Isère 4th (France) by-election
The first round of a legislative by-election in Isère’s 4th constituency was held on Sunday, May 29. The by-election came as a result of the nomination of its long-time incumbent PS deputy, Didier Migaud, to the presidency of the French Cours des Comptes, by President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Isère’s 4th constituency took its current shape in 1986, when the immediate southern working-class suburbs of Grenoble were removed from the seat, which covers a large and diverse areas including Grenoble’s exurbs, parts of the plateaus of the Vercors and Trièves, an old mining and industrial basin (La Mure and La Romanche) and ski resorts. This varied sociological makeup makes for a constituency which is traditionally a swing seat. That is, quite amusingly, well concealed since 1988. Indeed, only Didier Migaud has represented the constituency since then. A moderate and pragmatic Socialist, he built a strong personal vote since 1988 and was one of the few survivors of 1993 and won re-election in 1997, 2002 and 2007 with huge majorities (62.8% in the 2007 runoff). The constituency is far more Migaudienne than it is Socialist. At the presidential level, however, it remains far more divided. Jospin won it narrowly in 1995 but Sarkozy carried it with 50.7% in 2007. The UMP, however, did particularly badly here (comparatively) in 2009 and 2010, likely the result of the rapid erosion of UMP votes in two major sociological categories dominant in the constituency: the suburban middle-class and the working-class. The Greens have a base here like in most of southern Isère, and environmental issues related to highway construction are big issues here. The Greens won around 22% in the European elections and fell to roughly 19% in the regionals. The FN won around 11% in 2010, up from 8.8% for Le Pen in 2007. It performed particularly well in Linet-et-Gavet and Oulles, two old mining towns in La Romanche.
The UMP never had much of a chance here, and its bench is rather weak. It did nominate the strongest candidate possible, Fabrice Marchiol, mayor of the old mining town of La Mure and who commands an impressive personal vote in a traditionally left-leaning village. The PS nominated Marie-Noëlle Battistel, a close confidante of Migaud and mayor of the small village of La Salle-en-Beaumont. The Greens, FN, Left Front and the Liberal Alternative all nominated candidates.
Marie-Noëlle Battisel (PS) 39.31% (-7.27%)
Fabrice Marchiol (UMP) 32.93% (+1.23%)
Anne Parlange (Europe Ecologie) 12.63% (+8.94%)
Mireille d’Ornanon (FN) 7.4% (+4.02%)
Laurent Jadeau (FG) 6.81% (+4.75%)
Arnaud Walther (AL) 0.92% (+0.92%)
This is a nice example of a by-election with no real winners. The PS, obviously, never had much of a chance to stay at Migaud’s high levels and its fall from 46.6% in 2007 was to be expected. The PS’ result is the worst percentage-wise since 1997, and its raw vote total is lower than in 1993. Of course, Migaud does mess things up a bit. On the positive side, it does stay ahead of the field even with a strong-ish UMP candidate and a weak-ish candidate of its own. The UMP’s result, while superior to its regional results, could have expected far better with the Marchiol candidacy and its strong base in La Mure (where he won roughly 53% or so), but its 33% result is very weak for the party, even in this climate. The Battisel campaign wasn’t very good and the UMP could have capitalized on that and its strong candidate, but it utterly failed to do so. It does only narrowly better than the party’s paper candidate had done in 2007. While Europe Ecologie seems to be well implanted in the region and the local political scene, it has seen its share of the vote dwindle from 19% in March to only 12.6% today. Whether that is the effect of low turnout, the sign of the beginning of the “fall of the Greens” from 2009 or just a local result based on local factors is up to you. The FN’s result is down from a high of 11% in the regionals, but the reason behind this, whether it be low turnout games or a real decline in the FN overall is up to you. FG’s vote is narrowly down since the regionals as well, but it can be pleased with its result. No comment on the joke candidacy, though I’m surprised it won up to 0.9%.
The left weighs 58.75% (against 57.96% in the regional runoff) against 33.85% for the right (41.25% with the far-right). The right alone was worth 29.95% in March. The low turnout gives the UMP a reason to hope for a victory they know they won’t get, but assuming turnout stays the same (I can’t really recall a legislative by-election with a major turnout boost over both rounds), the left is favoured to win a strong victory, with anywhere from 58% to 61-62%. It would be quite funny if the PS won a larger victory than Migaud did in 2007. That would be bad for the right.