowest council tax due to a long history of radical conservative rule. As mentioned above they barely held North London’s Barnet.

The party’s biggest success of the night was taking Kingston upon Thames council from the Liberal Democrats, a suburban council on the outskirts of South West London. The Lib Dems had ruled the council for 12 years, and rule of the council was largely perceived to have become dysfunctional. Last year the council leader stepped down after being arrested on suspicion of possessing indecent images of children. He subsequently pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years in prison. The council was also criticised for having the highest council tax in London. The Lib Dems cannot just blame the national swing here, therefore.

The Conservatives broadly performed well with the exception of Havering on London’s East end extreme. Formerly part of Essex, Havering has a skilled working class, white and socially conservative area of the type Margaret Thatcher won for the party. Internal turmoil over selections within the Conservative group had seen defections to UKIP and to independents on the council and the local Residents Association, one of the few in London, won 24 councillors, gaining 12, largely from the Tories. UKIP also won 7 councillors, surpassing Labour who actually lost councillors, going from 4 to 1 as the Residents Association and UKIP tsunami weakened them. It is likely that the Residents Assocation will take minority control, switching between Conservative and UKIP support for their proposals.

The Lib Dems were wiped out from large parts of central London, and, as mentioned above, lost Kingston. In the incredibly wealthy suburban borough of Richmond-upon-Thames in South London, where the party has traditionally been very strong, the Lib Dems lost 9 seats to the Conservatives.

However, the party did hold the last of its suburban South West London strongholds, Sutton, even increasing its seats by 2, though they lost votes, due to the effects of the bloc voting system.

Elsewhere in the UK the Lib Dems generally suffered in areas where they lacked council control or a MP. The traditional Lib Dem strategy of highly localist campaigns has allowed it to keep a hold in areas of strength. Incumbent MPs often remain popular in their areas, with popular incumbents providing a visible presence that is not Nick Clegg.

In addition to Kingston, the Lib Dems also lost control of Portsmouth city council. Portsmouth is a major naval city and port in the Southern coast. As with Kingston there had been local causes. The Lib Dem MP for Portsmouth South, Mike Hancock, was suspended from the party in January. Hancock also served as a councillor and was the only MP in Britain to simultaneously serve as part of his council’s cabinet. Hancock had long been a controversial MP, with a reputation as a womaniser and activist on behalf of the Russian government, had been accused of sexually harassing and assaulting constituents. Hancock’s suspension from the party was strongly opposed by the local party. He was suspended as a councillor and became an independent but the local party essentially formed a coalition with him so that he could remain part of the council cabinet before being booted out by the national party.

Hancock ran as an independent for the council this year. The local Lib Dems ran no candidate in opposition to him de facto supporting his candidature. Hancock’s bid for re-election failed, however, as he was defeated by UKIP. The Lib Dems had broadly maintained their strength in 2011 and 2012 in Portsmouth, but in response to the local scandal the party was dealt a massive blow. The party lost 5 seats and lost control of the council to No Overall Control. While the party remains the largest on the council with 19 seats to 12 for the Conservatives, 6 for UKIP (all newly elected), 4 for Labour and 1 Independent it appears that they will lose control of the council as Labour and UKIP, disgusted with the local Lib Dem group, are preparing to support a minority Conservative cabinet.

The Lib Dems held up well with their areas with MPs, outside London. For instance, winning the most votes in the Sheffield Hallam part of Sheffield, held by the party leader, Nick Clegg. The party regained a seat lost to an independent defection in Eastleigh, its stronghold. The party lost only one seat in South Lakeland, its other stronghold, where Tim Farron, the party president widely believed to be a future leadership contender has his seat. However there were exceptions, such as left-leaning, student city Cambridge, and the party was reduced to only 3 seats in Norwich where it holds the more Southern of the 2 constituencies.

The party was wiped out in Metropolitan boroughs. Manchester Withington MP John Leech, elected in 2005 on a student and anti-war vote can pretty much write off his chances of holding his seat in 2015 as there is not a single Lib Dem left on Manchester City Council.

The Conservatives held up well throughout that part of England outside London, whereas Labour performed badly. In the key Labour target of the South Western town of Swindon, for instance, the Tories actually increased their majority from 1 to 2 as they took a seat from Labour. Embarrassingly for Labour, Ed Miliband was asked about the party’s leader on the council he revealed that he didn’t know who he was and then assumed he was already council leader.

Labour performed well in the Metropolitan boroughs. They now hold every single seat on Manchester City Council, bar one, held by an independent who has defected from Labour. ‘Half an opposition councillor’ as some have joked.

The Greens also performed well in the Mets. They won the second largest number of votes in Manchester and with 4 seats are now the opposition in Liverpool. They increased their seats to six in the unitary council of Bristol, and to 9 in Solihull, an affluent suburb of Birmingham, making them the joint second largest party with the Lib Dems to the Conservatives. Lib Dem MP Lorely Burt is another MP likely to lose her seat (her majority is a razor thin 175).

The only other Conservative held Met is Trafford, in Greater Manchester, where they continue to hold a majority of 3. The Mets, are, however, Labour strongholds anyway, with the exceptions of Trafford and Solihull. It does not help Labour to make gains in Liverpool, where it currently holds all six of the MPs, the elected mayoralty and an overwhelming majority on the council.

Fans of maps should see the interactive one of London local election results in 2014, 2010 and 2006 here.

Elections doyen Lewis Baston has also made some excellent maps with a map of UKIP performance here, a similar map with Green performance here and a map of second place finishes here.

European Election Results

UKIP (EFD) 27.5% (+11.0%) winning 24 seats (+11)
Labour (S&D) 25.4% (+9.7%) winning 20 seats (+7)
Conservatives (ECR) 23.9% (-3.8%) winning 19 seats (-7)
Green Party (G-EFA) 7.9% (-0.8%) winning 3 seats (+1)
Liberal Democrats (ALDE) 6.9% (-6.9%) winning 1 seat (-10)
Scottish National Party (G-EFA) 2.5% (+0.3%) winning 2 seats (NC)
Plaid Cymru (G-EFA) 0.7% (-0.1%) winning 1 seat (NC)
An Independence from Europe 1.5% (-) winning 0 seats (-)
British National Party (NI) 1.1% (-5.1%) winning 0 seats (-2)

The 2014 European Parliament election provided a huge success to UKIP, who became the first party to win a national election in the UK besides the Labour and the Conservatives since the rise of the Labour Party in the 1920s. For the first time, the Conservatives were pushed into third in a national election.

Regionally UKIP topped the poll in in the East Midlands, the East of England, South East England, South West England, the West Midlands, and Yorkshire and the Humber.

Labour topped the poll in London, North West and North East England, Scotland and Wales, its strongest regions.

EP 2014: Largest party in England by council area (source: Wikipedia)

UKIP’s strongest regions are the heavily Eurosceptic regions of the South West, South East and East, but the party gained strongly in the North of England, as a result of the party’s increasing inroads amongst Labour voters. The party’s biggest gains were in Wales (+17.1%) the North East (+17.0%), Yorkshire and Humber (+16.8), and the North West (+15.8%) all strongly Labour regions and it came second in North East England (by 7.3%), North West England (by 6.3%) and Wales (by an incredibly narrow 1.6% in the supposedly one party state.)

The exceptions to UKIP’s big gains were Scotland (where it gained just 3.8%) and London (where it gained just 4.6%). It also showed a weaker rise in the East Midlands (+6.8%) and the South West of England (+12.6%) largely because these areas were ‘early adopters’ of UKIP.

In Scotland UKIP succeeded in electing a MEP for the very first time, sending shockwaves through progressive opinion north of the border which had long claimed that Scotland was immune to UKIP. Nonetheless, UKIP only gained a single seat. David Coburn, the party’s new Scottish MEP is already a controversial figure in Scotland due to his being the London regional chair, with the widespread perception that he was ‘parachuted in’ into a divided Scottish party branch against its will.

Since being elected Coburn’s views on gay marriage (he is opposed, despite being gay himself) and on Scottish Independence (in the event of a yes vote he wants to hold another referendum to try and reverse the decision after the 2015 election) have also been controversial.

UKIP’s appeal in Scotland has been blunted by its English nationalism and the presence of the SNP as an alternative anti-establishment, nationalist (albeit left-wing nationalist) party.

The SNP had been aiming for a third seat, and its coming second to Labour is something of a blow to the party pre-referendum. Yet we should remember the low turnout and that Labour is both in opposition in the UK and Scottish parliaments to the SNP.

London was also an outlier from the UK wide trend. As in the local elections, Labour tore through London, winning half of London’s MEPs, 4, (an increase of 2) on 36.7% of the vote. UKIP managed only 16.9% of the vote and 1 seat, the only region of the country where it came third.

During the local elections count, UKIP’s communities spokeswoman commented that London was not good for UKIP because it is ‘young, cultured and educated’, leading to guffaws from UKIP’s opponents who derided her as saying that UKIP was the party of the old, the stupid and the backwards.

Yet, there is an element of truth to this. UKIP’s support is most strong amongst white, elderly, poorly educated voters. Multicultural, youthful, highly educated London is indeed bad ground for the party.

Labour’s performance around the rest of Britain was poorer, however, whereas the Conservative vote held up well. With Scotland and London removed, the Conservatives would have beaten Labour. This exposes the weak position Labour is now in less than a year from a general election.

The Greens fell back slightly, but increased their seats by 1 partially due to a Lib Dem collapse, winning an extra seat in the South West to go with their seat in the South East (where their stronghold of Brighton is and where there are the most seats and the lowest effective threshold)  and in London. The Greens may perhaps have had only 1 seat had it not been for ‘An Independence from Europe’. AIE is a breakaway party from UKIP formed by former UKIP MEP Mike Nattrass who was deselected by UKIP. The party appears to have acted as a spoiler on UKIP, with it going to the top of the ballot as Britain’s ballots are alphabetically ordered (hence UKIP was near the bottom), winning on average 2% of the vote in the regions it stood in (it missed Wales and Scotland). We can assume that the vast majority of AIE voters would have voted UKIP had the party not existed. As such UKIP would have taken the Green seats in London and the South West.

The Lib Dems lost 10 seats, reduced to only a single MEP, Catherine Bearder, elected in the South East, which has the lowest effective threshold. In fairness to the party they always perform badly in European elections where the party’s pro-Europeanism is unpopular and where elected representatives are too distant to use the Lib Dems usual tactics of building a popular local representative. The regional system also means that in many regions the party had won one of the last seats in 2009, just clearing the effective threshold for representation. With the party’s collapse, the party fell below the effective thresholds and lost seats almost everywhere, including influential MEPs such as former ALDE leader Graham Watson in the South West, and Vice-President of the European Parliament, and key Tory defector Edward McMillan-Scott.

EP 2014: Largest party in Scotland by council area (source: Wikipedia)

Excellent maps of the European election result can be found on the Election-Data blog here.

Overall, the elections expose a new division in the UK, between London and the rest of the country. Labour’s strength in London exposes an increasing divide between it and the rest of England. This is apparent in public opinion data. For instance, on immigration most of the country very much favours more stringent immigration policy, but London tends to slightly favour immigration. Labour policies on the ‘cost-of-living crisis’ predominantly appeal in London where prices are highest. For instance, rent controls have little resonance in rural areas and small towns where rents are relatively low and home ownership is more typically the norm. Labour’s London strength is also because it is younger and multicultural. We can also see the Greens beginning to break through in London.

Labour also has its best machines in London, with estimates suggesting that a quarter of Labour’s membership resides in the capital. Labour has become a party of urban England, but a majority is unlikely to be won on London and Northern cities alone.

UKIP poses the party a big threat in smaller towns. The elections have put paid to the often touted lie that UKIP’s voters are universally former Conservative voters disenchanted with the coalition. UKIP is the representative of a vast social shift in Britain. The party won more votes, but also has a much loyal base. While the party’s European result includes a large number of ‘strategic defectors’ using the EP elections to say ‘no three times’ – to Westminster, to immigration and to Brussels, there are less than in previous years. Polls suggest that around 60% of UKIP’s voters will support it at the general election.

The Conservatives are broadly happy with their performance. The party lost to Labour in both elections, but only thinly by a few points. Polls also suggest it is only slightly behind Labour. This is a year before a general election. Typically the last year before an election sees movement towards the governing party. Economic confidence is quickly rising as the recovery is under way. The party will aim to put a squeeze on UKIP voters, who tend to prefer Cameron as Prime Minister to Ed Miliband and who may be persuadable to voting Conservative strategically to stop Miliband becoming PM.

Yet the party retains significant weaknesses amongst key voting demographics and in key regions of the country.

The Lib Dems have suffered yet another punishing result. Yet, in the results is a glimmer of hope that it will outperform its national swing in 2015, holding the majority of its seats.

Nonetheless, the party experienced an attempted coup against Nick Clegg on beginning the weekend after the election. A shadowy group called ‘LibDems4Change’ launched an e-petition calling for a leadership contest, and on the Sunday an unnamed Lib Dem leaked a poll to The Observer newspaper supposedly demonstrating that key seats were in danger of being lost unless Nick Clegg was replaced by the more left-leaning Business Secretary Vince Cable. On being released publically it was demonstrated that the poll had methodological issues (a debunking by the pollster Survation can be read here which shows that under ICM’s usual methodology the seats would have been held.)

The poll was later revealed to have been commissioned by Lord Oakeshott, a former Lib Dem Treasury spokesman from the early days of the Treasury who is known to be one of Cable’s closest friends. Cable rapidly distanced himself from Oakeshott, and Oakeshott resigned from the party and took a leave of absence from the Lords. Oakeshott’s coup attempt was widely viewed as incompetent and in a sense it may have strengthened Clegg by acting as a lightning rod for discontent before being defeated.

This is the last test of British public opinion before the 2015 general election, and the Scottish Independence referendum this September.

However, there is a by-election this Thursday, in the Conservative safe seat of Newark. UKIP is polling well.

Guest Post: Ireland 2014

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David J. Barrett contributed this excellent guest post covering the results of the European and local elections in Ireland

The Irish European and Local elections, along with two parliamentary by-elections, took place on May 23rd. They were the first truly major nationwide polling test of the Fine Gael-Labour coalition that took office in 2011, when the financial collapse and subsequent involvement of the IMF finally brought down the increasingly beleaguered Fianna Fáil-Green coalition.

Since the General Election

The new Fine Gael-Labour government, elected amidst a tidal wave of popular anger that brought Fianna Fáil, the largest party in the Irish state in every election from 1932, to third and behind both of the new coalition partners, had considerable good will towards it. Led by Enda Kenny, the long standing Fine Gael leader (since 2002) and a former Minister for Tourism, the government had a crushing parliamentary majority. There were indications that the government could prove fractious. Labour, a Social Democratic party, had largely campaigned against excessive cuts to public services, while Fine Gael, a Christian Democratic party, had made it very clear that they were in favour of implementing the proposed austerity budgets negotiated by their predecessors, even if they were not very happy with it. The final coalition agreement, while containing commitments to several socially liberal reforms that pleased Labour, largely followed the Fine Gael line on the economy.

The government has trumpeted its economic success. Unemployment has fallen steadily (but remains very high), Ireland has left the bailout program and its bonds are no longer rated as ‘junk’. However little of this has, or is expected to, reach the general public. Emigration, particularly to Britain and Australia, remains enormous. Taxes are now among Europe’s highest, public services are rated as mediocre at best compared to other European countries and, most importantly, there is absolutely no sign that anything other than tax increases and budget cuts will be on the cards at all for at least another ten years, making it hard for the public to feel optimistic for an economic recovery that is unlikely to benefit them at all.

Inevitably therefore, this enormous popularity was not to last, and the government as its term has gone on has suffered increasing domestic setbacks. They were most obviously felt by Labour, which began to suffer enormously from (effectively) conceding the economy to Fine Gael. While immediately following the General Election Labour won both the Presidential election and a by-election in Dublin West – the constituency held by the Labour Deputy Leader Joan Burton – the party has increasingly suffered from defections and resignations the longer it has been in government. In November 2011 – six months after taking office – popular junior minister Willie Penrose had resigned from the party over the relocation of an army barracks in his constituency. He was followed one month later by the resignations of two backbenchers over the austerity proposed in the budget, with one the resignations being Patrick Nulty – the newly elected deputy for Dublin West. In September 2012 another junior minister, Roisin Shortall, a senior party figure who was considered a strong contender for a cabinet post, resigned from the party and government over disagreements with the Fine Gael Minister for Health James Reilly following perceived favouritism of his constituency in health resource allocation. In December of that year another backbencher resigned over the budget, eventually joining Fianna Fáil, and in June 2013 MEP Nessa Childers resigned as well, saying that she “no longer wanted to support a Government that is actually hurting people”.  Throughout all of this time the party suffered the loss of a steady stream of local councillors, most of whom resigning from the party with issues of the support of the party leadership for austerity.

Labour’s poll rating fell steadily, from roughly the 19% it received in the general election of 2011 to 9-10% by 2014, and a clear fourth place in the polls, behind Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin. In March 2013 the party suffered a crushing defeat in the Meath East by-election – a largely commuter belt constituency where the party had received 21% in 2011 – winning a mere 4.6% of the vote. In spite of all of this Labour’s woes were certainly not the biggest challenge facing the government.

Kenny, having survived a challenge to his leadership in 2010 by his Deputy Leader Richard Bruton, began to surround himself with those figures in Fine Gael who stood by him in that time, and appointed all of them to senior cabinet posts. Unfortunately, it was these figures that began to cause the government the most trouble. A referendum on Children’s Rights that passed in 2012 still has not been signed into law because the Minister for Children used departmental money to promote the referendum – which is unconstitutional in Ireland and resulted in a legal challenge to its validity. Environment Minister Phil Hogan was responsible for the implementation of water and property taxes nationwide, which has made him a lightning rod for public anger. Health Minister and Fine Gael Deputy Leader James Reilly, in addition to negative press over favouring his constituency, has been plagued by a series of news reports discussing cost overruns in his department and for his botched removal of certain medical cards (which provide free medical care to needy groups, such as pensioners, those in poverty and certain chronic illnesses), with his department supposedly taking cards away from individuals with terminal cancer and down syndrome on the basis that they were unneeded. Furthermore his flagship policy – free medical care for children under six, has proven surprisingly unpopular as people perceive the money for it to be taken off other aspects of the health service.

However it was Justice Minister Alan Shatter that caused the most problems. While widely respected as an excellent legislator and an advocate for liberal reforms such as the legalisation of divorce early on in his career, he is also regarded as arrogant and difficult to work with. A scandal erupted in February 2014 involving the bugging of the Gardai Siochana Ombudsman Commission, the body responsible for investigating claims of malpractice by members of the police service, with equipment sophisticated enough that they had to have come from another government agency. Following this and allegations made about police malpractice Shatter and the Garda (Police) Commissioner were forced to resign only a little over three weeks before the elections were due to take place.

However it was not only the government that was suffering problems. Both of the main opposition parties had issues going into the election campaign. On the 30th of April 2014 the leader of Sinn Féin (SF), a left wing and nationalist party with historic links to the IRA, was arrested for involvement with the murder of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of ten, in Belfast in 1972. McConville was ‘disappeared’ by the IRA for being thought to be a British informer, but was subsequently posthumously acquitted. Adams has long been linked to the murder but has never been formally connected to it until new evidence emerged from an oral history of the Northern Ireland conflict conducted in Boston College, Massachusetts. While he was released without charges brought against him three days later it was thought that this would remind people of SF’s past, and bring its association with conflict back into the minds of voters. However it did not notably impact on the polls.

Fianna Fáil (FF), a centrist party with populist leanings, also had problems with the past after it emerged that Mary Hanafin, a former Deputy Leader of the party and cabinet minister who was defeated in the 2011 election wipeout, had been nominated to contest the local elections in Blackrock, an affluent suburb in the south of Dublin. While the party initially denied it, and said that she was running on her own, it transpired that she had received the necessary paperwork from the party general secretary to be a party candidate. This caused quite a degree of anger, as Hanafin was strongly associated with the last FF government, which FF was trying to distance itself from. Eventually the party compromised by saying that they were only acknowledging the other candidate as an official candidate. It should be noted though that despite the huge news coverage this provoked, the party quite quietly ran several other former deputies defeated in 2011, such as Charlie O’Connor in Tallaght, a working-class Dublin suburb, and Margaret Conlon in Monaghan, a rural county on the border with Northern Ireland.

In addition to the regularly scheduled local and European elections two by-elections were also held. The first was held for the tragic death of Nicky McFadden, a Fine Gael deputy for the rural midlands constituency of Longford-Westmeath, of Motor Neuron disease. The second was held following the resignation of Patrick Nulty, elected as a Labour deputy but now an independent, in Dublin West, a working class commuter belt constituency. Nulty himself was elected in a by-election earlier on this parliamentary term, and resigned over inappropriate messages sent to constituents over Facebook.

The Campaign, candidates and elections in Ireland

Ireland uses PR-STV to count elections. This is a proportional system where voters rank candidates, and not parties, in the order of their preference – eliminating the bottom ranked candidates and distributing their preferences until all of the seats are filled (more details can be found on Wikipedia) . Ballot papers are often very long.

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The Dublin ballot paper for the European parliament election

Election campaigns in Ireland are highly personalistic. The single best thing that politicians can do to win votes is regarded as knocking on people’s doors and personally meeting them (called canvassing). Parties put up posters, giving their candidates, and rarely their party, prominence on every lamppost (a selection are on the right and left).

From top to bottom, local election candidates in the Rathgar-Rathmines ward in Dublin – Mary Freehill from Labour, Patrick Costello from the Green Party and Paddy Smyth from Fine Gael. All were elected.

From top to bottom, local election candidates in the Rathgar-Rathmines ward in Dublin – Mary Freehill from Labour, Patrick Costello from the Green Party and Paddy Smyth from Fine Gael. All were elected.

For European elections profile is considered crucial however, as the constituencies are considered far too large for canvassing. The parties therefore place great care on who they nominate. There are three constituencies for the European Parliament – the three-seater Dublin, South, a four seater containing most areas south of the capital, including Ireland’s second city of Cork. Midlands-North West, another four-seater, contained the central rural counties, the border with Northern Ireland and most of the Western seaboard.

In Dublin Fine Gael nominated Brian Hayes, a prominent junior minister. Labour nominated their incumbent MEP Emer Costello, a replacement for the previous elected MEP, and Fianna Fáil nominated local councillor Mary Fitzpatrick, who was well known for her acrimonious relationship with former Taoiseach Berie Ahern, and was widely regarded as having her election hopes in 2007 personally sabotaged by him in spite of them being on the same party ticket. FF evidently hoped that nominating someone with such a clear association against the old party leadership would stand to them. SF however nominated the almost completely unknown Lynn Boylan, an ecologist. For the minor parties the far-left Socialist Party nominated its sitting MEP Paul Murphy, who replaced party leader Joe Higgins upon his election to parliament. The Green Party nominated party leader Eamon Ryan, a former cabinet minister now without a seat in parliament following their collapse, and People Before Profit, a minor Trotskyist umbrella group, nominated local councillor Brid Smith. Among the more notable independent for the area was MEP Nessa Childers, formerly of Labour. Polls indicated that Boylan and Hayes would take the first two seats for Dublin, with the final seat competitive between all other candidates, with Fitzpatrick, Childers and Ryan being somewhat ahead of Costello, Murphy and Smith.

In South Fine Gael nominated outgoing MEP Sean Kelly, Senator Deirdre Clune, member of a political dynasty in Cork, and deputy Simon Harris, based just south of Dublin. Fianna Fáil nominated immensely popular incumbent Brian Crowley, a socially conservative figure, and Kieran Hartley, an anti-pylon campaigner. Labour nominated incumbent Phil Prendergast, who was expected to struggle, and SF nominated Liadh Ní Riada, the party’s Irish language officer, who has never previously run for office. The other candidates were the Green’s Grace O’Sullivan, a Greenpeace activist, and independent Diarmaid O’Flynn. Crowley was considered almost certain to be the biggest vote winner nationally, and Kelly and Ní Riada also considered certain to be elected. The last seat was considered to be an internal battle between Fine Gael’s Clune and Harris.

More Local and European posters – from top: Brian Hayes, the Fine Gael candidate for MEP for Dublin, Frank Kennedy, a FF local candidate in the Pembroke-South Dock ward in Dublin, Claire Byrne, a Green candidate in the same ward, and Paul Murphy, the sitting Socialist MEP for Dublin. All bar Murphy were elected.

More Local and European posters – from top: Brian Hayes, the Fine Gael candidate for MEP for Dublin, Frank Kennedy, a FF local candidate in the Pembroke-South Dock ward in Dublin, Claire Byrne, a Green candidate in the same ward, and Paul Murphy, the sitting Socialist MEP for Dublin. All bar Murphy were elected.

In the sprawling Midlands-North West Fine Gael nominated their outgoing MEPs Mairead McGuinness and Jim Higgins, FF nominated outgoing MEP Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher and Senator Thomas Byrne. SF nominated Monaghan councillor Matt Carthy, Labour ran long-shot candidate Senator Lorraine Higgins and the Greens ran former senator Mark Dearey. Additionally a number of independents ran in the region, ensuring a lively contest there. Outgoing independent MEP Marian Harkin, regarded as a centrist, ran to hold her seat. Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan (nicknamed such because of his supposed resemblance to supervillain Ming the Merciless), a deputy for Roscommon and an eccentric figure in Irish politics, ran on a Eurosceptic platform that criticised EU protection of bogs and marshes (as in rural Ireland they are often dug up for fuel). In Ireland however he is best known for his advocation of the legalisation of cannabis. Additionally independent Senator Ronan Mullen was a candidate. He is well known for his vociferous opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. Most polls agreed that McGuinness and Carthy were certainties, and that Flanagan was polling competitively, and would be in the reckoning with Gallagher and Harkin for the final two seats.

In the Dublin West by-election most candidates were the same as the last by-election in the area, and were local councillors. The seat was regarded as competitive between FF and the minor Socialist Party, which has a strong base in the area. The Longford-Westmeath by-election had Fine Gael nominate the sister of the deceased deputy, and FF nominated the son of a former deputy for the area, both hoping to capitalise on dynastic goodwill in the area. The seat was regarded as competitive between the pair of them, with Labour and SF far behind.

While both Martin Schultz (the PES candidate for EU commission president) and Ska Keller (the Green candidate for the same post) did campaign in Dublin, Irish voters would be forgiven for not knowing this, seeing as it received no news coverage. The campaigns stayed remarkably parochial and focused on local concerns that had little to do with the European parliament, the most notable of which was the Socialist Party renaming itself as the ‘Stop the Water Tax-Socialist Party’ for the election (creating the amusing situation in Ireland of the far-left campaigning against water and property taxes which the right does not oppose), which is something that the European Parliament has no power over.

It was widely expected in the local elections that Labour would do very badly, although some of the worst damage might be mitigated due to local government reforms. Environment Minister Hogan stipulated that all local wards must have at least six seats, which meant that many wards were merged. He also tried to address the population imbalance of local councillors, which meant taking seats away from rural areas and giving them to urban ones, and particularly Dublin, where most of Labour’s seats are. He also increased the overall number of councillors in compensation for the abolition of town councils, a largely powerless layer of local government just below the county councils that the election was for.

For the local elections the ward of Ballybay-Clones, in Monaghan, has not voted yet owing to the death of one of the local councillors in the polling station, so there are six more seats to be filled.

Results

European Parliament

Turnout: 52.44% (-6.2%)
MEPs: 11 (-1) in 3 multi-member constutiencies
Electoral system: STV

Fianna Fáil (ALDE) 22.3% (-1.8) – 1 (-2)
Fine Gael (EPP) 22.3% (-6.8) – 4 (nc)
Sinn Féin (GUE-NGL) 19.5% (+8.3) – 3 (+3)
Labour (PES) 5.3% (-8.6) – 0 (-3)
Green Party (G-EFA) 4.9% (+3) – 0 (nc)
Socialist Party (GUE-NGL) – 1.8% (-0.9) – 0 (-1)
People Before Profit – 1.5% (+1.5) – 0 (nc)
Independents and others – 22.4% (+10.9) – 3 (+2)

Full count details available at ElectionsIreland.org.

Local elections

Fianna Fáil – 25.3% (-0.1) – 266 (+48)
Fine Gael – 24.0% (-8.2) – 232 (-108)
Sinn Féin – 15.2% (+7.8) – 157 (+103)
Labour – 7.2% (-7.5) – 51 (-81)
Green Party – 1.6% (-0.7) – 12 (+9)
People Before Profit – 1.7% (+0.8) – 14 (+9)
Socialist Party – 1.3% (+0.4) – 14 (+10)
Independents and Others – 23.7% (+7.4) – 198 (+69)

Newly elected Green councillor Claire Byrne made quite a good series of graphics for each local election result, helping to visualise the process of a PR-STV count for those who are not used to it.

The results of both the Local and European elections were catastrophic for the government. Both governmental parties performed worse than any poll predicted. Labour’s dreadful showing was both predicted and still shocking for the party. It was not even competitive for a European seat – with all three of their candidates going out of the count very early on. However it was in the local elections that Labour’s nightmare became clear.

Labour had long been relying on a local vote for its councillors – counting on its local members being much more popular than the party nationally and therefore able to withstand the pressure of the electorate, much like FF were hoping in the 2011 General Election. Like FF, they were bitterly disappointed. An initial early projection had the party winning as few as 39 seats nationally based on an exit poll, and early indications seemed to bear that out, with initial expectations suggesting that the party may elect as few as three members on Dublin City Council, where they had 18 outgoing councillors. The final results were somewhat better, as the party scraped through to hold a number of seats by narrow margins, with eight survivors in Dublin City. Nonetheless, their result was appalling. The party was reduced to only two seats from 86 in Cork City and county – an area where they have four parliamentary deputies – and were entirely eradicated in Cork City and Waterford City. In Wicklow, a commuter county south of Dublin that was a long-time stronghold for Labour, the party won no seats and only 3% of the vote. In working class Dublin the party was nearly totally obliterated. It returned only one councillor with a constituency average of 13% within Dublin South Central, a very deprived area where the party won 35% and two members of parliament in 2011. It went from 28% in the General Election to 11%, and no councillors, in Dublin Central – where the Minister for International Development has his seat.

The party held up somewhat better in middle class areas and in some of their more rural strongholds, although even here success could be measured in holding seats rather than gaining them. It still won 18% in the Dublin Bay South constituency, which contains mostly wealthy and well educated professionals and is a stronghold for socially liberal politics. The party sensationally held on to a seat in Clontarf – a middle class suburb without the more bohemian elements that characterise Dublin Bay South that the party has had difficulty winning even on good days. In the wealthy suburbs to the south of Dublin City, in Dun Laoighaire-Rathdown, the party only lost one seat on the whole council to leave them with seven. In their rural strongholds in the South-East of the country the party also had credible performances. In rural Carlow and Kilkenny, the party won 13% and 11% of the vote – more than sufficient to hold their parliamentary representation there, and the party clung to representation in rural Wexford and Waterford (where, as already mentioned, their heavy losses were actually in Waterford City, where they should do much better). The party is starting to resemble the Liberal Democrats in Britain – with strength in certain rural pockets and among the liberal middle class, and not among the working class that they claim to represent.

Fine Gael’s election was also awful – although somewhat disguised by how badly Labour did and the fact that they held all four of their European seats. No poll had the party coming in second, and the party’s losses in some areas were quite severe. The party failed to return representation in Dublin South Central (which may be becoming a government blackspot) and also suffered heavy losses in Donegal, a border county in the North that always feels as though the government is treating it badly, and Mayo, the constituency of the Taoiseach Enda Kenny – where his brother came extremely close to losing his council seat. What seems to have hurt the party most is extremely poor candidate strategies at local level. The party seemed to be planning on the basis that they would perform much better than polls predicted that they would – and not worse. Apparently the party was planning on an electoral bounce from leaving the bailout program that never actually materialised. In Bray for instance, a Dublin commuter town, the party ran three candidates and only had one electoral quota between them – almost causing the party return no representative there.

By contrast in Europe and the by-elections the party has reason to be pleased, in spite of the defeat of long-time MEP Jim Higgins. In spite of finishing about 400 votes behind FF in the national vote total it won four seats to the one won by its great rival. It achieved this by good vote management and candidate selection. Its lone candidate in Dublin, junior minister Brian Hayes, polled better than the party did in the local elections, and scraped in, probably on his high profile. While Jim Higgins was defeated in Midlands-North West Mairead McGuinness won quite easily there, and in South the party managed to get both Kelly and Clune elected with significantly fewer votes than FF – who only won one seat there. They managed this by having a fairly even split between their candidates, meaning that they tended to avoid being eliminated early in the count. Additionally the party held Longford-Westmeath fairly easily, making this the third time out of four the government has won a by-election (before this parliamentary term no government had won or held a seat in a by-election since 1982).

FF’s feelings about their result are probably mixed. On the one hand it is clearly the largest party in local government again. On the other hand the party has legitimate reason to be disappointed. It actually lost votes on its last, awful, local election performance and many of its gains could be attributed to how badly Fine Gael and Labour did than by a popular mandate for FF. What the party has most reason to be pleased about was its modest recovery in Dublin, where the party currently has no parliamentary representation and where its decline was starting to look terminal. It placed second in the Dublin West by-election – easily ahead of both government parties and it took nine seats on Dublin City Council and came second, and won a seat in all bar one ward on the City Council (which was more than either Fine Gael or Labour managed on either count). Both Hanafin and the ‘official’ party candidate won in Blackrock despite the controversy of her candidature, which clearly did not hurt the party, and is one more seat than the party had any reason to expect in the ward. It is the largest party on numerous councils that are very different from each other, from republican and border county Donegal to prosperous Dublin commuter belt in Kildare. More disappointingly, the party failed to win long-time strongholds like Kerry and Galway, and placed second in the Longford-Westmeath by-election – which is usually reasonable territory for them. Nonetheless, the party has, since the 2004 local elections, lost 164 county council seats, with 84 gone in 2009 alone. This gain of 48 seats in no way compensates for this loss. The party still has a long way to go towards complete recovery, but it may have stopped the rot.

In Europe however the party has most reason to be disappointed. In spite of actually winning the largest number of votes nationally, it only won a single seat – that of Brian Crowley in South. This places it behind both Fine Gael and SF. The reason for this can be seen in awful strategy and vote management. Their candidate in Dublin actually placed third on the first count, but was overtaken by both the Greens and independent MEP Nessa Childers as the count went on, and placed fifth. While certainly a credible performance that has placed their candidate well for a parliamentary seat when the next general election is called, they will still be disappointed with the result. In South Crowley seems to have refused to share his vote or engaged in any kind of disciplined constituency split that Fine Gael undertook, causing the party to lose a seat that, by all rights and even by vote share, they should have won. This is a problem the party has had before at parliamentary level, with former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and cabinet minister Willie O’Dea running away with astronomical vote totals, only to leave the other party candidates in the dust with far too few votes to win a seat. However it is Midlands-North West that is most bitter for the party. In spite of polls always showing that it was possible and the insistence of the MEP Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher that his seat was in no way secure, the party still seemed shocked when he lost the final seat by a mere 275 votes. While the constituency was undoubtedly crowded with lots of strong candidates, it seems to have been a huge error to run two candidates – allowing Marian Harkin to assemble a strong lead on early eliminations that transpired to be, just about, unassailable. The party needs to have a long, hard look at its strategy. It lost two seats which it had the votes for – one because it could not impose a constituency division or vote split on a sitting MEP, another because it could, but the ensuing vote split meant that their lead candidate had just too much ground to make up.

Sinn Féin is, understandably, delighted at its result and is certainly the clear winner of the election. All three of its European candidates won and won well, including coming first in Dublin. On Dublin City Council only two of its candidates failed to be elected. The party is now without seats in only four wards across the whole Dublin area – and it was unlucky to fail to win in Rathgar-Rathmines. The party finally achieved its breakthrough across middle class Dublin. It topped the poll in Dundrum, considered the epitome of prosperous south Dublin. It won a seat in Killiney, a haunt for old money where Bono lives. It won a seat too in Pembroke-South Dock in another poll-topping performance – the ward containing Ireland’s most expensive addresses and embassy row. In working class area its results were stunning even to the party itself, and it could have won several more seats if it had actually run more candidates in those areas. For instance in exurban and working class Tallaght South the party won over 50% of the vote – which could easily have it won it three or even four of the ward’s six seats, but it only ran two candidates. In Clondalkin, a similar ward, the party had more than three vote quotas between its two candidates. Very unexpectedly, the party placed first on the first count in the Dublin West by-election. Dublin West, in spite of it being largely working class, has always been considered a bad area for the party with the local strength of the Socialist Party, and while the party placed third in the by-election in the end, it is well placed for the future.

Outside of Dublin its performance could be considered good rather than spectacular. It placed a clear third in the Longford-Westmeath by-election, and failed to win the very republican counties of Kerry and Donegal, which on the back of such a strong showing it should have been more competitive in. Nonetheless the party had clear successes. It beat the Labour Party into fourth place in Galway City – where it had previously had no representation. The party placed second in Cork City, with eight seats and clearly ahead of Fine Gael. It won seats in every ward in rural Limerick – one of their worst areas nationally historically. On the back of this kind of performance there are very few areas where SF could fail to be at least competitive in a general election, and the other parties know it. Indeed their rhetoric towards the party has noticeably softened since the results, hinting that they would be willing to consider coalition with them.

It was a good election all round for the three main small parties – the Green Party, the Socialist Party and People Before Profit. The Greens only narrowly missed a European seat in Dublin, and its candidates in other regions performed credibly. While its vote in the local election fell this was because it ran much fewer candidates than last time, and it won twelve seats, a gain of nine. This included a poll-topping performance Rathgar-Rathmines in Dublin – the first time the party has headed any poll anywhere since 1999. It should be noted however that nine of the party’s seats are in the greater Dublin area, including Wicklow, and those that are not are personal fiefdoms in Dundalk and Kilkenny that the party had held even in 2009. It missed seats in Galway and Cork with good candidates, and it must be noted that even their Dublin seats tend to be in areas where the party had won before their collapse. The party seems to have bounced back to where it was before, and it would need to do quite a bit better than this local performance to win any parliamentary seats – but, like FF, it remains on track for recovery.

The Socialists had a mixed day. On the one hand they won the Dublin West by-election and took fourteen council seats, a real breakthrough. On the other hand they lost their European seat in Dublin fairly easily. Taking the by-election sets up their winning candidate Ruth Coppinger to succeed their long-time parliamentarian Joe Higgins, who is retiring, as the Socialist voice in Dublin West. It was always going to be difficult holding the European seat without Higgins as a candidate and, indeed, no poll had the co-opted MEP Paul Murphy as truly competitive for it. The local result was very good. In addition to its usual sweep of council seats in its Dublin West stronghold the party took a seat on Dublin City Council for the first time, and had a breakthrough outside of Dublin –winning three seats in Cork City and three in Limerick.

People Before Profit had similar reason to be pleased. Unlike the Socialists, it never expected to be competitive for Europe so polling well, even if not well enough for a seat, was a pleasant surprise. The party did quite well in the Dublin area – wiping Labour out in Dun Laoghaire ward, the personal base of de-facto party leader Richard Boyd-Barrett, and winning three seats in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown council – and only very narrowly losing two other seats to Labour in the area. It also broke through on the other Dublin councils. In Dublin City Council it won five seats – including its first seats on the North side of the city that it usually unofficially ceded to the Socialists. It won fourteen seats overall. Like the Socialists this sets them up to have a full parliamentary delegation come the next general election.

One of the big news stories of the contest though was the success of independent candidates. In Europe their success was particularly high profile. Nessa Childers held her seat in the European Parliament, in spite of moving constituency to Dublin. Europe may too need to get used to Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, who did very well in Midlands-North West and took the first seat, and Marian Harkin held off FF to win the last seat in the area. At local level too independents were successful, increasing their representation on virtually all councils. Many independents elected are associated with particular independent parliamentarians, and so resemble a kind of unofficial local party, with such organisations being quite prominent in Kerry, where there are two of them, in Kildare and in Waterford – all places with strong independent deputies. Additionally many councillors formerly members of Labour had spectacularly good elections, placing ahead of the official candidates of the party they left. In spite of the generally good results some of the more established local independents and minor parties did quite badly though. The ‘Lowry Group’ in Tipperary, associated with former Fine Gael Minister Michael Lowry who is under a seemingly never-ending corruption investigation – only returned three councillors. The long established ‘Gregory Group’ in Dublin’s North Inner City did not return any official group candidate – although a former group member was elected as an independent. United Left, a micro-left party associated with two far-left parliamentarians that were connected to the Socialists and People Before Profit before, only elected one councillor.

It is probably foolish to talk of independents as one group. Many of the rural independents are about as far removed from the left-wing urban independents as it is possible to be in the Irish political space – but many of these candidates will certainly poll well in a general election, and win seats.

Aftermath                                                                                                                                                                

The most immediate consequence of the election was the resignation of Labour’s leader Eamon Gilmore, who resigned rather than be ousted by a group of panicked parliamentarians. Virtually every member of his parliamentary party has announced that they are running for either leader or deputy leader and, whoever wins, is likely to be much more combative than Gilmore over government economic policy. Depending on who it is and what they demand from Fine Gael, this could destabilise the government enough to cause it fall.

Fine Gael, too has been shaken. The party was under the illusion that FF was now so tainted that it could nearly win by default. That is clearly not the case. The party now knows that it will need to fight hard to win a second term in government – something never before achieved by the party. FF, for its part, knows that it may yet have a chance of re-entering government, stabilising nerves.

If SF remain coalition poison, which is becoming less likely but still present for the parties, and independents do as well as this, only a coalition of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil is likely to be mathematically possible after the next election, something that is likely to finish the junior partner in that alliance utterly. It seems likely that Ireland is entering a period with no truly large parties, and no real political stability.

South Africa 2014

In the next three weeks, expect posts (time depending) on the EU, India, Colombia, Ukraine and Belgium. I am still welcoming any contributions from readers who wish to help out with the coverage of this avalanche of elections by submitting guest posts.

National and provincial legislative elections were held in South Africa on May 7, 2014. All 400 members of the National Assembly, the lower house of the Parliament of South Africa, and all members of South Africa’s nine provincial legislatures (a total of 430 seats) were up for reelection.

This post on the South African election is my longest one yet – it is meant to complete the relevant sections of my incomplete pre-election Guide. Good reading!

Electoral system

I covered South Africa’s political system in extensive detail in the first section of my (unfortunately) incomplete Guide, with details on the electoral system and constitutional framework.

South Africa’s system of government may be defined as being a parliamentary system, but it has elements which make it a hybrid between a parliamentary and presidential system.

The National Assembly, the lower house, is made up of 400 directly-elected MPs who serve a five-year term and are elected by closed-list proportional representation. Voters cast a vote for a party in the national election, but the allocation process once votes have been cast is fairly complex. In theory, half of the seats are filled from regional lists and the other half is filled from a party’s national list, although parties are under no obligation to submit both regional lists and a national list. In the first stage of allocation, the seats in each province are apportioned according to the largest remainder method. In each region (province), a quota of votes per seat is determined by dividing the total number of votes cast in the region by the number of regional seats, plus one (the Electoral Commission determines the number of seats allocated to each province before the election). The result plus one, disregarding fractions, becomes the quota of votes per seat for the region. To determine how many seats each party will receive in the region, its total number of votes is divided by the quota of votes per seat. This will produce a whole number, which is the number of seats initially allocated to the party, and a surplus. Once this calculation is performed, the sum of allocated seats is obtained. If this total is smaller than the number of regional seats, unallocated seats are awarded to the parties according to the descending order of their remainders. The seat distributions from all provinces are aggregated at the national level, to obtain the number of regional list seats allocated to each party.

The second stage begins with the proportional distribution of all 400 seats in the National Assembly. A quota of votes per seat is again determined by dividing the total number of votes cast across the nation by the number of seats in the National Assembly, plus one. The result plus one, disregarding fractions, becomes the quota of votes per seat. To determine the number of seats each party will receive, its total number of votes is divided by the quota of votes per seat. This will produce a whole number, which is the number of seats initially allocated to the party, and a surplus. Once this calculation is performed for all parties, the sum of allocated seats is obtained. If this total is smaller than the number of seats in the National Assembly, unallocated seats are awarded to the parties according to the descending order of their remainders, up to a maximum of five seats. Any remaining seats are awarded to the parties following the descending order of their average number of votes per allocated seats.

The regional list seats are then subtracted from the total number of seats allocated to that party’s list, and the remaining seats are filled by the candidates on the national list in the order determined before the election. In the event a party does not present a national list, the seats allocated to it at the national level are filled from its regional lists.

The upper house, the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), is made up of 90 members, with each of South Africa’s nine provinces sending a single delegation made up of ten members. Six of the ten delegates are ‘permanent delegates’, serving for the duration of the legislature and elected by the provincial legislatures, proportionally in accordance to the strength of the parties represented in the provincial legislature. The other four delegates are ‘special delegates’ – the provincial Premier, and three other special delegates elected by the provincial legislature, again proportionally to each party’s strength. The special delegates rotate based on the matter being discussed by the NCOP. According to the Constitution, while the National Assembly “is elected to represent the people and to ensure government by the people” (Section 42.3), the NCOP represents the provinces, “to ensure that provincial interests are taken into account in the national sphere of government” (Section 42.4).

Except where the Constitution provides otherwise, the NCOP’s members vote as delegations, with each province having one vote and the vote is carried with five provinces voting in favour. Legally, a delegation must vote in accordance with a mandate approved by the provincial legislature it represents. On ordinary bills not affecting the provinces, the NCOP votes individually, each delegate having one vote.

The National Assembly has full legislative powers on most matters, and its members as well as Ministers and Deputy Ministers, may introduce any piece of legislation. The NCOP considers ordinary bills not affecting the provinces and it may approve it, amend it or reject it but the National Assembly can pass the bill again with a regular majority. The NCOP has significant power on legislation affecting the provinces (Section 76 bills), with the power to introduce a certain category of such legislation (Section 76.3 bills) and it must approve all Section 76 bills. If there is a disagreement on a Section 76 bill, it is sent to a Mediation Committee which then produces a compromise bill which is sent to both houses; if that bill has originated in the National Assembly, the National Assembly has the power to override NCOP opposition and the Mediation Committee (but with a two-thirds majority). The NCOP must also approve some constitutional amendments (amendments to Chapter 1, the Bill of Rights or any amendment dealing with the NCOP or provinces), in such cases, the amendment requires a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly (three-fourths for amendments to Chapter 1) and the support of six out of nine provinces in the NCOP.

The President of South Africa is the head of state and government and is elected by the members of the National Assembly at its first sitting. The President may not serve more than two terms, and he may be removed from office with a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly (for ‘a serious violation of the Constitution or the law’, ‘serious misconduct’ and ‘inability to perform the functions of office’). The National Assembly may pass, with a regular majority, a motion of no confidence in the President. If carried, the entire cabinet and the President must resign. The President assents to and signs bills, refers bills to the National Assembly for reconsideration (if he/she so chooses) and chooses members of the cabinet.

South Africa has nine provinces with significant devolved powers and their own provincial legislatures and Premier, a framework similar to that of the national government (except that legislatures are unicameral). The provincial legislatures, which consist of between 30 and 80 members – the exact number of seats, except for the Western Cape, is set by the IEC based on provincial populations, are elected by closed-list proportional representation (largest remainder method). The provincial Premier is elected by the provincial legislature, and appoints a cabinet (Executive Council). Concurrent powers shared between both levels of government include, among others, agriculture, environment, health services, housing, public transport, tourism and trade. Exclusive provincial powers include local archives, libraries, museums, provincial planning, provincial cultural matters and provincial roads and traffic. The provincial executives are responsible for implementing provincial and appropriate national legislation, administering national legislation, developing and implementing provincial policy and preparing and initiating provincial legislation. The national Parliament, may, however, under certain circumstances, intervene in exclusive provincial powers.

Registration and voting is voluntary. All South African citizens over the age of 16 with a valid identity document may register to vote, although only registered voters above the age of 18 are eligible to vote. Elections for all levels of government are managed by the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC), a chapter nine independent state institution.

20 years of democracy (and ANC rule)

South Africa’s 2014 general election, the fifth since 1994, is a landmark election in the country’s young democracy. 2014 marks the twentieth anniversary of multi-racial democracy – the first free elections open to all races were held on April 27, 1994. 2014 is the first election in which the “born-free” generation – young South Africans born after the end of apartheid (1994) – are eligible to vote. 2014 is the first election to be held after the death, in December 2013, of South Africa’s first black President, the legendary Nelson Mandela.

Since 1994, South Africa has been a one-party dominant system ruled by the African National Congress (ANC), the historic liberation movement. The ANC has won every election since 1994 with over 62% of the vote, peaking at 69.7% in 2004 and winning 65.9% in the most recent election, in 2009. The ANC also governs eight of South Africa’s nine provinces and all of the country’s major cities, except for Cape Town.

Much can be said – good and bad – about the ANC’s record in the last twenty years, and a lot depends on one’s perspective. It is important to recognize both the good and the bad which has come with 20 years of ANC rule in South Africa.

South Africa is now a liberal democracy, with a constitution which is often said to be one of the most progressive constitutions in the world – especially thanks to its Bill of Rights. Although two decades of ANC rule have eroded the independence of independent institutions and has hampered Parliament’s constitutional mandate to hold the government accountable to the people, South Africa remains an electoral democracy with free and fair regular elections. Despite cases of judicial and political misconduct, South Africa’s judiciary remains independents and the courts have rendered judgements against the government or its policies. Even if impunity for corruption remains a huge problem, a number of politicians – including members of the ANC – have been convicted and served prison time for corruption. Since 1994, the courts’ interpretation of the Bill of Rights have resulted in landmark judicial decisions, which notably abolished capital punishment (1995), upheld the country’s liberal abortion laws (1998) and ordered the legalization of same-sex marriage (2005). The Constitution guarantees a wide range of freedoms, including the freedom of speech, assembly, freedom and security of the person and conscience; these rights are generally respected and protected in practice. Although the public broadcaster, the SABC, is often accussed of being biased in favour of the ANC, South Africa has a large array of private media sources which may often be critical of the government and investigate corruption scandals. The country has a vibrant civil society with a large number of NGOs and community organizations which can be influential on government policy.

Above all, institutionalized racism is a thing of the past. All South Africans – regardless of their race/ethnicity – have the right to vote, live and work wherever they wish, move freely across the country, love and marry who they want, engage in political activities unimpeded, protest the government within the limits of the law and are equal before and under the law. Races mix and intermingle freely, especially in the middle-class suburbs of urban centres.It is a lasting and significant achievement, whose importance should not be downplayed. Nevertheless, twenty years is a short period of time to erase the legacy of hundreds of years of segregation and racism from popular culture, individual mindsets, society, the economy and politics. Racial antagonisms, stereotypes or misconceptions remain deeply rooted in individual mindsets, meaning that the slogan of a ‘rainbow nation’ remains far more of a dream than a reality.

It is clear that poverty, inequality, unemployment and high criminality remain huge and daunting challenges for South Africa and it is also clear that the ANC has failed on a number of fronts in tackling these issues adequately. Nevertheless, it is necessary to recognize that there have been significant improvements in the standard of living of many South Africans. According to the World Bank, the percentage of the population living below the national poverty line declined from 31% in 1995 to 23% in 2006. According to a recent publication by Stats SA, the percentage of people living under the upper-bound poverty line declined from 57% to 45.5% between 2006 and 2011. Between 1996 and 2011, according to the respective censuses, the percentage of the population (20+) with no schooling declined from 19% to 8.6% while the population who had graduated Grade 12 and/or had higher education increased from 23.4% to 40.7%. The percentage of formal housing increased from 65% to 77.6% in the same time period, and more houses gained access to piped water (61% to 73%), flush toilets (49% to 57%), electricity for lighting (58% to 85%) and basic household amenities.

Since 1994, a black middle-class has emerged – a much larger number of black South Africans now attend universities alongside white students, live in historically lily-white middle-class suburbs and hold professional or managerial positions in the economy, although major racial inequalities remain in the makeup of the country’s moneyed elites and economic power-holders. Although blacks remain significantly poorer and more disadvantaged than whites and other racial minorities, many have nevertheless seen their standards of living improve in the past 20 years.

A reason for the increase in the standards of living and a decrease in the poverty of the South African population, especially the black majority, has been the social grants created by ANC governments. In 2011, about 15 million South Africans received social grants.

Homicide rates in the RSA  since 1995 (source: UNODC)

Homicide rates in the RSA since 1995 (source: UNODC)

South Africa remains one of the world’s most violent and crime-ridden societies, with a homicide rate of 31.1 in 2012/2013 according to police (SAPS) statistics – representing a total of over 16,000 murders in twelve months. Other crimes are extremely common as well – according to the SAPS’s latest crime statistics, the other most common types of crime included theft, burglaries in residential premises, drug-related crimes and assault. South Africa is tragically notorious for very high levels of sexual violence – the SAPS reported over 66,000 sexual offences in 2012/2013 (an extremely high rate, representing 127 per 100,000 inhabitants) and everything indicates that the actual rate may be much higher because only a minority of rapes and sexual assaults are reported to the SAPS. Some surveys have found that about a quarter of men in two provinces admitted that they had raped someone. Thousands of children and newborn infants have been raped in the past decade (often by relatives or guardians), an horrendous phenomenon attributed to the ‘virgin cleansing myth’ which holds that someone may be ‘cured’ of HIV/AIDS if they sex with a virgin. Despite very progressive legislation on gay rights, homosexuals in South Africa face the threat of ‘corrective rape’ (to ‘convert’ them to heterosexuality). Crime-fighting efforts are hurt by the poor reputation of the SAPS, which has been hit by numerous cases of police corruption, incompetence and insensitivity up to the highest levels of the force.

Nevertheless, violence and murder in South Africa has declined since 1994 and the waning days of apartheid. In 1995, the homicide rate in the country stood at 64.9 and has fallen by 18% in the last ten years. According to SAPS statistics, most types of crime have also decreased in this period, except for robberies, drug-related crimes and commercial crime. Nevertheless, there was a slight increase in most crimes – included murder – between 2011/2012 and 2012/2013. During the negotiations to end apartheid and the pre-electoral period in 1994, several regions of South Africa were in a state of quasi-civil war due to political violence between warring parties (notably the ANC and the Zulu Inkatha Freedom Party, or IFP) and the serious threat of terrorism from white supremacist groups such as the AWB. Today, political violence between supporters of different parties has been nearly eliminated, with only limited incidents during election periods in a handful of hot zones. Similarly, white supremacist terrorist organizations have almost all faded from view and pose no threat to the state.

Economic policy and socioeconomic challenges

The ANC, in general, has often prided itself on its sound management of the economy. Indeed, existing (and mostly white-owned) businesses in the country and foreign investors were fairly enthusiastic or at least positive about the ANC’s management of the economy in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The ANC was born as a small, moderate black ‘bourgeois’ movement, but the radicalization of the movement after 1948, the influence of the alliance with the Communist Party (SACP), ties with the Eastern Bloc and the socioeconomic effects of segregation and apartheid on the black population meant that the ANC moved firmly to the left during the struggle against apartheid and found its allies mainly on the left. To this day, the ANC governs in a ‘Tripartite Alliance’ with the South African Communist Party (SACP) – an historic ally of the ANC and the liberation movement – and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the country’s largest trade union federation founded in 1985 and a major player in the liberation movement in the late 1980s. The apartheid government, under PW Botha’s ‘total onslaught’ strategy, sold the notion of the ANC as a dangerous communist movement and the ‘red danger’ (rooi gevaar, combined with the old and explicitly racist black danger or swart gevaar) to the Western world and his white constituents in South Africa.

In the Freedom Charter, a landmark document adopted by the ANC and its Indian, Coloured and white communist allies in 1955, it is stated that subsoil minerals, banks and monopoly industry shall be owned by the people (state), that the wealth of the country be ‘restored to the people’ and that the land ‘redivided amongst those who work it’. The Charter’s vision was reiterated by the ANC during the duration of the struggle, by the United Democratic Front (UDF) in the 1980s and the ANC still refers to it as a foundational document. In documents issued by the ANC during the negotiations to end apartheid, the party enunciated a ‘developmentalist’ perspective arguing for a mixed economy with some state intervention in the economy with the aim of a more equal distribution of wealth, the development and reconstruction of the economy. In 1994, the ANC and its allies adopted the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), which served as the basis for the ANC’s platform in the 1994 election. The RDP largely remained in the Charter’s tradition, aimed at the democratization of the economy, alleviating poverty, addressing the catastrophic state of social services and human development for the majority of South Africans, the broader development of the economy and economic growth. Although the RDP included some economically liberal measures, the gist of it still accorded a leading role to the state in restructuring the economy. Indeed, under the guises of the RDP, the ANC government spearheaded a major infrastructure program in the 1990s which built over a million cheap houses (so-called ‘RDP houses’, often criticized for being dreary and bleak pillbox-like mass building structures), a major expansion in access to piped water, electrification, the construction of 500 new clinics and a public works program.

When it took office the ANC quickly signaled that it would not take any revolutionary or radical decisions, and instead began arguing for a fairly liberal economic policy. In June 1996, the ANC’s new finance minister, Trevor Manuel, unveiled the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) plan as the government’s macroeconomic framework. GEAR aimed to achieve a ‘competitive fast-growing economy’ (at a rate of 6% by 2000) which would create 400,000 jobs by 2000; to reach these targets, GEAR called for the reduction of the budget deficit (to 3% by 2000), reducing inflation, a relaxation of exchange controls, a reduction in tariffs, policies to stimulate private and foreign investment, the acceleration of non-gold exports, privatization and labour market ‘flexibility’. Although GEAR still talked of income redistribution, poverty reduction and infrastructure development by the state, the general theme of the new government’s macro-economic framework was very clearly liberal and destined to please the business community and international financial institutions. The ANC – led by Trevor Manuel, labour minister Tito Mboweni (who later became Governor of the South African Reserve Bank, from 1999 to 2009), then-Deputy President (later President) Thabo Mbeki, trade and industry minister Alec Erwin and Mbeki’s right-hand man Essop Pahad – defended GEAR as necessary for sound economic growth and job creation while claiming that GEAR nevertheless remained in the tradition of the Charter and GEAR (although, in 2002, President Mbeki would claim that the ANC had never been and would never be a socialist party). The ANC, since 1994-5, had been preparing the ground for a shift away from its interventionist and ‘developmentalist’ orientations by arguing that the National Party (NP) government had left it with a huge debt and deficit – indeed, South Africa’s economy had gone down the drain due to a wide host of factors since the 1980s.

GEAR, however, was strongly criticized by the left of the movement – namely COSATU and the SACP – as being a betrayal of the Charter and RDP values and a home-grown version of the ‘structural adjustment programs’ which would be unable to address the issue of massive income inequality. In short, the left saw GEAR as ‘growth without development’, whereas the RDP sought ‘growth with/and development’.

GEAR was largely unsuccessful in meeting its targets. Economic growth never did hit 6%, and growth from 1995 to 2000 was generally weak. However, the early 2000s saw strong economic growth, under Mbeki’s cautious orthodox fiscal and monetary policies – South Africa’s economy reached growth rates over 5% between 2005 and 2007. Under Mbeki’s presidency, the domestic and foreign business community and international finance generally praised the ANC’s sound and competent handling of the economy. GEAR’s major failure, however, was jobs: the official unemployment rate grew from about 19% in 1996 to nearly 30% in 2002. Since then, unemployment and jobs has remained South Africa’s leading economic and social problem, remaining stuck at frustratingly high levels between 21% and 25% (at the official, and conservative, definition – under the expanded definition, over 35% of South Africans are unemployed). Instead of creating jobs, the policies of government and business following GEAR led to major job loses.

Official unemployment and absorption rates in South Africa since 2003 (source: Stats SA, own graph)

Official unemployment and absorption rates in South Africa since 2003 (source: Stats SA, own graph)

In Stats SA’s latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey for Q1 of 2014, the official unemployment rate stood at 25.2% – a 1.1% quarter-to-quarter increase and 0.2% year-to-year increase. Under the expanded definition of unemployment, the figure was 35%. Only 42.8% of the population aged 15 to 64 has a job. Unemployment, like almost all social and economic indicators, is conditioned by race. Under the expanded definition, 39.9% of blacks, 27.6% of Coloureds, 17.6% of Indians and 8% of whites were unemployed. There is also an even more extreme age factor: young South Africans, especially young blacks, face extremely high levels of unemployment – across all races and using the expanded definition, 66% of those 15-24 and 39% of those 25 to 34 were unemployed against 14.4% of those 55 to 64.

A 2006 study said that while the proximate cause of high unemployment was that “prevailing South African wages are too high compared to real wage levels that would clear labor markets at lower levels of unemployment”, the structural cause was the weakness of export-oriented manufacturing since the 1990s; the relative shrinkage of which led to a fall in demand for low-skilled or unskilled labour. In 2013, only 25.6% of employees in all industries were considered skilled, compared to 46.1% who were semi-skilled and 28% who were unskilled. Even in tertiary industries, only 29% were skilled and 43% had less than the Matric (South Africa’s high school graduation exam).

However, despite fairly neoliberal fiscal and monetary policies, the ANC also retains interventionist pulses – the public sector remains a major employer, the government still owns many industries and utilities, labour laws are criticized by some as being restrictive, some regulations and laws still deter private and foreign investors, employment equity laws impose increasingly strict guidelines on businesses and subject them to fines if they break them, corruption is a major problem and the new dispensation since 1994 has been used by a lot of ANC cadres to enrich themselves in business, creating a crony capitalist system.

It is also worth pointing out that despite an economic record which is very far removed from traditional socialism, the ANC ‘talks left, walks right’ with leftist rhetoric which still talks of the ANC as a ‘revolutionary liberation movement’, an ‘economic revolution’ and the ANC styles its ideology and policies as the ‘National Democratic Revolution’.(

For a party which had an ostensibly ‘radical’ economic platform prior to winning office, why did the ANC shift towards neoliberal policies? The negotiations to end apartheid in South Africa are sometimes referred to in the literature as an ‘elite pact’ – the elite of the old ruling party, the NP, reaching a compromise and agreement with the elites of the opposition liberation movement, the ANC. In these negotiations, the NP conceded a number of important issues to the ANC – it abandoned all previous demands for entrenched group rights, ‘minority vetoes’, consociational government, special legislative and executive representation for races and effectively accepted the ANC’s maximalist demands of majority rule, one man one vote, centralized devolved government and a Bill of Rights based on individual rather than group rights. In return, the ANC adopted a liberal democratic constitutional framework, the independence of the judiciary and some form of limited protections for linguistic and racial minorities. However, the most significant concession made by the ANC to the NP was its acceptance of a liberal, capitalist macroeconomic framework which guaranteed property rights, the continuation of orthodox fiscal and monetary policies and a general focus on growth and economic stability rather than redistribution.

The NP’s own evolution from defense of minority rights (and opposition to majority rule) to a more impassioned defense of the existing liberal capitalist economic model was a gradual process, whose roots were apparent beginning in the early 1970s. After HF Verwoerd’s assassination in 1966, the NP shifted from the Afrikaner nationalism of the 1940s – with its core tenets of republicanism, anti-imperialism, Calvinist mysticism and opposition to ‘English’ (or ‘Jewish’) monopoly capitalism – towards pan-white nationalism, which sought alliance and conciliation with the English-speaking whites (the traditional opponent of the Afrikaner) in the context of shared opposition to black majority rule, ‘communism’ and the defense of capitalism. This shift was facilitated by the settlement of the republican question in 1961 and the economic advance of the Afrikaner since 1948 as a result of NP policies; under the prime ministership of BJ Vorster (1966-1978), apartheid was increasingly subordinated to economic concerns when the two clashed (but, at the time, white supremacy remained beneficial to the South African capitalist economy). Radical white supremacists – such as Albert Hertzog and his followers, who were expelled from the NP in 1969 – challenged this new paradigm, defending a dogmatic and bygone vision of ‘Verwoerdian apartheid’, but the NP remained firmly in control. Within the NP, the verligte (enlightened) faction emerged, grouping well-connected economically liberal individuals in the party who placed capitalism above rigid defense of apartheid and were willing to compromise on some aspects of white supremacy in order to protect white minority rule. The verligte, in contrast to the conservative verkrampte, were pragmatic, flexible, open to compromise and eventually evolved towards neoliberal capitalism in the 1980s.

Under PW Botha (1978-1989), the priority of the NP government became the defense of white minority rule against an upswell of black resistance following the strikes in 1973 and the Soweto riots in 1976. To achieve this aim, Botha used several tactics – mixing reform with repression. Botha enjoyed close ties with the traditional Afrikaner business elites in the Cape Province, and Botha’s economic team – with Barend du Plessis, an admirer of Margaret Thatcher’s policies in Britain, serving as his finance minister after 1984 – was clearly neoliberal in orientation (although Botha had no clearly defined economic views himself). He came into office when the apartheid system had contributed to an economic deterioration – because of the rigidity of influx control, a severe skills shortage and an artificially limited domestic consumer market. Faced with growing demands from big business and Afrikaner capital, Botha’s government acceded to some of their requests to adapt apartheid to the capitalist economy.  For example, Botha’s government adopted the recommendations of the Wiehahn and Riekert commissions (appointed by Vorster), which had called for the legalization of black unionization within limits, the regularization of urban blacks by granting them property rights and the relaxation of influx control (all the while tightening the screws on blacks outside urban areas or illegal black migrants from the ‘homelands’) – in a nutshell, the NP finally admitted what had been obvious since the 1940s – black urbanization was a permanent reality (accepted by the United Party’s Fagan Commission in 1948, but rejected by the NP’s Sauer Commission). Under Botha, the aim of his ‘reforms’ were to coopt pliable non-white elites into the system in order to perpetuate white minority rule and domination. The business sector saw the lack of a black middle-class as an obstacle to the survival of capitalism, and the NP realized that it would need to find black allies in order to maintain power. Botha’s attempts at cooptation of blacks, Coloureds and Indians (the latter two groups with the Tricameral Parliament) failed horribly, and by the second half of Botha’s stint in office, the focus shifted to repression and the consolidation of the ‘securocracy’ at the helm of the state. The economy collapsed even further under the weight of international sanctions, capital flight, growing indebtedness and a rapid increase in the levels of violence and political instability throughout the country (with states of quasi-civil war building up in KwaZulu-Natal and the PWV). However, Botha’s eclectic strategy of reform through cooptation and ‘total onslaught’ repression under an opaque and often extrajudicial securocracy signaled a major shift in the NP’s identity and class basis. With the split of Andries Treurnicht’s hardline faction to form the Conservative Party (KP) in 1982, the NP moved from being a cross-class Afrikaner nationalist alliance to a white-dominate elite alliance of whites (Anglo and Afrikaner) and pliable non-white tools. With the economic crisis, Pretoria had also become increasingly dependent on loans from the IMF and private lenders, and it had adopted neoliberal IMF-dictated policies (notably privatization.

During the negotiations to end apartheid under FW de Klerk’s presidency, the verligte faction – now represented by Roelf Meyer, a young technocrat who went on to become the NP’s lead negotiator alongside the ANC’s lead negotiator, trade unionist Cyril Ramaphosa – gained the upper hand over the verkramptes, who were determined to fight till the end to protect minority rights or gain a ‘white veto’ under the new constitutional arrangement. Seeing that minority/group rights were unpalatable to the ANC and even the West, the verligte leaders compromised with the ANC and their interest became clinching an elite compromise to secure conditions for continued capital accumulation. To prod the ANC away from its interventionist and socialist inklings, the NP led a concerted effort along with business leaders, foreign investors and international financial institutions to move the ANC in the direction of free-market capitalism. South African business leaders had began meeting with ANC leaders in exile as early as 1986, and as the negotiations on a new constitution moved forward, parallel meetings were being held between ANC leaders and business leaders. Derek Keys, a former mining executive who was brought in as FW de Klerk’s technocratic finance minister, played a major role in these talks with ANC leaders (people including Manuel, Mbeki, Mboweni etc) and bringing them towards ‘pro-business’ viewpoints with guarantees to protect property rights and abandon any serious intentions of nationalization. These negotiations not only included the ANC but also COSATU, who agreed to tariff reductions and GATT/WTO membership. The collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War and the rising tide in favour of free market solutions were further impetuses on the ANC to move away from interventionist and socialist ideas. Unlike other African liberation movements, the ANC gained power in an era where there was no ‘alternative’ economic model to capitalism as there had been during the Cold War.

In the end, therefore, the NP had successfully pushed the ANC towards accepting the core tenets of the free-market economy and capitalism. After taking office in 1994, the ANC therefore honoured its part of the ‘elite pact’ with the NP – Derek Keys was kept on for a few months after the 1994 election and the incoming ANC government revised the original RDP (drafted in collaboration with COSATU and the SACP) with a White Paper which effectively laid the ground for GEAR in 1996.

Perhaps the best example of ‘elite pacting’ came in 2005, when the remnants of the NP (rebranded as the New National Party) merged with the ANC. Since the NP’s ill-advised decision to quit the national unity cabinet with the ANC in 1996 and FW de Klerk’s later resignation from the leadership (and his replacement by the incompetent Martinhus van Schalkwyk, who is now the ANC Minister of Tourism), the NP had lost its white supporters (in 2004, the bulk of the NP’s vote came from Coloureds – a group which the NP had disenfranchised in the 1950s) and was unable to become an opposition party. It waffled between frontal opposition to the ANC or cooperation with the ANC government, finally settling in favour of the latter. The ANC-NP merger certainly does appear quite contradictory given the party’s history, but by 2005 the hardliners had decamped and the NP had long since given up being an ethnic party. Already during the transition, the verligte leaders had been able to safeguard the interests of (predominantly white) capital and expand the ranks of the property-owning middle-classes to blacks. Unable to deal with the loss of power, the NP found the only way out of the hole and the only chance to share the spoils again: merging with the ANC. The merger aroused some opposition within the ANC, notably from the SACP (though mostly because it feared the NP was a Trojan Horse which would turn the ANC into a right-wing party); but Mbeki’s allies had actively supported a merger which went down on terms extremely favourable to the much stronger ANC.

Affirmative action and Black Economic Empowerment

Instead of nationalization, the ANC government has implemented affirmative action policies – known as Black Economic Empowerment (BEE, or officially Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment) and Employment Equity – to address apartheid’s economic legacies. The ‘designated groups’ who benefit from BEE and Employment Equity are blacks, Coloureds, Indians, women of all races and people with disabilities of all races.

Under Employment Equity, first adopted by law in 1998, all designated employers (firms with over 50 employees) are obliged to make their workforces racially representative through analysis of workforce demographics and employment practices and the yearly submission and implementation of an employment equity plan/report (including numerical goals to achieve equitable representation suitably qualified people from designated groups). In effect, employers must set and meet racial targets to make their workforce representative of the economically active population (so it must be 75% black), and they are subject to fines – made more onerous by a series of controversial amendments to the Act in 2013 – from the government if they fail to do so. The 2013 amendments also raised significant controversy and concerns over ‘racial quotas’ because it repealed provisions which forced the government to take into account skills shortage when evaluating employers’ compliance.

Although Coloureds and Indians are legally entitled to benefit from Employment Equity, the behaviour of the Department of Labour and the wording of proposed bills in recent years have raised controversy. The 2013 amendments ultimately retained the clause requiring the government to take into account national and regional workforce demographics when assessing employers, a prior 2010 bill had removed references to ‘regional’ demographics. Because the Coloured population are heavily concentrated in the Western Cape and Northern Cape provinces, and Indians are largely concentrated in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), there was significant concerns that Coloureds and Indians would struggle to find employment in their home provinces. The Director-General of Labour added fuel to the fire by stating that Coloureds were ‘over-concentrated’ in the WC.

BEE’s aim is to make the economy more broadly representative of the demographic makeup of South Africa, by promoting meaningful black ownership, management, employment, training and skills development in South African companies. Each company (with a turnover over R10 million) is evaluated by the government on a BEE scorecard, under which they are required to meet minimum requirements in a number of different areas (ownership, management, employment equity, skills development, procurement from BEE firms, supplier/enterprise development etc). To achieve the requirements of BEE, companies undertake a number of BEE initiatives – policies, practices and business transactions (for example, selling shares in a company to a company owned by blacks). The company’s score on the BEE scorecard increases or decreases their chances of winning government procurement contracts and insufficiently ‘empowered’ companies in regulated sectors may see their licences revoked. Responding to criticism that the first BEE scheme was heavily focused on enriching a select few, the Mbeki government adopted ‘Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment’ (B-BBEE) in 2003, which aimed to distribute wealth across a broader spectrum.

This text from the Institute of Race Relations gives a good overview of the EE and BEE laws and codes as they stand after the 2013 amendments, and explain the costs of both policies on small businesses.

BEE has been a highly divisive issue in South African politics. There has been the common criticism leveled against affirmative action policies in general, but there is broader criticism of the results of BEE. Instead of redistributing wealth and jobs to the black majority, BEE has been perceived as having helped a well-connected few – ANC cadres, black entrepreneurs and other black middle-class individuals on good terms with the ANC – while leaving the bulk of the black majority in continued poverty. Indeed, a lot of the BEE deals – valued at R600 billion according to the Institute of Race Relations – have benefited a small closed circle of black entrepreneurs, many of them with close indirect or direct (serving on party executive) links with the ANC, COSATU and the SACP. The ANC has been accused of using BEE as a means of providing patronage, meting out punishment and co-opting potential rivals within the Alliance and allowing them to make a buck. A number of ANC leaders from the struggle era have benefited quite handsomely from BEE and the new economic policies, joining the ranks of an increasingly deracialized business elite – people such as Tokyo Sexwale, Cyril Ramaphosa, Jay Naidoo and Saki Macozoma have become wealthy businessmen, even while keeping a foothold in politics. Sexwale, a former provincial premier and the Minister of Human Settlements from 2009 to 2013, sat on the boards of several important corporations and founded Mvelaphanda Group, a large holding firm which had interests in diamond mining and oil and which made Sexwale one of the top beneficiaries of BEE. Although Sexwale officially gave up most of his business interests and chairmanships when reentering in 2009, a lot of business empire (especially as it relates to mining) remains clouded in secrecy – with unclear secret dealings over mining deals in Guinea, for example. Ramaphosa, a former trade unionist (in the National Union of Mineworkers, or NUM, one of the main unions in COSATU) who was touted as one of Mandela’s potential successors in 1998-9 before being sidelined in favour of Mbeki, left active politics and became a multi-millionaire with several investments in mining and seats on the boards of mining firms, including Lonmin, which owns the infamous Marikana platinum mine.

The new black business elite has been negatively perceived as a clique of ‘crony capitalists’ who have enriched themselves, joined the ranks of the elite but given little attention to the plight of the black majority.

Black, Coloured and Asian average income per capita as a % of white income (=100), 1917-2008

Black, Coloured and Asian average income per capita as a % of white income (=100), 1917-2008

In general, BEE’s success has been rather limited. While it has succeeded in broadening and deracializing the ranks of the elite, which had been the goal of the ANC-NP ‘elite pact’ in 1994, BEE has not really radically altered the ownership structure of the South African economy. A number of companies complied with BEE solely on paper (officially defined as ‘fronting practices’ by a 2013 amendment to the B-BBEE Act, and now punishable by potential jail time), but actually limiting blacks from participating in the management or granting associated economic benefits. In 2010, The Economist reported that blacks served as the CEOs/CFOs of only 2-4% of the 295 companies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange; they are present in larger numbers (but still far below the actual demographic makeup of the broader population) on the boards. Most of the economy remains controlled by white South Africans.

Generally, the larger white-owned corporations and big businesses have generally adapted to the new constraints of BEE and the new post-apartheid dispensation quite well. The ANC has made friends with leading businessmen (Anton Rupert and Harry Oppenheimer, two of South Africa’s most well-known business magnates of the 20th century, became friendly allies of the ANC after apartheid – a system which they had generally opposed but still benefited from), regardless of race, a friendly association for which the ANC has often been criticized. A lot of the larger businesses have not criticized BEE: they know that the ANC and BEE are here to stay, many understand the rationales and aims of BEE and they have the resources to adapt to the system. The costs of BEE have generally been less onerous for the larger corporations than for smaller businesses, who have tended to suffer most from the high costs associated with BEE transformations. The amendments to the BEE codes in 2013, which set even stricter requirements for black ownership, management control and procurement and which made achieving strong results on the BEE scorecard considerably more difficult, will likely hurt small businesses and family-owned companies (who also have to comply with mandatory EE laws, made more stringent by 2013 amendments). Critics of the EE and BEE legislation say that small businesses bear the heavy costs of meeting ‘unrealistic’ EE racial targets and complying with BEE guidelines (especially if they seek to keep the government as a potential customer); the pressures may in turn force them out of business, adding to the crisis of unemployment.

Instead of alleviating the problem of income inequality in one of the world’s most unequal societies, BEE and other government policies may have instead aggravated the problem. South Africa’s Gini coefficient has actually increased since the fall of apartheid, and has stabilized at about 0.7 in the last decade, making South Africa one of the world’s most unequal countries. Existing income inequalities between the races have been worsened by growing income inequalities within racial groups: for black South Africans, the Gini coefficient increased from about 0.5 to over 0.6 since the fall of apartheid. Today, over half of the black population remains poor, while less than 1% of whites lives under under the upper-bound poverty line.

Land reform

Land reform has been another legacy of apartheid which the government has struggled to address. The years between 1870 and 1920, especially the post-Boer War years, saw the growth of commercial and capitalist (white) agriculture in South Africa (especially in the British colonies of Natal and the Cape), with the consolidation of land in the hands of powerful large landowners at the expense of poor white landless tenant farmers (bywoners) and black tenant farmers and squatters. This transformation was accompanied by a succession of legislation which aimed to disposes Africans peasants of their relative independence and/or their access to white-owned land, ultimately culminating in the 1913 Natives Land Act. The Natives Land Act confined black land ownership (in a communal framework) to the ‘native reserves’ – rural areas which made up 7% of the country’s territory (increased to 13.5% with the Native Trust and Land Act, 1936) and which would form the basis for the apartheid-era homelands or Bantustans. In ‘white South Africa’, blacks were banned from buying or hiring land.With the Land Act, blacks were ‘proletarianized’, being forced to become cheap migrant labour for the mines and cities or farm workers dependent on a white landlord. NP rule in the 1960s and 1970s boosted larger farms, leading to an increase in the size of farms and a decrease in the number of farmers. The white-owned farms became mechanized agri-businesses, and beneficiaries of generous agricultural subsidies from the NP government. When apartheid ended in 1994, about 87% of privately-owned commercial farmland was owned by whites.

The Constitution adopted in 1996 guarantees property rights, although a clause of the Bill of Rights allows for expropriation with compensation “for a public purpose or in the public interest”, a term which explicitly includes land reform. The Bill of Rights also grants persons or communities dispossessed of property by the Land Act or other racially discriminatory laws the right to restitution of property or equitable redress.  The ANC government passed as Restitution of Land Rights Act in 1994 to govern the process of restitution or equitable redress envisaged by the Constitution, setting December 31, 1998 as the deadline for applications for land claims. A commission was created to resolve restitution claims, through negotiated settlements rather than expropriation. Under restitution, most claimants have settled for financial ‘redress’, although 2.6 million hectares had been redistributed by 2009.

The window for claims closed in 1998, but in 2013, about a quarter of claims registered with the government were not yet finalized and about 50% of the land acquired for restitution had not yet been transferred. In 2013, the ANC government passed a Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill, which reopened the window for restitution claims and extended the deadline to 2018. The law was criticized for undermining independent ownership rights in favour of traditional tribal leaders, the financial cost of reopening restitution (R129-R179 billion), limits on land restoration made dependent to ‘productivity’ and confusion around pre-1913 claims (for example, the Khoisan people dispossessed of their land prior to 1913).

On the separate issue of land reform (redistribution), the ANC adopted a policy of “willing buyer, willing seller” at market price, similar to the British-funded scheme in Zimbabwe between 1980 and 1992 and policies promoted by the World Bank, and set an initial target of redistribute 30% (26m ha) of land to black people by 2014. However, twenty years later, only 6-7% (less than 3m ha) of land has been redistributed – pushing the government to push back the ‘deadline’ to 2025, although it is estimated that if current performance continues, the likelihood of reaching that target by 2025 is low. Furthermore, a lot of the land which has been redistributed lies unused because of a lack of capital, skills shortage, the poor quality of a lot of the redistributed land (the high-quality land is often beyond the means of those black farmers who can acquire land), the government’s excessive focus on commercial agriculture and a lack of support services from the state. The land redistribution process has been hampered not only by intransigent white landowners as the ANC likes to claim, but also by insufficient budgets – it has already cost the government $6 billion, and the extension of the deadline to 2025 could cost it another $9.4 billion.

The ANC has been criticized for having chosen a very cautious and conservative path, and interpreting that property rights language of the Bill of Rights in a way which limits the government’s ability to intervene. The Minister of Agriculture and Land Reform between 1996 and 1999, Derek Hanekom, a white Afrikaner ANC member, took a fairly activist and pro-redistribution stance, but under Mbeki’s presidency, he was replaced by Thoko Didiza, whose ministry now tended to focus heavily on commercial farming by a new class of black commercial farmers rather than alleviating poverty.

Others, wary of radical land reform (such as the fast-track land reform/expropriation without compensation policies pushed forward, with disastrous results, by Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe), have argued that the issue is one of land development and use rather than land tenure, and often warn that a Zimbabwe-like approach to land reform in South Africa would prove economically disastrous because a lot of white-owned farms are productive agri-businesses and major employers. Some point out that the government itself owns a lot of land which is currently unproductive. The general failure of land reform since 1994, the poor experience on redistributed land (for a variety of reasons) and tense relations between white owners and black farm workers or landless blacks has significantly heightened tensions in rural areas. Well publicized farm attacks – often by unemployment young black men against white farmers – have attracted a lot of attention in the West, although their numbers are hard to quantify and there have been numerous misconceptions or urban myths surrounding farm attacks (for example, there is little proof that the attacks are politically motivated).

Corruption and the arms deal

Corruption has been a major problem in post-apartheid South African politics, with a widespread perception both domestically and abroad that the government is extremely corrupt and ‘kleptocratic’. The reality isn’t that horrendous – while corruption is a reality, South Africa is actually one of Africa’s least corrupt countries – on the 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index, South Africa ranked 72nd in the world (placing it behind Botswana, Rwanda, Ghana and Lesotho) and actually is ranked as less corrupt than India, PR China and EU member-states Greece and Bulgaria. However, a lot of South Africans compare their country’s corruption problems with that of other G20 members, and, indeed, with such comparison, South Africa is considerably more corrupt. Two decades of ANC rule have worsened the problems of corruption and especially the impunity of politicians and public servants. The ANC has tended to fight tooth and nail to defend its corrupt MPs and cabinet ministers from prosecution, it has perverted independent state institutions (such as the SAPS, the Auditor General or the National Director of Public Prosecutions) to keep them from doing their constitutional job to investigate and punish corruption, and it has blocked Parliament and its own MPs therein from investigating corruption and holding the government to account as it is constitutionally mandated to. The electoral system contributes to the difficulty of Parliament to hold the ANC and government to account: all MPs are elected from a closed party list, and their ranking on the party list (and, hence, their chances of winning a seat) are determined solely by their party rather than by voters, so their actual accountability is with the party which got them there in the first place. It is no secret that an ANC MP (or an opposition MP) who has criticized the party’s leadership or acted contrary to leadership fiats are often forced to resign from office or are removed/downgraded from the list at the next election.

The largest scandal in post-apartheid South Africa – perhaps even in South African contemporary history – is the massive Arms Deal scandal which dates back to the last years of Nelson Mandela’s presidency but which continues to haunt the ANC to this day and his directly involved incumbent President Jacob Zuma and several ANC cabinet ministers past and present. In 1998-9, the ANC government announced its intention to modernize the South African National Defence Forces (SANDF)’s defense equipment with the purchase of frigates, marine helicopters, light fighter aircraft, submarines and battle tanks – the very idea of this deal was soon questioned, given the new government’s purported committment to reducing defense spending in favour of reducing poverty. The deal, finalized in 1999, involved about R50 billion (1999 rands) in purchase of new military equipment from German, British, Swedish and French arms firms. Beginning in 2000, the first allegations of corruption, bribery, gross conflicts of interest and fraud began to emerge, through the work of whistle-blower opposition MP Patricia de Lille and an investigation by the Auditor General. The first questions pertained to the decision to award the fighter jet contracts to BAe/SAAB – the costlier bid (in this big contract, the government decided to exclude cost as a criteria, despite a cheaper and technically equivalent bid by the Italians), the decision to grant the frigate deal to the German Frigate Consortium, the allocation of a naval sub-contract to a French company at substantial cost and inadequate offset guarantees from the successful bidders. The actual costs of the deal quickly ballooned out of proportion, far exceeding the government’s initial estimates.

The Minister of Defence at the time, former Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK, the ANC’s armed wing during the struggle) commander Joe Modise, was alleged to have received R5 million from BAe to the MK Veterans Asssociations, R10-35 million in bribes from various bidders and shares in a defense company (Conlog) which benefited from the arms deal (Modise would later become chair of Conlog after leaving office). The Director of Procurement in the SANDF, ‘Chippy’ Shaik, was accused of favouring his brother, Schabir Shaik, who was director of a company (partly owned by Thomson-CSF, a French contractor chosen by the German Frigate Consortium to provide the combat suits for the ships) bidding for sub-contracts. That naval suit contract had gone to Thomson-CSF over a local contractor favoured by the Navy itself; it was no coincidence that Schabir Shaik’s company was owned by Thomson-CSF and that its board included people linked to Chippy and Joe Modise. Altough Chippy, in a parliamentary hearing, claimed to have recused himself from meetings where his brother’s interests were discussed, it soon became clear that he had lied – he had participated and intervened in government meetings, to promote his brother’s business.

As Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) began an investigation, under the leadership of IFP MP Gavin Woods and ANC MP Andrew Feinstein, further details of corruption in the arms deal began to be uncovered. Contractors who had not been selected alleged that Chippy Shaik and men linked to Modise were expecting bribes if their bids were to be seriously considered by the government or to give a ‘push’ to their bids.

The ANC leadership in government (Deputy President Jacob Zuma) and in Parliament (the Speaker), as well as the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) initially assured Scopa of their full support for the arms deal investigation. But as Scopa, spearheaded by Woods and Feinstein, began digging too deeply and sought to involve the Special Investigating Unit (SIU, an anti-corruption authority with the power to recover money lost to corruption and crime) in a wider investigation, the ANC leadership in government (led by Essop Pahad, President Mbeki’s ruthless enforcer) quickly moved to rein in the investigation, brought the ANC’s parliamentary leadership under the whip, undermined Scopa’s work and made sure that the SIU was not part of any investigation. Mbeki resisted pressure from the media and civil society, and refused to sign a proclamation for SIU to participate in the investigation. Scopa’s ANC members were turned against Feinstein and the investigation, and obediently obeyed the party line. The Auditor General, who had originally independently pursued the case, was bullied by the Presidency and the government into submission. As Andrew Feinstein, the maverick ANC MP defied orders from above, he was relieved of his chairmanship of the ANC component of Scopa and was finally compelled to resign from Parliament in August 2001.

The Auditor General’s report into the deal, in November 2001, included several serious accusations or comments (Modise’s behaviour with Conlog, Chippy’s conflict of interest, non-compliance with procedures) but ultimately avoided the issue of cabinet’s honesty on the costs and exonerated cabinet of any wrongdoing. It was later revealed by the media that the report had been doctored by the concerned ministers, the President and Chippy before publication. The published report absolved the cabinet of wrongdoing, whereas the original wording had said that Ministers could have influenced decisions during the process to select the costlier BAe/SAAB bid. That aircraft had not been the preferred option of the Air Force (SAAF), it was not of much greater technical capacity than Italy’s Aeromacchi jet but it was selected after the cabinet subcommittee decided to remove cost as a criteria. Nevertheless, Parliament (=the ANC) accepted the doctored report and quickly moved to close down Scopa’s investigation into the matter, with a report which expressed satisfaction with cabinet’s answers.

Tony Yengeni, the ANC Chief Whip (who had chaired the defense committee at time of the arms deal), was arrested and charged with receiving a luxury Mercedes 4×4 at a substantial discount from one of the bidders (EADS), in October 2001. He was ultimately convicted of defrauding Parliament in 2004, sentenced to a four-year sentence in 2006 but released on parole in January 2007. A few months later, Yengeni was triumphantly elected to the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC). Throughout his ordeal, Yengeni was defended by the ANC, which resisted attempts to deepen the investigation into his case. Several politicians received discounted luxury cars from EADS. Yengeni’s prosecution was one of the few which the ANC accepted, to please the public, while still ensuring that Yengeni only got what amounted to a slap on the wrist.

In November 2001, Schabir Shaik was arrested. Schabir Shaik was Jacob Zuma’s business partner, giving him generous loans to pay for Zuma’s debts, expensive lifestyle and financial problems at the time. In return, Shaik was using the money to buy influence as Zuma rose through the ranks of the ANC after 1994. In March 2000, Shaik had met with French bidder Thomson-CSF and both agreed that Thomson would pay annual bribes of R500,000 to Zuma (who was having trouble covering the costs of the construction of his new residence/compound at Nkandla, in rural KZN); in return, Zuma would protect the French company from judicial investigations in South Africa and promote their interests on future bids. However, no money was forthcoming until February 2001, after Shaik had pressured Thomson-CSF into honouring their deal. The NPA charged Schabir Shaik with corruption (the payment of a R1 million bribe to Zuma, plus the solicitation of the Thomson bribe) and fraud, and in June 2005 a High Court in Durban sentenced Shaik to 15 years in jail for fraud and corruption (he was released in March 2009, on medical parole). Most significantly, the judge’s ruling described the relationship between Zuma and Shaik as one of ‘mutually beneficial symbiosis’.

That bombshell judgement had major political fallout, as the opposition and the media called on Zuma to resign as Deputy President. On June 14, only some two weeks after the Shaik judgement, President Mbeki dismissed Zuma as Deputy President. Zuma’s dismissal from government would mark the beginning of a bloody power struggle in the ANC between Zuma and Mbeki’s clans, and the beginning of long judicial procedures against Zuma which would last until 2009. The NPA wanted to and could have charged Zuma alongside Shaik in 2003, but Bulelani Ngcuka, the boss of the NPA, opted not to after the government (Mbeki’s Minister of Justice, Penuell Maduna, either as a favour to Zuma or to shield the whole cabinet and Mbeki). However, only six days after he was dismissed in June 2005, the NPA’s boss, Vusi Pikoli, charged Zuma with corruption. The details of Zuma’s trials are covered in a later section on the Zuma-Mbeki conflict.

Zuma was not the only top politician involved in the arms deal. Mbeki, who was Deputy President at the time of the deal and played a major role in guiding and supervising the deal, had also met with Thomson-CSF more than once. Although the ANC successfully stifled and politicized Scopa, foreign investigations into other aspects of the arms deal continued despite the ANC’s best attempts to shut them down by being uncooperative with foreign authorities. In Britain, the Serious Fraud Office unearthed a web of front companies which channeled over 100 million pounds to South African politicians, and looked into allegations that BAe had paid bribes to the ANC, Modise and Chippy. In Germany, prosecutors looked into millions of dollars in bribes paid by ThyssenKrupp (the main member of the winning German Frigate Consortium) to Chippy. The South African government – led by the Department of Justice – obstinately refused to cooperate with the British and German investigations, In 2007, a rogue ex-spy died in a mysterious car crash after he had leaked details of an alleged R30 million bribe to Mbeki himself from a submarine contractor.

Many questions remain unanswered, but the arms deal continues to haunt the ANC. Overall, Andrew Feinstein estimated the total costs of the deal to be in excess of R130 billion. His excellent book, After the Party, is a scathing account of the culture of corruption in the ANC and a detailed investigation into the huge scandal which is the arms deal. In August 2013, another investigation into the arms deal opened and has already face concerns of political meddling.

Mbeki’s presidency was marred by other scandals. These include ‘Cellgate’ – political meddling to ensure a Saudi cell company received a cellphone license amidst claims of massive contributions to ANC coffers; ‘Oilgate’ – a BEE company channeling millions of rands worth of public money to the state oil company to pay for the ANC’s 2004 electoral campaign; ‘Travelgate’ – MPs who misused or sold their parliamentary travel allowance for private ends and various other (uninvestigated, naturally) allegations of illegal party financing through BEE deals. The ANC has often cashed in on on BEE deals or public works contracts, ANC politicians have become increasingly disconnected from the plight of their poor constituents and taken to their new lavish lifestyles on the public purse or public officials being woefully incompetent or corrupt.

The best example of the latter comes with the Jackie Selebi/Vusi Pikoli scandal, at the end of Mbeki’s ill-fated second term. Jackie Selebi, the SAPS commissioner and Mbeki ally, was openly associated with Glenn Agliotti – one of South Africa’s biggest crime bosses, who was suspected of being behind the murder of controversial bankrupted businessman Brett Kebble, a generous contributor to various ANC factions including Zuma. In September 2007, the NPA issued a warrant for Selebi’s arrest, but Mbeki refused to dismiss him. Instead, Mbeki suspended Vusi Pikoli, the independent head of the NPA, for pursuing charges against Selebi. A compliant parliamentary inquiry led by former Speaker Frene Ginwala, controversial for having participated in the shut-down of meaningful independent thought at Scopa during the arms deal, exonerated Mbeki of any wrongdoing. Although Ginwala conceded that Pikoli was fit to lead the NPA, President Kgalema Motlanthe chose to dismiss Pikoli in December 2008. Selebi was arrested in early 2008, forcing Mbeki to give him an extended leave of absence – but he nevertheless renewed his contract a few months later. Selebi was finally replaced in July 2009, and went on trial in 2010. Selebi was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in jail (after appeal), after Agliotti had revealed that he had bribed Selebi and that the two had been close friends. In July 2012, Selebi was released on medical parole after serving only 200 or so days in jail.

Scandals under the current presidency, including Nkandlagate, are discussed further in the post.

HIV/AIDS policy

HIV/AIDS is the leading public health issue in South Africa. In 2011, the adult prevalence rate of HIV was estimated to be 17% – the fourth highest in the world behind the neighboring countries of Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana, but with over 5.6 million people living with HIV in the country, South Africa has the highest number of infected individuals. Stats SA in 2013 estimated that 16% of adults 15-49 are HIV-positive, continuing a slow increase in the infection rate from 15% in 2002. About 5.3 million people are HIV-positive, up from 4 million 12 years ago. AVERT has more detailed statistics, which show that women – especially young and middle-aged adult women – and blacks are the most affected by the tragedy. In Africa, the pandemic is characterized by heterosexual transmission and exacerbated by poverty and internal mobility (migrant labour).

HIV/AIDS began in the 1980s, under the apartheid government, which had little interest in black public health issues and chose to mostly ignore the question. The first ANC government with President Nelson Mandela took a much more assertive stance and active interest in the issue, which became one of the RDP’s lead projects, but initial optimism soon petered out as the government failed to take strong leadership on HIV. In the Sarafina II public awareness campaign, the government ended up wasting millions of rands into a bungled and mismanaged PR disaster. In 1997, the government took an active interest in Virodene, a local drug banned by the Medicines Control Council (MCC) for being based on a toxic industrial solvent; Mbeki, the Deputy President, was interested by the issue and unsuccessfully pressured the MCC into changing its policy. The ANC government rejected the distribution of AZT, an ARV drug, claiming that it was too expensive.

If Mandela’s response to HIV was underwhelming, Mbeki’s response – or lack thereof – to the crisis proved disastrous and fatal. Mbeki denied that HIV caused AIDS, arguing that socioeconomic factors such as poverty were behind it. Additionally, Mbeki, a paranoid person by nature, often alleged that the HIV/AIDS linked was a conspiracy concocted by international pharmaceutical companies to make profits by selling drugs to poor Africans. A big fan of calling anybody who disagreed with him a ‘racist’, Mbeki ranted that the disease was being used to smear black people as ‘promiscuous’ and ‘sex-crazy’.

In less conspiratorial moments, the ANC government – led by Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, the Minister of Health, argued that ARVs were far too expensive and would bankrupt the country (a ridiculous assertion, especially if you consider the money the ANC wasted on the arms deal) or that they were toxic. The cost argument was only a respectable cover for Mbeki’s denialism, given that in 2000, the German manufacturer of Nevirapine offered to provide it for free but the Minister rejected the offer. In 2001, the government won a case against the international pharmaceutics producers who had challenged a 1997 decision to enable domestic production of generic drugs. The government then denied that its victory in court allowed it to introduce an ARV program.

The government’s policy was criticized by civil society, the media and sectors of the ruling coalitions. Zackie Achmat, a former ANC supporter who is HIV-positive, founded the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in 1998 to campaign for an ARV program and became the most active and vocal opponent of Mbeki and the ANC’s denialist stance on HIV/AIDS. Achmat refused to take ARVs until all who needed them gained access to them. Mandela, who regretted his government’s lack of leadership on the issue, was privately annoyed with Mbeki’s position and publicly called for action (and stated that HIV causes AIDS). Within the alliance, the SACP and COSATU registered their disapproval of Mbeki and Tshabalala-Msimang’s policies. Many within the ANC and cabinet, however, once again bowed to the party line and obediently endorsed Mbeki’s unorthodox positions. In 2002, the TAC won a court case against the government, which was ordered by the High Court to implement a Mother to Child Treatment Plan, but the government slid its feet. Tshabalala-Msimang instead preached the values of ‘natural’, ‘African’ treatments such as lemons, garlic and beetroots, a position for which she was rightly mocked.

Ultimately, economic pressures (Mbeki’s policies, criticized internationally, were seen as potentially unsettling foreign investors) and pressure from TAC led the government adopt a timid roll-out of treatment, including ARVs, just prior to the 2004 elections. By 2005, however, after a slow and piecemeal roll-out, the number of people on ARVs remained below target. The reason was that, despite the rhetoric, Mbeki and his Minister remained uncommitted to the new policy and had no actual plan to fully implement it. During this time, Mbeki remained a denialist and Tshabalala-Msimang was preaching for beetroots and lemons. The government publicly associated with fellow denialist ‘dissident scientists’ (most of them charlatans and frauds) such as Matthias Rath. In 2006, the Deputy Minister of Health, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, temporarily replaced Tshabalala-Msimang while she was ill in the hospital. Madlala-Routledge, who had been critical of Mbeki and the government’s denialism and handling of the pandemic, reversed course and adopted an ambitious plan working in tandem with civil society (including TAC) to coherently tackle AIDS. In August 2007, Mbeki fired Madlala-Routledge on flimsy grounds and Tshabalala-Msimang, the widely despised Minister, returned.

Life expectancy declined from 62 years in 1992 to 51 in 2006, with a particularly steep decline in the late 1990s and early 2000s corresponding to the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the government’s atrocious response thereto. Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana, the other countries hit by the pandemic, also saw their life expectancy decline during this period. A Harvard study estimated that over 330,000 people died unnecessarily during Mbeki’s presidency as a result of his denialist policies.

When Mbeki was removed from office in September 2008, and replaced by Kgalema Motlanthe, Tshabalala-Msimang was demoted and Barbara Hogan, a ANC MP known for her independence, became health minister. This marked the final end of Mbeki and co’s denialism, and the adoption of a much more pro-active AIDS strategy focused on treatment with ARVs. In 2009, with Jacob Zuma’s election, the new Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi continued the government’s welcome shift in policy. Motsoaledi has presided over a successful ARV program, the biggest such program in the world providing treatment to over 2 million people.

Education, healthcare and service delivery

One of the biggest concerns for the majority of South Africans is ‘service delivery’ – the delivery, by the three levels of government, of basic services including housing, sanitation, water, waste removal, flush toilets, electricity, public education and healthcare. There has been a significant increase in ‘service delivery protests’ in recent years, caused by local residents – especially in informal settlements – who protest the poor record of service delivery, corruption and politicians’ little interest in their concerns. A lot of these protests, especially in recent years, have turned violent with allegations of police brutality and a total of 43 deaths in such protests between 2004 and 2014. A recent Mail & Guardian post had interesting data on protests.

When the ANC took office in 1994, it faced the challenge of building a single education and healthcare system. Under apartheid, education and healthcare had been segregated – for example, black education was adminstered by a separate government department. Black education was massively underfunded by the government, of terrible quality and with a poor curriculum. HF Verwoerd’s Bantu Education Act (1953) aimed to provide black education ‘in conformity with their own tradition and needs’ (read: to prepare them for the unskilled migrant labour market). Since 1994, public education and healthcare is desegregated. But major racial inequalities remain – traditional white public schools are of higher quality than black public schools, and whites have the resources to access higher-quality healthcare in the private sector.

Public schools are allowed to charge additional fees, although parents can apply for full or partial reduction of fees and public schools may not legally refuse admission to children living in the vicinity. South Africa spends a comparatively large share of its GDP on education, but it has poor results in global education rankings – notably with reports which have ranked math and science education as the second worst in the world. School infrastructure is bad, with some schools lacking electricity and water and most schools lacking a stocked library. Particularly in poorer, black areas, teachers are often unqualified or under-qualified – it is said that up to 20% of teachers are absent on Mondays and Fridays, yet the government has been reluctant or unable to hold teachers to stricter standards, in part because of unions.

The Department of Basic Education seeks to convey the idea of improvements in education and a high-performing system by reporting the Matric (high school graduation exam) pass rate. In 2014, the Matric pass rate was the highest ever at 78%, up from 61% in 2009. However, very few people take the Matric pass rate seriously (even the department’s website states that ‘the matric pass rate on its own is not a good measure of academic achievement in the schooling system’). To begin with, the standards for passing some subjects are extremely low – 30% in some classes. Secondly, between the time students enter school and the time that they sit from their Matric, it is estimated that about half of them will drop out before reaching Grade 12. The statistics obscure the fate of that half, which dropped out. Because few people take the Matric seriously, only about 15% of them have marks which allow them to enter universities (which are made even more restrictive by tuition fees), forcing them to join trade schools or – oftentimes – swell the ranks of the unemployed youths. Employers complain that universities do a poor job of training graduates and bemoan the lack of skilled manpower, yet they take little interest in taking on and training poor, young unskilled workers themselves.

In 2012, the Limpopo textbook crisis symbolized how under-funding, mismanagement, incompetence, corruption and entrenched regional inequalities combine to degrade the quality of education. In January 2012, as the school year began, schools in the poor northern province of Limpopo reported that textbooks had not been delivered. The provincial department of education, in a state of total disrepair and financial crisis, had been placed under the administration over the Department of Basic Education in late 2011. Several deadlines and a first court order (after Section 27, a civil rights group, took the government to court demanding urgent delivery of textbooks) were not respected by the government, with the end result that by late June 2012, a lot/most of schools had not received their textbooks and full delivery was only completed by October 2012. The textbook saga was marred by allegations of fraud and corruption in the textbook procurement process, government mismanagement and incompetence in the delivery of textbooks and an campaign of misinformation and denialism by the Department (with Angie Motshekga, the Minister, denying that there was a crisis in education in the face of such damning evidence).

Healthcare remains marked by similar inequalities. Under the two-tiered healthcare system, the poorest 84% of the population relies on public healthcare while about 16% of South Africans have the financial resources necessary to attract a high-end, high quality private healthcare system. Although the private system covers only a small advantaged minority, it accounts for half of health expenditure in the country. The public system, for which most users pay user fees, faces issues including the lack of physicians, shortages of supplies and drugs and poor management between different administrative levels. Poorer South Africans, who rely on the public healthcare system which even the government admits works poorly, are also those most at risk for HIV, TB and infant mortality.

Foreign policy

South Africa’s post-apartheid foreign policy was to be based on the promotion of human rights, democracy, regional cooperation, poverty reduction in Africa and peacekeeping. While South Africa is no longer a pariah of international diplomacy and an increasingly major player on the global scene – with participation in the BRICS, the G20 and two terms as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, the actual direction of Pretoria’s diplomacy has often fallen far short of rhetoric.

President Thabo Mbeki eloquently expressed grand dreams for the ‘African Renaissance’ and took an active interest in the promotion of continental cooperation based on the values of democracy, rule of law, justice, human rights and socioeconomic development. Along with the presidents of Nigeria, Algeria and Senegal, Mbeki launched the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) as a policy framework positing the need for good governance, robust economic management, regional integration and the development of social infrastructure with the aim of reducing poverty. However, NEPAD quickly ran into criticism that it achieved nothing while the local South African left criticized it as a neoliberal ‘GEAR for Africa’ scheme. Mbeki’s dreams of African Renaissance and his general pan-Africanist demeanour raised eyebrows in South Africa, with some critics viewing the new direction as contrary to the ANC’s traditional values of non-racialism and Mandela’s goal of national reconciliation across racial lines.

The grand rhetoric of African Renaissance was mostly fluff, it turned out, when South Africa was confronted with neighboring Zimbabwe’s descent into chaos under Mugabe after 2000. Throughout his presidency, Mbeki stuck to a controversial policy of ‘quiet diplomacy’ with Zimbabwe, consisting of friendly engagements with Mugabe and tame ‘commitments’ which Mugabe almost never respected. Mbeki resisted international criticism of his ineffective policy, and refused to condemn Mugabe’s authoritarian rule despite the economic collapse of the country, the collapse of democratic institutions, rigged elections, intimidation of the opposition and the plight of the thousands who suffered at the hangs of Mugabe’s regime. After the 2008 elections, which Mugabe actually lost, South Africa and the SADC negotiated a power-sharing agreement between Mugabe and the opposition, with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai serving as Prime Minister of a national unity cabinet. But when it became evident that Mugabe was reneging on his end of the deal and effectively using the power-sharing agreement to undermine Tsvangirai, South Africa did nothing.

Mbeki and South Africa’s attitude towards Zimbabwe stemmed from their determination to ensure regional stability. About two million Zimbabweans immigrated to South Africa, joining the ranks of thousands of other African immigrants, placing strains on service delivery and creating major tensions with black South Africans. The end of Mbeki’s presidency, in 2008, was marred by violent xenophobic riots in the black townships in urban South Africa. Within the alliance, COSATU and the SACP were very critical of Mbeki’s position and advocated for a tougher stance. While Mbeki denounced the Zimbabwean opposition, the MDC, as being in the hands of the CIA, COSATU leaders met with MDC leaders on several occasions. Some have speculated that Mbeki’s anti-MDC and pro-Mugabe position stemmed from domestic strategic calculations – given that the MDC grew out of the Zimbabwean union movement, Mbeki might have believed that success for the MDC might embolden COSATU to follow a similar partisan route and break its alliance with the ANC.

Although Jacob Zuma was more critical of Mugabe, under his presidency since 2009, South Africa’s position towards Mugabe hardly changed. In 2013, South Africa was quick to congratulate Mugabe on his reelection and recognize the results of the vote.

Polokwane: Jacob Zuma vs. Thabo Mbeki

Thabo Mbeki, a Xhosa from the Transkei like Nelson Mandela, was the son of ANC-SACP activist Govan Mbeki, one of the Rivonia Trialists who spent 24 years imprisoned on Robben Island with Mandela. Thabo spent most of the struggle years in exile, after receiving his post-secondary degrees in Britain, and by the late 1980s he was one of the leading ANC negotiators who met with officials of the apartheid regime in secret meetings. After 1994, Mbeki, the leading Deputy President in Mandela’s cabinet, slowly imposed himself as the technocratic administrator of the country (Mandela taking a more symbolic role as the national re-conciliator) and later as Mandela’s heir apparent within the ANC – sidelining rivals such as Cyril Ramaphosa and Matthews Phosa (the Premier of Mpumalanga), both of whom would latter become leading opponents of Mbeki. In 1997, Mbeki was elected ANC President at the Mafikeng Conference of the ANC and in 1999, with the ANC’s landslide victory in the second democratic elections, Mbeki became President of the Republic.

Mbeki is a complex man – fairly cold, distant, aloof, suspicious, insecure and even paranoid. His presidency was marked by the centralization of powers in the office of the President, the rigid enforcement of party dogma and the party line in the ANC parliamentary caucus and a much weakened Parliament which lost most of its independence. Mbeki largely surrounded himself with nonthreatening yes-men, people like Essop Pahad, Mbeki’s top right-hand man and ‘enforcer’ in the office of the presidency. Mbeki, a fairly well-read and intelligent man (notwithstanding his AIDS denialism and tendency for paranoid rants), was uncomfortable in public setting – his image is that of a tweed-wearing, pipe-smoking Anglophile intellectual, but with ideological sympathies for pan-Africanism which differentiated him from the ANC’s Freedom Charter tradition of non-racialism. Clearly insecure and even paranoid, Mbeki saw plots all around him – he became famous for his diatribes and rants against white racists or other shady groups who conspired against South African democracy. Mbeki had little tolerance for dissent within the party, and as the episode of the arms deal inquiry reveals, any hint of dissent from party/cabinet dogma was quickly and ruthlessly dealt with. Ultimately, Mbeki’s policies (on AIDS, Zimbabwe, GEAR etc) style of governance alienated a large section of the ANC top brass and the party membership. COSATU and SACP, alienated from Mbeki due to disagreements over GEAR, AIDS and Zimbabwe, rallied against Mbeki, as did the traditionally radical ANC Youth League (ANCYL).

Jacob Zuma is an opposite personality from Mbeki. A Zulu from rural KZN (Nkandla), Zuma received no formal education – unlike Mbeki, the British-educated academic – and joined the ANC in his teens. Zuma, active in MK (the ANC’s armed wing), spent ten years on Robben Island in the 1960s, continuing the armed struggle from exile in neighboring countries or underground in South Africa. After 1994, Zuma served as a provincial cabinet minister (MEC) in KZN but rose through the ranks of the national leadership to become ANC Deputy President in 1997 and Deputy President of South Africa in 1999.

Zuma is a friendlier and jovial man, who appears less insecure and paranoid than Mbeki and certainly far more at ease in public settings. Zuma is a chameleon, in that he can be different things to different audiences – donning a suit and tie and a more polished speech for a crowd of businessmen or white South Africans, or appearing either in traditional Zulu garb or in t-shirts preaching a more radical for a crowd of ANC supporters. In his personal life, Zuma is a polygamist who has been married six times and currently has four wives. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Zuma’s second wife (divorced since 1998), is a prominent ANC politician who served as health minister under Mandela, foreign minister under Mbeki and home affairs minister until 2012 in her ex-husband’s cabinet. She is currently the chairperson of the African Union Commission. He married his most recent wife in 2012. Zuma has had at least 20 children with his wives, with rumours of more kids born out of wedlock. In 2010, when Zuma was President, the revelation that one of Zuma’s mistresses had given birth to a daughter caused a political scandal in South Africa.

Zuma is rather keen on his Zulu cultural heritage, appearing dressed in traditional Zulu attire for traditional dances or marriages. In his campaign for the leadership of the ANC, Zuma’s opponents drew attention to the heavy use of ethnic and ‘tribal’ rhetoric by Zuma’s supporters (Zuma as the ‘100% Zulu boy’), in contradiction with the ANC’s traditions.

Between 2005 and 2007, the height of the Mbeki-Zuma civil war, the battle was often presented in ideological terms as a battle between the centre/right of the party under Mbeki and the left of the party, under a populist Zuma who had the backing of COSATU, the SACP and the fiery and controversial radical future head of the ANCYL, Julius Malema. Malema famously told supporters that he was ‘ready to kill’ for Zuma, and he was a fan of the controversial struggle song ‘Kill the Boer’. Zuma was, rhetorically, to the left of Mbeki and his style definitely made him the more populist leader of the two. However, a lot of the civil war boiled down to a complex clash of factions and personalities in a party which has always been a delicate coalition of different and unstable factions, provincial sections and personalities (in a way, not too dissimilar from the NP!). In 2007, there was also an ethnic element in the battle. One one of the ANC’s main achievements has been its ability to draw and hold together a coalition made up of different, distinct and sometime rival linguistic/ethnic groups (‘tribes’), something which has a lot to do with popular black rejection of the NP’s ‘divide and conquer’ strategy of emphasizing ‘tribalism’ and the ‘nations’ of the wider black population. Nevertheless, the ANC under Mandela and Mbeki, two Xhosa from the Eastern Cape (and the former Transkei homeland), sometimes irked non-Xhosa blacks – the ANC received the moniker ‘Xhosa Nostra’ to denote frustration with the EC/Xhosa’s extended hold on power and office. Zuma’s main power base was his native KZN, traditionally the black province which had been the ANC’s weakest link, but to style his coalition an ‘ethnic’ one, despite the ethnically-charged rhetoric of his supporters, would be wrong. He was supported by a majority of provincial branches at the 2007 Conference. Mbeki’s style had alienated a good deal of the ANC’s members and leaders from him, allowing Zuma to put together a strong coalition of the malcontents.

Mbeki’s decision (see above) to fire Jacob Zuma from his office as Deputy President of the country days after Zuma’s corrupt business partner, Schabir Shaik, had been convicted of taking bribes for Zuma from a French weapons firm, began a deep internal crisis within the ANC which led to Zuma’s election to the ANC presidency in 2007 and Mbeki’s removal from office by the ANC in September 2008. Although Mbeki was constitutionally ineligible for a third term as President in 2009, he fully intended to succeed himself as ANC President to ensure that he could pick a loyal ally to replace him as President in 2009.

Zapiro cartoon of Jacob Zuma and his showerhead

Jacob Zuma was charged with corruption by the NPA in June 2005. In December 2005, Zuma faced another scandal – he was charged with raping a 31-year old woman, the daughter of a deceased ANC comrade, at Zuma’s home in the Johannesburg area. Zuma admitted that he had had sex with her, but claimed that it was consensual. Zuma’s supporters claimed that their man was victim of a judicial persecution organized by Mbeki, a claim lent some credence when the young woman’s credibility was called into question during the trial. Nevertheless, Zuma and his supporters drew controversy to themselves. Zuma, who had unprotected sex with the woman, claimed that he had protected himself from contracting HIV by ‘vigorously showering’ afterwards, a comment which drew both criticism and derision. Zapiro, one of South Africa’s leading cartoonists, continues to depict Zuma with a shower attached to his head. Zuma’s supporters strongly defended his innocence, using disturbing rhetoric which was often misogynistic, vilifying Zuma’s accuser, burning effigies of her and shouting abuse. Zuma aptly made use of Zulu traditions to add an element of cultural sensitivity to the trial, which was presided by a white judge. Zuma claimed that he knew she wanted to have sex because she wore only a wrap and allowed Zuma to massage her, and concluded by saying that, in Zulu culture, it is not acceptable to leave a woman aroused without having sex with her. During the trial, Zuma spoke in his native isiZulu and addressed his supporters in isiZulu, and excited them with his rendition of the struggle song Umshini wami (bring me my machine gun). In May 2006, Zuma was found not guilty in a controversial trial.

Zuma’s corruption-arms deal trial was a roller-coaster ride. In September 2006, a High Court struck the NPA’s case against Zuma from the roll, after the NPA had asked for more time to prepare their case (after years of preparation). Zuma proclaimed himself an innocent man, and suddenly found new appreciation for the judiciary, after accusing it of being part of a witch-hunt against him.

In December 2007, at a tense ANC Conference in Polokwane, Jacob Zuma was elected President of the ANC, winning 60.2% of the vote against 39.3% for Mbeki. Zuma’s list swept the races for the four other executive positions – Kgalema Motlanthe became ANC Deputy President, Baleka Mbete became ANC National Chairperson, Gwede Mantashe became ANC Secretary-General (defeating Mbeki ally and defence minister, Mosiuoa ‘Terror’ Lekota), Thandi Modise became ANC Deputy Secretary-General and Matthews Phosa became ANC Treasurer (defeating Deputy President of South Africa, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka). The Mbeki camarilla was trounced in elections for the ANC’s National Executive Council (NEC), which was topped by Mandela’s ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. From the Mbeki list for the NEC, only Ramaphosa (not clear why he was on the Mbeki list, given his 1997 and 2001 conflicts with him), Trevor Manuel and three other names were elected to the NEC. Essop Pahad, Alec Erwin, Jabu Moleketi and Manto Tshabalala-Msimang were defeated. Zuma supporters such as Jeff Radebe, Lindiwe Sisulu, Tokyo Sexwale, Blade Nzimande (from the SACP), Ace Magashule, Valli Moosa, Tony Yengeni, Siphiwe Nyanda (like Yengeni, a beneficiary of EADS bribes), Derek Hanekom and Bheki Cele (later appointed as police commissioner) were all elected.

The national battle at Polokwane also unfolded at the provincial level, with ugly battles for control of the provincial branches of the ANC in nearly every province. The conflict was particularly brutal in the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape, two provinces whose delegates to Polokwane had backed Mbeki. In the EC, the pro-Mbeki Premier, Nosimo Balindlela, was ousted from office thanks to pressures from COSATU and the SACP, although she was replaced by another Mbeki supporter, suggesting other issues were important. In the WC, the pro-Mbeki Premier, Ebrahim Rasool, who had already struggled with a local ANC divided between blacks and Coloureds, was removed from office by the NEC in July 2008. In most other provinces, there were factional conflicts for the control of the provincial executive.

Mbeki remained President of South Africa, but as even more of a lame-duck, having lost control of the party and being placed under very close watch by the Zuma-led ANC NEC. Mbeki lost interest in leading the country, devoting himself to the foreign trips he so enjoyed and the protection of Jackie Selebi (see above). In early 2008, South Africa was hit by power cuts which seriously weakened Mbeki’s image as the successful economic manager/technocrat. The power shortages owed to a major increase in the demand for electricity while the government refused to invest in expanding electricity infrastructure and corruption in Eskom, the state-owned electricity company. In May 2008, xenophobic riots against black African immigrants killed over 40 people, putting a terrible black eye on South Africa’s notion as the ‘rainbow nation’. Mbeki’s handling of the riots – he went off to a conference in Japan during the riots, and he dithered about calling in the army.

In late December 2007, only a week after Polokwane, the NPA recharged Zuma with fraud, corruption, racketeering and money laundering. As he had done in 2006, between 2007 and 2008, Zuma’s legal team did all it could to ensure that their client never appeared before a court and to prevent the NPA from gaining access to compromising evidence (centered around a fax in which Thomson agreed to the bribery deal with Shaik and Zuma). In September 2008, Judge Chris Nicholson ruled Zuma’s recharging to be null and void because the NPA had broken the constitution by denying Zuma the right to make representation. What retained attention, however, was Nicholson’s controversial statement that there had been political interference (by Mbeki) in the case against Zuma, alleging that Mbeki’s Ministers of Justice had influenced the independent NPA (citing the suspension of Pikoli and the timing of the new charges against Zuma, right on the heels of Polokwane). Nicholson did not rule Zuma to be guilty or innocent, and even called for a commission of inquiry into the arms deal. Mbeki applied to appeal the ruling, decrying the ‘improper, vexatious, scandalous and prejudicial findings’ against him.

For the ANC, the Nicholson ruling was too much. On September 19-20, days after Nicholson’s ruling on September 12, the ANC NEC met and voted to impeach Mbeki. Mbeki was under no constitutional obligation to resign, given that the President may only be removed from office by Parliament, but, as a loyal ANC member and committed to the country’s stability, Mbeki obediently bowed to the NEC’s decision to remove him from office – and very speedily at that – by September 21, he was announcing his resignation in a TV address and by September 25, Mbeki was out of office. The Parliament elected Kgalema Motlanthe, the generally respected ANC Deputy President and ‘soft’ Zuma supporter, to the Presidency. It was understood that Motlanthe’s presidency would hold the chair warm for Zuma until the 2009 elections. He retained ministers like Trevor Manuel from Mbeki’s cabinet, while hardened Mbeki loyalists such as Pahad, Erwin, Moleketi (and his wife), Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Lekota left government.

In January 2009, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that Nicholson had incorrectly interpreted the constitution in faulting the NPA for not allowing Zuma the right to make representation, and ruled that Nicholson’s allegations against Mbeki overstepped the limits of his authority. However, on April 6, 2009, less than a month before the 2009 election, the NPA announced that it was dropping all charges, after new revelations confirming political interference by then-NPA boss Bulelani Ngcuka to favour Mbeki. However, the NPA reiterated that it felt that it had a strong case against Zuma and praised the behaviour of the prosecuting team.

President Jacob Zuma

In April 2009, the ANC was reelected in a landslide (with 65.9%), albeit the ANC’s vote share declined for the first time (down by about 4%). Zuma was elected President by Parliament in May. Kgalema Motlanthe, the ANC’s Deputy President, became Deputy President of South Africa. Pravin Gordhan replaced Manuel as Minister of Finance, although Manuel was placed as Minister in charge of the National Planning Commission and Gordhan had similar macroeconomic views to his predecessor. Jeff Radebe became Minister of Justice, Siphiwe Nyanda obtained communications, Tokyo Sexwale became Minister of Human Settlements and the SACP’s Secretary-General Blade Nzimande became Minister of Higher Education and Training.

Zuma’s presidency began relatively well. Before his election, there had been major concerns that Zuma’s presidency would mean a further swing towards authoritarianism while the h0t-headed declarations of some ANC, SACP and ANCYL stalwarts about the judiciary led to concerns about the independence of the judiciary under a Zuma presidency. Although the new government quickly abolished the Scorpions, the investigative arm of the NPA which had played a major role in prosecuting Zuma, Yengeni and Shaik (the ANC members at Polokwane had adopted a plank calling for the Scorpions to be abolished), the worst fears about an authoritarian lurch did not really come true. For example, the controversial judge and Zuma ally John Hlophe (who had received payments from a firm while ruling on a case pertaining to said firm) was not placed on the President’s list of nominees for the Constitutional Court. Instead, Sandile Ngcobo, an independent justice, became Chief Justice. In 2011, however, the nomination of Mogoeng Mogoeng as Chief Justice sparked controversy, mainly because of Mogoeng’s reputation as a Christian conservative. Zuma’s other appointments, for example to head the Reserve Bank, were also praised. On the other hand, Mo Shaik, the other brother of Chippy and Schabir, was named to head the secret service.

The incoming government also promised to be tough on corruption, but it quickly turned out that that was for show. S’bu Ndebele, a former Premier of KZN and the new Minister of Transport, was soon accused of having accepted bribes, gifts and trinklets from a group of road building contractors. In 2010, the wife of the Minister of State Security, Siyabonga Cwele, was arrested and charged with drug-trafficking. The heads of parastatals such as Armscor (the arms procurement agency, which already has a bad rap from the arms deal) and Transnet (a large rail, port and pipeline management company) were sacked or suspended in corruption cases. Beginning in the summer of 2011, Bheki Cele, the National Commissioner of the SAPS, was accused by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela of unlawful conduct in a multi-million dollar deal with a business tycoon (and friend of Zuma) over lease deals and police stations. In December 2011, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled invalid Zuma’s appointment of Menzi Simelane, a former Department of Justice top bureaucrat who had scuttled the arms deal investigations and was later humiliated in the Ginwala inquiry into the Pikoli dismissal (Ginwala’s report blamed him for misleading the Minister), to be National Director of Public Prosecutions (the NPA). In October 2012, the Constitutional Court upheld the lower court’s decision. In 2011, Sicelo Shiceka, the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, was finally fired after Madonsela had found him guilty of spending over R1 million of public money on private first-class air travel and luxury hotel, reportedly visiting a convicted drug-dealing girlfriend in jail in Switzerland. In October 2011, Cele was suspended (and the Minister of Public Works, also involved in the lease scandal, was fired) and finally fired in June 2012 by President Zuma. Mac Maharaj, an ANC struggle veteran who fell into disgrace under Mbeki but returned as Zuma’s official spokesperson, has faced allegations that he and his wife took kickbacks from Schabir Shaik on a drivers’ license deal when he was Minister of Transport under Mandela. In 2012, Maharaj threatened Mail & Guardian journalists with criminal charges when they sought to publish details of a confidential interview which the Maharaj spouses gave to the Scorpions in 2003; in 2013, the same newspaper published details obtained from Maharaj’s estranged sister-in-law which added new evidence to confirm allegations that the two had received kickbacks from Shaik in 1996.

Special Investigation Unit (SIU) probes into corruption in the public sector uncovered a pitiful scene. The Social Security Agency, which handles the millions of grant payments, was found to be riddled with fraud. Top bureaucrats in the Passenger Rail Agency, the language board, the state communications regulator, the SAPS’s crime intelligence division and the postal service were suspended over allegations of corruption. The SIU estimated that about 30 billion rands are wasted annually through overpayment and corruption. Other investigations reported billions of rands’ worth of improperly awarded tenders, often awarded to friends and families.

Jacob Zuma has been in hot water over his ties to the Gupta brothers, three Indian businessmen who have built close ties with Zuma and his family (his son is in business with them). In April 2013, the Gupta controversy became ‘Guptagate’ when a plane filled with Gupta family friends and guests to a wedding (being held at Sun City, South Africa’s famous gaudy casino resort) landed at Waterkloof air force base, sparing them from customs and immigration but raising huge security risks. Officials and police officers were axed during investigations. Zuma did not personally authorize the landing, but a military officer under investigation claimed she facilitated the landing believing instructions allegedly emanating from Zuma and/or his office.

The Protection of State Information Bill, aka the secrecy bill, has been the subject of political controversy since 2010. The bill replaces a 1982 act on information protection, and controversially proposes to impose tough 25-year jail terms for leaking of classified documents and stiff penalties including jail terms for disclosure of other classified information. The bill defines ‘national interest’ very broadly and vaguely, although amendments by the NCOP in 2012 narrowed the definition and made other changes to protect with exemptions for the public interest and limited the bill’s scope. The lower house passed an amended bill in April 2013, but Zuma sent the bill back for reconsideration by the National Assembly in September 2013, which sent it back to Zuma in November 2013. The bill has been criticized by the opposition parties, COSATU and a wide range of civil society organizations. Since 2010, the bill has been vastly improved to respond to criticism, with a more limited scope (no longer covers commercial information, no longer overrides the Access to Information Act, limited to cabinet and security agencies) and narrower definitions of key terms (national security, national interest), but remains controversial with still open-ended definitions of national security, vague wording of ‘economic and technological secrets’ and major concerns over penalties for possession and disclosure of classified information. The bill is likely to end up in front of the Constitutional Court.

The economy and the NDP

Zuma’s election did not see a significant shift to the left in economic policy. When Zuma took power, South Africa’s robust economic growth were a thing of the past and the country was hit by the global recession in 2009, unlike most of Africa. South Africa’s economy, based partly on struggling manufacturing (notably cars) and mining sectors, is more closely connected to the global economy and is vulnerable to fluctuations in the European and North American economies. Once in office, much to the COSATU and SACP’s chagrin, Zuma did not signal any shift away from the pragmatic and orthodox policies followed by his predecessor. In the first budget in 2010, Gordhan resisted pressure from the left to drop inflation-targeting in favour of an economic policy based on growth and job creation. That budget’s only concession to COSATU was the extension of the age limit for child-support grants from 15 to 18, an ANC election promise in 2009.

COSATU’s recriminations against Zuma began as early in 2009, with an unsuccessful court challenge to an agreement to sell 15% of a subsidiary of the parastatal telecom operator Telkom to Vodafone. COSATU threatened strikes over wages and interest rates; in 2009 and 2010, the country was rocked by strikes in factories and the public sector demanding wage increases. In September 2010, the country was paralyzed by public sector strikes from employees, backed by COSATU, demanding higher wages.

While Mbeki had been autocratic in his management of government business, Zuma has largely tried to avoid confrontation and taking big decisions (or delaying them as long as possible). In doing so, Zuma has been accused of being vacillating, indecisive and certainly very un-innovative in his handling of the country.

Because of the economic crisis and wildcat strikes in many economic sectors, Zuma’s presidency has been marked by a deteriorating job situation, with an increase in the official unemployment numbers from 4.2 million in 2009 to over 5 million, or 24.4% to 25.2%. As noted above, the job situation is particularly catastrophic for young South Africans, well over half of whom are unemployed or discouraged. The government was widely accused of lacking a coherent plan to create jobs, until it gave in to the opposition’s demands in late 2013 and passed a bill creating a ‘youth wage subsidy’, which went into effect for New Year’s 2014 after being a issue of hot political debate between the ANC, COSATU and the opposition for over three years. The youth wage subsidy is, in essence, a tax break for employers to encourage them to take on young workers. The new law allows employers to claim back half the salary of a young employee (18-29) earning at least R2000 a month. COSATU has been strongly opposed to the youth wage subsidy; while its opposition may stem from grubby attempts to keep their older members from losing their jobs to young recruits, there is a strong case made against the new law which does not address the core issues of youth unemployment – the lack of training, and, arguably, the absence of flexible labour legislation.

At the end of the term, two bills dealing with mining and private security industries were criticized. A mining bill would allow the state to take a 20% stake in any new petroleum venture, and allows for the state to purchase a larger stake with an output sharing deal. The security bill would limit foreign ownership in private security firms to 49%, worrying two British security firms with large investment in what is a growing and profitable sector in South Africa. Taken with the 2013 amendments to the EE and BEE laws, detailed above, the government is accused of weakening property rights, reducing private sector autonomy, threatening businesses with draconian penalties and deterring foreign investment.

Led by Trevor Manuel, the National Planning Commission drafted a National Development Plan (NDP), a sort of roadmap for South Africa’s next 20 years until 2030 which has been championed by Zuma, the ANC, the SACP and some opposition parties. The NDP’s two main objectives are to reduce the number people living under the lower-bound poverty line (R419 per month, per person) from 39% to 0% and to reduce the Gini coefficient from 0.69 to 0.6. Other goals to be achieved by 2030 include reducing unemployment to 6%; increasing employment from 13 million to 24 million in 2030; raising per capita income from R50,000 to R120,000 by 2030; increasing the share of national income of the bottom 40% from 6% to 10%; ensuring that skilled, technical, professional and managerial posts better reflect the country’s demographic makeup; broadening ownership of assets to historically disadvantaged groups; increasing the quality of education; affordable access to quality health care; universal access to running water at home and a social security system covering all working people. It calls for annual GDP growth of 5.4%, and a particular emphasis is placed on education with calls for improved standards, universal access to education, measures to allow employers to recruit young labour market entrants and expanding youth services programs. Largely, the NDP reads a wishlist of laudable goals, but the actions proposed to reach these goals are poorly detailed and the NDP serves mostly as a vague policy proposal or blueprint for more coherent action.

However, the NDP has divided the alliance. Parts of COSATU have criticized the NDP, drawing comparisons to the (in)famous GEAR and saying that the document reeks of neoliberalism and ‘right-wing’ thinking. It drew attention to the unambitious targets for reducing inequality, which would remain extremely high by world standards in 2030 (the NDP’s definition of poverty is also very conservative) under the NDP’s scenario; this contrasts with perhaps overly ambitious job creation targets, which the left fears would just create low-quality jobs in small businesses and the private sector. The NDP’s proposed actions are vague, and generally reflect a mix of interventionist government actions and neoliberal measures with limited government intervention, but on the issue of jobs, it takes a liberal stance with a clear focus on private sector/small business job creation (tax incentives, like the youth wage subsidy), export-led growth and a clear call for deregulation and economic liberalization. COSATU criticized the NDP for the focus on a job strategy which would create low-wage, unproductive jobs in the service sector rather than manufacturing, and the export-driven strategy which it claims exposes the country to competition, force a focus on ‘niche exports’ rather than industrial policy and attraction to the NEPAD (allegedly neoliberal) model of regional development. The NDP reiterates GEAR’s macroeconomic prescriptions, arguing for the need to reduce ‘consumption spending’ in favour of ‘investment spending’ and a quasi-exclusive focus on economic growth rather than development. COSATU was critical of the NDP’s stances on the labour market, which called for the youth wage subsidy, flexible labour laws, reducing entry-level wages (the NDP admits that the initial wages in the new jobs to be created will be low), linking wage growth to productivity growth, reducing the cost of doing business and calls for public sector reforms. Supporters of the plan have said that, while imperfect, the NDP nevertheless offers a clear image of where the country should be in 2030, and stressed the NDP’s inclusive character. The NDP has been pushed by the ANC, but nevertheless not much has been done to move it forward, perhaps because of resistance from ‘statist’ Ministers such as Ebrahim Patel and Rob Davies.

An IMF report in late 2013 predicted continued sluggish economic growth and higher current account deficits, leaving the economy exposed to both internal and external shocks. It called for quicker structural reforms to promote competition, trade liberalization, limiting the practice of extending collective bargaining outcomes to firms that did not participate in the bargaining and improved education outcomes.

Labour disputes, Marikana and the fate of COSATU

In August 2012, miners at a platinum mine owned by Lonmin in Marikana (North West province), in the platinum belt centered around Rustenburg, began wildcat strikes demanding a wage increase (tripling their monthly salaries to R12,500 per month)  and denouncing unsafe mining conditions, squalid living conditions and a lack of opportunities. Protests in early August were fairly non-violent, although about 10 people died in various clashes and incidents before August 16. On August 16, a SAPS contingent opened fire on a group of striking miners, killing 34 and wounding at least 78 – the shocking and horrendous incident, the Marikana Massacre, was the single most lethal use of force against civilians committed by the police since the infamous Sharpeville Massacre in 1960. It is unclear what happened: the SAPS said that the miners were armed and refused to disarm, instead attacking police. The SAPS defended itself saying it had tried its best to deescalate the crisis and control the crowd, but the protests turned violent and the strikers attacked police. The protesters were armed, but it is murky whether they attacked/shot first and if the SAPS was indeed only acting in self-defense; there a number of signs indicating a disproportionate police response and that some protesters were brutally and deliberately shot and killed by police instead of being arrested. At the Farlam Commission, appointed by Zuma to investigate Marikana, victims’ families and supporters have decried a police cover-up of its actions while others have dismissed the whole commission as a calculated attempt by the government to whitewash its role.

There was massive outrage when 270 miners were charged with the murder of their 34 comrades killed by SAPS, using an apartheid-era law (which allows for anybody associated with criminal condct by one member of a crowd to be charged, even when not involved in the crime – the NP regime used it to prosecute MK fighters). After major outcry at home and abroad, the NPA ‘provisionally’ dropped the charges three days later.

On September 18, the striking miners reached an agreement to return to work, with a pay raise between 11% and 22% and a one-time bonus of R2,000.

In the background to the violent social conflict in the platinum belt was union rivalry, between the COSATU affiliate National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) – historically the dominant union in mines, and one of COSATU’s largest unions; and the independent Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), a union recognized in 2001 formed by NUM dissidents which had begun organizing in the platinum belt in 2011. The NUM/COSATU has been criticized by workers on the ground for losing touch with the demands and harsh conditions of mineworkers on the ground and of being associated with an increasingly unpopular and discredited government held responsible for the failure of service delivry and high unemployment. The NUM’s leadership is conservative and tame, while COSATU’s broader membership is aging and it struggling to attract younger workers. In Marikana, NUM members broke with their unions to join the strike, while the NUM/COSATU leadership (along with the SACP) opposed the strike and accused AMCU’s members of violence and sided with the SAPS’ reading of the events of the massacre. Early in the strike, before the massacre, NUM leaders allegedly opened fire on a group of NUM dissident members who had joined AMCU. As a result of the strike, AMCU saw its membership numbers explode, from less than 9,500 in 2011 to over 42,000 in 2012 – and probably more, given that company and chamber of mines reports show that AMCU had about 88,000 members in the platinum and gold mines by the end of 2013. In 2013 AMCU was recognized as the majority union, displacing the NUM, at South Africa’s three big platinum producers (Anglo-American, Implats, Lonmin). By the end of 2013, it was reported that AMCU was now expanding to gold mines in Gauteng province – where it now represents about 20% of unionized workers (against 61% for NUM) and is the majority union in three gold mines in the Carletonville area in Gauteng.

The (sometimes violent) battle for union supremacy between AMCU and the NUM in the platinum belt reflects COSATU’s bigger troubles. Although it remains South Africa’s largest union confederation and a crucial mobilizer of support for the ANC, with over 2 million members, COSATU (and the SACP) has lost a good deal of its credibility and legitimacy on the left as it is accused of being more interested by the spoils of power and jealously protecting their advantages rather than caring about workers’ rights and conditions. It is increasingly turning into an aristocratic and bureaucratic ‘labour elite’ and a union of skilled, white-collar government workers and civil servants, leaving an ever-larger number of dissatisfied workers turning to independent and radical unions such as AMCU. COSATU’s leaders have enriched themselves, many have been co-opted into the ANC leadership (Ramaphosa in the past, and now Gwede Mantashe, a former NUM leader) or into plush government jobs. In an increasingly hierarchic organization, COSATU’s shop stewards or shaft stewards have become full-time union bureaucrats who lose touch with the members they are supposed to represent The conditions are similar to those which, in the late 1940s, allowed the Afrikaner nationalists to seize control of the white mine workers’ union from a discredited, corrupt, tame and aristocratic leadership neglectful of their members – with the notable difference that the Christian National Afrikaner unions in the 1940s were conservatives funded by the nationalist petty bourgeoisie, while AMCU is a more radical movement.

COSATU’s decling influence is certainly one of the factors playing informing the political-strategic internal conflicts in the confederation. The internal warfare certainly has a lot to do with personality clashes and other internal calculations, but can be fairly accurately summarized as a conflict between those who think that COSATU should be more independent of the ANC leadership and not be afraid to come out against the ANC, and those who support COSATU’s close alliance with the ANC. COSATU’s secretary-general, Zwelinzima Vavi, gained prominence after 2005 and in the run-up to Polokwane as one of Zuma’s key backers in the conflict against Mbeki. Vavi, critical of corruption and of Mbeki’s policies on Zimbabwe or HIV/AIDS, quickly turned critical of Zuma, beginning with claims that the government was soft on corruption and warning that South Africa was becoming a ‘predatory state’. Those criticisms, which came as early as June 2010, led to the ANC threatening disciplinary action. Vavi continued to criticize ANC policy, notably on issues such as the NDP (which he considers to be neoliberal), corruption, government intervention in the economy, nationalization, land expropriation and redistribution of wealth. Vavi affirmed his right to be critical of ANC policy, but his behaviour clearly irked the ANC leadership and the more pro-ANC sections of COSATU were not as keen on criticizing the ANC. In the turf wars within COSATU, the union’s president, Sdumo Dlamini, opposed Vavi and became identified with a pro-Zuma and pro-ANC tendency within the union confederation. COSATU affiliates such as the NUM, the teacher’s unions (SADTU), the police union, the transport union SATAWU, and the health workers’ union (NEHAWU) have sided with Dlamini and found Vavi too critical of the ANC, while Vavi was backed by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), the other major union in COSATU besides the NUM, which has been critical of the government.

But while Vavi called on COSATU to take heed of what Marikana symbolized for the movement’s future, he has been accused of corruption in relation to the sale of COSATU’s old buildings at half their price. In 2013, Vavi faced a COSATU investigation into this scandal, an investigation which was used by his opponents in the leadership and large unions such as the NUM and SADTU to castigate him and it became clear that they were seeking to oust him, less than a year after Vavi was reelected as COSATU secretary-general despite attempts by pro-Zuma groups to defeat him. In May 2013, Vavi survived an executive commitee vote to remove him but continued the investigations. In July-August 2013, the internal fighting re-intensified as Vavi faced rape charges from a former aide. Vavi admitted that he had sex with her and apologized for the extra-marital affair, but denied charges of rape and claimed that the woman was trying to blackmail him; a fewv days later, she withdrew rape charges. Given the anti-Vavi movement in COSATU, Vavi’s allies suspected that the woman had been ‘planted’ (it was alleged that the NUM boss might have been behind it) and that he was being attacked for ‘standing up for the working-class’. Despite the charges being dropped, Vavi’s opponents opted to charge him with misconduct and bringing the movement into disrepute for having sex with her at the office. In mid-August, Vavi’s opponents managed to get him suspended awaiting a complete investigation. Vavi’s allies, NUMSA and the farm workers’ union (FAWU), were furious, decrying a witch-hunt against Vavi because he was a revolutionary socialist critical of Dlamini’s pro-ANC leadership and pressuring Dlamini to convene a special congress. In November, it was announced that a special congress would be held, but Dlamini’s clan has been delaying it until a report on Vavi’s corruption case (in relation to the sale of buildings) comes out.

The COSATU crisis got worse in December 2013, at a NUMSA congress. NUMSA, which presents itself as ‘revolutionary, socialist, anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist’, is the largest pro-Vavi and Zuma-critical affiliate in COSATU, which has been locked in a protracted conflict with the pro-ANC majority in COSATU. At its special congress, NUMSA took the decision that it would not support or campaign for the ANC in 2014, arguing that neither the ANC or SACP represented the working-class and that the ANC government was following neoliberal policies and failed to create ‘decent work’ as had been promised at Polokwane. It also took steps which confirm that NUMSA is seeking both to expand its reach (into the mining sector, to take on its top rival, the NUM) and to create a united front-embryo of a future left-wing political party to run against the ANC in future elections.

Vavi was charged by COSATU with serious misconduct, on various cases relating to the irregular hire, employment and supervision of the female employee he had sex with, as well as his use of Twitter to attack COSATU ‘comrades’. In April, the High Court in Johannesburg ruled Vavi’s suspension to be invalid. ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa allegedly mediated a deal, shortly afterwards, to reinstate Vavi and keep NUMSA within COSATU – but all indicates it’s very much a temporary deal, given that Vavi’s opponents are still plotting to remove him while NUMSA is increasingly more anti-ANC and anti-COSATU.

The Malema dilemma

Zuma faced trouble from another prominent supporter at Polokwane – Julius Malema, the fiery former leader of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL). Traditionally the radical and more leftist faction within the ANC coalition, the ANCYL was – like COSATU and the SACP – drawn to Zuma in the hopes that he would shift away from Mbeki’s neoliberal policies, towards left-wing ‘pro-poor’ and ‘labour-friendly’ policies. As expounded above, there has been no such shift under the Zuma administration, creating dissatisfaction with Zuma’s radical erstwhile allies in the ANCYL. Adding to ideological factors, the ANCYL’s president, Malema, who is now 33, was an ambitious politician who clearly did not intend to play second-fiddle to Zuma within the ANC. Malema drew widespread controversy, at home and abroad, for his fiery rhetoric and his foul-mouthed tirades against his opponents (or opponents of his allies). When Malema supported Zuma, he famously said that he was ready to kill for Zuma and during the Zuma rape trial, he said that his accuser must have had a ‘nice time’ because she stayed for breakfast (a comment which earned him a conviction for hate speech). He called the leading opposition party’s leader a ‘racist’ and ‘cockroach’. In 2010, Malema drew controversy for a visit to Zimbabwe where he met with ZANU-PF officials and criticized the opposition MDC, a tirade against a BBC journalist who accused Malema of hypocrisy for lashing out at the MDC for having offices in the upscale Johannesburg suburb of Sandton when Malema himself lived in Sandton, and insensitive comments about white South Africans. Zuma was irked by Malema’s visit to Zimbabwer, which came as Pretoria was trying to broker an agreement between the two rival parties. Malema sung the highly controversial ‘shoot the Boer’ song at several political rallies, earning him a rebuke from the courts, which found the song ‘unconstitutional and unlawful’ (for inciting violence against whites) and banned him from singing the song. Nevertheless, Malema openly flouted the ruling. In May 2010, Malema survived an ANC disciplinary hearing for ‘bringing the organization into disrepute'; he narrowly escaped suspension by apologizing, pledging to take anger management classes and taking a fine (R10,000).

Malema and the ANCYL publicly called for the nationalization of mines and land expropriation without compensation, causing troubles for the ANC government in its dealings with investors. Although the ANC quickly moved to say that it was not government policy, the ANC was nevertheless compelled to give in to the powerful ANCYL by calling an ‘investigation’ into the question of nationalization in 2010. In 2011, Malema continued undermining Zuma’s authority in the ANC and was a source of embarrassment for the ANC, which often found itself doing damage control after an outburst by Malema. For example, Malema criticized Zuma’s controversial association with the Indian Gupta brothers, charging that they were ‘colonizing’ the country. The ANC leadership, especially Zuma, became increasingly annoyed and worried by Malema’s unruly behaviour. In August 2011, Malema’s declaration that he wanted to set up a ‘command team’ in Botswana to unite the opposition to the Botswana government was the straw which broke the camel’s back. The ANC charged Malema with bringing the organization into disrepute and sowing divisions. In November 2011, Malema was found guilty and suspended from the party for five years. In April 2012, Malema was expelled from the ANC.

Malema’s expulsion didn’t end the Malema dilemma for the ANC, it merely displaced it. Malema strongly supported the striking miners at Marikana in August 2012, and was extremely critical of the government’s behaviour during the crisis. He encouraged workers to continue their strike, and used the social crisis which followed Marikana as a platform for jabs against Zuma. In doing so, Malema aptly seized on an opening on the left – the SACP, which is hardly communist by this point, effectively sided with the government (against the strikers) in the aftermath of Marikana while most of COSATU was either too busy fighting their own internal squabbles or utterly discredited by the NUM’s rout at Marikana to actually do anything. Malema’s calls for ‘economic freedom in our lifetime’ struck a chord with the discontented.

Malema is not controversial only because of his provocative statements – there’s been a lot of questions about how a young guy, born and raised in poverty, managed to become so rich – designer clothes, luxury cars, an unfinished (now auctioned off) home in Johannesburg’s affluent northern suburbs. In 2012, a report by the Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, found that Malema (his trust) benefited from a fraudulent tender in his home province of Limpopo. A firm, in which Malema’s family trust is one of two shareholders, fraudulently obtained a government tender (by allegedly making false claims about its experience, qualifications and tax status) from the provincial government and Malema’s family trust benefited improperly by means of the payment of dividends or kickbacks by the firm. He was charged on 16 counts of money laundering, amounting to R4.58 million, on September 26 2013 by a court in Polokwane (Limpopo) and released on bail. The NPA’s argument is that Malema received and accepted the proceeds of crime, and that he should have known that he was benefiting from unlawful activities. According to Madonsela’s report, Malema is a ‘tenderpreneur’ – a well-connected individual who benefits improperly from government tenders. In April 2013, Malema’s trial was postponed to June. It has since been postponed to September 2014. Malema’s lawyers argued that the NPA ‘fabricated’ evidence against Malema in the case, while Malema has repeatedly vowed to fight the charges or that he is the victim of political persecution by the ANC.

Malema is also fighting tax evasion charges, with the revenue service saying that he owes R16 million in unpaid taxes. The asset forfeiture unit seized a farm owned by Malema and his unfinished mansion in Sandown, Johannesburg. In February 2014, a court placed him under provisional sequestration.

Mangaung

The endless corruption scandals, the weak economy, the strikes which had paralyzed the economy, the Marikana Massacre, Zuma’s weakness as a leader, the Malema dilemma, alliance divisions, local squabbles, personality clashes and the ANC’s recent Polokwane-induced tendency to air its dirty laundry in public all meant that Zuma would likely face a strong challenge to his hold on the ANC’s leadership at the party’s regular elective conference, in Mangaung (Bloemfontein) in December 2012. ANC leadership conferences from 1949 (when Mandela and his allies’ radical ANCYL faction toppled the moderate and bourgeois old guard) and 2008 were decided behind closed doors, and the choice for president was merely confirmed unanimously at the conference. For example, in the run-up to the 2002 conference, Mbeki’s security minister in 2001 had released a controversial report alleging a ‘plot’ against Mbeki by his rivals Matthews Phosa, Ramaphosa and Sexwale; as a result, Mbeki was reelected unopposed.

In the run-up to Mangaung, a vaguely defined and extremely heterogeneous grouping of ‘pro-change’ (anti-Zuma) malcontents rallied around Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, a mild-mannered and fairly respectable party stalwart although fairly risk-averse and cautious. The pro-change faction included the bulk of the Gauteng ANC, led by culture minister and former Premier Paul Mashatile (2008-2009); the Limpopo ANC, led by Premier Cassel Mathale, an ally of Julius Malema; and ambitious ANC senior politicians such as Tokyo Sexwale and Matthews Phosa (two Mbeki rivals who had backed Zuma at Polokwane, after failing to launch their own presidential bids). The ANCYL, first under Malema and then under a rebellious leadership which originally defended Malema (and refused to replace him) opposed Zuma, but acting ANCYL boss Ronald Lamola and Malema had a very public and foul-mouthed falling out in November 2012, after Lamola ordered the ANCYL to stop defending Malema in his corruption trial and rumours that Lamola was engaged in back-doors negotiations with Zuma’s faction. Other provinces were divided on the issue: in the North West, Premier Thandi Modise and the ANC provincial secretary backed Motlanthe while ANC chairperson Supra Mahumapelo firmly backed Zuma; in the Free State, Zuma ally and Premier Ace Magashule, a powerful political operator in the province, faced dissent from a pro-change minority; in KZN, the province largely remained loyal to native son Jacob Zuma and his ally Premier Zweli Mkhize, but axed SAPS chief Bheki Cele unsuccessfully tried to mobilize anti-Zuma opinion. In the Free State, Zuma opponents tried to take the pro-Zuma leadership to court over irregularities in the provincial delegate selection process; only days before the conference opened, the Constitutional Court ruled the Free State’s provincial elective conference invalid. In a confusing last-minute situation, Zuma’s allies nevertheless managed to allow the province’s largely pro-Zuma delegates to vote. The Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Western Cape were also divided, but party branches in the first two provinces eventually broke heavily for Zuma while the WC went to Motlanthe.

Zuma received the support of a majority of party branches – the single largest ANC local branch in eThekwini (Durban) metro and the Mpumalanga ANC (with Premier David Mabuza), but also from strong minorities in pro-Motlanthe provinces (such as Gauteng, where some factions backed Zuma and Premier Nomvula Mokonyane was said to be supporting Zuma), the majority of a divided COSATU (with Sdumo Dlamini, who was elected to the ANC NEC), Blade Nzimande and the co-opted SACP, police minister Nathi Mthethwa, education minister Angie Motshekga (and her husband, the ANC chief whip), and the MK Veterans associations, who had been promoted to higher ranks in party hierarchy and benefited from a generous donation from the Gupta brothers. Zuma also attracted the support of former opponents, including one-time Malema ally and suspended ANCYL treasurer Pule Mabe.

In a lot of nomination battles, like in the Free State, there were widespread allegations of vote-rigging and ghost delegates.

Kgalema Motlanthe accepted the nominations he received for various offices, including ANC President, and at the conference he went all in by announcing that he would only stand for ANC President and would not concurrently stand for reelection as ANC Deputy President. Zuma was reelected with 75.1% against 24.9% of the vote for Motlanthe in the presidential race.

In the race for ANC Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, the trade unionist-turned-businessman, was elected with the backing of Zuma’s slate. He won 76.4% against 11.9% for Matthews Phosa (supported by the ANCYL) and 11.7% for Tokyo Sexwale, the two candidates standing for the pro-Motlanthe faction. Ramaphosa return to high-level politics with the number two spot in the ANC was rather controversial, with concerns over potential conflicts of interest but also questions about his behaviour at Marikana (he’s a shareholder in Lonmin, which owns the mine at Marikana). Emails obtained by the Farlam commission on Marikana showed Ramaphosa, the day before the massacre, urging on the police minister to intervene and describing the miners as ‘dastardly criminal’. The anti-Zuma forces on the left, notably the ANCYL, were predictably livid about this. Ramaphosa, who became very rich by entering the private sector, also carries the baggage of being one of the big ‘BEE fat cats’ – black ANC leaders who benefited from the elite pact of 1994 and got rich with BEE deals. Ramaphosa’s selection by the Zuma camp to be number 2 in the ANC was perceived as a positive signal given to business who had been worried by the ANC’s talk of nationalization, fast-track land reform, secrecy bills and taxes. It also created major buzz about Ramaphosa being next-in-line for the ANC and South Africa’s presidency in 2017 and 2019 respectively.

The conference also saw a confirmation of the government’s moderate economic policies, ruling out nationalization (in favour of ‘increasing state ownership in strategic sectors if necessary’) and land expropriation without compensation. It reaffirmed a inflation-targeting monetary policy, orthodox fiscal policies, promised to take on corruption and adopted the NDP as ANC policy. Ramaphosa, who had been deputy chair of the National Planning Commission, was expected to become the leader on the implementation of the NDP, with the political retirement of Trevor Manuel.

Zuma’s supporters swept the four other executive positions – Baleka Mbete was reelected as National Chairperson with 76.2% against 23.8% for Thandi Modise, Gwede Mantashe was reelected as Secretary-General with 77.2% against 22.8% for former ANCYL president and sports minister Fikile Mbalula, Jessie Duarte was elected as Deputy Secretary-General unopposed and KZN Premier Zweli Mkhize succeeded Matthews Phosa as Treasurer General with 75.7% against 24.3% for Paul Mashatile.

Zuma owed his victory to his team’s superior organization and coherence, in contrast with the divided pro-change camp. Zuma counted on strong support from key cabinet ministers, several provincial strongmen, minorities in pro-change provinces and his team was active in the run-up to the conference spreading messages that the pro-change team was ill disciplined and ‘un-ANC’. In contrast, Motlanthe himself largely lacked enthusiasm and willingness to campaign for the leadership (but at the same time, Ramaphosa barely campaigned for his new spot as ANC Deputy President).

In March 2013, after Mangaung, the ANC NEC disbanded the ANCYL’s NEC and the Limpopo ANC’s provincial executive. Limpopo, under Premier Cassel Mathale (a one-time Malema ally), had opposed Zuma’s reelection at Mangaung; Mathale was removed from office in July 2013 and replaced by uncontroversial Stan Mathabatha (Dickson Masemola, a Zuma ally who as MEC for education presided over the textbook debacle, was skipped over). Both decisions were seen as ‘purges’ directed against the anti-Zuma factions in the ANC. In January, the ANCYL leadership had pledged to toe the line but there had been strong pressure from Zuma and his allies in the ANC leadership to take tough actions against the ANCYL, which had backed Motlanthe at Mangaung.

Nkandla

The last stretch of Zuma’s first term in office has been hurt by Nkandlagate, one of the biggest corruption scandals in South Africa since the arms deal. Nkandla, as noted above, is Zuma’s traditional homestead in his native rural KZN, a house which he started building thanks to arms deal kickbacks. The scandal broke in November 2011 as the Mail & Guardian reported on the construction of underground bunkers at Nkandla, by a contractor which employs Zuma’s niece and at the cost of the state. The weekly newspaper claimed that the state was paying for lavish upgrades at Nkandla, with new living quarters, a clinic, gymnasium , parking, a helipad, a playground and new houses for security guard and visitors. In 2009, the newspaper had already reported about government-paid upgrades to the presidential homestead. In November 2012, the scandal broke again when Zuma addressed Parliament on Nkandla for the first time, claiming that his family had paid for the construction. The Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, launched a probe into the emerging scandal in late 2012. The ANC’s initial response into the scandal was uncoordinated and jumbled.

In January 2013, the ‘security cluster’ of ministers involved in Nkandlagate, led by Minister of Public Works Thulas Nxesi, released a classified report which recognized the state had spent, altogether, over R200 million on security upgrades at Nkandla and admitted irregularities in the choice of service providers, but the report defended the necessity for ‘security upgrades’ and – most importantly – cleared Zuma of any wrongdoing. The Department of Public Works took the blame for ‘systemic weaknesses’ (‘inadequate management capacity and poor financial controls’) in the department. The full report was finally released in December 2013.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s investigation into Nkandla clearly panicked the ruling party. In November 2013, the ‘security cluster’ ministers went to court to try to interdict the release of her report, claiming it needed more time to respond to her provisional report and to vet ‘national security breaches’ in the report. Two weeks later, in the face of controversy, they dropped their request. A few days later, Madonsela stated that she would have final say over what the report said and that she would not allow ‘security cluster’ ministers to dictate to her. She regretted having shown the ministers her provisional report in the first place, given that they abused her trust by taking the issue to court. In late November, a controversial leak of the provisional report by the Mail & Guardian‘s investigative journalists said that Madonsela’s report had found that Zuma derived ‘substantial personal benefit’ from the Nkandla upgrades.

Madonsela’s final report was released in March 2014. On the whole, it was a damning report both for the government and for Zuma himself. Implementation of the security measures (which she judged to be necessary) failed to comply with parameters set out in legislation and cabinet directives on the matter. The government ‘failed dismally’ to follow supply chain management prescripts, with the absence of demand management, the lack of open tenders and the employment of Zuma’s principal architect as the government’s ‘principal agent’ (creating a conflicting situation) – all of which resulted in ‘scope creep’ leading to ‘exponential scope and cost escalations’. The scope of the project far exceeded what was required for the President’s security – notably the construction of a visitors’ centre, a new cattle kraal with a chicken run, a swimming pool, an amphitheatre, extensive paving and the relocation of neighbours; these measures, she said, involved ‘unlawful action and constitutes improper conduct and maladministration’. The ministerial task team report had defended even these lavish expenditures as security upgrades, presenting the swimming pool as a ‘fire pool’ and the amphitheatre as a ‘retaining wall’. Madonsela further faulted the government for building these new amenities in the compound, rather than in a location accessible to the local public where it could have benefited the local population of Nkandla. She found that the costs incurred by the state – including for buildings which went beyond what was required for security – was ‘unconscionable, excessive, and caused a misappropriation of public funds’. Madonsela found that Zuma and his family improperly benefited from upgrades (because of ‘substantial value being unduly added to the President’s private property’ and the installation of non-security essential upgrades).

Madonsela’s findings dinged the Department of Public Works for failing to resolve the issue of items earmarked for the owners’ cost transparently. Officials in the Departments of Public Works, Defence and the SAPS ‘failed to acquaint themselves with the authorizing instruments’, acts constituting ‘improper conduct and maladministration’. The employment of Zuma’s principal architect as the government’s principal agent created a major conflict of interest and allowed for ‘scope creep’, cost escalation and poor performance by contractors. Madonsela found that “the President tacitly accepted the implementation of all measures at his residence and has unduly benefited from the enormous capital investment from the non-security installations at his private residence, a reasonable part of the expenditure towards the installations that were not identified as security measures in the list compiled by security experts in pursuit of the security evaluation, should be borne by him and his family”. Zuma should therefore repay the cost of ‘items that can’t be conscionably accepted as security measures’. She did not find Zuma guilty of misleading Parliament in November 2012, however, Zuma failed to ask questions about the ‘scale, cost and affordability’ of Nkandla. His failure to ‘act in protection of state resources’ constitutes a breach of the executive ethics code and amounts to unconstitutional behaviour. Instead of raising red flags about the costs, Zuma instead complained that the upgrades weren’t happening fast enough. Madonsela estimated the total cost of the project at R246 million, far exceeding the costs of security upgrades to former President’s houses in the past, the highest of which was a R32 million project at Mandela’s house.

Her report spoke of ‘administrative deficiencies’ and ‘systemic policy gaps’ which led to the inflation of costs. Her final report did not include substantial changes from the provisional report leaked by the M&G. Her report said that she had resisted countless attempts by the government to interfere in her investigation, to limit its scope or even shut it down. The M&G’s journalists had, at the time, estimated the costs of the non-security essential upgrades at R20 million and that the state had paid Zuma’s team of contractors over R90 million.

The government accepted that Zuma would need to repay the state, but reiterated their view that all measures, including the pool, cattle kraal and additional structures were “necessary for the security of the president”. Zuma himself tried to distance himself from government decision-making, having previously insisted that he had no say in how the government handles his personal security. However, Madonsela’s report and other documents obtained showed that Zuma was consulted on the upgrades on several occasions, may have pressed for his personal architect to be employed by the state, that said architect acted as a go-between Zuma and government officials and that Zuma intervened to press the state to keep contractors of his choosing.

Parties and Issues

African National Congress (ANC)

The ANC is South Africa’s dominant party. Founded in 1912 (as the South African Native National Congress, SANNC), two years before the NP, it is one of the oldest political parties in Africa. One of the ANC’s founders and early leading figure was Sol Plaatje, a widely recognized black intellectual and luminary of early twentieth-century South Africa. From its foundations until the late 1940s, the ANC was a relatively minor player in the opposition to the whites-only regime. It was a predominantly bourgeois middle-class and intellectual moderate movement, which sought to redress the black’s situation through civic means – including appealing to the colonial power, Britain. The SANNC/ANC was only one part of the black movement, one which respected and emphasized imperial ties and looked to Britain to support its claims. However, since the peace of Vereeniging in 1902, Britain was more interested in an ‘elite compromise’ with their former white Afrikaner enemies than with the politically weaker and ineffective black majority.

In 1948, when the NP took power, the ANC’s leadership was ineffectual, passive and inactive although the ANC had by then adopted a stronger set of demands – an end to racial domination and white trusteeship, a common citizenship and political equality. The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) – whose ranks included Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo (among others) – felt that the ANC’s old leaders were too complacent and attached to British ‘gentlemen politics’. In 1949, the younger generation defeated the ANC leadership at the party congress and adopted a markedly more radical and militant attitude against the NP regime including strikes and boycotts. However, until 1961, the ANC’s used peaceful means (civil disobedience) to the protest the regime, organizing boycotts or strikes – often alongside trade unions, Indian and coloured groups or the Communist Party.

The 1952 Defiance Campaign marked the ANC’s emergence as a major political force, but at the same time it also showed the futility of civil disobedience and mass protests in the face of NP intransigence as the state stuck to its policies and the campaign petered out. The Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, the first major incidence of state-sanctioned mass violence, led the ANC to the realization that there was no constitutional, non-violent path to change in South Africa. In 1961, Mandela created Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the ANC’s armed wing. The MK, from foreign bases in sympathetic states (such as Angola and Mozambique after 1976), launched attacks (bombings, assassinations, car bombings) against military, governmental or civilian (white) targets in South Africa.

The South African Communist Party (SACP), refounded in 1953 after the original Communist Party had been banned in 1950, became the ANC’s closest ally in the early 1950s and had a major influence on the ANC’s ideological direction. The SACP had first gained prominence during the Rand Rebellion (1922), when it had supported the labour demands of the white workers but rejected the racist backdrop to them (workers of the world unite and fight for a white South Africa). The SACP’s ideological position was that a ‘native republic’, to be built in cooperation with the black nationalist movements, was a necessary transitional step before the creation of a socialist state in South Africa. In the 1950s, the SACP successfully prodded the ANC towards a non-racial platform, which stipulated that all ethnic groups – including whites – had equal rights to the country, a position which alienated the more radical and nationalist ‘Africanist’ faction of the ANC. In 1955, the Congress of the People – which brought together the ANC, the South African Indian Congress, the white anti-apartheid leftist Congress of Democrats and other organizations – adopted the Freedom Charter, which became the ANC’s purported ideological declaration. The Freedom Charter was a non-racial document which called for democracy (full voting rights for all races), human rights, labour rights but also supported land redistribution and the nationalization of mines and other industries.

The SACP’s influence within the ANC increased during the 1970s as the organization became increasingly dependent (for funding and weapons) on the support of the Soviet Union and other African communist/socialist liberation movements (FRELIMO, MPLA, SWAPO). With the Sino-Soviet split, the ANC/SACP firmly sided with Moscow, and tended to dogmatically follow Moscow’s positions. Nevertheless, the ANC/SACP alliance was never a smooth affair: within the ANC, which had a long tradition of anti-Marxism dating to the 1920s, a substantial number of activists rejected or were reluctant to ally with the SACP.

The classic ANC slogan – “A better life for all” (source: UNISA)

Despite NP propaganda which depicted the ANC as a communist terrorist organization which posed a serious threat to the government of ‘white South Africa’, the ANC in the 1970s and early 1980s was weakened and divided by the imprisonment or exile of many of its most prominent leaders, notably Nelson Mandela. The MK’s armed campaign was foundering, as the state’s repression was taking its toll on the organization. The 1976 Soweto Uprising was a spontaneous, grassroots uprising over which the ANC had no control or say; nevertheless, the ANC successfully exploited the Soweto uprising and the revival of African resistance it brought upon. The ANC gained greater interest in the mass struggle, better re-conciliating it with the MK’s armed struggle, and it slowly built a stronger organization inside of South Africa. The formation of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in the 1980s allowed for a rebirth of ANC militant action inside South Africa, through the mobilization of a large array of local organizations and civil society movements in favour of the ANC’s struggle. During the violence (1985-1994), the ANC was one of the major players in the African resistance; in the context of the breakdown of law and order in South Africa, ANC-linked groups (vigilantes, thugs) committed gross human rights abuses (notably ‘necklacing’), while in the MK’s guerrilla camps, the strains of the armed struggle and exile led to a climate of suspicion and allowed for major human rights abuses (torture, assassinations) in MK camps. Following the legalization of the ANC and SACP in February 1990, the MK ended its armed campaign in August 1990 and the ANC under Nelson Mandela (who replaced Oliver Tambo as ANC President in 1991) played the leading role in the negotiations to end apartheid.

The modern ANC forms the core of the so-called ‘Tripartite alliance’ which currently governs South Africa. This three-party alliance includes the ANC, the SACP and COSATU. The ANC has been the dominant party in South Africa since 1994, always holding a three-fifths majority (and a two-thirds majority, with the ability to amend the constitution freely, between 2004 and 2009). It won 62.7% in 1994, 66.4% in 1999, 69.7% in 2004 and 65.9% in 2009 (the first time that the ANC lost votes). The ANC is also dominant in provincial and local government, governing all but one of South Africa’s nine provinces and the large majority of municipalities.

The ANC must be understood as a factionalized and heterogeneous party rife with factionalism and internal squabbles. In many regards, this goes back to the days of apartheid, when the strains of exile, imprisonment or militant/military action in South Africa caused divisions within the party. Those who had stayed ‘behind’ and led direct actions (violent or nonviolent) against the regime at home chafed at the the autocratic and centralist style of the party’s exiled leadership. Among activists who stayed at home, organizing actions under the auspices of the UDF, there had been a strong tradition of bottom-up organization, open debate and discussion, consultation and consensual decision-making. They often resented the top-down and centralist leadership of the party’s exiled leaderships.

Since 1994, the ANC has had three presidents (and South Africa has had four). Nelson Mandela, the hero and icon of the struggle served as ANC President between 1991 and 1997, when he was succeeded by the Deputy President (of the ANC and South Africa), Thabo Mbeki, an English-educated technocrat who had been one of the ANC’s exiled cadres during apartheid. Under Mbeki’s controversial leadership, the old ANC traditions of open internal debate, consultation and consensual decision-making were lost and replaced by autocratic, top-down leadership in which those who questioned the ANC government’s behaviour or that of its leaders were crushed by the weight of the party machinery. The electoral system of closed-list proportional representation gives more powers to party leaderships, given that they are able to ‘make or break’ any incumbent parliamentarian’s future career by deciding to exclude him/her from the party’s list for the next elections.

Since Mbeki, the leader’s power over the party (and, by consequence, the legislature and executive) has been strengthened. However, this has not changed the factional nature of the ANC. Mbeki made lots of enemies within the ANC during his presidency and his autocratic style allowed diverse factions within the party to organize against him and deny him a third term as ANC President at the party’s 2007 National Conference in Polokwane. Jacob Zuma, who had served as Deputy President of the ANC and South Africa (until 2005), trounced Mbeki and his allies at the 2007 conference. Zuma, who has no formal education and stayed ‘inside’ the country under apartheid, is a more approachable and down-to-earth populist figure the elitist and aloof Mbeki could ever be; but he has proceeded to take control of the party machinery like Mbeki had before him. The pro-Zuma leadership of the ANC recalled Mbeki as President in 2008. In 2012, at the Mangaung National Conference, Zuma and his allies easily defeated Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, the candidate backed by the anti-Zuma factions.

Ideology has played a role in some of the ANC’s recent divisions, most recently at Polokwane in 2007. The ANC’s shift from left-wing (socialist) economics towards neoliberal capitalism after 1994 caused some strains within the governing alliance, as noted above. However, most of the current internal divisions within the ANC are the result of personal animosities. Mbeki had managed to make a lot of enemies and alienate large swathes of the party’s rank-and-file, and even with the strong ideological undertones to the Mbeki-Zuma civil war between 2005 and 2008, much of that civil war was due to personal clashes. This was even more the case in 2012, when opposition to Zuma was united by little else than distaste for Zuma by ambitious politicos who felt sidelined within the party organization. Internal divisions within the modern ANC are a battle for the spoils of power and partaking in the lucrative system of government rather than any ideological or principled battle.

ANC manifesto 2014 (source: ANC Gauteng.org.za)

In the absence of a credible and serious challenge to the ANC’s power, the party – which can still claim the mantle of national liberation and the legitimacy stemming from the fight against apartheid – remains the dominant party in South African politics. The party retains very strong support from black voters – almost regardless of tribe, language or ethnicity. The ANC has long been a non-tribal or anti-tribal party, which emphasized black brotherhood or unity above trial ties, although under Mandela and Mbeki, the Xhosa (the second largest black ethnic group in South Africa) dominated much of the ANC. One of the ANC’s major successes in its history has been its ability to transcend tribal or ethnic boundaries within the larger black population – even as the NP tried to play on ethnicity to divide the black population. The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), the strongest black challenger to the ANC, failed to break its own ethnic Zulu boundaries and it has since been progressively crushed by the ANC. Jacob Zuma, who actively marketed himself as the “100% Zulu boy” and enjoys partaking in Zulu tribal customs, destroyed the IFP in KZN in 2009. While the ANC lost support nationally, the party gained nearly 16% in KZN. Outside the former KwaZulu homeland and Umtata (the former capital of Transkei), the ANC usually wins 85 to 95% of black votes. The party has not really needed to actively reach out to Coloured, Indian and white voters given their small(er) demographic weight. It attracted about half of Indian voters in 1999 and 2004. The ANC made inroads with coloured voters in 1999 and 2004; generally polling better with middle-class or rural coloureds. The ANC barely attracts more than 1 or 2% support from white voters.

Similarly, the ANC’s leadership is largely black. The ANC opened its membership to non-blacks in 1969, although the NEC remained off limits to non-blacks until the 1980s. Since 1994, some non-blacks have occupied fairly prominent (and sometimes powerful) positions within cabinet or the ANC leadership. Trevor Manuel, the long-standing finance minister between 1996 and 2009, is Coloured. Essop Pahad, Mbeki’s right-hand man and chief enforcer, was Indian; as was Kader Asmal, a former education minister and ANC MP. Pravin Gordhan, the current finance minister, is also Indian. Derek Hanekom (former agriculture minister, current minister of science and technology), Barbara Hogan (a former health minister) and Andrew Feinstein (a former ANC MP turned ‘rogue’ by denouncing a major scandal in the 1990s) are white.

The ANC entered the 2014 elections facing many challenges. Zuma’s presidency has been controversial and his record is, at best, mediocre. The government and the presidency have been hit by a series of scandals, the most important of which is Nkandlagate; the country’s economy is struggling and unemployment remains a huge challenge which the ANC government has been unsuccessful in tackling adequately; the ANC has run into a number of controversies since 2009, both in forms of scandals and controversial policies or events such as the secrecy bill and Marikana; the ANC’s Tripartite alliance is showing strains, with an utterly discredited SACP being no more than an irrelevant annex of the ANC and a deeply divided COSATU which has found itself struggling for its legitimacy since 2009; Zuma’s leadership in the ANC was confirmed with a huge win at Mangaung but faces back-room divisions within the ANC and his popularity has declined, as evidenced by his booing at Nelson Mandela’s memorial ceremony in December 2013. Some in the ANC blamed the ‘booer war’ against Zuma on rogue anti-Zuma elements in the Gauteng ANC, a party branch which was at the helm of the anti-Zuma movement at Mangaung and which is suspected of still harbouring anti-Zuma sentiments. There were media reports in late January 2014 that even in KZN, Zuma’s stronghold, some regions were allegedly turning against Zuma.

The ANC resolved itself to fighting 2014 with Zuma at the helm, through the influence of pro-Zuma hardliners in the NEC. The ANC’s damage control strategy for Nkandla has been to pretend that Madonsela’s report largely reiterated the findings of the ministerial task team’s 2013 report (despite some substantial differences in findings), to separate the party from the government and the President (to absolve the ANC as a party of any blame), to prevent the issue to be taken up by Parliament (the ANC closed a parliamentary committee on Nkandla and referred it to the next Parliament, citing insufficient time before May 7), to insist that corrective action is already being taken and, as per a Mail & Guardian report in March 2014, to offer up scapegoats as sacrifice.

The ANC’s manifesto seized on the historic nature of the 2014 election and on sympathy for the late Mandela, by trying to convey a ‘good story’ about South Africa since 1994 and playing up the ANC’s (real) achievements in transforming the country since 1994. Its manifesto opens with a memorial picture of ‘Madiba’, and the first sections emphasize ’20 years of freedom and democracy’, listing the ANC’s achievements in democratization, nation-building, reconstruction, gender equality and peace (along with more ‘questionable’ achievements in development, growth and workers’ rights). On every main theme developed in the manifesto, a text box lists the ANC’s achievements on those themes since 1994 and 2009. The ever-useful Africa Check fact-checking website has reported that some of the ANC’s ‘good story’ is based on misleading, cherry-picked or incorrect statistics. In the more substantive portion of the ANC’s manifesto, the promises are, in ANC tradition, deliberately vague and open-ended. However, Zuma nevertheless laid down the line to be followed by clearly stating that the NDP will be adhered to as core ANC policy; to the chagrin of the left, although the pro-Zuma president of COSATU, Sdumo Dlamini, changed course when he announced his support for the manifesto which includes the NDP.

On economic and employment issues, the ANC posited that the expansion of infrastructure and a new industrial policy will create jobs. It promised that the state would buy 75% of its goods and services from local companies, strengthen the state mining company, increase beneficiation for industrialization and mining, work for regional industrialization, invest in infrastructure to create jobs and support mining beneficiation, produce more and cleaner energy (larger power stations, safe nuclear energy, solar and wind power, more hydroelectricity), improve the rail system, expand broadband access to cover 90% of communities by 2020 and expand access to water. To tackle youth unemployment, the ANC proposed to provide job placements and internship schemes for the youth, ‘massively expand’ post-secondary training opportunities and education, ensure youth employment in the public sector and public works and work with the private sector through the youth wage subsidy (while placating COSATU with a promise that no older workers would be displaced as a result). Overall, the ANC promised to create 6 million new jobs in a public works program by 2019, with 80% of them for the youth. On macroeconomic policy, the ANC reiterated the government’s prudent and orthodox policies, claiming that this policy provides the ‘foundation’ for improvements in the lives of all South Africans. The manifesto reiterated the ANC’s commitment to B-BBEE and EE, in the name of promoting equity and workers’ rights.

The ANC admitted that the ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ policy has failed on land reform, and has moved to ‘just and equitable compensation’, but the ANC manifesto on land reform was extremely vague. On housing, the ANC promised one million new ‘housing opportunities’ by 2019 and pledged to expand and accelerate the provision of basic services. The ANC’s platform on education gave little indication of the major problems faced by education, and limited itself to vague promises or policies or the goal of expanding further education and training enrollment. On healthcare, the ANC’s flagship policy is the National Health Insurance (NHI) program of universal, taxpayer-funded healthcare which the ANC originally promised in 2009 (but made little progress on since then) and which has been criticized by some as being an unrealistic goal. In the meantime, the ANC promised to expand free primary healthcare  and improving the quality of public healthcare.

The ANC promised to take on corruption and crime, a commitment which can often ring hollow coming from the ANC. On corruption, the manifesto promised to ban public servants from doing business with the state, a more transparent process to adjudicate tenders and a pledge that any ANC members found guilty by a court will be forced to step down from party or governmental leadership positions. The party pledged to reduce criminality, although it proposed no new policies.

Analysts said that the ANC’s manifesto failed to address the loss of trust in Zuma and the government, and many questioned the sincerity and commitment of the ANC on the matter of corruption given the number of discredited corrupt MPs and leaders being renominated on the ANC’s list.

The ANC list included old names accused of corruption, with disgraced former SAPS commissioner Bheki Cele returning as the top candidate on the regional list in KZN; ex-Malema ally and former ANCYL treasurer Pule Mabe, arrested for fraud, appeared 53rd on the ANC’s national list; former communications minister Dina Pule, found guilty by Parliament of extending spousal benefits to her lover and by Madonsela on other charges, appeared 70th on the national list; and agriculture and fisheries minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, 37th on the list, had been found guilty by the Public Protector of maladministration in the irregular awarding of a tender to manage the government’s fisheries vessels. Comeback kids also appeared on the list: two former Mbeki cabinet ministers – Thoko Didiza (agriculture, later public works) and Charles Nqakula (safety) were on the list, former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni came 41st on the national list and former acting president of the ANCYL (when the NEC disbanded its executive in 2013) Ronald Lamola came 175th on the list. Otherwise, however, the list largely included Zuma loyalists, with Zuma and Ramaphosa in the first two places on the national list; with pro-Zuma ministers such as Malusi Gigaba, Jeff Radebe, Grace Pandor and Blade Nzimande all coming in with good positions at the top of the national list. Fikile Mbalula, the sports minister who opposed Zuma, was the exception, placing a strong 6th on the list.

A sign of the ANC’s growing troubles within its own ranks, Ronnie Kasrils, MK’s former intelligence chief and the SACP/ANC intelligence minister from 2004 to 2008, flanked by former Deputy Minister of Health Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, called on voters to ‘vote no’ (spoil their ballots) rather than vote for the ANC. Kasrils warned of the ‘rot’ inside the ANC and fumed at Marikana (a premeditated murder, in his eyes), but said he couldn’t identify with the other parties – criticizing Malema’s EFF for corruption and the opposition DA for its pro-business policies.

Democratic Alliance (DA)

The DA is South Africa’s official opposition. It took its current name in June 2000, but the DA can trace its roots to the white liberal anti-apartheid parties which formed the only parliamentary opposition to the NP’s apartheid policies. The first of these parties was the Progressive Party, whose sole MP between 1961 and 1974, Helen Suzman, was the only voice of dissent within the whites-only Parliament. After Suzman’s Progressive Party merged with Harry Schwarz’s Reform Party to become the Progressive Federal Party (PFP) in 1977, the white liberal movement garnered more support and formed the official opposition between 1977 and 1987. In 1988, following the PFP’s alliance with two NP dissidents (Denis Worall and Wynand Malan), it adopted the name Democratic Party (DP). Throughout its existence, the white liberal movement opposed apartheid policies and supported a negotiated settlement with blacks – some kind of power-sharing or consociational government with a bill of rights, decentralization, an independent judiciary and ‘one man-one vote’. It was also a strong supporter of free market economics, foreshadowing the NP’s later adoption of individualism and free market economics in the 1990s during the transition; one could point out the irony of the end-result of the negotiated ANC-NP settlement as being similar to DP policies, after decades of the NP lashing out at ‘Prog policy’ (PFP/DP power-sharing proposals).

In the first free elections in 1994, the DP performed very poorly with 1.7% of the vote and 7 seats. It had won even less votes than it had in the last whites-only election in 1989, indicating that some of its past supporters had voted for De Klerk’s NP or another party. In 1994, the DP had been unable to move past its apartheid-era support base: affluent liberal English whites. Despite it holding only 7 seats – even less than Constand Viljoen’s Afrikaner conservative FF – it was able to become the most vocal and visible opposition to the young ANC government.

At the same time, the NP, which had won 82 seats in 1994, was clearly disoriented, hesitating between cooperation with the ANC in the government of national unity or cooperation with other parties (such as the DP) to oppose the ANC government. The question divided the party and eventually caused a major internal crisis in the NP. In June 1996, the hardliners (Tertius Delport, Hernus Kriel) and young conservatives (Marthinus van Schalkwyk) successfully pushed the NP out of the coalition government and into the opposition. In 1997, FW de Klerk, a key asset for the NP, resigned and was replaced as NP leader by Van Schalkwyk, a young lightweight. Van Schalkwyk had been able to play on verkrampte fears about the rising influence and power of Roelf Meyer, the NP negotiator in the transition, inside the party after 1994. Meyer had been pushing for major renewal and change in the party, including actively seeking black leaders and changing the party’s name. For Van Schalkwyk, however, change did not go beyond adding ‘New’ in front of the NP’s name in 1998.

In the 1999 election, the NNP ran a confusing and unappealing campaign in which it painted itself as the ‘constructive opposition’ party which opposed the ANC’s failures but at the same time was reluctant to strongly oppose the ANC and insisted that it could deliver to voters by cooperating with the government. In stark contrast, Tony Leon’s DP ran a negative campaign with the slogan ‘Slaan terug’ (fight back). The DP’s platform painted a very bleak image of the ANC’s record in 1999: crumbling moral values and discipline, hundreds of thousands of rapes/murders, millions lost to corruption and 500k jobs lost. The DP targeted the gatvol (upset/angry) vote/‘angry white man’. The NNP hoped that its campaign would hold its 1994 white and Coloured votes and appeal to black voters; it did neither – the party lost three-fourths of its 1994 support, winning only 6.9% and 28 seats. The DP won 9.6% and 38 seats, forming the official opposition to the dominant ANC.

However, by insinuating that black ANC rule equalled chaos, incompetence and a collapsing society; the DP alienated black voters and opened itself to accusations of racism by ANC leaders. By 2000, the DP dropped the very right-wing and gatvol platform, but the accusation of racism stuck.

The DA was born in June 2000 from an alliance between the DP and the NNP, an alliance to “prevent a one-party state”. The DP had already been attracting NP dissidents for some time, and there has been pressure on both parties to cooperate in the white media. In 2000, the NNP chose cooperation with the DP against the ANC, in part to save its head in the Western Cape and keep WC from falling to the ANC. For the DP, cooperation with the NNP allowed the party to focus its energies on the ANC. Merger allowed the new DA to win 22% of the vote in the 2000 local elections and a majority in Cape Town. However, both parties in the DA were suspicious of the other party’s motives. The NNP wanted to rebrand itself and download its debts onto the new party; the DP wanted the NNP’s Coloured voters and the NNP’s old networks and infrastructure. Both Tony Leon and Marthinus van Schalkwyk were using one another to further their own partisan interests. It was a recipe for disaster, which ended with the NNP leaving the DA in November 2001. The NNP had come to the belated realization that it was not fit to be in opposition and, after that point; Van Schalkwyk pursued a policy of rapprochement with the ANC. However, some Nats opposed van Schalkwyk’s strategy and opted to stay in the DA – among them Gerald Morkel, the Premier of the WC who became Mayor of Cape Town after the NNP quit the DA. Tertius Delport (the hardliner), Sheila Camerer (an Anglo verligte) and Kraai van Niekerk (former NP agriculture minister) all joined the DA.

To disentangle the NNP from the DA, the NNP and DA teamed up with the ANC to pass a highly controversial ‘floor-crossing legislation’ which would allow legislators (elected by party-list PR) to cross the floor to join another party, provided they brought with them 10% of their caucus (a rule which meant that ANC defectors could not do so given the ANC’s gigantic caucus, but which allowed individual MPs in parties with less than 10 MPs to defect – in most cases, to the ANC). This floor crossing legislation was a perversion of South Africa’s party-list PR system, given that legislators are elected on a partisan rather than individual basis. But the legislation was beneficial to the ANC, which was the main benefactor of floor crossing (from the NNP or small parties) – there were so many floor crossers from the DA to the NNP/NNP to the ANC in 2002 that the ANC gained a majority on Cape Town city council and toppled the DA mayor (Morkel).

The brief DP-NNP alliance further destroyed the NNP and allowed the DA to break through the wall and gain a significant share of the NNP’s Coloured voters. In the runup to the 2004 campaign, the DA ran a slightly less ‘angry white man’ campaign, with a tamer slogan (South Africa deserves better) and a more social democratic orientation (supporting a basic income grant and free distribution of ARVs). It won 12.4% and 50 seats, solidifying itself as the main opposition to the ANC (the NNP won 1.7% of the vote after a campaign consisting of kissing the ANC’s posterior profusely) – especially in the WC where it won 27% to the ANC’s 45.3% and the NNP’s 10.9%. In coalition with the NNP, the ANC was finally able to take the premiership in the WC.

White and Coloured voters by and large did not follow the NNP in merging with the ANC. In the 2006 locals, the DA increased its support to 16% and was able to narrowly reclaim power in Cape Town with a strenuous multi-party coalition led by Helen Zille. In 2007, Tony Leon, the DA’s leader, stepped down and was replaced by Helen Zille. The DA, under Zille, tried to break with Leon’s more confrontational and controversial style and the rebranded itself with a new logo and ‘multi-racial’ identity. In 2009, the DA won 16.7% and 67 seats and did particularly well in the WC where it increased its support by 24.4% to 51.5%. Helen Zille became Premier of the WC. In the 2011 local elections, the DA won 24% of the vote – a record high for a single opposition party since 1994.

Helen Zille, a white woman, is a former anti-apartheid activist who was a political journalist for the liberal Rand Daily Mail in the 1970s. She authored a major article in which she established that the death in prison of Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko was not due to a hunger strike as NP minister Jimmy Kruger had announced; an inquiry later found the cause of Biko’s death to be brain damage due to a head injury. After resigning from the paper after its owner, the Oppenheimer’s Anglo American asked it tone down the anti-NP rhetoric, Zille was active in white anti-apartheid movements (Black Sash movement, End Conscription Campaign).

The DA’s ideology is fairly hard to pin down, given that it has often supported an eclectic mix of liberal and social democratic policies. It has been described both as centre-right and centre-left, the truth probably lies in the middle somewhere (or maybe closer to the centre-right). DA voters place crime and corruption as their top concerns, almost the reverse order as ANC voters who traditionally cite unemployment, social policies or other economic issues as their main concerns. The DA’s former leader, Tony Leon, controversially supported reintroducing the death penalty to deal with crime. Today, the DA’s platform does not make mention of it, instead talking about hiring more police officers (the DA wants up to 250,000 SAPS members) and various other vague things including a mix of rehabilitation and tougher sentencing laws.

The general orientation of the DA’s current economic and social policy is liberal (classical liberal, in the European sense) and generally right-of-centre. The DA’s platform says that their policies will “seek to give citizens control over their own lives, and not allow the state to dictate the course of their daily lives or the direction of their ambitions” and “expand choice, not contract it”. This is a clearly liberal-individualist direction in line with the party and its predecessors’ classical liberalism. At the same time, however, the platform also stresses that the state should not neglect those without the resources to “direct their own lives” – a slightly more social liberal stance. In practice, the DA’s economic and fiscal policy does not differ all that much from the ANC’s economic and fiscal policies since 1994. The main difference is that the ANC has retained an interventionist and social democratic approach, while the DA has criticized excessive state intervention and says that the state should ‘facilitate’ and not ‘direct’ the economy.

In practice, however, the DA has tended to place emphasis on efficient ‘service delivery’ (one of the key failures of the ANC), change or searing criticism of ANC corruption and the erosion of the powers of independent institutions or parliament.

The DA does not have the shake off the ‘party of apartheid’ label, but the ANC has not hesitated to use the race card to counter the DA and keep blacks from ever voting from the DA. The ANC has often denounced the DA as a racist party, brushed off criticism of its record as the racist rantings of bitter whites and blamed shortcomings in its own actions on the damaging legacy of apartheid. In the days of the whites-only democracy, playing on latent racism in the white electorate was often a rather lucrative path for the parties. Since 1994, playing up on anti-racism and reminding black voters of apartheid has been quite lucrative for the ANC and damaging for any opposition party such as the DA.

The DA has struggled to shake off the ‘white party’ label which has stuck to it throughout its history. Since 2004, the DA has been trying to woo black voters to its fold. But it has discovered that consolidating its minority base while trying to win black votes at the same time is a very daunting challenge in modern South Africa. The two electorates which the DA is trying to bridge are on different pages. Black voters are cautiously optimistic about the future, and despite their disillusion with the promise of liberation, they are still ready to give the ANC another chance. And certainly almost no blacks long for the days before 1994. Black voters have also been instinctively suspicious of very harsh and negative criticism of the ANC’s record coming from a party labelled as the ‘whites’ party’. On the other hand, whites (but also Coloureds and Indians) are very likely to be pessimistic about the country’s future, lamenting corruption, a weak economy and high criminality. With these voters, the DA’s focus on crime and corruption has struck a chord, while not as many black voters or ANC supporters care all that much about such issues. Between the white voters it has and the black voters it wants, there are two different social realities. Most whites lead a Western middle-class life unencumbered by making ends meet, finding food to feed their family or having a roof to sleep under. These are everyday problems for many black voters.

To make matters worse, at times, the DA has also done everything it could to deserve its reputation as a white party with its often patent inability to understand the black electorate.

Another factor which explains why the DA has not been able to shake off the ‘white party’ label is because there is some truth to that label. The party’s current leader is a white woman, who is certainly not a racist but whose abrasive personality tends to be off-putting for black voters who would see her as an Afrikaner madam baas. Zille is famously feisty on Twitter, engaging in nasty spats with journalists and critics and often using racially insensitive language (earlier this year, she got into a nasty fight with journalist Carien du Plessis, and insinuated that the journalist wrote left-leaning articles because she is an ashamed white Afrikaner who needs to bend over to win the favour of the black community; she also previously tweeted about ‘education refugees’ from predominantly black Eastern Cape to her province of the WC, and many couldn’t help but be reminded of the NP’s old crass rhetoric on ‘EC blacks invading’ the WC, where blacks are a minority). Zille’s feisty, abrasive behaviour is often a problem for the DA, in that it can often undermine the DA’s message of non-racialism.

Most of the party’s MPs are whites or Coloured. Since 1994, the NP and now the DA have tried to wash off the damaging ‘white party’ label by seeking to recruit black members into the party and eagerly pushing their black members to the forefront in a rather crude attempt to play up its multi-racial credentials. The ‘white parties’ are often so pleased to have a black figure in the party that the new black member is touted as a talented rising star and rapidly propelled to impressive leadership positions within the party. Being black has certainly helped the political careers of many black DA politicians. However, given these parties’ heavily white or Coloured membership base, the rapid accession of some black members embittered certain whites who wanted to make sure that the blacks didn’t get too powerful.

The black members whom the NP recruited in the 1990s all tended to be political opportunists (who decamped to the ANC at the first opportunity) or nobodies who turned out to be crooks. In recent years, the DA has had a bit more luck at recruiting black members to the party. The party’s parliamentary leader in the last Parliament (the leader of the opposition), Lindiwe Mazibuko, is a 34-year old woman from KZN who defeated DA veteran Athol Trollip (an Anglo white) to become parliamentary leader in 2011. Unlike past black recruits who turned out to be disastrous embarrassments, Lindiwe Mazibuko has proven to be a very strong performer in the National Assembly. She is not the only black figure actively pushed to the forefront by the DA. The DA’s national spokesperson, Mmusi Maimane (a 32-year old black man from Soweto) rose quickly within the party, becoming one of its top national figures a bit over a year after having been the DA’s mayoral candidate in Johannesburg in 2011.

Vote DA campaign poster (from left to right: Patricia de Lille, ex-ID mayor of Cape Town; Helen Zille, DA leader and Premier of the WC; Lindiwe Mazibuko, DA parliamentary leader)

The DA’s recent vacillations on the EE Amendment Bill, passed in Parliament late last year, show how the DA is struggling to overcome its contradictions on racial policy and how race continues to divide the DA caucus. In November 2013, the DA originally voted in favour of the EE Amendment Bill, a vote which sparked major internal debate within the DA with former leader Tony Leon and former DA stalwart Gareth van Onselen strongly criticizing the DA and forcing Zille to take responsibility, claiming the DA had made a mistake and blaming it on committee members being ‘inadequately prepared’. Under Zille’s orders, the DA backtracked and voted against the bill in the final reading at the end of November.

However, the DA’s bungled handling of the EE bill set off a major debate on affirmative action within the DA. The DA’s policy on affirmative action is ‘equal opportunities’, a vague notion which is often unappealing to black voters; in 1998, Leon had famously called the EE bill ‘a pernicious piece of social engineering’. A group of black MPs and MPLs within the DA, the so-called black caucus, have been pushing the DA to change its policy on race, away from the much-criticized nonracialism of the conservative old guard and the ambiguity of the DA’s slogans. Lindiwe Mazibuko allegedly supported a shift to new policies on affirmative action – in an interview with the M&G, she said that ‘inequality is racialized’ and that they needed to accept that South Africa isn’t a non-racial society yet and gave her vision of EE as, with candidates of equal qualifications competing for one job, choosing the black candidate over the white candidate. Mazibuko downplayed any internal divisions on the issues, although she conceded that there had been debate (but not on racial lines, she claimed), but many felt that Zille undermined her position by announcing the DA’s backtracking on the EE bill. Mmusi Maimane, said to be Zille’s new black favourite, did not take a clear position on the issue.

The DA wins the bulk of its support from non-blacks: whites, Coloureds and Indians. Since 1999, the DA has been able to consolidate white support to the point where it now enjoys near-unanimous support with white voters (around 85-95% in 2011), the only challenge on this front coming from the ever-smaller conservative VF+. The DA’s ability to win almost every white voter – English and Afrikaners alike – makes sense in the current context, but it remains a fairly remarkable achievement given how the linguistic cleavage had played a key role in the whites-only elections up until the very last one (in 1989). It has broken out of the PFP’s traditional base with urban/suburban affluent English liberals and attracted almost all whites, regardless of language, class or even ideology.

The DA has also fortified its hold on Coloured voters since 2000-2001. In 1994, a solid majority of Coloured voters voted for De Klerk’s NP, something which often appears contradictory given the NP’s past as the party which had oppressed Coloureds and forcibly relocated many of them to slums. But at the same time, the Coloureds in the Cape Province had been treated considerably better than blacks by the apartheid government, with job reservation for Coloureds in most of the Cape Province. Many Coloureds, who spoke Afrikaans as their mother tongue and had historically been more integrated with ‘white South Africa’ than blacks, also resented the ANC’s attempts to lump them together with the black majority – there exists a long history of mutual distrust between the two racial groups. The saying emerged that the Coloureds were “too black under apartheid, too white after apartheid.” As the right-wing DP ate into the NP’s white vote bank, the coloureds became the NNP’s last solid electorate. However, the short-lived alliance with the NNP did allow the DA to finally breakthrough with Coloured voters, though it came in stages. In 2004, the ANC evidently performed well with Coloured voters, even in the WC. Many Coloured voters were also attracted to the Independent Democrats (ID), a new anti-corruption party led by former PAC MP Patricia de Lille, a prominent whistle-blower into corruption cases. The IDs won 1.7% nationally in 2004, taking over 7% in the WC and Northern Cape. By 2009, however, the DA started eating into the ID’s Coloured electorate in Cape Town and the WC. In 2010, the IDs bowed to the pressure of bipolarization in South African politics and merged with the DA. Their emblematic leader, Patricia de Lille, became the DA mayor of Cape Town in 2011. In the 2011 local elections, the DA won roughly 70-85% of the urban coloured vote in Cape Town, and performed well with rural Coloured voters in the WC but also the NC and Eastern Cape. The DA also wins a majority of the Indian vote, particularly outside Durban. The ANC does retain substantial support with Indian voters.

According to the DA’s analysis, the party took around 5-6% of the black vote in the 2011 local elections. Even in 2011, the party performed very poorly (1-2% on average) in the densely populated impoverished black townships – even black townships in Cape Town. Its black support must come from new middle-class blacks, many of whom live in increasingly multi-racial neighborhoods – such as Johannesburg’s upscale northern suburbs which now have a fairly substantial black minority. The DA claims that 20% of its voters are black, making it the most ‘diverse party in South Africa.’

On January 28 2014, the DA announced that Mamphela Ramphele, the leader of Agang SA, would be the DA’s presidential candidate. Mamphela Ramphele was a prominent anti-apartheid activist, as a member of the Black Consciousness Movement, where she met the movement’s famous and iconic leader, Steve Biko. Ramphele was one of Biko’s lovers and the couple had two kids together. After 1994, Ramphele, by now a prominent academic and researcher, became one of the four Managing Directors at the World Bank (in 2000). Ramphele returned to South African politics in 2013, with the creation of Agang (which means ‘build’ or ‘let us build’ in Northern Sotho) as a political party in February 2013. Agang positioned itself against corruption and for political reform, but from the outset, Agang was criticized as being very much of an empty suit based on vague feel-good platitudes and with little substantive policy of its own. Nevertheless, there was significant media buzz and interest about Agang, which did peter out rather quickly. The Agang-DA merger/alliance was played up by Zille and the DA as a move towards non-racial politics and remove ‘the race card’ from politics. But what Ramphele announced as ‘visionary leadership’ soon turned out to be a massive disaster.

No sooner had the news come out that members in both the DA and Agang began airing their misgivings. Agang and Ramphele’s handling of the announcement was horrible, with a statement denying an alliance with the DA being contradicted within hours by the announcement of a merger/alliance. Agang members said that they had not been consulted on the issue, and party leaders openly called out Ramphele for failing to talk with them; a lot of members were dismayed that their party was being turned into an annex of the DA without them ever being consulted on the matter. An Agang leader said that the party would still contest the election. In the DA, Ramphele’s rapid arrival and promotion to top ranks in the party rankled the party’s aspiring leadership. The DA’s young black caucus warned that she would have to compete for leadership spots like any other members, while others expressed worries that Ramphele would dump them.

Just five days after the announcement, the deal was off. Zille said that Ramphele had reneged on her agreement and was very critical of her behaviour. Ramphele was displeased with how the DA, in her eyes, jumped the gun in announcing the merger and talking of her DA membership; she later said people were trapped in race-based politics. The ANC was all giddy, with the weird marriage of inconvenience seemingly confirming Gwede Mantashe’s comment that Ramphele’s alliance with the DA was a ‘rent-a-black’ affair from the DA. Ramphele’s credibility took a major hit from the weird affair, and many questions were left unanswered – why the DA and Agang rush into announcing a decision, without considering pretty important details? It led to allegations that the botched marriage was forced on the DA and Agang by mysterious funders (the provenance of party funding is always a mysterious issue in South Africa).

Agang SA fought the election with Ramphele and a vague manifesto of platitudes, with words such as ‘hope, dignity and freedom’ and appeals to ‘change’ and a ‘united South Africa’. The party’s platform criticized BEE for creating inequalities, called on the government to transfer half the land it owns to satisfy property development, talked of ‘meaningful land reform’ by transferring state-owned land and promoting the use of modern technologies, improving education through stricter standards for students and teachers, encouraging entrepreneurship by cutting red tape, creating jobs by emphasizing skills training and vocational education and cracking down on corruption with a minimum sentence of 15 years for corruption.

The DA’s manifesto revolved around the twin clarion calls of ‘together for change’ and ‘together for jobs’ – respectively aimed at reducing corruption and creating jobs, the two main aims of the DA’s 2014 campaign. The DA said it could save R30 billion annually by preventing public servants from doing business with the state, banning anybody convicted of corruption, fraud, theft and violent crime from doing business with the state and stopping ministers from abusing public money. The DA also promised to strengthen Parliament, by introducing a mixed electoral system and restoring Parliament’s independence.

DA poster in isiZulu

Fighting corruption, the DA claimed, would allow for the creation of 6 million ‘real’ jobs and another 7 million public works job opportunities. The DA’s economic policies were a mixed bag, reflecting the DA’s liberal values mixed with more interventionist measures. The DA’s measures included the roll-out of a youth wage subsidy; apprenticeship and internship programs; a reform in labour laws to reduce the power of ‘big unions’ but also ‘big business’ and ‘democratize labour relations’; support for small businesses by reducing red tape and making it easier for them to win government contracts; keeping corporate and individual tax rates low; counteracting anticompetitive behaviour; ‘exploring privatization’; investing 10% of the GDP in infrastructure; investing in R&D and encouraging trade. On affirmative action, the DA’s policy reflected continued ambiguity on the issue: it supports BEE that ‘creates jobs, not just billionnaires’, opposes racial quotas (but support black advancement by ‘extending opportunities’), supports incentives rather than punitive measures for EE, reducing the EE/BEE regulatory burden on small businesses and mining and envisions BEE/EE as transitional measures. The DA is similarly vague on land reform; its manifesto talks in length about it but ultimately offers little clarification as to the DA’s stance. The manifesto supported land reform but opposed the government’s policies, instead advancing ‘effective land reform’ (likely collaborative reform models, such as farm equity schemes) and more training for new landowners.

On education, the DA proposed to hire and train 15,000 new teachers, better manage schools, provide schools with more resources, focusing on accountability and increase financial aid for students to R16 billion per year. The DA was noncommittal on the ANC’s NHI scheme for universal healthcare, but stated that universal healthcare would only be realized through effective public-private partnerships. The DA supports the social grants system, seeing it as a means to help people out of poverty.

The DA manifesto took a tough line on criminality – it proposed to expand the police force on the streets to 250,000, reinstate specific police units to target specific crimes, establish a judicial commission to look into police brutality, give the SAPS all the tools they need, strengthen community policing, make better use of technology and employ more detectives.

The DA’s campaign also focused on their ‘good story to tell’ – the manifesto includes a whole slew of factoids, under the heading ‘the DA delivers’, to showcase the DA’s performance in government in the WC and Cape Town. The WC, South Africa’s most developed and affluent province alongside Gauteng, has indeed been found by independent audits to be the best-managed province in the country – on that front, a lot of the DA’s claims that it is a competent manager are founded; however, the DA also seems to be taking credit for the WC’s structural advantages over other provinces on a lot of socioeconomic indicators and claiming credit for things which the DA did not deliver by its own governance or did not deliver on its own.

Helen Zille led the DA’s national list (and the WC provincial list), followed by parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko in third place. Former NPA prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach, who was accused of fraud and corruption (soliciting a loan from the complainant in two cases she was investigating) and suspended from the NPA, was 33rd on the DA national list. The DA’s rising star and national spokesperson Mmusi Maimane was the DA’s top candidate for the provincial elections in Gauteng, where the DA hoped to topple the ANC’s provincial government, and also placed third on the regional list for Parliament in Gauteng.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF)

EFF is a new left-wing party founded by expelled ANCYL leader Julius Malema. As explained above, Malema, a fiery and radical populist, was expelled from the ANC in 2012 after he turned into a harsh critic of Zuma’s leadership. Following his expulsion, Malema became even more vocal in his criticism of Zuma and used the Marikana massacre and its aftermath (in August 2012) as a platform from which to publicize his radical platform of nationalization and land expropriation without compensation. Malema announced the creation of his new party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in July 2013 and launched EFF at a kick-off event at Marikana in October 2013.

Malema is an extremely polarizing leader. On the one hand, Malema has a strong and loyal band of young followers, predominantly unemployed black youths in urban areas (townships) and, since 2012, miners in the platinum belt around Rustenburg and Marikana. For poor, young blacks, the ANC holds increasingly little appeal: they are those who suffer the brunt of the unemployment crisis in South Africa, the poor service delivery, live with the deficient education and public healthcare system, witness the corruption of ANC officials – all the while they are unlikely to have lingering sympathy or high regard for the ANC as the ‘party of liberation’. They see him as a bold and refreshing radical alternative, which challenges an increasingly discredited and unpopular ANC government and the perceived dominance of a neoliberal capitalist economic agenda. Malema is also a powerful public speaker; a ‘rabble-rousing orator’ for the Mail & Guardian, which contrasts with Zuma (a notoriously terrible public speaker, at least in English) and the unremarkable Zille, Mazibuko and Ramphele.

On the other hand, Malema is strongly disliked by much of the local and foreign media and South Africa’s moderate political establishment, either because he threatens their power (ANC) or because they see him as a opportunist demagogue exploiting the real concerns of the poor and dis-empowered for his own personal gain. Mamphela Ramphele even went as far as likening him to Hitler and Mussolini, warning that he was an embryonic form of fascism. As explained above, Malema is not only controversial because of his big mouth and penchant from provocative, oftentimes controversial and racially insensitive, language. There are real concerns about how a the son of poor black parents from Limpopo got so rich and bought his lavish lifestyle; Malema is awaiting trial on charges of money laundering on a government tender in Limpopo and is fighting charges of tax evasion by the revenue service. Both supporters and opponents have drawn comparisons between Malema’s EFF and Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF – for his supporters, this is a positive link, as Mugabe is fairly well regarded by some Africans as an anti-imperialist ‘revolutionary’ leader who did not fall into ‘neoliberal capitalism’ like the ANC did; for his detractors, it’s obviously a negative link because of Mugabe’s association with Zimbabwe’s post-2000 economic collapse, authoritarian regime and the highly contentious expropriation of white farmers.

Malema has retained his penchant from provocation, although he has toned down the raw ad hominem attacks on his political opponents with slightly more sophisticated or less derogatory language. He has tried, at times, to appear conciliatory with whites – saying that whites are welcome to join EFF and the fight for land redistribution and nationalization, that nobody will be ‘pushed into the ocean’ (the old apartheid image of oorstroming), that whites are ‘brothers’ who must simply ‘share’ with the original owners of Africa and mustn’t be ‘greedy brothers’ and expressing ‘disappointment’ at racist placards at EFF rallies (with slogans such as ‘honeymoon is over for whites’). EFF has some white members. At the same time, he still plays on racial tensions himself; he claimed the tax charges against him were due to ‘Indians in bed with Afrikaners’, warning that whites’ safety was in the hands of the black majority or that ‘failure to share’ would mean that they’d be ‘forced to share’. Malema focused much of his bile for Zuma and the ANC – with snappy statements about the ANC government being worse than apartheid, ‘the black Boers’ (after Cyril Ramaphosa warned that if the ANC didn’t win, ‘the Boers’ would return), calling on Zuma to resign over Nkandla (this from the man who said he was prepared to kill/die for Zuma).

EFF was not the first anti-capitalist, far-left radical party to be formed. Several small socialist and far-left Africanist parties with platforms very similar to that of the EFF have existed for years, but cooperation between these groups and the EFF has been difficult. In October 2013, the small far-left Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) – the party formed by the DSM, an old Trotskyist party, refused an alliance with Malema after EFF demanded that WASP dissolves itself. Malema praised, at times, the left-wing anti-Zuma secretary-general of COSATU Zwelinzima Vavi and the major COSATU affiliate NUMSA, which announced in December 2013 that it would not campaign for the ANC in 2014. There were rumours, expressed by the ANC’s Tito Mboweni in a Twitter spat with Vavi in January 2014, that there were talks to form an EFF/NUMSA coalition with Vavi and Malema at the helm, which Vavi and Malema both denied. There was strong suspicion of Malema and the EFF on the left, which feared that the EFF would come from scrap and try to co-opt them and their groundwork. EFF is also not a working-class movement and has weak ties with the unions, although it became uncritical of AMCU in hopes of gaining their support. On the other hand, Malema has had better ties with Bantu Holomisa, the leader of the small UDM, and even made up with the IFP’s Mangosuthu Buthelezi (in the past, both Malema and Buthelezi had been very critical of one another).

Malema’s critics have accused him of flip-flopping, not only for his transformation from motormouth Zuma attack dog in 2009 to fiery anti-Zuma campaigner in 2014, but also for his stances on issues. His critics, and a lot of existing social movements, feel that Malema is an opportunist who has stepped into existing social struggles to gain publicity and a platform (which the media is sure to cover), and co-opting their causes. As ‘commander-in-chief’ of the EFF, Malema has embraced progressive causes such as feminism and gay rights, calling on supporters to ‘love gay people’ and to ‘love people with HIV/AIDS’ or recalling Zuma’s rape trial and the infamous Zuma ‘shower comments’, even if Malema was himself convicted by a court after commenting that Zuma’s accuser in the rape trial must have had a ‘nice time’. Although rape is a huge issue in South Africa, few politicians have paid more than lip service to gender issues and feminism.

Malema and his followers became distinctive during the campaign because of their red berets and red tracksuits/jumpsuits.

EFF adopted a radical, extremely ambitious (therefore, in reality, highly unrealistic), anti-capitalist and ‘anti-imperialist’ manifesto most famous for its top two promises: the expropriation of land without compensation to achieve fair redistribution, and the nationalization of mines, banks and other strategic sectors in the economy. Under the EFF’s manifesto, land would be transferred to the state and would abolish foreign land ownership; those who use the land would apply for licenses to use the land. Under an EFF government, nationalization would mean ‘socialized ownership and control of the means of production by the workers’ and that the state must own a minimum of 60% of mines. The EFF promised to use the money generated by nationalization to provide ‘free quality education, healthcare, housing and sanitation’ – education would be free and of high quality from early childhood to post-secondary qualification, the government would create a state pharmaceutical company to produce generics (without regard to intellectual property rights), healthcare would be public and universal and service delivery would be vastly improved. The EFF manifesto promised “massive protected industrial development to create millions of sustainable jobs, including the introduction of minimum wages in order to close the wage gap between the rich and the poor”; it also supported doubling the value of all social grants (old age grants, child support grants, war veterans, disability grant etc); promote youth development by forcing government to employ at least 40% of their workforce aged 18-35 and increasing minimum wages for all sectors (in line with union demands); increasing public servants’ salaries by 50%. The EFF promised to build state/government capacity by abolishing tenders (no outsourcing to the private sector) and fight corruption by imposing a 20-year minimum sentence for all public representatives and public servants convicted of corruption.

The EFF’s manifesto, analysed in a thoughtful piece in the M&G, expressed a vision for a radically different and transformed South Africa, but it’s up for discussion whether or not its promises were/are realistic or if they’re outlandish wet dreams.

The EFF national list was headed by Julius Malema, and most of his colleagues atop the list also came from the ANC or ANCYL. Floyd Shivambu, a former ANCYL colleague of Malema and the EFF ‘commissar’ and chief of staff, placed fourth. The EFF’s candidate for provincial premier in Gauteng was Dali Mpofu, a former longtime ANC member who served as the legal representative for the Marikana miners. As an ANC stalwart, Mpofu had an affair, in 1992, with Winnie Mandela and attracted controversy for ANC bias when he was CEO of the SABC, the public broadcaster often accused (again this year by the DA and EFF) of being biased in favour of the ANC.

Congress of the People (COPE)

COPE was the second largest opposition party in the National Assembly and formed the official opposition in the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Free State and North West provinces.

COPE’s creation can be traced back to the ANC’s 2007 National Conference in Polokwane, where Mbeki and his loyalists were soundly defeated by Jacob Zuma and his supporters. Polokwane was the culmination of a bitter civil war in the ANC which had begun in earnest in 2005; but Polokwane was not the end of all infighting in the ANC and in government between President Mbeki’s allies and those loyal to his former Deputy President. After Polokwane, Mbeki found himself thrust into a difficult and very precarious situation where he and his troops retained control of the national government (the Mbeki cabinet consisted mostly of his supporters) but their rivals held absolute control over the governing party, making him a lame-duck president who did not control his own party. The power struggle between the new pro-Zuma ANC leadership and incumbent pro-Mbeki incumbents continued, and spilled over to the provinces. In the WC, the pro-Mbeki Premier was recalled by the ANC and replaced by a pro-Zuma opponent.

In September 2008, judge Chris Nicholson dismissed the NPA’s decision to recharge Zuma. In the ruling, the judge alleged that Mbeki had interfered in the court proceedings. The landmark decision triggered a coup against Mbeki. The ANC NEC voted to “recall” Mbeki, forcing him to resign the presidency only 9 days after the court ruling. His resignation was followed by that of his closest allies – right-hand man Essop Pahad, Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and defense minister Mosiuoa ‘Terror’ Lekota.

Lekota, Mbeki’s loyal defense minister since 1999 and the ANC National Chairperson between 1997 and 2007 publicly criticized the decision to axe Mbeki. Lekota announced in early October 2008 that he was leaving the ANC to create a new party. He was joined a week later by Mbhazima Shilowa, a former COSATU leader and the Premier of Gauteng, who had also backed Mbeki. Lekota and other close allies of the deposed President had denounced Zuma’s close alliance with the party’s populist left and criticized the increasingly racial and tribal character of the ANC under Zuma, who played up his Zulu identity and liked to sing controversial songs such as ‘Shoot the Boer’.

Lekota and Shilowa’s new party, COPE was launched in December 2008. The party purported to be moderate centrist alternative to the ANC, which they saw as being increasingly left-wing and populist. Its vague platform supported macroeconomic stability, job creation, reducing the role and influence of trade unions, community policing and socioeconomic equality – more or less the centrist agenda of Mbeki’s presidency. COPE endorsed the direct election of top officeholders (president, premiers, and mayors) and electoral reform (a dose of FPTP).

Somewhat disingenuously, COPE placed emphasis on democracy and fighting corruption – it decried the undemocratic nature of the NEC’s decision to topple Mbeki and made a big deal of Jacob Zuma’s persistent judicial troubles. Coming from the likes of Lekota or other embittered members of the deposed President’s old inner circle, this was quite rich. As National Chairperson, Lekota had rigorously enforced the party line and party loyalty within the ANC and offered full support to Mbeki’s autocratic leadership and his questionable policy decisions (on HIV/AIDS or Zimbabwe). As defense minister, Lekota had played a big role in covering up the arms deal in Parliament. Many of COPE’s members are tainted by their past as loyal Mbeki stalwarts and their criticism of corruption in the new Zuma-led ANC rang quite hollow. This is not to say, however, that the party has no ‘clean’ figures – Shilowa’s tenure as Premier of Gauteng was rather successful and he flouted Mbeki’s AIDS denialism.

The first signs of internal disunity in the new party came up in the run-up to the 2009 elections. COPE chose Mvume Dandala, a former Methodist bishop from the EC as its presidential candidate, apparently over Lekota’s opposition. Nonetheless, COPE was rather successful in the 2009 election, considering how new it was. It won 7.4% and 30 seats, and managed to win seats in all 9 provincial legislatures (even becoming the second largest party in 4 of them). Its support was spread rather evenly throughout the country, with stronger support in the Eastern Cape and Northern Cape. Most of its votes came from predominantly black areas – especially more middle-class black areas – but it likely won some Coloured support, particularly in Cape Town or the NC.

COPE’s leaders, on the losing end of the power struggle at Polokwane, agreed that they hated Zuma – but they soon found that they agreed on little else. The party more or less split before the 2011 local elections, with the Shilowa faction deciding that it would not contest the elections. The Lekota faction of COPE won only 2% of the vote. Lekota later expelled Shilowa from the party, citing an internal investigation which had found Shilowa guilty of mismanaging parliamentary funds. Shilowa opposed the expulsion, denying any wrongdoing, and took the matter to court (he lost). In October 2013, a court declared Lekota to be the rightful leader of the party.

The DA and other opposition parties had originally welcomed the creation of COPE and the DA hoped that COPE would siphon votes away from the ANC, and allow for the formation of DA-COPE coalitions (in those places where the ANC dropped below 50%). This was the DA’s objective, for example, in the 2011 local elections. While a few DA-COPE coalitions managed to wrestle control of some local councils away from the ANC, COPE’s utter weakness in 2011 meant that not few such coalitions actually materialized.

Since 2010-2011, COPE haemorrhaged support and leaders rapidly, crippled by the infighting. Like a few parties before it, COPE originally excited observers who were readily writing grand tales of the ANC’s impending demise; but like those parties before it, COPE has turned out to be a flash in the pan, originally causing great excitement before rapidly falling back to obscurity.

Shilowa’s supporters were purged from COPE before the elections, with Shilowa himself moving to support Bantu Holomisa’s United Democratic Movement (UDM). No less than 19 COPE MPs and MPLs defected to the ANC. Victorious in the leadership battle, Lekota, standing as COPE’s presidential candidate, tried to give the party a new start and was publicly upbeat about the party’s chances – promising to eat his hat if COPE didn’t improve on its 2009 results.

COPE’s manifesto explicitly reiterated what it had said in 2009 – the need for a ‘better government’ and a ‘government of the people’. For COPE, this meant the direct election of the President, Premiers and mayors, a vague promise for honest leaders and downsizing government. There were a number of pledges for transparent government, accountability and citizen empowerment; and calls for more efficient service delivery through a system to report failures, higher benchmarks and enhancing the budgetary capacities of local municipalities. On economic issues, COPE supported the NDP and talked of making it easier to create small businesses, strengthening agriculture and manufacturing, using un-utilized state-owned land for housing and land reform. With calls for ‘world-class education’, COPE proposed to raise the pass rate for Matric subjects (currently 30%), exclude unions from the appointment and supervision of teachers and paying teachers on basis of performance. COPE’s manifesto supported universal healthcare, improving the quality and affordability of public healthcare and improving accessibility to healthcare in communities by opening some clinics 24/7. To fight crime, COPE emphasized a transparent, depoliticized and accountable police force.

Lekota was COPE’s top candidate, followed by the party’s deputy president, Willie Madisha, a former president of COSATU who was unceremoniously removed by the union for supporting Mbeki at Polokwane.

Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP)

The IFP, a fixture of South African politics since the mid-1970s, has seen its influence diminished considerably since 1994 and especially in recent years. The IFP is a regional (ethnic) party and 90% of its votes in 2009 came from a single province, namely KwaZulu-Natal (KZN)

The IFP was founded by Mangosuthu Buthelezi, a Zulu tribal leader, in 1975. Buthelezi had been a member of the ANCYL in his youth and the IFP initially received the blessing and support of the ANC. However, by the late 1970s and early 1980s, as the situation in South Africa turned even more explosive and the ANC resorted to violence to render the apartheid state ‘ungovernable’, the IFP started clashing with the ANC and collaborating with the white regime. The ANC had long opposed tribalism and ethnicism, warning against the NP regime’s attempts to divide-and-conquer the black majority by fuelling animosities between the various ethno-linguistic groups (Zulus and Xhosas, for example). On the other hand, Buthelezi was a Zulu tribal leader who encouraged attempts to revive the traditional Zulu culture and preached respect for tribal traditions and the Zulu monarchy.

Buthelezi and the IFP are/were, however, complicated and complex. It would be inaccurate to consider Buthelezi (and the IFP) as collaborators of the apartheid regime or as a covert ‘third force’ at the pay of Pretoria; just as it would be inaccurate to consider Buthelezi as an upstanding and uncompromised leader of the liberation struggle. Inkatha had two faces: for its core ethnic Zulu audience, it emphasized Zulu tradition and ethnicity; but it also sold itself as a national liberation movement, claiming that it strove for justice.The reality is more complicated, less black-and-white.

Buthelezi worked within the apartheid framework of homelands, becoming the chief minister of the autonomous KwaZulu homeland in 1976 (he had been the administrator of a Zulu territorial authority since 1970), and KwaZulu became an authoritarian one-party state entirely dominated by the IFP. The ANC accused him of collaborating with the apartheid regime and shunned him. Indeed, by organizing on tribal grounds and endorsing federalism/self-determination for the various ethnic groups, Buthelezi was effectively playing the NP’s game. Yet, Buthelezi wasn’t entirely a ‘useful tool’ in the hands of the NP. He tried to play to both sides – while partaking in the NP’s ‘separate development’ scheme, preaching non-violence, federalism and rejecting the armed struggle and international boycotts; he also rejected ‘independence’ for KwaZulu and gave his backing to various reformist initiatives (Mahlabatini Declaration of Faith with Harry Schwarz in 1974, rejected PW Botha’s president’s council opening, opposed the 1983 constitution, proposed consociational government, opposed homelands and supported a united, federal South Africa).

Buthelezi felt increasingly insecure in the mid-1980s, as violence between the IFP and the ANC in KZN increased dramatically. As a homeland leader, he was effectively dependent on Pretoria for his homeland’s economy and his own personal security (naturally, he was more preoccupied with the latter). Buthelezi received covert, underhanded support from the regime – which wanted to use the IFP as a conservative black ally against the ‘communist terrorist’ ANC. Between 1986 and 1988, at Buthelezi’s request, the SADF Special Forces in the Caprivi Strip trained IFP militias and hitsquads (Operation Marion) and received weapons and backing from the regime or, later, sections of the regime’s Byzantine security structure.

The IFP played a huge role in the ‘black-on-black’ violence in KZN and the urbanized PWV in the transition era, partaking in several bloody massacres of black civilians and ANC sympathizers. The massacre of innocent civilians, ANC supporters, by IFP militias at KwaMakhutha (January 1987) and Boipatong (June 1992) were allegedly the results of conspiracies hatched by the IFP and the regime’s security forces. The IFP and the ANC were locked into a bloody conflict for political control in KZN and the townships/migrant hostels of the PWV (Gauteng).

During the transition process, the IFP and Buthelezi were mainly interested by safeguarding their ethnic and political interests. This involved a rejection of centralized government, and support for a federal regime. At first, the NP and the IFP enjoyed a fairly solid working relationship, as the NP was still trying to extract minority rights concessions from the ANC and still saw the IFP as a conservative black partner (in Botha’s footsteps). However, when Roelf Meyer took over the NP’s negotiating team and the NP signed the Record of Understanding with the ANC in September 1992, relations between the government and the IFP quickly soured. The IFP felt betrayed by the NP and marginalized in the bilateral ANC-NP negotiation channels; the NP had abandoned the IFP in favour of an ‘elite pact’ with the ANC.

The IFP walked out of the 1993 multi-party forum, where the NP and ANC often teamed up to overrule the objections of the other parties. Buthelezi threatened to boycott the 1994 elections – hoping to sabotage the process. During this brief time period, the IFP found common ground with the white right/far-right, particularly the Conservative Party (which also rejected the process), and some homeland leaders (who feared their upcoming loss of power). At the last minute, the ANC agreed to recognize traditional leaders (such as Zulu monarch Goodwill Zwelethini kaBhekuzulu) and made gestures in favour of self-determination/decentralization. The IFP finally decided to partake in the 1994 elections, only days before the vote.

The IFP won 10.5% and 43 seats in 1994. The race was particularly contentious in KZN, the focal point for much of the IFP-ANC violence since the 1980s. Through vote rigging, the IFP was able to win the controversial poll with over 48.5% of the vote in KZN. On the provincial ballot, NP ticket-splitters allowed the IFP to win over 50%. The IFP joined Mandela’s coalition government and Buthelezi served as minister of home affairs, a position he held until the IFP finally quit the government in 2004.

The IFP’s support has been in steep decline since the first election. In 1999, the IFP won a bit over 40% of the vote in KZN, only narrowly retaining the premiership. Nationally, it won 8.6% and 34 seats. In 2004, the IFP won 7% nationally and 28 seats. In KZN, it won only 35% of the vote – over ten points behind the ANC which finally gained the premiership. The 2009 election was an unmitigated disaster for the IFP, winning only 4.6% nationally (18 seats) and 20.5% in KZN.

The IFP has never really had any ideology beyond an increasingly meaningless chauvinistic Zulu nationalism, and its main interest has always been the protection of the traditional Zulu identity and promoting Zulu ethnic interests. It has attempted to reinvent itself into a non-tribal federalist party, supporting ethnic federalism and self-determination for all ethno-linguistic groups. However, this reinvention was only half-hearted and nobody fell for it. The IFP has no discernible coherent platform, ideology, vision or mission and its sole ambitions are winning/maintaining power for itself KZN.

Whatever it has in way of a platform mostly consists of fluff or vague blabber. The IFP is traditionally seen as a conservative party, which supports the free-market and conservative economic policies. Besides that, most of its other positions are populistic in tone. It does seem a bit more coherent on AIDS, preaching a more militant treatment policy while supporting an abstinence-based education campaign. Buthelezi lost two of his children to AIDS.

The party basically revolves around its strongman, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who has ruled over the IFP with an iron hand since 1970s. Buthelezi is a political opportunist who has a long-standing reputation of changing his ‘positions’ willy-nilly and lacking any ideological depth. He is extremely sensitive to criticism of his leadership and has ruthlessly quashed internal criticism. A few years ago, he chased Gavin Woods – one of the IFP’s few respected MPs and a white man – out of the party after Woods had published a scathing attack on Buthelezi’s leadership.

Jacob Zuma is an ethnic Zulu; his two predecessors at the helm of the ANC where Xhosa (the second biggest black ethnic group). Zuma, a very lively and flamboyant leader, has actively played up his own Zulu ethnicity. Zuma is a polygamist (illegal in South Africa but recognized by customary law) and he often partakes in traditional ceremonies, wearing leopard skins or other traditional attire. Politically, Zuma has shifted away from the ANC’s traditional non-tribalism and placed his ethnicity at the core of his new ANC (showing off as a ‘100% Zulu boy’) and preaching respect for elders and traditional (tribal) customs. In doing so, Zuma stole the last thing the IFP had left for itself – Zulu nationalism. In the 2009 election, the ANC made major gains in KZN, recouping some loses in other provinces. In the 2011 local elections, the ANC also made gains in KZN. It is now unquestionably the dominant party in KZN as well.

The IFP has been further weakened since 2011 by the creation of the National Freedom Party (NFP), a new party formed by IFP dissidents and led by the IFP’s former chairperson, Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi. After the 2009 rout, younger IFP cadres and ambitious figures like Magwaza-Msibi clamoured for leadership change. Buthelezi quashed the simmering rebellion and expelled leaders like Magwaza-Msibi. The NFP does not really have any ideology itself, except perhaps being less dogmatic than the IFP. In the 2011 local elections, the IFP won 15.8% in KZN against 10.4% for the NFP (the IFP-NFP total was greater than what the IFP alone had won in 2009). The IFP held an absolute majority on only two local councils after the vote, while the NFP gained control of a single municipality. However, the NFP allied with the ANC (or vice-versa) to isolate the IFP. They formed coalitions in 22 district and local councils. Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi became mayor of the Zululand District Municipality.

The IFP is a regional party. In 2009, 90% of its votes came from a single province (KZN); in previous years it was roughly the same percentage. The only other province where the IFP has attracted non-derisory support is Gauteng, where it won 1.5% in 2009 (and won one seat in the provincial legislature) and 4% in 1994. An urbanized and industrialized region, Gauteng has attracted Zulu migrant workers for a number of years. 20% of the province’s population is Zulu, and 6% of its residents were actually born in KZN; the IFP’s base lies with Zulu migrant workers living in hostels near the townships (almost all precincts won by the IFP in 2009 in Gauteng were hostels).

In KZN, the IFP has been disproportionately strongest in rural areas and the former territory of the KwaZulu homeland, reflecting the IFP’s base with Zulu traditionalists – tribal leaders and their circles, former KwaZulu public servants. In 1999, the IFP is estimated to have received 64% of the vote in the former homeland but only 17% in the rest of the province (against 50% for the ANC). The IFP, for example, has usually been weak at Durban – its peak was 25% on the provincial ballot in 1994. In 2009, the IFP took only 6.8% in eThekwini (Durban). Younger urbanized Zulus usually preferred the ANC’s more militant and non-tribal socialism over the IFP’s traditionalist conservatism. The IFP’s strongest region in KZN is the area around Ulundi, the former capital of the KwaZulu homeland (and capital of KZN until 2004). Even in 2009, the IFP won no less than 83.6% in Ulundi. It also won 81.6% in Nongoma, the base of the traditional Zulu monarchy. The IFP still holds an outright majority in Ulundi’s local council – but it lost Nongoma to a NFP-ANC coalition in 2011.

Almost all IFP voters are Zulus, but naturally not all Zulus are IFP voters. For example, in Mpumalanga, where Zulus make up 25% of the population, the IFP won only 0.5% in 2009. The IFP never gained a foothold or built up any infrastructure in that province. Outside KZN and Gauteng, the party’s support is basically non-existent in other provinces (0.06% in the WC…).

The IFP manifesto focused on service delivery, quality education, tackling corruption, job creation (calling for flexible labour laws, special economic zones in rural areas with low taxes), improving healthcare, land reform (favouring traditional leaders), crime and respecting traditional leaders (who, the IFP claimed, have had their authority eroded since 2014).

The NFP presents itself as a national social democratic party, retaining the Inkatha-influenced emphasis on strong devolved local government. The NFP’s platform focused on improving education (higher Matric pass rate, compulsory and free basic education till the age of 18, free higher education for students meeting entry standards, reducing the scope of student loans), service delivery, land reform (using a moderate approach), healthcare, economic development (aiming to go beyond the narrow view of ‘business opportunity’ in favour of ‘development, supporting protectionist measures), tackling crime, participation of traditional leaders in local governance, social development (with a promise to increase child support grants) and corruption.

Minor parties

United Democratic Movement (UDM)

The UDM is a small party, which first ran in 1999 and has since seen its support declined. It held only 4 seats in the National Assembly.

The UDM was founded in 1997 by Bantu Holomisa and Roelf Meyer. Bantu Holomisa is the former military ruler of the ‘independent’ Transkei homeland. As commander of the homeland’s armed forces, he deposed Prime Minister Stella Sigcau in a coup in 1987 and seized power. Unlike Lucas Mangope in Bophuthatswana or Oupa Gqozo in Ciskei, Holomisa and Transkei enjoyed an uneasy alliance with the ANC and provided the ANC with a safe haven. Even if Holomisa was not quite a puppet for apartheid, he was not really an exemplary leader either: his military junta often executed its opponents without any sort of trial; and corruption flourished under his rule. Holomisa did not oppose Transkei’s reintegration into South Africa in 1994. In fact, he joined the ANC and joined cabinet as a deputy minister. In September 1996, he was unceremoniously expelled from cabinet and the ANC after alleging that Stella Sigcau, who had become Minister of Public Enterprises in Mandela’s cabinet, had received a bribe from a shady casino magnate in the 1980s.

As it happens, another prominent member of a major party was pushed out from his party around the same time: Roelf Meyer. Meyer, the lead NP negotiator during the second half of the transition process, was widely seen as de Klerk’s dauphin within the NP after the 1994 election. Meyer, a young reformist verligte, wanted to transform the NP by changing the party’s name and actively recruiting black members for the party. His rapid ascension within the party worried the party’s hardliners and other ambitious younger members (notably Marthinus van Schalkwyk). The hardliners were able to force the NP out of the national unity cabinet in 1996, and Meyer was eventually forced to leave the NP with some of his lesser-known allies in May 1997.

Holomisa and Meyer created the UDM in September 1997. The party intended to be a non-racial and non-regionalist national alternative to the ANC, so it naturally got a few people excited. In the 1999 elections, the UDM won 3.4% of the vote and 14 seats. Half of the UDM’s support came from the Eastern Cape, in particular the former Transkei homeland. It did win some white and non-Xhosa black support outside the EC as well.

Meyer quit politics in 2000 (and went on to join the ANC in 2006). The party was decimated in the first floor-crossing window in 2003, when it lost 10 of its 14 seats – most of them to the ANC. In the 2004 elections, the UDM saw its support reduced to 2.3% and 9 seats (it lost 3 seats in the 2005 floor-crossing window). In 2009, the UDM won only 0.9% and 4 seats.

The UDM has basically morphed into a regionalist/personalist party which is a powerful actor only around Umtata (now known as Mthatha), Holomisa’s home turf and the former capital of Transkei. In 2009, 61% of its support came from a single province (the Eastern Cape, where it won 4%); most of that support in turn came from King Sabata Dalindyebo Municipality, which includes Umtata and Holomisa’s hometown (Mqanduli). The UDM won 24% of the vote in the municipality in 2009, doing best in rural areas south of Mqanduli where it won over 45-50% in some wards. In 1999, the UDM had won over 50% of the vote in Umtata and 77% in Mqanduli. The UDM’s support reflects tribal support for Holomisa is his native region. In the 1999 election, the UDM took 21% in those parts of the EC which had been part of either Ciskei or Transkei and 4% in the rest of the province; given the low support in the Ciskei, the party’s result in the former Transkei alone was probably much stronger. Outside the EC, the UDM has very weak support. Its best other province was WC, with 0.8%, reflective of the large Xhosa migrant population which lives in Cape Town.

Bantu Holomisa regained a profile in national politics (he’s usually absent from the media outside elections) following the 2012 Marikana massacre, becoming one of the more popular opposition politicians (along with Julius Malema) to speak at miners’ rallies – likely due to the fact that a lot of the miners in the Marikana area are isiXhosa-speakers originally from the EC and Holomisa’s strong advocacy for their 22% wage increase. Holomisa’s rallies, for example, drew far larger crowds than the non-Malema far-left’s much smaller rallies. Holomisa also cozied up with Malema, attending the EFF’s launch in Marikana in October 2013. There was, however, no formal electoral coalition between the UDM and EFF.

The UDM appears vaguely centre-rightish, though its policies usually consists of platitudes and feel-good but rather meaningless principles (job creation, national unity, economic growth). It has often placed considerable emphasis on fighting corruption. This year, the UDM’s manifesto focused heavily on corruption – it was even titled ‘Corruption destroys the gains of our freedom’ – and, to fight corruption, the UDM notably promised reducing political interference in government and independent institutions, introducing courts charged explicitly with tackling corruption and reviewing the tender system. On economic issues, the UDM said its philosophy was ‘government must do more’ – calling for government to create a stable policy environment, promote youth and women empowerment, invest in infrastructure development, help small business development, facilitate access to market, provide tax incentives for businesses to create jobs, protect local industries and do more to promote industrialization. The UDM proposed an ‘economic indaba’ to discuss land and mineral ownership and workers’ conditions. Overall, the UDM’s platform (like that of the EFF) presented a very gloomy view of South Africa’s progress since 1994.

Freedom Front Plus/Vryheidsfront Plus (FF+/VF+)

The VF+ is the only purely ‘white’ party in South Africa. The party aims to defend Afrikaner interests.

The VF+ was founded as the Freedom Front (Vryheidsfront) in 1994, only a month prior to the first free elections. The white right/far-right was hostile to the transition to majority rule, but they were divided in their strategies. More moderate Afrikaner nationalists whose main goal was Afrikaner self-determination and the creation of a sovereign/autonomous volkstaat for Afrikaners were organized under the auspices of the Afrikaner Volksfront (AVF), led by Constand Viljoen, a retired SADF commander. In contrast to Eugène Terre’Blanche’s extremist and arch-racist thugs, the AVF was a more respectable force which had fairly close ties with parts of the security forces. Following the Bophuthatswana disaster just before the 1994 elections, the AVF and Viljoen were convinced that electoral participation was preferable to armed opposition. In return for their participation in the electoral process, the Afrikaner nationalists had received assurances from Mandela and the ANC that Afrikaner self-determination would be considered if there was substantial support for the idea.

The VF won 2.2% and 9 seats in the first elections in 1994. However, the party has since been hurt by the consolidation of the white vote – including the Afrikaner conservative/nationalist vote – behind a single party. By 1999, the party fell to 0.8% and a mere 3 seats. In that election, the party was hurt by competition from the Federal Alliance, a white party led by corrupt business magnate Louis Luyt (2 seats) and the Afrikaner Eenheidsbeweging (1 seat). In 2004, its support increased marginally, to 0.9%, and it gained a single seat. In 2009, it won 0.8% and held its 4 seats.

Viljoen retired in 2001, pushed out because some in the party felt he was cooperating too much with the ANC. The party became the VF+ before the 2004 election when it integrated the remnants of the moribund Conservative Party (which had only run in the 1995/1996 local elections) and the Afrikaner Eenheidsbeweging. Luyt’s party later folded into the VF+ as well.

The current leader of the VF+ is Pieter Mulder, the son of Connie Mulder – the apartheid-era hardline cabinet minister behind the Infogate scandal. His brother, Corné Mulder, is also a VF+ MP.

The party has never attempted to widen its electorate and has instead focused its efforts on promoting Afrikaner interests and white minority rights – including through cooperation with the governing party. Pieter Mulder, for example, is actually a member of cabinet as deputy minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries. In 2008, the VF+ managed to get the Afrikaners recognized by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO).

The VF+’s original raison-d’etre – the volkstaat – is dead; it was a very unrealistic idea to begin with, and never received much support besides a handful of passionate and dogmatic white Afrikaner nationalists. The VF+ might bring up the volkstaat idea (and even draw a map of it) from time to time, but it too has recognized the futility of the idea and it doesn’t feature much (if at all) in the manifestos. As aforementioned, it now defends white minority rights, being one of the top advocates for white minority rights alongside the Solidarity trade union and the AfriForum, a white civil rights organization tied to Solidarity. Sometimes, defending white minority rights entails Mulder or somebody in his party saying a stupid thing which reeks of the apartheid era. For example, VF+ once got in the news by criticizing a DA municipality’s decision to rename a school which had been named after HF Verwoerd (when everybody else should be asking why things are still named after him in 2014).

VF+’s voters are conservative white Afrikaners. Its support patterns are a bit different from the DA’s support – firstly because basically no non-whites vote for VF+ and because only very, very few white Anglos vote for the VF+. For example, in KZN and the EC, where the whites are mostly Anglo, VF+ won only 0.2% in 2009. Its best provinces were the Free State (1.6%), NW (1.4%) and Gauteng (1.4%). It wins its best results in isolated Afrikaans-speaking white villages/towns in the old Transvaal, Orange Free State, or northern Cape Province – regions where the Conservative Party was strongest in the late 1980s. In 2009, it did particularly well (around 15%) in the white wards in Potchefstroom, a mecca of Afrikaner nationalism and academia in the Transvaal. However, the party’s most famous stronghold is Orania, a small town in the Northern Cape established by Afrikaner nationalists in 1990 to form the ‘embryo’ for a future volkstaat. The Orania movement’s leader, Carel Boshoff, was the son-in-law of HF Verwoerd and the provincial leader of the VF+ until his death in 2011. In the 2009 elections, the VF+ won 87.4% of the vote in Orania.

Defending minority rights, VF+ is highly critical of affirmative action – in its 2014 manifesto, it says that South Africa has gone stale since 1994 notably because of “affirmative action, job-losses as a result of transformation, marginalisation of minorities [...] farm murders”. The party, reiterating the old Afrikaner nationalist emphasis on communities and the volk as the necessary element of human existence, laments the lack of ‘freedom to communities’. Unlike other parties, the VF+, fulfilling its role as a niche party, had a manifesto focused heavily on minority rights (specifically Afrikaners), the feared loss of minority rights and cultural diversity (the ANC controversially renamed provinces, cities and public places – most contentiously, changing the city of Pretoria’s name to ‘Tshwane’, creating a lot of controversy). The party proposed the creation of a National Afrikaner Council, which it fails to describe; the protection of Afrikaner settlements such as Orania; a quota-free zone for three Coloured/Afrikaans-majority district municipalities in the NC to be exempted from affirmative action laws; upholding language rights (South Africa has 11 official languages, but English is the overwhelmingly dominant public language in government, business, education, the media and so forth); scrapping racially-based affirmative action and BEE; devolution of powers to provincial and local governments; and using unused state land for redistribution in priority. On other issues, the party is very conservative – it proposed to restrict the right to strike, strongly supports the right to bear arms, the use of private security and criticized the over-regulation of private health schemes. The VF+ calls for a state which ‘maintains Christian values’ and its manifesto was founded on the idea that “believers want to acknowledge the supremacy of the Trinity God and obey Him. In humble recognition of human imperfections, a constitutional dispensation is pursued which builds on this foundation”.

African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP)

The ACDP is a Christian fundamentalist social conservative party. The party, led by Reverend Kenneth Meshoe, was established a bit before the 1994 elections. It peaked at 1.6% and 7 seats in 2004, after winning 0.5% (2 seats) in 1994 and 1.4% (6 seats) in 1999. It lost most of its seats in 2009, taking only 3 seats and 0.8% of the vote.

The ACDP’s platform is based on strict Christian and biblical norms and the party has usually been seen as focusing its energies on moral issues (which are not major issues in South African politics). The ACDP was the only party to vote against South Africa’s very socially progressive constitution in 1996 because it banned discrimination based on sexual orientation (a clause whose wording led to a 2006 court decision which legalized gay marriage) and legalized abortion. The party is opposed to abortion, prostitution and homosexuality. It also promotes an abstinence-only policy and opposes the use of condoms to prevent HIV transmission, although it supports ARVs. The ACDP has dismissed criticism that it is a single-issue party focused solely on cultural/moral issues (where it gets most of its publicity from), and presented a manifesto with proposals on the main issues of jobs, welfare, safety, integrity, education, health, housing and family. On economic issues, the ACDP is clearly on the right, seeking to reduce government intervention in the economy and emphasizing traditional right-wing values/idea (competitive advantage, eliminating wasteful spending, review labour laws to remove obstacles to growth, free trade); but it supports an increased social wage to reduce poverty and the implementation of the NHI. The ACDP’s pet values, listed above, did not even feature prominently in the party’s manifesto in 2014.

Interestingly, the party’s electorate seems fairly multi-racial. The party is strongest in the WC, where it won 1.6% in 2009. It briefly participated in the DA-led municipal coalition in Cape Town between 2006 and 2009.

United Christian Democratic Party (UCDP)

The UCDP is a small regional party founded in 1997. The party’s founder was Lucas Mangope, the president of the ‘independent’ homeland of Bophuthatswana between 1977 and 1994. Mangope was Pretoria’s dream conservative black puppet leader. He was a Tswana ethnic nationalist who defended an ethnically exclusive vision for his homeland, he collaborated actively with the apartheid regime (to the point where the SADF intervened to protect him against a coup) and he was strongly opposed to the ANC. Along with Oupa Gqozo’s Ciskei, he was one of the homeland leaders who resisted reintegration into South Africa and threatened to sabotage the transition process. On this front, Bop and Ciskei found common ground with Buthelezi’s IFP and the white far-right including the KP. However, this alliance of odd bedfellows quickly foundered. Mangope was unable to resist to a general strike in March 1994 and his military soon deserted him, the AVF/AWB intervention ended as an embarrassment for all involved.

Mangope did not participate in the first elections in 1994. He created the UCDP in 1997. It won 0.8% and only 3 seats in 1999, with 78% of its vote coming from the North West province – where it won 9.6% in the provincial elections and formed the small official opposition to the hegemonic ANC. In 2004, the party won 0.75% and held its 3 seats; it also managed to hold on to second in the NW (with 8.5%). In 2009, however, the party fell to 0.4% and won only 2 seats; in the NW province it was surpassed by COPE and the DA, managing fourth place with only 5.3% (2 seats out of 33) in the provincial election.

The UCDP is a right-wing party with fairly conservative positions on economic matters. It also claims to be inspired by conservative Christian principles. Not sure, however, if any actual ideology should be ascribed to the party given how it has functioned as a Mangope’s personal political vehicle and how it plays on some weird kind of homeland/Bophuthatswana nostalgic-nationalism.

Interestingly, however, Mangope was expelled from his own party in 2011 and the party’s leader is now a nobody.

As mentioned above, the UCDP is a more or less regional party. In 2009, 66% of the party’s votes came from a single province, the NW, which includes most of the former Bophuthatswana. The UCDP took 4% in the province in the general election; the only other province where it got more than crumbs was the Northern Cape (1%) – which includes one of the seven old enclaves of the former Bop. The party differs from the two other regional parties – the UDM and the IFP – in two senses: its support does not correlate very closely with the boundaries of the former homeland, and it never gained the IFP or the UDM’s level of support in the former homeland. In 1999, the UCDP got 10% in the homeland and 7% in the NW province outside the homeland. Bop’s makeshift borders had been quite fluid and the Tswana population it was envisioned to be the homeland of continued living on both sides of the border in the present-day NW province. At that point, it won 33% of the vote in Mafikeng, which included the former Bop capital of Mmabatho. The UCDP, which peaked at around 10% in the NW, never got the IFP or even the UDM’s level of support in either Bop or the province as a whole. This is largely because Mangope left office in 1994 with no legitimacy whatsoever (unlike Holomisa, who was not a useless tool like him; or Buthelezi, who was much more effective at gaining actual support than any other puppet leader) and with only limited popular support in the former Bop (Mangope never really enjoyed widespread support, unlike Buthelezi).

Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC)

The PAC is a small far-left party which has been reduced to a one of many also-ran parties in South African politics; but at one time, the PAC was a powerful force and the ANC’s main rival for mass support and mobilization against the apartheid regime.

In the 1950s, the broader anti-apartheid movement was divided into two main factions. On the one hand, the majority of the ANC, influenced by the Communist Party (SACP), endorsed a multiracial society with equal franchise. The Congress of the People and what came out of it – the Freedom Charter (1955) – represented this multiracial/non-racial tradition, with the famous line that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white”. The ‘black’ ANC was only one actor in the Congress of the People, alongside rather influential anti-apartheid white left-wingers (mostly white Communists), Indians and Coloureds. On the other hand, the ‘Africanists’ within the ANC – influenced by Kwame Nkrumah’s pan-Africanist ideology – opposed the ANC-SACP’s multiracialism and the active participation of whites in the struggle. Driven by the view that all white South Africans – and not just the white government – were the oppressors – they saw the presence of whites in the movement as a sign that the ANC had been co-opted by the white ruling class. They recognized that individual whites could play a role in the struggle, but they could not hold leadership in the movement. The Africanists supported African continental unity, represented by the slogan ‘Africa for the Africans’. The PAC’s founder, Robert Subokwe, felt that even anti-apartheid whites could not identify fully with the cause because of their material advantages (therefore, only black Africans could lead the liberation movement), but he said that once oppression was removed, there would be no discrimination against whites on racial grounds. Radicals felt that the whites needed to be expelled from Africa.

The PAC was founded in April 1959 by the ANC’s Africanist faction, led by Robert Subokwe and Potlako Leballo. At the outset, the PAC posed a strong challenge to the ANC for the control of the anti-apartheid movement and the support of the country’s black masses. The PAC, like the ANC, had its own armed movement, the APLA (originally Poqo), which targeted white civilians – especially in the waning days of the apartheid regime. The PAC spearheaded the peaceful anti-pass campaign which led to the Sharpeville massacre in March 1960, when 69 unarmed black civilians were mowed down by the apartheid regime. Following the Sharpeville massacre, Sobukwe was arrested. He was finally released in 1969, but remained under house arrest until his death in 1978.

Sobukwe’s death and the exile of many of the PAC’s major leaders weakened the organization. Infighting between the PAC, its armed wing and the various factions in both erupted after Sobukwe’s death in 1978. Opposition to the SACP’s influence over the ANC had been one of the causes behind the PAC split in 1959, but the PAC itself moved towards Maoism in the 1970s – and the PAC sided with China in the Sino-Soviet split, while the ANC/SACP sided with the USSR. The intense infighting, the lack of any solid leadership and the absence of any real organization weakened the PAC in the 1980s. The PAC’s focus on abstract ‘grand ideas’ and dogmatism also kept the PAC from gaining mass support, unlike the ANC which also focused on local bread-and-butter concerns.

The PAC was unbanned in 1990. The party boycotted the transition process and APLA attacked white civilian targets, the bloodiest of which was the St. James Church bombing in Cape Town (in 1993), which killed 11. The PAC was divided on whether or not it should contest the 1994 election, given its opposition to the negotiated transition and the continuing armed struggle (placed on hold for the election, however). In the end, most of the PAC agreed to contest the poll. The 1994 election was a disaster for the PAC, which won only 1.3% of the vote and a mere 5 seats. The PAC’s radical and racial rhetoric (‘one settler, one bullet’) alienated many black voters who were eager for peace and reconciliation. The party was unable to improve its standing after 1994, in fact it has lost votes in every election since. In 1999, it won 0.8% and 3 seats. In 2004, it won 0.7% and 3 seats. In 2009, weakened by the split of the African’s People Convention, it won only 0.3% and held a single seat. Infighting continues to plague the party – in 2013, the PAC’s NEC expelled its president.

The PAC, once a powerful rival to the ANC, has become an extremely marginal force which poses no real threat to the ANC. The PAC has a far-left program, supporting nationalization and land redistribution. When Malema created the EFF, the PAC complained that Malema was stealing what the PAC stood for, but in March 2014, the PAC attended Malema’s manifesto launched and the PAC’s leader talk of a post-election merger.

Minority Front (MF)

The Minority Front is a small ethnic regional (KZN/Durban) party. The MF claims to represent all ethnic minorities in South Africa, in reality its support stems almost exclusively from the Indian minority in Durban, which has the largest Indian population of any major city in South Africa – making up roughly 18% of the city’s population, forming a large majority in Chatsworth and Phoenix.

The party functioned as a vehicle for its leader, Amichand Rajbansi, until his death in 2011. Rajbansi was an Indian community leader in Durban who was coopted by the NP regime in the 1970s and 1980s and played along with Botha’s tricameral scheme. He formed the National People’s Party (NPP) in 1981, and the NPP competed in the 1984 and 1989 elections for the Indian House of Delegates – elections which were, by and large, boycotted by the Indian population. The NPP won a majority in the 1984 election and Rajbansi served on Botha’s cabinet (minister of Indian affairs) and chaired the ‘Indian cabinet’. However, his rule was controversial. In the late 1980s, he was found guilty of various charges of bribery and glaring misadministration by parliamentary commissions and was subsequently dumped by Botha in 1988. Andrew Feinstein described Rajbansi as a “prominently bewigged gentleman with a charming lack of self-irony.”

The MF was founded in 1994 as a successor to the NP. It won only 0.07% in the first free elections in 1994, but with 1.3% in the provincial election in KZN it did qualify for a seat. Its national support increased to 0.3% in 1999 and 0.35% in 2004, winning one seat in the National Assembly in 1999 and gaining a second one in 2004. In 2009, the party’s support declined to 0.25% and it lost its second seat. The MF is a regional party which does not run in provincial or local elections outside KZN. In the 2009 GE, 89.6% of its votes came from a single province (KZN), where it won 2.05% in the provincial election (2 seats) and 1.1% in the general election. The few votes it won outside KZN came mostly from Indian neighborhoods such as Lenasia in Johannesburg. Its support in KZN provincial ballots has oscillated between 2.9% (1999) and 2% (2009). In 2009 (GE), the MF won 2.5% in eThekwini (Durban) and 3.5% in uMdoni (Scottburgh), located south of Durban and 14% Indian. In the 2011 local elections, the MF won 5.3% in Durban, and won 11 seats including 6 wards. It won 6.5% in uMdoni and one ward. There is increasing overlap between MF and DA support, with the MF losing a number of its voters to the DA. In direct races between the ANC and the DA, the MF’s supporters tend to back the DA by large margins.

Having been a personal vehicle for Rajbansi until 2011, the MF has no real ideology besides vague ethnic nationalism/Indian minority rights. Rajbansi’s widow took the party leadership after his death in 2011. The MF had an extremely short manifesto, mostly made up of a postmortem personality cult for Rajbansi (the ‘Bengal Tiger’, his wife, rest assured, is a ‘tigress’) and extremely empty blabber about minorities (part of which is probably ripped off from Wikipedia explaining what minorities are).

Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO)

AZAPO is a small black far-left party, similar to the PAC. AZAPO is the main political front of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM).

The Black Consciousness Movement was founded by Steve Biko, a black student leader, in the mid-1960s, following the marginalization and weakening of the ANC and PAC following the Sharpeville massacre and the arrest or forced exile of most of the ANC and PAC leadership. Like the Africanists, Biko’s BCM rejected the ANC’s moderate multiracial approach and its focus on extending civil rights to the entire South African population. Biko resented the strong influence of white liberals/left-wingers in the anti-apartheid movement, particularly in the student movement (the NUSAS). He attacked what he saw as traditional white values especially the ‘condescending’ values white liberals and the ‘white monopoly on truth’. The BCM wanted blacks to find their own way out of apartheid, a uniquely ‘African’ way; developing their own identity and institutions to gain psychological strength (because blacks had become alienated from themselves). He charged that whites of perpetuating a ‘super-race image’ through the use of force, which created and reinforced fears. The BCM wanted a unitary state ruled by blacks, with whites living on terms laid down by blacks. Biko disliked white communists and liberals, dismissed the SACP’s Marxist class analysis and felt that liberals had a paternalistic ‘do-gooder’ attitude towards blacks.

The BCM was the catalysing force behind the Soweto uprising in 1976. Steve Biko was arrested in Port Elizabeth in 1977 and murdered by his captors, probably in the back of a pickup truck while he was transferred from Port Elizabeth to Pretoria. Biko’s death weakened the BCM, especially as the ANC regained its leadership of the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s with the organization of various domestic civil society organizations – including some close to the BCM – under the UDF. During the 1980s, AZAPO was a minor force in the liberation movement, clashing with the ANC and taking a far-left stance against imperialism and capitalism

AZAPO did not participate in the first free elections in 1994. In 1999, the party won 0.2% and a single seat. It increased its support to 0.25% in 2004 and fell back to 0.22% in 2009, holding its single seat in both those elections.

AZAPO is a scientific socialist/far-left party. It defines itself as anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist and has focused its campaigns mostly on increasing black economic power. It sees the class struggle as being expressed in racial terms.

African People’s Convention (APC)

The APC is a small black far-left party founded by a split in the PAC in 2007. The party was founded during the third and last floor-crossing period in 2007 by Themba Godi, a PAC MP and the party’s deputy leader. The split must have been the result of a personality clash incomprehensible to outsiders. Indeed, the APC’s ideology is basically the same as the PAC: pan-Africanism, continental unity, socialism.

The APC won 0.2% in the 2009 election, enough for a single seat. Incidentally, it was the smallest party (in terms of votes) to win seats in 2009.

Results and analysis

Turnout was 73.43%, down from 77.3% in the 2009 election. This is the lowest turnout since 1999 (there was no voter registration in 1994, so it’s more difficult to make comparisons), when it stood at 89%. About 1.4% of votes were spoilt, basically unchanged since 2009, although the number increased from about 239,000 to a bit less than 252,000.

However, as I’ll explain later, the turnout data – based on registered voters – can be quite misleading. The results, based on valid votes, were as follows:

ANC 62.15% (-3.75%) winning 249 seats (-15)
DA 22.33% (+4.65%) winning 89 seats (+18)
EFF 6.35% (+6.35%) winning 25 seats (+25)
IFP 2.4% (-2.15%) winning 10 seats (-8)
NFP 1.57% (+1.57%) winning 6 seats (+6)
UDM 1.00% (+0.16%) winning 4 seats (nc)
VF+ 0.9% (+0.07%) winning 4 seats (nc)
COPE 0.67% (-6.75%) winning 3 seats (-27)
ACDP 0.57% (-0.24%) winning 3 seats (nc)
AIC 0.53% (+0.53%) winning 3 seats (+3)
Agang SA 0.28% (+0.28%) winning 2 seats (+2)
PAC 0.21% (-0.07%) winning 1 seat (nc)
APC 0.17% (-0.04%) winning 1 seat (nc)
Al Jama-ah 0.14% (-0.01%) winning 0 seats (nc)
MF 0.12% (-0.12%) winning 0 seats (-1)
UCDP 0.12% (-0.26%) winning 0 seats (-2)
AZAPO 0.11% (-0.11%) winning 0 seats (-1)
All others (below 0.1%) 0.47% winning 0 seats (nc)

The ANC was unsurprisingly reelected, keeping its large majority in the National Assembly with a resounding three-fifths majority (although it once again fell short of the two-thirds majority, which it held between 2004 and 2009, and which would have allowed the ANC to amend the constitution on its own). The ANC remains South Africa’s dominant party, and the 2014 results marked relatively change from the 2009 election, only with another decline for the ANC and an uptick for the opposition.

It often seems as if a lot of Western observers can’t quite comprehend why the ANC remains so popular and dominant – despite a widely-assailed President and a record which is very mediocre at best with very high unemployment, widespread corruption, incompetent ministers, major challenges in education and healthcare, service delivery protests and so forth. That incomprehension often breeds silly analysis on ‘liberation parties’ or downright paternalistic and patronizing ‘analysis’ which seem to insinuate that the ANC’s black voters don’t know what’s good for them and/or that they’re voting against their interests.

The ANC remains a genuinely popular party after 20 years in power, despite many failures which even ANC voters would recognize. The ANC isn’t popular because its voters don’t know what’s good for them; it’s popular because the ANC does retain a positive legacy and record since 1994 which its supporters still embrace. Despite a lot of undeniable failures about the state of South Africa since 1994 and the country has fallen short of the high hopes of 1994, it’s important to remember how far the country has come since those dark days. There have been real and tangible improvements in the livelihood of the black majority – and that’s hardly a subjective viewpoint, because the DA and most opposition parties recognize that. Besides the obvious – that they are now treated as equals and have political rights – millions of black South Africans have received (or are receiving) generous government grants, RDP housing or have gained access to basic necessities (running water, electricity, toilet facilities) which they previously lacked. Perhaps for people who have come to expect such amenities regardless of the party in power that might not seem like much, it certainly is a lot for people who previously lacked access to such amenities/services and faced repression at the hands of a racist regime.

ANC supporters often cite these factors – the major improvements which have taken place in their lives since 1994 – when explaining why they remain loyal to the ANC. That continued loyalty, however, does not stop them from being quite lucid of the challenges faced and the past failures of the ANC. Loyalty to the ANC should not be seen as blind loyalty to the ANC, nor should it be understood as mindless tribal/racial voting (although that likely plays a role too).

As Khaya Dlanga, an ANC-critical columnist who voted ANC, wrote: “The party has made some mistakes but it has got many things right, as proven by the visible and tangible change in many people’s lives.”

The ANC retains its aura as the liberation party, the party of Mandela and other great freedom fighters, and a lot of its supporters remain enormously proud of the ANC and the work that it has done. Cognizant of that fact, the ANC’s campaign this year placed a lot of emphasis on ‘the good story to tell’ and played on Mandela’s legacy. From that legacy, the ANC continues to draw on a base of enthusiastic and upbeat activists who provide the ANC with a tremendous nation-wide grassroots base which always shows its muscle, despite challenges, at election time.

The ANC is a smart party when it comes to elections, and it goes into elections with advantages which the other parties don’t have. Although Jacob Zuma remained the face of the ANC campaign, the ANC’s subliminal message was to ‘vote for the party, not an individual’ – playing on the real popularity of the ANC brand, to avoid excessive association from the more unpopular and somewhat toxic Zuma brand following Nkandlagate and similar scandals. The ANC’s strong result proved that it can still sell itself successfully regardless of who leads it, and the ANC brand is stronger than Zuma. The ANC successfully managed to convince loyal voters to separate Zuma, the government and the ANC. Although the reality isn’t that simple, ANC supporters who feel queasy about the ANC may take solace in the fact that the ANC is far from a monolith or personal machine, and that it has the ability to change – most recently witnessed at Polokwane (for better or worse), most famously in 1949 when a young guard around Mandela orchestrated the removal of AB Xuma, the ANC president accused of being too moderate and apologetic for the times.

For some ANC voters, scandals such as Nkandla may not have been major issues. Zuma said that only ‘bright/clever people’ cared about Nkandla and that it was not an issue, although he still defended himself saying that Madonsela hadn’t found him guilty and that it was unfair that he was being singled out for criticism (besides, he claimed the upgrades were necessary after criminals broke into his house to rape his wife).

The ANC has the strongest electoral machine of any party: a dedicated and committed army of supporters and hardened partisans, a presence throughout the country, a grassroots base in urban and rural black communities (in the townships and the former homelands alike), certainly a hefty war chest larger than that of the opposition and the covert use of state resources in its favour. It doesn’t hurt, for example, that the SABC – which is the main source of news for a lot of voters – is biased in the ANC’s favour or at the very least quite tame in its reporting on the ANC. Patronage remains an important factors, especially in rural areas, with several businesspeople who have made their fortunes on the back of the ANC or party supporters who have drawn on their ties to the party to obtain advantages or access to public services.

In 2009 and again in 2014, the ANC proved that, with its advantages and fairly strong campaign, it could prove skeptics wrong and defy very real challenges to its hegemony. In 2009, the ANC successfully undercut COPE’s appeal to its base and mobilized support for Zuma and the ANC. In 2014, despite threats from the fallout of Nkandla, Marikana, high unemployment and the poor economy, the ANC once again mobilized its support quite well.

For a lot of black voters, there is also a dearth of options – quite ironic given South Africa’s very proportional voting system and the wide choice of parties on the ballot. However, the main opposition, the DA remains perceived – fairly or unfairly – as the ‘white’s party’, and the ANC certainly loves playing on resentments, fears and myths to drum up support. The DA has increased its support, some of it coming from black voters, and under Helen Zille the DA has taken real steps – some of them successful – to change the party and improve its image. More and more, the DA has black members and leaders who aren’t total duds and don’t merely serve as window-dressing. However, the image remains stubborn and the DA often fails at messaging – they bash the ANC too much for their own good, leaving traditional ANC supporters wondering if they were downplaying or denying the ANC’s achievements or looking down on them or attacking them for voting ANC in the past. The DA also has the unfortunate tendency to be incredibly tin-eared or amateurish when it comes to messaging what black voters care about. The DA’s policies on affirmative action, ‘the elephant in the room’ in the words of Christi van der Westhuizen, have been a tough sell to black voters, more attracted by the ANC’s EE/BEE policies than the DA’s vague and unappealing stuff on ‘equal opportunities’, non-racialism or the ‘open opportunity society for all’. Thankfully for them, the DA is making progress on this issue, recognizing that class and race are correlated and that appealing to black voters requires more than lip-service and sloganeering on EE. Yet, the DA still has issues to remedy. Helen Zille is a competent administrator but not a particularly good party leader; her image as a madam baas and her enraged rants on Twitter are liabilities. She also needs to shake off the image (which seems to be rooted in reality) that Zille has a smug view towards black leaders in the DA – picking and choosing her favourites and treating them as her proteges who she expects to be loyal-or-else. It is the kind of attitude which underlines the impression that the DA takes a very simplistic view of race relations and racial dynamics, failing to grasp the complexity of racial relations and dynamics in 21st century South Africa.

As was noted after Nkandla, the opposition parties need to be careful about going after Nkandla and similar scandals. Overdoing it may make the average black voter feel under attack for voting ANC, while making hesitant past ANC voters feel stupid about voting ANC in the past. In the past, some of the opposition’s violent attacks on Zuma inadvertently built sympathy for him.

Julius Malema’s EFF performed relatively well for a new party, winning 6.4% – slightly less than what COPE, another brand-new party born out of the ANC, had won in 2009. But it’s clear that the EFF hasn’t (yet?) had the impact which Malema proclaimed it would – it certainly didn’t take half of the ANC’s votes and/or win over 50% of the vote (as Malema said it would). Malema has a strong and dedicated base of supporters and activists, who give the party a clear visibility on the ground and online, but it’s also clear that Malema has many detractors – and they’re not only white. For a lot of black ANC supporters, Malema and the EFF is seen as too young, too radical and too hotheaded to be taken seriously. Others may be rightly skeptical of Malema’s aggressive left-populism given his own lavish lifestyle and the tender deals he has allegedly cashed in on in Limpopo. The EFF, as the geographical analysis will show and per Malema’s own admission, had trouble breaking through in rural areas. Malema’s message of radical redistributionism and racially-tinged nationalism was more accessible to voters in urban areas, where awareness for the ANC’s failures and scandals is likely highest. For example, and this is an important point which would deserve further investigation, an M&G report in the rural Eastern Cape (EC) found that a lot of voters were unaware of the details of what had gone down at Marikana (and may have been unaware of the details of Nkandla, given the complexity of the case and the question marks surrounding it).

The other parties are unappealing as well. The IFP and now the NFP are both regional and ethnic-based party which little to no appeal outside KZN and specific sectors of the Zulu community. The UDM is not quite as regionally-concentrated but its geography indicates that it has become a Transkei regional party. COPE, which people were so excited about (the Western media does seem to love COPE/Agang-like black-led moderate and liberal parties which they think/hope would appeal to black voters while still not being scary like Malema), has been a remarkable case study into political failure. COPE had potential, but during the 2009 campaign it was already clear that it had lost its initial fire and was marginalized by the ANC and the DA. And despite ending up with a quite good result, it then proceeded to spend five years doing little more (as far as what the public is aware of – that’s basically all that COPE did which got into the news) than bicker internally and cripple the party. As somebody put it, it seems as if COPE didn’t get that being an opposition party means opposing the government rather than itself! The other parties (PAC, ACDP, AZAPO…) on offer are all tiny, anonymous and irrelevant outfits which are often too cranky and crazy to have mass-appeal beyond a small circle of hardened followers.

This long-winded discussion is my attempt to explain why the ANC won 11.4 million votes and remains dominant. But there is an extremely important point, which almost all analysis misses out on, which gives a completely different image of the reality of South African politics than the one commonly understood. Voter registration is voluntary (non-automatic) and, as I understand it, there is no election-day registration and the registration window closes quite a while before the election. This means that, like in the United States, it’s important to look not only at statistics on the basis of registered voters but also on the basis of eligible voters (voting-age population, VAP).

The IEC reported registered voters vs. the VAP in November 2013, before the IEC’s registration drive for the 2014 elections, so only 24.1 million were registered against 25.3 who were registered on election day. The IEC also maintains an updated tally of registered voters.

If we take Statistics SA’s numbers on the VAP (reported by the IEC) in October 2014, there were 31,434,035 South Africans eligible to vote. 25,381,293 registered to vote, or 80.7% of the VAP, and 18,654,457 actually cast ballots on May 7. Turnout as a percentage of the VAP was therefore 59.34%, which is actually up from 59.29% in 2009 and 55.77% in 2004.

The IEC’s November 2013 report on the matter was highly instructive. Only 23% of eligible voters aged 18 and 19 – the ‘born free’ generation which everybody was going on about – were registered to vote, although the registration drive was most successful with these voters given that, only a month before, only 8.8% were registered to vote. As we speak, only 33% of them are registered. About two-thirds of the born free generation, therefore, didn’t even register to vote. Voter registration increased with age, peaking at 105% with those over 80 – indicating that there are probably quite a few dead voters on the lists. Over 95% of those over 50 were registered, and over 85% of those over 30. However, with voters aged 20 to 29, registration was only 54.5% in November 2013 and seems to be roughly at 60.6%, significantly lower than all other age groups.

If the results per party are calculated on the basis of VAP, the image we get of the past 20 years becomes completely different. 1994 is the ANC’s highest ebb, both in terms of raw votes and percentage of the vote (% of VAP) – they won about 12.2 million votes or 53% of the eligible voting population (62.7% of valid votes). Since then, the ANC’s share of the vote has declined in every successive election - 41.7% in 1999, 38.9% in 2004, 38.6% in 2009 and 36.7% in 2014. Their raw vote has decreased in all but one election – 10.6 million in 1999, 10.88 million in 2004, 11.65 million in 2009 and 11.43 million in 2014. When we look at the ‘actual’ results as reported in relation to valid votes, the ANC’s vote share increased in the 1999 (66.4%) and 2004 (69.7%) elections, declining since 2009 (65.9%) to their lowest percentage this year (62.2%). Therefore, although the VAP increased from 23 million in 1994 to 31.4 million in 2014, a 36.3% increase; the ANC’s vote has decreased by 6.5% since 1994. The ANC has not had the support of a ‘majority of voters’ in the last four elections.

The main opposition party’s support has declined from 17.3% of the VAP (NP in 1994) to 13% of the VAP (DA in 2014), although the DA’s result in 2014 – the best result for any opposition party since 1994 – is higher both in terms of percentage and in raw vote to that of the NP in 1994, which held the ‘record’ for strongest opposition performance. The DA won 4.09 million votes in 2014.

Of course, this isn’t to say that if every non-voter (unregistered or registered) did vote, he/she would vote for an opposition party. Furthermore, non-registration and non-voting may not necessarily mean dissatisfaction or disinterest with the political system, it could be ‘positive apathy’ – passive satisfaction for the status-quo; but given the state of South Africa, it is far more likely that those who don’t register to vote are doing so because of dissatisfaction. The point is that, contrary to perceptions, the ANC has suffered a real decline in popularity since 1994 – although it has largely benefited apathy and abstention rather than the opposition parties. It is quite telling that the vast majority of ‘born free’ voters did not vote and a large majority did not even register to vote. A growing share of the adult, especially young adult, population has become alienated from the political system. Young voters – those with the highest levels of apathy towards democracy in South Africa – suffer the brunt of unemployment in South Africa. It is with the ‘born free’ generation, which could vote but largely didn’t in 2014, that the ANC has the least ‘struggle credibility/legacy’ and who have no direct personal memory of apartheid. Of course, youth apathy is far from being uniquely South African, but the phenomenon appears to be particularly pronounced in South Africa. For these voters, especially poor, young blacks, no party holds any appeal, all politicians are corrupt and there is no point in voting.

Unsurprisingly, few – if any – politicians have noted this problem, a worrying trend for a young democracy. Instead, after every election, the ANC engages in the usual self-congratulation and claims that it represents the will of ‘the people’. The EFF admittedly did explicitly target non-registered young voters, but it appears that even Malema’s youthful radicalism and anti-system rhetoric didn’t do much for them.

The ANC comes out of this election with 62.15%, its lowest result  – even as a percentage of valid votes – in any post-apartheid election. Zuma has the dubious honour of being the ANC leader who has seen the ANC’s support fall in three successive elections – 2009, 2011 (locals) and 2014 – although given that the usual reaction to the results in those past three elections has been ‘the ANC did well for itself considering it could have done far worse’, there’s been no introspection (publicly) from the ANC.

The DA is strengthened with 22.3% and 90 seats, the highest result – in terms of raw votes, percentage of valid votes and seat total – for any single opposition party since the fall of apartheid. It beat the previous record, held by the NP in 1994. This is the culmination of the consolidation of bipolar system, with a dominant ANC (but increasingly less so) and a main opposition party coalescing most of the anti-ANC support at the expense of smaller opposition parties. For the DA, it is also the result of a consolidation of the vast majority of the non-black, minority vote around it – the DA commands the support not only of an overwhelming majority of whites, but also the large majority of Coloureds and Indians. The merger of Patricia de Lille’s Independent Democrats (IDs), whose best results came from Coloured regions in the Cape region in 2004 and 2009, has allowed the DA to further consolidate its hold on the Coloured vote. The DA has also made small but significant gains with black voters. In 2009, the DA is reported to have taken only 0.8% of the black vote in the country, an observation borne out by actual analysis of the results at a micro level. This year, the DA has reported that it won 6% of the black vote, like in 2011. According to the DA, 20% of its electorate is black (making it the most ‘racially diverse’ electorate).

The DA successfully held and expanded its majority in the Western Cape, the opposition’s main base since 1994. It has made significant inroads in Gauteng, South Africa’s major economic centre and most populous province. The DA faces, as will be discussed in the conclusion, the challenge of expanding its base to blacks. It has made strong gains with black voters since 2009, but obviously it will never win a national election if it wins in the whereabouts of 6% with black voters. Increasingly, if the DA fails to increase its black support, it will be hitting a ceiling.

The major loser of these elections is undoubtedly the IFP, the old Zulu nationalist party. The IFP won 2.4% of the vote, down from an all-time low of 4.6% in 2009. In KZN, the IFP’s stronghold, it was a bloodbath and embarrassment for the IFP: on the national ballot, the IFP won 10.2% of the vote against 65.3% for the ANC and 13.4% for the DA; on the provincial ballot, the IFP fell into third place, winning 10.9% against 12.8% for the DA and 64.5% for the ANC. The DA becomes the official opposition party in KZN’s provincial legislature, marking the first time that the IFP is neither in government or in the official opposition in the province. In 2009, when the IFP had suffered a brutal loss of 14.4% in its KZN stronghold from the 2004 election, the IFP had won 20.5% (and 22.4% on the provincial ballot). Since 2007, the IFP has been crippled by two major factors. Firstly, under Jacob Zuma, the ANC is no longer ‘Xhosa Nostra’ but rather a Zulu-led party in which KZN and the Zulus have gained significant power thanks to Zuma. Under Zuma, the ANC government has also promoted conservative values – with Zuma emphasizing his Zulu tribal roots on repeated occasions and the government favouring the rights of traditional leaders (notably when it comes to land issues). As a result of the ANC’s new direction under Zuma, the traditional Zulu monarch, King Goodwill Zwelethini, a traditionally ally of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi and the IFP, has gotten along quite well with the ANC, causing major strains with the IFP. Secondly, the IFP has been hurt by the creation of the NFP, led by former IFP chairwoman (and 2009 KZN Premier candidate) Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi. The NFP won 6.4% in the national election in KZN this year, and 7.3% in the provincial ballot, coming in behind the IFP and its 2011 local election result (10.2%). The NFP is estimated to have taken about half of the IFP vote, notably in the old IFP heartlands of the old KwaZulu homeland.

The IFP’s support has been on a constant downwards trend since 1994 – in provincial elections in KZN, the IFP’s support has declined from 50.3% (1994) to 41.9% (1999), falling behind the ANC in 2004 (36.8%) and seeing the bottom fall out in 2009 (22.4%) as the ANC’s vote in the province jumped nearly 16% (the only province where the ANC’s support increased in 2009, providing a huge cushion for other – often substantial loses – for the ANC outside KZN in 2009). The IFP’s recent troubles owe a lot to Zuma’s leadership of the ANC, but the decline predates the Zuma ANC. It is due to the improvement of the security situation in KZN since 1994, from quasi-war zone in 1994 where several IFP heartlands were totally off-limits to the ANC (resulting in 90%+ support for the IFP), to a politically violent and turbulent (partisan killings and assassinations, between the IFP, ANC and now NFP, remain common in KZN) but generally safer province. The IFP has also lost much of its raison-d’etre since 1994.

Another major loser, of course, was COPE – which was annihilated, collapsing to only 0.7% and 3 seats (it had won 30 in 2009…). That result owes a lot to the fact that COPE spent the good part of the last five years fighting amongst itself. As the geographic analysis will show, COPE’s collapse benefited both the ANC and the DA. In any case, COPE has entered South African political lingo to refer to ephemeral flash-in-the-pan parties – there are already people asking if EFF will ‘be another COPE’. For anybody wondering, COPE leader Mosiuoa Lekota did indeed eat his hat:

The UDM and VF+ were the only existing small parties to see their support increase. The UDM increased its support from the last election for the first time, its support having declined in every election since its first election in 1999, although with 1% of the vote, it is only a marginal gain of 0.2%. The VF+, whose supports has fallen since 2004, remained stable with a very small gain, reaching 0.9% of the vote.

All other existing minor parties suffered loses, further confirmation of the two-party polarization around the ANC and the DA at the top. The two parties which lost their leaders to death or expulsion since 2009 – the MF and the UCDP – both collapsed and lost their seats. Neither party filled any purpose, and the removal of their leaders has killed them off. In Durban, the MF won 2.4% in the provincial elections, down from 4.8% and 6.4% in 2009 and 2004 respectively. The MF’s vote has largely flowed to the DA. In the process, the MF, UCPD and AZAPO fell behind Al Jama-ah, an Islamist party which has fairly substantial support in Muslim Coloured and Asian precincts in the WC and Gauteng.

The ACDP and the PAC saw their support decline as well. The South African left, EFF excluded, performed dismally.

One remarkable failure was that of Mamphela Ramphele’s Agang, which got a lot of people excited at the time (again, mostly because of a weird infatuation with that kind of outfit) but which ended up as a dud. The aborted DA-Agang deal looked extremely bad on Ramphele, who had never consulted on her own party and acted totally unilaterally in a deal which she scuttled herself within days (if not hours). After the botched deal, and Agang’s decision to run alone with Ramphele at its head, the media largely ignored the party and it received very little attention. But Agang’s trouble predated the DA-Agang deal of doom; before the deal, Agang’s finances were already down the drain, the party was allegedly in tatters and its membership was low. Agang entered politics with grand principles and visions, but it failed to target a specific niche clientele – the mystical ‘black middle-class’ which everybody talks about, the voter who doesn’t like the ANC but can’t bring him/herself to vote DA. Its vague platitudes and principles appealed to few voters.

One interesting result came from the African Independent Congress (AIC), which ran in the national elections for the first time (it had ran provincially in the EC in 2009, winning 0.8% and 1 seat). Out of nowhere, surprising everybody, the small party won 0.5% of the vote and 3 seats. The AIC is a small rural, local and conservative party whose pet cause seems to be opposition to the inclusion of Matatiele Local Municipality in the EC rather than KZN, but from its website’s charming introduction, it has recycled itself into gathering signatures to call a referendum opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage (which happened in 2006, so they aren’t up with the times). The AIC won about 13% and 7 seats in the last local elections in Matatiele LM in 2011, and it remains the party’s base. However, its random success nationally did not owe to that – the AIC won only 0.78% in the EC, which is what it won in 2009, and only 3.8% in Matatiele LM. The reason for its success seems to be a perfect storm of ‘coincidences’ – the party was placed right above the ANC on the ballot, it has a very similar name to the ANC and its logo (printed on the ballot) is also green, yellow/gold and black. The ANC and most people believe that people voted AIC by mistake, thinking that they were voting ANC. The AIC naturally denies that possibility, but is at a loss when it comes to explaining how a regional party which nobody knows about managed to get a relatively homogeneous vote distribution across South Africa.

Geographical analysis

Results by Local Municipality in South Africa (source: elections.adrianfrith.com)

Voting patterns in South Africa remain predominantly determined by race. It is hardly surprising. As I explained in this post on race, ethnicity and language in South Africa, race remains a central concept in South African society – residential segregation, although less extreme than under apartheid, remains a reality; class is racialized, with the black majority being significantly poorer than the whites but also Coloureds and Indians, and with relatively little improvements in their share of the national income since 1994; poverty remains similarly conditioned by race in large part, with the overwhelming majority of the poor – and everything which poverty entails – being black, with only a tiny minority of ‘poor whites’ (despite so much ink being wasted on that pet topic of some commentators…); economic control and land ownership remains unequally distributed in favour of the white minority and racial issues remain at the heart of political debate. The ANC retains the support of a vast majority of the black majority – in this election, despite sharp loses in some regions to the EFF and the DA, I would wager that the ANC still won well over 80% of the black vote. The ANC commits only limited efforts to appealing to non-black voters (largely because it has no need to and it is often futile), and when it does talk directly to, say, white voters, it is more to reassure them that nothing bad will happen rather than to convince them to vote for the ANC. Nevertheless, the ANC does retain a small but significant minority of Coloured and Indian support; in the case of the Coloured vote, the ANC must pull a significant amount in rural and homogeneously Coloured regions of the remote Northern Cape.

The vast majority of whites, Coloureds and Indians now support the DA – especially as the VF+ has been severely weakened from its heyday in 1994, and the niche parties for Coloureds (the ID, which didn’t present itself as such but effectively had a heavily Coloured electorate) and Indians (the MF) have kicked the bucket (or, with the ID, merged with the DA). The Coloured vote is an interesting question, which has raised a lot of questions (but little academic analysis of much worth, sadly) and may often appear contradictory to outsiders. In the 1994 election, a majority of Coloureds, especially those in Cape Town and the Western Cape, voted for the NP over the ANC. It is surprising and may appear very contradictory, given that it was the same party which, in the 1950s, had fought a long and extremely contentious fight to remove Coloured voters (a minority who had the franchise) from the voter rolls in the Cape Province.

The Coloured identity is a complicated and ambiguous concept. Traditionally described as a ‘mixed-race’ group, most Coloureds have Khoisan ancestry – related to the lighter-skinned San and Khoi people which inhabited the present-day Cape region when Dutch settlers landed at the Cape – but early intermarriage with Dutch settlers, the assimilation of a section of the colonial black society in the Cape and the importation, by the Dutch, of slaves from the Dutch East Indies created a highly diverse population, with an ambiguous and complicated identity. The vast majority of Coloureds ‘integrated’ European society, adopting a Christian faith (except for the Cape Malays, who remain Muslim) and mostly speaking Afrikaans as their first language (a significant minority speaks English). Until apartheid, because many Coloureds and ‘poor whites’ lived interspersed, which blurred racial lines and allowed many Coloureds to ‘pass for white’ to escape discrimination. Under apartheid, Coloureds were described ‘negatively’ – in opposition to blacks and whites, as people who were neither white nor black; at an individual level, this allowed for significant confusion. Coloured identity has usually been associated with negative connotations – both whites and blacks have sometimes seen them as a ‘leftover’ group lacking a nation; during apartheid, whites associated Colouredness with racial intermarriage and hybridity, and Afrikaner nationalists were embarrassed by the reminder of their past ‘promiscuity’ and ‘moral lapses’ which had created a race of ‘half-breeds’ which was extremely negatively perceived by the racist regime. Some blacks have equally looked down on the Coloureds, given rise to the post-apartheid idea that Coloureds were ‘not white enough’ under apartheid but ‘not black enough’ since 1994.

Given this history, Coloureds’ political demands have oscillated between efforts for assimilation into white society, inspired by Cape liberalism; others took more radical stances, the Black Consciousness Movement had some appeal to Coloureds in the 1970s. Under apartheid, Coloureds, while facing severe discrimination, enjoyed an intermediate status in apartheid society – above the blacks in the racist hierarchy – and in the Coloured Labour Preference Area (CLPA), a region encompassing all of the WC, most of the NC and a section of the EC, Coloureds enjoyed employment preference over blacks and the NP regime strictly enforced influx control in the CLPA to expel ‘illegal’ black migrants to the ‘homelands’.

In 1994, a majority of the Coloured vote went to the NP, allowing the NP to win an absolute majority in the WC. The ANC’s defeat in the WC in 1994 was a major blow to the party, which had seriously expected to win, counting on the legacy of the anti-apartheid struggle in the 1980s, which had enjoyed strong support in Coloured communities in Cape Town. However, the NP managed to win Coloured voters mixing old and new rhetoric. The NP’s FW de Klerk was very popular with Coloured voters (the NP downplayed Hernus Kriel, the verkrampte minister who would become NP Premier of the province), and the ‘new’ NP asked for forgiveness while focusing on minority rights and emphasizing the shared Christian and Afrikaans heritage of the Coloured people. But the NP also ran a thinly veiled and often crass racially divisive, if not racist, campaign, playing on voters’ fears that an ANC government and the ‘black hordes’ – migrants from the Eastern Cape, which had begun flowing into Cape Town after the CLPA was dismantled – would take their homes and jobs, and lead to chaos and destruction. Ironically, as the NP lost the white vote to the DP/DP with the DP’s slaan terug campaign in 1999, the party’s electorate became even more Coloured. In 2004, the NNP’s last election before it folded into the ANC, the NNP’s best results came from Coloured voters – for example, the NNP won about 30% of the vote in the poor Coloured township of Atlantis in Cape Town, but only 10-14% in the predominantly white Afrikaner suburb of Bellville.

The DA reported that it won 6% of the black vote, or about 760,000 votes, contributing 20% of the DA’s vote. This is equal to the DA’s share of the black vote which it reported in 2011, but up from less than 1% in 2009. Ipsos’ profile of the supporters of each party, right before the election, confirmed that blacks made up 20% of the DA’s electorate against 27% for Coloureds, 3% for Indians and 50% for whites. 50% of the DA’s supporters, Ipsos reported, speak Afrikaans as their mother tongue and 32% speak English. In contrast, 96% of ANC supporters and 99% of EFF supporters were black.

Unsurprisingly, Ipsos’ data found that DA voters are far wealthier, far more likely to have a full-time job and older than the broader South African electorate.

Ipsos’ profile also portrayed the EFF electorate: it is a disproportionately male (67%), young (49% are 24 and under) and quasi-homogeneously black (99%) electorate. 45% of the EFF’s electorate is unemployed, and another 20% are students. The results of the election showed that the EFF was the second largest party behind the ANC with black voters, likely ahead of the DA nationally. But the EFF’s appeal was unequal: in some townships, the EFF won in the double-digits and even broke 20% in some areas, reducing the ANC’s sky high levels of support rather significantly in some places. In other townships, for example in the Western Cape or KZN, the EFF, while generally a distant second to the ANC, remained in the single-digits with support at or barely above its national average. In a lot of black rural areas, for example in the densely populated former homelands of the Transkei and Ciskei in the EC, the EFF failed to break through. The EFF generally did best wih Sepedi and Setswana-speakers, while doing quite poorly with isiZulu and isiXhosa-speakers.

The DA also reported that it grew its support with minority communities – from 83.9% to 92.8% of the white vote, from 55.5% to 67.7% of the Coloured vote and from 53.7% to 61% of the Indian vote.

In this election, the ANC suffered major losses in some of South Africa’s largest cities (Metropolitan Municipalities) in Gauteng. Its support fell from 63.3% to 53.6% in Johannesburg, from about 61% to 51% in Tshwane (Pretoria) and from 67.5% to 56.4% in Ekurhuleni (East Rand). In Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth, EC), the ANC won 49.2% compared to 50.1% in 2009. The ANC’s sharp losses in some MMs may spell trouble for the party ahead of the 2016 local elections, in which the DA has a very good chance to gain Nelson Mandela Bay MM and may fancy its chances in both Johannesburg and Pretoria.

You can explore national and provincial results from 2014 and 2009 at all levels, down to the voting district (precinct) level, on this fabulous map. A handy racial, linguistic and income dot map to a micro level is a useful companion.

Provincial election results

Province ANC DA EFF IFP NFP UDM VF+ COPE ACDP AIC MF BRA
EC 70.09% (45) 16.2% (10) 3.48% (2) 0.06% 0.16% 6.16% (4) 0.31% 1.2% (1) 0.33% 0.77% (1)
FS 69.85% (22) 16.23% (5) 8.15% (2) 0.11% 0.11% 0.21% 2.1% (1) 1.63% 0.51%
GP 53.59% (40) 30.78% (23) 10.3% (8) 0.78% (1) 0.47% 0.44% 1.2% (1) 0.49% 0.62% 0.07%
KZN 64.52% (52) 12.76% (10) 1.85% (2) 10.86% (9) 7.31% (6) 0.17% 0.2% 0.16% 0.44% 1.02% (1)
LP 78.6% (39) 6.48% (3) 10.74% (6) 0.08% 0.04% 0.27% 0.69% 0.86% (1) 0.48%
MP 78.23% (24) 10.4% (3) 6.26% (2) 0.26% 0.75% 0.13% 0.82% 0.32% 0.4% 1.15% (1)
NW 67.39% (23)
12.73% (4) 13.21% (5)
0.14% 0.15% 0.88% 1.72% (1) 0.8% 0.53%
NC 64.4% (20) 23.89% (7) 4.96% (2) 0.06% 0.03% 0.09% 1.09% 3.6% (1) 0.57%
WC 32.89% (14) 59.38% (26) 2.11% (1) 0.05% 0.04% 0.48% 0.55% 0.59% 1.02% (1) 0.31%

Gauteng

Gauteng, South Africa’s most populous province – home to the sprawling metropolises of Johannesburg, Pretoria and the Rand area – and economic powerhouse, was one of the most closely disputed provinces. Mmusi Maimane, the DA’s new black hopeful, ran a strong DA campaign to topple the ANC provincial government – the ANC has governed Gauteng since 1994.

Results by precinct (VD) in Johannesburg and the East Rand (source: elections.adrianfrith.com)

The ANC suffered its steepest losses in Gauteng, falling from 64.8% to 54.9% on the national ballot and from 64% to 53.6% in the provincial election. In 1994, the ANC’s previous low in the province, it had won 57.6%. The DA and the EFF both cashed in on the ANC’s bad performance – on the national ballot, the DA won 28.5% (up from 21.3% in 2009 and compared to 23.9% for the NP in 1994, although in 1994 the NP+VF+DP vote stood at over 35%) and the EFF won 10.3%. In the provincial election, likely boosted by ballot splitting in favour of Maimane, the DA won 30.8%. It likely was a major beneficiary of the COPE’s 2009 votes – the party had won 7.8% in the province at the time.

But the ANC’s fairly spectacular fall in Gauteng – which spells trouble for the ANC in 2016 and 2019 – isn’t only the result of the COPE vote likely shifting to the DA, the DA consolidating the non-black vote and winning some black support. The ANC in Gauteng, as explained above, has been wracked by internal tensions and divisions for a number of years, and the provincial party endorsed Motlanthe over Zuma at Mangaung in 2012. The province has been led by independent mavericks for quite some time – first Tokyo Sexwale (Premier from 1994 to 1998), who had/has presidential ambitions; then Mbhazima Shilowa (Premier from 1999 to 2008), who defected to COPE; then Paul Mashatile (Premier from 2008 to 2009), who was unaligned with either Zuma or Mbeki and became an anti-Zuma leader. Mashatile was not retained as Premier by the ANC NEC, which preferred to pick the pro-Zuma Nomvula Mokonyane, but he kept the provincial leadership (defeating Mokonyane in 2010) and a bitter rivalry between the ‘two centres of power’ crippled her administration and led to infighting in the ANC.

Gauteng has long been a magnet for migrant workers, ever since the early days of industrial South Africa, and now attracts a large number of black immigrants from poorer countries in Africa. This has created real challenges for service delivery and employment in the province, which, despite being – with the WC – one of South Africa’s wealthiest provinces, has a high unemployment rate at 30% (expanded). High criminality, joblessness and service delivery failures by incompetent or overburdened governments in Gauteng have led to explosive social tensions, in the form of bloody xenophobic riots and often-violent service delivery protests.

Discontent was locally exacerbated by the ANC’s unpopular e-tolls – the installation of gantries on Gauteng highways to act as an electronically-operated toll road. The e-tolls were more or less unilaterally imposed by the ANC without prior consultation, ostensibly to pay for highway renovation. They faced the opposition of the opposition parties, part of the business community, most motorists and COSATU. The DA’s provincial campaign promised to organize a referendum on e-tolls if it had won.

Voting remain polarized along racial lines to a large extent, but it was not a ‘racial census’ election. The biggest shifts happened in black areas. In Soweto, the ANC had won (on average) over 85% of the vote throughout the large township’s wards in 2009, with the main challenge coming from COPE and, in some voting districts (VDs) from the IFP. The DA won only 1% or so of the vote. This year, the ANC remained dominant, but saw a significant loss of support – down to mid-to-high 70s (a guesstimate from ward results), with no wards registering over 90% of the vote but a fairly substantial number of VDs with the ANC falling below 70%. The EFF and the DA were the beneficiaries of the ANC’s losses, with the EFF generally coming in second behind the ANC with about 10-12% on average and the DA placing third with 4-8% of the vote. The IFP, which won 0.8% in the provincial election – down 0.7% from 2009, but still saving its one seat in the provincial legislature, won a few VDs in Soweto, all of them hostels (for male migrant workers from KZN, the IFP’s traditional base in the PWV). The ANC, however, won its best results in the heavily Zulu neighborhoods of Soweto – in Zola, which is 77% isiZulu-speaking, the ANC won about 84%.

In other townships in Gauteng, the ANC suffered substantial losses as well. In Alexandra, a much poorer township in Joburg, the ANC’s support fell from the 85% range to about 68-72% of the vote. The EFF won about 15-20% support in Alexandra, and even won 40% in a small VD covering a large informal settlement outside the township. In Diepsloot, another poor Joburg (north) township with large informal settlements, the ANC fell from over 85% of the vote in 2009 to 70%, with the EFF winning about 22% of the vote. In two VDs covering a plurality-Sepedi (the main language in Limpopo and Malema’s native tongue) informal settlement, the EFF won about 30%.

Results by precinct (VD) in Tshwane (Pretoria) (source: elections.adrianfrith.com)

The EFF also had very strong support in wealthier black areas – take, for example, the more middle-class parts of Cosmo City, a new 97% black suburb (mostly RDP housing, but with some wealthier areas), the EFF took over 20% and the ANC won only 56-60% of the vote (the DA, with support over 10%, also did well – and Agang got over 1%!). The ANC’s support remained over 70% in the poorer half of Cosmo City.
In some of the new affluent suburbs and gated communities in Midrand – areas such as Noordwyk (which is 62% black) and Vorna Valley (53% black) – the ANC won about 45%, while the DA won about 25% and the EFF did well with roughly 15% or so. These areas are quite racially mixed, with significant Asian and white populations, so the DA vote likely came from minorities but it is certain that the DA won a significant percentage of the black vote.

The DA likely won a significant (double digit) percentage of the black vote in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs; these places are seen as lily white affluent suburbs, as they were under apartheid, but there is a significant black minority. For example, Randburg and Sandton are both around 35% black. The ANC vote in the northern suburbs was lower – significantly so – than the black percentage. Take, for example, the very affluent leafy suburb of Northcliff, which is 22.8% black. The ANC vote was only 10-12%, with the DA winning in the high 70s. In Dainfern, a new affluent suburban subdivision in the northern suburbs of Joburg which is 25% black, the ANC won 17% to the DA’s 75.8%.

The EFF did particularly well in Tembisa, a large 98% black township in Ekurhuleni (East Rand). In the northern half of the township, which is both heavily Sepedi and is largely made up of informal settlements or makeshift houses, the EFF won well over 35% and broke over 40% in some VDs, coming within a handful of votes of the ANC, whose support totally collapsed from over 90% in 2009 to the low 50s. The ANC retained stronger support – in the high 60s to low 70s (down from about 90% in 2009) – in other parts of Tembisa, where the Sepedi language is less predominant. The EFF still did very well, polling over 20% in most wards in Tembisa.

The ANC’s strongest results in Gauteng generally came from predominantly Zulu townships – in Tsakane and Langaville (Ekurhuleni), the ANC won over 80% of the vote was below 10% in most wards. In the large township of Kathelong, which is 37% isiZulu-speaking, the ANC remained in the high 70s-low 80s. The ruling party remained well over 80% in Evaton and Sebokeng.

In the city of Tshwane (Pretoria), the EFF raked in strong support in some townships – in Atteridgeville and Saulsville, both of which are plurality Sepedi-speaking, the EFF won over 20% in all but one ward; the EFF also did quite well in some peripheral townships (Ga-Rankuwa, which is Tswana) and some parts of Mamelodi, winning over 30% in some of the VDs covering the shantytowns.

Racial polarization remained, of course, the order of the day in Gauteng like in every other province. The DA won one local municipality in Gauteng – Midvaal, which is 58.4% black and 38.7% white, and which is also the only municipality in the province to have a DA mayor. In the municipality, the DA won nearly 90% of the vote in the white suburb of Meyerton. In Joburg, Pretoria, the East Rand and the rest of Gauteng, the DA swept the predominantly white and affluent suburbs – Centurion, Waterkloof, Sandton, Randburg, Roodepoort, Benoni, Boksburg, Alberton, Vereeniging and Vanderbijlpark (the significant non-white populations in these formerly exclusive suburbs makes it difficult to estimate what percentage of the white vote the DA received, but the DA generally won 70-85% of the vote in majority-white wards). The VF+ retained a small but not insignificant base of support in Pretoria, winning 2.5% in the metro – taking up to 10% in some lower middle-class white Afrikaner suburbs in northern Pretoria and roughly 4-6% in Centurion, a wealthier Afrikaner suburban town. The DA consolidated its vote in Coloured neighborhoods – for example, in Eldorado Park (85% Coloured) in Joburg, the DA won over 80% of the vote, up from about 55% in 2009 (the IDs had performed well). The ANC retained stronger support with Indian voters, but the DA won the Indian/Asian precincts in Joburg and Pretoria. In Joburg’s Ward 9, a plurality Asian ward covering part of the old Indian township of Lenasia, the DA won 47.5% to the ANC’s 34.3% – with Al Jama-ah, the Islamist party, taking 7.8%.

KwaZulu-Natal

Results by precinct (VD) in the Durban-Pietermaritzburg area (source: elections.adrianfrith.com)

Formerly one of the provinces where the ANC struggled, KZN is establishing itself as one of the ANC’s main bases in South Africa – not only in terms of the growing influence held by KZN in internal politics in the ANC, but also the contribution of KZN to the ANC’s nationwide support. The ANC won 65.3% of the national vote, with the DA beating the IFP for second place with 13.4% against 10.2%. The NFP received 6.4% of the vote and the EFF failed to breakthrough in KZN, winning only 2%. In the provincial election, the ANC won 64.5% against 12.8% for the DA, 10.9% for the IFP, 7.3% for the NFP, 1.9% for the EFF and 1% for the MF. The ANC’s support is marginally higher than in 2009, when the party had won 64% of the vote on the national ballot in KZN and 63% in the provincial election. The DA also increased its support, from 10% in 2009. In contrast, the IFP’s vote collapsed by 11.5% in the provincial election – although, unlike in 2009, the IFP bled heavily to the new ‘dissident’ NFP. The Minority Front retained a single seat in the provincial legislature, despite losing about half of its support since the last election.

In eThekwini (Durban) metro, the ANC won 65.4% (national vote), down from about 67.7% in 2009. The DA placed second with 23%, with the IFP taking only 3.2% in the province’s largest metro. The MF won 2.4% in the provincial election in Durban metro, down from 4.8% in the last election. The results by ward and VD indicate that the MF’s support in Durban’s Indian suburbs – Chatsworth, Queensburgh and Phoenix – shifted heavily to the DA. In two heavily Indian wards of Chatsworth – wards 70 and 72 (over 90% Indian) – the DA won 74.5% and 76.1% respectively (on the national ballot), against 6.6% and 10.4% for the MF. In the provincial race, the DA won 66.7% and 64.3% respectively, with the MF – which had topped the poll in Chatsworth in the 2009 provincial election – taking 15.6% and 23.6%. In Phoenix, the patterns were similar, with the DA taking 74% of the vote across the two most heavily Indian wards in the national election, and about 65% in the provincial poll. The MF won between 15 to 25% in the provincial election in Phoenix. The ANC received very weak support; hurt by the comments of Indian ANC leader Visvin Reddy who opined that Indians who complained about the ANC should go back to India. Obviously, the DA won the white vote in Durban by huge margins, winning 84.6% in Ward 10, a 78% white which includes the affluent white suburb of Kloof. The DA won over 90% in some VDs in the affluent white suburbs of Kloof, Forest Hills and Hillcrest and won over 85% in the coastal towns of Durban North and Umhlanga.

The ANC won between 85% and 90% of the vote in the densely populated black (Zulu, naturally) townships of Umlazi, Clermont, Inanda and KwaMashu. The ANC narrowly won Ward 39, an often violent area of KwaMashu disputed between the ANC, IFP and NFP. The ANC won 44.2% against 39% for the IFP. In Durban, the IFP’s support is very marginal in most townships, but retains a few isolated outposts of support in hostels for migrant rural workers.

The IFP’s support in KZN is down to the party’s traditional areas of strength – certain rural areas, formerly part of the KwaZulu homeland, where support for Zulu traditionalism as expressed by the IFP remains high. The IFP won Ulundi, the former capital of KwaZulu and a longtime IFP bastion, with 54.1% against 25.5% for the NFP and 17.4% for the ANC. In 2009, the IFP had won 83.6% in Ulundi and it had taken 92.5% there in 2004. The IFP, however, was defeated in Nongoma, the traditional seat of the Zulu monarchy where the IFP had received 81.6% in 2009. The NFP won 38.8% against 30.2% for the IFP; the NFP had already defeated the IFP in Nongoma in the 2011 local elections. The NFP also won Edumbe, an old IFP stronghold on the border with Mpumalanga, winning 44.5% to the ANC’s 39.9%. The ANC, historically a non-factor in the traditionalist heartland, made significant gains in rural KZN in 2009 – evidenced by Jacob Zuma’s native Nkandla, where the ANC surged from 7.9% in 2004 to 51.7% in 2009 and increased its support to 53.9% this year (the IFP won 37.9%). In a lot of municipalities where, 10 years ago, the IFP dominated with large margins, the ANC now wins between 40% and 55% of the vote.

The ANC performed best in the south of the province, in heavily black and poor rural areas which used to be outside of the KwaZulu homeland, or in non-Zulu black areas – in Umzimkhulu, a former exclave of the Xhosa homeland of Transkei, the ANC won 91% of the vote.

Eastern Cape

The Eastern Cape is another ANC citadel, in which the ANC received 70.8% of the vote this year, up from 69.7% in 2009. The DA won 15.9%, up from about 10% of the vote in 2009, while Bantu Holomisa’s UDM placed third with 5.3% (and 6.2% in the provincial election) – up from 4% in 2009. COPE, which had placed second and formed the official opposition to the ANC in 2009, collapsed from 13.3% to only 1.2%. The ANC, UDM and the DA all appear to have benefited from COPE’s collapse.

Results by precinct (VD) in Nelson Mandela Bay MM (Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage) (source: elections.adrianfrith.com)

The ANC draws a very large number of votes from the densely populated rural areas which made up the former Xhosa homelands of the Ciskei and Transkei during apartheid, in the east of the province. Both of these regions remain very heavily populated – just look at the population density map, and notice how easy it is to spot the former limits of these two homelands (and practically all other homelands in the country) by the high density; they are also rural and poor communities, with very high levels of poverty, joblessness and very incomplete access to basic household necessities and amenities (electricity, water etc). In the EC, about 61% of the population live in poverty – the second highest in the country – and unemployment stands at 44% – the highest in the country – under the expanded definition.

In the Transkei, the ANC faces very localized competition from the UDM, but Holomisa’s support is heavily concentrated in King Sabata Dalindyebo Local Municipality – that is to say, the former Transkeian capital of Mthatha and surrounding rural areas and communities. The UDM won 29.5% in the municipality, against 24% in 2009; the ANC received 59.6%, while the DA increased its support from less than 1% to 4.5%. The UDM won, as in 2009, a handful of wards to the south of Mqanduli (Holomisa’s birthplace) and closer to the coast. Although the UDM placed a very distant second to the ANC in a lot of municipalities and wards in the Transkei, the ANC won over 80% – oftentimes over 85%, if not even 90% – in the former homeland. The DA did manage to increase its support from total irrelevance (less than 1%, if not less than 0.5%) in 2009 to the brink of relevancy, with some results over 3-4% in certain municipalities; needless to say, if the DA is actually serious about winning the EC in the future (as it sometimes seems to say), it will need much stronger support. Similarly, in the old Ciskei, the ANC won between 80% and 93% of the vote in almost every single ward in the borders of the former homeland. The EFF generally placed a distant second to the ANC, although it won very weak support in general (3-5%).

The ANC narrowly won Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth-Uitenhage) metro, with 49.2% to the DA’s 40.2% in the national election. The ANC vote fell below 50%, while the DA’s support increased significantly, up from 28.2% in 2009. The DA was likely the beneficiary of most COPE votes from 2009; that party had taken third with 17% five years ago, but COPE collapsed to fourth place with only 1.8% in this election. In a racially polarized contest, the ANC won about 75-85% of the vote in the metro area’s main townships (iBhayi, KwaNobhule, Gqebera, Motherwell), with the EFF taking a distant second with support in the high single digits. COPE had performed well in the townships and even better in some new, slightly ‘middle-class’ black areas; their collapse did increase the ANC’s support somewhat.

The DA held the white vote and consolidated its hold on the Coloured vote, to a point where Coloured areas are nearly electorally indistinguishable from white areas – proving, again, that race definitely trumps income or class as a voting determinant. The DA won over 90% or came close to it in a lot of VDs in the white southern suburbs, but it also took roughly 85% of the vote in Coloured areas in Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage. Back in 2009, while the DA had captured roughly the same proportion of the vote in white areas such as Walmer and Despatch in 2009, the DA’s support in Coloured areas of the metro increased significantly – in 2009, the DA had received between 50% and 65% of the vote in most Coloured-dominated VDs, with strong support for COPE (in the double digits, sometimes over 20%) and the IDs, as well as slightly higher support for the ANC than this year.

The DA won a single local municipality in the EC – Kouga, which is 42.6% Coloured and 38.8% black, with a small white minority (17.6%). The main settlements are Humansdorp, which is heavily Coloured, and the coastal resort town of Jeffrey’s Bay with a mixed white, black and Coloured population. Overall, the DA won 49.9% to the ANC’s 44.2%; in further detail, the DA received just below 90% of the vote  in the affluent white areas of Jeffrey’s Bay (with the VF+ placing a distant second, with about 7-8%) and St. Francis Bay, while it won around 60% of the vote in predominantly Coloured areas – the ANC’s support in rural Coloured areas, outside major urban centres, is significantly higher.

Western Cape

The DA retained control of the Western Cape, the only province not held by the ANC and governed by the DA since 2009. In the national election, the DA won 57.3% against 34% for the ANC and 2.3% for the EFF (at 1.2%, it was also the ACDP’s best province). In the provincial election, the DA won 59.4% against 32.9% for the ANC and 2.1% for the EFF. In both cases, the DA and the ANC both increased their support from the last election, where the DA had won an absolute majority on its own in the provincial legislature with 51.5% of the vote (and 48.8% in the national election), while the ANC won only 31.6%. COPE had placed third with 9.1% on the national ballot in the 2009 election.

The Western Cape stands apart from the rest of South Africa because blacks, at 32.9% of the population, constitute only a minority of the province’s population, which is predominantly Coloured (48.8%) with a significant white minority (15.7%). The unique racial demographics are, you might have guessed, really not foreign to the reasons why the ANC has struggled in the province since 1994. The NP won the 1994 elections in the WC with a margin similar to the 2009 and 2014 margins, but the ANC, thanks to inroads with Coloured voters, won 42% of the vote in 1999 and 46% in 2004. The ANC has since been hurt by a loss of Coloured support, as well as intense and crippling divisions between warring factions in the provincial party (a struggle which does not seem to have been resolved since the days of Polokwane). In 2009, the DA consolidated its Coloured support, winning voters who had formerly voted for the NNP or IDs in 2004, while in the 2011 local elections and again in 2014, the disappearance of the IDs – which received 8% in 2004 and 4.5% in 2009 – allowed the DA to finalize consolidation of its Coloured support.

Results by precinct (VD) in Cape Town, Paarl and Stellenbosch (source: elections.adrianfrith.com)

The DA won 59.3% of the national vote in Cape Town, up from a bit over 50% in 2009, while the ANC’s support remained stable at 32.4%. Cape Town is very racially polarized city, often lacking the racial heterogeneity found in some of Gauteng’s suburbs. Once again, the results of the election painted this picture of a racially divided city: the ANC won a bit over 85% of the vote across the large townships of Khayelitsha, Langa, Gugulethu and the huge informal settlement of Philippi, with the EFF placing a very distant second with about 6-8% and the DA performing poorly with only 1-2% of the vote and third/fourth place. These numbers are similar or slightly up from 2009, thanks to COPE’s elimination and a return of some of their voters to the ANC.

In stark contrast, the DA dominated the white and Coloured areas of the city, to the point where they are more or less electorally indistinguishable. The DA swept the large Coloured township of Mitchell’s Plain with over 85%, breaking 90% in some VDs. The DA won similar amount of the votes in other low-income Coloured townships and neighborhoods such as Elsie’s River, Belhar, Bontheuwel, Bridgetown, Delft (the non-black parts thereof; with a highly striking polarization), Kraaifontein; it received similar or slightly less in some more affluent Coloured neighborhoods in the Southern Suburbs. The main change from 2009 came from the consolidation of the non-ANC vote behind the DA, rather than an actual shift of Coloured voters from the ANC to the DA – the ANC had already polled poorly with Cape Town’s Coloured population in 2009.

Cape Town’s affluent white suburbs tend to be more racially homogeneous than Joburg’s northern suburbs, meaning that the DA vote is even higher. In the very affluent white Anglo Southern Suburbs, the DA won over 90% or came close to it, with Agang performing ‘well’ with about 1-2% of the vote. In the high-end small coastal and oceanview communities on the Cape, the DA won over 90%; it also swept the white upper middle-class suburbs in Durbanville, Bellville, Milnerton and Bloubergstrand.

Outside Cape Town, the patterns were fairly similar. In the white parts of the coastal communities such as Hermanus, Mossel Bay, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, the DA won roughly 90% of the vote. In cities such as Paarl, Stellenbosch, George, Malmesbury, Wellington and Worcester which exhibit a similar racial polarization between affluent white areas, very poor black townships/informal settlements and poor Coloured areas, the patterns were broadly similar – the DA won about 90% of the vote in the white areas, the ANC received a very similar amount in the black areas while the Coloured areas generally gave about 75-85% of the vote to the DA. However, in other towns and rural areas, the predominant Coloured vote split far more equally. In Beaufort West, a town in the Karoo, for example, the DA won only about 40% of the vote in the poorer Coloured neighborhoods (slightly better in the slightly wealthier parts) and ended up tied or behind the ANC.

Limpopo

Limpopo, a vast, very poor and highly geographically and linguistically diverse province in the north of the country, is 97% black and usually the ANC’s strongest province (along with Mpumalanga) in the country – with support since 1994 oscillating between 85% and 90%. With expanded unemployment at 39% and with 64% of the population living in poverty, Limpopo is the country’s poorest province.

This year, the ANC suffered substantial loses in the province – where the local ANC government has been at the heart of both controversy (the textbook debacle) and internal power struggles (the former Premier opposed Zuma and the ANC NEC dumped him and disbanded the provincial executive) – falling to 79% of the vote on the national ballot (and 78.6% in the provincial contest), down from about 85% in 2009. The EFF, whose leader was born and raised in Limpopo and retains a strong footing in the province, placed second with 10.3% of the vote. The DA nevertheless increased its support in the province, from a paltry 3.7% to 6.6%. COPE, which formed the official opposition to the ANC (with all of 7% in 2009…), collapsed to merely 0.8%.

The province of Limpopo is largely rural, with the black population still largely concentrated in densely populated rural and small-town areas corresponding to the former apartheid-era homelands: Lebowa (Sepedi/Northern Sotho), Venda and Gazankulu (Tsonga). Malema himself is a Northern Sotho, Sepedi-speaker from the Polokwane area, specifically the township of Seshego – the former capital of Lebowa. The EFF received about 20% of the vote in Seshego and surrounding areas, and the EFF won in the whereabouts of 15% of the vote in other Sepedi-speaking regions of Limpopo. Overall, the EFF won 16.3% in the municipality of Polokwane, its best result in the province. It brought the ANC’s vote down to about 75-85%. The EFF’s support was weaker in the Venda and Xitsonga-speaking regions of the province, where the ANC’s vote held up better, taking 85-90%.

The EFF also performed very well in Thabazimbi Local Municipality, taking 13.8% of the vote (the UDM won 6.2%), while the ANC’s support took a major hit – falling from 74.3% to only 57.2%. Located in the south of the province, a sparsely populated area outside the former homelands, the area includes a part of the restive platinum belt – and that’s where EFF (and the UDM) did best. In the platinum belt area, the EFF vote ranged between 15% and 20%, peaking at 43% in a hostel located adjacent to a mine while the UDM polled up to 35% in a mining area with Xhosa migrant workers.

The DA’s weak support in the province is largely limited to Afrikaner neighborhoods in the major urban centres and white farms outside the old homelands; the VF+ also has a small base in these rural Afrikaner areas, polling in the double-digits behind the DA in some white precincts. In the white precincts in the cities, the VF+ won about 6%.

Mpumalanga

Mpumalanga is similar to Limpopo – a heavily black (90.7%), very poor, vast, geographically and linguistically diverse province which has also been one of the ANC’s strongest provinces in the country. In 2009, the ANC had won 85.8% of the vote in the province, its best result in South Africa. That has generally been the range of support for the ANC since 1999. The province’s Premier, David Mabuza, is one of the powerful men in the national ANC – as a loyal ally of Zuma – and a strongman in his province, as a dispenser of patronage who takes his share on government tenders. This year, the ANC’s support fell below 80% for the first time, to 78.8% while the DA’s vote increased from 7.6% to 10%. The EFF won 6.2% of the vote, and a small residents’ association from the municipality of Bushbuckridge won 0.9% – and actually won a seat in the provincial legislature, thanks to their 1.2% on the provincial ballot.

The EFF did best in Emalahleni (9.2%), Thembisile (8.9%) and Dr. JS Moroka municipalities (10.1%), all of them bordering Gauteng and with a significant Sepedi-speaking population in parts. In the urban municipality of Emalahleni, for example, the EFF won over 25% in two precincts a large predominantly Sepedi informal settlement. The ANC won about 90% of the vote in the siSwati (Swazi)-speaking areas, formerly part of the KaNgwane (Swazi) homeland; and roughly 85% of the vote in the isiZulu-speaking areas, largely rural villages and townships scattered throughout the province close to small regional towns. The EFF largely failed to make much of an impact in either areas, winning only 3-4% of the vote.

The DA’s small base in the province remains in the white Afrikaner areas of the urban centres (Emalahleni, Middleburg, Nelspruit) and regional towns (Secunda, Ermelo, Standerton, White River, Lydenburg).

North West

The results in the North West proved highly interesting. With 67.8% of the vote, the ANC’s support fell by over 6% from the last election, while the DA and the EFF more or less tied for second – in the national election, the DA (12.6%, up nearly 4%) narrowly pipped the EFF (12.5%) for second, while in the provincial election, the EFF placed second with 13.2% against 12.6% for the DA. The ANC had fallen below 80% for the first time in the 2009 election (73.8%) and now it falls below 70% for the first time.

Survey of EFF and ANC voters in the platinum belt (source: Mail & Guardian, May 16 2014)

The ANC suffered some of its worst loses in the entire country in the municipality of Rustenburg, where the ANC’s support fell over 16.5% from 73.9% to 57.4%. The ANC’s support also fell by over 10% in neighboring Madibeng, where the ANC took 66.1%. Both of these municipalities form the core of South Africa’s restive platinum belt, the core of internationally-famous labour disputes and violence in the past years – Marikana, the site of the infamous massacre of 34 miners in 2012, is a mining town located in Rustenburg municipality. The EFF won 20.2% of the vote in Rustenburg, its best result in the country. It won 12.8% in Madibeng, 16.2% in Moses Katane (in a remote area outside the platinum belt) and 14.4% in Mafikeng. In Marikana itself, the EFF received about 28% of the vote and the UDM made a strong showing as well, coming in third with results up to 38%. In Ward 31, which covers most of Marikana, the ANC won 38.5% against 29.2% for the EFF and 25.2% for the UDM (as previously noted, Holomisa was popular with the Xhosa migrant workers in the region). The EFF won two wards, with over 50% of the vote, located near a mine; the party also won nearly 30% in other wards in the mining region of Rustenburg. In Wonderkop (Madibeng), a small mining community located next to Marikana, the EFF won 43% of the vote. Throughout the broader mining belt, the EFF’s result did not fall below 12.5% of the vote in any ward (except white ones in Rustenburg proper).

The M&G reported a survey of ANC and EFF voters in the platinum belt. According to the study, the EFF’s supporters were more likely to be male, Xhosa (hence migrant workers), not beneficiaries of social grants and participants in a community and/or workers’ protest. The ANC retained the votes of women, those who receive social grants and those who did not partake in protests. Gender, social grants and participation in a protest seem to be the key determinants in the ANC/EFF split.

Outside the platinum belt, the EFF also made an impact in Mafikeng – specifically in the sprawling townships and informal settlements which surround the city’s core – with results between 13% and high teens. The UCDP, previously a party with a significant presence in the province (even in 2009, it had won in the double digits in the settlements outside Mafikeng, in the former homeland of Bophuthatswana), collapsed to only 0.9% in the province – from a low of 3.9% in 2009 and a high of 7.5% in its first election in 1999. In Mafikeng, the UCDP won 2.7%, down 10.7% from the last election – some of its lost support flowed back to the ANC, allowing the ruling party to increase its support in Mafikeng municipality by 3.2% to 68.3%.

The DA made strong gains in Tlokwe (Potchefstroom), a municipality at the heart of a local political dispute in 2013 which saw the DA briefly take control of the local government when ANC defectors allowed the DA to unseat a corrupt ANC mayor but the ANC regained control in December 2013 after sweeping the seats held by the expelled ANC councillors in by-elections. The ANC’s vote in Tlokwe fell from 56.7% to 52.6% while the DA’s support increased from 24% to 31%. The DA made some gains in the white Afrikaner areas, thanks to a small erosion in the VF+ vote, which stood at over 15% in 2009; made major gains in a Coloured township (Promosa), where it won over 55% (up from 11%) and the ANC suffered some loses to the EFF in the black townships, where the ANC took a bit over 80% and the EFF took over 15% in some precincts.

Free State

The ANC’s support fell by 2.2%, down to 69.7%, in the Free State, falling below 70% for the first time ever. The DA gained about 4.1%, winning 16.2% while the EFF won 7.9%. COPE, the official opposition, lost 9.7% of its vote from 2009 and took only 1.4% in the province. With 1.9% of the vote, the Free State was the VF+’s best province. The province is a heartland for both the ANC and Afrikaner nationalism – the ANC was founded in the Free State in 1912, while the original founder of the NP, JBM Hertzog, hailed from the Orange Free State and the heavily Afrikaner (as far as whites concerned) was a conservative NP stronghold for decades after 1948. For the contemporary ANC, the Free State is the fiefdom of Premier Ace Magashule, a powerful and controversial local strongman who is one of Zuma’s strongest allies. The provincial government has been plagued by service delivery protests and mismanagement. Poverty is estimated at 41% in the Free State, but over 41% of the labour force is unemployed.

Results by precinct (VD) in the Mangaung metro (Bloemfontein) (source: elections.adrianfrith.com)

Voting patterns in the Free State are quite predictable. The ANC receives its highest levels of support in the homogeneously black townships or former homelands – QwaQwa (which is today part of Maluti a Phofung municipality, where the ANC won 80.9%, its best result in the FS) and an exclave of Bophuthatswana located east of Bloemfontein, today in Mangaung metro. The DA made some fairly significant inroads in some black townships across the province, taking between 2% and 6% of the vote, while the EFF also had some good performances in black townships – in Selosesha in the Mangaung metro, the EFF received about 15% of the vote and also won results in the low double digits in other townships across the province. The DA and the VF+’s bases remain, however, in the white Afrikaner neighborhoods of major cities and towns across the province – Bloemfontein, Welkom, Parys, Kroonstad, Sasolburg and Bethlehem. The VF+ received support in the low double digits/low teens in most white Afrikaner neighborhoods in the cities, placing a distant second or third behind the DA.

Northern Cape

The Northern Cape, South Africa’s smallest province in terms of population but a very large and sparsely populated arid province in terms of land area, is an interesting beast. The province’s population is racially divided between blacks and Coloureds. Blacks, who now make up 50.4% of the population, are heavily concentrated in the more populated and mineral-rich eastern end of the province, in cities such as Kimberley and rural areas which formed part of the old homeland of Bophuthatswana. Coloureds make up 40.3% of the population, heavily concentrated in the very sparsely populated and arid stretches of desert in the western half of the province; the division between blacks and Coloureds still reflect the old limits of the CLPA during apartheid. The large Coloured population means that the NC is a likely target for the DA. After all, in 1994, the ANC had won the province with only 49.8% of the vote against 41.9% for the NP, with the NP sweeping the Coloured regions. The ANC has since increased its support (the black population has also increased significantly since 1996, reducing the share of the Coloured population to a minority), to a peak of 68.8% in 2004 and a low of 61.1% in 2009. This year, the ANC’s support increased marginally to 63.9%. The DA received 23.4% in the province, up over 10 points from 2009, when the DA had placed third with only 13.1% while COPE, which did well both in black areas and Coloured regions, won second with 15.9%, its best showing in South Africa. This year, COPE collapsed to 3.3%, while the IDs, which had won 4.7%, shifted to the DA.

The ANC retains very strong support in the black areas of the NC – for example, in John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipality, which is 84% black, the ANC won 73.2% against 10.6% for the DA and 10% for the EFF. The ANC won about 68% of the vote in Magareng and Phokwane local municipalities, which are both around 80% black, while the DA won 15% and the EFF 10%. In Sol Plaatije municipality, the most populated municipality in the province (Kimberley), the ANC won 61% of the vote (and the municipality is 61% black) against 28.4% for the DA and only 4.9% for the EFF. The ANC took about 80% of the vote in Galeshewe, a 92% black township, while the DA won the white and Coloured suburbs by wide margins.

The ANC has considerable, majority, support in Coloured areas across most of the province. For example, in Nama Khoi municipality, which is 88% Coloured, the ANC won 54.9% against 34.6% for the DA. In Kamiesberg, which is 85% Coloured, the ANC won 66.9% against 26.2% for the DA. In the inland regional centre of Upington, which is heavily Coloured, the ANC won the Coloured areas of the city with about 55% of the vote. Overall, the DA won 101,882 votes in the province – it still falls far short of the nearly 170,000 votes received by the NP in 1994.

The VF+ won 1.3% of the vote, although that still wasn’t enough for a seat in the small provincial legislature. The VF+, as always, won a landslide in the Afrikaner community of Orania, the famous small town created by Afrikaner nationalists (later tied to the VF+) as the embryo for a volkstaat and to preserve the Afrikaans language and culture. The party won 77% of the vote, down from 87% in 2009, against 15% for the DA – the ANC, with 5 votes (1.7%) placed fourth behind the ACDP.

Conclusion

The election was predictable and offers little changes in the short-term situation. President Jacob Zuma was reelected and inaugurated for a second term in office as South Africa’s President, and the ANC retains control of everything it had prior to the election, despite reduced majorities in the National Assembly and some provinces – most significantly Gauteng.

However, the next five years in South African politics are shaping up to be crucial and highly important. Jacob Zuma was reelected, but he is term-limited and will not be able to serve a third term as President of the country after 2019. Term-limited, Zuma may wish to make his mark on the country or ensure his legacy after a difficult first term. Unlike in 2009, Zuma doesn’t owe as much to many people, and it is possible that he will have more leeway in making coherent and decisive policy-decisions which he failed to make in his first term as to not offend anybody. The makeup of his cabinet, which was an ideology-free zone and often incoherent in his first term, was said to be a signal about the direction (if any) that Zuma wishes to take in his second term. The ANC’s manifesto signaled that the party is committed to the NDP, and that the NDP is now non-negotiable despite COSATU’s misgivings about it. On May 25, Zuma announced his cabinet, and it is hard to say if there’s any clear ideological or policy orientation coming out of it. The left received some concessions – Pravin Gordhan, the finance minister, was demoted to Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, being replaced by the Deputy Minister for Finance, Nhlanhla Nene; former NUM man Senzeni Zokwana got Agriculture; Ebrahim Patel retained Economic Development and the SACP’s Blade Nzimande retained Higher Education. The ‘security cluster’ was shuffled after criticisms by Madonsela and the presidency over its handling of Nkandlagate; the police minister Nathi Mthethwa was demoted to Arts and Culture and state security minister Siyabonga Cwele got moved to a new telecommunications superministry. Tito Mboweni, the former Reserve Bank governor, surprised his party when he said that he would not take his seat in Parliament.

The next five years will also be crucial in deciding where South Africa goes from here. Analysts have drawn up various scenarioes, optimistic and pessimistic, about potential paths for the country – scenarios include the ANC reforming itself and taking important decisions which will improve the country’s economy, the ANC becoming even more intolerant and authoritarian, the ANC and the country limping forward with much politicking but little results, the ANC moving to the right with a splinter on the left from NUMSA or even a scenario where the ANC loses the 2024 elections to an opposition party or coalition. Zuma now has the chance to gain control of the Constitutional Court, with the retirement of three judges (including the Deputy Chief Justice, Dikgang Moseneke, who has been critical of the ANC) giving Zuma the opportunity to appoint three new names and likely tilt the top judicial organ in a pro-government and culturally conservative direction. In the past, Zuma and the ANC have made comments critical of the judiciary and its independence, claiming that unelected judges could not change an elected government’s policies. The likely changes to the Court’s composition may either be seen as simply the equivalent of American presidents appointing judges sharing their ideological outlook, or as an attack on the judiciary’s independence. With the Court likely to rule on the secrecy bill and the spy tapes, ANC critics are worried.

In the National Assembly, the ANC has replaced outgoing speaker Max Sisulu, who irked Zuma and the ANC for not being a total tool and allowing debate on the Gupta landing at Waterkloof AFB and creating an ad hoc committee to investigation Madonsela’s report on Nkandla. He was replaced by Baleka Mbete, a Zuma ally and senior ANC stalwart, whose reputation is less than stellar. The ANC expects her to play a ‘gatekeeping’ role in Parliament for the ANC. Mbete was rumoured to be in line to be Second Deputy President, but creating that position would have required a constitutional amendment whic the ANC could not have passed alone.

However, at the same time, Zuma’s last term in office might make him something of a lame-duck, as the ANC’s attention turns to his succession. To begin with, Zuma is not a solid leader and many are those who think that the ANC did well on May 7 despite Zuma. Nkandla will be continue to be an idling engine in the background, dogging the President, although the ANC will probably try to scuttle any meaningful parliamentary or independent inquiry into Nkandlagate like it did with the arms deal. Zuma has other controversies circling over his head – the ‘spy tapes’ (tapes which reveal why the NPA dropped corruption charges against him in 2009, reopening the possibility that Zuma’s decade-old corruption trial may not be over yet), the secrecy bill and so forth. In 2017, the ANC will renew its leadership and executive at its national conference, and Zuma is not expected to seek a third term as the ANC’s President – but it is also clear that he wishes to influence the choice of his successor, who will more likely than not succeed him as President of South Africa after 2019.

Cyril Ramaphosa’s election as the ANC’s Deputy President at Mangaung led to speculation that he was the heir apparent to Zuma, and he has been appointed as Deputy President of South Africa and he will chair the National Planning Commission (he was deputy-chair, but the chair, Trevor Manuel, is retired). However, Ramaphosa did not gain control over government evaluation and monitoring, a role which was instead given to Jeff Radebe, who was moved from justice to Minister in the Presidency. It is far from clear if Ramaphosa remains the ANC’s favourite candidate to succeed Zuma as ANC President in 2017.

There have been reports that the KZN ANC has a secret ‘plan’ to take control of the ANC leadership in 2017, and they are against Ramaphosa as Zuma’s successor. Instead, Zuma’s supporters in the KZN ANC (and, allegedly, Zuma himself – who recently stated that the country is ready for a woman President) would like for Zuma’s ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (the current AU Commission president), the new speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete, ANC treasurer Zweli Mkhize or the new home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba to succeed Zuma in 2017-2019. Ramaphosa has allegedly fallen out of favour with Zuma’s supporters, fearing he is too independent and don’t trust him to defend Zuma from future judicial prosecutions.

Gwede Mantashe, the ANC’s secretary-general and one of the powerful players in the ANC party apparatus, is said to be looking for a promotion come 2017, although it’s unclear if by that he intends to run for ANC President or if he may be instead for ANC Deputy President. Mantashe has drifted away from Zuma, having been very critical of the Gupta landing.

The selection of the new Premiers after the elections also signaled, for some commentators, that Zuma was losing his grip. In Gauteng, incumbent pro-Zuma Premier Nomvula Mokonyane was ultimately removed despite pressure from the Zuma circles in the national party on the provincial party to place her on their shortlist of names (from which the ANC NEC selects one name). Instead, Mokonyane’s rival and ANC provincial secretary David Makhura, who is not a Zuma ally, was selected as Premier of Gauteng. Even in KZN, the retention of new Premier Senzo Mchunu as Premier was seen as a blow to the Zuma circle, who had been pushing for a more trusted ally to take his place.

The DA’s support increased to unprecedented heights in this election, secured its base (despite potential white misgivings over the DA’s equivocation on EE), continue to eat into small parties’ support and it successfully improved its black support from quasi-nil to roughly 6%. However, if the DA fails to make major gains with black voters, it is running up against a wall in the near future and will have no chance of winning power nationally. Right after the election, the DA was rocked by the surprise departure of parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko, who resigned her seat to study at Harvard. Mazibuko had fallen out with Zille after the DA’s internal crisis on the EE bill last November, and it was likely that Mazibuko would be challenged for the parliamentary leadership by Mmusi Maimane, who is seen as Zille’s new black favourite. Mazibuko would likely have lost, but it could have opened a bruising internal battle.

Yet, her departure still created a huge firestorm in the DA after a newspaper leaked that Zille had privately lashed out at Mazibuko – the Sunday Times reported that Zille privately stated that she had ‘made’ Mazibuko and ‘saved’ her several times. Zille denied she had attacked Mazibuko, but in yet another case of DA own goals and tone-deafness, she released a statement in which she said that she had repeatedly taken responsibility for mistakes made in Parliament to protect her and claimed that Mazibuko had put up a ‘Berlin Wall’ between her office and Zille’s. Most damagingly, Zille admitted that she backed Mazibuko for parliamentary leader against the white incumbent, Athol Trollip, only to racially diversify the party. Her statement once again confirmed the ANC’s constant claims that the DA is smug, paternalist (in Cape liberal tradition) and has a ‘rent-a-black’ attitude towards blacks, taking them as yes-men or women or token blacks. It is basically a fact that Zille exerts significant power over the DA caucus in Parliament, effectively imposing her favourites on the still-inexperienced caucus and going after DA MPs if they prove to be too independent from her leadership, as Mazibuko did after the EE debacle. It underlines Zille’s increasing liability as a ‘madam baas’ figure and shows the DA’s major problems with the issue of black leadership.

Mmusi Maimane has confirmed that he will stand for parliamentary leader, and has Zille’s backing. Makashule Gana, another young (30) black MP from the DA’s new ‘black caucus’ (which emerged during the EE debacle as being critical of Zille and the DA’s policies on racial issues), did not stand for the position as the media had speculated. Zille has insisted that the new leader must work with her, warning that it would be a disaster if he didn’t. This seems to indicate that Zille has not really grasped the gist of the last week of debate. Many commentators have said that Zille’s alleged authoritarian personality is increasingly turning her into a liability for the DA, which appears to be increasingly torn apart by factional battles and is insure of how to reconciliate a growing and assertive black membership with the party’s white roots in the Cape liberal tradition of the Progressive Party and the ex-Nats.

Zille is expected to retire within a few years, likely before 2019, opening the door for a black leader for the DA. Maimane is already cited as a potential leadership contender. On the one hand, Maimane is smart, young, likeable, warm and managed well despite his inexperienced. On the other hand, Maimane is still very inexperienced and he often comes off as an empty suit or cheap marketing product (branded as a local Obama). The DA must also review its policies, offering something bold and new which truly breaks from the ANC’s policies repackaged in nicer and less corrupt terms.

Julius Malema is another man to watch. Will the EFF indeed ‘be another COPE’ and join the corpses of other coalition of disaffecteds in South Africa’s political graveyard, or will the EFF survive as a major party and gatvol alternative to the ANC? The opportunity for the EFF is that, come 2019, an even larger share of the electorate will be post-1994 youths who will likely still face huge economic problems (unemployment) and be angry with the ANC. The challenge is that, as noted above, most of these people don’t vote. The other challenge for the EFF is a big one – keeping Malema out of jail. If he does stay out of jail, Malema’s other challenges are to broaden the party’s appeal, gain financial resources (which is done by attracting corporate donations…) and message the party differently. Malema’s angry, anti-Zuma and radical platform and style is still offputting for a lot of people, who view the EFF as too radical and lacking in credibility or realism. A more measured, pragmatic, coherent and realistic message and style would help the party, but it would need to make sure that it doesn’t lose its identity and base in the process of doing so.

Not only will the 2019 election be marked by a new ANC leadership, the potential for a black DA candidate and the Malema question mark, it will also feature a new anti-capitalist and far-left party to be created by NUMSA. Having broken with the ANC in December, NUMSA is serious on creating a political party ‘for the working-class’ with an anti-capitalist, Marxist-Leninist/socialist message. NUMSA has said that it will convene forums to canvass support and identify local issues and partners, and initiating discussions with other left-wing forces such as the EFF as well as unions and civil society organizations. The new party should contest the 2016 local elections. The South African left is a disaster, but a new NUMSA party could be different. NUMSA has the organization, credibility, base, history, gravitas and resources which the parties of the radical left (excluding the EFF, whose place in the traditional left is a hot issue of debate) have lacked. The most optimistic analysts think that the NUMSA party could draw the ANC’s left, while turning the remnants of the ANC into a more centre-right party. NUMSA may replicate the experience of Zimbabwe, where the unions laid the roots of the opposition MDC, which challenges the ZANU-PF; or that of Brazil, where the ruling PT emerged from the union and workers’ movement. Latin America’s left is often cited as a reference by the South African left, including NUMSA.

The 2014 election may merely have confirmed the ANC’s continued dominance of South African politics, but it has set the stage for a more disputed showdown in the 2019 ad 2024 elections. South Africa is entering a critical and momentous period after 20 years of democracy. Which direction and path will the country take? Will the ANC’s dominance be reconsolidated in the future, or will the coalition continue to show more and more cracks and become truly vulnerable to the opposition? Will there emerge a strong challenge to the left of the ANC? Will the opposition DA renew itself and gain support with black voters, allowing it to seriously challenge the ANC in 5 and 10 years, or will it remain forever condemned to being the opposition party backed by the racial minorities? In two years time, some of these questions will be answered with the local elections.

Quebec 2014

Provincial general elections were held in Quebec on April 7, 2014. All 125 members of the National Assembly (Assemblée nationale), elected by first-past-the-post in single-member constituencies (riding, or comtés/circonscriptions in French), were up for reelection. Right before the last provincial election in 2012, I posted an election preview which included a political history of Quebec and profiles of all the main parties; most of the information in there should naturally still be accurate and provides a useful backgrounder to the main issues in Quebec politics and the provincial parties.

Background

These elections came less than two years after the September 4, 2012 provincial elections, which returned a minority government led by the separatist Parti Québécois (PQ) under Premier Pauline Marois. The PQ, which ostensibly seeks the independence of Quebec, won a minority government with 54 seats out of 125. Although he was personally defeated in his own riding of Sherbrooke, Premier Jean Charest’s governing Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ), which had been in power since 2003, performed better than anyone could have expected. Although polls taken right before the election showed the PLQ lingering in third place between François Legault’s new centre-right Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), the Liberals came within a hair of actually winning the election, and ended up very close behind the PQ both in terms of votes and seats – 31.2% of the vote, against 31.9% for the PQ, and 50 seats. The CAQ had a good result in the popular vote, taking 27.1%, but the nature of FPTP and their rather inefficient vote distribution meant that the party ended up with only 19 seats.

The Liberals’ third term in office had proven extremely difficult for them, and they entered the 2012 election at a net disadvantage. Although Quebec’s economic situation between 2008 and 2012 was comparatively strong given the global economic situation, the Liberals faced major corruption scandals, voter fatigue and student protests. Quebec politics at the municipal and provincial levels have been rocked by a series of corruption scandals, many of them in the construction industry, which is now being investigated by the Charbonneau Commission, a public inquiry launched by Charest’s government in October 2011. The bulk of the commission’s work thus far has focused on corruption at the municipal level, revealing the existence of cartels of construction contractors which monopolized public works projects in cities such as Montreal in return for kickbacks to the mafia, municipal employees and municipal politicians. The mayors of Montreal and Laval, Quebec’s largest and third largest cities, were forced to resign following some of the revelations at the commission directly involved them. It is also clear, however, that similar cartels and corrupt dealings exist(ed) at the provincial level, albeit under a slightly different system because most public works projects are designed and supervised by private engineering firms employed by the Ministry of Transportation. Developers and construction contractors, and ‘figurehead employees’ (to circumvent electoral laws), illegally contributed to political parties at the municipal and provincial level, with the PLQ and PQ receiving the lion’s share of illegal contributions. It has also been alleged that engineering firms and contractors used public funds to make their contributions to political parties (contractors were compensated by being granted fake cost overruns by engineering firms). In November 2012, an investigator for the commission found that several high-ranking provincial politicians, including senior cabinet ministers in then-Premier Charest’s government, were invited to exclusive dinners or events at a private club in Montreal by contractors. Notably, two Liberal cabinet ministers were found to have contractors tied to construction cartels and the Rizzuto mafia clan (a Sicilian clan which controlled the Montreal mafia underworld from the 1980s until 2006-2007). Charest refused to give in to mounting public pressure to call a public inquiry into the construction industry, weakening his personal and political credibility, before finally doing an about-turn in late 2011.

In spring 2012, the Liberal government’s decision to increase post-secondary tuition fees by 75% over five years (from $2,168 in 2012 to $3,793 in 2017, increasing by $325 every year) sparked major student protests, which earned the sobriquet printemps québécois or printemps érable (‘Quebecois spring’ or ‘maple spring’). The government claimed that the tuition increase was required to alleviate the underfinancing of the province’s universities, while student federations found it unacceptable given the rising burden of student debt. Some student leaders demanded free post-secondary education. Unable to resolve the growing crisis, the Liberal government, in May 2012, adopted a controversial law – Bill 78 – which restricted freedom of assembly and protest without prior police approval.

Despite the PLQ’s countless challenges and voter fatigue after nine years in power, the PQ very much won by default. In 2011 and 2012, PQ leader Pauline Marois, who took the reins of the party after its third-place result in the 2007 election, faced a major challenge to her leadership within PQ ranks. In June 2011, four PQ MNAs quit the party to protest the party’s decision to support a government bill which immunized the controversial construction of a new hockey stadium in Quebec City from judicial proceedings. However, these resignations also symbolized the unease of certain of the PQ’s purs et durs (hardline supporters of sovereignty) with Marois’ decision to put the national question on the backburner for a while. The ranks of those who stepped down included Pierre Curzi and Lisette Lapointe (the wife of former Premier Jacques Parizeau, himself a critic of Marois), two well-known hardline sovereigntists within the PQ. Jean-Martin Aussant, another of those who stepped down in June 2011, went on to create his own party – Option nationale (ON), a hardline sovereigntist party, in October 2011. Marois weathered the crisis, although at the cost of some concessions to the hardline nationalist opinion within the PQ (a “popular initiative referendum”, where voters themselves could spark a third referendum on sovereignty if they gathered signatures, which she personally opposed but which was inserted into the PQ’s platform; the extension of language legislation to post-secondary college education, or Cégep). As a result of a lackluster campaign heavily marred by kerfuffles over these and other issues (notably an ill-advised suggestion that Anglophones or allophones with poor French-language skills should be barred from running in elections), the PQ failed to win a majority government and it ended up with only 31.9% of the vote, which was actually down 3.2% on the 2008 election, in which the PLQ won a majority government.

Elected with an uncertain mandate and the support of only a minority of the National Assembly, Marois’ government needed to tread carefully as far as governing went but also to govern in a way which would allow the PQ to return to the voters seeking a majority mandate. Pauline Marois’ government had trouble finding its cruising altitude. Her government began with the immediate cancellation of the tuition fee increase, the repeal of most articles of Law 78 and the closing of the Gentilly-2 nuclear power plant. The latter decision was met with significant local opposition in Bécancour, where Gentilly-2 was located. The new government also took action against corruption, passing integrity laws for construction contracts (contractors bidding will have to obtain a ‘certificate of good ethics’), limiting individual contributions to parties to $100 (down from $1,000, a 1977 law passed by René Lévesque’s first PQ government banned donations from corporations and unions) and passing a law allowing courts to provisionally remove mayors and councillors from office if they are charged during their terms.

The PQ government was rapidly forced to break a number of major campaign promises. In October 2012, finance minister Nicolas Marceau announced that the PQ would not, unlike it had promised in the election, abolish a controversial $200 health tax created by the PLQ government. Instead, the PQ government made the health tax progressive, with those earning less than $18,000 being exempted while those earning over $150,000 would pay $1,000, with intermediate levels in between. The government raised taxes on those earning over $100,000 to 25.75%, a 1.75% increase. The first PQ government budget, announced in November 2012, projected a return to a balanced budget in FY 2013-2014. Savings would be achieved by capping increases in government spending to 1.8% in 2013-14 and 2.4% in 2014-5, increased taxes on alcohol and the loss of 2,000 jobs through attrition at Hydro-Québec. In 2013, the government’s cuts and reforms in social welfare measures and programs was criticized by numerous social organizations.

In its 2014-2015 budget, the government did not achieve a balanced budget and delayed a return to ‘fiscal balance’ until FY 2015-2016. The budget included an increase in the fees of Quebec’s generous subsidized daycare system (from $7 to $8 a day).

The government held a post-secondary education summit with student federations in February 2013. While student federations wanted either free post-secondary education or a tuition fee freeze (as they had been between 1994 and 2007), the PQ decided on a “3% indexation of tuition fees”, or, in other terms, an increase of about $70 every year. The PQ had the chutzpah to portray it as “another kind of freeze” because increases will be offset by increases in income, even if that isn’t really the case (largely because it isn’t an actual indexation). Student organizations, including those (the FÉUQ and FÉUC) who had participated in the summit (the more leftist ASSÉ, which supports free tuition, demonstrated outside the summit and boycotted the event), criticized the government’s decision. Any goodwill for the PQ from the anti-fee hike students evaporated.

In 2012, the PQ opposition had roundly criticized the Charest government’s Plan Nord, a plan for over $80 billion in public and private investments over 25 years to promote economic development, sustainable development and growth in the province’s northern regions. The plan was criticized by environmentalists and others who decried the low royalties for mining companies and fears that the government was ‘selling off’ Quebec’s natural resources to foreign mining companies. In government, the PQ effectively readopted the PLQ’s plan, with minor changes. On mining royalties, the PQ announced in May 2013 a much lower set of expectations: under their new plan, the government would receive $690 million less than they originally projected.

The Liberals, in opposition, were called to chose a new permanent leader at a leadership convention in March 2013. Philippe Couillard, a neurosurgeon who served as health minister between 2003 and 2008 in Charest’s cabinet, and was, until his retirement in 2008, often suggested as a potential successor to Charest, took the somewhat surprising decision to reenter politics. As the candidate with the highest profile, Couillard easily won the PLQ leadership, winning 58.5% on the first ballot against 22% for Pierre Moreau, a former transportation minister under Charest and 19.5% for Raymond Bachand, Charest’s finance minister between 2005 and 2013.

In July 2013, a freight train carrying crude oil derailed in central Lac-Mégantic, a town in the Eastern Townships, killing 47 people and causing massive devastation to the town. The provincial government’s response, which included the announcement of a $60 million aid package for Lac-Mégantic, was positively received. In the aftermath of the tragedy, the PQ government seemed to have found its cruising altitude.

The issue of national identity and, closely connected to that, the status of the French language, has been a highly contentious matter in Quebec. In 1977, the first PQ government under René Lévesque passed Bill 101 (loi 101 or Charter of the French Language), which made French the official language of work in the public and private sectors, education, advertising and in courts. The new bill restricted access to English schools to those children whose father and/or mother had received most of their instruction in English. While Bill 101 is largely popular with Francophones in Quebec, it has been heavily criticized by Anglophones in Quebec and in the rest of Canada. In 1988, the PLQ government of Robert Bourassa adopted Bill 178, which used the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ notwithstanding clause to impose unilingual French advertising outside private businesses. In 2009, the Canadian Supreme Court struck down a clause of Bill 104 (which strengthened language of education rules, limiting access to English schools and closing loopholes used by some to send their children to English schools), passed by Bernard Landry’s PQ government with the support of all opposition parties in 2002. In the 2012 campaign, the PQ had proposed extending Bill 101’s provisions to the Cégeps, two-year post-secondary collegiate institutions, and to all businesses with over 11 employees (until then, it was applicable for businesses employing more than 50 people). In April 2013, the PQ government proposed Bill 14, which would have extended Bill 101 to businesses with 26-49 employees, removing the bilingual status granted to municipalities which now have less than 50% of Anglophones, removing the language of education exemption for military families and enforcing French as the language of communication in the public, para-public, healthcare and social sectors. Lacking support from the PLQ or the CAQ, the PQ was forced to withdraw the bill.

Far more controversial, however, was the PQ’s Charter of Values (Charte des valeurs québécoises). The PQ presented its project as a defense and affirmation of laïcité (secularism), and the Charter’s most notable proposal was to ban all public servants from wearing conspicuous religious symbols (veil, cross, turban, hijab, kippah) and public servants would need to be religiously neutral. Critics accused the PQ of inventing a problem which didn’t actually exist, or using laïcité  as a pretext to stigmatize minorities (particularly Muslims). Others felt that the PQ was proposing ‘two-speed laïcité‘ because the party supported keeping the crucifix (very much a visible and conspicuous religious symbol) in the National Assembly.

The federal NDP, federal Liberals and the federal Conservative government all expressed opposition to the Charter; the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission, the Bar of Quebec, McGill University, the Université de Montréal, the Université de Sherbrooke and many academics have also opposed the Charter. Notably, both men behind the Bouchard-Taylor commission, came out against the Charter. Polls have shown a narrow plurality/majority of Quebecers, and a larger (but not overwhelming) majority of Francophones support the Charter.

The PQ’s Charter was the party’s response to a long-running debate on ‘reasonable accommodations’ in Quebec, which has been a hot-button issue in the province in the last 10 years. Between 2006 and 2007, several incidents of religious groups demanding special ‘accommodations’ incensed public opinion in Quebec – a court decision allowing a Sikh student to wear a kirpan to school, Hasidim Jews asking for tinted windows at a local YMCA in Montreal (so that children would not see women in athletic clothes), Muslims asking for a prayer room at work, a Muslim girl wearing a hijab in a soccer match and so forth. Responding to the controversy, the Charest government created a commission, the Bouchard-Taylor commission, to debate the issue of reasonable accommodations in 2007. In 2008, the Bouchard-Taylor Commission’s final report recommended that government employees with coercive powers (police offices, judges, prosecutors, prison wardens but not teachers) be barred from wearing conspicuous religious symbols, but also that the crucifix be removed from the National Assembly and to ban opening prayers at municipal councils. The Charest government rejected the commission’s proposals, and the PLQ government completed its terms without doing anything on the issue. In 2012, the PQ had announced that it would draft a Charter of Quebec values and secularism if elected. The issue of ‘reasonable accommodations’ has been used as a wedge issue by a good number of politicians, especially in the old Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ), a conservative third party whose shocking second place showing in 2007 (ahead of the PQ) was often assigned to the debate on reasonable accommodations, or the PQ.

The PQ has been accused of using the Charter as an electoral wedge issue, catering to a conservative and suburban/rural Francophone Catholic electorate’s primal fear of multiculturalism or (Muslim) immigration. The PQ’s opponents have in turn compared the PQ to the far-right FN in France, which is a very unfair comparison, regardless of one’s view on the Charter. The PQ has, especially under René Lévesque, traditionally been a fairly progressive civic nationalist party; a far cry from the conservative, Catholic, inward-oriented nationalism of survivance which existed prior to the Quiet Revolution. Nevertheless, given history and persistent concerns (real or exaggerated or imagined) about the status of the French language, there has always been a dose of cultural nationalism in the PQ’s generally civic nationalist outlook. The Charter does represent a move away from civic nationalism towards cultural nationalism, although one which remains couched in ostensibly progressive and liberal nationalist rhetoric (secularism). It is, above all, however, an electoralist ploy and wedge issue designed by the PQ to please the base, mobilize the PQ’s traditional electorate and seize the advantage over the PLQ and the CAQ.

François Legault’s CAQ said that it supported some kind of charter of secularism, but denounced the PQ’s electoralist use of the Charter and felt that it went too far. The CAQ suggested that government employees with coercive or moral (school principals) authority be banned from wearing religious symbols.

The PLQ is uncomfortable on identity. The PLQ is the party of choice for Quebec’s Anglophone and allophone minorities, therefore, unlike the PQ/CAQ, it must be careful of not burning bridges with them by supporting linguistic legislation or identity projects which are strongly opposed by linguistic minorities. Although the Liberal Party’s hold on the minority vote is extremely solid, there remains the precedent of 1989, when the Equality Party won 4 seats (all Anglophone seats on Montreal’s West Island) in reaction to the Bourassa Liberals’ language legislation (Bill 178 etc). On the other hand, the PLQ has a sizable Francophone electorate to appeal to, which is susceptible to supporting some sort of soft nationalism. Indeed, the Charter badly hurt and divided the PLQ. For months, the Liberals lacked a clear position on the issue. In October 2013, Liberal leader Philippe Couillard stated that he would never work with the PQ in adopting the Charter, but he remained uncomfortable on the issues which the Charter rose, notably public servants wearing religious symbols. In November 2013, Liberal MNA Marc Tanguay said that the PLQ would, hypothetically, accept a candidate who wore an Iranian-style chador. His colleague, Liberal MNA Fatima Houda-Pépin, the only Muslim member, publicly criticized Tanguay’s comments. A longstanding opponent of political Islam and religious extremism, Houda-Pépin supported banning government employees with coercive authority from wearing religious symbols. Then, Couillard himself contradicted Tanguay, saying that, no, the Liberals wouldn’t accept a woman wearing a chador as a candidate.

In January 2014, Houda-Pépin quit the Liberal caucus to sit as an independent MNA. She could not bring herself to agree with the PLQ’s opposition to the Charter. The whole affair was terribly handled by Couillard and the PLQ leadership; hitherto a relatively little-known backbencher, Houda-Pépin was allowed to gain a significant presence in the media by opposing the party line and reinforcing views that the PLQ was badly divided over the Charter and lacked a coherent position on the issue.

Premier Pauline Marois called an election for April 7 on March 5. After opting against calling a snap election for December 2013, it looked very likely that the PQ government would fall on the budget, given the PLQ and CAQ’s opposition to Nicolas Marceau’s 2014-5 budget.

Parties, Issues and Campaigns

The PQ entered the campaign clearly seeking a majority government from voters. The PQ trailed the Liberals in polls between March and December 2013, with the PLQ leading the PQ by up to 10 points in poll. The PQ managed to close the gap beginning in the fall of 2013, reducing the PLQ’s advantage to single digits and finally stealing the lead from the PQ in the New Year. A CROP poll in mid-February 2014 showed the PQ leading the PLQ by 6 points, 40 to 34, which would have been enough for a PQ majority. The first polls during the campaign showed a close race in the popular vote, with a statistical tie or narrow PQ lead (up to 2 points). However, given that the PLQ’s vote is inefficiently distributed, a tied race in Quebec translates into a PQ lead in terms of seats. In 1998, the PQ narrowly lost the popular vote to the PLQ but it was reelected with a majority government.

The PQ remains committed, on paper, to the independence of Quebec. The PQ’s platform opened with the traditional commitment to ‘make Quebec a country’. In reality, however, the prospects of an independent Quebec are low: support for independence is stuck at around 40%, there is no public interest outside nationalist circles for a third referendum and a lot of ‘soft nationalist’ voters (who voted or would have voted oui in 1995) have lost interest in the cause and are more interested in daily life issues. The federal Bloc Québécois’ massive defeat at the hands of the NDP in the 2011 federal election was correctly interpreted by most as a sign that Quebec voters had lost interest in the ‘national question’. The NDP, historically a non-entity in Quebec, attracted a lot of ‘soft nationalists’ (and even not-so-soft nationalists) thanks to the appeal of Jack Layton’s energetic campaign but also the party’s progressive, centre-left politics which is generally a good fit for Quebec (which leans to the left of the rest of Canada on most issues except identity and immigration). The Bloc’s campaign, which doubled down on sovereignty, further alienated voters. To be sure, however, the NDP successfully pulled Tory and Liberal voters as well. In 2012, the PQ’s victory was entirely by default, and owed little to nothing to the PQ’s raison d’être. Pauline Marois, largely to placate the base, promised a vaguely-defined gouvernance souverainiste which, in reality (especially given the minority mandate), amounted to nothing out of the ordinary. The PQ government did disagree with the federal government on issues such as the fed’s reform of employment insurance, but beyond tougher words and pablum, it wasn’t of much importance.

The PQ’s platform clearly stated that it would not hold a referendum until it judged the population to be ready and the moment ‘appropriate’. To placate the base, the PQ promised to draft a ‘white book on the political future of Quebec’ and submit it to the people for ‘consultation'; to fight the fed’s interference and assuming all powers at its disposal. On the campaign trail, the PQ largely sought to downplay the referendum question. Instead, it emphasized the Charter, protecting the French language (likely adopting Bill 14) and affirming Quebec’s culture.

On economic issues, the PQ largely relied on the aborted budget, which focused on limiting growths in public spending, cutting spending in many ministries and some fee/tariff increases (daycares, from $7 to $9, electricity bills) to eliminate the deficit in 2015-2016. They promised 115,000 new jobs in 3 years, resource development (allowing oil exploration on Anticosti Island), assisting export-oriented companies and income and payroll tax cuts once the budget is balanced.

The PQ thought that it had recruited the top star candidate in Pierre Karl Péladeau, a media mogul who announced his candidacy for the PQ in Saint-Jérôme. Péladeau, colloquially known as PKP, was the president of Québecor Inc., a media and communications giant with a revenue of $4.28 billion in 2013. Québecor owns Vidéotron, one of Quebec’s main cable television, wireless internet and phone providers; TVA Group, centered around TVA, the single largest French-language TV channel in Quebec; Sun Media, the owner of many local tabloid newspapers across Canada including Le Journal de Montréal (a populist tabloid which is Quebec’s most popular newspaper), Le Journal de Québec (the third largest newspaper in Quebec) but also the Sun conservative tabloids (Toronto Sun, Calgary Sun, Ottawa Sun etc), local/regional dailies (The London Free Press, The Kingston Whig-Standard); Canoe.ca, a web portal; and Groupe Archambault, Quebec’s largest music (but also books, DVDs, magazines etc) retailer. Québecor also owns, through TVA Group and Sun Media, the Sun News Network, a conservative news channel launched in 2011 which self-describes as a ‘less politically correct’ and ‘straight talk’ channel (it is often referred to as ‘Fox News North’). Ironically, the Sun newspapers in English Canada are known for their strongly anti-separatist stances. Overall, Québecor’s newspapers account for about 31% of the average daily circulation of all newspapers in Canada (in 2012).

As part of an expansion into sports, Péladeau acquired naming and management rights for Quebec City’s new indoor arena (the city hopes to regain its NHL franchise). The city’s decision was contested in court by a former city manager, and in 2011, the National Assembly passed Bill 204, forbidding any judicial challenges. The PQ’s support of the bill, alongside the PLQ government, led to the 2011-2012 crisis in the PQ. Péladeau’s father, Pierre Péladeau, was openly nationalist, but PKP was fairly quiet about his own politics. Prior to the election, there were persistent rumours that PKP would run for the PQ, which he initially denied.

Péladeau was always a risky bet, since he public perceptions of the man in Quebec aren’t universally positive, especially on the left. In 2009, Québecor locked out over 200 unionized employees of Le Journal de Montréal, and employed strike-breakers to continue publishing the newspaper. As a powerful businessman and media mogul, his politics unsurprisingly lean towards the right. In recruiting Péladeau, the PQ knowingly took the risk of further alienating firmly left-wing nationalist voters away from the PQ, in exchange for attracting centrists and right-leaning nationalists/soft nationalists, primarily from the CAQ.

In his first speech as a PQ candidate, Péladeau enthusiastically declared, in the form of a fist pump, his ambition to ‘make Quebec a country’. Péladeau’s fist pump reignited the issue of a third referendum, which proved a clear liability for the PQ given that the majority of voters do not want a third referendum. The PQ’s campaign was badly hurt by Péladeau’s fist pumping, forcing the PQ to reiterate that there would no referendum and, in the first debate, Marois restated the PQ’s position that it would only hold a referendum when ‘the people is ready’ and took no commitment to hold a referendum during the next government’s term. Nevertheless, the can of worms had been opened. The PQ fell badly behind the PLQ in polls after PKP’s candidacy.

Instead, the PQ shifted focus back over to the Charter, hoping to successfully use it as a wedge issue to weaken the PLQ and take voters from the CAQ. But the PQ’s Charter focus was hit by three incidents. Firstly, at the end of March, Janette Bertrand, a popular feminist comedian and writer, spoke at a PQ event to promote the Charter. She stressed that the Charter was essential to ensuring gender equality and that there was a religious fundamentalist ‘danger’ if it was not adopted. Then she told a story about ‘two men’ (rich, presumably Arab, students from McGill) who obtain from the apartment building’s owner a special men’s-only day at the pool, and several months later, Bertrand said, they have the pool all the time. She used this largely invented story (which has only one fact: that Bertrand goes to the pool at her apartment building to do aqua-gymnastics) to describe ‘le grugeage‘ (process of ‘chewing’ or ‘nibbling’) and the dangers of the absence of the Charter. Besides, the Charter would not apply to private businesses like Bertrand’s apartment building. Her comments were widely criticized. Later, Marois stated that she would use, if necessary, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ notwithstanding clause to protect her Charter, after months of PQ claims that the Charter was compatible with the federal Charter. Finally, Marois confirmed that public employees could be fired if they did not respect the Charter’s secular dress code.

Panicking, the PQ tried to latch on to stupid and irrelevant issues. It accused Couillard, who worked as a neurosurgeon in Saudi Arabia, of not sufficiently criticizing the Kingdom’s human rights record. It then played on ‘alleged electoral irregularities’, with reports of ‘abnormally high’ numbers of Anglophones and allophones seeking to register to vote, so obviously the PQ blew the issue out of proportion with concern trolling.

The PLQ focused its campaign on economic issues, under the slogan ensemble on s’occupe des vraies affaires (together, addressing of the real issues); the term ‘real issues’ was also a direct criticism of the PQ’s alleged focused on identity politics, the threat of a third referendum and nationalism – which the PLQ implicitly defined as less important issues.

In terms of actual proposals, the PLQ’s platform (or the equivalent thereof, there does not seem to be a single document acting as platform, but rather a financial breakdown of major promises and a series of commitments, some of them micro-targeted to certain regions) focused on rather populist economic proposals to help create jobs and oriented towards the ‘middle class’. Like the PQ, the PLQ supported a rigorous management of government spending (a $1.3 billion in cuts) to return to a balanced budget as soon as possible. But it accused the PQ of mismanaging the economy, of having a poor record on job creation and cutting infrastructure spending instead of cutting in government administration. It proposed creating over 250,000 jobs over 5 years, reestablishing funding for the maintenance and modernization of infrastructures (cut by the PQ), introduce a tax credit for home renovations, creating a property savings plan to help people purchase their first homes, relaunching the Plan Nord (which the PLQ accuses the PQ of having destroyed), an ‘aggressive export strategy’ (to take advantage of the new FTA with the EU, and NAFTA), tax cuts and debt reduction with a budget surplus, a gradual elimination of the health tax over 4 years beginning in 2016-17, an indexation of daycare daily fees, reducing the bureaucracy in education and healthcare to ‘invest in patients and students’ and opening 24/7 ‘super clinics’. The PLQ also made a big deal of their ‘Maritime Strategy‘, with investments of over $7 billion, 30,000 new jobs and profits of over $3.5 billion over 15 years in Gaspésie, the Magdalen Islands and the Côte-Nord. The PLQ’s landmark strategy talked about developing maritime transport, tourism and supporting the fisheries industry. The PQ and independent economists criticized the PLQ’s costings and platform, notably for relying on predictions of high economic growth and unfounded assumptions.

To reinforce the party’s economic focus, the PLQ recruited a number of candidates with economic or financial backgrounds.

In their commitments, the PLQ makes no specific mention of language and identity issues, besides the usual platitudes. There is also no mention of the Charter or the issues that it raised; the PLQ is against the PQ’s Charter, but it is vague on what it wants instead. It talked of ‘guidelines’ for religious accommodations, and leaving it up to police chiefs to determine whether their officers may wear religious headgear and other symbols. Because of the PLQ’s extremely vague positioning on language issues and Couillard’s statements about bilingualism being an asset, the PQ and CAQ said that Couillard was incapable of defending Quebec values and the French language.

The PLQ also talked little of corruption and integrity, besides vaguely assuring voters that things had changed. During the second televised leaders debate, Couillard was attacked for his one-time association with Arthur Porter, the former head of the McGill University Health Center, who faces criminal charges over an alleged $22 million fraud and kickback scheme. He was arrested by Interpol in Panama in May 2013 and is awaiting extradition to Canada. He was also criticized for keeping an offshore bank account in Jersey while he was a doctor in Saudi Arabia during the 1990s, which, while not illegal, gives a bad reputation.

The CAQ began the electoral campaign in an unfavourable position. After the party won 27% (but only 19 seats) in 2012, the CAQ began its campaign with only 15 to 16% support in polls, and in polls in the early half of the campaign, its support fell further to lows of 12-14%. Given the party’s rather inefficient vote distribution, such a low result could see the CAQ win only 4-6 seats, and CAQ leader François Legault faced a tough challenge from the PQ in his riding of L’Assomption, an historically péquiste area. The CAQ was also hurt by the retirement of two of its first term MNAs: Hélène Daneault (Groulx) and, above all, Jacques Duchesneau (Saint-Jérôme). Duchesneau, a former Montreal police chief and later a leader in the fight against corruption in Quebec since 2009, had been one of Legault’s leading star candidates in 2012 (as part of a heavy focus on integrity and ethics). Legault also lost Gaétan Barrette, a former president of the Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec (federation of medical specialists), who had run and lost for the CAQ in Terrebonne in 2012. Barrette ran for the PLQ in La Pinière, against ex-PLQ independent incumbent Fatima Houda-Pépin (who was supported by the PQ, which ran no candidate in the solidly Liberal seat).

The CAQ is a vaguely centre-right party, which largely consists of vacuous platitudes balancing out to a right-wing lean. It was founded in 2011 by François Legault, a former PQ cabinet minister and CEO of Air Transat until 1997. Legault resigned his seat as PQ MNA in 2009 but returned to politics with speculation that he would create a new centre-right party, which sought to go beyond the old federalist/separatist debate, opposed a new referendum and focused on more ‘urgent issues’. The conservative Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ), founded in 1994 by right-leaning but autonomist/soft nationalist Liberals and a minor party under the leadership of Mario Dumont (the ADQ’s only MNA between 1994 and 2003) until it surged to become the second largest party in 2007. The ADQ, which was totally unprepared for prime team, did horrendously in opposition and the ADQ collapsed to 7 seats (from 41); Mario Dumont quickly retired from the party leadership, leaving the party without its historic leader and badly divided in the wake of a jumbled leadership contest. The ADQ merged into the CAQ; the ADQ’s remaining MNAs, led by ADQ leader Gérard Deltell, became the parliamentary backbone of the CAQ prior to the 2012 election, although it also welcomed three PQ defectors.

In this election, the CAQ presented itself as the ‘party of taxpayers’ and defended a conservative populist platform promising austerity, spending cuts, tax cuts, reducing the size of the bureaucracy but also a large project to make the St. Lawrence Valley into a new Silicon Valley. The CAQ’s platform decried Quebec’s high taxes and economic stagnation. It promised to return to a balanced budget as early as 2014-15, with major spending cuts in government expenditures, abolishing school boards and health agencies, reducing the size of the civil service through a 4-year hiring freeze, adopting a ‘taxpayers charter’ banning tax and utility price increases beyond the rate of inflation, abolishing the health and school taxes (projected to give ‘families’ $1,000), cutting the recent increase in electricity rates by half, limiting future increases in electricity rates and daycare prices to the rate of inflation, ending partisan nominations and exorbitant severance pays and fighting corruption. By cutting bureaucracy, the CAQ says it wants to improve services, notably in healthcare and education.

The CAQ’s landmark project, which headlined its platform, was the St. Lawrence Project, a major plan to turn the St. Lawrence into a ‘valley of innovation’ like the Silicon Valley, focusing on the high-tech and knowledge economy, with the promise of creating 100,000 ‘high quality’ jobs. The platform talked of stimulating investment and innovation, increasing the number of university graduates and a lot of vague statements about plans and policies. The costings for the project and the government’s role therein seemed extremely vague.

The CAQ has a mildly autonomist stance on the national question, which it styled as ‘Quebec first’ (as opposed to the PLQ’s ‘Canada first’ and the PQ’s ‘Quebec only’, in the CAQ’s words). It still opposes a referendum on independence. The CAQ supported the idea of a Charter, guaranteeing the religious neutrality of the province and gender equality, and banning judges, police officers, prison wardens but also school teachers and principals from wearing religious symbols. It also vaguely supported ‘respect for Quebec’s heritage’, which meant opposition to removing the crucifix from the National Assembly and protecting symbols associated with Christian religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter. The CAQ’s platform also wished to limit federal spending power, seek a single tax return for Quebec (Quebec is the only province where taxpayers need to fill out two separate tax returns, for the federal and provincial governments) and eliminating costly duplication of services between the provincial government and Ottawa. While Legault attacked Couillard for his allegedly weak stance on the French language and has stated that French is ‘in danger’ in Montreal, the CAQ’s platform made no specific mention of linguistic legislation.

The CAQ had 122 candidates, failing to put up candidates in Soulanges, Saint-Laurent and Westmount-Saint-Louis.

Québec solidaire (QS), a left-wing nationalist party, was founded in 2006 by the merger of a political party, the Union of Progressive Forces (UFP, itself a coalition of three parties including the former Quebec NDP and the Communist Party of Quebec, PCQ), and a social movement, Option citoyenne. QS describes itself as a feminist, environmentalist, democratic and alter-globalist party supporting social justice, equality, pluralism and the independence of Quebec. QS claims to be the only left-wing party in Quebec, judging that the three major parties have become right-wing neoliberal parties. Since its foundation in 2006, QS has enjoyed significant success at the polls. In 2008, QS elected its first MNA, Amir Khadir, an Iranian-born doctor and one of QS’ two spokesperson at the time. In 2012, QS increased its vote share from 3.8% to 6% and elected its second MNA, Françoise David, a well-known feminist and QS spokesperson. The loss of much of the PQ’s left flank to QS has become a major electoral issue for the PQ, which has been split between strategies to attract left-wing votes from QS or by sacrificing a few left-wing votes to QS in exchange for attracting right-wing votes from the CAQ. The PQ often charges the QS of dividing the nationalist vote and QS voters of ‘wasting their votes’, but the idea that QS voters would just all vote PQ if QS wasn’t there is an extremely faulty one.

QS’ platform focused on three main themes: ‘a fair Quebec’, ‘a free Quebec’ and ‘a green Quebec’. Under the first theme, QS proposed to create additional tax brackets for high incomes, raise corporate taxes, restore the capital tax on financial institutions, offer financial aid to low-income families, move towards free post-secondary education within 5 years, creating a universal public drug insurance program, investing $400 million in healthcare over 4 years, transfer all subsidies from private to public schools by 2020, fighting precarious work conditions, creating a guaranteed minimum income (initially to be set at $12,600), creating 50,000 new green housing units, reducing class sizes and increasing the number and length of paid holidays. QS was the only major party which did not set a balanced budget as a priority; its financial framework called for a 4% annual increase in government expenditures, higher than any of the three other parties, and it opposed the idea of ‘zero deficit at all costs’. On environmental issues, QS supported reducing GHG emissions by 40% compared to 1990 levels by 2020 through a plan to stop using fossil fuels, and QS strongly opposes oil exploration on Anticosti Island, nuclear power and shale oil and gas. On the issue of natural resources, QS’ platform supported nationalizing production of strategic resources, increase the royalties paid by mining companies, strengthen environmental oversight and approval of mining projects. QS has been very critical of the PQ’s record on economic and environmental issues, decrying cuts in social services and programs by the PQ’s austerity-minded budgets and some of the PQ’s environmental policies, notably with regards to Anticosti Island.

QS supports the independence of Quebec, but it calls for it through the election of a constituent assembly which would draft a constitution for Quebec, which would be ratified by voters in a referendum. QS’ platform called for improving First Nations’ rights, opposing current free trade agreements, opposition to ‘imperialism’ and militarism and adopting a MMP electoral system. QS seeks to strengthen Bill 101 by broadening its scope, but QS is pro-immigration and it opposed the PQ’s Charter. QS criticized the Charter for dividing Quebecers and for ‘two-speed’ secularism.

QS had no electoral agreement with Option nationale (ON), a more ‘hardline’ separatist party founded by ex-PQ MNA Jean-Martin Aussant in 2011. ON’s first priority is independence, and the party’s line is that a ON majority government would be understood as a mandate to break constitutional ties with Canada by repatriating powers over laws, treaties and taxes from Ottawa, before drafting a constitution confirming Quebec’s independence and ratifying said constitution in a referendum. Although ON says that independence is neither left nor right, the rest of ON’s platform leans to the left, similar to QS, supporting free education, the nationalization of natural resources, a public drug insurance program and opposition to private healthcare. In 2011, ON and QS had a non-aggression pact, with neither party opposing the other’s leader(s) in their constituencies. Aussant lost reelection in his riding of Nicolet-Bécancour and ON’s profile in the media declined significantly, and in June 2013 Aussant left ON’s leadership to accept a job at Morgan Stanley in London. The major differences between ON and QS is over the priority assigned to independence: QS supports independence, but it is much less of a priority, often featuring below goals of social justice. ON ran 116 candidates. QS ran candidates in every constituency except Nelligan.

The new Conservative Party of Quebec, founded in 2009, ran 59 candidates. The PCQ is led by Adrien Pouliot, a former ADQ member and conservative economist. It is federalist and right-wing.

The Green Party of Quebec (PVQ), which won 3.9% in 2007 and 2.2% in 2008, has been struggling for years with unstable leadership and poor electoral results. In 2012, the PVQ ran only 66 candidates and won 1% of the vote across the province. Under a new leader, Alex Tyrrell, the party now proclaims itself as an ecosocialist party. The PVQ claims to be the only party uniting federalists and separatists, who place a common emphasis on environmental issues. The PVQ ran only 44 candidates.

Results

Turnout was 71.43%, down from 74.6% in 2012 but still far higher than the 2008 record low, which saw only 57.4%. Compared to other provincial elections, turnout in Quebec’s provincial elections is significantly higher, with turnout in the 70% range since 2003, with the exception of 2008 (an ‘unwanted’ election called by the PLQ to regain a majority government, only a bit after a year from the last election, with no suspense or major issues in the campaign). The higher turnout indicates the greater interest of Quebecers in provincial politics compared to other provinces, which isn’t very surprising.

PLQ 41.52% (+10.32%) winning 70 seats (+20)
PQ 25.38% (-6.57%) winning 30 seats (-24)
CAQ 23.05% (-4%) winning 22 seats (+3)
QS 7.63% (+1.6%) winning 3 seats (+1)
ON 0.73% (-1.16%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Green 0.55% (-0.44%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Conservative 0.39% (+0.21%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Independents 0.36% (+0.09%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Others 0.39% (+0.05%) winning 0 seats (nc)

qc 2014

 

The Quebec Liberals, only 18 months after losing power, were returned to government with a wide majority government. What the PQ expected to be an election which would return them to power with a majority government ended up being a major rout for the PQ, which throws the PQ into disarray and forces péquiste leaders and supporters to ask themselves some tough questions.

The 2014 election will go down in history as an excellent example of an horribly run electoral campaign, which turned what could have been a comfortable victory into a terrible rout. The PQ called the election optimistic that it would be able to win a majority government. Since the summer of 2013, after a tough start, Marois’ government had finally found its cruising altitude and had steadily eaten into the Liberal opposition’s sizable lead over the PQ before finally stealing the lead themselves. Polls at election call favoured the PQ: even if the popular vote matchup between the PQ and PLQ was tight, the PQ’s net advantage over the Liberals in the Francophone vote, the historic inefficiency of the Liberal’s vote distribution and the CAQ’s loses allowed the PQ to be confident that it would win a majority. In late February, Marois also sought to take advantage of the PLQ’s disarray bred by the debate over the Charter. PLQ MNA Fatima Houda-Pépin had just left the Liberal caucus with a bang, seriously weakening Couillard’s leadership and giving the image of a party which was divided and incoherent over a major political issue.

In the first days of the campaign, the PQ’s recruitment of Pierre Karl Péladeau as a candidate made headlines and was a major coup for the PQ. In the second half of Marois’ government, the PQ had taken the decision to reorient more towards the centre/centre-right, targeting CAQ voters, at the expense of less important loses on the left to QS. With PKP’s candidacy, the PQ aimed to appeal to CAQ voters and to gain a clear advantage over the PLQ and CAQ on economic issues, strengthening the PQ’s ‘economic credibility’. However, perhaps to calm the queasiness of the PQ’s left-wing and QS, PKP’s entrée en scène came with a stirring declaration of attachment to sovereigntist values (the infamous PKP fist pump and ‘Dean Scream’-like moment of faire du Québec un pays!). To many voters, opposed to a referendum, it really appeared as if the PQ was running on a third referendum if it was reelected. Despite the PQ and Marois’ later reassurances that there was no commitment to a quick referendum within the government’s term and that there would be no referendum until the people were ready and the conditions assembled, the damage had already been done and the incident flash polarized the electorate. The CAQ, which included a lot of voters who had backed the Liberals in 2008 and a plurality of CAQ supporters, in polls, indicated that the Liberals were their second choice, bled towards the PLQ, although some soft nationalists likely shifted from the PQ to the CAQ at this point. At this point, Couillard and the Liberals’ slogan of taking care of les vraies affaires began to benefit the Liberals. The PLQ seized on the fear/threat of an unwanted third referendum, accusing the PQ of focusing on divisive issues and issues of lesser importance rather than the ‘real issues’ (like the economy, healthcare, education, jobs) which polls showed to be the top issues in voters’ minds. The Liberal federalist base was mobilized by the threat of a referendum, even if in reality the threat was no greater than it was pre-PKP fist pump.

Marois applying the brakes on the referendum idea failed to have an effect. The Liberal base was already strongly mobilized. The PQ’s hardcore nationalist base was now losing enthusiasm (again) for Marois and demobilizing. The CAQ regained some lost votes from the PQ, while QS consolidated gains it had made from the PQ’s left after PKP’s candidacy.

The Charter was, by the looks of how the PQ played it, designed to be an electoral wedge issue to benefit the PQ rather than an actual policy which the PQ genuinely wanted to see passed rapidly with a large consensus. If the PQ had wanted to pass the Charter rapidly, it could probably have done so, given that there was wide agreement between the parties on the major goals of the Charter – the secularism of the state, affirmation of gender equality, the ban on receiving public services if one’s face was veiled, covered or masked. Instead, the PQ began using the Charter as a wedge issue, hoping to mobilize a culturally nationalist and conservative electorate, with a primal fear of multiculturalism (defined by many as a threat to Quebec’s French Catholic character) and Muslim immigration. Initially, the PQ was fairly good at playing the Charter as a wedge issue, as evidenced by the major division in the PLQ. However, during the campaign, the PQ’s decision to refocus the rhetoric on the Charter in a hope to forget the referendum frenzy failed. As mentioned above, the Charter blew up in the PQ’s face. On the left, many left-nationalist and progressive voters, strongly opposed to the Charter, moved towards or stayed with QS, which consolidated its gains with the PQ’s urban left/progressive flank. The Janette Bertrand story, the announcement that the PQ might need to use the notwithstanding clause to protect the Charter (despite Bernard Drainville having previously stated that the Charter was in line with the federal Charter) and the confirmation that people would be fired for breaking the Charter’s dress code (an issue on which a lot of people, including Charter supporters, had reservations with). The Charter’s more moderate supporters moved towards the CAQ, and solidified the Liberal hold on its base.

The PQ failed to benefit from the issue of corruption, which had been a major factor in the PLQ’s defeat (of sorts) in 2012. The PQ could no longer exploit the issue because it too had been targeted by some allegations at the Charbonneau commission; Marois’ own husband, a businessman, had come up in allegations of a political deal between him and the FTQ, Quebec’s largest labour union and later in allegations that he had sought donations from engineering firms to Marois’ 2007 PQ leadership campaign. The election call came days before Marois and her husband were due to attend a parliamentary hearing. The Liberals were lucky that the election came before the press revealed that Charest’s former Deputy Premier (Nathalie Normandeau, who resigned in 2012) was at the heart of a criminal conspiracy (construction companies bought themselves favours by illegally funding the PLQ) and that one incumbent PLQ MNA and three ex-MNAs were being investigated by the anti-corruption unit (UPAC).

The result was a disaster for the PQ, which was largely of its own making. The PQ won only 25.4% of the vote, which is the PQ’s worst result since 1970, the PQ’s first election in which the party won 23.1%; it is the lowest amount of votes received by the PQ since 1973 and the lowest number of seats won by the party since 1989. After the shortest provincial government since Confederation in 1867, Marois’ PQ government also becomes the first government to lose reelection since the Union Nationale (UN) government of 1966-1970, which lost reelection to the PLQ in 1970. Marois, like Charest before her, was defeated in her own constituency. The defeat raises some pretty existential questions for the PQ and its cause. In an election which inadvertently became a ‘referendum on a referendum’, the PQ was soundly defeated on the opposition of a large portion of the electorate to a third referendum. The issue isn’t dead, given that a significant share of the electorate – about 30% – are still attached to the old cause of Quebec independence. The PQ’s base is largely made up of such faithfuls to the cause. Nevertheless, for the past couple of years, the PQ and broader nationalist movement (including the federal Bloc Québécois) have struggled to come to terms with the electorate’s diminishing appetite for talks of a referendum, independence and even linguistic/cultural identity issues. The Bloc’s thumping in 2011 was the first major blow to the nationalist movement, and a year out from the next federal election, nothing indicates that the BQ will perform significantly better in 2015 than it did in 2011. In 2012, the PQ’s victory was a victory by default, with a lower share of the vote than in the 2008 election despite a dreaded, unpopular and exhausted Liberal government. The PQ has been defined and held together by the issue of nationalism and independence; with clear signs that the PQ loses when it talks about independence and referendum, the PQ faces an existential question. With declining support for the cause, can the PQ survive as a major party without redefining itself?

The catastrophic sense of this defeat for the PQ and its cause stems from the generational challenges of the PQ. A blog post by UdeM public opinion specialist Claire Durand during the campaign showed the aging nature of the nationalist PQ base: in 1979, support for independence was strongest (63%) with voters aged 18 to 34, and weakest with older voters (36% with those 35 to 54, 22% with those over 55); in 2013, 41.5% of voters over 55 supported independence against 45% of those over 35 and 39% of those less than 35. Léger Marketing’s last poll, which was relatively accurate (38 PLQ, 29 PQ, 23 CAQ, 9 QS), showed that the PQ’s support tended to increase with age: with those between 18 to 24, the PQ registered only 19% of voting intentions, placing fourth behind the Liberals (37%), QS (22%) and CAQ (21%). The PQ’s strongest support, in that poll, came with those 55 to 64, the only age group where the PQ led the Liberals, with 37% against 31% for the Liberals and 24% for the CAQ. The PQ also polled 35% with those 45-54 and 31% with those over 65. With young adults and younger middle-aged voters – those between the ages of 25 and 44 – the PQ was a distant third behind the PLQ and PQ. There are, therefore, increasing indications that the PQ and its cause is supported by older voters, likely those young, dedicated and faithful nationalists of the 1970s who have grown older. The Charter debate didn’t do the PQ any favours on the left, with non-Francophones and with minorities. PKP’s candidacy, which ended up hurting the PQ, may have done serious damage to the PQ’s traditional identification as a social democratic party and ally of organized labour. With the rise of QS, which the PQ has failed to check since 2007, the PQ no longer has the monopoly on the nationalist vote.

Again, the PQ needs to ask itself what its future is. The problem is that it cannot totally abandon independence, because a large portion of the PQ’s militant base remains very attached to the cause and any PQ leader who once again tries to place independence on the backburner as Lévesque did in 1984 with the beau risque or Marois in 2011-12 will find himself faced with the wrath of a good part of the caucus and the base. However, because of this, the PQ is in a bit of a dead-end, because focus on independence doesn’t sell well right now (and hasn’t really sold well for about a decade now). The challenge for the PQ is to find a way to retain the nationalist base’s loyalty while also expanding the PQ’s appeal to middle-of-the-road voters who just don’t care about independence and don’t want a third referendum. That’s easier said than done.

With 70 seats, Philippe Couillard’s Liberals has won a solid majority government which will last until the fall of 2018. Despite being a rookie campaigner, Couillard ran a fairly successful campaign, even if a lot of the PLQ’s victory owes to the PQ’s disastrous campaign rather than a particularly good Liberal campaign. Couillard’s own campaign was assisted by the expertise of former Liberal Premier Daniel Johnson Jr., who played a significant behind-the-scenes role in the PLQ’s victorious campaign. Couillard faced several major challenges during the campaign, particularly in the debates where he was attacked for his links to Arthur Porter, the conditions in which he left politics for the private sector in 2008 and the PLQ’s weak stance on the French language. Nevertheless, none of those attacks really took their toll on the Liberal leader.

Couillard personally won his risky gamble by standing in Roberval, a traditionally péquiste seat in the Saguenay, known as one of the most nationalist regions of Quebec. Couillard had represented the Montreal-area riding of Mont-Royal between 2003 and 2007, before winning reelection in the Quebec City riding of Jean-Talon in 2008 and returning to the National Assembly late last year with a by-election in the Montreal riding of Outremont. Couillard wanted to be elected for Roberval because he lives in Saint-Félicien (where his wife is from) and really enjoys hunting in the region. Politically, it was a risky gamble for Couillard, who would likely not have won the seat if the PQ had won the election but may also have lost, like Robert Bourassa in 1985, despite winning the election. In that sense, some have speculated that it was an up-or-out decision: if he wins, that would mean that the PLQ has won the province and he becomes Premier; if he loses, that likely would have meant that the PLQ lost and Couillard would have had an easy exit. Ultimately, Couillard won handily, winning 55.2% against 33.3% for the PQ incumbent. In 2012, the PQ won 46.7% in Roberval against 28.4% for the Liberals.

The Liberals were hugely successful at mobilizing their base. The core, rock-solid Liberal vote – that is, ethnic minorities and the Anglos – were motivated and mobilized to vote by the threat of the referendum and the unpopularity of the PQ’s Charter with non-Francophones. Although turnout decreased province-wide, turnout increased significantly in solidly Liberal ridings on Montreal Island, Greater Montreal and the Outaouais with a significant Anglo and/or allophone majority/minority. In Robert-Baldwin, a seat in Montreal’s West Island, turnout increased from 69.1% to 77%. In D’Arcy-McGee, a plurality Jewish riding in Montreal and the safest Liberal seat in the province, turnout increased from 65.8% to 72.1%. Overall, all ridings where turnout increased, often quite significantly, have a significant Anglophone or allophone population. In Francophone ridings, turnout decreased, with the steepest decreases in traditionally PQ strongholds of the Laurentides, Lanaudière, Montérégie, Centre-du-Québec and Gaspésie. In their strongholds, the Liberals faced even weaker opposition than in 2012 or past years. For example, in D’Arcy-McGee, where the PLQ had won 84.7% in 2012, it won 92.1%. The CAQ, which had polled decently (comparatively) in Anglo ridings in 2012, suffered some particularly significant loses in those same places this year. The PQ, which was already at a floor, stayed at its usual lows. QS lost support in many of these ridings, while the Greens – in 2007 and 2008 they’d been distant seconds to the Liberals in a lot of Anglo ridings – had no presence.

The CAQ can be quite pleased with its performance. The party came in the campaign with low poll numbers and most predictions placing them with no more than a handful of seats, against 19 seats in 2012. It ended up winning 22 seats – that is, a net gain of 3 seats since 2012, although the CAQ’s popular vote did fall by 4% to 23.1%. The CAQ, as in 2012, benefited from a fairly good campaign. Support for the CAQ increased in the final days of the campaign, in the aftermath of a strong debate performance by Legault (pounding Couillard on language and Marois on referendums) in the second televised leaders’ debate, as the PQ campaign continued to falter. Standing at about 15% as late as March 23, the CAQ grew to 18-19% (March 31-April 1), 21% (EKOS, April 3), 23% (Léger and Forum, April 3) and 25% (Angus-Reid, April 4). The CAQ’s gains in the final stretch came primarily from the PQ, which definitely fell below the 28-30% range.

The CAQ saw loses to the Liberals compensated, partially, by gains from the PQ. According to Forum’s last poll, 15% of the PQ’s 2008 voters said they were going to vote for the CAQ, compensating for the 29% of the CAQ’s 2008 voters who said they were going to vote for the Liberals. The results confirmed this: in terms of seats lost, the CAQ lost five seats to the Liberals – all but four of them in the Quebec City area (the final one, La Prairie, is in Montreal’s suburban South Shore), and one seat to the PQ (Saint-Jérôme, where CAQ star candidate/MNA Jacques Duchesneau was retiring and PKP picked up the seat for the PQ; it was the only seat to be gained by the PQ). In the Quebec City area, the CAQ’s main challenger was/is the PLQ. In contrast, the CAQ gained 9 seats from the PQ – ridings located in the 450 suburbs of Montreal, in the North Shore, the South Shore and the more rural areas of Montérégie and Centre-du-Québec. The CAQ’s vote held up remarkably well in these seats (with the exception of the CAQ-held seats of Groulx and Blainville), and the party benefited from a significant decline in the PQ’s vote share to gain these seats. In almost all of these seats, the CAQ’s main challenger was/is the PQ rather than the PLQ. In his riding of L’Assomption, Legault was reelected with an expanded majority – he won 49.4% against 30.4% for PQ star candidate Pierre Paquette, a former senior Bloc MP for Joliette, defeated by the Orange Crush in 2011. In the North Shore suburbs of Montreal, the CAQ gained three seats for the PQ, so that the CAQ now holds a majority of the North Shore suburban seats.

The CAQ’s performance on election night was interesting: as the first results came in, the CAQ was performing very poorly and for most of the night, it seemed as if the CAQ would lose seats. There was a late surge, as later results streamed in, which saw the CAQ steadily climb in the seat count; an unusual event on an election night. This may indicate that the CAQ performed poorly in advance voting, which were likely the first ballots to be counted after polls closed; advance voting began on March 28, before the CAQ climbed in the polls. Votes cast on election day were likely significantly better for the CAQ than those cast beforehand. Perhaps if all votes had been cast on election day, the CAQ may have formed the official opposition…

QS once again improved its result, gaining over 1% in the popular vote since 2012 and gaining their third seat – the downtown Montreal riding of Sainte-Marie-Saint-Jacques, where perennial QS candidate Manon Massé, a fairly well-known feminist and social activist, was narrowly victorious with 30.6% against 30.3% for the PLQ and 27.6% for incumbent PQ MNA Daniel Breton, an environmentalist who briefly served as Minister of the Environment before being dumped over some petty ethics concern. Both QS incumbents – Amir Khadir in Mercier and Françoise David in Gouin – were reelected to their third and second terms respectively, with David winning 51% and Khadir taking 46.2%. QS also performed very well in Laurier-Dorion, where QS co-spokesperson Andrés Fontecilla won 27.7%, and the PQ stronghold of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, where QS won 30.6%, coming threateningly close to the PQ (30.6%). QS placed a strong third with 18.7% in Rosemont. However, outside these Montreal ridings which now form QS’ strongest ridings, QS largely stagnated on Montreal Island and fell back in some of the Montreal PLQ strongholds. In the regions, QS’ support generally held up or gained marginally.

Regional results

There was some significant movement in Montreal (the island itself), traditionally extremely polarized between Liberals and PQ, with little change from election to election and only a tiny number of actual swing seats. This year, the PLQ won well over 50% of the vote on Montreal Island, and gained one seat from the PQ – Crémazie, traditionally the only consistent marginal riding disputed between the PQ and the PLQ. Crémazie, which largely covers the Ahuntsic neighborhood in northern Montreal (please note that I’m using Montreal’s demented and totally bizarre compass rather than the normal compass directions), had been held by the PQ since 2007, and in 2012, Diane De Courcy won the seat with a solid majority of 10% over former federal Liberal MP Elena Bakopanos. De Courcy was Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities in the PQ government. She won 31.6% against 39% for PLQ candidate Marie Montpetit. In Crémazie, the PQ has solid support in Ahuntsic, a Francophone middle-class neighborhood, but the PLQ has strong support in areas with a larger visible minority or Italian population (immigrants make up 28% of the riding’s population).

QS gained its third seat, Sainte-Marie-Saint-Jacques, with 30.6% for QS candidate Manon Massé, who was finally successful in her fifth candidacy in the riding. The Liberals increased their support by nearly 11 points, winning 30.3% of the vote, placing second ahead of PQ incumbent Daniel Breton, who won just 27.6%, down from 35.8% in 2012 and 46.6% in 2008. The riding is fairly demographically similar to QS’ two other seats in Montreal: Mercier (which borders the riding to the north) and Gouin – that is, largely gentrified, young adults, well-educated, professionals (with high percentages employed in the arts, culture, education, social assistance). QS is particularly strong in the riding’s part of the municipal borough of Le Plateau-Mont-Royal – the stereotypical gentrified bobo borough of Montreal, but finds strong support in the Gay Village and Sainte-Marie (an historically French working-class neighborhood). The riding, predominantly Francophone (67% mother tongue), had been held by the PQ since the riding’s creation in 1989. The Liberals having been traditionally a distant second behind the PQ (28.2% in 2008), it was a major surprise to see them come in a very close second ahead of the PQ. The Liberals are strong in the revitalized areas of the Old Port and Old Montreal, with high-end condos and apartments.

QS easily held both its seats, Gouin and Mercier, which cover the gentrified and bobo neighborhoods in the boroughs of Le Plateau-Mont-Royal and Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie. QS’ other major target was Laurier-Dorion, where QS’ extraparliamentary co-spokesperson Andrés Fontecilla ran, having placed a solid third with over 24% of the vote in 2012. This year, QS increased its vote share to 27.7%, sending the PQ tumbling down from 26.4% to 15.9%. However, while QS finds strong support in Villeray, a newer gentrified bobo neighborhood with demographics similar to that of the QS strongholds, the riding is a much tougher nut to crack: the Liberals, who won 46.2% (up from 34.1% in 2012), have an extremely solid hold on Parc-Extension, a low-income immigrant (traditionally Greek, nowadays more South Asian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan) neighborhood (46% of the entire riding’s population are allophones, and immigrants/visible minorities constitute a large majority in Parc-Extension itself). While the Liberals placed third in Villeray in 2012, they retained well over 70% of the vote in Parc-Extension.

With the loss of two seats in Montreal, the PQ is left with only four seats on the island – and three of them were won by less than ten points. QS came within 4 points of winning Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (30.6% vs 34.9% for the PQ), historically a low-income Francophone working-class neighborhood, although with gentrification and younger residents seeking affordable housing, it is more mixed socially now. In Rosemont, the PQ Minister of International Relations Jean-François Lisée, a former journalist first elected in 2012, was reelected with 34.3% against 30% for the Liberals and 18.7% for QS. In Bourget, PQ Minister of Culture Maka Kotto was reelected with 37.8% against 28.9% for the PLQ.

In 2012, the Liberals had narrowly held Verdun and Saint-Henri-Sainte-Anne, the two generally Liberal-leaning seats on the Island in which the PQ usually has some potential. Both seats include a mix of old linguistically-diverse working-class neighborhoods (Irish, Francophone or blacks in Griffintown, Little Burgundy, Saint-Henri, Pointe-Saint-Charles and Verdun) which have all seen major gentrification in recent years, and affluent areas (especially Nun’s Island, high-end condos and mansions, in the riding of Verdun); the Liberals usually have the edge, thanks to solid margins in the affluent polls of Nun’s Islands or the allophone/Anglo areas of Griffintown and Little Burgundy. In 2012, the PQ had fallen short by 1.6% and 6.4% respectively. This year, the Liberals won both seats with huge majorities: 26.2% and 30.6% respectively, polling over 50% in both ridings. In Verdun, Liberal star candidate Jacques Daoust, the former president of Investissement Québec, won 50.6% against only 24.4% for PQ star candidate Lorraine Pintal, a former theater director. In 2012, Liberal MNA Henri-François Gautrin (a former provincial NDP leader, who was forced to retire by Couillard) won 35.4% against 33.8% for former Bloc MP Thierry St-Cyr. In Saint-Henri-Sainte-Anne, the PQ won only 21.9%. The Liberals also expanded their majority in Anjou-Louis-Riel, a middle-class suburban riding in eastern Montreal: what was a 9-point lead for the PLQ in 2012 turned into a hefty 28% majority this year.

The Liberals had no trouble holding their other Montreal seats; which are predominantly affluent Anglophone ridings, allophone immigrant areas or ethnic suburbs – in other words, the safest Liberal ridings possible. In Outremont, a riding which includes the affluent town of Outremont (a rather mixed area; with bobo areas in the Mile End giving strong results to QS, some Hassidic Jewish areas and upper middle-class Francophones), the Francophone Université de Montréal and parts of the immigrant-heavy neighborhood of Côte-des-Neiges, the Liberal candidate, Hélène David (a former deputy minister and academic, who is the sister of QS MNA Françoise David), won 56.3% against 16.9% for QS and 14.6% for the PQ. In Robert-Baldwin, which mostly covers the affluent and predominantly Anglophone/allophone suburb of Dollard-des-Ormeaux, PLQ star candidate Carlos Leitao, a renowned economist from the Laurentian Bank who is groomed to become finance minister, won 87.3%. In D’Arcy-McGee, a 43% Jewish riding centered around the affluent and majority-Jewish municipalities of Hampstead and Côte-Saint-Luc, the PLQ won 92.1% of the vote – the strongest Liberal result in years in what is the safest Liberal seat in the province (and probably one of the safest seats for any party in a Western democracy).

The CAQ remained weak on the Island, with sharp loses to the Liberals in the West Island but a stronger resistance in the péquiste-leaning areas in the east. The CAQ’s best result, 24%, came from Pointe-aux-Trembles, a heavily Francophone residential suburban area (it is also the only seat which we can still say is safe for the PQ) at the eastern extremity of the island which is demographically closer to off-island suburbs in the 450 than to other parts of Montreal.

The Liberals swept all six seats in Laval, holding four seats and gaining two from the PQ. In Laval-des-Rapides, a middle-class suburban area, PQ MNA Léo Bureau-Blouin, one of the main student leaders in the 2012 protests, was defeated after only one term in office. The Liberals won 44.2% against 31.2% for the PQ. In Sainte-Rose, a growing mishmash of older suburbs and new cookie-cutter subdivisions, the Liberals increased their support from 28.5% to 42.2%, going from third to first place. The PQ won 27.3% and the CAQ, which had placed second with 29.6% in 2012, won 24.1%. The Liberals held their four other seats, winning over 50% in all of them and peaking at 73% in Chomedey, a plurality allophone riding. In Mille-Îles, a seat at the eastern extremity of the island, PQ star candidate Djemila Benhabib, a writer known for her opposition to Muslim fundamentalism, was defeated by the PLQ incumbent, losing by about 25 points (25.5% to 50.5%). She has already been defeated in 2012, standing in Trois-Rivières.

On the South Shore suburbs of Montreal, the PQ faced serious challenges from both the CAQ and the Liberals. The PQ lost Chambly and Borduas, two upper middle-class Francophone outer suburbs/exurbs of Montreal. The CAQ won 34.2% and 33.5% respectively, their vote holding up compared to 2012; it was the collapse of the PQ, which lost 7% and 6% respectively, which allowed the CAQ to gain those seats. The CAQ held Montarville, the wealthiest riding in the province, surviving a close challenge from the PLQ, winning 35% to 31.3%. However, the CAQ lost La Prairie, another very affluent suburban riding; the riding is something of a three-way tossup, with the Liberals and CAQ holding a strong base in the new McMansion-type subdivisions in Candiac and La Prairie while older and slightly less affluent neighborhoods lean to the PQ. The CAQ, which had won the new riding by 0.2% over the PQ in 2012, lost by 1.4% although their vote remained stable. The PQ held the ridings of Vachon (Saint-Hubert), Taillon, Marie-Victorin (Longueuil) and Sanguinet (Sainte-Catherine, Saint-Constant). In Marie-Victorin, a low-income riding which covers the poorest parts of the older suburban city of Longueuil, Bernard Drainville, the PQ minister behind the Charter, was handily reelected with 38.2% against 26.1% for the PLQ. However, in Vachon, which covers the middle-class suburb of Saint-Hubert, PQ MNA Martine Ouellet held on by barely half a percentage point against the PLQ, winning 33.1% to 32.6%. In Taillon, which mixes poorer parts of Longueuil (leaning towards the the PQ) with some affluent subdivisions (closely divided, especially between PLQ and CAQ), the PQ won by only 3.8% over the Liberals – after having won it by 12 points in 2012, over the CAQ. In Sanguinet, the PQ won by a small margin of 3.3% over the CAQ. The Liberals faced no trouble in their ridings. Former cabinet minister and unsuccessful leadership contender Pierre Moreau was easily reelected in Châteauguay (a middle-class suburban riding with a significant Anglo population, at 22%), taking 49.6%. In Laporte, a riding which includes the affluent leafy Francophone suburb of Saint-Lambert and the historically Anglophone suburb of Greenfield Park, the PLQ won 47.7%. In La Pinière (Brossard), the safest Liberal seat on the South Shore (with over 50% of Anglophones and allophones and 38% of visible minorities, with a large middle-class Chinese immigrant community), PLQ star candidate Gaétan Barrette (who had ran for the CAQ in 2012), who will likely become health minister under Couillard, won 58.3%, soundly defeating PLQ-turned-independent incumbent Fatima Houda-Pépin, who won only 23.5%. The PQ, which had won 17.9% in the riding two years ago, likely provided the bulk of her support. With PLQ support increasing by nearly 10 points, she seemingly won a totally different electorate than the one which had backed her in 2012.

The PQ held the exurban ridings of Beauharnois (Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Beauharnois) and Verchères (Varennes, Sainte-Julie), with 38.8% and 42.6% respectively. The latter is a heavily Francophone affluent exurban area, extending into more rural areas outside Montreal’s CMA (metro area as defined by the census), while the former mostly lies outside the CMA and is a poorer, historically working-class area.

In the rest of Montérégie, the PQ lost two other seats to the CAQ – Iberville and Saint-Hyacinthe, both homogeneously Francophone ridings centered around small or medium-sized towns, historically nationalist and divided between the PQ and CAQ. The PQ held on against a tough challenge from the CAQ in Saint-Jean (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu), holding the seat by only 1%. The CAQ easily held Granby, with incumbent MNA François Bonnardel, first elected for the ADQ in 2007, winning 53% – the CAQ’s best result in any riding. The PQ held Richelieu, a riding centered around the old industrial steel town of Sorel-Tracy, with a 12 point majority. The Liberals easily held their own seats – Brome-Missisquoi (16.6% majority over the CAQ) and Huntingdon (24.9% majority over the CAQ) along the American border (both still have small but significant Anglophone minorities); Soulanges (23% majority over the PQ, with no CAQ candidate) and Vaudreuil (45% majority over the PQ) in suburban Montreal (Vaudreuil has a large Anglo minority, making up over a quarter of the population and a majority in Hudson, it also includes many new affluent subdivisions, Soulanges has a smaller Anglo minority, especially in Saint-Lazare).

In the North Shore suburbs of Montreal, the CAQ gained four seats from the PQ. Quasi-homogeneously Francophone and rather affluent middle-class suburbia, the North Shore has tended to be a strongly péquiste sovereigntist stronghold which gave very strong results to the oui in the 1995. However, in recent years, the North Shore has become a perfect example of a Francophone and historically nationalist region which has lost interest in the ‘national question’ and adopted apathetic attitudes towards the issue. In 2007, the ADQ swept the entire North Shore suburbs, taking out all PQ incumbents (as well as the sole PLQ incumbent, in Groulx), but the PQ regained the whole region one year later in the 2008 election. In the 2011 federal election, the NDP swept the region with some of its best results in the province – hovering around 50%. In 2012, the CAQ performed very well in the North Shore, with many gains at the expense of the Liberals (especially in the most affluent communities, such as Rosemère and Lorraine, which had voted PLQ in 2008 but shifted to the CAQ in 2012), but the PQ nevertheless held most of its seats – the CAQ only won Groulx, Blainville and L’Assomption (with François Legault), as well as Saint-Jérôme (with anti-corruption star candidate Jacques Duchesneau), which comes closer to being a regional town in its own right rather than just a suburb. This year, with the PQ’s collapse, the CAQ – with results very similar to 2012 (except in Blainville and Groulx, where the CAQ suffered major loses with retiring incumbents), was able to gain four seats. It only lost Saint-Jérôme, won by PKP for the PQ. In Groulx, the one-term CAQ incumbent was retiring, resulting in a real three-way race, which switched back-and-forth throughout the night. The CAQ won 30.9%, losing nearly 8 points from 2012, while the Liberals gained 10 points, surging from barely 20% to 30.2%. PQ star candidate Martine Desjardins, a former student leader (FÉUQ), placed third with 30%. In Blainville, which the CAQ had won by nearly 6 points in 2012 (with PQ-turned-CAQ incumbent Daniel Ratthé), the seat was left open by the retirement of Ratthé, who was expelled from the CAQ caucus in 2013 after allegations surrounding corruption and illegal financing of a mayoral campaign back in 2005. Former Bloc MP Mario Laframboise, who had previously run, unsuccesfully, for the CAQ in 2012 in Argenteuil, was elected with 33.9% against 29.5% for the Liberals and 29.4% for the PQ – compared to 2012, the CAQ lost over 7 points while the PLQ gained nearly 14 points. In L’Assomption, which Legault had won with a narrow 2.6% majority over the PQ in 2012, he was reelected with 49.4% and a 19% majority over the PQ, despite a very strong PQ candidate – former Bloc MP Pierre Paquette. The CAQ gained neighboring Repentigny, with a 3-point majority; Masson (Mascouche) with a 1.6% majority; Deux-Montagnes, with former MNA Benoit Charette (a PQ-turned-CAQ defector, defeated in 2012 by the PQ) regaining his old seat with a 2% majority and Mirabel, with a majority of nearly 5% over the PQ. The only seat which the PQ retained was Terrebonne, where young PQ MNA Mathieu Traversy narrowly survived, with a 1.8% majority.

The only seat in the province gained by the PQ was Saint-Jérôme, where Péladeau took 36.8% (a result slightly lower than that won by the PQ in 2012) against 31.5% for the CAQ.

In the rest of the Laurentians, the PQ held their strongholds of Labelle and Bertrand handily, with majorities over 10% in both and no less than 45% of the vote in Labelle. The Liberals regained Argenteuil, a traditionally Liberal seat (with a small Anglo minority) which the PQ gained in a 2012 by-election and held in the general elections. The PLQ regained the seat with a 6.5% majority. In the rest of Lanaudière, a traditional péquiste stronghold, the PQ held their three seats, but in Rousseau, finance minister Nicolas Marceau, who had narrowly won his seat against a surprisingly strong CAQ performance in 2012, was reelected with a bare 2 point majority. Similarly, major loses for the PQ in Berthier significantly reduced the PQ’s majority over the CAQ. Only in Joliette did the PQ retain a comfortable majority, with social services minister Véronique Hivon, who had become quite popular for piloting the consensual euthanasia bill, holding a 17 point majority and winning 44.3% of the vote.

Once again, the PLQ swept the Outaouais‘ five seats by large margins. In addition to a significant Anglophone minority (making up 35% of the population in the riding of Pontiac, concentrated in small towns along the Ottawa River), the Francophone population of the region is the least nationalist/péquiste of any region of Quebec (with an estimated Francophone yes vote of only 34% in 1995) because a lot of them are public servants employed by the federal government in Ottawa or Gatineau (and, for obvious reasons, strongly oppose Quebec independence). The provincial Liberals have swept every seat in the region since 1981, and they increased their majorities in all seats in 2014. The majorities in Papineau and Hull had been within 10 points in 2012 (in fact, the PLQ had held Papineau by only 167 votes against the PQ); this year, the PLQ won over 50% of the vote in every riding – from 50.4% in Papineau (with a 26% majority) to nearly 76% in Pontiac.

The Liberals gained two seats from the PQ in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. The PLQ won Abitibi-Est and Rouyn-Noranda-Témiscamingue, two seats which it had lost to the PQ in 2012. It now holds majorities of 10.5% and 5.7% respectively. The PQ only held Abitibi-Ouest, where François Gendron, who has held the seat since 1976, was reelected with a 7.5% majority. He is now the longest-serving MNA in Quebec’s history.

In the Eastern Townships, it was a clean sweep for the Liberals, who gained two seats from the PQ and easily held their other seats. In Sherbrooke, Premier Charest’s old seat until his defeat by former Bloc MP Serge Cardin in 2012, the PLQ gained the seat with a 5.6% majority over the PQ. In 2012, there had been a lot of anti-Charest strategic voting for the PQ, which seriously dragged down the CAQ and QS, both of which made substantial gains this year at the PQ’s expense. In Saint-François, a riding which takes in some of Sherbrooke’s suburbs (Fleurimont, which was the PQ’s main base in 2012), the Anglophone borough of Lennoxville, the towns of Compton and Coaticook and some Anglo villages, PQ health minister Réjean Hébert, who had narrowly gained the seat from the PLQ in 2012, was defeated, taking 33% to the PLQ’s 38.5%. In the other PLQ-held ridings, all incumbents held on handily, despite PQ hopes in Mégantic and Richmond. In Mégantic, which includes Lac-Mégantic, the site of the train tragedy last year, the PQ ran Isabelle Hallé, the president of the regional chamber of commerce and a key player in reconstruction efforts. She won only 29.7% against 40.8% for the PLQ incumbent; although the PQ’s losses in the riding were significantly lesser than those in the rest of the province, perhaps signaling some positive impact for the PQ of the recovery efforts. In Richmond, Liberal MNA Karine Vallière (the daughter of former long-time PLQ MNA Yvon Vallières), who had won the seat by less than 300 votes over the PQ in 2012 (her victory owed a lot to strong margins in the asbestos mining town of Asbestos, where she is from and where the future of asbestos mining is a huge issue, which usually benefits the local PLQ), was reelected with a 13.6% majority in a rematch with the PQ. In Orford, finally, the Liberals won 44.1% against 26.2% for the PQ.

The CAQ had strong results in the Centre-du-Québec, with the party’s three incumbents winning reelection with expanded majorities and larger shares of the vote, and the CAQ gaining Johnson from the PQ. The CAQ held Nicolet-Bécancour (gained over ON leader Jean-Martin Aussant in 2012, his absence explains the PQ’s gains, although it only finished third with some 22%, miles away from the combined ON+PQ vote in 2012; the Marois government’s unpopular decision to close the Gentilly nuclear power plant likely hurt the PQ and helped the local CAQ MNA), Drummond-Bois-Francs and Arthabaska (popular CAQ, ex-ADQ, incumbent Sylvie Roy was reelected with 45.5% and the PLQ vote actually fell from 2012, because Roy had faced a PLQ MNA because of redistribution in 2012). The CAQ gained Johnson from the PQ, with a majority of nearly 5 points.

The Liberals swept Mauricie, taking all five seats – gaining two from the PQ and easily holding their own three seats. In Saint-Maurice (Shawinigan), the PLQ gained the seat with a 2.7% majority over the PQ while in Champlain (Cap-de-la-Madeleine, in suburban Trois-Rivières), former ADQ MNA Pierre-Michel Auger, running for the PLQ, won a three-way contest with 33.4% against 30.4% for the CAQ and 30.2% for the incumbent PQ MNA. The PLQ held Maskinongé and Trois-Rivières with expanded majorities despite retiring incumbents, while in Laviolette, popular Liberal MNA Julie Boulet, who has built a remarkable popular vote in a historically nationalist riding, was reelected with 52.6% against only 23% for the PQ.

In the Quebec City capital region, the Liberals gained four seats from the CAQ and one from the PQ. In 2012, the CAQ had gained four seats from the PLQ, in suburban and exurban areas of Quebec City. Although a very heavily Francophone city, Quebec City is not a nationalist stronghold – it gave only weak support to independence in the 1995 referendum, and the PQ/Bloc have struggled in the provincial capital for a number of years. In recent provincial elections, the main battles in most Quebec City ridings have been fought between the PLQ and the centre-right (ADQ, in 2007 and 2008, and now the CAQ) with limited support for the PQ. In Quebe City, the PLQ regained Vanier-Les Rivières, Charlesbourg and Montmorency – three suburban constituencies, which, while middle-class, are not extremely affluent or white-collar professional in nature. The CAQ had held the three of them with relatively thin majorities over the PLQ in 2012, and it stood no chance against a resurgent PLQ which ate into a good chunk of the CAQ’s 2012 vote. The Liberals won the three seats by margins slightly under 10% (with the former PLQ MNAs in Vanier-Les Rivières and Montmorency regaining their seats). The CAQ easily held Chauveau and La Peltrie, two large exurban ridings to the north of the city, held by the ADQ since 2007, with their incumbents (two ex-ADQ MNAs, Éric Caire and Gérard Deltell) winning over 50% of the vote. The Liberals also picked up Portneuf, a large and predominantly exurban/rural ridings on the western outskirts of Quebec City, with a 3.4% majority over the CAQ.

The Liberals had no trouble holding their three seats in Quebec City: Louis-Hébert (which covers the city’s most affluent suburbs, making it the third wealthiest riding in Quebec), Jean-Talon (which includes the traditionally bourgeois and affluent neighborhood of Sillery) and Jean-Lesage (a poorer riding, including the old working-class neighborhoods of Limoilou and some older suburbs).

The PQ held only one seat: Taschereau, which covers downtown Quebec City (the Vieux-Québec, among others); it stands out from the rest of the generally conservative city, as a rather poor but also well-educated downtown riding. The PQ’s Agnès Maltais was reelected with 31.7% against 30.4% for the PLQ; QS placed a strong fourth with 15.3%, QS (and, in 2012, ON) perform very well in Saint-Jean-Baptiste, a young artsy/bobo neighborhood in central Quebec City.

However, Premier Pauline Marois lost reelection in her own seat of Charlevoix–Côte-de-Beaupré, a large riding which extends from the Quebec City exurbs (Ile d’Orléans) to the Charlevoix region. Marois, who won the seat in a 2007 by-election, was reelected with 40.7% in 2012, with a hefty majority over the PLQ (27.1%) and CAQ (26.8%). The map had shown a clear-cut division between areas closer to Quebec City, where the PLQ and CAQ placed first, and the more rural Charlevoix region up to the Saguenay estuary, which was solidly PQ. This year, Marois won 32.9% against 35% for the PLQ candidate.

In the Chaudière-Appalaches and Bas-Saint-Laurent, all parties held their seats. The CAQ held the South Shore suburban riding of Lévis, a 2012 gain from the PLQ, with 40.5% (a gain from 2012) for CAQ MNA Christian Dubé, the party’s finance critic. It held Chutes-de-la-Chaudière and Beauce-Nord, two seats held by the ADQ since 2003, with large majorities, albeit reduced quite significantly from 2012. The Liberals held Lotbinière-Frontenac, Beauce-Sud, Bellechasse, Côte-du-Sud and Rivière-du-Loup-Témiscouata. These two regions stand out from the rest of Quebec in that while they are quasi-homogeneously white, Francophone and Catholic (and also predominantly rural or small-town), the PQ and sovereigntism in general has been very weak in the region (in 1995, the yes vote was significantly lower and the no won a number of ridings). Conservative parties of various shades, including the old Social Credit and Union Nationale, the ADQ in its heydays and the federal Conservatives after 2006, have been strong in the region, while the provincial Liberals remain powerful as well. Pierre Drouilly called this region, back in 2003, le Québec tranquille and described it as a largely poor, blue-collar (notably in primary and secondary sectors) region with an old and declining population, low levels of education, low incomes but also fairly low unemployment levels (which distinguishes it from poorer regions, with high unemployment, such as the Gaspé Peninsula). Voters exhibit a high degree of alienation from Montreal, and it is an ideologically conservative region (but with marked populist tendencies) with clear right-wing positions on issues such as taxes or government intervention, part of which comes from a strong entrepreneurial tradition, especially in Beauce (which is often noted for its entrepreneurial culture and its small businesses). Because of low levels of education and the fragility of the local economy, there has been little appetite for the uncertainty of independence.

The Québec tranquille region extends into the Centre-du-Québec, the more remote parts of the Eastern Townships, the Quebec City metro and parts of Mauricie – regions which have traditionally given low support to the nationalist option in referendums, and where the PQ performs poorly (with strong results for the PLQ and CAQ). But the Chaudière-Appalaches region, south of the St. Lawrence across from Quebec City, stands out as the archetype: the PQ is extremely weak, with third place showings in all ridings and single-digit results in the Beauce; it also appears to be more ideologically conservative than the rest of the region, whose ideological preferences are vaguer and eclectic. For example, in 2012, the federal Tories held their seats in the Chaudière-Appalaches, but the NDP swept Quebec City (which had swung to the Tories in 2006).

The PQ held Rimouski, with 40.6% against 30% for the PLQ. There had been some local controversy with the retirement of the PQ MNA and the choice of a PQ candidate imposed by the national leadership over a local candidate; the local candidate was excluded from the party, and former Bloc MP Suzanne Tremblay endorsed the QS candidate, who took a very strong third with 16.4%.

The Liberals gained two seats in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, traditionally the most nationalist region of Quebec. In Roberval, Philippe Couillard was easily elected, with 55.2% against 33.3% for the PQ incumbent. The seat had been held by the PQ since 2007, and the PQ had held the seat with an 18% majority in the last election. There was likely a strong personal vote for Couillard (drawn by the advantages of being represented by the Premier, given the likelihood of a PLQ victory by election day), in a region which has tended to vote for personality over party in both federal and provincial election. The PLQ also regained Dubuc, which it had gained in 2008 but lost to the PQ in 2012. Former Liberal MNA Serge Simard, who has a strong base in the arrondissement of La Baie (he was president of the arrondissement between 2002 and 2008), won the seat with a 9% majority over the PQ. The PQ held the three remaining seats by fairly comfortable margins.

One of the few regions where the PQ performed well was Gaspésie, where the party held the three seats on the Gaspé Peninsula – by solid margins. In Matane-Matapédia, popular local PQ MNA Pascal Bérubé actually increased his share of the vote from 59% to 61.2% (it may be the result of ‘normalization’ after 2012, when he was reelected in a larger redistributed riding with one part of the riding where he was not as well known). In Gaspé, gained from the PLQ on a huge swing in 2012, the PQ’s vote fell from 56.8% to 52% but it held the seat by a large majority. The most surprising result was perhaps Bonaventure, the Gaspé’s traditionally Liberal riding, which the PQ gained from the PLQ in 2012. The PQ held the seat with a 3.5% majority.

The PLQ regained the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, a predominantly Acadian archipelago in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence. The PQ had gained the seat from the Liberals, who had won it in 2008. Former Liberal MNA Germain Chevarie won 50.1% against 40.2% for the PQ incumbent.

On the Côte-Nord, the PQ held both seats but the margin in Duplessis, a geographically huge but sparsely populated riding, was surprisingly tight (a 1.6% majority for the PQ). In Duplessis, the PQ dominates the three main population centres, the northern industrial towns of Port-Cartier, Sept-Îles and Havre-Saint-Pierre, by wide margins, but there is a strong PLQ presence in small, extremely remote Anglophone fishing villages on the coast up to the Labrador border. In the far north of the province, the PLQ gained the seat of Ungava, Quebec’s largest riding (in terms of area). The seat had been held by the PQ since its creation in 1981, although by its demographics that may seem odd. Indeed, Ungava is 64% Native, split fairly equally between Cree and Inuit. However, turnout in the Inuit and Cree villages is extremely low (often below 20%) and while those who do vote generally vote Liberal, these Native villages net them relatively few vote; while the PQ usually dominates the white areas, notably the resource-based industrial town of Chibougamau, by huge margins (and turnout is much higher). In 2012, the PQ won 45.5% to 34.7% for the PLQ; this year, the PLQ won 42.4% to the PQ’s 33%.

Conclusion

The Quebec Liberals are back in power for four years, with Premier-elect Philippe Couillard leading a government with a strong majority in the National Assembly. He will likely enjoy a fairly easy first few months, given that attention will largely be on the PQ’s upcoming leadership contest. Defeated in her own riding, Pauline Marois announced her resignation as PQ leader on election night. What preceded her concession speech was fairly unusual (and, for some, rather unceremonious) and sets the scene for a leadership battle: before the defeated leader took to the stage, the three leading PQ politicians – Bernard Drainville (the minister of democratic institutions, who spearheaded the Charter), Jean-François Lisée (the minister of international relations) and Pierre-Karl Péladeau – each gave speeches, which largely consisted of traditional nationalist rhetoric to feed the crowd (who responded with slogans of on veut un pays – we want a country) and to prove their nationalist credentials. These three men also happen to be the three who come up most often in leadership speculation. Péladeau’s intentions are unclear, but I doubt his motivation to join politics was to sit as an opposition MNA (his intention was likely to serve as cabinet minister, perhaps later as Premier; in the absence of that, opposition leader might be the next best thing). The interim leader selected by the PQ, Stéphane Bédard, is seen as somebody close to PKP. It is unclear to what degree the PQ’s defeat can be attributed to PKP’s fist-pump, and whether, in the absence of that, he could have had a positive impact on the PQ or if he was going to be a net liability regardless. A PQ led by PKP would likely focus heavily on the core cause of sovereignty, while also signaling a shift to the right with the aim of appealing to CAQ supporters. Lisée would be a safe choice, close to the PQ’s social democratic roots, and may focus less heavily on sovereignty and nationalism but rather on progressive unity, aiming to reconquer votes lost on the left to QS. Drainville may be blamed for the Charter, but it is unclear to what extent the Charter hurt the PQ during the campaign; it would seem that the PQ’s desperate use of the Charter as a wedge issue hurt it, but the ideas of the Charter may remain popular with the Francophone electorate which the PQ needs to reconquer. Some other names have also come up: Véronique Hivon, the popular Joliette MNA who gained a province-wide profile and popularity with her handling of the euthanasia bill, a matter of consensus between all parties (which the new PLQ government will likely pass itself) or Alexandre Cloutier, a young MNA from the Saguenay.

Once again, the PQ faces the issue of how to reconcile its fundamental raison d’être (the independence of Quebec) with the political reality, which makes a referendum (let alone independence) very unlikely. The party is held together by the cause, and it has a militant base which remains strongly committed to independence; as such, the PQ often has a problem at responding to shifts in public opinion, at times appearing deaf to it. It has a tendency to double-down on rhetoric and preach to the converted; and it did so again on election night, when the PQ’s election night event showed no signs of abandoning the party’s core values and the cause.

In the meantime, the CAQ, with a surprisingly strong performance, comes out strengthened. The party is in a good position to benefit from the PQ’s troubles at reinventing itself, navigating a divisive leadership battle and re-adapting itself to being an opposition party; it is also in a good position to benefit from the gradual decline in the government’s popularity and the PLQ’s support. Many wonder if the CAQ could replace the PQ, and some even ask if the PQ may disappear entirely. Parties, even those which have held power, often disappear in Canadian federal and provincial politics – in Quebec, the most recent example is the slow death of the Union Nationale, which disappeared from provincial politics after 1976. The PQ still has a clear niche to fill (unlike the UN when it died), because there remains a significant minority of voters who still are dedicated nationalists; but even that niche is no longer the PQ’s sole preserve – it faces strong competition from QS (whose electorate is less homogeneously nationalist) and, to a much lesser extent, ON. Similarly, while the CAQ has the potential support to overtake the PQ to form the official opposition (as the ADQ had done in 2007, after all), it still has clear troubles breaking through on Montreal Island, which holds a large number of seats, and in regions such as the Gaspé, the Saguenay, Abitibi and Outaouais. The CAQ also has a fickle electorate, as it almost learned this year. A lot of their vote is a ‘NOTA’ vote, which does not necessarily express agreement with the CAQ’s policies but rather rejection of the other parties and the old nationalist/federalist divide.

Only time will tell if this election was an unremarkable anti-incumbent election or if it was the beginning of a realignment in provincial politics.

France 2014 (R2)

The second round of municipal elections were held in France on March 30, 2014. The second round of voting concerned all communes whose municipal councils were not elected by the first round. According to Le Monde, of the 9,734 communes (out of 36,681 in France) with over 1,000 inhabitants (all those communes voting using semi-proportional representation), 7,606 elected their council and mayor by the first round. I covered the complex structure, workings, powers and responsibilities of French municipal government as well as the details on the electoral systems in a first preview post. In a second preview post, I listed the major races in the main towns.

In the second round in communes with over 1,000 inhabitants, a plurality suffices to win. All lists which won over 10% of the vote in the first round are qualified, although they may choose to withdraw and/or merge with another qualified list. Lists which won under 10% but over 5% may merge with a qualified list. The list which wins is allocated half the seats in the municipal council. The other half is distributed proportionally to all lists, including the winning list, which have won over 5% of the vote. In Paris, Lyon and Marseille the electoral system is different. Although the above rules are in place, the election is not fought city-wide: instead, it is fought individually in arrondissements/sectors (20 in Paris, 9 in Lyon and 8 in Marseille).

I covered, in extensive detail, the results of the first round here.

Overview: Results

The second round confirmed, even amplified, the results of the first round: a landslide victory for the right-wing opposition, a defeat of monumental and historic proportions for the left and the strong result of the far-right.

According to preliminary results released by the Ministry of the Interior, turnout was 62.13%, down from 63.55% in the first round. It is, again, an historically low turnout for a municipal ballot since World War II, once again continuing the trend of declining turnout which began in 1983. I stick to what I said about the implications and explanations of lower turnout in my post on the first round: it is not catastrophic (it remains higher than in the last legislative, regional, cantonal and EU elections) and it owes a lot to the rise of ‘sporadic participation’ rather than a deep civic crisis.

Libération‘s excellent number-crunching is back, and as far as turnout is concerned, the trends are similar to the first round. Turnout was highest in Corsica and Le Réunion, which, partly because of their insular nature, have a close connection to local politics (and in both cases they are also very clan-based, especially in Corsica) and higher interest for local elections than national elections. Turnout was also rather high in smaller communes where the far-right had qualified for the runoff and was seen as having a serious chance of winning. According to Libé’s list of the top 10 communes (with over 10,000 inhabitants) with the highest turnout, two communes in the Gard where the FN was the favourite to win saw low abstention – 23.7% in Beaucaire (which the FN won) and 24.1% in Saint-Gilles (which it lost). In contrast, turnout remained the lowest in low-income communes – 61% abstention in Villiers-le-Bel, 58.7% in Evry, 56.7% in Vaulx-en-Velin or 55.6% in Roubaix.

Libération reports that turnout increased, on average, from the first round in the 540 towns with over 10,000 inhabitants which voted on March 30. Abstention had been 43.6% on March 23 in those communes, and was 41.1% on March 30. Turnout also increased in nearly all cities where the FN had placed first on March 23: +14.8% in Avignon, the most publicized city; +14.6% in Mantes-la-Ville (Yvelines); +12.2% in Hayange; +12.1% in Forbach; +9.86% in Cluses (Haute-Savoie); +7.12% in Béziers or +4.36% in Perpignan. But there is no correlation between increased turnout and FN defeats – the FN won Mantes-la-Ville, Hayange and Béziers. Turnout also increased in other high-stakes races: Marseille-7, Grenoble, Villejuif, Le Blanc-Mesnil or Ajaccio. This seems to further confirm that idea of ‘sporadic participation’ tied to interest in the stakes of the election rather than civic duty to vote regardless.

The left – and the government, by extension – suffered an historic and monumental defeat in the second round. A few numbers explain the situation. I have focused my analysis, because I’m an individual and not working for a newspaper which pays me or hires me assistants, on the 259 communes with a population over 30,000 inhabitants (ideally, 10,000+ would be an even better threshold, but that’d be 946 communes).

Table 1: Results in communes with over 30,000 inhabitants (France + DOM)

Party Inc. Hold Lost Gain Final Net +/-
FG 34 20 14 2 22 -12
PS 99 50 49 6 56 -43
DVG 12 6 6 6 12 nc
EELV 2 1 1 1 2 nc
PRG 3 0 3 0 0 -3
Regionalist 0 0 0 1 1 +1
MoDem 5 5 0 1 6 +1
UDI 23 20 3 9 29 +6
UMP 71 66 5 44 110 +39
DVD 10 9 1 10 19 +9
FN/EXD 0 0 0 2 2 +2
Source: own work

Overall, the right (and MoDem, since all but one of their mayors were elected as right-wing candidates) now controls 164 communes with over 30,000 inhabitants – 63.3% – while the left (FG-PS-DVG-EELV) – now controls 92 communes with over 30,000 inhabitants – 35.5%. Two are governed by the far-right and one by a regionalist. Before the election, the tables were reversed: the left held 150 and the right held 109 – 57.9% to 42.1%. Using the data (1959 to 1995) from Pierre Martin’s Les élections municipales en France, which tracked the % of cities with over 30,000 inhabitants (at the time of the election – so there were far less communes with over 30,000 people in 1959 than in 2014), I have drawn up a graph showing the evolution of partisan control of communes which had over 30,000 at the time of the election2014 marks the widest victory for the right since my data begins (probably the biggest since 1947): the previous record is 2001 (a very similar sample in terms of actual communes, 245 in total), when the right controlled 55.5% of towns. It falls short of the left’s landslide in 1977, when it held 72% of the 221 communes with over 30,000 people back then. The right’s gains in 2014 totally erase (and expand beyond) the right’s loses in 2008, when the governing UMP-led right suffered a major defeat at the hands of the PS-led opposition. The right’s gains in 2014 are also bigger than the right’s gains in 1983, the other major ‘blue wave’ election in which the right gained 35 of the 220 communes with over 30,000 inhabitants from the left (which fell from controlling 67.7% of these towns to controlling 51.8%; -15.9%). Overall, it is the right’s biggest victory in any municipal election under the Fifth Republic.

% of cities of over 30,000 inhabitants (at time of election) controlled by each party, 1959-2014

% of cities of over 30,000 inhabitants (at time of election) controlled by each party, 1959-2014

On the right, the UMP, as the largest party, enjoyed the most substantial gains – a net gain of 39 cities, losing five cities (2 to the PS, 1 to the FN; the other 2 were ‘lost’ to other right-wing candidates) and gaining 44 others, including 42 from the left (32 of them from the PS). The UMP controls 42.5% of cities with over 30,000 people. The UDI also enjoyed some major gains, a net gain of 6 with a loss of 3 cities (all of them to other right-wing candidates) and gaining 9 others. Additionally, ten cities were gained by DVD candidates (right-wing independents, dissidents) with only one loss (Fréjus, to the FN). The MoDem gained one city – and not the least of them – MoDem leader François Bayrou was elected in Pau, winning the seat from the PS.

On the left, the PS suffered major loses – it held only 50 of its 99 incumbents, lost 49 and gained only 6 cities (and only 2 from the right – Avignon and Douai). Overall, the PS now controls only 21.6% of cities with over 30,000 people – that’s its lowest result since 1971, when the PS won only 20.7% of cities which had 30,000 people back then.

The FG (mostly PCF, all but two of the FG cities are held by the PCF, and the other two are held by PCF dissidents who are now members of the small Fédération pour une alternative sociale et écologique/Ensemble) also suffered major loses, making this the worst municipal election for the PCF. It held 20 cities, but lost 14 and gained only 2. The PCF lost two cities to the PS – Bagnolet and Vaulx-en-Velin – and regained one from the PS – Aubervilliers – and one from EELV – Montreuil. The PCF lost towns such as Saint-Ouen, Le Blanc-Meslin, Villepinte and Bobigny to the right; places which it has no business losing. In La Réunion, the Reunionese Communist Party (PCR) was absolutely crushed, losing all 5 of the Reunionese cities which it controlled. Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s PG lost the only city it held, Viry-Châtillon, to the UDI.

The PRG lost all 3 cities which it held, it is now left without any city with over 30,000 inhabitants. Its largest city appears to be Saumur (pop. 27,093) in the Maine-et-Loire, which was gained by the PRG (a former mayor and deputy) from the UMP incumbent. DVG (left-wing independents, PS dissidents) candidates had a better time; but their gains only came from within the left (PS dissidents winning La Rochelle, Dunkerque, Montpellier and a left-right alliance led by a DVG candidate winning Nevers from the PS; PCR loses to DVG candidates in two places in La Réunion). EELV, ultimately, was the only party which can be pleased with its performance – although it lost Montreuil, the big story of the night was the victory in Grenoble, defeating the PS. In Villejuif, a UMP-led alliance including the right and EELV defeated a PCF incumbent (it is counted as a UMP gain).

In terms of the most important cities – the 41 cities with over 100,000 people – the left controlled 29 and the right had 12 prior to the election; now the right controls 22 against 19 for the left.

The right gained many important cities from the left: Toulouse, Reims, Saint-Étienne, Angers, Limoges, Tours, Amiens, Caen, Argenteuil, Roubaix, Tourcoing, Colombes, Asnières-sur-Seine, Aulnay-sous-Bois, Pau, Ajaccio, Quimper, Valence, Chambéry, La Roche-sur-Yon and Belfort (among hundreds of others). In the first round, the right had already gained a few mid-sized towns from the left – Niort, Clamart and Chalon-sur-Saône (among others). The left, in contrast, had very little success – even those cities where, after the first round, it still held a good chance of winning (Bourges, Calais) it lost; it only gained two towns with over 30,000 people – Avignon and Douai. Some smaller towns gained by the left include Verdun, Longwy, Lourdes, Saumur, Dourdan and Mamoudzou (the largest city in Mayotte). This is to say nothing of the places where the PS was optimistic prior to March 23 but where it was actually crushed – Marseille remaining the classic example.

The FN/far-right gained two towns with over 30,000 people – Béziers and Fréjus. It also won the 7th sector of Marseille, which has a population of 150,326. The far-right’s other victories are Cogolin (Var), Beaucaire (Gard), Bollène (Vaucluse) Villers-Côterets (Aisne), Le Pontet (Vaucluse), Le Luc (Var), Camaret-sur-Aigues (Vaucluse), Hayange (Moselle) and Mantes-la-Ville (Yvelines). In the first round, the far-right had gained Hénin-Beaumont (Pas-de-Calais) and held Orange (Vaucluse). The cities of Orange, Bollène and Camaret-sur-Aigues in the Vaucluse are held by the Ligue du Sud, a small local far-right party led by Jacques Bompard, the député maire of Orange since 1995 and a former member of the FN. The FN was defeated in other of its high-profile target cities – Avignon, Perpignan, Forbach, Brignoles, Saint-Gilles and Tarascon.

The runoff confirmed the undeniable success of the FN in these elections. For example, in 1995, the FN’s previous municipal success, the FN had won four towns (including Toulon), all in the southeast. Now the FN controls ten towns and one sector of Marseille (with over 150,000 people no less), four of which are outside the old far-right bases of the southeast.

There will be a lot of focus on how the FN manages the towns it now controls. The far-right’s record in city halls between 1995 and 2001, most significantly in Toulon and Vitrolles, is widely seen as very negative – famous for defunding some community organizations, censorship in the municipal libraries and financial mismanagement. Marine Le Pen admitted that mistakes were made in the past by FN administrations, and promised that errors would not be repeated. FN municipalities, she says, will not be ideological laboratories, seek to implement the more ‘radical’ aspects of the platform or disobey republican law (for example, FN mayors celebrating gay marriages despite the FN’s opposition to the law). A lot of the new FN mayors’ platforms focused on similar issues: security (increasing the size and power of the municipal police), lowering taxes and favouring the return of small businesses to pauperized downtown areas. Marine Le Pen has said that FN mayors will ban menus offering religious alternatives (to pork) in school cafeterias.

However, it is important to relativize the FN’s success. The runoff results showed, once again, the limits to the FN’s growth and all underline that the FN is not going to win power nationally anytime soon. The FN’s results in many municipalities, including a lot where it had no-name paper candidates, were better than Marine Le Pen’s 2012 result, something of a high-water mark for the FN. In those municipalities where the FN is well rooted thanks to local candidates, star candidates or something in the form of a serious party organization, the FN’s results in the first and second round beat the FN’s results in those same places from the 2012 presidential and legislative election. In the second round in those towns, the FN made further gains – improving on its first round result by about 8 to 14% – for example, a +14.1% gain in one week in Cogolin (Var) or +10.7% in Perpignan.

According to an Ifop study, the FN vote increased by 9.3% in duel (two-way) runoffs and by 2.5% in triangulaires against a divided right or left (2 leftist or 2 rightist lists). In 1995, the FN had gained 4.1% between the two rounds in two-way runoffs.

However, the FN’s victories (outside Orange and Bollène, already held by far-right mayors; and Hénin-Beaumont’s victory in the first round) in every town except Cogolin came in triangulaires/quadrangulaires – three or four-way runoffs in which the FN won with less than 50% of the vote, in some cases less than 40% (Hayange, Beaucaire). In other cases, the putative ‘republican fronts’ in Saint-Gilles, Brignoles and Perpignan (PS candidates withdrawing from the race to block the FN) were successful – the UMP candidates, who in all cases had placed second in the first round, won. In Fréjus, the PS candidate did withdraw, but the division of the right between the UMP and the incumbent DVD mayor (expelled from the UMP due to indictment in a corruption scandal) played a large role in allowing the FN to win. In Forbach, there was a strong increase in turnout and an unofficial ‘republican front’ by DVD/UMP voters from the first round voting for the PS incumbent to block the FN’s Florian Philippot. In Villeneuve-Saint-Georges (Val-de-Marne), a strong increase in turnout and perhaps imperfect transfers allowed the PCF incumbent to narrowly win reelection against a merged UMP/FN list (the UMP disendorsed its list after its alliance with the FN). Together, in the first round, the UMP and FN lists accounted for 57.8% of the vote, but won 49.8% in the runoff (although it won more raw votes than the raw votes won by the UMP and FN lists in the first round).

Finally, in many triangulaire runoffs where the FN qualified as a very distant third (with about 10-15%) and no chances to win, the FN vote – as has been the case historically – declined from the first round. First round FN voters, when the FN has no chance in the second round, prefer to vote for a viable list/candidate (often the right) or ‘return to the fold’ after having protested in the first round by voting FN. According to Ifop, the FN vote fell by 2.5% in classic triangulaires and by 1% in quadrangulaires/quinquangulaires (4 and 5-way runoffs). There was a clear strategic dimension in the FN’s decline in 3-way runoffs: according to Ifop, in triangulaires which saw the commune switch from left to right, the FN vote fell by 4.8% on average whereas in communes which switched from right to left, the FN vote in the triangulaire rose by 0.4%. Individual cases confirm this: in cities which switched to the right, such as Aubagne, Marmande, Maubeuge and Soissons, the FN vote fell significantly in the second round.

There are, therefore, clear limits to the FN’s growth. It is clearly on the upswing, it has a much larger electoral potential than in the past and the climate is favourable to the FN. But the FN is not going to win a presidential election anytime soon.

Finally, as many have pointed out, the FN’s ‘landslide’ netted 12 communes – out of 36,681. Of course, the FN ‘only’ ran 585 or so lists. It won 4.76% in the first round, but taking only those places which had a FN list, it won about 16.5% on average. Secondly, it is extremely tough for the FN – moreso than any other major party – to win elections – it remains repulsive to a majority of voters who say that they would never vote for the FN; and it has no alliances with other parties, meaning that it isolated. In complete isolation in the French electoral system, parties have trouble winning elections outside their strongholds – this was the case for the PCF in 1958.

The FG has argued that, with 22 cities with over 30,000 people, it is a far more relevant and powerful party than the FN despite the media’s heavy focus and interest with the FN. There is a dose of truth to that comment. As far as institutional control, political representation in law-making or deliberative assemblies and influence over policy is concerned, the FG is indeed more powerful than the FN. Despite major loses this year, the PCF retains significant strength in municipal government and it has far more municipal councillors than the FN/far-right does. However, as far as real electoral support is concerned, the FN is more powerful than the FG.

Le Monde‘s excellent new fact-checking blog has a post detailing the performance of 618 lists marked as FG, PCF or PG by the interior ministry (this excludes dissident lists, lists including FG members led by other parties and FG-led lists like those of some PCF incumbents supported by the PS in the first round). They obtained an average of 10.7% where they ran- although PCF lists won 25% on average, while FG and PG lists won 9% and 6% on average. In 214 towns where both FG and FN lists were in direct competition, the FN placed ahead in 177 cases.

The Interior Ministry has also published nationwide results (list vote) here and here. Handling that data is very tricky, because of the ambiguous nature of the labels assigned to each list, the unequal presence of each ‘label’ across the territory and the arbitrary and silly way in which these labels are crafted and assigned (often with partisan spin/political communication aims) by the interior ministry. They make it impossible to accurately track an individual party’s performance, because said party will often have had different strategies from place to place – first round alliances with others here, autonomous list here, another type of alliance there and no list in some places. Nevertheless, if we ignored the individual labels and group them in broader categories, an imperfect but somewhat instructive image can be drawn. The first round offers the most accurate image, because all communes voted – in the second round, only a small number of communes actually voted. In the first round, the left (PS, DVG, union of the left, Greens) won 35.1% against 43.1% for the right (UMP, DVD, union of the right). The far-left and FG won 3.7%, the centre (MoDem, UDI, union of the centre) won 3.3% and the far-right/FN won 4.9%. The other 10% went to divers (miscellaneous), a horrendous label which designates the non-partisan/independent lists which often dominate the smaller communes now voting under the list system (which used to vote under the majority system until the 2013 reforms).

Distribution of seats in municipal councils by bloc, communes over 1,000 ppl (own work, data collated from MoI)

Distribution of seats in municipal councils by bloc, communes over 1,000 ppl (own work, data collated from MoI)

Overall, in terms of councillors, the right won 46% of the seats (48% including the UDI and union of the centre lists, excluding the MoDem) against 33% for the left, with 16% for ‘miscellaneous’ lists, 3% for the centre, 1% for the far-left/FG and less than 1% for the far-right. That is 99,151 seats for the right throughout all communes with over 1,000 inhabitants against 70,126 for the left, 34,703 for others, 7,014 for the centre, 2,905 for the far-left/FG and 1,646 for the far-right/FN. The ‘miscellaneous’ seats disproportionately come from smaller communes: 80% were elected in communes with less than 3,500 people, the old cutoff between majority and list voting prior to 2013. Nevertheless, likely due to changes in definitions of labels by the interior ministry since 2008, in communes with over 3,500 people, then number of miscellaneous councillors has increased by 4,920 (from 1,270 to 6,190).

Within both left and right, most seats were won by DVD and DVG list – a broad label used for major party dissidents but also independent lists with a general ideological orientation (there are also reports of some lists labelled as DVD/DVG etc against their wishes) – DVD lists won 76,344 seats and DVG lists won 44,260 seats. Again, most of the DVD and DVG lists came from smaller communes – 66% of DVG and 62% of DVD councillors from communes with a population inferior to 3,500. In larger cities, the largest lists on the left and right are the union lists, referring to composite lists supported by the major parties of both sides (PS, PRG, Greens and PCF for the left; UMP, UDI for the right).

1,646 seats for the far-right – 1,544 of which are from the FN – may not seem particularly impressive, in that it’s only 0.7% of all seats. But it is impressive if you consider that the FN only ran in a minority of communes and if you compare 2014 to 2008. In communes with over 3,500 people in 2008, the FN’s lowest ebb, the party (and additional far-right lists) won only 71 seats. In 2014, in communes with over 3,500 people, the FN and the far-right won 1,582 seats – a gain of 1,511 seats (which isn’t much if you consider the right gained 7,035 seats and the left lost 9,436 seats; but still impressive once you keep in mind the FN’s limited presence and the electoral system which grants only very limited representation to losing parties).

Aftermath: Valls Government

After the left’s defeat in the first round, the political buzz in France was that a cabinet shuffle – including, most likely, a change of Prime Ministers – would take place after the second round. Originally, the government had likely thought that it could delay a shuffle until after the European elections in May, which will be bloodier for the PS. But the PS and the left’s poorer than expected performance on March 23 forced Hollande to anticipate the cabinet shuffle.

On March 31, the day after the second round, Hollande addressed the nation in a televised statement in which he said that he had ‘understood’ the message which voters had sent him. A few hours before his speech, it was announced and confirmed that Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault had resigned and that Hollande had nominated Manuel Valls, the Minister of the Interior, to replace him. Hollande confirmed in his televised message that he had asked Valls to lead a gouvernement de combat (combative government). In his speech, Hollande recognized the ‘difficult choices’ he had made, reiterated his government’s commitment to job creation (through private businesses: expressly saying that companies create jobs), his ‘pact of responsibility’ (lower payroll taxes for businesses in exchange for jobs created) and pressing forward with spending cuts. He mentioned a new ‘pact of solidarity’, which he says is aimed at education, social security and purchasing power but which also seems to be the latest way of disguising spending cuts.

Manuel Valls is a 51-year old Spanish (Catalan)-born rising star in the PS, widely seen as belonging to the party’s right. He entered party politics at a very young age, first as a supporter of Prime Minister Michel Rocard (the leader of a reformist and modernist social democratic wing, at odds with Rocard’s sworn enemy, President François Mitterrand) and later, in the 1990s, as a supporter of Lionel Jospin. In 2001, he was elected mayor of the low-income suburban banlieue town of Évry in the Essonne, and won the corresponding constituency in 2002. Within the party, Valls gained a reputation as a maverick iconoclast who challenged the party orthodoxy from a Blairite/Third Way angle. In 2009, he proposed changing the party’s name to modernize its ideological orientation. As mayor of a banlieue with criminality problems and fears of ‘ghettoisation’ (social segregation), Valls has also had a strong reputation as a tough-on-crime and ‘security’-oriented politician. In 2009, he controversially lamented the lack of social diversity in Évry by regretting the lack of whites.

Valls has clear presidential ambitions and despite his youth, low profile and iconoclastic positions in the PS, he ran in the 2011 open primaries. He strongly criticized the other candidates for not telling the truth and being honest about their policies, criticized them as demagogues and presented himself as a straight-talker who wasn’t afraid to challenge dogma. In early 2011, he caused a ruckus by calling to ‘unlock’ the 35-hour workweek (brought in by labour minister Martine Aubry during the Jospin government, considered sacrosanct by most of the PS) and increasing working hours by 2-3 hours. He otherwise took fairly fiscally orthodox policies on spending and budget, proposed an increase in the VAT to create jobs and had positions similar to those taken up by Hollande’s responsibility pact in 2014. Valls won 5.7% in the primaries, a weak result but he achieved his goal – gain standing and prominence in the PS, impose himself as a key figure in the PS.

Valls became interior minister in the Ayrault government and quickly became one of the government’s most popular cabinet ministers – maintaining approval ratings in the 50-60% range, including solid numbers with right-wing sympathizers. Valls’ ministry continued to deport undocumented migrants, dismantle Roma encampments, preached a hardline policy against crime and violence (extremist, criminal or otherwise – he intervened to ban an event by anti-Semitic ‘comedian’ Dieudonné and dissolved right-wing extremist movements); at times, it’s hard to spot obvious differences between Valls and his right-wing predecessors, whom the PS had criticized. Before becoming cabinet minister, Valls had come out in favour of immigration quotas.

In September 2013, Valls said that, with few exceptions, it was ‘impossible’ to integrate the Roma population into French society (because of ‘different lifestyles’) and that the only solution was to dismantle the camps and return occupants to their country of origin. A few months prior, Valls had said that the Roma were intended to stay in Romania or return there. Valls’ comments sparked outrage on the left, including within the government and from the Greens. In October 2013, Leonarda Dibrani, a 15-year old undocumented immigrant from Kosovo attending a French school, was arrested during a school field trip and deported to Kosovo. Valls’ behaviour as responsible minister once again raised debate and criticism on the left. Hollande was forced to intervene, and he haplessly proposed a compromise: while supporting the decision, he proposed that Leonarda be allowed to return, alone, to complete her studies (she refused). On the left, the decision was criticized (even the leader of the PS, Harlem Désir, signaled his disapproval) on humanitarian grounds. The right attacked Hollande’s “indecision”, denounced a terrible blow to the authority of the State and Marine Le Pen called on him to resign for humiliating France. The UMP proposed abolishing jus soli, Valls talked of reforming asylum policy.

Valls’ nomination can be interpreted in different ways. Firstly, it may mark a clear shift in government style. Ayrault was a close ally of Hollande, more akin to a collaborator than a head of government, and was widely seen as sorely lacking leadership and the government as lacking coherence and solidarity. Valls is more of a rival to Hollande (although not publicly) and he is unlikely to settle down as a collaborator; he likely intends to be more offensive and assertive both within cabinet and in public opinion. He has already laid out six principles: clarity, collegiality, efficiency, legal soundness, coordinated communication and better relations with Parliament (denouncing legislative inflation).

Another interpretation, more Machiavellian, is that the Prime Ministerial position will act a major check (probably temporary, given his relatively young age) on his presidential ambitions. It is no secret that the job of Prime Minister is traditionally a thankless one, especially when times are bad. No sitting Prime Minister under the Fifth Republic has ever been elected President (Chirac lost in 1988, Balladur lost in 1995 and Jospin lost in 2002; Pierre Messmer’s potential candidacy didn’t come to fruition in 1974) and former Prime Ministers have generally had it though too (Chaban-Delmas was defeated in 1974, Barre was defeated in 1988). Prior to 2002/2007, the Prime Minister, especially in times of cohabitation, was on the frontline of politics and received the blame for unpopular policy, government mishaps and the general climate. Since 2002, in the absence of cohabitation and the trend towards a more assertive presidency under Sarkozy and Hollande, the Prime Minister hasn’t been on the frontlines as much but nevertheless still became relatively/very unpopular (Raffarin and Villepin under Chirac both become very unpopular, largely for their own mistakes and unpopular policies; Fillon was more effaced and had a better image than Sarkozy and maintained higher ratings, though still fell in popularity; Ayrault was very effaced but his popularity collapse along that of Hollande). The Machiavellian could be that Hollande pulled a François Mitterrand and named a key political rival to Matignon to kill him off – like Mitterrand had done with Rocard, although Rocard was still popular when he was fired in 1991 and Mitterrand needed to go all-out to finish him off in the 1994 European elections. But Hollande, like Chirac, doesn’t seem to think in such Machiavellian terms. Indeed, there are reports that Hollande tried every possible option to avoid having to nominate Valls – he proposed the office to defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, an ally of the President.

Ideologically, Valls’ nomination may be seen as a shift to the right by the government. Indeed, many on the left remain suspicious of Valls and the government’s opponents on the left (led by Mélenchon’s PG) have been very critical of Valls’ nomination – Mélenchon said that Hollande didn’t understand the message of the election and confirmed his alliance with the Medef (the employers’ association). EELV had already been rather critical of Valls – Cécile Duflot, Ayrault’s housing minister and former EELV leader, had strongly criticized Valls’ comments on the Roma – and after his nomination, the two EELV ministers (Duflot and Pascal Canfin) announced that they would not join Valls’ cabinet. There was some discussion about other Green ministers, and Valls met with EELV and proposed the creation of large environment ministry, 3 portfolios and a dose of proportional representation (promised by Hollande in 2012, mysteriously forgotten…). EELV’s executive voted against participation in the Valls government on April 1, preferring ‘critical support without participation’. The right, perhaps a bit worried in private, publicly acted unimpressed with Valls’ nomination, pointing out his record as interior minister and generally noting that his nomination did not signal a shift in policy. Copé called for a break with the ‘socialist model’.

A cabinet of 16 members, with 8 men and 8 women, was announced on April 2. What retained attention across the world was Ségolène Royal, the PS’ 2007 presidential candidate and François Hollande’s former girlfriend (and mother of their four children), who returned to government as Minister of the Environment (an office she had held from 1992 to 1993 under Pierre Bérégovoy) and ranking second behind Laurent Fabius, confirmed as foreign minister, in the official protocol. Royal was defeated by a PS dissident candidate in the 2012 legislative elections, seeing her dream of becoming president of the National Assembly shut down. Since then, she has lobbied publicly and privately to regain national political prominence, never missing a media appearance or a chance to comment on her ex-boyfriend’s performance. After Hollande broke up with his girlfriend Valérie Trierweiler, who had tweeted her support for Royal’s PS rival (whilst the PS, hence Hollande, were supporting Royal) in the 2012 legislative election, there were several reports that Hollande met with Royal more often.

The new cabinet also saw the promotion of a number of cabinet ministers. Benoît Hamon, a young member of the PS’ left-wing, who was only junior minister for the social economy and consumption in the Ayrault government, was promoted to Minister of National Education, Higher Education and Research – replacing Vincent Peillon, who had implemented a controversial reform of the school-week (increasing it from 4 days to 4.5 days) and confronted some teachers in 2013 over a reform of their status. Arnaud Montebourg, who had placed third in the 2011 PS primaries with 17.2% on a left-wing platform preaching ‘deglobalization’ and had served as industry minister (officially ‘Minister for Productive Recovery’) under Ayrault, became Minister of the Economy. Montebourg did not impress much as industry minister, besides various stunts (‘Made in France’), embarrassing fumbles (proposing the nationalization of ArcelorMittal’s steel mill in Florange before being shot down by Ayrault) and his usual flamboyant behaviour. He has remained critical of austerity while in cabinet (but the PS continues to be rhetorically anti-austerity but implementing austerity policies at the same time), although he supported the Gallois report in 2012, which foreshadowed Hollande’s responsibility pact by calling to lower costs on employers (payroll taxes, social security payments) by raising some taxes (VAT) and cutting spending. Montebourg and Hamon, although both rhetorically on the left of the PS, found common ground with Valls in being the leading opponents of Ayrault in the old government. Montebourg famously confronted Ayrault (in private, but revealed by a book) by telling him that he ran France like the municipal council of Nantes and that he was “pissing off the entire earth” (tu fais chier la terre entière) with the Notre-Dame-des-Landes airport.

Montebourg will share office with Michel Sapin, an ally of Hollande and outgoing labour minister (who presided over worsening unemployment), who becomes Minister of Finance. The old economy and finance portfolio, held by Pierre Moscovici, who is removed from cabinet with the promise of being European Commissioner, is therefore split – like in Germany – between economy and finance. Sapin will be in charge of fiscal policy and the budget. Montebourg retains his industry portfolio, the ‘digital economy’, crafts and small businesses, the social economy and consumption. He’ll notably oversee the ‘responsibility pact’. Montebourg’s ministry is currently fighting with Fabius’ ministry for international trade, which was a separate formal cabinet position in the old government. Sapin and Montebourg promise concertation and a collegial decisions, but many are worried over the high likelihood of dissonance and clashes, especially because Montebourg is a hothead who loves himself very dearly.

Christiane Taubira was retained as Minister of Justice, despite public disagreements with Valls on her judicial reform (considered as lax and weak by Valls and the right) and a kerfuffle over the Sarkozy wiretaps right before the municipal elections. Jean-Yves Le Drian, close to Hollande, kept his defense portfolio where he has been quite popular. Following a disagreement between Hollande and Valls on the interior ministry – with Hollande favouring his friend, François Rebsamen (the mayor of Dijon and the president of the PS group in the Senate) and Valls favouring Jean-Jacques Urvoas (a Finistère deputy known for his focus on security issues) – the portfolio was given to Bernard Cazeneuve, an ally of Hollande who was the junior minister for the budget in the old government. Rebsamen instead joined government as labour minister. Marisol Touraine, the health minister, was returned as Minister of Social Affairs, but people have pointed out that the word ‘health’ no longer appears in her (or any other) title!

Aurélie Filippetti kept her job as Minister of Culture and Communication, where she did a relatively good job. Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the young (36) women’s rights minister saw her job upgraded to the convoluted and messy ‘Minister of Women’s Right, the City, Youth and Sports’, although she relinquished her government spokesperson position to Stéphane Le Foll, a loyal hollandiste who kept his job as agriculture minister. Marylise Lebranchu was retained as Minister of Decentralization, State Reform and the Civil Service. Victorin Lurel, the overseas minister from Guadeloupe, was replaced by Georges Pau-Langevin (born in Guadeloupe but a metropolitan politician), who previously held the chair-warming job of junior minister for educational success. Sylvia Pinel, the Minister for Crafts, Commerce and Tourism in the old government replaced Duflot as Minister of Housing and Territorial Equality, despite a very unimpressive record as crafts/artisans minister – it’s almost certainly because Pinel is from the PRG, which needed a spot (Taubira is also affiliated with the PRG).

On April 9, 14 secretaries of state (who only sit on the council of ministers when their portfolio is being discussed) were named. Notably, Harlem Désir, the first secretary of the PS since 2012, whose leadership was criticized and faced some demands for his resignation following the municipal defeat, was named Secretary of State for European Affairs. Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, who was the other candidate in line for the party leadership at the 2012 Toulouse Congress, will likely replace him as PS leader.

There have been a lot of comments – mostly negative or underwhelmed – about the government, concerned about the high potential for continued dissonance, incoherence, turf wars and unilateralism from the hotheads (Royal, Montebourg).

Results: Main cities

Paris

Arr. PS-EELV-PCF-PRG^ UMP-UDI-MD DVD PG
2 58.24 (2) 41.76
3 60.44 (2) 39.55 (1)
4 50.26 (2) 49.73
5 48.7 (1) 51.29 (3)
7 20.33 55.46 (4) 24.3
8 19.35 56.44 (3) 24.2
9 49.63 (1) 50.36 (3)
10 66.04 (6) 33.95 (1)
11 64.37 (9) 35.62 (2)
12 53.04 (8) 46.95 (2)
13 62.42 (11) 37.57 (2)
14 53.08 (8) 46.91 (2)
15 36.62 (3) 63.37 (15)
18 62.42 (12) 37.57 (3)
19 64.45 (12) 35.54 (2)
20 55.07 (11) 31.26 (2) 13.66 (1)
Paris 53.33 (91) 44.06 (71) 1.26 1.35 (1)

In one of the rare successes for the left on March 30, they successfully held Paris, allowing the PS’ Anne Hidalgo to be elected as the first woman mayor of Paris and to succeed her mentor, retiring PS mayor Bertrand Delanoë (2001-2014). Overall, the left has 92 seats (one for the PG, which won one seat running independently in the 20th arrdt) against 71 for the right, a relatively minor change from 2008 when the left won 98 seats to the right/MoDem’s 65 seats. The left is advantaged not only by the city’s shift to the left in the past decades, but also by the US Electoral College-like electoral system which gives the left a clear advantage in a close contest such as this one because the left’s strongholds (especially the 11th, 13th, 18th, 19th and 20th arrdt) are far more populous (and hence elect more seats to the council) than the right’s strongholds (6th, 7th, 8th, 16th).

The outcome of the election hinged on two arrondissements, both must-wins for the right: the 12th and 14th arrondissements, two historically right-leaning sectors which were held by the right until the PS’ victory in 2001 and have swung to the left in national elections, with Hollande winning 58.9% and 60.3% in those two arrondissements in 2012. UMP mayoral candidate Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet (NKM) was the UMP’s top candidate in the 14th arrondissement, while the young sitting municipal councillor Valérie Montandon was the UMP’s top candidate in the 12th. The 12th is, like Paris, predominantly middle-class with a mix of young, highly-educated professionals (leaning left) and an older, more established bourgeoisie on the right; although there’s also a significant number of residents in low-rent housing (HLM). The 14th is rather similar, although with a slightly larger share of the population lives in HLM. In the first round, the PS had already placed ahead of the UMP in both arrondissements, and the added support of EELV lists (10.1% and 8.8% in those two arrondissements respectively) gave the left a clear advantage over the left, although in the 14th, NKM’s list merged with a dissident list led by local candidate Marie-Claire Carrère-Gée (5.7%, backed by Charles Beigbeder’s Paris libéré coalition of right-wing dissidents).

It was therefore not a huge surprise when the PS held both arrondissements with a much reduced but comfortable majority – and nearly identical ones in both (53.04% and 53.08% for the PS-EELV lists respectively). With the loss of those two critical arrondissements, the right’s fate was definitely sealed. This link shows results by precincts for the second round. In the 14th, the UMP won a number of precincts in the north of the arrondissement, relatively wealthier and more bourgeois.

The UMP did regain one arrondissement from the left – the 9th (with 50.4%) – and came within 55 votes of gaining another, the 4th arrondissement, from the PS. But victory in either (or both) arrondissement was insufficient – against the 12th and 14th which elect 1o councillors, the 9th returns only 4 and the even smaller 4th (in downtown Paris) has only 2 councillors now. In the 4th, the UMP won well over 60% of the vote on the two precincts covering L’Île de la Cité and L’Île Saint-Louis, the two natural islands in the Seine which attract only a select few because of the exorbitant housing prices. In the 9th, another ‘border’ arrondissement between the leftist east and rightist west, there is a clear divide between the east and west within the arrondissement. In the bourgeois western neighborhoods of the 9th, bordering the bourgeois hotbed of the 8th, the UMP list did very well – peaking at nearly 70% in one precinct; in the east, demographically similar to the relatively poorer and ‘bobo’ areas of the 10th, the left won.

In the 7th and 8th, two of Paris’ wealthiest arrondissements and conservative strongholds of the bourgeoisie for over a hundred years, the UMP won easily but their main opposition came from right-wing dissidents. In the 7th, incumbent UMP mayor Rachida Dati, who has been criticized for absenteeism and not giving much to her office, had faced no less than four DVD lists in the first round. Only one remained standing, that led by former maire adjoint Christian Le Roux, who won 17.8% in the first round and increased his support to 24.3% in the runoff. Across the Seine, in the 8th, the UMP won 56.4%, but Charles Beigbeder’s Paris libéré list (which merged with another dissident list which had won 5.2% in the first round) placed second with 24.2%. In both cases, the left, extremely weak in both these right-wing strongholds, placed third with about 20%.

In the 20th arrondissement, the city’s most left-wing arrondissement, the left was divided. The 20th was the only arrondissement where, after the first round, the PG list (led locally by the PG’s mayoral candidate Danielle Simonnet) could maintain itself. With the PS seemingly uninterested by an alliance with the PG, there was no agreement reached and Simonnet’s list maintained itself (like in the 7th and 8th for the right, the 20th is so left-wing that there was no risk whatsoever that a divided left in the second round could lose to a united right). Simonnet won 13.7%, up from 10.4% in the first round – enough for her to win a single seat for herself in the city council (the PG list needed 12.5% of the vote to qualify for a seat on council).

With the addition of the four arrondissements held by the UMP in the first round (1, 6, 16, 17), Anne Hidalgo’s PS-EELV-PCF-PRG majority finds itself with 91 seats against 71 for the UMP-UDI-MoDem and 1 for the PG. Within the left, the PS-PCF has 75 seats, down from 87 for the PS-PCF-PRG in 2008, while EELV increases its caucus from 11 seats to 16. On the right, the UMP has 55 seats – up 3 – while the UDI-MoDem has 16 – up 5.

The overall result in the 16 out of 20 arrondissements which had a second round was 53.3% for Hidalgo against 44.1% for NKM. But those numbers are meaningless; the four arrondissements elected in the first round all went heavily for the right. This article from Slate asks if the left won the popular vote across the city. CSA, a pollster, estimated that the overall vote in the ‘decisive round’ (so the first round for arrondissements 1, 6, 16 and 17) was 48.8% for Hidalgo against 46.2% for NKM, with the remainder for the non-UMP/PS lists in the second round and ‘small’ lists (EELV, DVD, PG) in the first round in the four arrondissements. Calculating an hypothetical second round in the four arrondissements, based on the right’s gains from the first to second round in the 16 other arrondissements, the left would likely have won between 49.7% and 50.2% city-wide.

The right lost because it remained unable to expand its support into the decisive swing arrondissements. Its support remains too heavily concentrated in its western strongholds, which contribute relatively few seats whereas the left’s eastern strongholds contribute enough seat to give the left a clear edge over the right in a close contest such as this one. The right effectively needs far more than 50% of the city-wide vote to win. The right nevertheless made substantial gains, in the popular vote, from 2008, a landslide reelection for Delanoë and the Parisian right’s lowest ebb. Still, it fell about 3 points short of victory in the decisive 12th and 14th arrondissements – it did perform far better than Sarkozy had in May 2012, but likely ran into a structural wall at this point: the left is now too strong in these arrondissements.

NKM, despite the hot mess of dissident candidates left, right and centre and several gaffes and faux-pas during the campaign, ran a generally decent campaign and strengthened the right in Paris, which has been divided and electorally weakened in the last few years. Her own political career is hardly over: she remains deputy for the Essonne, but more importantly, she may be the favourite for the presidency of the Grand Paris, a metropolitan structure to be created in 2016 uniting Paris and the three bordering departments of the petite couronne. In the future Grand Paris, the left’s worst nightmare came true: having suffered major loses in all three suburban departments, especially in the Seine-Saint-Denis and Hauts-de-Seine, the right would hold 190 out of 337 seats against 145 for the left, according to Cadre de Ville.

Marseille

Sector UMP-UDI-MoDem-PRG* PS-EELV-FG FN
1 44.89 (9) 40.50 (2) 14.61
2 47.7 (6) 32.64 (1) 19.66 (1)
3 47.75 (8) 33.89 (2) 18.86 (1)
5 51.45 (12) 22.2 (1) 26.35 (2)
6 46.69 (10) 23.36 (1) 29.95 (2)
7 32.15 (2) 32.52 (3) 35.54 (11)
8 23.83 (1) 45.54 (9) 30.63 (2)
Marseille 42.39 (61) 31.09 (20) 26.51 (20)

After the shocking results of the first round in Marseille, which saw Patrick Mennucci’s PS-EELV list place a very distant third with just a bit under 21%, against 37.6% for UMP mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin and 23.2% for FN lists led by Stéphane Ravier, it became clear that the left’s high hopes of victory in Marseille were dead. The local repeat of ‘April 21 2002′ came to symbolize the PS’ rout, in a city which the PS – backed up by polling up until the very end – had high hopes of victory no less. To make matters worse for the PS, Gaudin sealed a controversial alliance with an ally of the controversial and highly corrupt PS president of the general council, Jean-Noël Guérini, who had been working against Mennucci (a one-time part of Guérini’s system turned into a very vocal opponent) since the local PS open primaries in 2013. In the 2nd sector, a left-wing stronghold which happens to be Guérini’s home turf, a guériniste (PRG) list led by the incumbent PRG (ex-PS) mayor of the sector, Lisette Narducci, placed second ahead of the PS list with 23.8% against 17.5%. Gaudin announced the merger of Narducci’s list with the local UMP list, led by UMP general councillor Solange Biaggi; the PS was outraged at the alliance and tried a last-minute remobilization of its electorate by denouncing the ‘Gaudin-Guérini system’.

It amounted to nothing. Gaudin was easily reelected (for a fourth and likely final term in office, given his age), winning a large majority on the city council – with a total of 61 out of 101 seats, a gain of 10 seats from 2008, when Gaudin had been reelected with only 51 seats against 49 for the PS lists (then led by Guérini) and 1 for the FN. The FN and left both won 20 seats – respectively the best and worst performances for those parties in Marseille’s history.

The city as a whole saw significantly stronger turnout than in the first round – increasing from 53.5% to 57.3% across the seven sectors which voted in the runoff. It was up 4.4% in the 1st, up 4% in the 2nd, up 2.4% in the 3rd, up 2.8% in the 5th and 6th, up 7.6% in the 7th and up 6.1% in the 8th. Turnout in the first round had been particularly low in areas where Hollande had done best in April/May 2012, indicating that a very large portion of the left’s potential base stayed home. In the second round, increased turnout across the board does not seem to have advantaged one party over another. The FN, despite lacking reserves, increased its raw vote from the first round in every sector and its share of the PV in all but one sector (the 1st); the PS generally won more raw votes the combined first round totals of the PS-EELV and FG (the FG’s lists, which won 7.1%, merged with the PS-EELV lists) and sometimes even more than the combined totals of the PS-EELV, FG and Pape Diouf’s centre-left civic lists (Diouf’s lists, anti-establishment but largely drawn from the centre-left in terms of candidates and voters, won 5.6% in the first round with a peak at 8% for Diouf in the 7th; Diouf refused any merger with Mennucci); the right also increased its raw vote in all but one sector (the 6th, where a DVD/dissident list by the incumbent mayor, Robert Assante, won 13.4% in the first round and merged with the UMP list of Roland Blum and Valérie Boyer).

In the 1st sector, which was a key sector gained by the PS’ Patrick Mennucci in 2008 from the UMP, Mennucci was defeated by UMP deputy Dominique Tian in the second-closest race in the city. Tian won 44.9% against 40.5% for Mennucci. The 1st sector is a key swing area of Marseille, bridging the left-wing stronghold of the 1st arrondissement (a poor and multiethnic inner-city area, with 72% for Hollande in May 2012) and the right-leaning 7th arrondissement (which includes solidly conservative affluent seaside neighborhoods). The 2nd sector, which includes Marseille’s two poorest arrondissement, is usually a left-wing stronghold (67.9% for Hollande, his best result in the city in May 2012) but this year, it was won by the Gaudin-Guérini alliance. In the first round, the UMP list in the sector had placed first with 24.2% and Narducci’s PRG/Guérini list in a close second with 23.8%. Despite the unusual combination, transfers appeared to be fairly good, and the UMP-PRG list won 47.7% against 32.6% for the PS list, led by Eugène Caselli, the outgoing president of the urban community (Marseille Métropole Provence, MPM). The FN’s support increased from 16.5% to 19.7%.

The 3rd sector was supposed to be the one swing race which would determine the election – with a left-wing victory (back when we assumed that the left would hold all its sectors from 2008!) allowing it to win the mayor’s chair. After the first round, it became obvious that the left stood no chance and that the election in the 3rd was already decided in favour the UMP incumbent, Bruno Gilles. The UMP won 47.8% against 33.4% for the PS list, led by Marie-Arlette Carlotti, who was junior minister for disabled persons in the Ayrault cabinet. Carlotti was able to do little more than win the support of first round FG voters.

The UMP held the 5th and 6th sectors easily, with the FN placing ahead of the left in both. In the 5th, UMP incumbent Guy Teissier was reelected with 51.5% against 26.4% for the FN, which gained an additional 1,000 or so votes from the first round. The left won 22.2%, its worst result in the city. In the 6th, the UMP list was victorious, with 46.7%, although it failed to match the combined first round raw vote or PV of the UMP list and Assante’s DVD list. The FN gained an extra 2,247 votes, placing second with 30%.

The most important race was the 7th sector, which covers northeastern Marseille’s 13th and 14th arrondissements. Like most of the places where the FN tends to do well in Marseille, it is a relatively ‘settled’ (low mobility) lower middle-class area which is rather low-income, has low levels of education and CSP- employment (workers, employees); in the case of the 7th sector specifically, the FN does very well in residential suburban neighborhoods – banlieues pavillonnaires (residential suburbs with individual houses) and not as well in the cités. In the first round, the FN list by Stéphane Ravier, the FN’s mayoral candidate and local leader, placed first with 32.9%, the FN’s best result in Marseille. The incumbent PS mayor of the sector since 2001, Garo Hovsepian, an ally of Samia Ghali and local corrupt ex-PS deputy Sylvie Andrieux, placed third with 21.7%. The left refused to withdraw to ‘block the FN’, arguing that it had the best chance to defeat the FN because of the likely support of those who had backed Diouf (8.1%) and the FG (6.4%) in the first round. While Hovsepian finished second in the runoff, with 32.5%, the FN won the sector – the first time the FN wins a sector in Marseille – with 35.3%. Ravier’s raw vote increased by 3,114 from the first round, a gain of 2.4%. As mayor of the sector, Ravier has relatively little powers – more or less, it boils down to managing a few public spaces and parks in the borders of the sector and other irrelevant responsibilities. But the victory is a major symbolic victory for the FN; it also likely gives the FN in Marseille a great opportunity to build up their networks.

The 8th sector, a low-income and working-class area in the heart of Marseille’s quartiers nord, was the only sector retained by the left. Incumbent PS mayor Samia Ghali, who has a strong electoral machine in the sector, won reelection with 45.5% against 30.6% for the FN and 23.8% for the right. The FN gained a bit less than 1,500 votes between the two rounds. The end result of the PS’ rout in Marseille is that the only survivor of the bloody episode is Samia Ghali, the only prominent PS leader who wasn’t defeated (Mennucci, Carlotti lost but also Caselli and Christophe Masse) and who remains in a relatively solid position. To seal a great election for Guérini, it also happens that Ghali is far more supportive of Guérini than either Mennucci or Carlotti are. For example, while Mennucci and Carlotti’s reaction to defeat was to demand Guérini’s exclusion from the PS at long last and the dissolution of the PS structures in the city to allow for reconstruction; Ghali has made very little public comments on Guérini (downplaying his influence and role) and expressing skepticism at Mennucci/Carlotti’s calls to reconstruct the PS from the ground up.

With a landslide victory in Marseille proper, the UMP has also gained a solid majority in both the current council of the urban community (MPM) and the future council of the broader Marseille-Aix metropolis which will be created by decree in 2016. In 2008, the right had a paper-tight majority in the MPM on paper, but due to dissidents in their ranks, the PS candidate Eugène Caselli was elected. The MPM’s presidency should go to Guy Teissier (UMP), while the right is estimated to hold a huge 96-39 advantage in the future Marseille-Aix metropolis, with 14 seats for the FN.

Lyon

Arr. PS-EELV-PCF-PRG* UMP-UDI-MD FN FG
1 31.34 (1) 24.12 44.52 (3)
2 36.71 (1) 52.98 (4) 10.29
3 53.81 (10) 35.04 (2) 11.13
4 47.03 (4) 37.46 (1) 15.50
5 48.46 (6) 42.61 (2) 8.91
7 58.08 (8) 29.36 (1) 12.55
8 53.30 (9) 28.57 (2) 18.12 (1)
9 59.58 (8) 26.85 (1) 13.55
Lyon 50.64 (48) 34.24 (21) 10.34 (1) 4.78 (3)

Unsurprisingly, in Lyon, incumbent PS mayor Gérard Collomb was easily reelected to a third term in office, with only a slightly reduced majority. Across the city, Collomb’s lists won 48 seats – down from 54 in 2008, when Collomb had won a massive landslide by the first round – against 21 for the right, which gains only 3 seats. The FN returns to the municipal council for the first time since 1995, when it had won 2 seats.

Collomb’s lists were victorious in six out of nine sectors. In the first round, the right held the 6th arrondissement, the city’s most bourgeois arrondissement. In the second round, the right easily held the 2nd, an affluent downtown arrondissement on the Presqu’île. However, the right failed to regain either the 3rd or 5th arrondissements, lost in 2008 and 2001 respectively. In the 5th, the UMP’s mayoral candidate Michel Havard, a former deputy from the party’s moderate wing, narrowly lost to the PS’ Thomas Rudigoz, 42.6% to 48.5%. On the west of the city, the 5th includes the Vieux-Lyon (the city’s historic core), the Fourvière hill and church but also residential suburbs – both middle-class and lower-income HLMs. It voted for Sarkozy in 2012, with a distinctive split between the suburban outskirts (for Sarkozy, minus the lower-income HLMs for Hollande) and the urban area (for Hollande).  There was little contest in the 3rd arrondissement, which the UMP lost to the PS in 2008. The PS list won 53.8% against 35% for the right, with the FN taking 11.1%.

Collomb’s lists won the 7th, 8th and 9th arrondissements – held by the left since 2001 (7) and 1995 (8, 9) respectively – with huge margins. All three arrondissements include lower-income quartiers populaires (La Guillotière, Mermoz, États-Unis, La Duchère) and the 8th and 9th, on the outskirts of the city, both include poorer peripheral neighborhoods. The 9th arrondissement is Collomb’s electoral base, and the list which he personally led won 59.6% of the vote, the highest result for his lists in the city. The FN also won its best results in these arrondissements, peaking at 18% for the list led by FN mayoral candidate Christophe Boudot in the 8th. However, in all arrondissements where the FN qualified for the runoff, they won a (marginally) lower share of the vote than in the first round and lost actual votes in all but the 7th and 8th arrondissements.

A key race was in the 1st arrondissement, a left-wing stronghold centered on the Pentes de la Croix-Rousse (les Pentes), a formerly poor working-class area (famous particularly for its silk workers) which has since been extensively gentrified and is now a bustling cosmopolitan, young, professional (many journalists, artists, academics, young cadres etc) and highly-educated ‘bobo’ area. The incumbent ex-PS mayor Nathalie Perrin-Gilbert, who left the PS in 2013, ran for reelection in alliance with the FG and placed first in the first round with 33.5% against 25.9% for the PS. The FG and PS found no agreement in Lyon, so the FG lists which qualified in the 1st but also the 4th (the 4th includes the similarly bobo Croix Rousse, but the right is stronger because it includes some wealthier and older areas in the west) maintained themselves in the runoff. In the 1st, the FG list won easily, with 44.5% against 31.3% for the PS-EELV. The PS list, led by EELV’s first round candidate (11.3%) failed to win all those who had voted for the PS and EELV in the first round, falling over 500 votes short of the combined PS-EELV vote in the first round while the FG list gained over 1,000 votes from the first round. In the 4th, the FG list gained over 600 votes to win 15.5%.

Although Collomb retains his seat for a third term, it is unclear whether he will retain the presidency of the Grand Lyon, an urban community which will be of even greater political importance come January 2015, when it will be transformed into a metropolis with the full powers of a department on its territory. According to Cadre de Ville, after substantial loses for the left in suburban communes of the Grand Lyon, the left and right find themselves with 77 seats apiece in the new metro council; with the remaining 8 seats split between independents (6) and the FN (2). Michel Havard and the local right claimed victory in the Grand Lyon, while Collomb has said that he will make sure that the left retains the control of the Grand Lyon. Collomb, a centrist and moderate Socialist, has good relations with some independent centre-right mayors in the Grand Lyon and could probably manage to narrowly hold the presidency with the backing of some suburban independent mayors.

Toulouse

Jean-Luc Moudenc (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 52.06% – 53 seats
Pierre Cohen (PS-EELV-PCF-PRG-MRC)* 47.93% – 16 seats

In a rematch of the 2008 election, Jean-Luc Moudenc, a UMP deputy and former mayor who lost reelection in 2008 to the PS’ Pierre Cohen, took his revenge on March 30 with a comfortable victory over the incumbent. Moudenc won 52.1% against 47.9% for Cohen, who had already trailed the UMP by nearly 6 points in the first round although his list did merge with Antoine Maurice’s EELV list, which had won 7% on March 23. Toulouse generally leans to the left – Hollande won 62.5% in the city in May 2012, although the right retains substantial support in some affluent bourgeois neighborhoods in the downtown core. However, the right governed the city between 1971 and 2008.

With gains in suburban communities of Toulouse, the right has also gained control of the urban community (soon to be metropolis) of Toulouse; with 72 seats against 59 for the left.

Nice

Christian Estrosi (UMP-UDI)* 48.61% – 52 seats
Marie-Christine Arnautu (FN) 21.1% – 7 seats
Patrick Allemand (PS-EELV-MRC) 17.84% – 6 seats
Olivier Bettati (DVD) 12.42% – 4 seats

No surprise whatsoever in Nice, with the comfortable reelection for a second term of the UMP incumbent, Christian Estrosi. Nice, which gave over 60% to Sarkozy in May 2012, is a right-wing stronghold, and Estrosi, the leading political boss of the UMP in Nice and the Alpes-Maritimes, is a popular mayor with a focus on criminality and security issues which is a good fit for the city’s predominantly older, middle-class electorate concerned about such issues. Estrosi faced a quadrangulaire with the FN, the left and a UMP dissident (Olivier Bettati, a UMP general councillor and former adjoint au maire, whose relations with Estrosi have always been quite cool). That means that Estrosi didn’t gain much votes from the first round, when he won 45%. The FN increased its support from 15.6% to 21%, although it still remained below Marine Le Pen’s 23% in 2012, and gained over 5,700 votes (likely from Philippe Vardon, a local extremist and neo-fascist candidate, who won 4.4% and former FN-turned-RPR/UMP mayor Jacques Peyrat, who won 3.7%). Patrick Allemand (PS) suffered from poor transfers from the FG, which had won 5.4% in the first round. Bettati gained about 2,300 votes.

The right holds its huge majority in the council of the metropolis of Nice (Métropole Nice Côte-d’Azur) with 87 seats against 28 independents, 8 for the FN and a puny 6 for the left.

Nantes

Johanna Rolland (PS-EELV-PCF-PRG-UDB)^ 56.21% – 51 seats
Laurence Garnier (UMP-UDI-PCD) 43.78% – 14 seats

The PS had no trouble whatsoever holding Nantes, which was ruled between 1989 and 2012 by Jean-Marc Ayrault. PS candidate Johanna Rolland, a young (34-year old) première adjointe and protege of Ayrault, placed first in the first round with 34.5% and over ten points ahead of the right’s candidate, Laurence Garnier, a UMP municipal councillor who is also 34. The PS merged with the EELV list, which won 14.6%, and transfers from EELV to the PS-EELV list in the second round appear to have been good – despite local tensions between both parties on the issue of the Notre-Dame-des-Landes international airport, which the PS (and Ayrault) strongly supports (except for the PS’ left) and which EELV strongly opposes. Both parties agreed to disagree on the airport. The left won 56.2%, down from Hollande’s 61.5% in May 2012, but nevertheless a strong showing.

The PS also retains control of the urban community of Nantes, with an estimated 66 seats against 31 for the right.

Strasbourg

Roland Ries (PS-EELV)* 46.96% – 48 seats
Fabienne Keller (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 45.02% – 15 seats
Jean-Luc Schaffhauser (FN) 8.00% – 2 seats

The reelection of the one-term mayor of Strasbourg, Roland Ries, was one of the few bits of good news for the PS on an otherwise horrendous night for them. The city was held by the PS between 1989 and 2001 before switching to the right with the election of Fabienne Keller (UDF) in 2001, and switching back to the left with Ries’ landslide victory over Keller in 2008. It was one of the UMP’s main targets, and although the city is often a ‘pink spot’ in otherwise rock-solid conservative Alsace, the UMP was confident that with the national climate, a strong candidate and a candidate who is a moderate centrist they could regain Strasbourg. As predicted, the second round was very tight, with Ries winning reelection with 47%. Although the PS obviously insists that Ries was reelected because of his record, it seems very likely that he owes his victory to the triangulaire with the FN, which had barely qualified with 10.9% in the first round. Although there was clear strategic voting or ‘return to the fold’ by first round FN voters – the FN vote fell by nearly 3% and lost over 1,500 votes – it was not enough for the right. Increased turnout – from 49.7% to 54.7% – does not seem to have clearly benefited any candidate.

Rue89 Strasbourg has a map of the results of the second round by precinct. It shows little differences in the broader patterns from the first round, with the PS dominant in the young, well-educated and white-collar bobo areas downtown, gentrified areas (Gare, Esplanade, Krutenau) and the low-income and ethnically diverse peripheral cités (Neuhof, Meinau, Hautepierrre, Cronenburg Ouest, Koenigshoffen and Elsau); the right polling best in the affluent central neighborhoods of L’Orangerie and Contades and the comfortable middle-class suburban neighborhood of Robertsau (north), while also pulling good numbers in the lower middle-class residential suburban areas in the Neuhof, Meinau and Montagne Verte.

The left narrowly saved its majority in the urban community. The PS lost Schiltigheim, the second largest city in the CU, to the UDI but PS incumbents were reelected in Illkirch-Graffenstaden and Ostwald. According to Cadre de Ville, the left holds about 48 seats to the right’s 38, with 3 independents and 1 FN.

Montpellier

Philippe Saurel (DVG-PS diss) 37.54% – 45 seats
Jean-Pierre Moure (PS-EELV-PRG-MRC)^ 27.39% – 9 seats
Jacques Domergue (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 25.87% – 8 seats
France Jamet (FN) 9.18% – 3 seats

In Montpellier, Philippe Saurel, a PS dissident candidate emerged victorious by over 10 points over Jean-Pierre Moure, the president of the agglomeration community and the official candidate of the PS. Saurel, who is said to be close to Valls, is a dentist and former adjoint to retiring PS mayor Hélène Mandroux, refused to participate in primaries (alleging that they would be rigged) and ran as a dissident candidate against Moure, the influential and powerful president of the CA and mayor of a suburban commune, who had been imposed as the PS’ candidate by the local PS establishment and then-Prime Minister Ayrault. Moure was supported by the still influential supporters of late former mayor (1977-2004) and regional presidential (2004-2010) Georges Frêche; Julie Frêche, his daughter, was second on Moure’s list. Also backed by EELV, which is quite strong in Montpellier, and most of the local business community, Moure was seen as the favourite and placed first on March 23, albeit with a mediocre result of 25.3% against 22.9% for Saurel, who presented himself as the ‘anti-system’ candidate. On March 27, Saurel received the endorsement of outgoing PS mayor Hélène Mandroux, who had supported Moure in the first round. Mandroux took her revenge on the party establishment, the PS in the Hérault and on Matignon who had eliminated her from the race and intervened to block her candidacy for another term.

A poll by Ifop had shown Saurel leading Moure by 1 point, 31 to 30, for the second round; but nobody really saw his 10-point victory coming. Saurel, whose support rose by 13,000 votes from the first round, seems to have benefited from increased turnout – which rose from 52.1% to 56.6%, support from FG voters (7.6% in the first round) and perhaps some strategic voting from the right to defeat the PS. The UMP candidate improved his result from 22.7% to 25.9%, representing a gain of about 4,000 votes; the FN, which is weak in Montpellier (unlike in the rest of the department), saw a major decrease in support from the first round, where it had won 13.8% (it lost about 2,800 votes). The result is a major hit to the PS, which suffers the consequences of a badly handled mayoral succession (forcing the incumbent to retire against her will, imposing a candidate, unable to prevent dissidence).

The left is confirmed to hold a solid majority in the future metropolis of Montpellier, which will be created in January 2015.

Lille

Martine Aubry (PS-EELV-PRG-MRC)* 52.05% – 47 seats
Jean-René Lecerf (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 29.71% – 9 seats
Éric Dillies (FN) 18.22% – 5 seats

Martine Aubry, the PS mayor of Lille, was handily reelected to a third term in office at the helm of France’s 10th largest city and a Socialist stronghold since 1919 (except for the German occupation and an ephemeral right-wing Gaullist mayor from 1947 to 1955). Aubry won 52%, up from 34.9% in the first round, an increase of about 9,700 votes; indicating that she had little trouble winning the support of those who had backed EELV (11.1%) or the FG (6.2%) in the first round. In contrast, with no reserves, the UMP’s support increased only marginally, from 22.7% to 29.7% (+3,959). The FN, which had won an exceptionally strong 17.2% in the first round, further increased its support by about 600 votes to 18.2%. The FN won 28.4% in the associated commune of Lomme, a working-class neighborbood in western Lille.

Lille proper, however, was only a silver lining for the PS in the Nord after a fairly horrendous night. The UMP gained Roubaix and Tourcoing, the second and third largest cities in Lille Métropole with populations over 90,000. Both are poor working-class cities which were once major centres for the textile industry, but which have struggled with deindustrialization and now have very high levels of unemployment and poverty (Roubaix is the poorest major city in France). In Roubaix, the PS mayor Pierre Dubois paid the price of a divided left – in the second round, he won 33.2% against 34.8% for the UMP. André Renard, a PS dissident, won 15% of the vote, up from 10% in the first round (he had merged his list with another dissident list, led by former adjoint Richard Olszewski, which took 8% in the first round). The FN placed third with 17%, down from 19% although significantly higher turnout (44.4%, up from 38.4%) meant that it largely held all its votes from the first round. The city had been governed by the left since 1996, after the unusual episode of André Diligent (a UDF mayor from 1983 to 1993, from a Christian left tradition, which is very powerful and influential in the region). In Tourcoing, the young UMP deputy Gérald Darmanin, elected to the National Assembly in 2012, was elected mayor, defeating PS incumbent Michel-François Delannoy, first elected (by the first round) in 2008. Darmanin took 45.6% against 43.4% for the left, seemingly benefiting from rather pronounced FN strategic voting in his favour (he’s on the right of the party) – the FN’s vote fell from 17.5% to 11%, shedding over 1,480 ballots. The gains of Roubaix and Tourcoing are said to give the right a clear majority in the urban community, with about 95 members against 70 for the left, with 9 independents and 5 frontistes according to Cadre de Ville. However, some uncertainty remains, given some division on the right between the UMP and smaller independent right-wing groups; Aubry, on election night, did not concede the control of the urban community, controlled by the left since its creation in 1967 (despite right-wing assaults in 1983, 1995, 2001 and 2008).

Rennes

Nathalie Appéré (PS-EELV-PG-PCF-UDB-PRG)^ 55.83% – 48 seats
Bruno Chavanat (UDI-UMP-MoDem-PCD-PB) 44.16% – 13 seats

Similarly, there was no surprise from Rennes, a left-wing stronghold which has been governed without interruption by the PS since 1977. Nathalie Appéré, the 38-year old deputy for the 2nd constituency since 2012 and the PS candidate, was elected with a wide majority (55.8%) against the UDI’s Bruno Chavanat, a municipal and regional councillor. However, it is the closest fought runoff battle in Rennes since 1983, when first-term PS mayor Edmond Hervé, who went on to hold the office until 2008, was reelected with only 52.8%. It is also down fairly substantially from Hollande’s incredible two-thirds majority in Rennes two years ago. Rennes Open Data has some fabulous interactive maps, for both rounds, with results by precinct which may be of interest to some.

Given that, by itself, Rennes makes up half the population of the Rennes Métropole urban community, the left has retained a comfortable majority in the CU despite the right picking up Bruz and Cesson-Sévigné, the second and third largest towns in Rennes Métropole. Cadre de Ville estimates that the left holds 75 seats to the right’s 27, with 20 independents.

Reims

Arnaud Robinet (UMP-UDI) 46.19% – 44 seats
Adeline Hazan (PS-PCF-EELV)* 42.75% – 12 seats
Roger Paris (FN) 11.04% – 3 seats

The right regained Reims, a city it held between 1983 and 2008 before losing it to the PS, largely because of deep divisions in the UMP back in 2008 which proved very difficult to plaster over in the second round. Adeline Hazan, the one-term PS mayor victorious in 2008, was defeated by about 3 points by her UMP rival, deputy Arnaud Robinet (who ran in alliance with 2008 candidate and fellow deputy Catherine Vautrin). The PS likely hoped that the triangulaire with the FN, which won 16% on March 23, would be enough to save them. But the FN lost over 2,000 votes from the first round, falling 5% to 11%. Given that the right lacked any reserves from first round candidates, the explanation for its victory (and the gain of 5,100 votes) is increased turnout (51.9% to 55.8%) and support from many first round FN supporters. The result in Reims, but also Saint-Étienne, shows that the left can no longer assume that close triangulaires with a weak FN will necessarily be fatal for the right: in an unfavourable national context for the left and given substantial FN loses from the first round, the right is far from out.

Saint-Étienne

Gaël Perdriau (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 47.7% – 44 seats
Maurice Vincent (PS-PCF-PRG)* 40.5% – 12 seats
Gabriel de Peyrecave (FN) 11.79% – 3 seats

Similar to Reims, Saint-Étienne, governed by the right between 1983 and 2008, had been gained by the PS in 2008, due largely to a triangulaire between the incumbent UMP mayor and MoDem candidate Gilles Artigues. The right successfully united its disparate and divided forces, and its candidate, Gaël Perdriau (UMP) ranked ahead of incumbent PS senator-mayor Maurice Vincent, 36.7% to 31.3%. He won the runoff with a solid 7 point majority, 47.7% to 40.5%. Between both rounds, the right increased its support by over 7,700 votes – in the form of first round non-voters (turnout increased by 4.6%) but also, as in Reims, strategic voting from first round FN voters. On March 23, the FN, usually strong in Saint-Étienne, an old industrial city which is struggling with deindustrialization since the 1970s, placed a solid third with over 18%. A week later, the FN won a mediocre 11.8%, losing over 2,500 votes.

The right also regained Saint-Chamond, an industrial town in the Gier valley held by the PS since 1989. The victorious DVD candidate won 50.4% against 39.7% for the PS.

Grenoble

Éric Piolle (EELV-PG-Alternatifs) 40.02% – 42 seats
Jérôme Safar (PS-PCF-PRG-MRC-Cap21)^ 27.45% – 8 seats
Matthieu Chamussy (UMP-UDI-AEI) 23.99% – 7 seats
Mireille d’Ornano (FN) 8.52% – 2 seats

Grenoble was one of the more symbolic and highly contentious races. It began in the first round when, against all predictions, the EELV-PG candidate, EELV regional councillor Éric Piolle, placed ahead of Jérôme Safar, the heir-apparent of retiring PS mayor Michel Dstot (in office since 1995), 29.4% to 25.3%. Against the unwritten rule of the French left which holds that a left-wing candidate placed second or worst withdraws in favour of the strongest left-wing candidate, the PS candidate Jérôme Safar refused to withdraw, citing policy disagreements (related to infrastructure and transportation), although the national PS disendorsed him after pressures from EELV. In the second round, Piolle won very easily, with 40% against 27.5% for Safar. The high interest from the local and national media in the contest led to significantly higher turnout in the second round – 59%, against 52.4% in the first round. Piolle increased his vote count by some 6,900; while Safar gained just over 2,500 votes, the UMP won a bit over 2,700 extra votes and the FN lost over 1,200 votes. Some right-wing supporters likely supported Piolle to defeat the PS, given the right’s poor showing in the second round (24% is barely up on the UMP’s 20.9% in the first round). With only 7 seats for the UMP list, this result also means that former RPR mayor Alain Carignon (1983-1995), whose corruption-marred tenure continues to haunt the weak right, will not be in the new municipal council – he was placed ninth on the UMP list.

The left retains a very wide majority on the council of the future Métropole de Grenoble, with an estimated 72 seats against only 27 for the right. However, the EELV victory in Grenoble and the defeat (by a PS dissident) of the incumbent PS president of the urban community in the suburban commune of Eybens renders the construction of a new left-wing majority in the metro council a daunting task.

Other major races

Angers

Christophe Béchu (UMP) 54.36% – 43 seats
Frédéric Béatse (PS-PCF-EELV)* 45.64% – 12 seats

The right’s victory in Angers closes 37 years of left-wing rule. Christophe Béchu, the UMP president of the general council and senator, was successful on his second attempt to win the city of Angers (he lost to the PS incumbent in an extremely close race in 2008). He benefited from the national climate, but also from the divisions of the left – the incumbent PS mayor, Frédéric Béatse, took office midterm in 2012 and faced a dissident candidacy from Jean-Luc Rotureau, a PS councillor. Rotureau placed third with 16.2% in the first round, before opting to withdraw his list without endorsing anybody. Béatse nevertheless likely won the lion’s share of the dissident’s support, ending up with 1,100 more votes than the combined first round total of the PS and dissident; but beyond raw numbers, it is likely that transfers were still far from perfect and may have dragged the left down.

Aix-en-Provence

Maryse Joissains-Masini (UMP)* 52.61% – 42 seats
Édouard Baldo (PS) 36.49% – 10 seats
Catherine Rouvier (FN) 10.89% – 3 seats

UMP mayor Maryse Joissains-Masini was easily reelected to a third term in office, with 52.6% against 36.5% for her PS opponent. She weathered a series of controversies, a judicial investigation against her in late 2013 and a divided majority. She increased her vote count by 7,292 votes from the first round, likely taking the lion’s share of Bruno Genanza (UDI)’s 11.3% in the first round (about 5,80o v0tes). Genanza is a former ally of the mayor, who ran a list with UMP dissidents, before withdrawing from the second round without endorsing any candidate. On the left, the PS candidate had trouble winning over the votes of all non-qualified left-wing candidates from the first round: François-Xavier de Peretti, the son of a former UDF mayor and a former MoDem member/candidate himself, ran a list with PS dissidents with Guérini’s support, taking 8.1% in the first round but did not merge with the PS list. EELV won 4.9% and the FG won 4.8% as well. Together, these left-wing candidacies accounted for 37.4% in the first round.

Brest

François Cuillandre (PS-PCF-EELV)* 52.71% – 42 seats
Bernadette Malgorn (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 47.28% – 13 seats

A surprisingly narrow reelection for the incumbent PS mayor of Brest, François Cuillandre, who was widely expected to win by a wide margin. Brest is a largely working-class city, with a socialist tradition dating back to the early twentieth century. In May 2012, Hollande won 63% of the vote in the city, winning especially strong results in the post-war cités and grands ensembles, home to a lower-income populations. The PS has governed the city since 1989, and Cuillandre won reelection six years ago with 60.7% in the second round, after having won 45.8% in the first round. This year, the UMP was divided and they chose not to choose between their two candidates – Laurent Prunier, the 2008 candidate and the leader of the UMP in the Finistère, and Bernadette Malgorn, a former regional prefect who has been regional councillor since 2010. Malgorn won 27.7% in the first round, a distant second behind Cuillandre (42.5%) but far ahead of Prunier (10%) and the FN (9.8%). Malgorn, by the looks of it, successfully won the bulk of Prunier and the FN’s vote, which amounted to roughly 47% in the first round. The left retains a large 46-24 majority in Brest Métropole Océane.

Limoges

Émile-Roger Lombertie (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 45.07% – 40 seats
Alain Rodet (PS-FG-PRG-ADS-EELV)* 43.81% – 12 seats
Vincent Gérard (FN) 11.1% – 3 seats

Limoges was perhaps the most surprising result of the night. The city has been a hotbed of socialism for over a hundred years, and Limoges has a very symbolic place in French socialist mythology. Historically an industrial city (porcelain, enamel, textile), Limoges was the birthplace of the CGT trade union in 1895 and was marked by a significant and violent workers’ strike in 1905. During World War II, Limoges, like most of the Limousin, was a hotbed of resistance to the Nazi occupation, and Georges Guingouin, the leader of the communist maquis, served as mayor of the city between 1945 and 1947. The city has been governed by the left since 1912, specifically by Socialists between 1912 and 1941 and since 1947. The current mayor, Alain Rodet, took office in 1990, succeeding Louis Longequeue, who had been mayor since 1956. 1989 was the closest the right ever came to challenging the PS’ hegemony in Limoges – Longequeue was forced into a second round with the right and the Greens, and only won by 1.2% (40.9% to 39.7%). Since then, however, Rodet has been reelected by the first round; in 2008, he was reelected with 56.5% in the first round against 20.8% for the right. In May 2012, Hollande won 64.9% of the vote in the second round. This year, in the first round, Rodet won a very mediocre 30.1% in the first round, against 23.8% for the right’s candidate, a little-known psychiatrist named Émile-Roger Lombertie. The surprise came from the FN, which won nearly 17% of the vote in a city where the far-right has usually been weak (and absent from municipal elections, except for 1995 and 2001) and which only gave 14.8% to Marine Le Pen two years ago. The FG won 14.2%, and a UDI list took 12.3%. The FG list merged with Rodet’s PS list, while the UDI list merged with the UMP list.

In the second round, shocking almost everybody, the UMP narrowly won, with 45.1% against 43.8% for the left. Lombertie increased his first round vote by over 10,500 ballots – certainly drawing most of the UDI’s 5,451 votes but also benefiting from strategic voting from some FN supporters – the FN lost over 2,300 votes, dropping from 17% to 11% of the vote; some first round protest voters opting to vote strategically or ‘traditionally’ (for their preferred party) in the second round. Turnout also increased by about 4%. Besides the national climate, Rodet suffered from voter weariness and the lack of renewal in the outgoing majority. He is a long-time politician, having held elected office since 1977 (deputy since 1981). Small policy mishaps and small communication mistakes further accumulated to create trouble for the governing majority.

France3 Limousin has graphics showing the results of the first and second round by neighborhood. The right performed best in downtown Limoges, traditionally the most bourgeois (and hence right-leaning) area, with a peak at 68% of the vote in the Émailleurs neighborhood, Limoges’ traditional bourgeois neighborhood. The left still performed best in the quartiers populaires on the outskirts of the city – although it faced tough competition from the FN, especially in the first round: the FN won nearly 32% in La Bastide, a low-income neighborhood. The left’s support in these peripheral lower-income areas was nevertheless down very significantly from 2012: Hollande had won over 65%, often over 70%, in most of these neighborhoods. This year, the left peaked at just over 50% in the best of cases.

Tours

Serge Babary (UMP-UDI) 49.75% – 42 seats
Jean Germain (PS-EELV-PCF-MoDem)* 41.65% – 11 seats
Gilles Godefroy (FN) 8.56% – 2 seats

After 19 years in power, the incumbent PS senator-mayor of Tours, Jean Germain, lost reelection to UMP businessman Serge Babary. Germain, who had himself defeated another longtime mayor back in 1995 (Jean Royer, who ruled from 1959 to 1995), had been a generally popular mayor until now, but the right had criticized him for a lack of ambitious projects and a lack of transparency. Germain was likely weakened by the national climate but also by weariness after three terms in office and his indictment for embezzlement in a corruption case in 2013. Germain trailed the right by about 9 points in the first round, but he could count on the backing of EELV’s 11.3% in the first round. Judging from the result, if EELV’s votes transferred reasonably well, the 8.4% who had voted for a PG-NPA list transferred rather messily. Germain fell about 1,500 votes short of the first round total of PS+EELV+PG-NPA. On the right, Serge Babary also benefited from higher turnout (+3.5%) the FN’s losses in a triangulaire (-4.3%, lost over 1,500 votes).

Amiens

Brigitte Fouré (UDI-UMP-MoDem) 50.38% – 42 seats 
Thierry Bonté (PS-EELV-PCF-PRG-MRC)^ 33.8% – 9 seats
Yves Dupille (FN) 15.8% – 4 seats

After the first round, in which UDI candidate Brigitte Fouré (a general councillor and former mayor) led the PS candidate by 20 points, it made little doubt that the right would easily regain Amiens, lost to the left in 2008 (after 19 years in right-wing hands). PS candidate Thierry Bonté, a vice-president of the agglomeration community, managed to do little more than win the bulk of the FG’s first round support (8.9%), but seemingly failed to win much of the far-left and DVG votes from the first round; that brought him to only 33.8%, over 16 points behind Fouré who increased her own support from 44.8% to 50.4%. The FN gained some 242 votes from the first round, increasing their vote a few decimals to 15.8%.

Metz

Dominique Gros (PS-PRG-EELV)* 43.22% – 40 seats
Marie-Jo Zimmermann (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 41.14% – 11 seats
Françoise Grolet (FN) 15.63% – 4 seats

Metz was a very rare piece of good news for the left on March 30. The left had gained the city, for the first time in at least 100 years, in 2008 thanks to a divided right (4 in the first round, 2 in the runoff). In the first round, PS mayor Dominique Gros, who had culture minister Aurélie Filippetti in second on his list, placed first with 35.7% against 34.2% for a reunited right, led by UMP deputy Marie-Jo Zimmermann. The FN, led by regional councillor Françoise Grolet, performed very well, winning 21.3% – a result substantially better than Marine Le Pen’s 17.3% and past FN results in municipal elections. In the second round, the FN lost 5.7% and over 1,600 votes, largely to the benefit of the UMP (+3,299 votes) but perhaps some to the left as well. Dominique Gros also benefited from good transfers from the FG (3.6%) and the NPA-FASE (3.3%).

Perpignan

Jean-Marc Pujol (UMP-UDI)* 55.11% – 43 seats
Louis Aliot (FN) 44.88% – 12 seats

Perpignan was the largest city in which the FN stood a fighting chance, and it had some optimism after its well-implanted local candidate, Louis Aliot (a party vice-president and the boyfriend of FN leader Marine Le Pen), placed first with 34.2% against 30.7% for UMP mayor Jean-Marc Pujol. To prevent a FN victory, the PS candidate, deputy Jacques Cresta, who won only 11.9% in the first round, withdrew. With the left withdrawing, the UMP’s victory made little doubt. On paper, the FN had no obvious reserves from any of the other first round candidates (besides the PS, a centrist candidate won 9.6% and EELV won 5.7%), but it nevertheless increased its support by nearly 11 points and about 4,800 votes. The FN’s additional support came from non-voters – turnout increased from 57% to 62.8% – but it is also clear that, in Perpignan and across the country, the FN now has the ability to substantially increase its support in two-way runoffs against the traditional left or right.

Rouen

Yvon Robert (PS-EELV-PCF)* 46.8% – 41 seats
Jean-François Bures (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 41.48% – 11 seats
Guillaume Pennelle (FN) 11.71% – 3 seats

A rare incidence in recent local politics in Rouen – a sitting mayor won reelection (it hadn’t happened since 1989) and a rare victory for the left on March 30. Incumbent PS mayor Yvon Robert, who had previously held the office from 1995 to 2001 before regaining it in 2012 after Valérie Fourneyron, the PS mayor elected in 2008, was named to Ayrault’s government (she still placed second on his list this year), was reelected with 46.8% against 41.5% for the right. Transfers from EELV, which took 11.1% in the first round before merging with the PS’ lists, were quite good and transfers from the PG appeared to be reasonably good as well. On the right, the UDI list, which won 13.6% before merging with the UMP, transferred well. The FN’s vote fell by about 400 votes and 1.7%; it was insufficient to allow the right to make up the distance which separated it from the left. As in Metz, the PS owes a lot to a triangulaire with the FN.

Mulhouse

Jean Rottner (UMP-UDI)* 45.77% – 41 seats
Pierre Freyburger (PS-EELV-PRG-MoDem) 36.67% – 10 seats
Martine Binder (FN) 17.55% – 4 seats

In a better year for the left, the PS would certainly have stood a very good chance of gaining Mulhouse, which it held from 1989 to 2007 (the PS mayor, Jean-Marie Bockel, defected to the right after Sarkozy’s victory, joining the Fillon cabinet) and which it came extremely close to winning in 2008. However, in the current climate, UMP mayor Jean Rottner was easily reelected with a 9 point majority over PS candidate Pierre Freyburger. The PS had woefully insufficient reserves, 3.1% from the FG and 1.5% from LO, which it likely won over in the second round, but it had nothing else. The UMP increased its vote by 1,765, likely drawing a lot of strategic or ‘traditional’ votes back from the FN, whose support fell from a very strong 21.9% on March 23 to 17.6% in the runoff (a loss of over 700 votes).

Caen

Joël Bruneau (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 57.03% – 43 seats
Philippe Duron (PS-EELV-PCF-PRG-MRC)* 42.96% – 12 seats

After decades of coming up short, the left gained Caen in 2008 – ending the right’s hold on the city, which had endured since 1945; but six years later, the UMP easily regained Caen, defeating first-term PS mayor Philippe Duron. After the first round, Duron already trailed UMP regional councillor Joël Bruneau, 26.2% to 30.8%, and the right could count on much heftier reserves – UDI candidate Sonia de la Provôté, a municipal and general councillor who was one of the UDI’s highest hopes in its ‘primaries’ with the UMP, won 18%, much less than the UDI might have hoped for but nevertheless a strong reserve for the right (the UDI list merged without a hitch into the UMP list). The PS needed to look to EELV, which performed well with 10.2% in the first round, for potential reserves. The right drew the UDI’s support, but also most of the FN’s vote (7.3%), giving it 57% of the vote. On the left, PS mayor Philippe Duron likely drew EELV and PG-NPA (5.8%) votes. But it was very clear from the first round that the left stood little chance of victory.

Saint-Denis (93)

Didier Paillard (FG-EELV-MRC)* 50.49% – 42 seats
Mathieu Hanotin (PS) 49.50% – 13 seats

A working-class and heavily industrialized town in Paris’ suburban Red Belt, Saint-Denis has been a PCF stronghold since 1922 and, more broadly, a left-wing stronghold (77.8% for Hollande in May 2012, Sarkozy only won 12% in the first round). It remains a low-income suburb, with a very high immigrant population, high unemployment and a very young population. The PCF’s all-around dominance in Saint-Denis and the whole department has been challenged by the PS and, in most national elections, the PCF is no longer the largest party in Saint-Denis. In 2012, in a major blow, the PS gained Saint-Denis’ constituency from the FG. This year, that new PS deputy, Mathieu Hanotin, sought to topple what is the largest city in France governed by the PCF and one of the longest-standing PCF bastions in the country. In the first round, PCF mayor Didier Paillard placed first with 40.2% against 34.3% for Hanotin. The UMP-UDI candidate, who won only 8.8% on March 23, did not qualify but the right’s minimal support could be expected to prefer the PS over the PCF (as it has in similar situations elsewhere); there was, however, a PS dissident on the left, Georges Sali, who won 7.7% and formally merged his list with the FG. Predicted to be close, the second round lived up to expectations. Paillard was reelected with a tiny majority of 181 votes.

Next door, in Aubervilliers, in one of the rare good results for the PCF/FG on March 30, former PCF mayor Pascal Beaudet, defeated by the PS in 2008, won his rematch with PS mayor Jacques Salvator, winning 45.7% to 38.9% for the PS, with the right taking 15.4%.

Nancy

Laurent Hénart (UDI-UMP-MoDem)^ 52.91% – 42 seats
Mathieu Klein (PS-PCF-EELV-PRG) 47.08% – 13 seats

Nancy, governed by the right since 1945, was one of the great disappointments for the left. Prior to the first round, with longtime UDI mayor André Rossinot stepping down in favour of his dauphin, former deputy Laurent Hénart, the PS felt that it could gain Nancy from the right (with a strong candidate, Mathieu Klein, a VP of the general council). Polls gave it even more reason to be optimistic. But, in the first round, Hénart placed first with 40.5%, with a substantial edge over the PS (35.8%) – which had no reserves except the PG (5.4%). The left, given first round results, did rather well in the second round – it won about 1,700 votes more than the first round PS+PG total, despite little change in turnout. The right seemingly had some trouble winning the bulk of the FN vote (6.9%), falling about 1,300 votes short of the right+DVD+FN total in the first round. Laurent Hénart’s centrist and moderate profile on the right may have had a negative effect on transfers from the far-right. Nevertheless, a win is a win, and this is a victory which comes in a city in which the PS had such high hopes.

Montreuil

Patrice Bessac (FG-EELV-PS)  37.06% – 38 seats
Jean-Pierre Brard (CAP) 35.39% – 10 seats
Manon Laporte (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 18.14% – 5 seats
Mouna Viprey (DVG) 9.39% – 2 seats

Montreuil, an historically working-class Red Belt suburb which has seen major gentrification in the Bas-Montreuil in the past decades, was one of the most closely-watched left-wing civil wars. In the first round, former mayor Jean-Pierre Brard (mayor from 1984 to 2008, a former Communist) led with a mediocre result of 25.5%, with FG candidate Patrice Bessac (PCF), a regional councillor, placing second with 18.8%. Ibrahim Dufriche-Soilihi (EELV), the candidate backed by retiring EELV mayor Dominique Voynet, elected over Brard in 2008 but whose term was a trainwreck marred by the defection of PS dissidents who had backed her over Brard in 2008, placed fourth with 15.3%. One of those PS dissidents who later broke with Voynet was Mouna Viprey (DVG), who won 11% in the first round. The most humiliating result was that of Razzy Hammadi, the local PS deputy who won Montreuil’s constituency in 2012 by defeating Brard. Backed by the PS boss of the department, Claude Bartolone, Hammadi won only 9.8% – the worst result of the five main leftist candidates. Brard’s age and his autocratic tendencies make him a polarizing figure, and he faced a united front of the FG, EELV and PS (Hammadi did not take a spot on the merged list, preferring to focus on his job as deputy) in the second round. This united front won the second round, but with a small majority of only 494 votes. The FG-EELV-PS alliance fell far short of its potential (43.9%, about 12.5k votes; it won 10,990 votes and 37.1%); a lot of their potential supporters likely backed Brard, a well-known figure in Montreuil who retains a very strong base in the low-income and far less gentrified cités of the Haut-Montreuil.

Avignon

Cécile Helle (PS-FG-EELV) 47.47% – 40 seats
Philippe Lottiaux (FN) 35.02% – 9 seats
Bernard Chaussegros (UMP)^ 17.5% – 4 seats

Avignon attracted the interest of the national and foreign media after the first round, when FN candidate Philippe Lottiaux placed first with 29.6% of the vote, although only 27 votes ahead of Cécile Helle, a PS regional councillor. Judging from the media’s concern trolling and silly overreactions, one would certainly have thought that the FN was the favourite in the second round. Olivier Py, the director of the Avignon festival, a popular theater festival held in the city’s historic heart during the summer months, warned after the first round that he would ask for the festival to be moved if the FN won. However, there was little chance of a FN victory. Helle turned to André Castelli, a FG general councillor whose list won 12.5% in the first round and merged with the PS-EELV list. The far-right had no obvious reserves. Cécile Helle was easily elected, with 47.5% against 35% for the FN. The city had been held since 1995 by RPR/UMP mayor Marie-Josée Roig, who retired this year after corruption and nepotism allegations. Her preferred successor, a little-known businessman who moved back from Paris recently, won only 20.9% in the first round. In the second round, the UMP lost about 250 votes, falling to only 17.5%. While in the traditional left-right-FN triangulaires, the trend is for the FN vote to decline somewhat due to strategic voting largely in the right’s favour, in Avignon there must have been some strategic voting from the right (a UDI candidate also won 4.8%) for the FN, to block the left. Lottiaux won an additional 3,200 votes – increasing his support to 35%. Turnout increased from 57.2% to 65.4%, as was the case in other cities which saw the FN perform very well in the first round. Increased turnout did not only come in the form of anti-FN mobilization from non-voters, it must also have come from the mobilization of potential far-right supporters who hadn’t voted on March 23.

Pau

François Bayrou (MoDem-UMP-UDI) 62.95%
David Habib (PS)^ 37.04%

Three-time presidential candidate and the leader of the MoDem, François Bayrou, was elected mayor of Pau in a landslide – six years after coming very close but ultimately losing to the PS. Although he had personally endorsed Hollande over Sarkozy in 2012, Bayrou successfully lobbied for the support of the UMP (notably through the support of Bayrou’s friend and ally, Alain Juppé, the UMP mayor of Bordeaux), which begrudgingly endorsed him (in return for the MoDem’s support for the UMP in many other cities, notably Paris). Given the national climate and the prospect of ending 43 years of left-wing control in Pau, the right largely united behind Bayrou, who won a very strong 41.9% in the first round against only 25.8% for David Habib, a PS deputy and suburban mayor, the left’s candidate to succeed retiring PS mayor Martine Lignières-Cassou (the fact that her preferred candidate wasn’t selected and that Habib sidelined many of her allies was further help for Bayrou). Bayrou also ran a very locally-oriented campaign, deliberately sidestepping national political issues and national media crews. Yves Urieta, a former PS-turned-centre right mayor (from 2006 t0 2008), won 13.2% running as a DVD independent, but did not maintain his list in the runoff. Bayrou predictably won, winning the vast majority of Urieta’s support and a reasonable number of votes from the FN (6.7%). With this victory and the recent political retirement of UDI leader Jean-Louis Borloo for health reasons, Bayrou is suddenly on a much stronger political footing than he was after the humiliating loss of his own seat in the National Assembly in June 2012.

La Rochelle

Jean-François Fountaine (DVG-PS diss-PRG) 43.68% -35 seats 
Anne-Laure Jaumouillié (PS)^ 40.1% – 10 seats
Dominique Morvant (UMP-UDI) 16.21% – 4 seats

Jean-François Fountaine, a vice-president of the agglomeration community, was elected mayor of La Rochelle as a PS dissident. The candidacy and subsequent defeat of Ségolène Royal by a local PS dissident in the 2012 legislative elections has left major cracks in the PS machine of retiring mayor Maxime Bono (in office since 1999), who had endorsed Royal. The candidate backed by the mayor, Anne-Laure Jaumouillié, a 34-year old teacher who was a municipal councillor since 2008, won the PS primaries by 34 votes over Jean-François Fountaine, a veteran 62-year old politician who is vice-president of the CA La Rochelle. Fountaine, who was a regional councillor between 1992 and 2010, and had a very public spat with Ségolène in 2008 and strongly supported Falorni in 2012 (which led to his falling out with Bono). Alleging irregularities, he refused to withdraw and ran as a dissident candidate. In the first round, the two PS candidates ended up with similar results: 30.2% for Jaumouillié against 28.8% for Fountaine. Like in 2012, the left-wing civil war also drew down the UMP vote – the UMP’s candidate won 24.5% in 2008 (Bono was reelected by the first round) and Sarkozy won 24.2% in April 2012. A small but significant number of right-wingers likely voted for Fountaine by the first round. In the second round, some of the right’s first round voters defected to vote strategically for Fountaine against the PS; the UMP vote fell by 646 votes to 16.2%. A good number of FN voters may also have backed Fountaine, who picked up over 4,100 votes between both rounds. Jaumouillié only won an additional 2,800 votes.

Béziers

Robert Ménard (FN-DLR-MPF-RPF) 46.98% – 37 seats
Élie Aboud (UMP)^ 34.62% – 8 seats
Jean-Michel Du Plaa (PS-EELV) 18.38% – 4 seats

Béziers was the largest town to be won by the far-right, with the election of Robert Ménard, the former boss of Reporters Without Borders who ran as an ‘independent’ with the support of the FN and three smaller right-wing parties (Nicolas Dupont-Aignan’s DLR and the moribund MPF and RPF). The surprise came from the first round, where Ménard placed a comfortable first with 44.9% against 30.2% for UMP deputy Élie Aboud, the candidate of retiring three-term mayor Raymond Couderc (UMP); polls had picked up a late swing to Ménard, but they hadn’t foreseen such a decisive lead in the first round. The left’s candidate, Jean-Michel Du Plaa, who won a very distant third place with only 18.7%, did not withdraw, making Ménard’s election something of a mere formality. Without surprises, Ménard was elected mayor with nearly 47% against 34.6% for the UMP. Ménard gained about 1,800 more votes from the first round, partly benefiting from higher turnout (63.3% to 68.5%). The right gained 2,174 votes and the left won only 386 more votes. The left’s argument for staying in was that it could hope to gain from the support of FG voters, whose list had won 6.3% in the first round. However, squeezed and with no chance of victory, some voters on the left either stayed home, spoiled their ballot, voted strategically for the UMP against the far-right or voted Ménard.

Ajaccio

Laurent Marcangeli (UMP-UDI-Bonapartist) 47.10% – 37 seats
Simon Renucci (CSD)* 46.03% – 11 seats
Joseph Filippi (Aiacciu Cità Nova-Nationalist) 6.86% – 1 seat

The two-term centre-left mayor of Ajaccio, Simon Renucci, was defeated by UMP defeated Laurent Marcangeli, who had defeated Renucci two years ago in the legislative elections. Renucci had placed narrowly ahead in the first round, but Marcangeli took advantage of better reserves (the FN, with 8.3%, a DVD with 2.8%). Joseph Filippi, the common candidate of both major nationalist parties in Corsica (Femu a Corsica and Corsica Libera), saw his support decline in the second round – he won 6.9%, down from 10.8%, losing about 730 votes.

Quimper

Ludovic Jolivet (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 56.65% – 39 seats
Bernard Poignant (PS-EELV-PCF)* 43.34% – 10 seats

The right gained Quimper, a pleasant town of some 63,000 people in western Brittany (Finistère) which has leaned to the left in the past presidential elections (63.5% for Hollande) but which is more unstable at the local level – the PS, led by Bernard Poignant, a former mayor (1989-2001) and close ally of President Hollande, gained the city from the right in 2008. Poignant, who may have paid the price of his well-known proximity with the President and perhaps the effects of the bonnets rouges protests in Brittany last year, already trailed Ludovic Jolivet, a former adjoint au maire under UMP mayor Alain Gérard (2001-2008), in the first round – 29.3% to 27.9%. Isabelle le Bal, a MoDem municipal councillor, won 14.9% but merged her list with the right. The mayor’s reserve were smaller – 7.6% for EELV, which merged, 6.1% for a regionalist leftist list and 5.8% for the PG – and also less reliable. With good transfers from the MoDem and probably the FN (8.4%), the right easily regained Quimper with 56.7%.

Villejuif

Franck Le Bohellec (UMP-UDI-DVG-EELV) 48.69% – 34 seats
Claudine Cordillot (FG-PS-MRC)* 43.52% – 10 seats
Alexandre Gaborit (FN) 7.78% – 1 seat

Villejuif is an old working-class Red Belt suburb in the Val-de-Marne, governed by the PCF since 1925. PCF mayor Claudine Cordillot (in office since 1999) has been criticized, even on the left, for her urban densification policies, tax increases, insecurity problems and inefficient public services. In the first round, supported by the PS, her list won only 32.7%, down from over 45% in 2008. A PS dissident list led by former adjoint Philippe Vidal placed fifth with 10.6%, and an EELV list (with former MEP Alain Lipietz in second) won 10.4%. In second place, a UMP list led by Franck Le Bohellec won 17.2%, a UDI list won 15.8% and the FN won 11.2%. The very bad relations between the mayor’s PCF-PS majority and left-wing rivals (EELV had already run independently in 2008) allowed for the creation of an unusual anti-communist alliance with the merger of the UMP, UDI, PS dissident and EELV lists. The national leadership of EELV decried the ‘counter-natural’ alliance of the local EELV with the right, suspended the candidate from the party and allowed the PCF-PS to use EELV’s logo. Such unusual alliances are not totally uncommon in cases where the incumbent is heavily criticized within his own majority, allowing for dissidents and rivals to ally with the other side to topple him/her.

The alliance’s total vote fell short of its theoretical total from the first round (54%), although with increased turnout (+6.4%) it did win more raw votes than the combined first round total of the first round (7,581 vs 7,422). Some of the DVG and EELV’s lists supporters likely voted for the incumbent instead, not recognizing themselves in a right-wing led alliance, but transfers on the whole were still rather good (and good enough to win!). The FN’s support also dipped somewhat, falling from 11.2% to 7.8% (-330 votes). The new majority, given how heterogeneous it is and why it came together, will probably not survive its entire term. The winning list’s 34 seats include 11 UMP, 10 UDI, 7 DVG and 6 EELV; the actual left, with the 13 seats allied with the right and the FG-PS-MRC’s 10 seats, retain a majority.

Fréjus

David Rachline (FN) 45.55% – 33 seats
Philippe Mougin (UMP-UDI) 30.43% – 7 seats
Élie Brun (DVD-UMP diss)* 24.01% – 5 seat

Fréjus, a town on the Mediterranean coast in the Var, was the second largest town conquered by the FN. On the Mediterranean Riviera, tourism is a key industry in Fréjus, but with the exception of one part of the town (Saint-Aygulf), Fréjus – unlike its neighbor Saint-Raphaël, isn’t a resort town and it is significantly poorer than tourist resort towns in the Var (Saint-Raphaël, Sainte-Maxime, Saint-Tropez). Instead, it is a lower middle-class town with a large population of employees and artisans/shopkeepers. Like other southeastern towns where the FN did well this year, Fréjus has problems with desertification and pauperization of the old downtown and concerns with criminality. In 2012, Marine Le Pen won 26% in Fréjus; in the 2002 runoff, her father won 31.9% against Chirac. The city is otherwise a right-wing stronghold, with 67% for Sarkozy in the runoff in 2012. This year, the problem was that the right was badly divided. Incumbent mayor Élie Brun (ex-UMP), who has been mayor since 1997, when he succeeded François Léotard, the UDF mayor between 1977 and 1997, was sentenced in January 2014 to a 20,000 euro and five ineligibility from public office in a conflict of interest case. The UMP refused to endorse him, and instead backed Philippe Mougin, a former adjoint to Brun. In the first round, the FN candidate, David Rachline, a former FN youth leader elected to the municipal council in 2008 (12.5% of the vote) and to the PACA regional council in 2010, won 40.3%. Mougin trailed in a very distant second with 18.85%, with 17.6% for Brun and 15.58% for PS candidate Elsa di Méo. The PS candidate withdrew to block the FN, but the two right-wing candidates failed to reach an agreement. The divisions of the right made it a near-certainty that the FN would emerge victorious, and it did. Rachline’s support increased by 1,348 votes; the UMP gained 2,804 votes and the mayor gained 1,569 votes.

Corbeil-Essonnes

Jean-Pierre Bechter (UMP-UDI)* 56.52% – 34 seats
Bruno Piriou (FG) 43.47% – 9 seats

Corbeil-Essonnes is a low-income, working-class suburban town in the Essonne department which is solidly left-wing at the national level (63% for Hollande) but which has been governed by the right since 1995, after 36 years of Communist rule. The local right is led by UMP senator Serge Dassault, a businessman who remains owner of Le Figaro and leading player in the family enterprise, the aeronautics and weaponry giant Dassault. Dassault was mayor until 2009, when he was declared ineligible for public office in a vote buying case from the 2008 election (when he defeated the PCF 50.7% to 49.3%). His protege, Jean-Pierre Bechter (UMP), won a 2009 by-election and another by-election in 2010, has also been indicted for benefiting from vote buying and electoral corruption organized by Dassault in the last 3 elections. In the first round, Bechter placed first with 45.5%. The left remains very divided: the FG candidate, PCF general councillor Bruno Piriou, narrowly defeated his PS rival, deputy and general councillor Carlos da Silva, 22.3% to 21.1%. Both lists merged, but vote transfers from the PS and smaller left-wing lists (2 DVG, 1 far-left) proved very poor, given that, in the first round, the left held a theoretical majority but only won 43.5% in the second round. Bechter won an additional 1,607 votes – either from left-wing voters who didn’t ‘follow orders’ or first round non-voters (turnout increased from 48.7% to 52.3%)

Bastia

Gilles Simeoni (Inseme per Bastia-DVG-PRG diss-EELV-UMP) 55.4% – 34 seats
Jean Zuccarelli (PRG-PCF)^ 44.59% – 9 seats

A political sea-change in Bastia: the Zuccarelli clan, which has governed the city since 1888, was ousted from office. The root of the dynastic overthrow is a failed dynastic succession: the incumbent mayor of Bastia (since 1989), Émile Zuccarelli (PRG), retired and anointed his rather hapless son Jean as his successor, in the process alienating a former ally who saw himself as Zuccarelli’s dauphin, François Tatti. Tatti ran a dissident list with the backing of local PS politician Emmanuelle de Gentili and EELV. Zuccarelli’s strongest competition came from Gilles Simeoni, a prominent moderate nationalist leader on the island who is the son of nationalist icon Edmond Simeoni. In the first round, Zuccarelli Jr came in first, with 32.5%, but only 29 votes ahead of Simeoni. In a distant third, Tatti won 14.6% and the UMP list won 9.7%. Simeoni, Tatti and the UMP merged lists to create a united anti-Zuccarelli front. Although transfers were far from perfect (Simeoni fell 181 votes short of the first round total of Simeoni+Tatti+UMP), the result was still a very comfortable victory for Simeoni. Bastia becomes the largest city in France to be governed by a regionalist/nationalist.

Forbach

Laurent Kalinowski (PS)* 47.73% – 27 seats
Florian Philippot (FN) 35.17% – 6 seats
Éric Diligent (DVD) 11.87% – 2 seats
Alexandre Cassaro (UMP) 5.22% – 0 seats

In eastern Moselle’s old coal mining basin, another FN leader – vice-president Florian Philippot – sought to establish his own local roots. Forbach, the largest city in the Moselle’s coal basin, is a working-class and economically depressed (14% unemployment, declining population since 1982) town. The right governed the city between 1953 and 2008, and generally held the corresponding canton for most of that time as well. The incumbent PS mayor, Laurent Kalinowski gained the city in 2008 because of a very divided right. In 2012, Kalinowski was elected deputy, narrowly defeated Philippot in a two-way runoff – the UMP deputy was eliminated by the first round. Although local left-wingers are quick to point out that Philippot is a carpetbagger with little local knowledge of the place (Philippot is a well-educated and polished technocrat) and only plays on residents’ fears, he has nonetheless managed to establish a strong base for himself. In the first round, Philippot placed first with 35.7% against 33% for the PS mayor. The right paid the price of its divisions and performed poorly: centre-right independent Éric Diligent won 19%, while official UMP candidate Alexandre Cassaro won a terrible 12.3%. The right-wing candidates found no agreement amongst themselves and did not withdraw to form a ‘republican front’ against the FN. However, given the very real threat of a FN victory, some on the right advocated for strategic voting for the PS – UMP deputy Céleste Lett, the mayor of Sarreguemines, endorsed Kalinowski. In the second round, there was a significant increase in voter mobilization: turnout increased from 56% to 62.5%. The result was a surprisingly comfortable reelection for the PS incumbent, with 47.7% against 35.2% for the FN. Philippot only won an additional 290 votes. The two right-wing candidates saw their support dry up: Diligent lost 450 votes, the UMP guy lost 507 votes and fell to only 5.2% of the vote. Seemingly, the public endorsement of the PS incumbent by a locally prominent UMP personality had a major impact on a lot of right-wing supporters who chose to vote strategically for the PS to defeat the FN.

Other results

An incomplete summary: for results from every place in France, check out Le Point’s interactive map.

In Dijon, the two-term PS mayor François Rebsamen was reelected with 52.8% against 34% for the UMP and 13.1% for the FN. Rebsamen, who was first elected in 2001, will not be serving out his third term given that he was named to the new Valls government.

In the Lyon suburban municipality of Villeurbanne, a PS stronghold, PS incumbent Jean-Paul Bret was reelected with 45.5% against 25% for the UMP, 15.9% for the FN and 13.7% for EELV. The PCF narrowly lost the old Communist stronghold of Vaulx-en-Velin, a working-class Lyon suburb held by the party since 1929. The PS won 41.7% against 39.2% for the FG/PCF incumbent and 19.1% for the UMP.

The PS held Le Mans, with PS incumbent Jean-Claude Boulard winning narrowly with 45.7% against 42.7% for the UMP and 11.5% for the FN. In the neighboring department of the Mayenne, the UDI gained Laval, gained by the PS in 2008. UDI senator François Zocchetto, an ally of the UDI senator/president of the general council Jean Arthuis, was elected with 51.6% against 41.1% for PS mayor Jean-Christophe Boyer, a little-known new incumbent who took the office in 2012 when the PS député-maire Guillaume Garot, an ally of Ségolène Royal, was named to Ayrault’s government.

Jean-Paul Fournier, the UMP mayor of Nîmes, won reelection with no trouble taking 46.8% against 24.4% for the FN, 14.8% for the FG and a horrible 13.9% for the PS.

In Clermont-Ferrand, PS candidate Olivier Bianchi successfully held the open seat in a city governed by the PS since 1945. He won 47.8% against 41.3% for the UMP and 10.9% for the FN. Bianchi’s PS list had merged with a FG/far-left list led by Alain Laffont, which took 11.5% in the first round. The UMP did not find an agreement with Michel Fanget, a former UDF deputy whose MoDem list won 8% in the first round. Another solid PS stronghold, Besançon, in Socialist hands since 1953, saw the reelection of PS mayor Jean-Louis Fousseret with 47.4% against 44.4% for the UMP and 8.2% for the FN. As in Brest, Le Mans and Clermont, there was a trend of PS incumbents or candidates in Socialist strongholds winning reelection but with surprisingly narrow margins against a weak right-wing opposition which we didn’t think much of.

The PS easily held Poitiers, with the reelection of mayor Alain Claeys, with 41.1% against 34.2% for the UMP, 15.1% for EELV and 9.7% for the FN.

In Dunkerque, the incumbent PS mayor Michel Delebarre (in office since 1989) went down to defeat against a DVG dissident list led by Patrice Vergriete, a former adjoint. Vergriete won 55.5% against 26.3% for Delebarre, and the FN won 18.2%. In Calais, incumbent UMP senator-mayor Natacha Bouchart, who gained this old PCF stronghold thanks to the FN’s withdrawal from the runoff in 2008, was reelected without any trouble this year. She won 52.1% against 39.3% for Jacky Hénin, a PCF MEP and the former mayor who was defeated in 2008. The FN won 8.6%. Transfers from the PS list which won 19.7% in the first round to the PCF were bad, while the FN’s support dropped from 12.5%, helping out the incumbent. In Béthune, an industrial town in the Pas-de-Calais’ mining basin (although Béthune, traditionally more bourgeois, was not a mining town itself), the UDI’s Olivier Gacquerre was elected with 33.6% of the votes against 28.4% for the incumbent député-maire Stéphane Saint-André (PRG) and 28.1% for (corrupt) former PS mayor Jacques Mellick (mayor from 1977 to 1996 and 2002 to 2008, defeated in 2008). The city had been governed by the PS/PRG since 1977.

Douai was one of the few significant gains for the left. Located in the mining basin in the Nord, Douai includes closed-down pits and old miners’ neighborhoods, but as it was a major regional centre, it also has a bourgeois aspect. The right held the city since 1983, with Jacques Vernier (RPR/UMP), who retired this year. The city leans to the left, and with a popular incumbent retiring, the PS was able to gain Douai with 45.9% against 35.8% for the right and 18.2% for the FN.

The freshman PCF mayor of Dieppe, Sébastien Jumel, was reelected handily with 50.4% against 35.1% for the UMP and 14.6% for a DVG list, unofficially supported by most local Socialists.

The right gained Charleville-Mézières, an industrial in the Meuse valley, which had been controlled by Socialists since 1944. Boris Ravignon (UMP), a general and municipal councillor and former adviser to Sarkozy, was easily elected with 54.9% against 33.9% for incumbent PS mayor Philippe Pailla, who didn’t have enough time to lay his bases since taking office in 2013 from Claudine Ledoux (PS). The FN won 11.2%, down from 15.9% in the first round. Ravignon had already taken a wide lead in the first round, with 46.7%.

The PS narrowly saved Auxerre, with the reelection of PS mayor Guy Férez against the young UMP deputy Guillaume Larrivé, a young sarkozyste technocrat-turned-politician (in 2012). The PS won 51.1% against 48.9% for Larrivé.

A major blow for the PS came from Bourges, one of the few towns where the left still had reason to be optimistic about a gain from the right after the first round. However, Pascal Blanc (UDI), the preferred candidate of retiring UDI mayor Serge Lepeltier, was elected with 53.6% against 46.4% for the left. In the first round, both left and right had been split between PS and FG (24.4% and 17.6% respectively), UMP and UDI (21.6% and 24.2%); the FG list merged with the PS, the UMP list merged with the UDI. Although a left-wing victory was no mathematical certainty based on the first round results – the right polled a majority of the votes – the city had been one of the left’s few brightspots.

The PS narrowly survived in Cherbourg, winning 51.8%, and Alençon, winning 50.5%

The right gained La Roche-sur-Yon, traditionally a republican/left-wing island in the middle of solidly conservative Vendée, from the PS which had held the city since 1977. Incumbent PS mayor Pierre Regnault, in office since 2004, was defeated by UMP candidate Luc Bouard, 53.9% to 46.1%. The left had been in trouble after the first round, given that the UMP had more ample reserves from a DVD list led by local councillor Raoul Mestre (9.7%) and the FN (8.5%).

The right regained Angoulême, lost to the PS in 2008. UMP candidate Xavier Bonnefont easily defeated freshman PS mayor Philippe Lavaud, 60.1% to 39.9%. In Corrèze, the UMP regained Brive-la-Gaillarde, lost in 2008, with former UMP deputy Frédéric Soulier (2002-2007) winning 58.8% against incumbent PS député-maire Philippe Nauche who took 41.2%. Brive was a Gaullist stronghold between 1966 and 2008, with left-wing Gaullist Jean Charbonnel as mayor between 1966 and 1995.

The PS mayor of Lorient since 1998, Norbert Métairie was easily reelected with 42.7% against 34% for the UMP, 13.8% for the FN and 9.5% for the FG. The PCF lost Hennebont, an old working-class (ironworks) town on the outskirts of Lorient which had been held by the PCF since 1959. A DVG candidate won 47.7% against 26.6% for the FG-PS list. In Saint-Malo (Ille-et-Vilaine), incumbent mayor René Couanau (DVD, ex-UMP) was defeated in his bid for a fifth term, losing to his former adjoint Claude Renoult (DVD), who won 41.3% in the second round against 30.6% for the left and 28.1% for Couanau.

The right gained Chambéry, with the victory of UMP MEP Michel Dantin with 54.7% against 45.3% for incumbent PS député-maire Bernadette Laclais. The city, a predominantly white-collar college town, had been governed by the PS since 1989 and trending to the left in national elections (nearly 57% for Hollande in May 2012).

The right gained Valence in the Drôme. UMP general councillor Nicolas Daragon winning 53.5% against 40.4% for PS mayor Alain Maurice and 6.1% for the FN. The right had held the city between 1995 and 2008 before the left gained it six years ago.

Marc Vuillemot, the PS mayor of La Seyne-sur-Mer, formerly a shipbuilding centre on the outskirts of Toulon, was reelected with 40.1% against 30.4% for the FN and 29.5% for Philippe Vitel, a UMP deputy. The FN won two towns in the Var: the fairly small towns of Le Luc and Cogolin, the first in the interior and the second on the coast (though the population of the town is inland) near Saint-Tropez. In Le Luc, the FN won 42% against 40.9% for the right. In Cogolin, the only town in which the FN won an absolute majority in the second round, the FN won 53.1% against 46.9% for the incumbent DVD mayor. However, the FN was defeated in Brignoles, where it was victorious in a cantonal by-election last year. FN general councillor Laurent Lopez was defeated by UMP deputy Josette Pons, 59.9% to 40.1%. The left, which held city hall, won 27.4% in the first round but chose to withdraw in favour of the UMP to block the FN.

In the Vaucluse, the FN narrowly failed in its bid to take Carpentras from the PS. The incumbent mayor was reelected with 44.5% against 42.1% for Hervé de Lepinau, the suppléant of FN deputy Marion Maréchal-Le Pen. UMP deputy Julien Aubert saw his first round support (16.6%) fall to 13.4%, likely the victim of strategic voting on the right for both the left (against the FN) and FN (against the left). In Cavaillon, UMP député-maire Jean-Claude Bouchet successfully resisted a FN assault led by Thibaut de la Tocnaye, winning easily 50.6% to 36.5%. The left won 12.9%, down from 17.6% on March 23, clearly suffering from strategic voting to block the FN. However, the FN was victorious in Le Pontet, a lower middle-class suburb of Avignon, winning by a hair – 42.6% against 42.5% from the UMP, a DVD list winning 14.8%. And in Camaret-sur-Aigues, a town which neighbors Orange, governed since 1995 by far-right deputy Jacques Bompard, a candidate from Bompard’s party, the Ligue du Sud, was elected with 36.6% of the vote.

In Tarascon (Bouches-du-Rhône), the FN narrowly lost to the right, 47.3% to 52.7%.

FN deputy Gilbert Collard was narrowly defeated in Saint-Gilles (Gard), winning 48.5% against 51.5% for the right. The incumbent PS mayor, who placed third with 23.1% in the first round, withdrew from the race to defeat the FN. However, in Beaucaire, young FN candidate Julien Sanchez was elected mayor with 39.8% against 29% for the DVD incumbent.

After losing it in a 2009 by-election, the right regained Carcassonne from the PS. Former mayor Gérard Larrat (DVD), who was in office between 2005 and 2009 before losing to PS candidate Jean-Claude Perez in 2009, returned to his old seat with 40.4% against 39.2% for the Perez, the incumbent PS député-maire. The FN won 20.3%. Larrat, who was third in the first round with 18.9%, had merged his list with that of Isabella Chesa (UMP), the daughter of a former mayor, whose list took 18.1% in the first round. The right also regained Narbonne, an old Socialist stronghold which switched to the right in 1971 before the PS won it in 2008. Incumbent PS député-maire Jacques Bascou lost reelection to Didier Mouly (DVD).

The UMP mayor of Montauban since 2001, Brigitte Barèges, was reelected without any trouble despite countless controversies (voting a major increase in her salary, comments on gay marriage – asking if polygamy and bestiality would be next, and some allegedly racist comments). She won 51.3% against 37.8% for Roland Garrigues, a former PS député-maire (1994-2001).

The PS held Villeneuve-sur-Lot, with the reelection of Patrick Cassany, who has been mayor since 2012, with 42.9%. The city, historically on the right, had been won by the (in)famous ‘Mr. Swiss Bank Account’ Jérôme Cahuzac (PS) in 2001. Étienne Bousquet-Cassagne (FN), a young FN cadre in the Lot-et-Garonne whose profile received a major boost with the June 2013 legislative by-election in the Lot-et-Garonne’s 3rd constituency (vacated by Cahuzac’s resignation after the tax fraud scandal), in which he won 46.2% in a runoff against the UMP, won 30.4%. Paul Caubet, leading a composite DVG-UMP-DVD alliance uniting three lists from the first round, won 26.7, falling far short of the three list’s combined total of 40% in the first round.

The PS fell just short of gaining Bayonne, taking 45.2% against 45.4% for Jean-René Etchegaray (UDI); the spoiler being Jean-Claude Iriart, a Basque abertzale (left-wing nationalist) candidate, whose list won 9.4%. The city leans to the left, having given Hollande 59% in May 2012, but it has been held by the Grenet family (right) since 1959 – since 1995 by Jean Grenet (UDI), whose retirement this year led to a succession battle on the right and left-wing hopes to gain the city. However, the right resolved its divisions before the second round, while the PS suffered from the decision of the Basque nationalists to maintain their list, and the merger of the FG list with the abertzale left. In the wealthy coastal resort town of Biarritz, Michel Veunac (MoDem), a regional councillor backed by retiring mayor Didier Borotra (MoDem), was narrowly elected with 51.6% against 48.4% for a UMP-UDI list led by Max Brison, a former premier adjoint to Borotra. Veunac’s list, which placed second with 17.4%, had merged with the PS (16.9%) and an independent (7.3%), while the UMP list had merged with a DVD list (14.1%) and another independent (10.7%).

Former député-maire Daniel Garrigue (DVD) regained his old seat, lost in 2008, as mayor of Bergerac (Dordogne), winning 46.1% in a rematch against the freshman PS mayor (41.3%). The right also regained Périgueux, the capital of the department, with the narrow victory of the UMP candidate with 50.7% against freshman PS mayor Michel Moyrand (49.3%). An old Gaullist stronghold (with Gaullist baron Yves Guéna as mayor between 1971 and 1997), the PS won the town by a hair in 2008, defeating incumbent UMP mayor Xavier Darcos, who was also education minister at the time.

The UMP held Châteauroux, with the easy victory of Gil Avérous, the candidate backed by retiring senator-mayor Jean-François Mayet (UMP). The UMP won 49% against 26.3% for Mark Bottemine, the first round PS candidate who led an unusual and controversial alliance with two DVD lists from the first round (17.3% and 7.3%). This composite alliance fell far short of its potential (42%), probably being hurt by perceptions of it as a grubby alliance of ambitious politicians and, on the left, by the controversial nature of an alliance between the PS-EELV and two lists, very much on the right and opposed to gay marriage. The national PS leadership reiterated its support for the list, but EELV silently withdrew its backing. The FG increased its vote to 13.4%, while the FN won 11.3%.

The FN won one town in the Greater Paris – Mantes-la-Ville (Yvelines). FN candidate Cyril Nauth, a nobody who barely campaign, was elected with 30.3% against 29.4% for PS incumbent Monique Brochot. Former PS mayor Annette Peulvast-Bergeal (1995-2008) ran as a dissident, winning 28.3%.

The PS suffered major loses in the Hauts-de-Seine, already losing Clamart by the first round. In Asnières-sur-Seine, former mayor Manuel Aeschlimann (UMP), who was defeated by a composite PS-Green-MoDem-DVD coalition led by Sébastien Pietrasanta (PS) in 2008, regained his old job, with 50.1% against 49.9% for Pietrasanta. Aeschlimann, who was sentenced in a corruption scandal in 2009, had been particularly controversial as mayor, for his very authoritarian and nepotistic management of the city. This year, ironically, Aeschlimann’s list merged with a DVD list led by Josiane Fischer, who had joined forces with the PS to defeat him six years ago. In Colombes, former UMP mayor Nicole Goueta, defeated in 2008, was also successful in a rematch against freshman PS mayor Philippe Sarre. She was elected with 52.4% against 47.6% for the PS. The only remaining PS mayor in the Hauts-de-Seine is Gilles Catoire in Clichy, who survived an extremely heated race thanks to the divisions of the right. He won 32.7% against 31.1% for the UMP, with Didier Schuller (UDI), a former RPR general councillor attempting to restart his political career after a corruption scandal in the 1990s forced him into exile in the Caribbean, placing third with 24.8%. EELV, which has bad relations with the PS mayor, won 11.4%.

The left – both PS and PCF – was badly defeated in Seine-Saint-Denis, a left-wing stronghold. Certainly the most shocking result came from Bobigny, a poor working-class Red Belt suburb which the PCF had held since the 1920s. Incumbent PCF mayor Catherine Peyge was defeated 46% to 54% by Stéphane De Paoli (UDI), a protege of Jean-Christophe Lagarde, the UDI député-maire of neighboring Drancy. De Paoli largely downplayed his partisan ties, with a very locally-oriented campaign which attracted support from some left-leaning individuals and organizations, and had some ties with Muslim community associations, giving him a base in the cités. The PCF also lost Villepinte, Le Blanc-Mesnil (held by the PCF since 1935) and Saint-Ouen to the right. In May 2012, Hollande won 65% in Villepinte, 66% in Le Blanc-Mesnil and over 70% in Bobigny and Saint-Ouen! In Bagnolet, another Red Belt suburb held by the PCF since 1935, the PS, with 35.6%, narrowly defeated the FG (31.4%). EELV won 20.3% and the right took 12.8%. In Aulnay-sous-Bois, a city gained from the right in 2008, PS mayor Gérard Ségura was defeated in a landslide by Bruno Beschizza (UMP), a former policeman and young copéiste (60.7% to 39.3%). In Le Raincy, the wealthiest town in the department, UMP mayor Éric Raoult, in office since 1995, was soundly defeated by a DVD candidate. Firmly on the right of the UMP, Raoult found himself accused of sexual harassment (sexting) during the campaign.

In the wealthy suburban town of Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, the incumbent UDI mayor Henri Plagnol, who faced much controversy for the city’s highly indebted position and divisions in his majority, was defeated by UMP deputy Sylvain Berrios (who had defeated Plagnol, then the incumbent deputy, in a 2012 by-election), 32% to 28%.

Frédéric Valletoux, the filloniste mayor who was not endorsed by UMP (the Seine-et-Marne is Copé’s personal fiefdom; Valletoux nevertheless received public support from Fillon and Valérie Pécresse), was reelected with 45.8% against 39.9% for the copéiste UMP candidate. The other high profile filloniste-copéiste battle was in Cannes, and ended with the easy victory of David Lisnard, the filloniste dauphin of the retiring mayor, against Philippe Tabarot, the brother of the copéiste UMP general-secretary Michèle Tabarot; Lisnard won 59% to 26%.

Sorry for the delayed publication of this post. Hungary and Québec up next.

Election Preview: France Municipal Elections 2014 – Part II

In the first part of this election preview, I explained how local government works in France and the context to these municipal elections. Focus now shifts to the major contests which are worth following. Please note that this is a hurried and basic guide, with only basic details for each race. It is also far from a thorough guide: I have likely forgotten many interesting races, and omitted races which I feel are less interested (but results may prove me wrong!).

Follow @welections on Twitter on March 23 and 30 for major results.

Overview: lists and party strategies

One of the major issues attracting interest in this election was the ability of the FN to run a large number of lists in a major cities, and their ability to win municipalities. The FN has usually struggled in municipal elections, more so than in other elections. The focus on local issues and local dynamics (the popularity of sitting mayors, local political machines) has usually hurt the FN, a protest party par excellence which has a weak local organization in many places. Secondly, electoral rules has also hurt the FN. In order to run, all parties must submit a complete list (and, since 2001, those lists must include an equal number of men and women) of candidates. For the FN, which has very few municipal councillors across France and relatively few elected officials compared to all other parties, it struggles to put up complete lists. Putting up complete lists requires recruiting and finding a large number of willing candidates, of both genders (the FN is a largely male-dominated party, in terms of cadres and candidates); lacking a local organization in many places, it also has difficulties in recruiting candidates for those lists, given that there’s generally been some reluctance by individuals in cities (especially in less populated towns where people are more likely to know one another) to take a spot on a FN list, fearing consequences it might have for them for employment and in their social circles. The result has been that when the FN does put up lists, a lot of its candidates, who can’t be properly vetted, turn out to be cranks and fruitcakes. Embarrassment ensues when the media digs up a picture of them posing in front of a Nazi flag, posting some racist nonsense on social media, praising some fascist lunatics on the internet or saying something beyond the pale. For example, the FN was forced to drop one of its candidate in the Ardennes after it was revealed that she compared justice minister Christiane Taubira (who is black, from French Guiana) to a monkey. In Nevers, however, it came too late for the FN: one of their candidates on the list has pictures of herself with Nazi flags or with Nazi/SS memorabilia on Facebook. According to media reports this year, the FN may also turn to unorthodox tactics to fill up its lists: by tricking random citizens into signing up for their lists (under guises of ‘signing a petition’) or putting up dead people; Le Monde reports the cases of senior residents protesting their appearance on FN lists against their will.

The FN’s best performance in municipal elections came in 1995, when the FN ran 444 lists in communes with over 9,000 people and won 505 seats. That year, the FN also won several major towns: Toulon, Orange, Marignane – with a later by-election victory in Vitrolles. In other towns throughout France, the FN won significant results: Perpignan (32.7%), Marseille (22%), Saint-Priest (34.5%), Vénissieux (27.5%), Vaulx-en-Velin (31%), Villefranche sur Saône (35.2%), Mulhouse (30.5%), Dreux (35.2%), Mantes-la-Jolie (25.6%), Noyon (44%), Roubaix (24.4%) and Tourcoing (32.5%). In 2001, the FN was badly hurt by the 1999 split by Bruno Mégret (whose wife was mayor of Vitrolles) to create the National Republican Movement (MNR). On the ground, a lot of FN elected officials – like Toulon mayor Jean-Marie Le Chevallier – left the FN for Mégret’s MNR (Le Chevallier remained neutral) and many FN sections in departments defected. Therefore, only 184 lists ran in communes with over 9,000 inhabitants. If Jacques Bompard, the well-entrenched mayor of Orange was reelected handsomely, he had already taken his distances with the FN and would later leave the party entirely (he briefly joined Philippe de Villiers’ MPF before creating, in 2010, his own party, the Ligue du Sud). In Marseille, where Mégret ran for the MNR, the MNR placed ahead of the FN. In Toulon, the ex-FN mayor, running against an official FN candidate, failed to even qualify for the runoff. In 2008, one year after Sarkozy crippled the FN electorally, the FN was in an even more difficult position and only managed to put up 106 lists; the silver lining was a decent showing for Marine Le Pen in Hénin-Beaumont, her adopted electoral home base, and the election of one municipal councillor in Marseille. Elsewhere, the FN was crushed.

After the FN’s 2012 successes and the feeling of the wind being in its sails, Le Pen was determined to put up as many lists as possibles. Invariably, the FN ran in the aforementioned problems, but it has put up 422 lists in communes with over 9,000 people. A handy Ifop study shows the presence of FN lists on the territory compared to 1995. It has managed to significantly expand its territorial footing, putting up FN lists in western and southwestern cities generally unfavourable to the FN. In the Pas-de-Calais, Marine Le Pen’s stomping ground, the FN ran 7 lists in 1995; today, it’s putting up 16 lists. Compared to 1995, however, there is a clear decline of the FN’s presence in the Parisian region: it ran 30 lists in the Seine-Saint-Denis, 23 in the Hauts-de-Seine and 25 in the Val-de-Marne in 1995 – this year, the FN has only 2, 8 and 10 lists in those departments. Similarly, the FN’s presence in Lyon’s suburbs is weaker than it was in 1995.

On the left, a major issue was the strategy of the Left Front (FG) and specifically the PCF, which is the only FG party with a significant municipal base. As mentioned in the last post, since 1977, there’s a powerful strategy of first round left-wing unity (union de la gauche) behind a single candidate. Through that strategy, the PCF has managed to save for itself a few seats in municipal councillors and the administration of left-wing controlled communes. It has not staved off the PCF’s inexorable decline, although the PCF still controls a sizable number of towns and the tradition of municipal communism remains a reality in some places. The PCF’s presence in municipal councils is especially important for the PCF because municipal councillors form the bulk of the electoral college which elects senators; hence, having many municipal councillors allows the PCF to defend its senatorial caucus. Therefore, the imperatives for the PCF to ally, by the first round, with the PS was and remains strong. That, however, displeases the PCF’s allies in the FG, especially Mélenchon’s PG. Mélenchon, whose party is so tiny it has nothing to lose by going it alone, has been on a firm anti-PS stance when it comes to first round alliances with the PS (since the 2010 regional elections, which already split the FG in some regions).

Mélenchon insisted on autonomous first round FG lists in as many towns as possible. The PCF’s incumbent councillors and leadership saw it otherwise. In a number of major cities, the PCF decided to ally with the PS by the first round. Paris caused a massive firestorm in the FG, endangering the future of the alliance and poisoning PG-PCF relations with the European elections coming up in June. In Paris, the local PCF voted 57-43 to participate in the PS lists by the first round, as the national leadership, backed by Paris senator Pierre Laurent (whose seat in the Senate depends on the PCF having seats in Paris), had wanted it. In other cities, such as Lyon, Brest, Caen, Grenoble, Nancy, Nantes, Reims, Rennes, Rouen, Saint-Étienne, Toulouse and Tours, the PCF is also backing the PS by the first round. In all those cases, the PG and smaller components of the FG (Ensemble etc) with a similar anti-PS stance, opted to form autonomous lists anyways. In some towns, such as Rennes and Grenoble, they allied with the Greens (EELV). In a handful of towns, the PG’s lists allied with the far-left New Anticapitalist Party (NPA), which is otherwise marginalized and isolated.

EELV chose autonomous lists in many cases, although in place such as Amiens, Angers, Besançon, Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrand, Dijon, Le Mans, Limoges, Marseille, Metz, Montpellier, Nice and Reims it allied with the PS by the first round. In Paris and Lyon, EELV has autonomous lists; although EELV is part of the governing majority in Paris, it has run independently of the PS there in the past municipal elections, while in Lyon the Greens had allied with the PS by the first round since 1995.

On the right, the Union of Democrats and Independents (UDI) – a centre-right coalition of small parties led by Jean-Louis Borloo – has generally chosen alliances with the UMP, but it has also been wanting to show that it can exist autonomously of the UMP. In the European elections, the UDI will run a common list with François Bayrou’s MoDem. In Strasbourg, Rouen, Caen and Aix the UDI is running independently of the UMP in the first round, sometimes with the MoDem’s support. Otherwise, the UDI is generally on UMP-led lists, while the UMP supports UDI-led lists in Amiens, Nancy and Rennes. The MoDem has more or less firmly aligned with the right, even if Bayrou endorsed Hollande over Sarkozy in 2012. The MoDem’s claims of being ‘beyond left and right’ and aiming to fill the centre ran into the reality of left-right politics in municipal elections as early as 2008. That year, the MoDem followed a confusing strategy: autonomy here and there, allied with the UMP there, allied with the PS here and so forth. Its incumbent mayors, elected for the centre-right UDF in 2001, won reelection with the right’s support. In a strategy which has left many confused, the MoDem supports many UMP-UDI lists by the first round, most notably in Paris. The cause of the MoDem’s alliance with the UMP-UDI seems to be in return for the UMP and UDI endorsing Bayrou’s mayoral candidacy in Pau. In Tours and Dijon, two towns where the MoDem has been in the PS-led governing majority since 2008, the MoDem is allied with the PS incumbents by the first round. In Marseille, the MoDem’s candidate, Jean-Luc Bennahmias, a MEP who joined the MoDem from the Greens (and is on the MoDem’s left) endorsed the PS-EELV list, but Bayrou’s national leadership disavowed him to officially back the UMP incumbent.

Major contests: France’s largest cities

Paris

Paris is always one of the most closely followed races in all municipal elections; sometimes frustratingly because many other races are actually far more interesting. Nevertheless, the capital, political centre and largest city in France is always the ultimate crown. Paris, however, has had an elected mayor with actual powers for only a short while: after the 1871 commune de Paris, municipal government (and the office of mayor) was abolished in favour of direct rule by the prefect (although a city council with a president of the council retained very symbolic powers), and it was only restored in 1977. That year, Paris was the major prize and all parties wanted it: the RPR’s leader Jacques Chirac, who had just broken with President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, threw his hat into the race; he went up against a patchy PS-PCF alliance marred by PS-PCF infighting and a centre-right led by Michel d’Ornano backed by the Prime Minister and (unofficially) by Giscard. Chirac’s lists defeated d’Ornano in the first round, with about 26% to 22% city-wide, and the RPR went on to a narrow victory over the left in the second round. Chirac proceeded to establish Paris’ city hall as his political base (alongside his seat as deputy in rural Corrèze in central France). He became very popular with consensual policies, and when he won reelected in 1983 and 1989, Chirac’s lists swept all 20 arrondissements in Paris – a huge feat given the political polarization of the city.

With Chirac elected to the presidency a month prior, he was succeeded in 1995 by his local ally, Jean Tiberi (RPR). Although Tiberi’s lists held a large majority on the Conseil de Paris, with 98 out of 163 seats, the left made major gains – winning 62 seats on council, and gaining no less than six arrondissements from the right, all in the historically left-leaning eastern half of the city. It was under Tiberi’s administration that the whole RPR machine built by Chirac since 1977 began to unravel, with the first revelations of corruption – kickbacks and corruption in the construction of social housing, the ‘faux emplois‘ (fake jobs) with salaries paid by the city to RPR cadres who didn’t work for the city and so forth. Tiberi was targeted by a judicial investigation opened in 1999 about his role in the corruption in the social housing (HLM) office. By the time of the 2001 elections, the right refused to endorse Tiberi, instead backing Philippe Séguin (RPR), who became the official candidate of the right (RPR-UDF-DL). Tiberi and his supporters ran dissidents lists in every arrondissement. On the evening of the first round, Séguin’s lists won 25.7% and placed on top of the right in 14 out of 20 arrondissements, while the tibéristes won 13.9% and topped the right in 4 arrondissements, including the Tiberi stronghold of the 5th arrondissement. The PS-PCF, led by PS senator Bertrand Delanoë, won 31.3% and negotiated a second round alliance with the Greens, who won a solid 12.4%. Although the right united for the runoff in all but three safely right-wing arrondissements, the divisions haunted and crippled the right in the runoff: vote transfers were imperfect, allowing the PS-Green alliance to win 12 out of 20 arrondissements and a solid majority (92 seats) on the city council. City-wide, Delanoë won on a minority of the vote (49.6%), with the combined total of the right over 50%.

Delanoë’s victory in 2001 owed a lot to the divisions of the right, but it also signaled a political shift in Parisian politics. Gentrification and the political shift of well-educated, middle-class urban professionals towards the PS (and Greens) is the other explanation for Delanoë’s initial victory – and why Paris is increasingly safe for the left. Delanoë became very popular during his first term, with landmark projects including Paris Plages (summer recreational activities and beaches on the banks of the Seine), the Vélib’ (a bicycle sharing system), an expansion in social housing and promotion of cultural activities. With high popularity and weak opposition, Delanoë was easily reelected in 2008, with about 41% of the city-wide vote in the first round. The Greens suffered major loses, winning only 6.8% in the first round, weakening their position against the PS. The right, united behind UMP deputy Françoise de Panafieu, won only 27.9%. In the second round, the left won a slightly expanded majority, but in a confirmation of the city’s political polarization, the left did not gain any arrondissements from the left. One of the closest contests was in the 5th arrondissement, where Jean Tiberi (UMP) ran for a fifth term as mayor of the arrondissement. Although polls had placed the left ahead, Tiberi won 45% against 44.1% for the PS in the runoff.

Strengthened by his victory, Delanoë took an increasingly prominent role in national politics and he was considered the early favourite to win the PS leadership at the 2008 Reims Congress. But after a poor campaign, Delanoë’s motion performed poorly and he ultimately withdrew from the leadership ballot, endorsing Martine Aubry. Refocusing his attention to municipal politics, Delanoë declined to run for reelection this year.

The PS candidate is Anne Hidalgo, who has served as Delanoë’s première adjointe (top deputy) since 2001 and could be seen as Delanoë’s heir-apparent. Behind her, Hidalgo has united the PCF and Left Radicals (PRG). EELV, a critical member of the governing left-wing majority since 2001, once again opted to run independently in the first round (the Greens have run alone in the first round ever since 1977) before allying with the PS lists in the second round. As in 2001 and 2008, EELV’s hope is for the strongest possible showing in the first round to gain a stronger bargaining position against the PS in the runoff and obtain a number of seats in the executive. EELV nominated Christophe Najdovski, an adjoint au maire. The PCF’s decision to ally with the PS, as noted above, created a national firestorm in the FG, prompting the PG and other small FG components to run their own autonomous list, led by incumbent city councillor Danielle Simonnet (PG).

The right was far more confident of its chances at victory in Paris this year, and the UMP sought to attract a top-rate star candidate (after de Panafieu, a mediocre candidate with a bourgeois image). Originally, speculation centered on Sarkozy’s Prime Minister François Fillon (who abandoned his seat in the Sarthe to run for a seat in Paris in the 2012 legislative elections) and Rachida Dati, the copéiste UMP mayor of the 7th arrondissement since 2008 (she’s also a MEP and was justice minister under Sarkozy’s first years). Fillon, who saw that victory would nevertheless be an uphill battle, did not run and Dati’s polling numbers were very poor. In a February 2013 open primary, the UMP nominated Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet (widely known as NKM). NKM, who is députée-maire of the suburban town of Longjumeau in the Essonne, served as environment minister under Sarkozy between 2010 and 2012. Her moderate (unlike the vast majority of the UMP, she abstained rather than vote against same-sex marriage/adoption) and ‘green’ profile is a fairly good fit for a left-leaning and socially liberal city like Paris. NKM defeated second-tier opposition handily, with 58% by the first round. If she successfully managed to forge a first round alliance with the UDI and the MoDem (which ran autonomously in 2008), she has been less successful at holding her campaign together. For the past few months, NKM’s campaign has been dogged by awkward moments by the candidate (struggling to shake off a bit of a bourgeois image) and, more importantly, dissident after dissident.

There are right-wing dissidents running against the official UMP-UDI-MoDem lists in all but two arrondissements. The Parisian right has been in poor shape since the 2001 defeat, and the severe divisions in UMP ranks during the 2011 senatorial elections and the 2012 congress worsened matters even further. A number of dissidents have pooled together around Charles Beigbeder, a copéiste businessman and brother of the crazy writer-philosopher Frédéric Beigbeder, who announced a dissident candidacy in the solidly right-wing bourgeois 8th arrondissement in December 2013, after a disagreement with NKM on his place on the official list. Beigbeder has federated some right-wing dissidents around his Paris libéré makeshift label, although besides him none of his candidates have much notoriety.

But, to complicate things further, there are stronger local UMP (and some UDI and MoDem) dissidents in other arrondissements. In the 5th arrondissement, the UMP incumbent Jean Tiberi was sentenced to 3 years electoral ineligibility (in addition to a fine and suspended jail sentence) for the ‘faux électeurs‘ (fake voters; Tiberi and his wife Xavière were accused of voter fraud by registering fictional names in the arrondissement; the common joke is that Tiberi’s strongest demographic was the cemetery) affair in 2013 and the UMP refused to support his son Dominique, who is running as a dissident. Polling has shown that Dominique Tiberi, whose family still controls a powerful machine in the arrondissement, may pull up to 20%, qualifying for the runoff. A triangulaire with the official UMP-UDI-MoDem candidate, Florence Berthout, and the PS candidate would be deadly for the right, especially given that the arrondissement has been moving left rapidly: Hollande won 56% in the 5th in 2012. In the solidly right-wing bourgeois 7th arrondissement (71% Sarkozy), the incumbent mayor Rachida Dati (UMP) is facing stiff competition on the right, with two prominent dissidents: Michel Dumont, the former mayor of the arrondissement (2002-2008) and Christian Le Roux, a former premier adjoint. Dati, as her opponents point out, seems to have little interest in either of her gigs (MEP and mayor).

NKM has chosen to run in the 14th arrondissement, which has been held by the PS since 2001 and gave Hollande over 60% in May 2012. Similar to the 12th arrondissement, it is one which is a must-win for the right if it is to win city-wide, but it is a huge uphill battle for her. Polls show that Carine Petit, the PS top candidate in the 14th, has a wide lead over NKM and the left would easily retain the arrondissement in the second round.

Paris was one of the far-right’s earliest strongholds: in 1983, Jean-Marie Le Pen’s list in the 20th arrondissement (eastern Paris) won 11.3% in the first round and 8.5% in the runoff – it was one of the FN’s first electoral successes, a year before its national breakthrough. In 1989, the FN won over 10% in four arrondissements, including 15.6% in the 20th for Le Pen. In 1995, the FN broke 10% in 9 arrondissements and obtained its only city councillor to date. However, the FN-MNR split crippled the Parisian far-right, which has also been one of the big losers of the demographic shifts in the city: less blue-collar, with the arrival of ‘new middle-classes’ with high cultural capital and also high repulsion towards the FN. The FN won 3.2% in 2008 and Marine Le Pen won only 6.2% of the vote in Paris in April 2012. The FN candidate is Wallerand de Saint-Just, a far-right lawyer from the FN’s traditionalist Catholic wing. With about 8-9% in citywide polls, there is an outside chance that the FN may win over 10% of the vote in some arrondissements, qualifying for the runoff.

Anne Hidalgo is the favourite in Paris. She has several advantages going for her: structurally, the electoral system in Paris tends to favour the left, whose strongholds are worth more seats on council than the right’s western strongholds. This means that the left would likely win even if it won a minority of the vote across the city. Secondly, Paris has shifted towards the left in recent years, culminating in no less than 55.6% for Hollande in May 2012.  The electorate in the key swing arrondissements is increasingly allergic to the UMP in its current shape: the Sarkozy and post-Sarkozy rhetoric of the right is a very poor fit for Paris, especially the swing arrondissements. The UMP’s constant vilification of the Parisian ‘bobo’ (bourgeois bohemian; a term which most on the right use without actually knowing what it means or who it refers to) does it no favours. Nevertheless, given the national climate far more favourable to the UMP than 2008, NKM should manage a more respectable performance for the right – but a personal defeat in the 14th and a potential gain by the PS in the 5th would be major blows to the right. Citywide polling is rather useless, but Hidalgo is stable at 52-53% in all runoff scenarios while both her and NKM poll roughly 35-39% in the first round. EELV, desperate for a good result given the party’s troubles, is between 5 and 7% in the polls, which would be mediocre.

Marseille

The most interesting major city to watch on both March 23 and 30 is Marseille: the largest city in the south of France is well worth following in every municipal elections because Marseille politics is so… fascinating, but this year the contest in Marseille could go both ways. All will be decided by the results in one, maybe two, key sectors. The mayor of Marseille since 1995 is Jean-Claude Gaudin (UMP).

Between 1953 and 1986, Marseille was the fiefdom of Gaston Defferre. In a city with a very strong PCF base – the PCF dominated politics in the working-class northern neighborhoods of the city (the present-day 8th sector), Defferre, a Socialist, governed with a coalition uniting Socialists, centrists, Radicals and non-Gaullist right – a coalition reminiscent of the anti-communist and anti-Gaullist Third Force coalitions so popular under the Fourth Republic. Defferre’s main opposition was the PCF, while the Gaullists, outside his majority, were a rather weak force in the city. The 1960s was the heyday of Defferre’s socialocentriste coalition; in 1977, Defferre was reelected without the PCF but his right-wing supporters had left and, finally, in 1983, Defferre’s final victory was with the PCF. That same year, Defferre was reelected despite losing the popular vote to Jean-Claude Gaudin (UDF), who had been an adjoint in Defferre’s previous administrations. The reason? As interior minister, Defferre had gerrymandered the sectoral map to benefit the left; a gerrymandering undone by Chirac’s government in 1986. Under Defferre’s administration, Marseille saw several major social and economic transformations: the fall of the French colonial empire, which had fueled Marseille’s industrial economy, led to an influx of white pied-noirs settlers from North Africa in the 1960s, followed by waves of mass immigration from North Africa. Defferre, as mayor, built a clientelist system which governed through corrupt agreement with the unions and the mafia – Marseille, as a major harbour, was and is a major transit point in drug trafficking from Asia to North America.

Defferre failed to groom an heir-apparent, and his succession opened a crisis in the Marseille PS which lasted for at least ten years. In 1986, after his death, Defferre was replaced by Robert Vigouroux, a PS senator backed by municipal councillors and due to be a ‘transition’ mayor until the 1989 elections. In 1989, the lingering crisis exploded: the PS-PCF officially nominated Michel Pezet, a PS deputy who had the support of the PS membership. Vigouroux ran for reelection as a dissident, rallying PS and PCF dissidents to his lists. The conflict on the left took a national dimension, because Michel Pezet was a close ally of Prime Minister Michel Rocard, while Rocard’s sworn enemy, President François Mitterrand the Élysée Palace gave covert support to Vigouroux, in a move to deny Rocard and Lionel Jospin the control of the Bouches-du-Rhône PS federation (the most important PS federation) ahead of the 1990 Rennes Congress. Vigouroux, who attracted significant crossover support from the right to his side, was elected in a landslide – sweeping all 8 sectors, taking about 42% to Pezet’s 15% and the UDF-RPR’s 24%. The Vigouroux episode proved to be a flash in the pan: the local PS dumped him, favouring instead local businessman and aspiring politician Bernard Tapie, leading Vigouroux to ally with the right (and endorsed Balladur in 1995), but the right lost interest in him after Tapie was eliminated from politics due to his corruption scandals. Vigouroux retired, leaving a few hardened supporters to back centre-right senator Jacques Rocca-Serra. The PS-PCF nominated Lucien Weygand, president of the general council, but this time Pezet, with Rocard’s blessing, ran as a PS dissident. Gaudin, leading a united right, won 36% in the first round against 28.7% for Weygand, 22% for the FN, 6% for Pezet and 4.8% for Rocca Serra. In the second round, Gaudin took five out of eight sectors, winning a solid majority on the council – 55 seats against 37 for the right and 9 for the FN.

Gaudin had little trouble winning reelection in 2001, against weak opposition from the left and a far-right weakened by its division between the FN and Mégret’s MNR. 2008, however, was won by a hair. Jean-Noël Guérini, the local big boss of the PS and president of the general council, gave Gaudin a run for his money. The left was able to pick up the first sector, in downtown Marseille, from the UMP, but the result hinged on the race in the third sector, where Guérini ultimately lost to the UMP by 2.8%. Gaudin was reelected, but he held only 51 out of 101 seats on the municipal council, against 49 for the left and 1 for the FN, which had taken a seat in the 8th sector in the first round.

At 74 years old, many felt that Gaudin would not run for reelection. The prospect of an open seat whet the appetite of many UMP parliamentarians: Renaud Muselier, the mayor of the third sector, was once perceived as Gaudin’s successors, but relations between the old patriarch and the younger initial heir-apparent broke down after 2008 and Gaudin likely clapped his hands at Muselier’s defeat in the 2012 legislative elections against Marie-Arlette Carlotti, the PS junior minister for the disabled. Other potential successors included Dominique Tian, Guy Teissier and Valérie Boyer, all three sitting deputies. Gaudin announced he would seek reelection in November 2013.

The PS is eager to regain Marseille. The PS in the Bouches-du-Rhône has been wracked by internal divisions and corruption scandals, all revolving around Guérini. Guérini, who hails from the same Corsican village as two of France’s most famous gangsters (but denies any family connection), has been embroiled in a major scandal since 2009. Guérini’s brother runs waste management companies suspected of ties to organized crime, and Guérini is said to have intervened to favour his brother’s businesses. In September 2011, Guérini was indicted on several charges, including conspiracy and influence peddling. The scandal proved a headache for the national PS, which dragged its feet in disciplining Guérini and rooting out corruption; only suspending him once he was indicted. Guérini was indicted in two new scandals in 2013. Nevertheless, Guérini remains senator and president of the general council. While many of those who were originally under his wings have transformed themselves into upstanding moral opponents of his corruption, Guérini retains significant influence over the PS in Marseille and the department and the local PRG is, for all intents and purposes, a guériniste front.

The PS held an open primary in October 2013, which attracted six candidates, including five heavy-weights: Marie-Arlette Carlotti, the junior minister and perceived as the establishment/government candidate; Patrick Mennucci, mayor of the 1st sector and deputy since 2012; Samia Ghali, senator and mayor of the 8th sector; Eugène Caselli, president of the urban community and Christophe Masse, vice-president of the general council. All candidates had, at one time or another, supported Guérini. But Mennucci and Carlotti have since clearly broken with Guérini, and Guérini seems to dislike both pretty strongly, having encouraged one of his stooges (Lisette Narducci, the PRG mayor of the 2nd sector) to run against Mennucci in the 2012 legislative elections. Mennucci focused his attacks on Force ouvrière (FO), a union accused of ‘co-governing’ the city with Gaudin and the CU with Caselli. FO is extraordinarily powerful in the local and metropolitan administration, it has its word to say in promotions, demotions and hiring while the mayor of the president of the CU both favour FO over other unions. Samia Ghali, who became senator thanks to Guérini’s backing, was considered by her opponents as Guérini’s candidate.

In the first round, Ghali won 25.3% against 20.7% for Mennucci, while Carlotti won 19.5%. Caselli took 16.6%, Masse won 14.3% while Henri Jibrayel, a deputy and Ghali’s rival in the 8th sector, won 3.7%. Ghali received very strong support in her strongholds of the quartiers nord, where she has a strong machine and GOTV operation. Overall, it was very much a friends-and-neighbors primary, each candidate (except Jibrayel) dominating their home turf. In the second round, Menucci was endorsed by Carlotti, Jibrayel (who hates Ghali) and Caselli while Masse (on bad terms with Mennucci) remained neutral. Somewhat disingenuously, Ghali presented herself as the ‘anti-system’ candidate and decried that her opponent was the candidate of the Parisian establishment, the Élysée and Matignon. Mennucci won the runoff with 57.2%. Ghali’s ‘concession’ was extremely ungrateful, whining that she had been up against 5 candidates and the government and, upon mentioning Ayrault and Hollande, the crowd booed. The ambiance was so terrible that talk of dissident lists ran wild, while her supporters swore not to back Mennucci. Ultimately, knowing what’s best for her, she made her peace with Mennucci. Mennucci’s lists have united all his primary opponents (except Jibrayel, who was never interested in municipal politics anyways): Mennucci in the 1st sector, Caselli in the 2nd sector, Carlotti in the 3rd sector, Masse in the 6th sector and Ghali in the 8th sector.

EELV, led by Karim Zéribi, a MEP (ex-PS), originally envisioned to run its own autonomous lists, but given the party’s weak base in the city, it rallied Mennucci’s PS lists in January. Zéribi is the top candidate in the 5th sector, which is safely UMP. Mennucci was also joined by the MoDem’s local leader and 2008 candidate, MEP Jean-Luc Bennahmias, a former Green. Bennahmias and some of his friends joined Mennucci’s lists in February 2014, but the national MoDem leadership (= Bayrou) disavowed him and are backing Gaudin.

For the first time since 1977, the PCF won’t be running with the PS in the first round. Jean-Marc Coppola (PCF), a regional vice-president, is the top candidate for the FG. Mélenchon won 13.8% in Marseille, and the PCF retains some level of support, especially in their old strongholds in the north of the city. But the PCF lost the mayoralty of the 8th sector in 2008; the PCF had controlled Marseille’s northern neighborhoods since World War II.

Guérini is behind a PRG list in five sectors. The only one which has a presence and nuisance power on the PS is that of Lisette Narducci, the loyal guériniste incumbent in the 2nd sector. In the 2012 legislative elections, Narducci won about 22% of the vote in the 2nd sector. However, the 2nd sector is firmly on the left; there is no chance of the right winning it.

Marseille has long been a strong spot for the FN: Marine Le Pen won 21.2% in April 2012 in Marseille, even placing first of all candidates in two arrondissements. In 2008, the election of one FN municipal councillor was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise horrible season for the FN. The FN’s lists are led by Stéphane Ravier, a regional councillor and the FN’s 2008 candidate. Ravier is leading the FN list in the 7th sector, located in northeastern Marseille – a low-income white working-class area with large immigrant pockets, it is one of the strongest regions in the city for the FN (Le Pen won 25% in 2012). Across the city, with the FN polling between 16% and 21%, the FN will likely qualify for the second round in every sector (unless some are won by the first round) and have a clear nuisance power for the UMP. Indeed, Mennucci’s hope of defeating Gaudin are hugely dependent on the FN’s numbers: a strong FN will create difficult triangulaires across Marseille, drawing votes from the UMP and allowing the PS to win with a plurality.

The race will be decided in one key sector: the 3rd sector, the same where Guérini’s mayoral ambitions hit a wall in 2008. Marie-Arlette Carlotti, one of two cabinet ministers who is a top candidate this year, is the PS top candidate in the 3rd sector, against Bruno Gilles, the UMP incumbent. The sector is a mix of right and left-leaning areas; poorer areas, middle-class neighborhoods and left-voting gentrified and educated downtown neighborhoods. Overall, Hollande won it with 52.9% in May 2012. The control of Marseille will be decided there: a UMP hold more likely than not reelects Gaudin, a PS win would probably be enough for them to win Marseille. It will be a contest to watch: polling shows that the runoff is well within the margin of error, with a 1-2% lead for Carlotti.

Lyon

There is much less media interest in Lyon, the third largest city in France. The city, a fairly bourgeois place, has a long tradition of centrist or moderate mayors: Édouard Herriot, the Radical grandee, served as mayor of Lyon between 1908 and 1957 (with the exception of the war years). He was replaced by Louis Pradel, a centre-right independent who preached local interests, uniting a broad array of politicians from the centre to Jacques Soustelle’s French Algeria friends. He was the target of major Gaullist assaults in both 1959 and 1965, but both times Pradel was reelected and in 1971, the Gaullists now backed Pradel. He was replaced after his death by Francisque Collomb (UDF), who was badly defeated in 1989 by Michel Noir, a young ambitious RPR leader whose rising star was shot down by a corruption scandal involving Noir and his father-in-law (a corrupt businessman). In 1995, Noir, indicted for corruption, retired but supported dissident lists around Henry Chabert, his adjoint. The UDF-RPR nominated former Prime Minister Raymond Barre (UDF), who narrowly outpolled the noiristes in the first round (29% to 26%) and defeated the PS-Greens and FN in the runoff. Barre’s retirement after one term reopened the civil war on the right, now divided between an official RPR-UDF list led by Michel Mercier (UDF) and Jean-Michel Dubernard (RPR) and lists led by Charles Millon (DLC), a former regional president. The division of the right, as in Paris, allowed Gérard Collomb, a PS senator backed by the Greens, to win the second round. In the city council, the left took 42 seats against 21 for the millonistes and 10 for the official right.

In tune with Lyon’s political moderation and benefiting from a shift to the left of the city’s well-educated and urban middle-class milieus, Collomb has been very popular. Governing very much as a centrist, Collomb was reelected in a landslide in 2008: his lists won 6 out of 9 arrondissements in the first round, while the UMP only won (in the runoff) the very affluent 2nd and 6th arrondissements, rock-ribbed strongholds of the right. Collomb has not been afraid of going against his party: in the 2012 legislative elections, Collomb backed Thierry Braillard (PRG), a dissident, against a EELV candidate endorsed by the PS; Collomb has also signaled that he is less than enamoured with Hollande’s record thus far. Collomb’s relations with the president of the general council, Michel Mercier (UDI), are also solid: it is thanks to an understanding between both men that the transformation of the CU of Lyon into a de facto department is going ahead.

Running for a third term, there is nothing which can stop him. He is weakened by a more fragmented left: EELV is running autonomously, with Étienne Tête as top candidate; the FG lists include Nathalie Perrin-Gilbert, the ex-PS dissident mayor of the 1st arrondissement. The UMP has likely chosen the best possible candidate. In a primary, local members chose Michel Havard, a former deputy and a moderate. He defeated Georges Fenech, a deputy for a suburban constituency known for his more right-wing positions.

Other cities

Toulouse: In 2008, the PS, led by Pierre Cohen, finally regained Toulouse, a left-leaning city which it had lost back in 1971. Since 1971, the city, which voted for the left in national elections, was governed by the right: Pierre Baudis (1971-1983), succeeded by his son Dominique Baudis (1983-2001), followed by Philippe Douste-Blazy (2001-2004) and ultimately Jean-Luc Moudenc (2004-2008). Despite the national climate, Moudenc, a rather well-liked consensual moderate, put up a solid fight. In the first round, Moudenc came out ahead (42.6%) of the PS (39%) and he lost the runoff by a tiny margin (49.6% to 50.4%). This year’s election is a rematch of the 2008 election: Jean-Luc Moudenc, who was elected to the National Assembly in the 3rd constituency in 2012, is backed the UMP, UDI and MoDem (Christine de Veyrac, a UDI MEP, has maintained her dissident candidacy but she’s not a factor) while incumbent mayor Pierre Cohen is backed by the PS, PCF and PRG. Unlike in 2008, the Greens (EELV) are running autonomously behind Antoine Maurice, a sitting municipal councillor. There is a PG list led by sitting municipal councillor Jean-Christophe Sellin. Polls indicate a very close battle, especially in the first round. However, it appears that with good transfers from EELV and the PG, Cohen is the favourite in the second round. The last poll showed Cohen leading the second round 52-48, but trailing the first round by 1.5.

Nice: Christian Estrosi (UMP) won the 2008 election, comfortably defeating Patrick Allemand (PS) and incumbent mayor Jacques Peyrat. Peyrat is a Algérie française type, ex-FN (FN deputy in 1986) who was close to Jean-Marie Le Pen but, having been defeated by a hair in several close races, quit the FN in 1994 to move closer to the right while still publicly supporting much of the FN’s policies. He was elected mayor in 1995, defeating incumbent RPR mayor Jean-Paul Baréty (1993-1995) by over 10 points in a quadrangulaire with the left and the FN.

Peyrat was also close, however, to the Médecin clan – he was first elected to the municipal council in 1965 when mayor Jean Médecin (1928-1944, 1947-1965) took him under his wing. Médecin the elder, a right-wing nationalist (but, formally, close to the Radicals), was an enthusiastic Pétainiste in 1940 and until the Italian occupation in 1942, and viscerally anti-Gaullist. Médecin successfully set up a ‘système Médecin‘ – a clientelistic network, a distributor of patronage, a local lobby, the expression of a local ‘notable’ who refused all ties with national parties – a right-winger who could be called a fascist without exaggeration who was on good terms with the local PCF deputy, Virgile Barel; nationalistic but more pro-European and pro-American/NATO than most Gaullists. He was deputy from 1932 to 1962, of some relevance nationally but ultimately not very interested by national politics and, because of his independence and localism, kept away from most Parisian cabinets. Jacques Médecin succeeded his father in 1965. He was less anti-Gaullist than his father, being instead very much anticommunist; he was still very right-wing (if not far-right; he said he shared 99.9% of the FN’s idea) and racist. Very crooked, he resigned and fled to Uruguay in 1990, before being extradited to France in 1994 and sentenced in four separate trials but somehow fled back to Uruguay and escaped jail in 1996. While Peyrat wasn’t an ally of Jacques Médecin, there was a rather friendly entente between the two men, whose political differences didn’t go much beyond the fact that one was open about being in the FN and the other was too closely tied to the dynastic family history to do so. Indeed, in 1995, Peyrat visited Médecin in jail and presented himself as his natural successor. Peyrat, however, didn’t set up a ‘système’ of his own, and joined the RPR in 1996, serving as deputy (1997-1998) and senator (1998-2008).

His time was up in 2008, when the now Sarkozyst UMP had little interest in the old man and was, locally, led by Christian Estrosi – who in those years was known as one of Sarkozy’s most loyal footsoldiers. Estrosi is very much on the right: his main image is that of a law-and-order guy who recently prided himself on his administration’s ‘dealing’ with the Roma (and proposed to help other mayors with tips on how to do so). Estrosi is the leading baron of the UMP in the Alpes-Maritimes, his support for Fillon was enough for Fillon to carry the department in the 2012 congress. Estrosi’s reelection, perhaps by the first round, makes no doubt. The city is firmly on the right. The FN’s campaign, led by party vice-president Marie-Christine Arnautu (supported by Jean-Marie Le Pen, over the opposition of his daughter; the FN patriarch is given free rein by her daughter over FN affairs in PACA), has foundered. It is likely that many FN voters have flocked to Estrosi, whose campaign has focused on highlighting his record on criminality.

Estrosi’s non-FN right-wing dissidents are no threat. Jacques Peyrat wants his old job back, but he lacks partisan support (he floated back to the FN, running for them in 2011 and 2012). Olivier Bettati, a UMP general councillor and former ‘adjoint au maire‘ who has always distrusted Estrosi. Bettati, a copéiste, defeated Estrosi in a cantonal election back in 1994. The PS-EELV list is led by local opposition leader (and perennial candidate) Patrick Allemand.

Strasbourg: Governed by centrists (notably Pierre Pfimlin, from the MRP, between 1959 and 1983), Strasbourg was gained by the left, namely Catherine Trautmann (PS) in 1989. She was reelected by the first round in 1995, but she resigned her job in 1997 to become culture minister in Jospin’s government. Her return to municipal politics upon her departure from the government in 2000 created a crisis within the PS majority: she wanted her jobs as mayor and president of the CU, whereas Roland Ries, who had held both offices since 1997, had been previously set to retain the presidency of the CU. Although an agreement was found to allow Trautmann to retake both jobs, the episode profoundly divided the left in Strasbourg. In 2001, Trautmann’s PS-Green list faced a dissident list led by Jean-Claude Petitdemange, a member of the municipal majority and leader of the PS federation in the Bas-Rhin. In the first round, Trautmann won 29.1%, a few decimals behind Fabienne Keller (UDF), while Petitdemange won 12.1%. The latter’s decision to maintain his list in the runoff, sparking a triangulaire, proved fatal for the PS: Keller won with 50.9%, against 40.4% for Trautmann and 8.7% for Petitdemange. In 2008, buoyed by a helpful national climate, Roland Ries (PS) regained control of Strasbourg for the left. Fabienne Keller’s administration had been marred by complaints of authoritarianism by some of councillors in the right-wing majority, as well as a conflict with Robert Grossmann, the president of the CU. In the first round, Ries led Keller by over 10 points – 43.9% to 33.9% – and, with the backing of the Greens (6.4%), Ries won the runoff in a landslide with no less than 58.3%.

This year is another rematch between Keller and Ries, and the UMP is far more confident of its chances of victory. Going for the UMP is the national climate and the right’s greater mobilization in times of lower turnout; going for the PS is the popularity of the incumbent and the city’s lean to the left (Hollande won 54.7%, the culmination of a strengthening of the left since the 1990s in gentrified neighborhoods and the downtown core). Both sides face significant, but not damaging, challenges from their own sides: EELV is running autonomously, like in 2008, with Alain Jund; the UDI is trying its luck with an independent candidacy by François Loos, a former deputy and industry minister under Chirac. The race, originally looking good for the left, has tightened significantly. The last two polls showed that, in the case of a straight PS-UMP runoff, both candidates are tied at 50% apiece. A lot hinges on whether or not the FN, weak in Strasbourg, will qualify for the runoff. If it does, a triangulaire would favour the left, which holds a lead of a few points over the UMP in those scenarios. The UMP is heavily targeting the city, which may be the biggest city which it may gain: the enemies of the party, Copé and Fillon, were brought to a ‘unity’ rally with Keller a week or so ago.

Montpellier: Montpellier has been governed by the PS since 1977, and now leans solidly towards the left – Hollande won 62.4% in the city back in May 2012. Governed by Georges Frêche between 1977 and 2004, he was replaced by Hélène Mandroux. Mandroux originally governed in the shadow of her controversial but masterful predecessor, who remained president of the CA while he served as president of the regional council after 2004. She was easily reelected in 2008, with 47.1% in the first round against 26.1% for UMP deputy Jacques Domergue and 11.1% for the Greens. In the second round, she won 51.9% against 29.5% for the UMP and 18.6% for the Greens. Mandroux, however, saw her relationship with Frêche deteriorate. She was called upon to lead an official PS list against Frêche in the 2010 regional elections (Frêche had been excluded from the PS for anti-Semitic comments), and her result in the first round – 7.7% – was an unmitigated disaster which weakened her leadership. She was left further weakened by conflicts in her majority, still divided between frêchistes and anti-frêchistes. Mandroux was unable to take control of the CA after Frêche’s death in 2010; it went to Jean-Pierre Moure, who allied himself with the frêchistes. In the PS, she gradually lost her influence. Despite these challenges, Mandroux insisted on running for reelection, but in a convoluted process, she was convinced by Ayrault to withdraw her candidacy in favour of Jean-Pierre Moure. However, Moure’s nomination, confirmed in a primary, has divided the PS. Philippe Saurel, a member of the governing majority considered close to interior minister Manuel Valls, is running as a dissident after having refused to participate in primaries (claiming they were manipulated). Saurel’s support in polls has increased exponentially over the campaign, and the last poll placed him at 21%, only 3 points behind UMP-UDI-MoDem candidate Jacques Domergue and 7 points behind Moure, who has won the support of EELV (slightly surprising, given EELV’s longstanding opposition to the Frêche system and the party’s ability to poll well if it ran independently, as in 2008). Saurel has seemingly little intention of withdrawing from the runoff. To jumble things up further, the FN, led by regional councillor France Jamet, has been consistently polling over 10%. A four-way runoff, even maybe a five-way runoff with the FG, is a real possibility. However, despite UMP wet dreams of winning thanks to PS divisions, polls show that Moure retains a strong advantage in all runoff scenarios.

Bordeaux: Hollande won 57% in Bordeaux in 2012 and the city is firmly on the left politically, but there’s no chance that the PS will win it this year. Since 1947, the city has been governed by Gaullists: Jacques Chaban-Delmas was elected for the first time in the Gaullist RPF wave of 1947 and governed the city until his retirement in 1995. Chaban-Delmas, a leading ‘baron of Gaullism’, was reelected year after year with huge majorities by the first round, even in unfavourable climate like 1977. In 1995, he supported Alain Juppé, an ally of Chirac and the new Prime Minister, who won 50.3% in the first round. Juppé, forced out of politics by his sentencing in a corruption scandal (where he is seen as having taken the fall for Chirac), returned as mayor in 2006 following a by-election. His defeat in the 2007 legislative elections to a little-known PS candidate caused undue optimism on the left, which nominated a heavyweight candidate to challenge Juppé in 2008: regional president Alain Rousset. But it wasn’t to be: Juppé won 56.6% by the first round, against 34.1% for the left. The PS, however, won control of the CU of Bordeaux. This year, Juppé is nearly ensured another term by the first round. His PS opponent is Vincent Feltesse, the president of the urban community of Bordeaux.

Lille: Incumbent PS mayor Martine Aubry (since 2001) is a lock to win a third term in a city governed by Socialists with uninterrupted since 1955. The UMP candidate is senator Jean-René Lecerf and the FN, led by Éric Dillies, will likely qualify for the runoff as it had in 2001 and 1995.

Reims: In 2008, the PS (Adeline Hazan) gained Reims, governed by the right since 1983, thanks to the divisions of the right between Renaud Dutreil (UMP, 23% in the first round) and Catherine Vautrin (UMP dissident-MoDem, backed by the retiring DVD mayor, 25.2%). With bad transfers between the two right-wing lists, Hazan defeated Vautrin with 56.1%. This year, the city is a key target for the UMP, which is led by young deputy Arnaud Robinet and supported by Catherine Vautrin, who is also a deputy. Polls indicate a very tight race, with the FN likely to qualify for the runoff.

Le Havre: A major industrial centre and Communist stronghold (it had a PCF mayor between 1965 and 1995, most famously André Duroméa), Le Havre was gained by the RPR in 1995, and the right has twice frustrated Communist attempts to regain its former stronghold. In 2008, incumbent mayor Antoine Rufenacht (UMP) defeated PCF deputy Daniel Paul with 54.7% in the runoff. In the first round, the PCF list, with 29.2%, had outpolled a PS-Green list (13.9%). Rufenacht retired in favour of Édouard Philippe, who was elected deputy in June 2012. With no polling in the race, there’s an element of added suspense: can the left finally regain a city which gave Hollande 58.6% of the vote? Which of the PS and FG will come out ahead on the left? Can the FN, which won 20.8% in 1995 but has performed poorly since then, qualify for the second round?

Saint-Étienne: With the exception of a PCF mayor between 1977 and 1983, Saint-Étienne, despite being a rather blue-collar and industrial city, had been governed by the centre-right for most of its history. In 2008, incumbent mayor Michel Thiollière (Radical-UMP) was seen as the favourite, but he was badly hurt by Gilles Artigues (MoDem), a former UDF deputy who won 20.2% in the first round against 37.9% for Thiollière and 33.7% for Maurice Vincent (PS-PCF-PRG-MRC). In a fatal triangulaire with the centre, Thiollière was narrowly defeated, 41.6% against 46.1% for Vincent. Vincent, now a senator, is credited for cleaning up the city’s finance, after his predecessors had signed up for ‘toxic debts’. Nevertheless, and despite Hollande’s strong result in the city in 2012 (58.3%), Vincent is very vulnerable. Gaël Perdriau (UMP, leader of the opposition) has managed the feat of uniting a very fractious and divided right, including supporters of the former mayor and Gilles Artigues (UDI, third on the list). The first round promises to be closely fought, while the second round will almost certainly be a triangulaire with the FN (Marine won 17.6% in the city, and the FN qualified for the runoff in 1989, 1995 and 2001) in which the incumbent has a small, but weak, lead.

Grenoble: Governed by the PS since Michel Destot (PS) won the city in 1995, the incumbent is now retiring. The city is firmly on the left, with 64.3% for Hollande, and the FN is weak (10.9% in 2012); nevertheless, the left is traditionally divided between the PS and the Greens. There is a strong New Left/environmentalist tradition in Grenoble, most famously channeled by former mayor Hubert Dubedout (1965-1983) and the local Groupe d’action municipale (GAM). More recently, the Greens won 12% in 1995, 19.8% in 2001 and 22.5% in the 2008 (runoff, after 15.6% in the first round). The PS candidate, backed by the PCF, is Jérôme Safar, an ally of the outgoing mayor. He faces a strong challenge from Eric Piolle, a EELV regional councillor who is supported by the PG. The right in Grenoble continues to traumatized and divided by the tenure of Alain Carignon (RPR, 1983-1995), once a rising star of the right before his career was compromised by two corruption scandals (for which he actually served jail time). Carignon, who is unpopular with the wider electorate and divides within his own party, wanted to run this year. The UMP, however, endorsed opposition leader Matthieu Chamussy, who placed Carignon further down on his list (eligible for a seat only if the list won); Carignon refused and convinced Copé to withdraw the UMP endorsement from Chamussy in October. Facing pushback from Chamussy and the Fillon camp, the UMP backtracked and Chamussy was re-endorsed, while Carignon took the 9th spot on the UMP list. Polls show that Grenoble will stay on the left, but there is an interesting battle between Safar (PS-PCF) and Piolle (EELV-PG): polls have shown Piolle to be in second, about 10 points behind Safar, but ahead of the UMP. Even in the case of a triangulaire with EELV, the PS should likely win (a normal two-way battle would result in a left-wing landslide).

Angers: Angers has been governed by the left since 1977, but fittingly for a Christian democratic department, the PS has been centrist: Jean Monnier, the mayor between 1977 and 1998, was excluded from the PS in 1983 for refusing to ally with the PCF and forming a coalition with the centrist CDS. Reelected handily with centrist crossover support, Monnier’s successor, Jean-Claude Antonini has somewhat followed in his footsteps (but no formal alliances with the centre-right) and his relations with the PCF and far-left were tense. Antonini, reelected by a wide margin in 2001, survived a very hot race in 2008, which pitted him against Christophe Béchu, the young UMP president of the general council and the ‘rising star’ of the local right (he’s been a UMP candidate in municipal, cantonal, regional, European and senatorial elections!). Antonini resigned in 2012, and was replaced by Frédéric Béatse (PS), who defeated Jean-Luc Rotureau (PS) in an internal vote. The succession has been badly handled: Rotureau, whose demand for open primaries was rejected, is running as a dissident against the incumbent mayor. With polls indicating that the dissident is taking up to 17%, the situation looks perfect for a UMP gain: Christophe Béchu, now a senator and president of the general council after having been a regional councillor and MEP, is the favourite and polls show that he would win the runoff by a comfortable margin (and will likely dominate the first round).

Aix-en-Provence: Incumbent UMP mayor Maryse Joissains-Masini, in office since 2001, is facing a tough reelection – but she’s used to winning very narrowly. But this year, two years after losing her seat in the National Assembly, she is weakened by a divided right and a judicial investigation against her for a case of emplois fictifs. Her municipal majority is divided, with Bruno Genzana (UDI), a former member of her majority, leading a UDI list backed by Jean Chorro (UMP), a former premier adjoint to the mayor. Attempts at mediation and compromise have failed; the mayor is dead-set on running for reelection and grooming her daughter, UDI Sophie Joissains, to succeed her. However, the left is also divided in its own right: the PS candidate is Edouard Baldo, but there is an independent centre-left list (backed by Guérini) led by François-Xavier de Peretti (ex-MoDem, son of a former UDF mayor) and Alexandre Medvedowsky (PS, candidate in 2008 and 2009). Maryse won her first term in 2001 with 50.7%, and won reelection in 2008 with 44.3% against 42.9% for Medvedowsky (PS) and 12.8% for de Peretti (MoDem). Invalidated, she won a 2009 by-election with 50.2% against 49.8% for Medvedowsky (PS-MoDem-Greens). One poll shows Maryse as the favourite, but if de Peretti’s list joins that of the PS and the FN qualifies for the runoff, she could be in mortal danger.

Amiens: The PS scored a surprise victory in Amiens over incumbent mayor Gilles de Robien (NC) in 2008, with Gilles Demailly (PS) winning 56.2% in the runoff. Demailly is not seeking reelection, and the PS-PCF-EELV list is led by Thierry Bonté, vice-president of the CA. The right is led by Brigitte Fouré (UDI), a general councillor and former mayor (2002-2007, while Robien was in cabinet); she’s running in tandem with Alain Gest (UMP), deputy and a former president of the general council who would be president of the CA in the case of victory. The FN has a strong enough base – over 16% for Le Pen in 2012 – to qualify for the runoff. The last poll showed the right leading by 10 in the first round, but a perfect tie in the runoff.

Metz: For the first time since 1848, as the media reported, the PS gained Metz in 2008. Dominique Gros profited from the division of the right, whose legendarily ugly divisions in Metz and Moselle finally hurt them. Metz had been governed since 1971 by Jean-Marie Rausch, a centrist (CDS) who had joined the PS government in 1988. Rausch was reelected with PS support in 1989, and his last two victories – in 1995 and 2001 – came despite RPR and PS opposition. In 2008, the right and centre was a huge mess: Rausch, running out of steam, piled on for another term; the UMP endorsed Marie-Jo Zimmermann, a UMP deputy; Nathalie Griesbeck, a MoDem MEP and general councillor ran and there was one smaller DVD list. In the first round, Gros (PS) won 34% against 24.2% for Rausch, 16.9% for Zimmermann, 14.7% for Griesbeck and 5.6% for the other right-winger. The UMP HQs instructed Zimmermann to withdraw in Rausch’s favour, but she refused and merged her list with that of the MoDem and the DVD. In retaliation, the UMP withdrew their support from her list to support Rausch. In the runoff, Gros won 48.3% against 27.4% for the incumbent and 24.3% for Zimmermann. The contest this year is cleaner and competitive: Gros (backed by the PRG and EELV) faces Zimmermann, who leads a united right and centre (UMP-UDI-MoDem). The outcome hinges on the FN: if the list led by regional councillor Françoise Grolet qualifies, a triangulaire would likely favour Gros; a two-way runoff, according to polls, would be open-ended but the one poll showed the UMP ahead by 2 in a PS-UMP runoff scenario.

Perpignan: Located in southwestern France, Perpignan, where Le Pen won 22.5% in 2012, is a major FN target. The city has been governed by the right since the 1970s, when Socialist mayor Paul Alduy (1959-1993) was excluded from the PS in 1976 for opposing the alliance with the PCF. He was succeeded by his son, Jean-Paul Alduy (UDF, UMP), reelected in contentious conditions in 2008 and reelected in a 2009 by-election. He has since retired, and Jean-Marc Pujol (UMP) replaced him and is now running for a first full term. The FN candidate is Louis Aliot, a regional councillor and party vice-president who is also Marine Le Pen’s boyfriend. Aliot has built a strong base for himself in Perpignan, a city with high security and immigration concerns favourable to a strong FN vote; even in 2008, a terrible year for the FN, Aliot’s list won 12.3% in the first round (but only 9.4% in 2009). The left is divided, between Jacques Cresta, a newly-elected PS deputy and Jean Codognès, a former PS deputy and candidate in both 2008 and 2009 who’s new atop a EELV list. While Aliot is polling nearly 30%, he is nowhere near striking distance of first. The UMP incumbent should hold his seat without much of a sweat.

Boulogne-Billancourt: Suburban, affluent (but it hasn’t always been so: it used to be a fairly leftist industrial place) and in the Hauts-de-Seine, Boulogne-Billancourt is a right-wing stronghold (63% Sarkozy in 2012) and the right has been in charge since 1971. However, the right is very divided, split by complex personal animosities and complicated by shifting alliances. As in 2008, the right is very divided: incumbent mayor Pierre-Christophe Baguet (UMP, UDF until 2006) won the seat in 2008, defeating senator Jean-Pierre Fourcade (UMP dissident), who had been mayor between 1995 and 2007, when he had resigned in favour of Pierre-Mathieu Duhamel (UMP), in order to block Baguet from being mayor. Duhamel betrayed Fourcade by not running in 2008 and allowing Baguet, endorsed by the UMP, to run unencumbered; that forced Fourcade to run. In the 2008 runoff, Baguet won 44.3% against 34.9% for Fourcade and 20.8% for the left. This year, Pierre-Mathieu Duhamel is running against incumbent mayor Pierre-Christophe Baguet. Baguet is the official UMP candidate, but Duhamel is backed by Alain Juppé, Fourcade and sitting deputy Thierre Solère (app. UMP), who was elected in 2012 as a dissident candidate (backed by Duhamel) against the official UMP candidate, Claude Guéant.

Caen: In 2008, the PS finally gained Caen: for years, the PS, led by Louis Mexandeau (a PS deputy between 1973 and 2002), had tried for thirty years – each time in vain – to wrestle control of city hall from the hands of Jean-Marie Girault (UDF, mayor 1971-2001) and his successor, Brigitte Le Brethon (UDF, UMP). Finally making good on the city’s shift to the left – Hollande won about 61% in 2012 – the PS, led by Philippe Duron, the president of the regional council, defeated incumbent UMP mayor Brigitte Le Brethon, who had already lost her seat in the National Assembly to Duron in 2007. In the runoff, Duron won 56.3%. This year, the PS may fall victim to the national mood. But first, the right will need to figure out who will lead it in the runoff: in one of the most competitive ‘primaries’ between UMP and UDI, the UMP’s regional councillor Joël Bruneau faces UDI general councillor Sonia de la Provôté (a strong candidate, having gained, despite very unfavourable tail winds, a Caen canton from the PS in 2011). A poll in late February showed the UMP with 26% against 20% for the UDI (and 28% for the PS mayor, who faces a EELV and PG-NPA list, both standing at 9% in that poll). That same poll showed that, regardless of the candidate, the right leads the mayor in the runoff: 51-49 if it’s the UMP, 53-47 if it’s the UDI.

Saint-Denis (93): Saint-Denis, a proletarian suburb in Paris’ famous Red Belt, has been held by the PCF since 1945, and before that since 1922 (save for the Doriot episode in the mid-1930s). Up until recently, the PS had not challenged the PCF’s hegemony over the city; however, the decline of the PCF in national elections has whet the PS’ appetite and the PS ran a candidate against PCF mayor Didier Paillard in 2008; the PCF held on rather easily, with 51.1% in the runoff but the PS took 30.6% in the runoff. In 2012, in a major shock, FG incumbent Patrick Braouezec was defeated by PS candidate Mathieu Hanotin, a young ally of the department’s powerful PS president of the general council, Claude Bartolone (whose ambition is to further cripple the PCF). This year, competition is even more ferocious: Paillard, backed by EELV, faces Hanotin, the new PS deputy. A poll gave the FG a 10 point lead over the PS in the first round, with the UMP on 10%. A runoff with the UMP would help the FG; a two-way battle between the FG and PS in the runoff may play more to the PS’ advantage, given that UMP voters would likely back Hanotin to defeat the PCF.

Nancy: The PS has never held Nancy, which has been ruled by centre-right or Gaullist mayors (albeit sometimes in socialocentriste coalitions with the Socialists) since at least 1945. The incumbent mayor, André Rossinot (UDI), in office since 1983, is retiring (but still running for reelection to the municipal council) in favour of Laurent Hénart (UDI), a young deputy defeated in 2012. The city is one of the left’s best hopes for a pickup: the PS-PCF-EELV candidate, Mathieu Klein, a young vice-president of the general council, is a strong candidate and the city has shifted left (55% for Hollande). Two polls have both shown Klein as the narrow favourite, but nothing is decided yet.

Argenteuil: The RPR, led by Georges Mothron and by focusing heavily on security issues, picked up Argenteuil, a working-class suburb in the Val-d’Oise which had been ruled by the PCF since 1945. In 2008, he was defeated by Philippe Doucet (PS-PCF), although very narrowly (50.6% for the left in the second round). This year, Mothron, who lost his seat in the National Assembly to Doucet in 2012, is running against Doucet, who has lost the support of the PCF, running autonomously on a FG list. One poll back in 2013 showed Doucet in the lead, but that was a while ago and it’s very unclear how things will shape up.

Montreuil: In the Seine-Saint-Denis, Montreuil is another solidly left-wing and historically very proletarian suburban commune, governed by the PCF since 1945. In 2008, incumbent mayor Jean-Pierre Brard, in office since 1984 (originally PCF, he left the party in 1996 for the CAP), faced a strong challenge from the Greens, who had already placed a distant second in 2001. The Greens have been increasingly strong in Montreuil, a result of gentrification in parts of the city which has seen educated and professional ‘bobos’ replace older working-class residents. In 2008, the Green candidate was Dominique Voynet, a two-time Green presidential candidate and senator; although Brard was still endorsed by the PS, Voynet was supported by many local PS dissidents. In the first round, Brard won 39.4% against 32.5% for Voynet; in the runoff, benefiting from the absence of the right, she won with 54.2%. Her administration, however, has been a mess, wracked by numerous divisions in her majority. Knowing that she would lose reelection badly, she will not be running again. The result is a very divided left. Brard, who lost his seat in the National Assembly in 2012, is running again and is the man to beat; but he doesn’t have the FG’s support (unlike in 2012) and his age and autocratic tendency make him a polarizing figure on the left. The FG candidate is PCF regional councillor Patrice Bessac. The PS is behind Razzy Hammadi, a former PS youth leader who had difficulty getting elected before emerging victorious in the constituency covering Montreuil in June 2012. Hammadi, however, is rather unpopular on the left and even within his own party, and faces a PS dissident, incumbent (pro-Voynet) municipal councillor Mouna Viprey. While EELV is in poor shape here, their candidate, Ibrahim Dufriche-Soilihi, backed by Voynet, is still worth noting. The UMP’s candidate is Manon Laporte, the wife of former rugby coach and junior minister for sports (2007-2009) Bernard Laporte. Polls show a real mess: Brard is ahead, with a substantial lead in the first round, but all other leftist candidates are in contention: the FG’s Patrice Bessac appears to be in second, while Hammadi (PS), Dufriche (EELV) and Laporte (UMP) fight for third. Viprey, with 9-10%, may qualify for the runoff. The first round is so messy that the runoff has not been polled: because nobody knows what it’ll look like!

Nouméa: Politics in New Caledonia are complicated and worlds apart from metro France, but the contest in the capital of the territory – Nouméa – is very interesting. A white city, Nouméa is strongly on the right (with the anti-independence parties) while the pro-independence left is a non-factor. As in 2008, therefore, the battle is fought on the right. The city has been controlled since 1977 by the RPCR/Rassemblement-UMP, the leading right-wing party whose leadership of the right has been challenged in the past decade and which is very divided. Incumbent R-UMP mayor Jean Lèques is retiring in favour of Jean-Claude Briault. Briault is backed by senator Pierre Frogier’s R-UMP and president of the government Harold Martin’s centre-right Avenir ensemble. But in 2013, the R-UMP split, with right-wingers opposed to Frogier’s conciliatory policy towards the nationalists walking out of the party to create a new party, led by Gaël Yanno, a municipal councillor and deputy for Nouméa until his defeat by Calédonie ensemble‘s Sonia Lagarde in 2012. Gaël Yanno’s supporters have split the governing majority down the middle, with 20 councillors against 22 for Lèques -Briault-Frogier. Yanno is running, with the endorsement of the national UMP; Sonia Lagarde, Calédonie ensemble (UDI) deputy since 2012 and runner-up in 2008, is also running. With little coverage in the French metropolitan media, I can’t say I have any idea how this right-wing civil war, which sets the ground for a major showdown in the May 2014 provincial election, will shape up.

Avignon: The RPR, with Marie-Josée Roig, gained Avignon in 1995 and successfully defended it against a high-profile PS assault in 2001 (led by then-cabinet minister Elisabeth Guigou) and narrowly held it again in 2008. Roig, embroiled in corruption allegations and accused of employing her son as her parliamentary assistant, is retiring and supporting Bernard Chaussegros, a low-profile UMP businessman, to succeed her. With a weak UMP candidate, Avignon is the most likely PS pickup. Cécile Helle, a PS regional councillor, has a wide lead in polls. In the first round, the last poll showed her with 29% against 27% for the FN, 23% for the UMP and 16% for the FG (led by PCF general councillor André Castelli, who won over 14% in 2008); in the runoff, she leads the UMP by 15.

Pau: The race in Pau drew nationwide attention in 2008: François Bayrou, the leader of the MoDem, tried to conquer a city governed by the PS since 1971 (with local icon André Labarrère until his death in 2006). The incumbent PS mayor, Yves Urieta, had switched sides to support Sarkozy’s government (like the PS mayor of Mulhouse, Jean-Marie Bockel) and was seeking reelection with the UMP’s endorsement. Bayrou faced Martine Lignières-Cassou, a somewhat anonymous PS deputy. The first round saw the PS pull ahead with 33.9% against 32.6% for Bayrou and 27.8% for Urieta. In the runoff, the PS won 39.8% against 38.8% for Bayrou and 21.4% for Urieta. It was a major defeat for Bayrou. He’s trying again this year, after losing his seat in the National Assembly to the PS in June 2012. This year, Bayrou, despite having endorsed Hollande in the 2012 runoff, has ensured for himself the backing of the UMP. It’s a marriage of convenience, which annoys the right of the UMP and the local party, but which allows the UMP to count on Bayrou’s support in places such as Paris. The PS mayor retiring, the PS candidate is David Habib, a PS deputy since 2002. Urieta, who now lacks UMP backing, is running as an independent. Polling have shown a growing lead for Bayrou, who is uniting the right without hassles; in the latest poll, Bayrou leads Habib by 14 in the first round and would win a triangulaire (with Urieta, polling in the low 10s), by 8.

Aubervilliers: Aubervilliers, an historic PCF stronghold (held since 1945), was the only Seine-Saint-Denis city with a ‘PS-PCF primary’ in 2008 to fall to the PS. This year, incumbent PS mayor Jacques Salvator faces a rematch against former PCF mayor Pascal Beaudet (FG). Beaudet was defeated by 3 points in a four-way runoff in 2008, but he successfully picked up an Aubervilliers canton from the PS (held by Salvator’s wife) in 2011, which may indicate that this rematch will be rather close. There has been no polling that I know of.

La Rochelle: In 2012, La Rochelle made national headlines because of the left-wing civil war in the legislative election between Ségolène Royal (2007 presidential candidate and Hollande’s ex girlfriend) backed by the PS mayor Maxime Bono, and local PS dissident Oliver Falorni, who emerged victorious by a wide margin. The painful civil war in La Rochelle, a left-wing stronghold governed by the left since 1971, isn’t over yet. Bono, who took office at the death of his predecessor Michel Crépeau (PRG, mayor 1971-1999), is retiring but is supporting Anne-Laure Jaumouillié, a 34-year old teacher who has been a municipal councillor since 2008. She won a primary (by 34 votes, out of 3.6k votes) over Jean-François Fountaine, a veteran 62-year old politician who is vice-president of the CA La Rochelle. Fountaine, a former member of the PRG, was regional councillor between 1992 and 2010, and had a very public spat with Ségolène in 2008 and strongly supported Falorni in 2012 (which led to his falling out with Bono). Fountaine, alleging irregularities, refused to withdraw and is standing as a dissident with PRG support against the PS candidate. A poll in late February found the PS candidate leading Fountaine by 2 in the first round, with the UMP, as in 2012, suffering from a left-wing civil war which draws some right-wingers to vote strategically (for Fountaine, who is drawing UMP-UDI votes). However, unlike in 2012, the UMP will qualify for the runoff, which changes matters because Falorni’s victory owed a lot (but not entirely, unlike Bono/Royal pretended) to right-wing support in both rounds.

Cannes: On the sunny Côte-d’Azur, Cannes is a right-wing stronghold and sees a civil war on the right, as in 2008. Incumbent UMP mayor Bernard Brochand, in office since 2001, is retiring in favour of his young dauphin, general councillor David Lisnard, who is a filloniste like his mentor. Lisnard faces a challenge from Philippe Tabarot, a general councillor and leader of the municipal opposition since 2008 – he is also the brother of Michèle Tabarot, the mayor of Le Cannet and the copéiste general-secretary of the UMP. Tabarot lost to Brochand by a bit over 1,000 votes in 2008. The national UMP, divided between supporters of both candidates, has chosen not to choose any candidate: no official endorsement, so both are UMP members and candidates. Polls show that Lisnard, endorsed by Sarkozy, is the favourite, with a 7 point lead in the first round over Tabarot and consistent and significant leads over Tabarot in the second round. The left and FN may both qualify for the runoff, but are non-factors.

Béziers: This is the largest city in which the FN has a fighting chance of winning. The UMP incumbent, Raymond Couderc, is retiring this year in favour of UMP deputy Élie Aboud. The FN, along with Nicolas Dupont-Aignan’s Arise the Republic (DLR) and small right-wing parties (RPF, MPF), is backing Robert Ménard, a pied-noir journalist and former president of Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Ménard was more on the left in the past, but has moved towards the far-right, without joining or voting for (he claims) the FN although he has openly said that he shares most of the FN’s positions. The race, which has attracted national attention, has seen a clear tightening in Ménard’s favour: he now leads the field in the first round, while he trails Aboud in the runoff by only 1 or 2 points.

Ajaccio: A very close and interesting battle in Napoleon Bonaparte’s hometown. The incumbent mayor, Simon Renucci (CSD/DVG), has held office since 2001, when he ended 54 years of Bonapartist (yes, for real) rule – in all, the local Bonapartist party, the CCB, ruled Ajaccio for 109 of the 117 years between 1884 and 2001. Handily reelected in 2008, Renucci was defeated in the 2012 legislative elections by Laurent Marcangeli (UMP), who is now his top rival. Polls have shown that Renucci remains the favourite, with a substantial lead over Marcangeli (who is endorsed by the CCB). The nationalists are united (between autonomists and separatists) here, but while they may be kingmakers in a runoff, they are not in contention (15% in polls).

Corbeil-Essonnes: The town is a low-income suburb which leans solidly left in national elections (63% for Hollande) and was ruled by the PCF between 1959 and 1995, when Serge Dassault (RPR), a businessman who remains owner of Le Figaro and leading player in the family enterprise, the aeronautics and weaponry giant Dassault. Reelected in 2008, with 50.7% against 49.4% for the PCF, his PCF rival accused him of vote buying and the election was invalidated, and Dassault declared ineligible to hold municipal office for one year. In a 2009 by-election, Dassault’s protege Jean-Pierre Bechter (UMP) was reelected by a 27 vote margin against the PCF. Bechter was reelected with a wider majority against a common PCF-PS candidate in a 2010 by-election. Dassault, who remains in the Senate, is now facing another scandal: he’s alleged of paying millions of euros to ensure Bechter’s victory. His senatorial immunity was lifted in February 2014. This year, Bechter is running for reelection, facing a divided left: the PS is supporting Carlos da Silva, a deputy and close ally of Manuel Valls (who was mayor of neighboring Évry until 2012); the FG candidate is Bruno Piriou (PCF), a general councillor. The outcome of the PS-PCF battle is very unclear; regardless of who wins that, the runoff is a pure tossup.

Bastia: Incumbent mayor Émile Zuccarelli (PRG), in office since he replaced his father in 1989, is retiring and wants his son, Jean Zuccarelli, to succeed him. Traditionally hegemonic in the city, the family took a hit with Émile Zuccarelli’s defeat at the hands of the UMP in the 2007 legislative elections (nationalists, who loathe the stridently anti-nationalist and Jacobin Zuccarelli, vowed to have him defeated) although the divisions of the opposition allowed him to win reelection without too much trouble in 2008. But in 2012, Jean too fell victim to nationalist backlash and failed to reconquer his father’s seat in the National Assembly. The succession has been handled poorly: a frustrated former ally of the mayor who saw himself as his heir-apparent, François Tatti, is running as a dissident. The moderate nationalist candidate is Gilles Simeoni, the son of nationalist icon Edmond Simeoni. The race promises to be a nail-biter: polls show Simeoni and Zuccarelli nearly tied in the first round, with the runoff hinging on the alliances forged: if Tatti joins forces with Simeoni, then the nationalists would be the favourites; if Tatti does not withdraw, the runoff remains very close with no clear favourite.

Hénin-Beaumont: Hénin-Beaumont, an impoverished former mining town in the Pas-de-Calais’ mining basin, is Marine Le Pen’s political homebase since 2007. In addition to the social reality of the depressed post-industrial town, the division, troubles and discredit of the local PS (former mayor Gérard Dalongeville was arrested in 2009 for embezzlement) has been a godsend for the FN. In addition, locally led by Le Pen’s lieutenant Steeve Briois, the FN has done a great job at setting up a powerful machine on the ground – to the point where the FN speaks openly of its aims to recreate a tradition akin to ‘municipal communism’, providing services to its constituents. Although Briois/Le Pen’s list did poorly in the 2008 election, the 2009 by-election which followed Dalongeville’s removal from office, the FN won 47.6% in the second round. In the 2012 legislative elections, Marine Le Pen won a majority of the vote in Hénin-Beaumont in the runoff (she lost the constituency because her PS rival, Philippe Kemel, did well in his town of Carvin). This year, incumbent PS mayor Eugène Binaisse is seeking reelection, going up against Steeve Briois. Dalongeville, despite having been sentenced to prison last year, is running as a left-wing independent. Polls have shown that Briois may win the runoff.

Forbach: Forbach is one of the FN’s main targets. It is the largest city in Moselle’s coal mining basin, and as such it is working-class and economically depressed (14% unemployment, declining population since 1982) town. Despite being very working-class, like most of the coal basin in Moselle, it is historically right-wing (51.5% for Sarko in 2012). The right governed the city between 1953 and 2008, and generally held the corresponding canton for most of that time as well. The incumbent PS mayor, Laurent Kalinowski gained the city in 2008 because of a very divided right. Kalinowski had been general councillor since 2004 and was elected deputy for the 6th constituency in 2012, defeating Le Pen’s campaign director and FN vice-president Florian Philippot in a PS-FN runoff (with only 53.7%: transfers from the UMP incumbent, defeated by the first round, to the FN were very high). Philippot, an ENA/HEC technocrat has set up shop in the depressed post-industrial Moselle coal basin, which is one of the FN’s strongest regions. The right is divided, between the official UMP candidate Alexandre Cassaro, the leader of the Jeunes Pop and very close ideologically to the far-right; and the local dissident, Eric Diligent, who is more centrist. One poll has shown a very close race between the PS and the FN, with both candidates tied in the second round.

Other races to follow:

  • Right hoping for a gain from the left: Auxerre, Laval, Belfort, La Seyne-sur-Mer, Aulnay-sous-Bois, Brive-la-Gaillarde, Quimper, Valence, Chambéry, Albertville, Briançon, Bourgoin-Jallieu, Clamart
  • Left hoping for a gain from the right: Nîmes, Bourges, Mulhouse, Calais, Biarritz, Bayonne, Montauban, Vienne
  • Left-wing solid or likely: Nantes, Rennes, Brest, Dijon, Besançon, Clermont-Ferrand, Limoges, Roubaix, Tourcoing, Dunkerque, Tours, Créteil, Villeurbanne Istres, Poitiers, Dieppe, Le Mans
  • Right-wing solid or likely: Toulon, Orléans, Saint-Quentin, Chartres
  • PS-PCF primaries in many towns in the Seine-Saint-Denis: Bagnolet, Saint-Ouen, Sevran, Villepinte, Villetaneuse
  • Right-wing divisions: Saint-Maur-des-Fossés
  • FN targets: Sorgues (Marion-Maréchal Le Pen in second on the list), Carpentras, Brignoles (after a FN gain in a cantonal by-election in 2013, the new FN general councillor takes on the incumbent left and a UMP deputy), Saint-Gilles (FN deputy Gilbert Collard running for mayor in the first town won by the FN), Fréjus (a divided right with the ex-UMP mayor running as a dissident may help the FN win)
  • Crazy: Noyon (two brothers, one UMP and one PS, fighting it out with the FN on a strong footing), Propriano

Follow @welections on Twitter on March 23 and 30 for major results.

Election Preview: France Municipal Elections 2014 – Part I

Municipal elections will be held in France on March 23 and 30, 2014. The municipal councils of all 36,681 communes in France will be up for reelection.

How it works: French municipal government

La commune in France

Communes of France

The commune is the lowest echelon of government in France, below the State, the regions and the departments. France has 36,681 communes – 36,552 in metropolitan France and Corsica and 129 in overseas departments and regions. Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, French Polynesia and New Caledonia (overseas collectivities) are also divided into communes, like the rest of France, and they vote at the same time in municipal elections. Only Saint-Martin, Saint-Barthélemy, Wallis-et-Futuna and uninhabited territories (French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Clipperton Island).

France has, by far, the most communes of any EU country: Germany has about 12,000 municipalities, the UK has about 10,5000 civil parishes, Spain and Italy have about 8,100 municipalities. Most French communes are very sparsely populated: 54.3% have less than 500 inhabitants, 73.4% have less than 1,000 inhabitants. Yet, only 14.6% of the French population lives in communes with less than 100,000 people; about half of the population lives in 946 communes (2.6% of all communes). The smallest populated commune, Rochefourchat, has a legal population of one; there are six communes in the Meuse which have no inhabitants: they were destroyed during the Battle of Verdun (1916) and never rebuilt. They have retained a status as communes (officially, communes mortes pour la France), but they are totally uninhabited and administered by a mayor and two deputies nominated by the prefect.

Communes are a Revolutionary creation, dating back to 1789 when the new Revolutionary authorities established about 40,000 communes, largely corresponding to religious parishes. Indeed, almost every single commune in France has a Church (in addition, nowadays, to the obligatory local monument aux morts for the war dead). Until 1870, the State’s policy was to abolish communes with excessively low populations which were no longer viable and creating communes in areas where the original map was problematic (large territory, hamlets blocked by physical features). By the waning days of the Second Empire, municipal mergers (fusions) were unpopular with the local populations, and the Republican opposition promised emancipation for communes. An 1884 law established the main structures of local government, the broad principles of which have remained unchanged to this day. Each commune has a municipal council directly elected by the population and a mayor elected by the municipal council. The 1884 law also established the clause de compétence générale (a legal clause which has allowed communes/departments/regions to intervene in all matters which they can argue to be in the local public interest).

In part because of their long history and Revolutionary heritage, communes are still largely perceived as the base of local democracy and decision-making – a core “republican value”. Citizens, especially in small villages, are very attached to their commune and they have tended to care a great deal about local politics and local democracy (again, particularly in rural areas), much more so than in other countries. Turnout in French municipal elections has been above 60% in every election since World War II; in fact, it was over 70% in every election before 1995 and while 2008 marked an all-time low, turnout was still 65%. Turnout increases linearly as the population of the commune decreases.

The extremely large number of communes in France, combined to successive rural exoduses since the Industrial Revolution which have reduced the populations of thousands of small rural communes, has made local governance problematic. Successive governments since the 1890s, and particularly since 1945, have struggled to come up with solutions to this fundamental challenge to local democracy. Given that communes, by and large, are hostile to mergers with larger (more viable) communes; most governments since the 1890s have usually shied away from promoting ambitious municipal merger schemes. The main exception to that tradition came in 1971, with the Marcellin law (after interior minister Raymond Marcellin), which sought to promote municipal mergers. Individual prefects were instructed to come up with merger plans, which were to be approved by municipal councils. These could either be full mergers, in which one commune would disappear entirely within another, or retain some individual autonomy (for example, a delegated mayor and a decentralized town hall providing vital records) as a commune associée (associated commune). The Marcellin law was a failure: individual prefects acted differently (either proposing vast mergers, or limited and partial mergers depending on the region) and created a mess, and the associated commune status was unattractive. Between 1971 and 2009, only 1,100 communes effectively disappeared (most in the 1970s). There are currently 712 associated communes. A good number of the original mergers and associations were later dissolved, with old communes regaining their independence.

The 2010 Sarkozy reform tried to encourage municipal mergers and effectively replaced the moribund Marcellin law’s associated communes with the status of commune nouvelle (new communes) which is pretty much the same thing as associated communes (although slightly closer to a full merger) with the guidelines for their creations not all that different from the ones in the Marcellin law. Its application has been very limited: there are only 17 fewer communes in 2014 than in 2008.

The intercommunalité (EPCI)

Map of EPCI in France as of Jan. 1, 2014 (source: collectivites-locales.gouv.fr)

Given the failure of the amalgamation schemes and the general impracticality of merging communes, governments have been forced to consider other structures to make local governance viable. The solution has been intercommunal cooperation, which began taking its current form rapid post-war urban/suburban expansion and rural depopulation in the 1960s. Intercommunal cooperation takes two distinct, but overlapping and co-existing, forms: loose “associative” cooperation to provide certain public services or utilities (water, electricity, waste management, school transportation) or more cohesive “federative” cooperation which has more powers, responsibilities and more ambitious aims including economic development.

The structure of intercommunal cooperation is thus complex, but at the same time increasingly important. Intercommunal structures have gained more and more powers and financial resources, at the expense of communes but also from departments, regions and the State. Intercommunal cooperation structures are known as établissements publics de coopération intercommunale (EPCI) or intercommunalité.

Communes or EPCI are responsible for: elementary schools (buildings, equipment), culture (shared power with the State and departments/regions), youth (nurseries, recreation centres), sports (equipment and subsidies), tourism, local urban policy/planning, advice and approval for territorial planning, environment (shared power over water, protected zones; waste management, water sanitation and distribution), local marinas, communal roads, urban transportation/public transit, school transportation, management of local public/social housing, municipal police forces (except Paris), traffic and parking.

The oldest form of intercommunal cooperation is the very loose “associative” form whereby communes – but also other territorial collectivities (departments, regions) – join together to provide one or more public services or utilities. The first such form of intercommunal cooperation was created in 1890, expanded in 1935 and 1959. These EPCI lacking fiscal autonomy (they rely on financial contributions from members) include 8,979 Syndicat intercommunal à vocation unique (Sivu, providing only one service), 3,187 Syndicats mixtes (associating different territorial collectivities, intended as a forum for different territorial collectivities and actors to cooperate amongst themselves), 1,233 Syndicat intercommunal à vocations multiples (Sivom, providing more than one service) and 9 Pôles métropolitains (a 2010 creation to encourage cooperation between different agglomerations). These types of EPCI are losing their attractiveness; the number of syndicates has declined from about 15,300 in 2010 to 13,400 in 2014.

Of far greater importance are the EPCI with fiscal autonomy, the most common, widespread and important form of intercommunal cooperation in France. In 2014, there are 2,145 such EPCI grouping 36,614 communes in metro France and the four DOMs (excluding Mayotte). 49 communes outside Paris and Mayotte remain ‘isolated’ – that is, not a member of any EPCI, but of those, 41 are in the petite couronne outside Paris (where a major reform of intercommunal government is in the works) and four are islands with no legal obligation to join an EPCI. Straightforward so far? It isn’t supposed to be – there are many different types of EPCI with fiscal autonomy in France.

The first intercommunalité structure was the district, created in 1959 (abolished in 1999 and phased out by 2002), followed by the more ambitious communautés urbaines (urban communities, CU) in 1966. In 1992, a law created the communautés de communes (community of communes, CC). The 1999 Chevènement law beefed up the responsibilities of urban communities and the CC, abolished the failed structures, and created a new kind of structure: communautés d’agglomeration (agglomeration communities, CA). The 2010 Sarkozy reform set out to clean up and rationalize the intercommunal structure – forcing all communes in metro France (with Parisian and insular exceptions) to join an EPCI, created a fifth structure: the metropolis (métropole), for very large urban areas.

The métropole (metropolis) - only one exists thus far (Métropole Nice Côte d’Azur) – is limited to large urban areas; legally, it is reserved for territories with a population of over 500,000 and/or the four original urban communities created in 1966. This meant that seven current urban communities are eligible to gain the metropolis status. The component communes transfer some of their powers to the metropolis. These responsibilities include social, cultural and economic development; urban planning and policy; management of local social housing plans; management of public services (sanitation, water, cemeteries, slaughterhouses); environmental policies including recycling and air pollution reduction. The department transfers responsibilities such as departmental roads and school transportation, with the possibility of the metropolis gaining full powers over social action, middle schools and other services from the department. The region and the State may also devolve powers to the metropolis.

A January 2014 law (the loi du 27 janvier 2014 de modernisation de l’action publique territoriale et d’affirmation des métropoles) will significantly expand and transform the metropolis status. On January 1, 2015; all EPCI with a population over 400,000 inhabitants in an urban area of over 650,000 people will be transformed by decree into metropolises (Bordeaux, Grenoble, Lille, Nantes, Nice, Rennes, Rouen, Strasbourg, Toulouse). That same day, the CU of Lyon will be transformed into the Métropole de Lyon, which will replace the department of the Rhône (and assume all departmental powers) in its territory. In 2016, the Métropole d’Aix-Marseille-Provence will be created (in the face of local opposition), uniting 92 communes representing 93% of the Bouches-du-Rhône’s population. In 2016, the Métropole du Grand Paris, uniting Paris and the three departments of the petite couronne, will be created; its legal responsibilities will be similar to that of a CU (spatial planning, housing, urban policy, economic/social/cultural development, environment, quality of life).

There are 15 Urban Communities (Communauté urbaine, CU). The urban communities were created in 1966, meant to cover the largest urban areas. Four CU were created by the law in 1966 (Lyon, Lille, Bordeaux, Strasbourg), today there are 15 CUs in France (Lyon, Lille, Marseille, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Nantes, Strasbourg, Nancy, Brest, Dunkerque, Le Mans, Arras, Creusot-Montceau, Cherbourg, Alençon). Although the 1999 Chevènement law reserved the CU status to territories with a population over 500,000; urban communities created before that date have been allowed to retain their status, so 9 of the 15 CUs have a population under 500,000 – the smallest CU, Alençon, has only 48.7k people. The 2010 reform, creating the metropolis, lowered the threshold for the creation of new CUs to 450,000.

Every CU has mandatory powers, transferred from the component communes. These powers are: social, cultural and economic development; urban planning and policies; public transit; management of social housing; management of public services (sanitation, water, cemeteries, slaughterhouses); and environmental policies including recycling and air pollution reduction. Communes may devolve further powers to the CUs, while they may gain some power over social action from the department.

The Agglomeration Communities (Communauté d’agglomération, CA) - of which there are 222 in 2014 – were created by the Chevènement law in 1999 for urban areas including medium or large cities. According to the law, CAs must have a population of over 50,000 with at least one commune of at least 15,000 inhabitants (unless the CA includes the capital and/or largest city of a department). However, the law allowed for the transformation of districts, communauté de villes (a failed scheme introduced in 1992, abolished in 1999) or CCs into CAs even if they did not meet the population requirements. Since 2010, the threshold for the creation of a CA, if it includes the department’s capital (chef-lieu) was reduced to 30,000. The CA scheme has proven to be extremely popular, from 50 CAs in 2000 there are now 222.

Every CA has powers, transferred from the communes, over social, cultural and economic development; urban planning and policies; social housing; and public transit. Each CA must also choose 3 of 6 additional powers from the following powers: road maintenance, sanitation, water, environmental protection, social action in the community’s interest, and cultural/sports equipment. Communes may decide to devolve other powers to the CA. Furthermore, the CA may decide to define additional powers which it judges to be in the community’s interest.

The Community of Communes (Communautés de communes, CC), created in 1992 for rural areas, are the loosest type of EPCI with fiscal autonomy. The CC has been extremely popular and they have, slowly and incompletely, replaced Sivu or Sivom structures; although since 2010, the number of CC has declined significantly (from 2,409 to 1,903) as a result of the mergers of some smaller CCs by prefectural decree or their transformation into CAs. CCs have two main advantages for small rural communes, which remain very closely attached to the “republican traditions” of communal independence and local democracy. Firstly, they allow them to provide local services in cooperation with neighboring communes. Secondly, the CCs are a form of territorial organization which allows them to maintain their independence vis-à-vis larger urban areas (CAs) which would like to gobble them up. There are 1,903 CCs currently.

The CCs have two mandatory powers transferred from the communes: economic development and spatial planning. They must also choose one power from the following six ‘options': environmental protection, housing policy, road maintenance, construction and management of preschools, elementary school, cultural and sport equipment, social action in the community’s interest, and sanitation.

There are four Syndicates of New Agglomerations (Syndicat d’agglomération nouvelle, SAN), created in 1983 but being phased out. The SAN were meant to cover specifically new towns (villes nouvelles) such as Cergy-Pontoise, Marne-la-Vallée, Sénart or Ouest Provence (Rives de l’Étang de Berre). The 1999 law gradually phased them out, from a maximum of 9 SAN in 2000 there are now only four left, 3 of them in the Paris region. Many former SAN have become CAs, the remaining 4 SAN are expected to do likewise.

Although the State and prefects in each department have often played a large role in spearheading the EPCI, they cannot usually unilaterally force any commune to join an EPCI. With some exceptions, the final decision for joining an EPCI rests with individual communes. Mayors, especially those from thinly populated rural communes, remain closely attached to the notion of communal independence and many respond unfavourably to decisions and instructions from above. In urban areas, political and parochial disputes have traditionally tended to hamper the development of cohesive and rational EPCI – suburban communes suspicious of domination of the larger urban commune, urban communes not wanting to subsidize suburban communes and political disputes (left-wing mayors not wanting to be in an EPCI with right-wing mayors, and vice-versa).

EPCI financing

Communes and intercommunalities have three main sources of funding: taxes (about the three-fifths of their revenues), unconditional transfers and grants from the State and loans.

The main local direct taxes are the housing tax (taxe d’habitation), the land value taxes (taxe sur le foncier bâtitaxe sur le foncier non bâti) and the cotisation foncière des entreprises (CFE). Communes and the five types of EPCI outlined above are said to be fiscally autonomous. While they are not allowed to create or levy taxes on their own (the taxes are created and collected by the State) they have the power to set the rates for local taxes. Fiscal autonomy, however, is conditioned by the State which has set various guidelines, limits or rules for local taxation.

The 2010 reform introduced a major, and rather controversial, change to local finances. The professional or business tax (taxe professionnelle, TP) was abolished and replaced, partially, by the Territorial Economic Contribution (contribution économique territoriale, CET). The TP was a tax paid by every business/corporation and was the largest single source of revenue for all territorial collectivities, which set the local rate. Arguing that the TP was hindering the country’s economic competitiveness, Sarkozy abolished the TP. It was replaced, but only partially, by the new CET.

The CET is the sum of two taxes paid by businesses/corporations: the cotisation foncière des entreprises (CFE) which is a land value tax (taxe foncière) and the cotisation sur la valeur ajoutée des entreprises (CVAE) which is a value added tax based on a businesses’ annual turnover. The entirety of the CFE is directed by the communes and EPCIs, who have retained the right to set the local rate. The CVAE, whose rate is set by the State, and is distributed between the region (25%), department (48.5%) and communes/EPCI (26.5%). The replacement of the TP by the CET meant that territorial collectivities not only lost a major source of revenue but also a good deal of their fiscal autonomy. Nevertheless, the State promised to fully compensate territorial collectivities for any loses incurred by the transition. Since the CET rakes in less revenue than the TP, new taxes or fiscal transfers (from the State or between territorial collectivities) have been created to make up the difference. One of those new taxes is the imposition forfaitaire sur les entreprises de réseaux (IFER), a tax on energy equipments (wind turbines, electricity generating plants, electrical transformers etc). The IFER is split between all territorial collectivities.

There are two (and a half) kinds of financing/funding for EPCIs with fiscal autonomy. The ‘Additional taxation’ (régime de la fiscalité additionnelle) is the initial and basic system, which applies for 855 CCs and 2 CUs created before 1999 which haven’t switched to the other system. The EPCI here has the power to set intercommunal tax rates (for the four local taxes: housing tax, land value taxes, CFE) but these tax rates are ‘additional’ to the local tax rates set by the component communes. The intercommunal tax rate in effect sets a ‘ceiling’ on the tax rate for each commune, but this system allows for variations in the tax rates (especially the CFE) between communes in the same EPCI. The communal fraction of the CVAE is divided between the intercommunality and the communes. Some CCs may choose a  Fiscalité professionnelle de zone (FPZ) scheme, which creates economic activity zones (ZAE) within the territory of the EPCI which will have a single, uniform intercommunal CFE rate (all transferred to the EPCI). Businesses located within the ZAE will pay the intercommunal CFE, but business located outside a ZAE will pay different tax rates depending on the commune.

The other system is the ‘Unique professional taxation’ (régime de la fiscalité professionnelle unique, FPU), which is mandatory since 1999 for all CAs, SAN and since 2010 for the new metropolises. The FPU is also mandatory for all CUs created after 1999 and is automatically granted to those created before 1999 unless they decide otherwise. 13 of the 15 CUs have chose the FPU system, as have 1,048 CCs. Under the FPU system, only the intercommunality decides on the CFE rate and it receives the entirety of the CFE’s revenues (and all of the communal fraction of the CVAE). Therefore, communes member of an EPCI which has opted for the FPU do not receive any part of the CFE or CVAE. The EPCI still sets ‘additional’ tax rates on the three other taxes.

EPCI governance

Each EPCI with fiscal autonomy (metropolis, CU, CA, CC, SAN) has a deliberative assembly, the Conseil communautaire or community council, which has a similar role to a municipal council. Each member-commune is represented in the community council proportionally to its population, with each commune holding at least one seat. In addition, no single commune may hold over half of the seats in the community council. All community councillors are municipal councillors or mayors.

Each community council elects a president (in addition to vice-presidents) which has a role similar to a mayor, except for the whole EPCI. EPCI executives form a “loophole” in the current regulations concerning the cumul des mandats, which means that most presidents of EPCIs tend to be the mayor of the largest commune in the EPCI (or another large town in the same EPCI), provided that the largest commune and the EPCI are of the same political ‘colour’.

In the past, all community councillors were elected by the respective municipal councils – which meant that the opposition group(s) in any commune were almost always excluded from the community council and whole delegations from a commune represented the governing majority. Given the significant and ever-increasing powers of EPCIs, their management by unelected bodies was often criticized and weakened their democratic legitimacy.

In 2014, community councillors will be elected semi-directly in communes with over 1,000 inhabitants. The full workings will be addressed in the next section.

Municipal elections: Electoral systems

Municipal councils are elected for a six-year term.

All French and EU citizens, aged over 18 with full civic and political rights, may register to vote. Since 2001, EU citizens are allowed to vote granted that they have resided in the commune for the past six months and/or pay local taxes. Although EU citizens are allowed to run for office and serve as municipal councillors, they are constitutionally banned from becoming mayors or assistants to the mayor/deputy mayors (adjoints au maire).

Unlike in some other EU countries (Scandinavia, Ireland, Benelux etc), resident non-EU foreigners are not allowed to vote in local elections in France. The extension of voting rights in local elections to non-EU foreign citizens has been a matter of hot political debate for years, and it returned to the spotlight during and after the 2012 presidential campaign. François Hollande promised to extend voting rights to foreigners in his presidential campaign, but since the left lacks the required majority in both houses of Parliament to affect such constitutional change, it has been dropped from the government’s agenda for constitutional reform.

Each commune is governed by a directly-elected municipal council, whose size varies in proportion to the population of the commune.

Population Seats
1-99 7
100-499 11
500-1,499 15
1,500-2,499 19
2,500-3,499 23
3,500-4,999 27
5,000-9,999 29
10,000-19,999 33
20,000-29,999 35
30,000-39,999 39
40,000-49,999 43
50,000-59,999 45
60,000-79,999 49
80,000-99,999 53
100,000-149,999 55
150,000-199,999 59
200,000-249,999 61
250,000-299,999 65
300,000+ 69
Lyon 73
Marseille 101
Paris 163

The mayor is elected by the municipal council. In the first and second rounds, a mayoral candidate must win an absolute majority of valid votes. In the third round, a plurality is sufficient. In all communes, a mayor also has one or more adjoints (deputies).

Electoral system in communes with over 1,000 inhabitants except Paris, Lyon and Marseille

Municipal councillors are elected by a two-round semi-proportional system with closed lists. The commune forms a single ‘constituency’, it is not further subdivided into any sections. Since 2000, lists must respect gender parity – this means that lists must alternate between men and women. This system, between 1983 and 2013, applied to communes with a population over 3,500; it was extended by the 2013 Valls law to all communes with over 1,000 inhabitants.

A list must obtain an absolute majority of valid votes (50%+1) and 25% of registered voters to win by the first round. If no list meets this requirement, a second round is organized one week later. All lists which have won over 10% of valid votes are qualified for the runoff. Lists which have obtained between 5% and 10% of the valid votes are allowed to merge (fusionner) with a qualified list for the runoff, which will change the ordering of candidates on that qualified list. A list which is qualified for the runoff may nevertheless choose to drop out or merge with another list. In the second round, a plurality of the votes is enough to win.

The list winning the most vote automatically wins half of all seats in the municipal council, rounded up to the nearest whole number if necessary. The remaining half of the seats are attributed proportionally to all lists which have won over 5% of valid votes using the highest averages method. Therefore, the winning list not only receives a huge majority bonus, it also receives a good share of the other half of the seats (proportional to its vote share).

Obviously, the result is that whichever list wins the election – even if it is by a single vote and/or with something like 35% of the vote – will have a huge super-majority in the municipal council. For example, in Pau in 2008, the winning list won 39% of the vote and 71% of the seats.

The mayor often tends to be the top candidate of the winning list.

Electoral system in communes with less than 1,000 inhabitants

Municipal councillors are elected by majority at-large voting (also called bloc voting or multiple non-transferable vote, MNTV). Gender parity laws do not apply.

These elections still feature lists of candidates, although lists are not mandatory. However, unlike in larger communes where the lists are closed, in these communes voters will vote for individuals (they have as many votes as there are seats) and panachage is allowed – voters may strike off the name of a candidate on a list, or they may reorder candidates on a list. Until 2013, write-ins for other citizens who were not candidates were valid, and the vote remains valid even if there are more or less names on the ballot than there are seats in the municipal council. Votes are then counted by each individual candidate rather than by lists.

Since 2013, candidates must declare their candidacy to the préfecture two weeks and a half before the election. If the number of candidates declared for the first round is less than the number of seats to be filled, new candidacies may be declared on the Tuesday before the second round.

Candidates are elected in the first round if they have won an absolute majority of valid votes (50%+1) and 25% of registered voters. If not all seats are filled by the first round, the remaining seats are filled in a second round a week later. In the second round, a plurality suffices. Studies have shown that the actual use of ‘panachage’ by voters is extremely limited.

Paris, Lyon and Marseille

Arrondissements of Paris (source: Wikipedia)

The three largest cities in France have a special electoral system, adopted in 1982 with the so-called ‘PLM law’. Unlike other communes with over 1,000 inhabitants, the commune as a whole does not form a single ‘constituency’. Rather, these cities are subdivided into de facto constituencies. Paris has 20 arrondissements, Lyon has 9 arrondissements while Marseille has 8 sectors each made up of two arrondissements.

The election is played in each individual arrondissement/sector, with the same system as in other communes with over 1,000 inhabitants.

Each arrondissement or sector has a local council with a variable number of seats. In turn, the municipal council is composed of representatives from each arrondissement/sector, whose number of seats on the municipal council is roughly half the seats in their arrondissement/sector council. The first name(s) elected on each list in each arrondissement/sector will sit in the municipal council.

Each arrondissement or sector also has a mayor (maire d’arrondissement/secteur), and the arrondissements/sectors have limited autonomy and manage a small budget given by the city-wide municipal government.

In Paris, there are a total of 354 conseillers d’arrondissement, with a minimum of 10 seats in each arrondissement’s council. The 2013 Valls law redistributed the number of conseillers de Paris between each arrondissement, with the overrepresented arrondissements with a small population losing seats while the underrepresented arrondissements gained seats. The overall relation between the population and the number of councillors for each arrondissement is now far more equal.

Arrondissements of Lyon (source: Wikipedia)

In Lyon, there are a total of 148 conseillers d’arrondissement, again with a minimum of 10 seats for the least populated arrondissements (arrdt. 1, 2, 4). The municipal council has 73 seats, with the least populated arrondissement (arrdt. 1) holding four seats and the two most populated (arrdt. 3 and 8) with 12 seats.

Marseille has 16 municipal arrondissements, but unlike in Lyon or Paris they serve no administrative role. Elections, instead, are held in eight sectors which are made up of two arrondissements each. Each sector has a local council, for a total of 202 sectoral councillors in the entire city. The city council has 101 seats.

Therefore, to summarize, there are no city-wide municipal elections with a single list in Paris, Lyon or Marseille. There are, instead, elections in each arrondissements/sector which decide the city council. You could compare this system to the electoral college in the United States, with some differences.

Unlike the electoral college, the individual elections in each administrative division does not give a WTA result, although each arrondissement/sector’s delegation to the city council will be heavily dominated by whichever list won the election in that arrondissement/sector. If a list was to win every single arrondissement or sector, it would have a governing majority comparable to governing majorities in other French cities. However, because of the PLM law, there is a small chance that no single list could win an absolute majority. Furthermore, if the election is close and the main rivals each win roughly the same number of arrondissements/sectors, it is quite likely that whoever wins will have only a thin absolute majority on the council (this is currently the case in Marseille, with 51 seats for the mayor’s majority against 49 for the left and one for the FN).

Sectors of Marseille (source: Wikipedia)

Like in the United States, the PLM system means that one party’s lists may win the most votes in the city as a whole but still win less seats than some other list on the city council. This has happened in the past, most famously in Marseille in 1983 when Gaston Defferre lost the popular vote but held a majority on city council because he had, as interior minister, gerrymandered the sectors in such a way to win reelection. The right-wing government under Jacques Chirac changed the sector map in Marseille to what it currently is in 1987.

Electoral system for intercommunal councillors

For the first time this year, some intercommunal councillors who sit in the Conseil communautaire will be elected semi-directly by voters. In communes with more than 1,000 inhabitants, those who will serve on community councils will be elected from party lists based on the result of the party lists in the decisive round (where one list wins) in the commune. Ballots (for each individual list) will include, on the right hand side, a list of candidates for the community council which are drawn from the list of candidates for the municipal council. There are as many candidates are there are seats – with one additional candidate if there are less than five seats, and two additional candidates if there are more than five seats. All candidates in the first quarter of the list for the municipal council must be on the list for the community council, in the same order; all candidates for community council must be included in the first three-fifths of the list for the municipal council. Seats are distributed based on the results of the election, using the electoral system for communes with over 1,000 inhabitants.

In communes with less than 1,000 inhabitants, intercommunal councillors will still be elected indirectly with seats being attributed to the mayor, and, if more seats are to be filled to his/her adjoints.

This year, due to legal changes complicating matters in small towns, 64 communes – all but one with less than 1,000 inhabitants – have no declared candidates for the first round.

Local and national dynamics in municipal elections

Municipal elections in France obey both local and national dynamics.

In small towns – certainly all those who will still vote under the majority at-large system this year but many of the towns with over 1,000 inhabitants which used to vote under that system – local politics is local, with little to no national influence. One author, using an American term, used the idea of ‘ambiguous consensus’ to describe the form which local politics take in those communities – indeed, governance there is consensual, pragmatic and non-partisan. Most mayors in those communes do not have a political etiquette, and if they do, it hardly means anything: their governing team may include people with opposite political sympathies. Because governing those small towns does not require full-time politicians, a lot of small town mayors and councillors are ‘regular’ citizens working another job, in addition to their local political responsibilities. In many cases, there is no opposition to the incumbent mayor and his/her list; certainly the electoral system in small towns makes the vote very personal and not remotely political. But even in a lot of the small towns with over 1,000 inhabitants which will vote for party lists this year, there is little to no partisan competition: lists – assuming there is more than one (which is not always the case) – are non-partisan and focus solely on local issues and it’s foolish to assign partisan labels to them. But that hasn’t stopped the Ministry of the Interior, in its infinite wisdom.

Therefore, for the sake of political analysis, when reading municipal elections, attention generally focuses on the 260 or so communes with a population with over 30,000 – with attention given to smaller communes if they have major candidates, symbolic importance to national politics or are of human interest. In those major towns and cities, municipal elections follow local and national dynamics, as research has shown.

Local factors

Firstly, local issues – and local factors, such as the personality and popularity of individual candidates or the local partisan/political climate (if distinct from the national climate) – play a major role in municipal elections, even in these larger communes.

In general, mayors tend to be fairly well regarded by the majority of the population and optimism in the direction of the town/city is generally far higher than optimism (or lack thereof) for the direction of the country. According to an Ipsos poll in late February 2014 in communes with a population over 25,000; 71% of respondents, on average, declared that they were satisfied with their mayor. Another Ipsos poll just out on March 20 shows that 64% of voters say that their municipal government has done a good or excellent job. Unless they’re caught with the hands in the marmalade or are particularly incompetent, it’s harder for a mayor to be widely disliked (like many national politicians are) because they have less powers, their actions generally receive less media attention (outside their town) and mayors often strive to be consensual rather than polarizing. Furthermore, given the tradition of the cumul des mandats in France, a lot of mayors are also parliamentarians, so they have the chance to favour their hometown and shower it with national funding and favours.

It is also quite telling that in polls, this year like in 2008, voters tell pollsters that they will vote firstly based on local issues. According to an Ifop poll recently released, 69% will vote mainly based on local considerations. 20% will vote primarily to punish the government, and only 7% will vote primarily to support the government. A CSA poll reported quasi-identical numbers: 65%, 19% and 5% respectively.

This year, according to polls, the most important issues for voters are local taxes (cited by about 50%), environment/quality of life, criminality/safety, economic development/jobs and transportation. According to CSA’s poll, issues such as criminality, parking, immigration, housing and pollution are far more important in large towns (pop 30,000+) than in small towns; in the smallest towns (pop <1000), those issues hardly figure at all while connectivity/broadband access is rather significant. At the same time, issues such as taxes, transparency and economic development are relevant across the board. There are also clear partisan dimensions in those issues, obviously; criminality, immigration are priorities for right-wing and far-right voters, but are of lesser importance for left-wing voters, who tend to be more concerned with issues such as housing and transportation.

In Les élections municipales en France (2001, published by La documentation française), Pierre Martin showed that, with national and partisan trends controlled, there existed a clear advantage for an incumbent mayor at the end of his/her first term in office. This is similar to the ‘sophomore surge’ for one-term US congressmen seeking reelection for the first time. The advantage after two or more terms in office is progressively eliminated, and after several terms in office, many mayors are threatened by weariness of voters and their own teams. However, while almost all ‘freshmen’ mayors receive a boost at their first reelection, the phenomenon of weariness does not effect them all in the same way: different mayors and administrations may tire far more quickly than others, some mayors – even in large cities – can manage to build very solid bases which resist well to weariness. 

Local factors also explain individual results when the election is analyzed through national lenses. They explain, for example, why a certain town – based on presidential results – which is quantitatively more likely to switch sides didn’t do so, while another town, quantitatively less likely to switch sides, did so. They also explain why some towns went against the national trend in a given year. Finally, they explain why towns generally unfavourable to one political side in national elections may be governed – for quite some time – by that same political side. For example, the city of Bordeaux has leaned to the left in the most recent nationwide elections, but it has been a municipal right-wing stronghold since 1947. Toulouse, governed by the right between 1971 and 2008 despite voting for the left in nationwide elections for most of the time, is also often cited as an example of such a phenomenon.

National factors

Municipal elections in France since 1959: party control of communes of over 30,000 inhabitants (at time of election, in %)

Municipal elections in France since 1959: party control of communes of over 30,000 inhabitants (at time of election, in %)

It’s also clear that local factors can’t explain everything. Municipal elections in France, unlike in many other countries, are organized on the same day across the entire territory of the republic, which make them a particularly good occasion for voters less interested by local issues to show their opposition (more often than not, because dissatisfaction is a better mobilizer than satisfaction) to the national government. In a way, municipal elections may be interpreted like midterm elections – generally more difficult for the governing party, even if it is not overly unpopular, and with a potential to be particularly bloody for the governing party if it is clearly unpopular. That being said, regional, European and cantonal elections in France are also similar to midterm elections, and in the case of regional and European elections perhaps even more so than les municipales since a lot of voters in those elections aren’t aware of regional/European issues and vote primarily based on national issues.

The idea of municipal elections being midterms holds true since 1947 when the results are taken only through national lenses (in the detail, looking at individual towns, it is less useful). In 1977, the incumbent right-wing government of President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and Prime Minister Raymond Barre was unpopular and the economy in bad shape. The left swept municipal elections that year, gaining 57 communes with over 30,000 inhabitants. In 1983, the economy was still in the dump, cards were reversed: the left was now in power, with President François Mitterrand and Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy. The right swept municipal elections in 1983, gaining 35 communes with over 30,000 inhabitants. The most recent municipal elections, in 2008, also saw a significant swing to the left, one year after Nicolas Sarkozy’s victory. After 2008, the left controlled 57.7% of communes with over 30,000 inhabitants, up from 44.5% in 2001.

These were the most extreme cases of major nationwide waves against the governing party in municipal elections. In 1959, 1965, 1971, 1989 and 1995, the incumbent government was less unpopular and therefore the results were more mixed; although on the whole, the governing party didn’t do as well as in the last national elections – 1959, for example, saw a strong performance by the Communists (PCF) just one year after the PCF was badly trounced in the first elections of the Fifth Republic.

Historically, turnout also shifted depending on the national mood. Until turnout began declining, seemingly irreversibly, after 1989, turnout in municipal elections varied based on the unpopularity of the government. In 1977 and 1983, the two classic anti-government waves, turnout was very high: 78.9% and 78.4% – compared to 75.2% in 1971 and 72.8% in 1989. In those cases, the unpopularity of the government strongly mobilized the opposition electorate to vote against the government. In 1971 and 1989, when the government parties did fairly well, the opposition’s voters were less motivated to turn out. Since 1989, however, municipal turnout has declined one election after another. Even 2001 and 2008, which saw significant anti-government movements, saw turnout decline from the previous municipal election.

Dynamics of municipal elections

National factors cannot explain everything in French municipal politics. There are particular political and partisan dynamics or phenomenons in municipal elections which are fairly unique to municipal elections themselves. These include: the tradition of municipal communism, the survival of anti-communist socialist-centrist alliances until 1977, the dynamics of first round left-wing unity since 1977 and the weakness of Gaullism in local politics until 1971/1983.

Municipal government in several communes in France, especially Paris’ working-class suburbs in the petite couronne but also many other towns throughout the country, has been marked since 1935 (or 1945) by the tradition of ‘municipal communism’ (le communisme municipal). Indeed, in those solidly left-wing and historically proletarian communes, the PCF established itself as the dominant party in local government in 1935 or 1945 (in isolated cases, such as Bobigny or Saint-Denis, in 1925). From the standpoint of urban politics and social policy, municipal communism is a rather important historical phenomenon. In power, communist municipalities implemented social policies aimed at the general welfare (especially that of the working-class) and the promotion of social, cultural and recreational infrastructure. Communist municipal governments in suburban Paris built social housing, theaters, summer camps, pools, recreation centres or local health dispensaries. Communist mayors were also local administrators faced with numerous contradictions stemming from the PCF’s theoretical positions, notably opposition to a ‘bourgeois state’. On the ground, with their powers constrained at the outset by hostility from the State, they were forced to be pragmatic. For example, in his study of rural communism in the interwar Limousin, Laird Boswell found that nascent PCF administrations in those cash-strapped villages were often quite conservative fiscally, much to the dismay of revolutionaries in their ranks. With limited resources and government hostility, they were forced to govern very pragmatically.

After 1945, 1977 was the high point of municipal communism, as this interactive feature in Le Monde shows. In the petite couronne, the PCF was dominant. In la province, the PCF held the town halls of Reims, Le Havre, Saint-Étienne, Le Mans, Nîmes and Amiens. Today, it retains control of a significant number of communes in the petite couronne, but faces an increasingly hungry Socialist Party (PS), which in 2008 and again in 2014 ran candidates against PCF incumbents. The PCF controls no major