France 2012 (Legislative): Runoff

The second round of legislative elections were held in France on June 17, 2012. 526 out of 577 seats in the French National Assembly (Assemblée nationale), the lower house of France’s Parliament, were still up for grabs. 36 seats were filled by the first round, while another 15 runoffs were walkovers for one candidate after their sole opponent in the runoff dropped out of the race.

In the first round, which I covered in some detail here, the left came out well on its way to winning a very large and comfortable majority in the National Assembly, having won about 47% of the votes (and nearly 40% for the presidential majority alone). The right, which was defeated in the presidential elections on May 6, long resigned itself to such a conclusion. The re-emergence of the far-right FN as a potent force in these elections posed another, more long-term, problem to the right. The FN won 13.6% of the vote, lower than what its leader Marine Le Pen had won in the presidential ballot (17.9%) and won enough votes to maintain its candidates in 62 constituencies – although two of those 62 candidates pulled out, one of them against Marine’s wishes.

The runoff campaign did focus somewhat on the FN’s presence in 60 races, 28 of which were triangulaires against both the left and right, and of which at most four were winnable for the FN. However, almost all of the week-long runoff campaign focused on a safe left-wing seat with normally dull politics – Charente-Maritime-1.

The runoff in Charente-Maritime-1 opposed two left-wing candidates, so the left’s victory was ensured with the UMP having been eliminated in that constituency by the first round. The PS candidate in that race was Ségolène Royal, the party’s unsuccessful 2007 presidential candidate, who sought to return to the National Assembly with the stated aim of winning the presidency of the National Assembly. Royal’s candidacy in La Rochelle was contested locally because it gave the appearance of carpetbagging, endorsed by the national leadership of the PS. In the first round, she won 32% against 29% for Olivier Falorni, a local Socialist municipal councillor who ran as a dissident against Royal, basing a lot of his campaign on his local roots and his image as a guy who would represent his city rather than use the seat as a trampoline to higher political office. Falorni defiantly refused to drop out and allow Royal to win the runoff uncontested, which is somewhat of a break with unwritten left-wing tradition that the left-wing candidate who did not place first drops out in favour of the top left-wing candidate.

The runoff in this constituency thus became a national newsmaker and you would think it was the only race worth watching out of all 529 races. The race became slightly bizarre when the PS started going after Falorni as if he was some pariah, accusing him of destroying the local party and aiming to win thanks to the votes of the right and far-right. Indeed, the UMP and FN’s votes would play a large role in arbitrating the Royal-Falorni civil war, and while Falorni clearly won some right-wing voters by the first round, claiming that he would win solely on the back of UMP and FN voters is dishonest beyond words. You cannot win in this constituency solely on a base on right-wing voters. If Falorni got to where he got in the first place, a not insignificant proportion of PS or left-wing voters must have backed him.

The race got excessively bizarre on Tuesday, when the whole French political world was shaken by a tweet – yes, a tweet. A tweet by none other than Valérie Trierweiler, the First Lady (though unmarried), who tweeted a message of support to Falorni (Courage à Olivier Falorni qui n’a pas démérité, qui se bat aux côtés des rochelais depuis tant d’années dans un engagement désintéressé.) One must remember, in this crazy left-wing personality contest, that Royal is the former partner of President François Hollande, and that their official breakup in 2007 came after Hollande began dating Trierweiler in 2006. It is clear that Trierweiler, the current ‘gf’, despites or is jealous of the ‘ex’, while Hollande is likely compelled to back Royal. The tweet put Hollande and the PS in an awkwardly uncomfortable situation. The President traditionally keeps away from legislative elections, and Hollande has not featured personally in this campaign. Therefore, the PS was forced to dispatch the party leader – Martine Aubry – who is still peeved at Hollande for not being named Prime Minister and whose strong enmity (to say the least) towards Royal is no secret – to do damage control and campaign for her long-time arch-rival. One could ask, however, whether Aubry was perhaps not all that unwilling to back Royal, realizing that she could hope to use Royal (as president of the National Assembly) as a source of constant nuisance (and another counter-power to Hollande within the factionalized PS) for the Élysée Palace.

Excessive attention was thus paid to the runoff in this specific constituency and no less than two polls came out in this constituency (only two other constituencies were polled). It was as if the rest didn’t matter. While the left was ensured of winning an absolute majority, there were up to 100 other constituencies where the runoff was going to be closely fought and plenty of other high-ranking personalities in tough runoffs.

Otherwise, the runoff was also marked by the various desperate shenanigans of the UMP towards the FN. The UMP, officially taking a ‘ni-ni’ approach to the FN question (no alliances with the FN, no alliances with the left), showed clear signs of division on the issue. Some members of the UMP’s right-wing – the Droite pop most notably – went all out to attract FN voters. Nadine Morano got trapped by a comedian who impersonated Louis Aliot, Marine Le Pen’s partner and prominent FN leader, to whom she indicated agreement with the FN on a great number of issues, and fear towards the left’s proposal to give resident foreigners the right to vote in local elections. More controversially, one UMP candidate in the Bouches-du-Rhône dropped out of the contest in order to “defeat the left” and basically endorsed the FN. On the other hand, UMP moderates showed clear disagreements and annoyance with their colleagues who were flirting with the FN. The FN has succeeded in one thing: throwing the right back to where it was in 1984-1988 and 1998 – deep divisions over the touchy FN issue.

Results: Stats and Numbers

Turnout was 55.4%, a new record low for turnout in a French legislative election after the first round had already set a low at 57.2% turnout. Since 2002, turnout has always been lower in the second round of voting in legislative elections. Part of this low turnout comes from the extremely low turnout in the eleven new seats for French citizens abroad, but also in the 15 constituencies where the runoff had only a single candidate still on the ballot. Turnout was also lower in runoffs where the right or left was eliminated from contention altogether by the first round, resulting in a runoff with the FN or a fraternal runoff between right and right or left and left. But these are only explanatory points to explain the lower turnout in the second round. The root causes of the low turnout in these elections taken as a whole remain unchanged. Electoral overload is a major factor, given that these elections were the fourth time that (most) voters returned to the polls in less than three months. The concern over increasingly low turnout in these legislative elections, a constant trend since 2002, has placed the issue of the timing of the legislative elections on the table, with a novel idea to hold presidential and legislative elections together, in the “American” style.

The results of the second, using the labels of the Ministry of the Interior, were as follows:

PS 40.91% winning 280 seats overall
UMP 37.95% winning 194 seats overall
FN 3.66% winning 2 seats overall
EELV 3.6% winning 17 seats overall
DVG 3.08% winning 22 seats overall
NC 2.47% winning 12 seats overall
PRG 2.34% winning 12 seats overall
DVD 1.81% winning 15 seats overall
PRV 1.35% winning 6 seats overall
FG 1.08% winning 10 seats overall
Regionalists 0.59% winning 2 seats overall
AC 0.53% winning 2 seats overall
MoDem 0.49% winning 2 seats overall
Far-right 0.13% winning 1 seat overall

Parliamentary Left (PS+DVG+PRG+EELV+FG) 51.01% (+11.22%) winning 341 seats
incl. Presidential Majority (PS+DVG+PRG+EELV) 49.93% (+8.6%) winning 331 seats
Parliamentary Right (UMP+DVD+NC+PRV+AC) 44.11% (-10.91%) winning 229 seats

However, the labels used by the Ministry of the Interior are ambiguous, misleading or patchy. Given thatFranceremains unable to produce official numbers by party instead of arbitrary partisan labels, we are forced to do the gritty handwork by ourselves. Other brave souls have done this perilous exercise of breaking down each elected member by his or her actual partisan affiliation, if possible. I have done it as well and I have come up with the following numbers, by party, which will sadly end up being useless as various individuals from one party end up joining a different parliamentary group.

Non-governmental left ‘Independent’ governmental left Presidential Majority/centre-left Centre Opposition centre-right Opposition right Far-right
FG 10 seats (including 7 PCF, 2 FASE and 1 PG) Regionalists 3 seats (including 2 MIM and 1 UDB backed by EELV-PS)MRC 3 seats

Other left-wing parties (DVG) 6 (5 local overseas parties and 1 from the MUP, Robert Hue’s party, allied to the PS)

EELV 17 seats

PS 277 seatsPS dissidents 11 seats (including Sylvie Andrieux)

Independent left-wing (DVG) 4 seats (including René Dosière)

PRG 12 seats

MoDem 2 seats AC 2 seatsNC 12 seats (including 5 URCID quasi-dissidents)

PRV 13 seats (6 elected under PRV etiquette, 10 claimed by the PRV website, 3 UMP-Radicals)

Calédonie ensemble 2 seats (anti-independence centre-right Caledonian autonomists)

Taho’era’a Huira’atira 3 seats (anti-independence centre-right Polynesian autonomists)

UMP 183 seats (including Damien Abad, ex-NC)Independent right-wing (DVD) 8 seats (including UMP dissidents)

PCD 2 seats

MPF 1 seat (plus one ex-MPF, counted as independent DVD)

CNIP 1 seat

DLR 2 seats

FN 2 seatsLigue du Sud 1 seat

Comments and Analysis

As expected and predicted, the PS and its most intimate allies (the PRG and most DVG) won an absolute majority (289 seats) in the National Assembly on their own, which had always been the ultimate goal of the presidential majority.

The runoff generally confirmed the first round, which had given the first indications of a comfortable left-wing quasi-landslide, with the very high likelihood of a PS-PRG majority without EELV or the FG. In 2007, the results of the first round had not been confirmed in the second round, which had seen a significant “corrective” resulting in a much stronger performance by the left after a first round which had indicated a large right-wing ‘blue wave’. Many Socialists feared that they would receive their own ‘bad surprise’ in the runoff, like the UMP had in 2007. On the left, the fear of a reverse “corrective” to that of 2007 was very potent. Such a corrective would have seen the right would remobilize in the runoff and resist better than the first round results could have indicated.

However, fairly unsurprisingly I might add, there was no such reverse “corrective”. As I previously noted, the factors which contributed to the 2007 corrective (the ‘bad surprise’ of the UMP in 2007, which the PS did not want to receive in 2012) were certainly not aligned in 2012. In the always bizarre week which separates the two rounds of voting, the media narrative in 2007 was almost exclusively about the right’s massive landslide in the first round and the outside risk that the PS could win less than 100 seats. Added to this narrative was an imprudent cabinet minister (Jean-Louis Borloo) who did not understand that campaigns are certainly not the time to talk about actual policy – especially when that involves talking about a new tax you’re going to implement. The cards were aligned for the left to remobilize to prevent a right-wing majority, while right-wing voters trended towards demobilization, with no motivation to vote in a runoff which seemed promised to them. This year, the media narrative in the week between the two Sundays was not really about a massive left-wing landslide but rather about the Royal-Falorni nuclear war and the UMP’s waltzes and belly dances around the FN electorate. To be sure, the government also kept quiet, knowing that any major intervention by the government could open a Pandora’s Box of electoral surprises. None of these factors greatly mobilized right-wing voters. The Tweeterweiler incident had no impact on any significant segment of the national electorate; the UMP’s belly dances around the FN didn’t achieve its desired result (as always…); other incidents and events were too political or too small to have a significant impact. As in the first round, both mainstream left and right suffered from demobilization compared to May 6, with the mainstream right marginally more demobilized.

There was no right-wing remobilization, no left-wing demobilization and no particularly significant FN mobilization against the left. Hence, there was no corrective. My predictions, seat by seat, were 93% corrected. I slightly overestimated the left, so one could be led to believe that there was at least a mini-remobilization on the right or a mini-demobilization on the left. But most of my incorrect calls were in races which I had seen as tossups anyway, and the overall image is not that clear, so I would not give too much weight to this idea of right-wing remobilization. There was quite possibly one, but only in disconnected patches.

In terms of size, the left’s victory is greater than its previous win in 1997 (when the PS had not won an absolute majority) but smaller than the 1981 mega-landslide. This is, unarguably, a very comfortable and clear victory for the left, specifically the PS. These elections, like 2002 and 2007, turned out to be a predictable confirmation of the results of the presidential election. For those 55-57% of voters who bothered to turn out, Held only a month after President Hollande and his government took office, the government hasn’t had the time to become unpopular, and, of course, it did nothing too dangerous which could hurt its popularity.

This predictable election confirmed the results of the presidential election. Like in 2002 and 2007, but the other way around, voters opted – logically – to give the new executive the means to carry out the platform on which it was elected. This was the expectation of the politicians who changed the electoral calendar around in 2000, and since then they have been proven right three out of three times. The legislative elections under this new ‘system’ usually amplify or at least replicate the result of the presidential election, regardless of the nature of the presidential election’s end result. In 2002, Chirac’s reelection was in good part a stroke of excellent luck given how weak of an incumbent candidate he was. This year, Hollande’s defeat of Sarkozy was fairly narrow and could have opened the door to a ‘hung Parliament’, to use British parlance.

Rather, in 2002, the new UMP won a phenomenal landslide, and the PS came close to matching that 2002 majority (but the other way around, naturally) in 2012 (though ultimately the 2012 result is more 2007 in reverse, amplified in the left’s favour). A month after the President’s election, there simply is no rationale, on the whole, to elect a legislative majority of the opposite political colour. Firstly, the general mood is to give the new executive to means to its desired ends. Secondly, in a month, the government – provided it is not mindlessly dense – has no time to screw up (and it certainly does its utmost not to!). Indeed, the Ayrault I cabinet, like Fillon I, was more of an electoral cabinet than a political cabinet (or at least a little teaser for the next one) and its policy proposals were far more electoral than political. That is, if you can even consider little goodies like salary cuts for the president and cabinet, creating jobs for young people, capping the earnings of big corporate bosses, vowing to save God knows what and parading around with the likes of Obama to be even remotely aimed at actual governance in the long term. The (sad?) truth is that you don’t talk about raw policy in an electoral campaign, especially a ‘special’ campaign like this one. Or if you do talk about policy, you style it in ways which nobody can disagree with (who can disagree about the idea of creating jobs?). This government understood it, and Ayrault being a competent technocrat, prevented any unfortunate gaffes from anybody (besides the little ruffles which are to be expected from the likes of Taubira, Peillon and Duflot).

There is also the matter that the right never really put much of an effort into actually winning this election. It put all its efforts into defense and its future reconstruction, and seemed to be at a loss when pressed about present conditions, thus resorting to blatantly false inanities like saying that a left-wing victory would mean the legalization of marijuana (which is a position advocated by Duflot and EELV at a personal and partisan level, but which is not government policy). The UMP spent the bulk of the week between the two rounds attempting to grasp with the new problem of the FN, and acting like a bunch of rag-tag amateurs in the process. That horrible week for the UMP revealed some major internal divisions on the best approach to the FN, with the party’s official ni-ni (no alliance with the FN, no alliance with the left) creed being contested both by the right which either openly favoured the FN (one UMP candidate in the Bouches-du-Rhône dropped out of the race in which he placed third to basically endorse the FN, another in the Gard came close to doing so; the self-parody Nadine Morano spent her week either belly dancing to the FN or falling like a naïve fool to a prank call) and by the moderates who continued to show their coolness towards either the ni-ni approach or at least the attitude of some of their more right-wing colleagues.

The natural result of this weird campaign – made all the more bizarre by the soap opera inLa Rochelle– was a comfortable left-wing victory.

With its absolute majority, Hollande-Ayrault have been given free rein to implement their policy proposals as they see fit. They will have a real blank cheque, truly unprecedented for the PS. They control theÉlyséePalace, in the National Assembly they have a majority without even the semi-independent Greens. But, a first for the French left, the new presidential majority also controls the Senate (but it does not have three-fifths majority in both houses combined required for constitutional amendments). At a territorial level, the PS dominance is completed by its hegemony in regional government (all but one region in metroFrance), the departments (controlling over 60% of general councils) and inFrance’s largest cities (only a few very large cities such as Marseille, Nice orBordeauxescape the left’s control). This dominance is unprecedented for the PS, and even the right has had, since 1981, very few experiences with such universal hegemony (1995-1997, 2002-2004 – you will note that both ended in trainwrecks…).

I guess you could say that the left has no excuse for failure, but that’s obviously not true given how so many things in this day and age are really outside any government’s direct control. Anyhow, the new left-wing majority has a very tough situation to deal with. Domestically,France’s economy is in fairly poor shape. Though not yet at Greek levels,France’s national debt and its government deficit are alarmingly high and these are pressing issues for the new government, which is already showing indications of a more austere economic and fiscal direction for the years to come (compensated, temporarily, by maintaining goodies like hiring teachers or tax hikes for rich people). Economic growth is tepid and the unemployment rate is high. Other issues such as the social security deficit, the taxation system, education (at all levels), pensions and immigration will continue to be major issues which the government will be forced to deal with. The expectations for the new government are fairly low, and the left’s win on June 17 was much like its first win on May 6: little fanfare, limited popular enthusiasm. Voters seem prepared or resigned to a few years of economic austerity, which will certainly displease a large number of voters including interest groups, core constituencies and trade unions traditionally close to the PS. In an interconnected world, foreign events will certainly have a major influence on the direction of government policy inFrance, with events such as the Greek/European debt crisis certain to have a certain impact on the direction of French public policy in the coming months and years.

In partisan terms, the PS was the sole ‘real’ beneficiary of the pink wave, benefiting from a strong ‘legitimist’ reflex which saw voters favour the party of the President and the party of government over other parties of the left, most significantly the FG. The results of both the first and second round showed a polarization on left and right in favour of the main political forces of both these families: the PS and the UMP. There was a clear benefit in having the PS endorsement, with a fair number of weaker candidates backed by either the PS or UMP defeating, surprisingly, some stronger dissident candidates who did not have their party’s official backing. Inadvertently, the Greens (and PRG) benefited from this legitimist reflex when their candidates were backed the PS. In a surprisingly large number of cases, PS dissidents against EELV candidates backed by the PS did not do all that well. However, the clearest sign of this polarization in both political families is the FG’s fate. The FG, which had hoped to win a large caucus (20-30 seats) and provide some sort of strong parliamentary left-wing ‘critical opposition’ to the new government, was marginalized – almost crushed – by the PS by the first round.

The FG won only 10 seats, which is the most they could hope to win after the loss of seven seats by the first round. With 10 seats, seven of which are held by the PCF (and only one by the PG, Mélenchon’s party), the FG/PCF has won its worst result since the party’s 1958 rout (in a context of political isolation of the PCF, the party won 19% of the vote but only 10 seats in the second round). We had all assumed that the Mélenchon dynamic of the presidential election would provide the FG (and, in practice, the PCF) with a new opportunity to hold its head higher than in 2007. In reality, while FG candidates did better than PCF candidates had done in 2007, the FG suffered from Socialist competition in its historic strongholds.

Where does this result leave the FG? In parliamentary and institutional terms, the FG is extremely marginalized. While the FG will likely salvage a parliamentary group with the bare 15 members required, it will not weigh much against a PS absolute majority and its votes will not be needed by the government in all but exceptional circumstances. The FG alliance in itself could be threatened in the long run by differences between Mélenchon and the PCF, but for now, it appears as if the PCF will continue playing along with the FG experience and Mélenchon. After all, despite the FG’s terrible performance in these elections, by having received more votes than the PCF in 2007, the FG will be getting more public financing than the PCF received between 2007 and 2012 based on its 2007 results. Money matters a lot, ironically, for the PCF these days.

The FG apparently aims at refocusing its political action in a mix of social and political action, perhaps seeking to cultivate any potential social discontent on the left with future government policy. This could be a promising path for the FG, given that the government will be forced into making unpopular policy decisions soon enough which would open the road for a left-wing alternative to the PS. Is this a viable course of action? Only time will tell.

EELV comes out of this election in a bizarre situation. In terms of seats, it has won the most seats in its history and will be able to form its own independent parliamentary group in the National Assembly after forming its own group in the Senate last year. On the other hand, these institutional milestones have come only thanks to the good graces and generosity of the PS. Without the November 2011 deal with the PS, the Greens would not have won more than 5 seats at most. Besides the reelection of its two incumbents, who would likely have been able to win reelection with PS opposition, almost all of its other new members would not have won if they had not been endorsed by the PS. The ‘green days’ of 2009, 2010 and even early 2011 are long gone. The Greens come out of 2012 with historic institutional presence, but they are sent back to their traditional state of dependence on the Socialist hegemon. Daniel Cohn-Bendit hit the nail on the head a few days ago when he said that the Greens now exist in Parliament “but not in society”. Their institutional successes are artificial in that they are built on the PS’ (foolish?) generosity towards its allies. Can the Greens realistically afford to play the role of an assertive and independent ally of the PS, a thorn in the side at times, when they are, deep down, quite dependent on the PS?

The good news for the PS is that it doesn’t really need EELV’s votes in the National Assembly. The good news for EELV is that the PS still won an absolute majority even with the generous deal with EELV in 2011, so that the PS will probably not regret the 2011 deal too much.

Of course, the PRG have existed in a state of amorphous subservience and utter dependence on the PS since day one, but they have long understood that they are nothing with the PS and have almost always been good little brothers to the Socialist big brother, at times undistinguishable from the PS. This year, the PRG benefited from the leftslide, winning 12 seats and with a strong chance at forming its own independent parliamentary group. But the PRG can be expected to remain a loyal ally of the PS, only speaking out when it wants to get more cabinet positions (and the PS is often nice enough to listen to their “demands”).

The centrist constellation came out of these elections with a little different makeup, but with little hope at rapid centrist reunification. The MoDem won two seats, but these elections will have been a disaster for the MoDem and its entire third-way strategy, given that the one seat it lost was held by none other than François Bayrou, the lider maximo of the MoDem. The MoDem will dwindle even further into irrelevance, and Bayrou will struggle to regain political credibility in the near future. Furthermore, Bayrou’s defeat could make things easier for the other parties of the centrist constellation, given that Bayrou and his party were a source of perpetual  frustration for other centrist (read: centre-right) parties. On paper, the Radicals (PRV) and NC came out of this election weakened but with a not insignificant bench. Reality is another matter. The PRV is fairly divided, with a faction led by former cabinet minister Jean Leonetti who is openly resistant to a strategy of centrist independence and unity, publicly opposing the PRV’s leader, Jean-Louis Borloo. However, the divisions of the PRV are insignificant compared to the NC.

A split in the NC, tiny enough as it is, seems imminent, given the open nuclear warfare between the party’s leader, Hervé Morin, whose aborted presidential campaign was as successful as the Titanic’s maiden voyage; and a dissident faction led by Jean-Christophe Lagarde, officially the deputy leader of the NC and in practice Morin’s deadly rival. Morin and Lagarde hate each other, and Lagarde’s spectacular reelection in a very left-leaning constituency has only reopened the bitter conflict between both men, which erupted around the time of Morin’s aborted candidacy earlier this year. Lagarde is ambitious and talented, and he is the centre-right’s last remaining ambitious leader capable of reunifying the centrist constellation after Borloo killed the ARES experiment. Lagarde is aware of the high likelihood of an imminent split in the NC, and, with other NC incumbents, affiliated themselves to an entity known as the URCID (a creation of Borloo and his ally Laurent Hénart) for public financing purposes and has apparently prepared a new political party (the ‘FED’) which would receive its share of the URCID’s public financing.

The post-election buzz on the centre is the rapid creation of a new centrist parliamentary group by Jean-Louis Borloo and some lagardiste NC deputies, the UDI (Union of Democrats and Independents). The creation of the UDI short-circuited the moriniste attempts to create a more exclusively NC grouping in the National Assembly and compelled Morin and his allies to reluctantly join Borloo-Lagarde’s new UDI. Borloo, the PRV and the Lagarde faction might be hoping to use the UDI as the bases of a future political coalition or party, though thus far the UDI gives the appearance of a rag-tag group of various right-wingers who don’t like the UMP rather than an ARES-like structure of Radicals, centrists and the like. While the UDI has apparently succeeded in attracting almost all Radicals (besides, most significantly, Leonetti) and a few independent right-wingers (notably the two new centre-right members from New Caledonia and Jean-Christophe Fromantin from Neuilly), the presence of Gilles Bourdouleix – the leader of the very conservative CNIP – and François-Xavier Villain, the eurosceptic right-wing mayor of Cambrai (and a member of NDA’s party, but in this move, FXV seems to be breaking from NDA) in the new group does not really cry out “centrism”. It remains to be seen if the UDI is indeed the first brick in a new independent centrist coalition or party or if it is only an attempt by non-UMP right-wingers to maintain a semblance of independence from the UMP. Lagarde likely remains the only prominent centrist leader who could be capable of creating a new, more unified centre worthy of its name.

The UMP’s bad spell (electorally) is over for now. The UMP’s defeat is not crippling but it is a significant defeat, but there is no need to return on the UMP’s results and its defeat at this point. The UMP is very much looking to the future, which will be the first time since the party’s creation in 2002 that it will not be in power. For quite some time, the constraints and attractions of power held what has always been a fairly diverse party united – at the surface. With the defeat, major cracks are appearing, though they do not seem – for now – fatal for the UMP. The UMP will be choosing itself a new leader this fall, in a contest which promises to be bloody and bitter. The announced showdown features the incumbent party leader, Jean-François Copé and former Prime Minister François Fillon, the former having the advantage of controlling the party machinery and being a Machiavellian politician while the latter benefits from a good image in public opinion and a strong base of popularity within his own party.

This UMP conflict will break down primarily along personal and factional lines, but the issue of the UMP’s relations and attitudes with the FN will be one of the major in this campaign. The UMP was confronted head on to the issue between the two rounds, as was explained above, and the issue will certainly reappear during the campaign. Copé benefits from the backing of most of the members of the Droite populaire, the UMP’s right-wing faction (which is close to the FN on some policy issues), but the Droite pop took a beating at the polls. Fillon, albeit not backed by some of the UMP’s centrist “humanists” (Raffarin, Leonetti, Laffineur), generally represents a moderate wing of the UMP which is more traditionally hostile towards the FN. When push comes to shove, the question posed will be whether or not the UMP engages its conquest of power from the centre-right or from a more right-wing position closer to the FN, like Sarkozy in 2007.

The second round was a success for the FN. For the first time since 1997, the FN will be represented in the National Assembly. Two FN candidates won: Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the 22-year old granddaughter of the old patriarch who won in the Vaucluse; and Gilbert Collard, a well-known media savvy lawyer and maverick figure, who won in the Gard. But while Marine Le Pen herself lost in her constituency by a tiny margin to the PS, the FN also raked in impressive performances in other one-on-one contests, either against the left or the right. Like in 1997, the FN’s performance in the second round in the triangulaires tended to be lower than what it won in the first round, a sign of some strategic voting in the runoff from first round FN voters. However, in left-FN runoffs and right-FN runoffs (to a smaller extent), the FN’s gains between the two rounds were quite impressive, including two constituencies where the FN jumped from about 18% to a bit over 40% in the runoff against the left. I have not calculated the numbers, but from a quick glance, it appears as if the FN’s vote share in left-FN runoffs increased by about 15-20% on average between the two rounds. In the rarer right-FN runoffs, the FN’s vote increased by perhaps 12-18% on average. These are historic gains for the FN, which is clearly gaining a much higher potential vote in direct runoffs against either the left or the right. This is to say nothing of the increasingly large number of constituencies where the FN would fare better than the traditional right in direct runoffs against the left. These results confirm the observations of a destigmatization of the FN vote, which is more and more ‘acceptable’ in the wider society and less repulsive than in the past. This is excellent news for the FN, but these elections also confirm that the FN, in this electoral system, has little chance of winning a large number of seats unless it allies with the right.

Will the FN ally with the right (and vice-versa)? Anybody who thinks they can answer that question with any level of certainty is probably a fool. On the one hand, the new leadership of the FN with Marine Le Pen and her new lieutenants are more power-hungry than her father’s old guard. On the other hand, Marine is still very much loyal to her father and Samuel Maréchal’s old creed of neither left nor right, and Marine’s clear goal for the FN is to replace the UMP as the dominant right-wing party. She has shown no significant affection for the talk of any formal alliance with the right. If the government does change the electoral system to include limited PR, like it promises on an on-and-off basis, the FN will probably have even less reasons to ally with the right (unless it is desperate for power). After all, like any far-right party, the FN might prefer permanent access to the luxuries of perennial opposition and protest than sharing in on the responsibilities and difficulties of political power, which could significantly weaken the FN if it ever achieved any kind of national power. For the UMP, the question of an alliance with the FN is not new, which is something which everybody has conveniently forgotten. There were alliances in the early and mid 1980s, there were some local deals in the 1988 legislative election between the RPR-UDF and the FN in PACA, and there were informal but very controversial deals in some regions after the 1992 and 1998 regional elections. Anyhow, any formal alliance with the FN would be more difficult than simple math would assume. A formal alliance of this kind would certainly break a lot of links between the UMP and the centre/centre-right, and the UMP would not gain – far from it – the votes of all FN voters (at least certainly not like the PS gets the votes of first round FG voters). The question is certainly a good one which will need to be answered sometime in the future, but there is no real answer to it at this point.

Constituency Results and Analysis

I do not usually like to make some general, macro-level comments about the patterns and results of legislative elections, because these are really best described as 577 local elections held on one day. Each constituency in these legislative elections has its own specificity, its own candidacies and local alliances, its own local parties and local issues and historical traditions. However, with urbanization and technological change over the years, legislative elections are still much more nationalized today than they were in 1958. It is thus possible to make some quick comments on the general results, based on the map posted above.

Like in the presidential election, the PS’ dominance rests heavily on the alliance of its old strongholds in the Southwest, Aquitaine, Limousin and some old proletarian bases in the north and east with its new ‘growing’ strongholds in Brittany, urban areas and even the inner west and parts of Normandy. Socialists gains in western France and in urban areas proved very important in this year’s double-victories.

In contrast, these results reveal that the UMP has a real urban problem, with both urban and inner suburban middle-class white collar professionals. Val-d’Oise, Essonne and the Val-de-Marne were horrible for the right. It is weakened in the Hauts-de-Seine, while in Paris the right is confined to its impregnable bourgeois strongholds in the west of the capital. Outside the Parisian basin, the loss of all seats in traditionally or historically right-wing cities such as Bordeaux and Nancy are symbolic and very telling. In Lyon, whose political history has usually leaned to the right, the UMP is confined to only a single seat this year. Is an alliance, even informal, with the FN the best strategy to reconquer these loses? I’m not so sure.

The inner west is similarly difficult for the right. Calvados, Manche, Orne, Morbihan, Finistère, Maine-et-Loire, Sarthe, Loire-Atlantique and even Vendée were unmitigated disasters for the right, in all senses of the term. In Brittany, the resistance of the right in the Ille-et-Vilaine is due to gerrymandering and in the Côtes-d’Armor to a personal vote for a popular UMP incumbent (Marc Le Fur). In the Vendée, the symbolic stronghold of reaction and conservatism, not only did the PS manage to win an historic two seats, but the UMP lost its coastal stronghold to a young local right-winger, a former member of the local MPF. In some cases, especially in the Morbihan, the left prevailed in seats which it had never won since the creation of the Fifth Republic in 1958.

On the other hand, the UMP can take solace in the fact that it resisted particularly well in eastern and southeastern France, especially rural and exurban regions of the east where the UMP benefited a lot from a FN vote which is not as populaire and “sociologically” left-wing as the FN vote in other regions. Oise and Drôme were surprisingly good for the right all over, while the general results in departments such as the Loire, Ain, northern Isère, Marne and Somme were also fairly (surprisingly) good for the UMP. From this geographic examination of the UMP’s defeat, we have a contrasted image. On the one hand, the UMP owes a lot of its resistance – which was strongest east of the “new” Le Havre-Meaux-St. Etienne-Perpignan axis – to good vote transfers between the two rounds by FN voters. However, the UMP suffered a lot of important and damaging loses in urban areas and western France where a move to the right, let alone even an informal alliance with the FN, would be very damaging for the right. Unfortunately for the UMP’s internal problems, the results can thus be interpreted in two different ways which give us two diametrically opposed answers on the ‘question’ of the FN.

For now, let us wrap up this results analysis by a look at some of the main constituency results:

PS and PRG

No cabinet ministers ended up losing in their respective constituencies. In almost every single individual case, cabinet ministers usually benefited from a “ministers’ boost”, which won them some surprisingly strong numbers. The most telling example would certainly be Stéphane Le Foll, the agriculture minister, who won no less than 59.5% in Sarthe-4, Fillon’s old seat. But other cabinet ministers won other fairly spectacular results: 60.2% for Marisol Touraine in Indre-et-Loire-3 (she won it by a hair in 2007), 59% for Aurélie Filippetti in Moselle-1 and 61.5% for Jérôme Cahuzac in Lot-et-Garonne-3 (he also won by a very tight margin in 2007). In more solidly left-wing seats; Manuel Valls, Geneviève Fioraso, Marylise Lebranchu, Valérie Fourneyron, George Pau-Langevin, Alain Vidalies, François Lam, Michèle Delaunay and Kader Arif won easily. Pierre Moscovici, the finance minister, won 49.3% in a triangulaire with the UMP and the FN in Doubs-4. Benoît Hamon defeated a UMP incumbent in what is usually a left-wing constituency with 55.4%. Sylvia Pinel, a young PRG cabinet minister, surprised me with her comparatively anemic performance in the runoff in Tarn-et-Garonne-2, winning “only” 59% against the FN, which gained about 21 percentage points between the two rounds!

The only cabinet minister locked in a close race was Marie-Arlette Carlotti, a junior minister for handicapped persons, who was running against a high-profile UMP incumbent (Renaud Muselier) in Marseille (5th constituency). She narrowly pipped Muselier for first place on June 10, and she defeated him with 51.8% on June 17. In the local political setting, Carlotti’s victory is fairly significant because it really shifts the cards in the left-wing and right-wing battles for the city hall in 2014. The national PS will certainly use Carlotti and another new PS deputy in the city, Patrick Mennucci, as their tools in the fight against the local Socialist clique of Jean-Noël Guérini, the corrupt local party boss. On the right, Muselier’s defeat could sideline him ahead of 2014, which could mark the retirement of Jean-Claude Gaudin, the incumbent UMP mayor of Marseille since 1995.

However, beyond all of this, the most important race (or so the media said) was clearly in Charente-Maritime-1, with the aforementioned epic showdown/nuclear war between PS candidate Ségolène Royal and PS dissident Olivier Falorni. Royal won 32% against 29% for Falorni in the first round, but the first round defeat of the UMP candidate (who took 19.5%) made the right, more or less, the main kingmaker in this race. Everybody and their grandmother had their eyes set on this race, which was rendered ever crazier by the Tweeterweiler incident. To end this all in style, Royal and her ally – the retiring deputy and incumbent mayor of La Rochelle (Maxime Bono) basically announced, on national television, her defeat before 8pm, which means that she (and the national media) technically broke the law by ‘leaking’ these results before 8pm. It must have been because Royal could restrain her anger, rage and utter frustration no longer. Indeed, she was clearly out of her spirits, branding Falorni a “traitor” and going on a weird tangent about Victor Hugo and traitors and other weird stuff. In the end, Falorni won with no less than 63% of the vote against Royal’s 37%.

The PS, notably by the voice of Martine Aubry, took the act way too far and transformed into a pathetic self-parody when they continued viciously lashing out at Falorni. The talking point, which is intellectually dishonest, is that Falorni is akin to a ‘right-winger’ because he ‘accepted’ to win with support of the right and the far-right. You cannot deny that Falorni won something like 80% of right-wing voters: he won over 70% on L’Ile-de-Ré, the UMP stronghold in the constituency, and had already won a lot of right-wing voters in the first round. It is possible, of course, that Falorni would have lost had no right-wingers voted for him. But you cannot win by such a clear margin in this constituency without at least winning a sizable minority of left-wing voters. Falorni won by solid or huge margins in all towns in the constituency, including over 58% in La Rochelle proper. Beyond all of this, anyhow, branding Falorni a ‘right-winger’ only because UMP and FN voters voted for him is terribly dishonest. To take the strawman further, given how Chirac won in 2002 with the support of left-wing voters, would this not make Chirac a left-winger?

Royal did not necessarily have to finish this way. In the end, the person who is most responsible for this defeat is herself. Her ‘carpetbagging’ was not particularly atrocious or reproachable because La Rochelle is within her region, and not all ‘carpetbaggers’ finish in defeat. It is just that she (and the PS which backed her, to an extent) did everything the wrong way. She basically announced her candidacy for the presidency of the National Assembly before even ‘finding’ a constituency, giving a clear impression that she didn’t care about the constituency and was only using it as a trampoline to the presidency of the National Assembly. The PS leadership cancelled an internal nominating contest and crowned Royal as the nominee without ever asking the local activists for their opinion on the matter. Locals clearly resented her haughty arrogance in her entire candidacy, while the various inanities sprouted by the PS as talking points during the runoff campaign were likely poorly received, to say the least, locally.

In the backrooms, the PS must be somewhat relieved by the Royal defeat. Royal is a bizarre, erratic and very independent and ‘mavericky’ personality, who is a loose cannon thorn in the side of practically every PS leader. If she had won and had become president of the National Assembly, she could have seen herself as a sort of counter-power to her ex, Hollande. The presidency will be given to Claude Bartolone, a fabiuso-aubryste longtimer from the Seine-Saint-Denis, who will be a much more reliable ally.

In the Vosges-2, Jack Lang, a former PS cabinet minister who was running in the Vosges after abandoning his old seat in the Pas-de-Calais, was defeated by the UMP incumbent, Gérard Cherpion. Cherpion won 50.9% in the runoff against Lang, doing better than I expected with FN voters (17% in the first round). Perhaps Marine Le Pen’s call to defeat Lang in the runoff had an impact on FN voters locally? On the other hand, a former PS incumbent won back his old seats in the Vosges-4.

Some other major results for the PS and the PRG:

Olivier Ferrand, the controversial president of the centre-left Terra Nova think-tank, won a triangulaire in the Bouches-du-Rhône-8 with 40.5% against 39.9% for the UMP incumbent. In another triangulaire, in Bouches-du-Rhône-12, a former PS deputy and incumbent mayor of Vitrolles Vincent Burroni won 37.3% against 36.6% for the UMP incumbent, Eric Diard.

What could have been a triangulaire in Bouches-du-Rhône-16 turned out to be a one-on-one contest between the PS incumbent, regional president Michel Vauzelle, and the FN. The UMP candidate Roland Chassain, who placed third in the first round, dropped out of the race and basically endorsed the FN candidate to defeat Vauzelle. The PS ultimately held this seat, but narrowly: Vauzelle won with only 51.3% against 48.7% for the FN. In the Bouches-du-Rhône-3 (northern Marseille), the runoff opposed a corrupt PS incumbent disavowed by her party, Sylvie Andrieux and the local leader of the FN, Stéphane Ravier. Andrieux won this contest by the skin of her teeth, with 51% against 49% for Ravier.

The PRG won 12 seats, a little increase on the 9 seats it held before the election. Most notably, two former PRG deputies won their old seats: Alain Tourret (Calvados) and Roger-Gérard Schwartzenberg (Val-de-Marne), defeated by the UMP in 2002 and 2007 respectively. The PRG also picked up Aisne-5, Pas-de-Calais-9 and Rhône-1. However, in Haute-Corse-1, Jean Zuccarelli, the son of former PRG deputy Emile Zuccarelli failed to win back his father’s old seat, which he had lost in 2007. He placed third in a triangulaire against the UMP incumbent and regionalist leader Gilles Simeoni, taking 30.7% of the vote.

The PRG’s 12 seats, with the addition of a few members from the overseas (one of the winners in Guyane was endorsed by the PRG and one seat in Guadeloupe is held by a social democratic party which could ally with the PRG) but perhaps also some PS dissidents (Falorni? The PS has been unclear on this since his victory, but they used to say that he would not be able to join their group) should allow the PRG to form an independent parliamentary group.

The UMP, NC and centre-right

The leader of the UMP, Jean-François Copé, won easily in Seine-et-Marne-6 with 59.5% against a EELV candidate backed by the PS. This is a bigger victory than that of his rival, François Fillon, in his new seat of Paris-2, where he won with a decent but not particularly great 56.5% against PS candidate Axel Kahn.

Former cabinet minister and Fillon ally Xavier Bertrand won by a much narrower margin in Aisne-2, winning with only 50.3% and by 222 votes. Bertrand then ran against Copé’s right-hand man, Christian Jacob, for the leadership of the UMP group, and lost badly to Jacob, the incumbent head of the UMP group in the National Assembly.

Laurent Wauquiez, the leader of the UMP’s so-called ‘social’ (moderate) wing, won much more handily with 64% of the vote in Haute-Loire-1, where he had narrowly missed out on a victory by the first round on June 10.

In Essonne-4, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, a former cabinet minister and a Fillon ally, survived a very tough runoff contest. Marine Le Pen went out of her way to endorse the PS candidate to defeat NKM, whom she loathes ever since NKM said that she’d vote for the PS over the FN. She survived this very close race with 51.5%, likely not doing too poorly all things considered with FN voters but perhaps benefiting from strong support from centrist and even some centre-left PS voters.

Sarkozy’s former top attack dog and vulgar populist Nadine Morano, the UMP incumbent in Meurthe-et-Moselle-5 had a disastrous runoff campaign. She called on FN voters to vote for her by the night of the first round, and then got trick by a left-leaning comedian in a prank call in which he imitated Louis Aliot, a prominent FN leader. Her chaotic and jumbled up desperate bid for reelection did not pay off, far from it. Her PS opponent won 55.7% of the vote, an extremely wide margin for the PS in this traditionally conservative constituency. In Meurthe-et-Moselle-2, Valérie Rosso-Debord, another Sarkozyst attack dog, lost to the PS.

In In Hauts-de-Seine-9, former interior minister Claude Guéant, the UMP candidate, lost in a triangulaire to Thierry Solère, a local UMP dissident. Solère won 39.4% against 38.4% for Guéant. Ultimately, Guéant also saw his son, François Guéant, go down to defeat in Morbihan-4. François Guéant took 47.4% in the runoff in this open right-wing seat, where his candidacy was heavily contested by the retiring incumbent and local right-wingers. He lost to Paul Molac, a Breton regionalist (from the UDB) backed by EELV (who will sit in their group) and the PS.

Eric Ciotti, Christian Estrosi, François Baroin, François Sauvadet, Bruno Le Maire, Luc Chatel, Eric Woerth, Bernard Accoyer, Christian Jacob and Valérie Pécresse all won reelection fairly easily.

Certainly one of the more impressive reelections this year will be that of Jean-Christophe Lagarde, the ambitious centrist deputy in Seine-Saint-Denis-5. Seine-Saint-Denis-5 is a very left-wing constituency (66.4% for Hollande!) in a very left-wing department which now has 9 PS deputies, so his reelection is an extremely impressive feat which showcases Lagarde’s particular political talent. He won 56.7% against 43.3% for the PS candidate, a huge margin considering how left-wing this seat is in other circumstances, but also a bigger margin than that of his sworn enemy, Hervé Morin who won with a fairly ‘small’ 53.2% in Eure-3.

Disgraced former foreign minister Michèle Alliot-Marie lost her old seat in Pyrénées-Atlantiques-6 to the PS, taking 48.4% in the runoff. Basque nationalist voters, who weighed nearly 10% on June 10, likely made the difference here.

Some other major results for the UMP and the NC:

Henri Guaino, Sarkozy’s former right-hand man, who ran in the solidly right-wing constituency of Yvelines-3 won easily, with 61.9%, after a first round UMP dissident who won 23% dropped out of the runoff in his favour.

Hervé Novelli, the leader of the UMP’s liberal wing, lost in Indre-et-Loire-4, with only 46.6% in the runoff.

In the Bouches-du-Rhône-1, Valérie Boyer, an ambitious member of the Droite pop, won a very narrow reelection, thanks in large part to the FN. She won 50.7% against Christophe Masse, a close ally of the local PS Guérini clique. However, in the Bouches-du-Rhône-14, the the controversial UMP mayor of Aix-en-Provence Maryse Joissains-Masini, lost badly to the PS. She won only 46.5% in the runoff. UMP incumbent Christian Kert narrowly survived in the other aixois seat, the 11th, won a 50.98%.

Radical leader Jean-Louis Borloo won reelection in the Nord-21, winning 55.8% against a FG candidate. However, his ally Laurent Hénart lost in Meurthe-et-Moselle-1, taking 47.8% in the runoff.

In Corse-du-Sud-2, UMP incumbent Camille de Rocca Serra continued the family’s stranglehold on this seat, winning 53.2% in the runoff. He faced moderate nationalist Jean-Christophe Angelini, who ultimately fell quite short, probably because of imperfect transfers from first round left-wing voters.

The creation of eleven seats for French citizens abroad didn’t turn out to be the good idea the UMP had always hoped it would be. The UMP won only three seats, the rest were won by the PS. The UMP won handily in Switzerland, while former Vaucluse deputy Thierry Mariani won 52.2% in Asia-Pacific and former judge and Haute-Vienne deputy Alain Marsaud won 53% in East Africa-Mid East. But two former UMP cabinet ministers, presumed to be early favourites, lost badly. In the Benelux, Marie-Anne Montchamp won only 46.8% against the PS. In North America, Frédéric Lefebvre lost 54-46 to the PS, suffering from a very divided right in the first round.

The FN

As mentioned above, the FN won two constituencies: Gard-2 and Vaucluse-3. In the Gard-2, the FN candidate was Gilbert Collard, an old media-savvy trial lawyer who was the head of Marine’s comité de soutien (supporters’ committee) during the presidential election. He came in first in the first round, with nearly 35% of the vote, sending the UMP incumbent, Etienne Mourrut, into a distant third with only 24%. Mourrut considered pulling out of the race, basically in Collard’s favour, but under national pressure, apparently opted to remain in the race but barely campaigned at all. His support collapsed further to 15.6% in the runoff, allowing Collard to narrowly beat the PS, with 42.8% against 41.6% for the PS. Some of the FN’s old guard is a bit cool towards Collard, who is a political maverick (a former left-winger, who has shifted from party to party and ideology to ideology) and could prove a bit of trouble for the FN’s leadership. Collard, very much a loudmouth, has pledged loyalty to Marine Le Pen (to whom he probably owes a lot in this victory) and promised to be a tough and very vocal deputy.

In Vaucluse-3, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the granddaughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen and Marine’s niece, won 42.1% in a triangulaire against longtime UMP incumbent Jean-Michel Ferrand and PS candidate Catherine Arkilovitch, who refused to conform to the national leadership’s orders and maintained her candidacy in the runoff. The young law student proved to be a particularly strong candidate with some deep political talent (and ambition). The UMP incumbent won 35.8%, against 30% in the first round, while Arkilovitch failed to significantly improve on her first round result, ending up with only 22.1%. MMLP, who is seeking to deepen her political implantation in the region (in the 2014 local elections), is the youngest deputy ever elected (at age 22) and is a political rising star.

The far-right’s biggest victory, in Vaucluse-4, came with Jacques Bompard – who left the FN in 2005. Bompard, who had already been a FN deputy between 1986 and 1988, is mayor of Orange and the last remaining of the FN’s old ‘local barons’, whom Jean-Marie Le Pen never trusted. Bompard quit the FN in 2005 and since 2010 is the leader of a local far-right party, the Ligue du Sud (modeled on Italy’s Lega Nord). Alone in a one-on-one runoff against the PS, Bompard won by a landslide, taking 58.8% of the vote, benefiting from near-perfect transfers from the FN’s first round candidates and strong backing by those who backed the UMP’s candidate, eliminated by the first round.

In the Pas-de-Calais-11, Marine Le Pen, who placed first with an excellent 42.4% in the first round, lost by 114 votes (50.1 to 49.9%) to Philippe Kemel, a local PS mayor who had narrowly defeated Jean-Luc Mélenchon (FG) for second place in the first round. Despite tensions within the PS and the division of the left in the first round, Marine Le Pen still hit an admittedly very high glass ceiling in the runoff. Of course, part of her defeat is due to the redistricting, which expanded the old 14th constituency (renamed the 11th) northwards to Carvin, the town where Kemel is mayor (he won 55.7% there) and where Marine has not worked her local machine up as much. She won 55% in Hénin-Beaumont, and even 52.7% in Rouvroy, an old PCF stronghold next door to Hénin-Beaumont. Marine Le Pen will be hoping to see this election invalidated by the courts, which would result in a by-election.

In Moselle-6, the FN’s Florian Philippot, Marine’s former campaign manager, won a fairly underwhelming 26% in the first round but his runoff performance, alone against the PS, was far more impressive. He managed to increase his support by 20%, more than the PS (which gained about 16%), and won 46.3%, a very strong performance in the end. The FN’s two mini-successes in the Bouches-du-Rhône against the PS were already mentioned.

The FG and EELV

In reality, the FG’s fate was sealed by the first round, when it was clear that it could not realistically win more than 10 seats. Which is exactly what it won. It held five seats unopposed by any candidate in the runoff, after the PS candidate who placed second in these constituencies conformed to tradition and dropped out. Another four of its ten seats are strongholds, where the FG won very easily. Only one of its ten seats was won in a close race. In Oise-6, former PCF deputy Patrice Carvalho (who had won the seat in 1997 but lost in 2002), won back his seat in a triangulaire with the FN, taking 42.7% against 36.9% for the UMP.

The first round for the FG had confirmed something picked up, by a few keen observers, in the first round of the presidential election. The FG performed, on the whole, decently well outside the PCF’s traditional strongholds but in the PCF’s strongholds, first and foremost the old urban/suburban ceinture(s) rouge(s), the FG’s results were fairly weak. On June 10, the FG and the PS were both surprised, in different ways, at the PS’ success at toppling FG incumbents across the ceinture rouge around Paris. The Parisian ceinture rouge, but also similar ‘belts’ which existed around Lyon, Marseille, Grenoble or Rouen have basically been wiped out now, the victims of the PS’ growing strength at all institutional levels in these regions.

As mentioned in the analysis above, EELV owes practically all of its 17 victories to the November deal with the PS. The EELV won a lot of its seats in very narrow races. In some cases, there were some pretty clear Green underperformances compared to “normal” (PS?) candidates, notably in Loire-4, Haute-Garonne-3 or Dordogne-2. In the most significant contests, cabinet minister and EELV leader Cécile Duflot won 72.2% in the runoff in Paris-6, while Denis Baupin won 64.7% in Paris-10. EELV won in Isère-10, Puy-de-Dôme-3, Hérault-1 (by a very narrow margin), Gard-6 (triangulaire), Dordogne-2, Essonne-7, Val-de-Marne-6 (a symbolic victory in a constituency which includes the traditionally right-wing town of Vincennes, though EELV’s win is thanks to Fontenay-sous-Bois), Bouches-du-Rhône-10, Vienne-4, Somme-2, Doubs-2 and even Calvados-5. However, in Loire-4, EELV was ultimately unable to profit from a triangulaire with the FN, suffering from imperfect transfers from the FG in this working-class constituency and some strategic voting from first round FN voters. EELV won 39.6% against 42% for the UMP-PCD incumbent. In Haute-Garonne-3, François Simon likely suffered from a first round PS dissident (who pulled out of the runoff but whose votes did not, seemingly, transfer as smoothly) and a very strong UMP candidate in Jean-Luc Moudenc, a former mayor of Toulouse defeated in 2008 but setting up for a re-run in 2014. Moudenc won 50.4% in this seat, which is the only seat in the department in which the right had a serious shot.

MoDem

While the MoDem still won two seats, François Bayrou was not among the winners. The leader of the party and three-time presidential candidate was defeated in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques-2, a seat he first won in 1988 and in which he had won fairly straightforward reelections since then. The first round, in which he trailed the PS candidate by about 11 points, resulted in a triangulaire with the UMP, which placed a narrow third behind Bayrou. The triangulaire killed any chance of a Bayrou upset on the back of strategic anti-PS voting by right-wing voters. He lost by nearly 13 points, 30.2% against 42.8% for the PS. The UMP candidate won 27%. Did Bayrou suffer from his endorsement of Hollande between the two rounds of the presidential election? It is possible that some voters, who had backed him in the past but who also had sympathies for the left, opted to elect a candidate of the presidential majority altogether rather than reelecting him.

In the Pyrénées-Atlantiques-4, Jean Lassalle, Bayrou’s ally and the other MoDem incumbent, won reelection with 51% of the vote in a direct runoff against the PS. Lassalle voted for Sarkozy rather than Hollande in the runoff, and won on the back of support from UMP voters in the first round but also good backing from Basque nationalist voters (about 7% in the first round).

Amusingly, La Réunion is something like the last MoDem stronghold, but that is due mostly to the island’s weird and fairly incomprehensible politics. The MoDem won its second seat on the island – in La Réunion-7 – where Saint-Leu mayor Thierry Robert won 67% of the vote in the runoff against a UMP candidate. Robert, a popular local mayor, is a ‘local baron’ of kinds, who happens to be affiliated with the MoDem. He voted for Hollande in the runoff and was elected in large part with left-wing votes, so it is quite possible that Robert will quickly affiliate with a left-wing group if not jump ship to another left-wing party. In La Réunion-1, Nassimah Dindar, the former UMP president of the general council who is now with the MoDem, won 44.8% in a runoff against the PS.

[…]

As noted above, I scored a 93% on my constituency-by-constituency predictions. I overestimated the left’s majority by a bit, but overall I am quite pleased with my performance, considering how terrible I am at these kinds of prediction things.

Again, this post (while long enough!) is far from being fully complete. I would love to delve into more details about constituencies, the intricacies of the results, the sociological explanations for what happened and what could happen and so forth; but unfortunately, I don’t have the time or the courage to do that at this point. I’ve focused on a political analysis of the results, with some comments about constituency results, as the best way to cover these massive elections which hide so many interesting tidbits and details.

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Posted on June 24, 2012, in France. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. As always, an excellent analysis. I have two questions I’d like to ask:

    1. What is the best website to go to to find out how many electorates each respective party contested in the first round?

    2. How do you see the future of the PCF in French politics? Do you think they will compromise their independence, and follow the path of the Greens and Left Radicals, relying on the charity of PS to maintain their existance? Also, how much better do you think the PCF would have performed in the June election, if they had in fact made a deal with the PS, as did the Radicals & Greens?

  2. @Mrodowicz

    1. The Interior Ministry only reports candidacies using its labels, which are very imperfect and quite misleading (especially this year…). The only alternative way to answer your question would be going to each party’s website individually. However, Laurent de Boissieu, one of the only political journalists who knows what he’s talking about in the whole country, drew up a list which enumerates the number of candidates by party: http://www.france-politique.fr/elections-legislatives-2012.htm

    2. As I kind of predicted, the PCF and PG are starting to throw the blame at other for their crappy results and punches are flying. I’m not a good Kremlinologist in that my reading of what’s going in within the PCF Politburo are not that good, but I would certainly guess that some Commies might be re-evaluating the FG strategy in the light of this. But I think the FG still provided the PCF with additional money (a big deal) and, on the whole, probably still has more positives for the PCF than it has negatives. It seems to be hanging on to the FG in the hope that it can benefit from leftist anger over the inevitable austerity measures which are upcoming. But if the FG, in the 2014 locals and Euro elections, proves to perform poorly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the PCF clammoring for Socialist charity.

    3. The PCF have never had a first round deal with the PS similar to the old PRG deals or the current EELV deal. The tradition, in place since 1962, holds that PCF and PS generally run against each other in the first round, but the PS drops out of the runoff (if qualified) if it is outpolled by the PCF (and vice-versa obviously). There was, however, a very real chance at having a mini FG-PS-EELV deal in the first round, whose aim was to prevent left-wing eliminations by R1 in constituencies where the left is weak (so it meant getting FG candidates in those places to drop out and endorse the PS/EELV). In compensation, the FG was negotiating the withdrawal of PS/EELV candidates in constituencies like Bergerac (Dordogne), Gardanne (BDR), Guingamp (Cotes d’Armor), a seat in the Essonne (the one won by EELV) or Villeneuve-Saint-George (Val-de-Marne). The PCF, of course, was about to go on the train with this as long as it got conceded a few winnable seats by the PS/EELV but the PG threw a fit as they didn’t get the number of seats they wanted. If the deal went through, in those seats for example, the FG would likely have won all or most of them.

  3. Thank you for the detailed coverage and the extensive comment of election results you put into this post. You have come up with a truly amazing amount work, even compared to your usual posts in this blog, and it was a fascinating reading all along.

    Congrats on your predictions, which were indeed almost always proven correct (even though I’m a bit sad at the left’s slight underperformance :(). Anyways, you did a great job all along these elections and you were (along with Fab) my main guide to understanding the dynamics of the race.

    Anyways, it was definitely a fascinating election. I’ve always thought legislative elections were far more interesting than presidentials, and this one allowed me to understand a great deal about French political geography and voting habits, especially the peculiarity of some places and the main trends of recent years.

    I appreciate the little wink about “no excuse for failure”. :) I guess we need to agree on disagreeing here, as I am a staunch believer in the primacy of politics while you are probably far more skeptical. But I know it’s a long road to success and I still think the failure of Hollande and the PS government is very likely. But what I mean is, the only people I will blame if this happens will be Hollande and the PS. Merkel’s stubbornness or the bankers’ greediness aren’t sufficient excuses IMO.

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