Monthly Archives: October 2009
World Elections: 1 year
World Elections is happy to celebrate it’s first birthday, which is officially on October 28, 2009. The first post, concerning the Quebec provincial election of December 2008 was posted on October 28, 2008 and the blog started from there. In one year, I’m pleased to report that over 23,600 people from all over the world have visited this blog for various reasons. In addition, we now get between 140 and 200 visits to this blog each day.
These numbers are impressive considering that most blogs tend to have little traffic and often become the interwebs equivalent of a private diary, although read by some who know of it. Of course, World Elections resembled that last year, but the rise of traffic and visits was quite steady and we already had over 200 visits for the month of December 2008 alone. To date, September 2009 remains the most productive month, with 4,407 visits. The unfinished month of October 2009 trails with around 4,370 visits.
At any rate, the high traffic is undoubtedly a success and, as editor, I am happy of the success this blog has had. I started this blog last year in an effort to provide something which was generally hard to find or even lacking on the vast empire of the interwebs, an English-language, (generally) non-biased and (generally) analytical view of elections of interest in all countries holding elections, regardless of the coverage of these elections by the print and televised media or the native language of these countries. It is a very large field, and few people realize how many people are voting at any place in the world on any given day in either a regular general election, a regional election, a referendum or even by-elections from the local level in a ward in isolated Labrador to a crucial congressional by-election in California. I obviously don’t cover all of these, and this isn’t the place for coverage of many local by-elections, but I attempt to cover all those of interest to psephologists, observers and keen election-nerds around the world. Election nerds aren’t something you often find in your neck of the woods, but the vast empire of the interwebs allows them to find some place to read up on their interests.
This blog has covered elections at the four corners of the world: from Argentina to British Columbia, from Portugal to Japan, from Norway to South Africa, from India to Australia and so many more. As editor, I will do my best to continue building upon the list of countries covered and I will do my best to continue providing what I hope is an accurate, interesting, and generally non-biased coverage of world elections.
On a final note, a big thank you to all readers and to those who have linked to this blog from their own blogs, sites and so forth. Thank you: you really keep this blog going.
Uruguay voted in a general election for its President, its 99-seat Chamber of Deputies and 31-seat Senate. In addition, two referendums were held, including one on revoking the amnesty law prohibiting all criminal inquiries into crimes perpetrated under the military dictatorship (1973-1985).
Uruguay has been dominated by two parties since independence: the conservative National Party (PN), commonly known as the whites (blancos) and the liberal Colorado Party (PC), also known as the reds. In that way, Tabaré Vázquez’s election as President of Uruguay in 2004 was a truly historical feat: he was the first President, save for (right-wing) military generals, not from either the PN or PC. Vázquez was the candidate of the much younger left-wing Broad Front (FA), a coalition of the left going from the centre-left/Christian left to the hard-left and the Communist Party. Tabaré Vázquez, who cannot run for a second consecutive term, was often classified as one of the ‘moderate’ left-wing Latin American leaders. He led a successful anti-poverty agenda, and Uruguay’s economic outlook is less bleak than most countries in the region and the world. Despite factions of his party favouring a liberalization of the country’s strict abortion laws, he vetoed attempts to liberalize abortion in Uruguay.
The candidate of the Broad Front is Senator José Mujica, a former rebel on the left of the coalition with an anti-consumerist and humanist philosophical message. He defeated Danilo Astori, the centrist ex-Economy Minister, though Astori is Mujica’s running mate.
Former President Luis Alberto Lacalle (1990-1995), who led a neoliberal economic policy, was nominated as the White (PN) candidate. Jorge Larrañaga, defeated by Vázquez is Lacalle’s running mate. Lacalle, despite executive experience, is tainted by corruption scandals.
Pedro Bordaberry, the son of former dictator-President Juan M. Bordaberry was nominated as the PC’s candidate. He chose former soccer player and coach Hugo de León as his running mate. There were two minor candidates: Pablo Mieres of the christian socialist Independent Party and Raúl Rodríguez of the far-left Popular Assembly.
Uruguay counts white and invalid votes in the final tally. The final results are:
José Mujica (FA) 48.16%
Luis Alberto Lacalle (PN) 28.94%
Pedro Bordaberry (PC) 16.90%
Pablo Mieres (PI) 2.47%
Raúl Rodríguez (AP) 0.67%
white and null votes 2.18%
Unlike in 2004, a runoff will be held opposing Mujica and Lacalle. This is due in large part due to the Colorado’s good showing, and it is likely Bordaberry will back Lacalle over Mujica, although polls say Mujica would defeat Lacalle in a runoff and most other indicators say Mujica, helped by Vázquez’s popularity more than anything, should win and the anti-leftist coalition between whites and reds which defeated Vázquez in 1999.
In the Chamber of Deputies, the FA keeps its overall majority:
FA 50 (-2)
PN 30 (-6)
PC 17 (+7)
PI 2 (+1)
In the Senate, the FA also keeps its overall majority, barely. There are only 30 seats allocated as of now, as the Vice President sits in the Senate.
FA 16 (-1)
PN 9 (-2)
PC 5 (+2)
PI 2 (+1)
The referendum on repealing the amnesty law failed, barely, with 47.36% in favour. A referendum giving a postal vote to Uruguayans abroad failed by a much larger margin, with only 36.93% in favour.
Niger and Tunisia 2009
Two fake elections were held in Africa last week:
On October 20, a contested snap legislative election was held for Niger’s 113-seat unicameral National Assembly was held after President Mamadou Tandja dissolved the legislature in May 2009. The pesky legislature had attempted to block Tandja’s efforts to repeal presidential term limits allowing him to run again. These efforts succeeded in a contested referendum of dubious legality in August 2009, with 92.5% of the votes in favour of the term limit repeals. As a result, this election was boycotted by the majority of the opposition (with a few exceptions) and Tandja’s ‘centre-right’ National Movement for the Society of Development (MNSD) easily won. The MNSD won 76 seats out of the National Assembly’s 113 seats, up from 47 seats in 2004. Parties allied to the ruling party won 26 seats, and Independents won the remaining 11 seats.
A presidential and legislative election was held in Tunisia on October 25. Tunisia has been ruled since independence in 1957 by only two Presidents: the famous Habib Bourguiba and, since 1987, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Ben Ali, a ‘centre-leftist’ and militant secularist, is a member of the ruling Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), a continuation of Bourguiba’s old Socialist Destourian Party and that party’s predecessors. Ben Ali has been re-elected since 1989 with extremely high percentages, such as 94.5% in 2004. This election proved a deception, given that Ben Ali won only 89.62% of the vote. Mohamed Bouchiha of the Party of Popular Unity (PUP) was his closest “rival” with only 5.01% of the vote. Ahmed Inoubli of the Unionist Democratic Union won 3.8% and Ahmed Ibrahim of the communist Movement Ettajdid won 1.57%. The RCD also won 84.59% of the vote in the legislative elections, winning 161 seats out of 214.
Antigonish and Inverness (Nova Scotia) by-elections 2009
Two provincial by-elections were held in two Nova Scotian provincial constituencies on October 20, 2009. The constituency of Antigonish is located in north-eastern mainland Nova Scotia, centered around the university town of Antigonish (St. FX University), which is considerably progressive (as expected) – it was the only Nova Scotia town won by the Greenies (Elizabeth May, in this case) in the 2008 federal election. However, the surrounding area is much more Conservative federally, though the provincial riding was a rather Liberal seat until 1999. The seat, which seems to be rather Scottish (judging by names), was held by the Deputy Prime Minister of the Progressive Conservative (PC) government of Rodney MacDonald, Angus MacIsaac.
The other seat, Inverness, on western Cape Breton Island, was held by his boss, PC Premier Rodney MacDonald, defeated in 2009 by the NDP. A largely Catholic seat, it is Liberal federally and used to be a Liberal areas provincially, though that Catholic Liberal base was rather destroyed by MacDonald’s Catholic appeal.
The NDP government of Nova Scotia, elected in June, is still in it’s honeymoon period and actively targeted the seat of Antigonish, won by MacIsaac by only 295 in the 2009 election.
Maurice Smith (NDP) 41.02% (+5.84%)
Darren Thompson (PC) 35.38% (-2.70%)
Miles Tompkins (Liberal) 22.68% (-2.38%)
Michael Marshall (Green) 0.92% (-0.77%)
Allan MacMaster (PC) 35.75% (-20.30%)
Ian McNeil (Liberal) 35.18% (+15.29%)
Bert Lewis (NDP) 26.54% (+5.66%)
Nathalie Arsenault (Green) 2.53% (-1.00%)
The main winner is, of course, the NDP, which has gained votes in both seats, in addition to picking up Antigonish. The Liberal situation is more unclear, their vote was probably squished by the NDP effort in Antigonish but went up in Inverness, where the PC vote fell drastically with Rodney MacDonald gone. Inverness is also a traditionally Catholic Liberal area, so it might mean that the Liberals could be picking up a bit of the Catholic vote which MacDonald had won for the PC in 2006 or so. The clear loser is the PC, which lost votes in both seats and lost Antigonish. In addition, the Greenies had a bad night, but they’re irrelevant. However, these kind of things happen often in by-elections held a few months after the election of a new government: the Liberals picked up the seats of defeated Conservative premiers Bernard Lord and Pat Binns in New Brunswick and PEI respectively in by-elections held shortly after the Liberal Party’s victories.
A general election for Botswana’s 57-seat lower house, the National Assembly, was held yesterday. Botswana uses the British Westminster style of government, with the President being Prime Minister and the VP being the Deputy PM. Botswana is often flaunted as an African success-story, having been considered a democratic, stable, working and historically prosperous nation (though the latter part has been shadowed a bit by the HIV-AIDs epidemic in the country and the region in general). It has been governed since independence from Britain in 1966 by the centre-right Democratic Party (BDP). While the country is undoubtedly a one-party dominant system, it remains a democratic nation with real elections. The BDP has never dropped below 50% in any election, though it came close last election in 2004. The main centre-left opposition has been the Botswana National Front (BNF) and, since a split in 1999, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and it’s ally, the Alliance Movement (BAM).
he current President, Ian Khama, succeeded Festus Mogae, who had been President since 1998, in 2008.
BDP 53.26% (+1.53%) winning 45 seats (+1)
BNF 21.94% (-4.12%) winning 6 seats (-6)
BCP 19.15% (+2.53%) winning 4 seats (+3)
BAM 2.27% (-0.57%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Independents 1.92% (+1.89%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Rather unsurprisingly, the BDP and Khama have won another term, and Khama won his first outright term in office. The divided opposition continues to duke it out, with the notable increase of the BCP over the BNF. Is it a matter of time before the BCP becomes the official opposition?
Yvelines’ 12th constituency (France) by-election
The runoff of the legislative by-election in the Yvelines’ 12th constituency in France was held last night, on Sunday October 18. I posted a bit about the constituency in question and the results of the first round last week. The runoff opposed the UMP’s star candidate, former judoka and close friend of Nicolas Sarkozy and Frédérik Bernard, the Socialist Mayor of Poissy, the constituency’s largest city. The relatively affluent (in some parts very affluent) constituency is a suburban constituency of Paris in the Yvelines department, located west of the city. The right has held this seat in its current incarnation since 1988, and has always been represented by RPR-UMP deputy Jacques Masdeu-Arus, who was recently removed from office for being a crook. Sarkozy won 55% of the vote in the runoff here, but Masdeu-Arus, whose judicial problems are nothing new, won only 52.3% in the 2007 runoff against Eddie Aït, the Left Radical candidate endorsed by the PS. This result was the right’s worse result, even worse than it’s 54% in the midst of the 1997 pink wave. In the European elections, the UMP won 33.3% against 19.3% for the Greens and 13.2% for the PS. This result is in line with other similar middle-to-upper-class constituencies in the region and France in general.
Turnout was slightly up at 33.7%, it was only 30.13% in the first round.
David Douillet (UMP) 52.10% (-0.22%)
Frédérik Bernard (PS) 47.90% (+0.22%)
David Douillet appears to have done very well (better than his predecessor) in the ultra-affluent communes in dark blue, nearly breaking 90% in one. He narrowly won Poissy, which voted against it’s Mayor, but the left dominated in most of the other middle-class communities and also in Carrières-sous-Poissy, the poorest community in the constituency.
David Douillet’s victory, while it has already been flaunted by the UMP and its talking heads as a major victory for Sarkozy and the right, it’s more of a Pyrrhic victory given the low majority on paper, but most notably the fact that he only won 52%, and a few decimals less than an unpopular crook did before him. Of course, one could hold the fact that Douillet actually won 52% in a bad time for Sarkozy and the UMP as a victory, given the recent scandal surrounding the nomination of Sarkozy’s son to the EPAD, the carbon tax, and the Culture Minister in a scandal of words. However, this result doesn’t give the right any legitimate reason to hold a massive party.
52% isn’t the right’s average level here, and they should hope it doesn’t become or if it does that it’s only a local factor. The right has already largely lost the urban (and, in some cases, suburban) middle-class to the left in many elections (though some return to the fold when the right wins big) and it has no business fully losing suburban middle-class voters.
Geneva (Switzerland) 2009
It’s a shame that I don’t find the time or information to cover Swiss cantonal elections and Swiss political life, since they’re fascinating topics. However, I’ve recently found out that the Canton of Geneva, a major canton in eastern Francophone Switzerland (Suisse romande). The canton of Geneva was the base of John Calvin’s Reformation, and has historically been a Protestant canton. However, due to immigration, Catholics are now the plurality and the Protestants lag far behind. Geneva, a urban and generally socially liberal canton (not more than the Vaud, I think, though) also has a large ‘no religion’ population – 45% are neither Catholic nor Protestant. However, and unlike the affluent liberal Vaud, the canton of Geneva has a moderately strong populist anti-immigration backlash movement from time to time.
The canton has been historically supportive of two liberal parties, both quite old parties. The Liberal Party (PLS), although minor nationally, has been the top party in the canton since 1985. The PLS is a party based exclusively in the historically Protestant Francophone cantons, and tended to be to the right of the Free-thinking Democratic Party (FDP), known in French as the Radical-Democrats (PRD or Radicals), the major Swiss liberal party. The PRD dominated Geneva between 1948 and 1973 as the largest party. While the PLS and PRD have merged nationally, they remain separate parties in Geneva. The Socialists (PS) have some success here, as does the right-wing populist Swiss People’s Party (SVP, UDC in French), but you couldn’t call Geneva a stronghold for either. However, the SVP-UDC was the top party in the canton in 2007, but the populist right-wing vote seems to converge on a local party in cantonal elections, the Movement (0f) Genevan Citizens (MCG), which despite it’s claims to be neither right nor left is in practice a SVP-like right-wing populist party notably campaigning in favour of ‘priority to Genevans’ (over immigrants but also the numerous cross-border commuters from France). They are classified as a far-right party, though it also appeals to the far-left at times. Finally, the Greens (PES in French) are a major political force.
These elections were to the legislative branch, not the executive. The legislature is the Grand Council, and is elected through regular Swiss PR under a 7% threshold for seats. The role of the legislature here is similar to the role of the Swiss federal legislative branch. The executive is a seven-member elected Council of State.
Liberal 16.71% (-2.38%) winning 20 seats (-3)
Greens 15.34% (+1.51%) winning 17 seats (+1)
MCG 14.74% (+7.01%) winning 17 seats (+8)
PS-SP 12.91% (-1.71%) winning 15 seats (-2)
PDC-CVP 9.91% (+0.07%) winning 11 seats (-1)
PRD-FDP 9.59% (-0.9%) winning 11 seats (-1)
UDC-SVP 8.56% (-1.04%) winning 9 seats (-2)
solidaritéS-PdT 6.4% (+6.4%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Defense of Seniors 5.85% (+5.85%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Turnout was 40% – turnout is usually very low in Swiss elections like these.
The MCG’s rise might be the result of a local backlash against cross-border commuters from France in times of economic downturn internationally. However, a local populist backlash in Geneva is not new: in 1985 the Vigilants, a similar populist outfit (though more anti-Italian than anti-French), won 19 seats and second place behind the Liberals. They fell to 9 in 1989 and died out in 1993-1995. The far-left, united under one banner this time, won 6.4%, though the combined far-left in 2005 won 14.8% (though no one broke 7%).
Overall, the Rose-Green Alternative (PS and Greens), the current executive majority, won 32 seats. The right-wing Entente (Liberals, PDC, PRD) won 42 and the combined populist hard right (MCG and UDC) won 26.
The Council of State is up in November 2009. Its seven members are elected through multi-member FPTP, in a way. In 2005, the PS won 2 seats, the Greenies 2, the Liberals, PDC and PRD one seat each. This gave the Pink-Red Alternative 4 seats against 3 for the right-wing Entente. This time, the MCG could probably elect one, even two, councillors.
Moscow (Russia) 2009
Elections to the City Duma of the Russian capital, Moscow, were held on October 11 along with some other local elections across Russia. Moscow, as all major population centres in Russia, is actually one of the Medvedev-Putin administration’s weakest point, though the rigged 2008 election didn’t show that. Still, the Official Party, United Russia, won 54.2% of the vote in the 2007 legislative election with the Communists (KPRF) winning 13.8%, the Putinist-socialist outfit Just Russia won 7.7%, the ultra-nationalist crazy Liberal-Demorats (LDPR) won 7.1%, and the opposition liberal Yabloko won 5.6% (much above it’s bleak national average).
There were accusations of massive rigging and fraud in this election, and it was probably one of the dirtiest local elections in Russia to date. These accusations by the opposition resulted in the opposition walking out of Parliament, which is surprising given the tame and quiet nature of the parliamentary opposition.
The Moscow City Duma has 35 members, 17 of which are elected in single-member constituencies and the remaining 18 are elected by proportional representation with a 7% threshold. The official, rigged results are:
United Russia 66.3% winning 32 seats
Communist Party 13.3% winning 3 seats
Liberal Democratic Party 6.1% winning 0 seats
Fair Russia 5.3% winning 0 seats
Yabloko 4.7% winning 0 seats
Patriots of Russia 1.8% winning 0 seats
They want us to believe that United Russia was all 17 SMDs and 15 PR seats, leaving the KPRF, the only other party to cross the 7% threshold, with 3 PR seats.
A Russian friend of mine, as well his colleague have calculated the so-called ‘real’ and ‘un-rigged’ results. They still show the obvious and undeniable popularity of Medvedev-Putin, but it isn’t as high as the State wants us to believe.
Yvelines’ 12th constituency (France) by-election
The first round of a legislative by-election in the Yvelines’ 12th constituency in France was held on Sunday, October 11. The by-election was held after the original deputy for the constituency, Jacques Masdeu-Arus (UMP) was removed from office after being found guilty of corruption. He was notably declared ineligible for any elected office in a period of ten years (most of the time it’s a year or two max, so 10 would mean this guy is a major crook). This conviction came alongside the convicition for corruption of Pierre Bédier (UMP), the former President of the General Council and a former low-key cabinet member.
The constituency is a largely middle and upper class suburban constituency of Paris, based around the relatively affluent city of Poissy. It also includes extremely affluent municipalities south-east of Poissy while the southern end of the long constituency is more middle-class. The constituency is solidly right-wing, and has been held since its creation in 1988 by Jacques Masdeu-Arus. Sarkozy won 55% of the vote in the runoff here, but Masdeu-Arus, whose judicial problems are nothing new, won only 52.3% in the 2007 runoff against Eddie Aït, the Left Radical candidate endorsed by the PS. In the European elections, the UMP won 33.3% against 19.3% for the Greens and 13.2% for the PS. This result is in line with other similar middle-to-upper-class constituencies in the region and France in general.
The UMP and the Greenies both went the star candidate route, with the UMP nominating former judoka David Douillet, a close friend of Nicolas Sarkozy. The Greenies, certainly under the influence of the mediatic shock caused by their second-place showing, ahead of the PS, in the Yvelines-10 by-elections a few weeks ago chose Alain Lipietz, a high-profile Greenie (although not locally implanted) and former MEP. Lipietz was tapped as the Greenie’s candidate in the 2002 presidential election (but withdrew in wake of controversy regarding comments he made about political amnesty for Corsican nationalists) and is a noted member of the party’s left-wing and Eurosceptic wing. The candidate of the Left Front (PCF-PG) was François Delapierre, a protege of the Left Party (PG)’s leader, Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Of the major candidates, only the Socialist candidate, Frédérik Bernard, Mayor of Poissy had strong roots in the constituency.
Turnout was only 30.13%. The result of Bernard (PS) is compared to Aït (PRG) in 2007. Aït was practically the PS candidate, just under a different party etiquette. The PG’s result is compared to the result of the PCF in 2007, and for comparison sake the result of the far-right in 2009 (represented by the PdF) is compared to the FN’s result in 2007, but the FN didn’t run a candidate in 2009.
David Douillet (UMP) 44.19% (+2.28%)
Frédérik Bernard (PS) 21.87% (+0.31%)
Alain Lipietz (Greens) 14.82% (+11.37%)
Richard Bertrand (MoDem) 7.75% (-4.88%)
François Delapierre (PG-PCF) 4.87% (+2.86%)
Christophe Le Hot (Parti de la France) 3.21% (-0.6%)
Philippe Gautry (DVD) 2.04%
Bernard Huet (DVD) 1.25% (-0.47%)
Right and Far-Right 50.69% vs. Left and MoDem 49.31%
David Douillet benefited from his celebrity status but also the fact that he isn’t a crook like Masdeu-Arus. While Lipietz’s 14.8% would undoubtedly be an excellent result for the Greenies in a normal year, it’s a severe disappointment considering his celebrity (although he’s not from the area), the Greenie result in the Euros and their recent by-election success in Yvelines-10, and the alleged continuation of the Greenies’ June 2009 success to this day. The Greenies were allegedly hoping for 22% in the constituency, but the Greenies in France tend to always project themselves beyond their best results, thinking the sky is the limit for them. They’ve also been assuming their result in a low-turnout European proportional election prone to protest voting and against a weak PS means that they can definitely win anything they want in any type of election, and they think that this allows them to run anybody they want, even carpetbaggers or “old” member of the Green Party.
The MoDem’s result are a deception for the party, but in line with the party’s dwindling electoral successes nationally. Their votes should probably flow in large part to the left next Sunday, but there may been a small share transfering to Douillet as well (or abstaining). In addition, the right and far-right has a majority of votes which makes them the favourites to win, and most tend to think that Douillet will win something like 52% on Sunday. While such a result will undoubtedly be flaunted by the stupid media as ‘great success’, it’s a poor result when considering the history of the constituency. The 52.3% won by Masdeu-Arus in the 2007 runoff is below Sarkozy’s 55% in May 2007, and also below the right’s result in 1997 (54%).
The Cantons of France
French departments are governed by General Councils, a timeless institution in existence, in one form or another, since the Revolution. Since 1982, their powers have been unclear and of little importance nationally, but they remain the basis of departmental institutions. The General Council is, in a way, a National Assembly at the local level. After all, both use constituencies, and in General Councils, they’re called cantons. These cantons nowadays serve mostly as electoral constituencies for electing one councillor to the General Council, and this person is election using the same system as the one used to elect deputies to Paris – a two-round majority uninomial system. The only difference is that the cantonal elections have a lower threshold for getting into the runoff: 10% of registered voters against 12.5% nationally. The other major difference is that, normally, councillors have a six-year term, sometimes extended to seven; and that they’re renewed by halves every, what, three or four years (as of now, in 2004 and 2008, with the 2004 series up in 2011 and the 2008 series up in 2014).
Cantons are awful things, really. Rural cantons hold disproportionate influence, though that doesn’t really help the right much since the rural-urban divide is not as important as other divides in France, and the 2004 and 2008 were massive anti-government elections and anti-government feelings affected urbanites as much as rural folks. Cantons, apparently, must hold around 20,000 people. But since France has this thing against redistricting, some rural cantons have barely 1000 people while urban cantons hold over 30,000 people. Aix-en-Provence-Sud-Ouest has 68,774 people while Barcillonnette has 353 inhabitants!
Because of the electoral system and also due to the electoral role and composition of political parties, these elections have known to favour the moderate parties of the system over the extremes. For that reason, the Communist Party has never ruled many departments and despite past electoral results well up in the 20s, they never had that percentage of councillors nationally. Parties such as the old Radical Party, which was known to be a party of notables, or well-known local political machines, were favoured by this system and they held a disproportionate amount of seats and presidencies. Other centrist or moderates parties such as the Christian democrats (MRP and successors) and the CNI were important players. In a way, the Fourth Republic lived on in the General Councils until the late 60s or 70s. For example, in the 1961 cantonal elections, the PCF won 18.6% of the vote and 52 seats. Meanwhile, the Socialists (also a local machine back then, and even today) won 271 seats on 16.8% and the Radicals won 211 seats on 7.4%! The same has happened today to marginalize the far-right (FN) in General Councils. Local political dynasties are also very important, and sometimes these dynasties don’t even die out after the instigator of the dynasty has himself kicked the bucket!
I undertook the massive project of mapping the ‘political colour’ of all of these cantons or constituencies, around 4,000 of them. To my knowledge, such as a national map of all cantons cannot be found online or publicly. The map is up-to-date as of October 2009, therefore including changes in political affiliation since the 2004 or 2008 cantonal elections. There are by-elections in one or more cantons about weekly in the ‘school-year’.
Some of the actual classifications in each canton may be a matter of debate, but I used my best information and sources. And some borders might not be fully accurate, especially when my base maps didn’t include inner-city areas.
A larger version (huge) can be found here. Parties should be relatively straightforward. ExG refers to the far-left, in this case the Independent Workers’ Party (POI) and also Les Alternatifs, a rough confederation of eco-socialists, anti-globalizations and that type. The CAP, Convention for a Progressive Alternative, is a party founded by reformist Communists (Marcel Rigout in Haute-Vienne) and also eco-socialists and New Left types. It’s mostly a local party in Haute-Vienne. Ecolo refers to ecologists who are not members of the Greens. Basques refers to a Basque Regionalist councillor, and PNC refers to the Party of the Corsican Nation (Corsican nationalists/autonomists). AC refers to the Centrist Alliance, a centrist outfit founded by Senator Jean Arthuis. Finally, Alsace d’abord is a far-right Alsatian regionalist party. On the note of DVD and DVG, these people are oftentimes, especially in cantonal elections, independents classified by the state as right-wing or left-wing. They sometimes refer to some small parties which the state doesn’t classify under a specific etiquette (in this case, the MPF and DLR), but most of the time I’ve tried to figure out if they belonged to a small outfit or not and classified them as such. DVD and DVG usually dominate rural areas, where party etiquette is less ‘solid’ and important.
The map is obviously a sea of pink, due to the absolute dominance of the left in the 2004 and 2008 elections. The old Southwest, the base of French radicalism and later socialism is a sea of almost unbroken PS pink. The Socialist tradition in this area, an old area of secular opposition to Paris and the Catholic-bourgeois regime of the time, is strongest in rural areas and even stronger in the high isolated mountain villages high up in the Pyrenées Mountains. The urban cores of this area: Toulouse, Carcassonne, Tarbes, Castres and so forth were wealthier and had less of a tradition of opposition to Paris than the rural areas did. However, the gentrification of Socialism in France as a movement acceptable to the middle-class has turned even those isolated blue areas into pink areas. Although, it should be noted, the few blue cantons tend to be in this area.
Also notable on this map is the rough shape of a C or G starting around Haute-Saône in the east, circling through the Red Allier and Limousin, and then the Southwest before lining the Mediterranean coast until Aubagne and the outskirts of Marseille and ending in the Alps. This ‘C’ shaped pattern used to be the map of French socialism, especially visible in the 1965 runoff. Then, however, the Var and Alpes-Maritimes were left-wing strongholds!
On the topic of the Var, it’s interesting to see the remnants of backwoods left-wing support here! The old Var rouge, also an area of old secular opposition to Parisian institutions made the department an old left-wing stronghold before Pieds-Noirs from Algeria and old wealthy retirees transformed the region entirely.
The Limousin in central France is an old left-wing stronghold, and a base of rural communism though now rural socialism. The tradition says that Limousin workers who worked in Paris brought home with them socialist ideals. The Limousin is France’s most socialist and left-wing region.
The industrial northern quarter of France, encompassing the Nord, Flanders, the Artois and Pas-de-Calais, Picardy, and parts of Normandy around Le Havre, Rouen and Dieppe are still visible.
Outside of the aforementioned areas, where socialism is an older trend albeit somewhat evaporated in parts, the ‘new’ Socialist areas are in Bretagne (the region which trended the most to the left between 1974 and today), parts of the Pays-de-la-Loire, and in other urban and suburban areas. In Bretagne, once a rural strongly Catholic (clerical) region and the left’s worst region, the rise of the left is remarkable. Most of it is due to the experience of the left in power and the destruction of the clerical’s myth that socialism in power meant communism in power and the second coming of Stalin but more importantly to the gentrification and centrist drift of the PS in Bretagne. This shift has turned the tide in Bretagne, a strongly pro-European and moderate region in favour of the PS. The left’s first gains came in urban cores such as Rennes, Brest, Quimper, Nantes and so forth. In the late 1990s and during Chirac’s second term, the PS gained in suburban areas, generally middle-class and growing. While these suburban areas lean more on the right in national elections, they have been the key to the Socialist domination of the departments and regions. However, this isn’t to say that Bretagne was an entirely blue map in 1970 or so, far from it. There has always been a strongly left-wing area in the Guingampais Country, which is located west of Saint-Brieuc in the southwestern areas of the Côtes-d’Armor department. This also extends into the northwestern areas of Morbihan and to the north-eastern areas of the Finistère around the city of Morlaix. This is a rural though anti-clerical area, and it is also known as the Breton Red Belt, as it too elected Communists. Interestingly, the city of Douarnenez, whose canton is ironically held by the UMP today, elected the first Communist mayor in France. In Douarnenez, but also in Concarneau and other coastal towns in Cornouaille-Finistère Sud, there was a strong Communist tradition known as le communisme sardinier (‘Sardine communism’!), referring to the fact that workers in the sardinières (sardine processing factories) voted PCF by 1920 or so.
The aforementioned urban-suburban support of the PS is also visible around Nantes (huge suburbia), Tours, Caen, Rouen, La Rochelle, Nancy and so forth. In some cases, though, it’s just urban support because the suburbia is not middle-class but upper-class (Strasbourg, Orleans, Le Havre etc). In fact, the destruction of the right in urban cores is very marked here, and quite amazing. Some cities, such as Rennes, are all left-wing, while most have just one or two right-wing cantons, mostly in the wealthy city centre.
A note on the PCF over here, there’s still a fair share of red in here. What are these areas? Firstly, you have a strongly Communist belt of support in the old coalfield of the north, though it is limited to only the Nord department and does not extend into the Pas-de-Calais. In the Pas-de-Calais, there is a very strong PS fed in the Pas-de-Calais. Not only in terms of members, but also in terms of organization and power on the ground. In the Nord, the PS fed is powerful on its membership numbers, but the PCF organization in strong in the old mining areas. The PCF has held its Meurthe-et-Moselle minefield strongholds very well, not so well in Moselle. Here again, you’re probably seeing the effects of local economic and party organization factors (though the PCF’s Lorrain base was much more Meurthe-et-Mosellan than Mosellan). Other mining areas, such as Firminy (Loire), Carmaux (Tarn), Montceau-les-Mines (Saône-et-Loire) also have PCF councillors. The industrial [harbour] suburbs of Marseille (Fos-sur-Mer, Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône), Le Havre (Gonfreville-l’Orcher and part of the city proper) are Communist strongholds, but the poorer working-class suburbs of Lyon (Vénissieux), Paris (the 93 department, part of the Val-d’Oise, Nanterre, Trappes, Argenteuil, Mantes-la-Jolie), Grenoble, Tours, and so forth are also old PCF areas though the decline in most marked here. Due in part to the influx of immigrants, who end up being less likely to become solid PCF voters than old white workers are. The PCF also holds a few seats out in Champagne, in places such as Romilly-sur-Seine, which are old industrial cities built along the Paris-Lyon railway. The PCF has survived well in the backwoods areas of the Cévennes mountain range (Gard and parts of Lozère). These are old mining areas, but also old Protestant (French Protestants are left-wing, save for Alsace) areas and old republican areas in the middle of ultra-conservative Catholic low-lying land (atleast compared to the surrounding mountains) of Lozère. Voting patterns in this area are very funny. The PCF holds the Allier General Council, where it is strong in the rural areas in the west of the department. This area of rural communism, which extends into the Cher and Indre too, is based on old sharecropping in the area but also poor communities where miners from Commentry lived. Commentry, ironically held by the right, an old industrial and mining town, was the world’s first socialist city in 1882. In the Allier, the cities are usually more right-wing. Especially Vichy (insert snarky comment here).
“Local parties” are also very funny to see. Most hilarious has to be the survival of the PRG in La Rochelle. They almost have a majority of seats, more than 10 years after Michel Crépeau’s death. Michel Crépeau was the Radical Mayor of La Rochelle for many years, and it seems as if the traditional prevails again today. Other interesting local strongholds include the MoDem in Bayrou’s Pyrenées-Atlantiques, the MPF in Philippe de Villiers’ Vendée, the PG in Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Essonne, and the PRG in Haute-Corse (family dynasties) Tarn-et-Garonne (Jean-Michel Baylet’s turf) the Lot and so forth. The CAP in Haute-Vienne is also a local factor, which also has a base in the Val-d’Oise.
So, you ask, where the hell does the right survive today? On this map, it’s obviously wealthy areas (coastal, urban, suburban or exurban), old rural Catholic areas (part of Bretagne, Lozère, Cantal, Haute-Loire, parts of the Aveyron, southern Doubs, Moselle and so forth), Chirac’s turf in Corrèze (fast disappearing under Sarkozy), the conservative rural areas out east, and Alsace (also Catholic, though Protestants vote right-wing, though Protestants voted Gaullist and not as much Christian democratic UDF in the past). As you can see, there’s not much categories here! Alsace is actually very interesting politically, but would take too long to write about here.
That’s about all I can think of for now, but I leave this post open to questions on any specific thing. In the end, I’ll also publish this post on a special page of its own.