Yvelines’ 10th constituency (France) by-election runoff
The runoff of a legislative by-election for the French National Assembly in the Yvelines’ 10th constituency was held on Sunday, July 11. The by-election had come after an earlier by-election in September 2009, won by the UMP candidate by one vote, was invalidated by the Constitutional Council. The first round, held last week, was covered here. The two candidates qualified for the runoff were Anny Poursinoff, a Green who ran as the common candidate of the Greens and PS; and UMP incumbent Jean-Frédéric Poisson. Poursinoff had won 42.6% of the vote in the first round, leading Poisson who won 40.7% by a small but comfortable margin in a traditionally wealthy and safely right-wing seat. Here are the results:
Anny Poursinoff (Green-PS) 51.72% (+1.72%)
Jean-Frédéric Poisson (UMP) 48.28% (-1.72%)
Green GAIN from UMP
Turnout 29.42% (+2.67% on first round)
The defeat is a very bad defeat for the government in the midst of corruption scandals which are touching Sarkozy more and more, and whose approvals are hitting rock-bottom fast. Rambouillet has long been held by the right, the right never lost it under current boundaries and the left last won the area in 1981, an historic PS landslide right after Mitterrand’s election to the presidency. This was also the constituency of former cabinet minister Christine Boutin, and the right usually averages 56-58% in 50-50 years. Sarkozy won 59% in 2007, Chirac had won 59.8% in 1995 and in 1988, Chirac, losing in a landslide nationally, won 52% against Mitterrand’s 48%. In 1997, Boutin had held her seat with nearly 55% against Poursinoff, already candidate back then. The bottom line is that this is a seat which the right cannot lose. However, in March, Huchon (PS) had won a narrow majority in the constituency, 50.9%, ahead of the right who won 49.1%. Most certainly, the right losing votes since March is not exactly sign of improvement for the UMP. Of course, fortunes for the right will likely increase come 2012, but if such a swing was repeated in 2012, the right would be reduced to the equivalent in terms of seat numbers to where the PS was in 1993, if not lower. These swings show that no demographic is safe for the right anymore, even old wealthy white people.
The left had no trouble rallying all its additional potential voters from the Left Front, but also likely had fairly good transfers from the NC (3%) and even FN (7.5%) though most FN voters likely voted UMP in the runoff. The FN’s electorate in these parts are much less working-class and are likely angry bourgeois, thus more likely to still support the UMP in the runoff.
The defeat of the right has sent shock waves through the UMP, with the party’s spokesperson/attack dog Frédéric Lefebvre blaming the defeat on the NC’s candidate, who, despite his weak result, only 3%, allegedly caused the right’s defeat. Lefebvre believes in the right’s favourite myth that being on top in the first round creates a sort of “dynamic” which allows you to win in the runoff. According to his reasoning, if the NC had not run, the UMP would have placed first and then won in the runoff because of these mysterious “forces” and “dynamics”. Of course, such a theory is a bad lie and an awful myth, though coming from a person as intellectually dishonest as Lefebvre makes it less of a surprise or insult to our intelligence. Lefebvre, and his master Sarkozy, would like to use this defeat as proof that different right-wing candidates in the first round are bad for the right, thinking in the context of 2012 and the NC’s insistence that it will run a candidate of its own. Sarkozy is a foe of this strategy of first round division, thinking that first round unity breeds a dynamic of unity for the runoff. If the UMP keeps thinking in such a sectarian and intellectually dishonest faction, it is shooting itself in the foot ahead of 2012.