Monthly Archives: April 2014

Quebec 2014

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

Background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parties, Issues and Campaigns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Results

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

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

qc 2014

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The CAQ’s performance on election night was interesting: as the first results came in, the CAQ was performing very poorly and for most of the night, it seemed as if the CAQ would lose seats. There was a late surge, as later results streamed in, which saw the CAQ steadily climb in the seat count; an unusual event on an election night. This may indicate that the CAQ performed poorly in advance voting, which were likely the first ballots to be counted after polls closed; advance voting began on March 28, before the CAQ climbed in the polls. Votes cast on election day were likely significantly better for the CAQ than those cast beforehand. Perhaps if all votes had been cast on election day, the CAQ may have formed the official opposition…

QS once again improved its result, gaining over 1% in the popular vote since 2012 and gaining their third seat – the downtown Montreal riding of Sainte-Marie-Saint-Jacques, where perennial QS candidate Manon Massé, a fairly well-known feminist and social activist, was narrowly victorious with 30.6% against 30.3% for the PLQ and 27.6% for incumbent PQ MNA Daniel Breton, an environmentalist who briefly served as Minister of the Environment before being dumped over some petty ethics concern. Both QS incumbents – Amir Khadir in Mercier and Françoise David in Gouin – were reelected to their third and second terms respectively, with David winning 51% and Khadir taking 46.2%. QS also performed very well in Laurier-Dorion, where QS co-spokesperson Andrés Fontecilla won 27.7%, and the PQ stronghold of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, where QS won 30.6%, coming threateningly close to the PQ (30.6%). QS placed a strong third with 18.7% in Rosemont. However, outside these Montreal ridings which now form QS’ strongest ridings, QS largely stagnated on Montreal Island and fell back in some of the Montreal PLQ strongholds. In the regions, QS’ support generally held up or gained marginally.

Regional results

There was some significant movement in Montreal (the island itself), traditionally extremely polarized between Liberals and PQ, with little change from election to election and only a tiny number of actual swing seats. This year, the PLQ won well over 50% of the vote on Montreal Island, and gained one seat from the PQ – Crémazie, traditionally the only consistent marginal riding disputed between the PQ and the PLQ. Crémazie, which largely covers the Ahuntsic neighborhood in northern Montreal (please note that I’m using Montreal’s demented and totally bizarre compass rather than the normal compass directions), had been held by the PQ since 2007, and in 2012, Diane De Courcy won the seat with a solid majority of 10% over former federal Liberal MP Elena Bakopanos. De Courcy was Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities in the PQ government. She won 31.6% against 39% for PLQ candidate Marie Montpetit. In Crémazie, the PQ has solid support in Ahuntsic, a Francophone middle-class neighborhood, but the PLQ has strong support in areas with a larger visible minority or Italian population (immigrants make up 28% of the riding’s population).

QS gained its third seat, Sainte-Marie-Saint-Jacques, with 30.6% for QS candidate Manon Massé, who was finally successful in her fifth candidacy in the riding. The Liberals increased their support by nearly 11 points, winning 30.3% of the vote, placing second ahead of PQ incumbent Daniel Breton, who won just 27.6%, down from 35.8% in 2012 and 46.6% in 2008. The riding is fairly demographically similar to QS’ two other seats in Montreal: Mercier (which borders the riding to the north) and Gouin – that is, largely gentrified, young adults, well-educated, professionals (with high percentages employed in the arts, culture, education, social assistance). QS is particularly strong in the riding’s part of the municipal borough of Le Plateau-Mont-Royal – the stereotypical gentrified bobo borough of Montreal, but finds strong support in the Gay Village and Sainte-Marie (an historically French working-class neighborhood). The riding, predominantly Francophone (67% mother tongue), had been held by the PQ since the riding’s creation in 1989. The Liberals having been traditionally a distant second behind the PQ (28.2% in 2008), it was a major surprise to see them come in a very close second ahead of the PQ. The Liberals are strong in the revitalized areas of the Old Port and Old Montreal, with high-end condos and apartments.

QS easily held both its seats, Gouin and Mercier, which cover the gentrified and bobo neighborhoods in the boroughs of Le Plateau-Mont-Royal and Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie. QS’ other major target was Laurier-Dorion, where QS’ extraparliamentary co-spokesperson Andrés Fontecilla ran, having placed a solid third with over 24% of the vote in 2012. This year, QS increased its vote share to 27.7%, sending the PQ tumbling down from 26.4% to 15.9%. However, while QS finds strong support in Villeray, a newer gentrified bobo neighborhood with demographics similar to that of the QS strongholds, the riding is a much tougher nut to crack: the Liberals, who won 46.2% (up from 34.1% in 2012), have an extremely solid hold on Parc-Extension, a low-income immigrant (traditionally Greek, nowadays more South Asian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan) neighborhood (46% of the entire riding’s population are allophones, and immigrants/visible minorities constitute a large majority in Parc-Extension itself). While the Liberals placed third in Villeray in 2012, they retained well over 70% of the vote in Parc-Extension.

With the loss of two seats in Montreal, the PQ is left with only four seats on the island – and three of them were won by less than ten points. QS came within 4 points of winning Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (30.6% vs 34.9% for the PQ), historically a low-income Francophone working-class neighborhood, although with gentrification and younger residents seeking affordable housing, it is more mixed socially now. In Rosemont, the PQ Minister of International Relations Jean-François Lisée, a former journalist first elected in 2012, was reelected with 34.3% against 30% for the Liberals and 18.7% for QS. In Bourget, PQ Minister of Culture Maka Kotto was reelected with 37.8% against 28.9% for the PLQ.

In 2012, the Liberals had narrowly held Verdun and Saint-Henri-Sainte-Anne, the two generally Liberal-leaning seats on the Island in which the PQ usually has some potential. Both seats include a mix of old linguistically-diverse working-class neighborhoods (Irish, Francophone or blacks in Griffintown, Little Burgundy, Saint-Henri, Pointe-Saint-Charles and Verdun) which have all seen major gentrification in recent years, and affluent areas (especially Nun’s Island, high-end condos and mansions, in the riding of Verdun); the Liberals usually have the edge, thanks to solid margins in the affluent polls of Nun’s Islands or the allophone/Anglo areas of Griffintown and Little Burgundy. In 2012, the PQ had fallen short by 1.6% and 6.4% respectively. This year, the Liberals won both seats with huge majorities: 26.2% and 30.6% respectively, polling over 50% in both ridings. In Verdun, Liberal star candidate Jacques Daoust, the former president of Investissement Québec, won 50.6% against only 24.4% for PQ star candidate Lorraine Pintal, a former theater director. In 2012, Liberal MNA Henri-François Gautrin (a former provincial NDP leader, who was forced to retire by Couillard) won 35.4% against 33.8% for former Bloc MP Thierry St-Cyr. In Saint-Henri-Sainte-Anne, the PQ won only 21.9%. The Liberals also expanded their majority in Anjou-Louis-Riel, a middle-class suburban riding in eastern Montreal: what was a 9-point lead for the PLQ in 2012 turned into a hefty 28% majority this year.

The Liberals had no trouble holding their other Montreal seats; which are predominantly affluent Anglophone ridings, allophone immigrant areas or ethnic suburbs – in other words, the safest Liberal ridings possible. In Outremont, a riding which includes the affluent town of Outremont (a rather mixed area; with bobo areas in the Mile End giving strong results to QS, some Hassidic Jewish areas and upper middle-class Francophones), the Francophone Université de Montréal and parts of the immigrant-heavy neighborhood of Côte-des-Neiges, the Liberal candidate, Hélène David (a former deputy minister and academic, who is the sister of QS MNA Françoise David), won 56.3% against 16.9% for QS and 14.6% for the PQ. In Robert-Baldwin, which mostly covers the affluent and predominantly Anglophone/allophone suburb of Dollard-des-Ormeaux, PLQ star candidate Carlos Leitao, a renowned economist from the Laurentian Bank who is groomed to become finance minister, won 87.3%. In D’Arcy-McGee, a 43% Jewish riding centered around the affluent and majority-Jewish municipalities of Hampstead and Côte-Saint-Luc, the PLQ won 92.1% of the vote – the strongest Liberal result in years in what is the safest Liberal seat in the province (and probably one of the safest seats for any party in a Western democracy).

The CAQ remained weak on the Island, with sharp loses to the Liberals in the West Island but a stronger resistance in the péquiste-leaning areas in the east. The CAQ’s best result, 24%, came from Pointe-aux-Trembles, a heavily Francophone residential suburban area (it is also the only seat which we can still say is safe for the PQ) at the eastern extremity of the island which is demographically closer to off-island suburbs in the 450 than to other parts of Montreal.

The Liberals swept all six seats in Laval, holding four seats and gaining two from the PQ. In Laval-des-Rapides, a middle-class suburban area, PQ MNA Léo Bureau-Blouin, one of the main student leaders in the 2012 protests, was defeated after only one term in office. The Liberals won 44.2% against 31.2% for the PQ. In Sainte-Rose, a growing mishmash of older suburbs and new cookie-cutter subdivisions, the Liberals increased their support from 28.5% to 42.2%, going from third to first place. The PQ won 27.3% and the CAQ, which had placed second with 29.6% in 2012, won 24.1%. The Liberals held their four other seats, winning over 50% in all of them and peaking at 73% in Chomedey, a plurality allophone riding. In Mille-Îles, a seat at the eastern extremity of the island, PQ star candidate Djemila Benhabib, a writer known for her opposition to Muslim fundamentalism, was defeated by the PLQ incumbent, losing by about 25 points (25.5% to 50.5%). She has already been defeated in 2012, standing in Trois-Rivières.

On the South Shore suburbs of Montreal, the PQ faced serious challenges from both the CAQ and the Liberals. The PQ lost Chambly and Borduas, two upper middle-class Francophone outer suburbs/exurbs of Montreal. The CAQ won 34.2% and 33.5% respectively, their vote holding up compared to 2012; it was the collapse of the PQ, which lost 7% and 6% respectively, which allowed the CAQ to gain those seats. The CAQ held Montarville, the wealthiest riding in the province, surviving a close challenge from the PLQ, winning 35% to 31.3%. However, the CAQ lost La Prairie, another very affluent suburban riding; the riding is something of a three-way tossup, with the Liberals and CAQ holding a strong base in the new McMansion-type subdivisions in Candiac and La Prairie while older and slightly less affluent neighborhoods lean to the PQ. The CAQ, which had won the new riding by 0.2% over the PQ in 2012, lost by 1.4% although their vote remained stable. The PQ held the ridings of Vachon (Saint-Hubert), Taillon, Marie-Victorin (Longueuil) and Sanguinet (Sainte-Catherine, Saint-Constant). In Marie-Victorin, a low-income riding which covers the poorest parts of the older suburban city of Longueuil, Bernard Drainville, the PQ minister behind the Charter, was handily reelected with 38.2% against 26.1% for the PLQ. However, in Vachon, which covers the middle-class suburb of Saint-Hubert, PQ MNA Martine Ouellet held on by barely half a percentage point against the PLQ, winning 33.1% to 32.6%. In Taillon, which mixes poorer parts of Longueuil (leaning towards the the PQ) with some affluent subdivisions (closely divided, especially between PLQ and CAQ), the PQ won by only 3.8% over the Liberals – after having won it by 12 points in 2012, over the CAQ. In Sanguinet, the PQ won by a small margin of 3.3% over the CAQ. The Liberals faced no trouble in their ridings. Former cabinet minister and unsuccessful leadership contender Pierre Moreau was easily reelected in Châteauguay (a middle-class suburban riding with a significant Anglo population, at 22%), taking 49.6%. In Laporte, a riding which includes the affluent leafy Francophone suburb of Saint-Lambert and the historically Anglophone suburb of Greenfield Park, the PLQ won 47.7%. In La Pinière (Brossard), the safest Liberal seat on the South Shore (with over 50% of Anglophones and allophones and 38% of visible minorities, with a large middle-class Chinese immigrant community), PLQ star candidate Gaétan Barrette (who had ran for the CAQ in 2012), who will likely become health minister under Couillard, won 58.3%, soundly defeating PLQ-turned-independent incumbent Fatima Houda-Pépin, who won only 23.5%. The PQ, which had won 17.9% in the riding two years ago, likely provided the bulk of her support. With PLQ support increasing by nearly 10 points, she seemingly won a totally different electorate than the one which had backed her in 2012.

The PQ held the exurban ridings of Beauharnois (Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Beauharnois) and Verchères (Varennes, Sainte-Julie), with 38.8% and 42.6% respectively. The latter is a heavily Francophone affluent exurban area, extending into more rural areas outside Montreal’s CMA (metro area as defined by the census), while the former mostly lies outside the CMA and is a poorer, historically working-class area.

In the rest of Montérégie, the PQ lost two other seats to the CAQ – Iberville and Saint-Hyacinthe, both homogeneously Francophone ridings centered around small or medium-sized towns, historically nationalist and divided between the PQ and CAQ. The PQ held on against a tough challenge from the CAQ in Saint-Jean (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu), holding the seat by only 1%. The CAQ easily held Granby, with incumbent MNA François Bonnardel, first elected for the ADQ in 2007, winning 53% – the CAQ’s best result in any riding. The PQ held Richelieu, a riding centered around the old industrial steel town of Sorel-Tracy, with a 12 point majority. The Liberals easily held their own seats – Brome-Missisquoi (16.6% majority over the CAQ) and Huntingdon (24.9% majority over the CAQ) along the American border (both still have small but significant Anglophone minorities); Soulanges (23% majority over the PQ, with no CAQ candidate) and Vaudreuil (45% majority over the PQ) in suburban Montreal (Vaudreuil has a large Anglo minority, making up over a quarter of the population and a majority in Hudson, it also includes many new affluent subdivisions, Soulanges has a smaller Anglo minority, especially in Saint-Lazare).

In the North Shore suburbs of Montreal, the CAQ gained four seats from the PQ. Quasi-homogeneously Francophone and rather affluent middle-class suburbia, the North Shore has tended to be a strongly péquiste sovereigntist stronghold which gave very strong results to the oui in the 1995. However, in recent years, the North Shore has become a perfect example of a Francophone and historically nationalist region which has lost interest in the ‘national question’ and adopted apathetic attitudes towards the issue. In 2007, the ADQ swept the entire North Shore suburbs, taking out all PQ incumbents (as well as the sole PLQ incumbent, in Groulx), but the PQ regained the whole region one year later in the 2008 election. In the 2011 federal election, the NDP swept the region with some of its best results in the province – hovering around 50%. In 2012, the CAQ performed very well in the North Shore, with many gains at the expense of the Liberals (especially in the most affluent communities, such as Rosemère and Lorraine, which had voted PLQ in 2008 but shifted to the CAQ in 2012), but the PQ nevertheless held most of its seats – the CAQ only won Groulx, Blainville and L’Assomption (with François Legault), as well as Saint-Jérôme (with anti-corruption star candidate Jacques Duchesneau), which comes closer to being a regional town in its own right rather than just a suburb. This year, with the PQ’s collapse, the CAQ – with results very similar to 2012 (except in Blainville and Groulx, where the CAQ suffered major loses with retiring incumbents), was able to gain four seats. It only lost Saint-Jérôme, won by PKP for the PQ. In Groulx, the one-term CAQ incumbent was retiring, resulting in a real three-way race, which switched back-and-forth throughout the night. The CAQ won 30.9%, losing nearly 8 points from 2012, while the Liberals gained 10 points, surging from barely 20% to 30.2%. PQ star candidate Martine Desjardins, a former student leader (FÉUQ), placed third with 30%. In Blainville, which the CAQ had won by nearly 6 points in 2012 (with PQ-turned-CAQ incumbent Daniel Ratthé), the seat was left open by the retirement of Ratthé, who was expelled from the CAQ caucus in 2013 after allegations surrounding corruption and illegal financing of a mayoral campaign back in 2005. Former Bloc MP Mario Laframboise, who had previously run, unsuccesfully, for the CAQ in 2012 in Argenteuil, was elected with 33.9% against 29.5% for the Liberals and 29.4% for the PQ – compared to 2012, the CAQ lost over 7 points while the PLQ gained nearly 14 points. In L’Assomption, which Legault had won with a narrow 2.6% majority over the PQ in 2012, he was reelected with 49.4% and a 19% majority over the PQ, despite a very strong PQ candidate – former Bloc MP Pierre Paquette. The CAQ gained neighboring Repentigny, with a 3-point majority; Masson (Mascouche) with a 1.6% majority; Deux-Montagnes, with former MNA Benoit Charette (a PQ-turned-CAQ defector, defeated in 2012 by the PQ) regaining his old seat with a 2% majority and Mirabel, with a majority of nearly 5% over the PQ. The only seat which the PQ retained was Terrebonne, where young PQ MNA Mathieu Traversy narrowly survived, with a 1.8% majority.

The only seat in the province gained by the PQ was Saint-Jérôme, where Péladeau took 36.8% (a result slightly lower than that won by the PQ in 2012) against 31.5% for the CAQ.

In the rest of the Laurentians, the PQ held their strongholds of Labelle and Bertrand handily, with majorities over 10% in both and no less than 45% of the vote in Labelle. The Liberals regained Argenteuil, a traditionally Liberal seat (with a small Anglo minority) which the PQ gained in a 2012 by-election and held in the general elections. The PLQ regained the seat with a 6.5% majority. In the rest of Lanaudière, a traditional péquiste stronghold, the PQ held their three seats, but in Rousseau, finance minister Nicolas Marceau, who had narrowly won his seat against a surprisingly strong CAQ performance in 2012, was reelected with a bare 2 point majority. Similarly, major loses for the PQ in Berthier significantly reduced the PQ’s majority over the CAQ. Only in Joliette did the PQ retain a comfortable majority, with social services minister Véronique Hivon, who had become quite popular for piloting the consensual euthanasia bill, holding a 17 point majority and winning 44.3% of the vote.

Once again, the PLQ swept the Outaouais‘ five seats by large margins. In addition to a significant Anglophone minority (making up 35% of the population in the riding of Pontiac, concentrated in small towns along the Ottawa River), the Francophone population of the region is the least nationalist/péquiste of any region of Quebec (with an estimated Francophone yes vote of only 34% in 1995) because a lot of them are public servants employed by the federal government in Ottawa or Gatineau (and, for obvious reasons, strongly oppose Quebec independence). The provincial Liberals have swept every seat in the region since 1981, and they increased their majorities in all seats in 2014. The majorities in Papineau and Hull had been within 10 points in 2012 (in fact, the PLQ had held Papineau by only 167 votes against the PQ); this year, the PLQ won over 50% of the vote in every riding – from 50.4% in Papineau (with a 26% majority) to nearly 76% in Pontiac.

The Liberals gained two seats from the PQ in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. The PLQ won Abitibi-Est and Rouyn-Noranda-Témiscamingue, two seats which it had lost to the PQ in 2012. It now holds majorities of 10.5% and 5.7% respectively. The PQ only held Abitibi-Ouest, where François Gendron, who has held the seat since 1976, was reelected with a 7.5% majority. He is now the longest-serving MNA in Quebec’s history.

In the Eastern Townships, it was a clean sweep for the Liberals, who gained two seats from the PQ and easily held their other seats. In Sherbrooke, Premier Charest’s old seat until his defeat by former Bloc MP Serge Cardin in 2012, the PLQ gained the seat with a 5.6% majority over the PQ. In 2012, there had been a lot of anti-Charest strategic voting for the PQ, which seriously dragged down the CAQ and QS, both of which made substantial gains this year at the PQ’s expense. In Saint-François, a riding which takes in some of Sherbrooke’s suburbs (Fleurimont, which was the PQ’s main base in 2012), the Anglophone borough of Lennoxville, the towns of Compton and Coaticook and some Anglo villages, PQ health minister Réjean Hébert, who had narrowly gained the seat from the PLQ in 2012, was defeated, taking 33% to the PLQ’s 38.5%. In the other PLQ-held ridings, all incumbents held on handily, despite PQ hopes in Mégantic and Richmond. In Mégantic, which includes Lac-Mégantic, the site of the train tragedy last year, the PQ ran Isabelle Hallé, the president of the regional chamber of commerce and a key player in reconstruction efforts. She won only 29.7% against 40.8% for the PLQ incumbent; although the PQ’s losses in the riding were significantly lesser than those in the rest of the province, perhaps signaling some positive impact for the PQ of the recovery efforts. In Richmond, Liberal MNA Karine Vallière (the daughter of former long-time PLQ MNA Yvon Vallières), who had won the seat by less than 300 votes over the PQ in 2012 (her victory owed a lot to strong margins in the asbestos mining town of Asbestos, where she is from and where the future of asbestos mining is a huge issue, which usually benefits the local PLQ), was reelected with a 13.6% majority in a rematch with the PQ. In Orford, finally, the Liberals won 44.1% against 26.2% for the PQ.

The CAQ had strong results in the Centre-du-Québec, with the party’s three incumbents winning reelection with expanded majorities and larger shares of the vote, and the CAQ gaining Johnson from the PQ. The CAQ held Nicolet-Bécancour (gained over ON leader Jean-Martin Aussant in 2012, his absence explains the PQ’s gains, although it only finished third with some 22%, miles away from the combined ON+PQ vote in 2012; the Marois government’s unpopular decision to close the Gentilly nuclear power plant likely hurt the PQ and helped the local CAQ MNA), Drummond-Bois-Francs and Arthabaska (popular CAQ, ex-ADQ, incumbent Sylvie Roy was reelected with 45.5% and the PLQ vote actually fell from 2012, because Roy had faced a PLQ MNA because of redistribution in 2012). The CAQ gained Johnson from the PQ, with a majority of nearly 5 points.

The Liberals swept Mauricie, taking all five seats – gaining two from the PQ and easily holding their own three seats. In Saint-Maurice (Shawinigan), the PLQ gained the seat with a 2.7% majority over the PQ while in Champlain (Cap-de-la-Madeleine, in suburban Trois-Rivières), former ADQ MNA Pierre-Michel Auger, running for the PLQ, won a three-way contest with 33.4% against 30.4% for the CAQ and 30.2% for the incumbent PQ MNA. The PLQ held Maskinongé and Trois-Rivières with expanded majorities despite retiring incumbents, while in Laviolette, popular Liberal MNA Julie Boulet, who has built a remarkable popular vote in a historically nationalist riding, was reelected with 52.6% against only 23% for the PQ.

In the Quebec City capital region, the Liberals gained four seats from the CAQ and one from the PQ. In 2012, the CAQ had gained four seats from the PLQ, in suburban and exurban areas of Quebec City. Although a very heavily Francophone city, Quebec City is not a nationalist stronghold – it gave only weak support to independence in the 1995 referendum, and the PQ/Bloc have struggled in the provincial capital for a number of years. In recent provincial elections, the main battles in most Quebec City ridings have been fought between the PLQ and the centre-right (ADQ, in 2007 and 2008, and now the CAQ) with limited support for the PQ. In Quebe City, the PLQ regained Vanier-Les Rivières, Charlesbourg and Montmorency – three suburban constituencies, which, while middle-class, are not extremely affluent or white-collar professional in nature. The CAQ had held the three of them with relatively thin majorities over the PLQ in 2012, and it stood no chance against a resurgent PLQ which ate into a good chunk of the CAQ’s 2012 vote. The Liberals won the three seats by margins slightly under 10% (with the former PLQ MNAs in Vanier-Les Rivières and Montmorency regaining their seats). The CAQ easily held Chauveau and La Peltrie, two large exurban ridings to the north of the city, held by the ADQ since 2007, with their incumbents (two ex-ADQ MNAs, Éric Caire and Gérard Deltell) winning over 50% of the vote. The Liberals also picked up Portneuf, a large and predominantly exurban/rural ridings on the western outskirts of Quebec City, with a 3.4% majority over the CAQ.

The Liberals had no trouble holding their three seats in Quebec City: Louis-Hébert (which covers the city’s most affluent suburbs, making it the third wealthiest riding in Quebec), Jean-Talon (which includes the traditionally bourgeois and affluent neighborhood of Sillery) and Jean-Lesage (a poorer riding, including the old working-class neighborhoods of Limoilou and some older suburbs).

The PQ held only one seat: Taschereau, which covers downtown Quebec City (the Vieux-Québec, among others); it stands out from the rest of the generally conservative city, as a rather poor but also well-educated downtown riding. The PQ’s Agnès Maltais was reelected with 31.7% against 30.4% for the PLQ; QS placed a strong fourth with 15.3%, QS (and, in 2012, ON) perform very well in Saint-Jean-Baptiste, a young artsy/bobo neighborhood in central Quebec City.

However, Premier Pauline Marois lost reelection in her own seat of Charlevoix–Côte-de-Beaupré, a large riding which extends from the Quebec City exurbs (Ile d’Orléans) to the Charlevoix region. Marois, who won the seat in a 2007 by-election, was reelected with 40.7% in 2012, with a hefty majority over the PLQ (27.1%) and CAQ (26.8%). The map had shown a clear-cut division between areas closer to Quebec City, where the PLQ and CAQ placed first, and the more rural Charlevoix region up to the Saguenay estuary, which was solidly PQ. This year, Marois won 32.9% against 35% for the PLQ candidate.

In the Chaudière-Appalaches and Bas-Saint-Laurent, all parties held their seats. The CAQ held the South Shore suburban riding of Lévis, a 2012 gain from the PLQ, with 40.5% (a gain from 2012) for CAQ MNA Christian Dubé, the party’s finance critic. It held Chutes-de-la-Chaudière and Beauce-Nord, two seats held by the ADQ since 2003, with large majorities, albeit reduced quite significantly from 2012. The Liberals held Lotbinière-Frontenac, Beauce-Sud, Bellechasse, Côte-du-Sud and Rivière-du-Loup-Témiscouata. These two regions stand out from the rest of Quebec in that while they are quasi-homogeneously white, Francophone and Catholic (and also predominantly rural or small-town), the PQ and sovereigntism in general has been very weak in the region (in 1995, the yes vote was significantly lower and the no won a number of ridings). Conservative parties of various shades, including the old Social Credit and Union Nationale, the ADQ in its heydays and the federal Conservatives after 2006, have been strong in the region, while the provincial Liberals remain powerful as well. Pierre Drouilly called this region, back in 2003, le Québec tranquille and described it as a largely poor, blue-collar (notably in primary and secondary sectors) region with an old and declining population, low levels of education, low incomes but also fairly low unemployment levels (which distinguishes it from poorer regions, with high unemployment, such as the Gaspé Peninsula). Voters exhibit a high degree of alienation from Montreal, and it is an ideologically conservative region (but with marked populist tendencies) with clear right-wing positions on issues such as taxes or government intervention, part of which comes from a strong entrepreneurial tradition, especially in Beauce (which is often noted for its entrepreneurial culture and its small businesses). Because of low levels of education and the fragility of the local economy, there has been little appetite for the uncertainty of independence.

The Québec tranquille region extends into the Centre-du-Québec, the more remote parts of the Eastern Townships, the Quebec City metro and parts of Mauricie – regions which have traditionally given low support to the nationalist option in referendums, and where the PQ performs poorly (with strong results for the PLQ and CAQ). But the Chaudière-Appalaches region, south of the St. Lawrence across from Quebec City, stands out as the archetype: the PQ is extremely weak, with third place showings in all ridings and single-digit results in the Beauce; it also appears to be more ideologically conservative than the rest of the region, whose ideological preferences are vaguer and eclectic. For example, in 2012, the federal Tories held their seats in the Chaudière-Appalaches, but the NDP swept Quebec City (which had swung to the Tories in 2006).

The PQ held Rimouski, with 40.6% against 30% for the PLQ. There had been some local controversy with the retirement of the PQ MNA and the choice of a PQ candidate imposed by the national leadership over a local candidate; the local candidate was excluded from the party, and former Bloc MP Suzanne Tremblay endorsed the QS candidate, who took a very strong third with 16.4%.

The Liberals gained two seats in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, traditionally the most nationalist region of Quebec. In Roberval, Philippe Couillard was easily elected, with 55.2% against 33.3% for the PQ incumbent. The seat had been held by the PQ since 2007, and the PQ had held the seat with an 18% majority in the last election. There was likely a strong personal vote for Couillard (drawn by the advantages of being represented by the Premier, given the likelihood of a PLQ victory by election day), in a region which has tended to vote for personality over party in both federal and provincial election. The PLQ also regained Dubuc, which it had gained in 2008 but lost to the PQ in 2012. Former Liberal MNA Serge Simard, who has a strong base in the arrondissement of La Baie (he was president of the arrondissement between 2002 and 2008), won the seat with a 9% majority over the PQ. The PQ held the three remaining seats by fairly comfortable margins.

One of the few regions where the PQ performed well was Gaspésie, where the party held the three seats on the Gaspé Peninsula – by solid margins. In Matane-Matapédia, popular local PQ MNA Pascal Bérubé actually increased his share of the vote from 59% to 61.2% (it may be the result of ‘normalization’ after 2012, when he was reelected in a larger redistributed riding with one part of the riding where he was not as well known). In Gaspé, gained from the PLQ on a huge swing in 2012, the PQ’s vote fell from 56.8% to 52% but it held the seat by a large majority. The most surprising result was perhaps Bonaventure, the Gaspé’s traditionally Liberal riding, which the PQ gained from the PLQ in 2012. The PQ held the seat with a 3.5% majority.

The PLQ regained the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, a predominantly Acadian archipelago in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence. The PQ had gained the seat from the Liberals, who had won it in 2008. Former Liberal MNA Germain Chevarie won 50.1% against 40.2% for the PQ incumbent.

On the Côte-Nord, the PQ held both seats but the margin in Duplessis, a geographically huge but sparsely populated riding, was surprisingly tight (a 1.6% majority for the PQ). In Duplessis, the PQ dominates the three main population centres, the northern industrial towns of Port-Cartier, Sept-Îles and Havre-Saint-Pierre, by wide margins, but there is a strong PLQ presence in small, extremely remote Anglophone fishing villages on the coast up to the Labrador border. In the far north of the province, the PLQ gained the seat of Ungava, Quebec’s largest riding (in terms of area). The seat had been held by the PQ since its creation in 1981, although by its demographics that may seem odd. Indeed, Ungava is 64% Native, split fairly equally between Cree and Inuit. However, turnout in the Inuit and Cree villages is extremely low (often below 20%) and while those who do vote generally vote Liberal, these Native villages net them relatively few vote; while the PQ usually dominates the white areas, notably the resource-based industrial town of Chibougamau, by huge margins (and turnout is much higher). In 2012, the PQ won 45.5% to 34.7% for the PLQ; this year, the PLQ won 42.4% to the PQ’s 33%.

Conclusion

The Quebec Liberals are back in power for four years, with Premier-elect Philippe Couillard leading a government with a strong majority in the National Assembly. He will likely enjoy a fairly easy first few months, given that attention will largely be on the PQ’s upcoming leadership contest. Defeated in her own riding, Pauline Marois announced her resignation as PQ leader on election night. What preceded her concession speech was fairly unusual (and, for some, rather unceremonious) and sets the scene for a leadership battle: before the defeated leader took to the stage, the three leading PQ politicians – Bernard Drainville (the minister of democratic institutions, who spearheaded the Charter), Jean-François Lisée (the minister of international relations) and Pierre-Karl Péladeau – each gave speeches, which largely consisted of traditional nationalist rhetoric to feed the crowd (who responded with slogans of on veut un pays – we want a country) and to prove their nationalist credentials. These three men also happen to be the three who come up most often in leadership speculation. Péladeau’s intentions are unclear, but I doubt his motivation to join politics was to sit as an opposition MNA (his intention was likely to serve as cabinet minister, perhaps later as Premier; in the absence of that, opposition leader might be the next best thing). The interim leader selected by the PQ, Stéphane Bédard, is seen as somebody close to PKP. It is unclear to what degree the PQ’s defeat can be attributed to PKP’s fist-pump, and whether, in the absence of that, he could have had a positive impact on the PQ or if he was going to be a net liability regardless. A PQ led by PKP would likely focus heavily on the core cause of sovereignty, while also signaling a shift to the right with the aim of appealing to CAQ supporters. Lisée would be a safe choice, close to the PQ’s social democratic roots, and may focus less heavily on sovereignty and nationalism but rather on progressive unity, aiming to reconquer votes lost on the left to QS. Drainville may be blamed for the Charter, but it is unclear to what extent the Charter hurt the PQ during the campaign; it would seem that the PQ’s desperate use of the Charter as a wedge issue hurt it, but the ideas of the Charter may remain popular with the Francophone electorate which the PQ needs to reconquer. Some other names have also come up: Véronique Hivon, the popular Joliette MNA who gained a province-wide profile and popularity with her handling of the euthanasia bill, a matter of consensus between all parties (which the new PLQ government will likely pass itself) or Alexandre Cloutier, a young MNA from the Saguenay.

Once again, the PQ faces the issue of how to reconcile its fundamental raison d’être (the independence of Quebec) with the political reality, which makes a referendum (let alone independence) very unlikely. The party is held together by the cause, and it has a militant base which remains strongly committed to independence; as such, the PQ often has a problem at responding to shifts in public opinion, at times appearing deaf to it. It has a tendency to double-down on rhetoric and preach to the converted; and it did so again on election night, when the PQ’s election night event showed no signs of abandoning the party’s core values and the cause.

In the meantime, the CAQ, with a surprisingly strong performance, comes out strengthened. The party is in a good position to benefit from the PQ’s troubles at reinventing itself, navigating a divisive leadership battle and re-adapting itself to being an opposition party; it is also in a good position to benefit from the gradual decline in the government’s popularity and the PLQ’s support. Many wonder if the CAQ could replace the PQ, and some even ask if the PQ may disappear entirely. Parties, even those which have held power, often disappear in Canadian federal and provincial politics – in Quebec, the most recent example is the slow death of the Union Nationale, which disappeared from provincial politics after 1976. The PQ still has a clear niche to fill (unlike the UN when it died), because there remains a significant minority of voters who still are dedicated nationalists; but even that niche is no longer the PQ’s sole preserve – it faces strong competition from QS (whose electorate is less homogeneously nationalist) and, to a much lesser extent, ON. Similarly, while the CAQ has the potential support to overtake the PQ to form the official opposition (as the ADQ had done in 2007, after all), it still has clear troubles breaking through on Montreal Island, which holds a large number of seats, and in regions such as the Gaspé, the Saguenay, Abitibi and Outaouais. The CAQ also has a fickle electorate, as it almost learned this year. A lot of their vote is a ‘NOTA’ vote, which does not necessarily express agreement with the CAQ’s policies but rather rejection of the other parties and the old nationalist/federalist divide.

Only time will tell if this election was an unremarkable anti-incumbent election or if it was the beginning of a realignment in provincial politics.

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Hungary 2014

Legislative elections were held in Hungary on April 6, 2014. All 199 seats in the unicameral Országgyűlés (National Assembly) were up for reelection.

Electoral system

These are the first elections being held under a new electoral system (and a new constitution) introduced by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government in 2011. Under the old system, the Parliament had 386 seats (176 single-member constituencies, 152 multi-member regional constituencies, 58 national list compensation seats) elected under a complicated two-round system (candidates in single-member seats needed to win 50% of the vote and turnout to be over 50% in order to win, or the top three candidates and all other candidates who won over 15% proceeded to the runoff; results in multi-member regional constituencies were only valid if turnout was over 50%). In the list vote, parties needed to win 5% to qualify for seats, coalitions of two parties needed 10% and coalitions of three or more parties needed 15%.

Under the new system, the size of the Országgyűlés is cut down by nearly half to 199 seats. The 106 single-member constituencies are now elected by FPTP with no turnout requirement. The remaining 93 national party-list seats are distributed using a complex system based on the result of both the party and constituency votes: to the total of party-list votes, all votes cast for constituency candidates who were not elected are added to their respective parties and part of the votes cast for the victorious constituency candidates are added to their respective parties (the votes which are added are the votes which they did not theoretically need to win: the number of votes the winner won minus the the votes won by the runner-up, minus one). From this calculation, the party-list seats are distributed using the d’Hondt method, retaining the 5% threshold for parties, the 10% threshold for two-party coalitions and the 15% threshold for larger coalitions. Unlike in the former system, therefore, there is no turnout requirement (it was 50% in the first round and 25% in the second round under the old system) and the election takes place in a single round. Minority lists can elect members if they win over 5% of the minority list votes (rather than all votes), and those which do not meet this threshold will still send one non-voting representative.

The new electoral system was supported only by the ruling party. Although the reduction of seats in Parliament and the need to redistrict the single-member constituencies (which had remained unchanged since 1990) was widely agreed upon by all parties, the opposition criticized several aspects of the new law: the inclusion of the winners’ surplus in the calculation of the national list and the redistricting of seats being decided upon by the government (rather than an independent commission), leading to accusations of gerrymandering. The government has dismissed claims that the map is gerrymandered to favour the governing party, and the map does not ‘look’ particularly egregious but, of course, gerrymandering is often far more subtle.

Background

Hungary’s political history since the fall of the communist regime bears many similarities with other formerly communist Eastern European countries. The first election following the fall of the Hungarian communist regime saw the victory of anti-communist opposition forces, while the reformed communists were trounced. The Hungarian Democratic Forum (Magyar Demokrata Fórum, MDF), a conservative and nationalist party which represented the most moderate and pragmatic faction of the anti-communist opposition during round table negotiations with the regime, won 164 out of 386 seats – largely due to a landslide victory in the single-member seats, where it won 114 of the 176 districts. The Alliance of Free Democrats (Szabad Demokraták Szövetsége, SZDSZ), the liberal and more ‘radical’ wing of the opposition, was a close second in the popular vote and won 92 seats. The Independent Smallholders’ Party, a small conservative agrarian party which had existed in the interwar era, won 44 seats. The Hungarian Socialist Party (Magyar Szocialista Párt, MSZP), formed by the reformists and moderates in the old ruling party, the MSZMP, won 11% of the vote and 33 seats. The more radical unreconstructed faction of the MSZMP fell just below the 4% threshold, and would decline further into irrelevance. The Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP), a small Christian conservative party, took 21 seats; tied with Fidesz (which means ‘Alliance of Free Democrats’ or Fiatal Demokraták Szövetsége), which at this point was a radical anti-communist and liberal/libertarian party largely made up of students. The MDF, with József Antall as Prime Minister, formed government with the smallholders and KDNP. The new government sought to transform the country, beginning with the transition to a market economy through privatization and other difficult reforms. Under his government, unemployment jumped to nearly 15%, inflation raged at rates over 20%, many people – especially pensioners – saw their living standards collapse and fall into poverty, corruption festered and criminality increased. Antall, a moderate conservative in the MDF, faced a right-wing nationalist faction which agitated for very conservative policies and for the support of Hungarian minorities abroad. Antall died in 1993, and was succeeded by Péter Boross.

In 1994, the poor economic performance and a certain nostalgia for the communist era led to a landslide victory for the MSZP, which won 209 out of 386 seats and 33% of the vote (it won 149 of the 176 district seats). The governing MDF, further worn down by divisions between moderates and radicals, won only 12% and 38 seats, losing all but 5 of its district seats. The SZDSZ placed second, with about 20% and 69 seats. The smallholders won 26 seats, Fidesz won 20 and the KDNP won 22 seats. Although the MSZP had enough seats to govern alone, the prospect of the post-communists returning to power so quickly discomforted some Hungarians and foreigners, so the MSZP chose to form a coalition with the liberal and pro-Western SZDSZ, which had strong anti-communist credentials. Gyula Horn, the MSZP leader, became Prime Minister. With the economy in trouble and Hungary seeking to enter the EU, the new government turned to ‘shock therapy’ and tough austerity policies including a gradual devaluation of the forint, cuts in social programs, a significant decline in real wages and more rapid privatization. The so-called ‘Bokros package’ austerity policies, introduced in 1995, were deeply unpopular and was criticized both by the left and right, but the MSZP-SZDSZ government pushed forward.

In 1998, the MSZP’s support remained stable, at 32%, but it lost many single-member seats (winning just 54) and won 134 seats in total. Fidesz, which, following its defeat in 1994, shifted from a radical liberal party to a conservative party with strong dirigiste inclinations on economic issues and a certain nationalist tint, won 28% and 148 seats. The SZDSZ suffered major loses, winning only 8% and 24 seats. Fidesz, led by Viktor Orbán, a founding member who had engineered the party’s right-wing transformation, formed a coalition government with the MDF (which fell back further, winning just 17 seats, all of them district seats thanks to an alliance with Fidesz) and the smallholders (who took 14% and 48 seats). The Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIÉP), a far-right nationalist party, won just over 5% and 14 seats.

Orbán’s government, as far as economic policy went, was not markedly different from the previous government. It pledged to continue the MSZP’s stabilization policy and to reduce the budget deficit, and the government aimed to reduce taxes and social insurance contributions while fighting inflation and unemployment. Showing the Hungarian right’s more interventionist penchants, Orbán abolished university tuition fees and reintroduced maternity benefits. The government successfully reduced inflation from 14% in 1998 to 9% in 2001 (and 5% in 2002), while the GDP grew by 3-4% throughout his term. Unemployment, declining since 1996, stabilized at about 5.5%. Orbán’s term was marked by a very bad relationship with the opposition and a marked autocratic tendency by the government. The cabinet and Prime Minister largely ignored the opposition and National Assembly, swiftly replaced the heads of some key institutions with partisan figures and the government was criticized for seeking to increase its influence in the media.

The 2002 election was extremely closely divided between the two major parties, Fidesz and the MSZP. They both won roughly the same number of votes, 41-42%, with a slight edge to the MSZP, but Fidesz won more single-member seats (95) than the MSZP (78) and therefore ended up with ten more seats overall, 188 against 178 for the MSZP. Only one other party won seats in the National Assembly: the SZDSZ, with 5.6%, won 19 seats. The MDF ran in alliance with Fidesz (and garnered 24 seats through it), while the smallholders, who had been embroiled in a bribery scandal, disintegrated and what was left won less than 1% of the vote. The far-right MIÉP won 4%, falling just below the threshold for seats. Although Fidesz and the MIÉP challenged the results of the election, both the electoral commission and OSCE ruled against a recount. In coalition with the SZDSZ, the MSZP’s candidate, Péter Medgyessy, a former finance minister under the first MSZP government, became Prime Minister.

The incoming government fulfilled its populist election promise of ‘changing the welfare regime’, by increasing wages of public servants by 50%, granting a one-time pension supplement to retirees, increasing academic scholarships. The policies were very popular with voters, but economists criticized it because it was a heavy drain on the budget (at the cost of 190 billion forint). In 2002, an opposition newspaper revealed that Medgyessy had been a counterespionage officer during the communist regime; he admitted this, but claimed that he was charged with defending Hungary from the KGB and securing IMF membership over Soviet opposition. In 2004, after the MSZP was defeated by a large margin the European elections, internal divisions and tensions with the SZDSZ eventually forced Medgyessy to resign from office in September 2004. Ferenc Gyurcsány, a popular sports minister in Medgyessy’s cabinet and one of those who had been agitating for his resignation, replaced him and renewed the coalition with the SZDSZ.

In 2006, both the MSZP and Fidesz won in the vicinity of 42-43% of the vote, with a slight edge to the MSZP both in the district seats (98 vs 68 for Fidesz) and in the regional constituencies, giving them 186 seats against 164 for Fidesz. The SZDSZ won 6.5% and 18 seats, while the MDF, running independently and opposed to a coalition with Orbán, won just over 5% and took 11 seats. Just a few months after the April 2006 election, the MSZP’s collapse into fiery inferno began with the leak of a secret speech given by Gyurcsány to MSZP MPs a month after the election. In an expletive-filled speech, the Prime Minister said that the government had been lying since he took office and that it had done nothing it could be proud of. There were massive demonstrations demanding Gyurcsány’s resignation in Budapest and across Hungary for most of September 2006, organized by Fidesz. The political conflict and deadlock, which lasted until 2010, poisoned the commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian uprising. The government was also hurt by its austerity policies and the worsening economic situation, which saw unemployment rise from 7.5% in 2006 to 11% in 2010. In 2008, the government was defeated in a three-question referendum organized by Fidesz in which voters voted to abolish healthcare user fees, daily fees for hospital stays and tuition fees introduced by the MSZP government. Turnout was just above the 50% threshold to be valid, and over 80% of participating voters voted in favour of the repeal of these reforms.

In April 2009, Gyurcsány resigned and was replaced by Gordon Bajnai. A little-known politician, Bajnai was the result of a compromise between the MSZP and the SZDSZ, which had left Gyurcsány’s government in April 2008. He cobbled together a coalition with the SZDSZ, and took office on a program of major spending cuts. The Hungarian economy was badly in crisis in 2009, with growth falling by nearly 7% and the country struggling to cope with a high deficit and the largest debt in Eastern Europe (80%). In 2008, the IMF and the EU granted Budapest a $25 billion loan, but Hungary needed to cut spending and implement painful structural reforms (pensions, most notably) to keep up with IMF guidelines. The government, despite resistance from sectors of the MSZP, cut spending by nearly 4% of GDP, cut social spending and public sector wages and cut social security contributions (to increase Hungary’s low employment rate). The government won plaudits abroad for its orthodox fiscal management, but with high unemployment, high corruption, criminality problems and the legacy of 2006, the MSZP remained deeply unpopular at home.

Fidesz, which strongly opposed the government’s austerity policies, handily won the 2009 European elections, taking 56.4% of the vote and 14 MEPs against 17.4% for the MSZP and 14.8% for the far-right Jobbik. The economic and political crisis reawakened Hungarian nationalism, which had largely been dormant since the 1990s.

Nationalism has been a key issue in Hungarian politics since 1920, and Hungary’s contemporary politics and political culture cannot really be understood without understanding the legacy of the Treaty of Trianon (1920) on Hungary. Defeated in World War I, Hungary lost 72% of its pre-war territory and 64% of its pre-war population; it also lost access to the sea and the country’s industrial base was separated from its sources of raw materials. Although the territory which Hungary lost had a non-Hungarian majority, large ethnic Hungarians minorities now lived outside the country’s border, especially in Slovakia and Romania. Hungary’s conservative, nationalist and autocratic interwar government, led by Regent Miklós Horthy sought redress for Trianon. Horthy’s Prime Minister between 1932 and 1936, Gyula Gömbös, was a fascist sympathizer and anti-Semite (but, upon taking office, he toned down his anti-Semitism on Horthy’s orders), and his government built alliances with Nazi Germany and fascist Italy to push for territorial concessions. The alliance with Germany, built out of necessity and strategic calculations, was rather uneasy and Hungary’s slow drift into being a Nazi client state (culminating in Hungary being forced into joining the 1941 invasion of Yugoslavia) was strongly resisted by many conservative politicians. In return for its cooperation with Hitler, Hungary regained lost territory between 1938 and 1941 – southern Slovakia (1938), Carpathian Ruthenia (1939), Northern Transylvania (1940) and BačkaBaranjaMeđimurje and Prekmurje in Yugoslavia (1941). After World War II, Hungary returned to its Trianon boundaries (for good this time). The communist government muted all irredentism and nationalist claims.

Since 1990, Hungarian governments have not sought a revision of the borders, but it has, from time to time, advocated for the rights of Hungarian minorities in neighboring countries. Hungarians form 6.2% (1.2 million) of the Romanian population, with majorities in Székely, 8.5% of the Slovakian population (458k), 3.5% of the Serbian population (253k, mostly in northern Vojvodina) and over 156,000 in Ukraine (overwhelmingly in Zakarpattia Oblast, where they form 12% of the local population). Budapest’s intermittent interest in Hungarians outside its borders (which has come under Fidesz governments) have created tensions with Hungary’s neighbors, especially Slovakia which has restrictive linguistic legislation and strong nationalist sentiments clashing with Hungarian nationalism. Under Orbán’s first government, Budapest passed a ‘status law’ which provided education and health benefits to Hungarians in neighboring countries. The law sparked tensions with Romania and Slovakia. In 2009, a reform of Slovakia’s language laws by Robert Fico’s government (which was in coalition with the far-right and virulently anti-Hungarian SNS) led to tensions with Hungary.

The economic crisis led to an upsurge in nationalist and anti-Semitic sentiment in Hungary. Politicians on the right, including many in Fidesz, lashed out at ‘foreign speculators’ and foreigners (and Jews) who allegedly controlled Hungary’s wealth, and irredentist visions of Greater Hungary also increased. One Fidesz MP, later removed from the party, said that Israel was trying to colonize/buy out Hungary. In 2012, a Jobbik MEP with anti-Semitic and borderline neo-Nazi views was asked to resign after revelations that he had Jewish ancestors, although Jobbik claimed that they asked him to resign because he had tried to suppress the disclosure through bribery.

Anti-Roma views, a favourite of the far-right across Eastern Europe (and now Western Europe), also gained steam. The Romas numbered around 309,000 in 2011 (3-4% of the population). The Hungarian far-right depicts them as criminals, stealing Hungarian jobs and leeching on welfare money. That same ex-Fidesz MP, for example, claimed that ‘he knew’ that Roma women deliberately induce birth defects on their children so that they can receive higher government subsidies.

Jobbik is a far-right and ultra-nationalist party founded in 2003; it is one of the EU’s most distasteful far-right parties, in a league of its own with the likes of Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, so disreputable that parties such as the FN, FPÖ, PVV and SD don’t want to publicly associate with them. In 2007, Jobbik founded its own civilian militia/paramilitary group, the Magyar Gardá, a charming collection of uniformed thugs and fruitcakes. The Magyar Gardá was ordered to be disbanded by a court order in 2008. Jobbik has the traditional populist, anti-establishment, anti-globalization, ethno-nationalist, socially conservative anti-European rhetoric of much of the far-right, but it adds particularly virulent anti-Israeli/anti-Semitic ramblings (it denies claims that it is anti-Semitic, claiming to be anti-Zionist/anti-Israeli, but denunciations of Israel/Jews as ‘conquerors’ and greedy capitalists is commonplace; and many Jobbik politicians have said anti-Semitic things in the past, and in 2012 a Jobbik deputy leader famously asked for the Jews in Parliament and government to be ‘tallied up’). Jobbik supports Hungarian irredentist claims and is supportive of Miklós Horthy.

Fidesz roared towards a landslide victory in the 2010 legislative election, winning an outright absolute majority by the first round of voting and ending up with 52.7% of the vote and 263 out of 386 seats when all was said and done. The MSZP, which was led by Attila Mesterházy, won only 19% and 59 seats. Jobbik won 16.7% and 47 seats; Politics Can Be Different (Lehet Más a Politika, LMP), a new green-liberal party, won 7.5% and 16 seats. Both the MDF and SZDSZ, leading forces in the 1990 transition, were wiped out: the MDF-SZDSZ won 2.7%. In the single-member seats, Fidesz won all but three of the 176 seats – 2, both in Budapest, were won by the MSZP while one seat went to an independent (who happened to be the charming ex-Fidesz MP mentioned previously for his anti-Semitic and anti-Roma inanities). Viktor Orbán returned to power with a huge majority, on a vague platform which promised many new jobs, cracking down on crime and played on nationalism by warning that Hungary would not be subordinated to the EU or IMF.

With a two-thirds majority, Fidesz and the very strong-headed Orbán quickly moved to shore up their own power over Hungarian politics. The result has been extremely contentious, giving Orbán (to outsiders, and many Hungarians) all the trappings of a Vladimir Putin-like autocratic leader who crushes independent institutions. Soon after settling in, Orbán dismissed the heads of several government agencies and institutions (the electoral commission, the state auditor, the state prosecutor, public spending watchdog, a financial regulator), tried to fire András Simor, the governor of Hungary’s central bank. While he was not fired, he lost his ability to nominate two of the seven members of a body which sets interest rates, which fell under Fidesz’s control. Pál Schmitt, a former Olympic fencer and Fidesz MEP, was elected President in 2010, replacing the independent-minded László Sólyom. He resigned in 2012 after revelations that he plagiarized his doctoral thesis.

The government forced all public buildings to display a notice proclaiming that Hungary had finally achieved ‘self-determination’, called the 2010 election victory a ‘revolution in the voting booth’.

In late 2010, the government picked a fight with the courts, after the Constitutional Court invalidated a law which would impose a 98% tax to all public sector severance payments over $10,000, backdated to January 2010. Fidesz reacted with legislation which removed the Court’s power over the state budget, taxes and other financial matters. The opposition, especially LMP and the MSZP, were very critical. In November 2010, after the head of the Fiscal Council, an independent body which monitored the budget, criticized Orbán’s ‘crisis taxes’, a Fidesz MP introduced legislation to dissolve the body. It was replaced by a new council stacked with Orbán allies.

In 2010 and 2011, a new media law attracted significant controversy, especially as discussion of the media law coincided with Hungary’s presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2011. The new law forced all media outlets (print, broadcast, online) to register with a new media authority, which can revoke licenses for infractions and a new media council, which can impose fines for violating some very vaguely defined content rules, allegedly to protect the people’s ‘dignity’ or for ‘inciting hatred’ against minorities, majorities and so forth. The members of these new bodies are all nominated by the ruling party. The furor over the media law caused Fidesz, which, while nationalistic and strongheaded, does still take heed to justify its decisions in the eyes of the foreign media and politicians (usually by saying that other European countries do the same or have same laws, ergo what we do is fine), temporarily retreated. In 2011, the Constitutional Court excluded print and online media from the scope of the media authority’s sanctioning powers and struck down clauses which limited journalists’ ability to investigate (confidentiality of sources etc)However, in 2012, the EU still felt that amendments to the law had not addressed most of its problems with Hungary’s law. Fidesz and its allies control most of the domestic media, and government is the largest advertiser in the country. In 2011, the media council did not renew the license of an anti-Orbán radio station.

Under new media rules, the funding for the public media is now centralized under one body, which had laid off over a thousand employees as part of a streamlining process. There have been major concerns with regards to self-censorship by journalists and the pro-government sycophancy of much of the media. In 2013, Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press report rated Hungary as ‘partly free’.

In April 2011, the Parliament adopted a new constitution. Hungary’s old constitution had been written by the communist regime in 1949, although it had obviously been very much modified in 1989 and in the past two decades of democracy. The new constitution, described as socially and fiscally conservative, beginning with preamble references to the Holy Crown of Saint Stephen, God, Christianity, the fatherland and family values, a constitutional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman and a ‘golden rule’ limiting the public debt to 50% of GDP. Certain policy areas, such as family policy, taxation, pensions, public debt, morality, culture and religion were classified as areas of ‘cardinal law’ which may only be altered with a two-thirds majority. Clauses about ethnic Hungarians abroad, which opened the door to voting rights in Hungarian elections, irked Slovakia. The opposition MSZP and LMP walked out of the drafting process, dominated by Fidesz, demanding a referendum on the matter and decrying the lack of consultation. In Parliament, the new constitution was passed with only the support of Fidesz’s MPs, who constitute a two-thirds majority to themselves, while Jobbik voted against and the MSZP/LMP boycotted the vote. European politicians, the EU, the US, independent bodies and NGOs criticized various aspects of the new constitution. In December 2011-January 2012, protesters demanded the constitution’s withdrawal and drawing attention to serious issues with Hungarian democracy under Orbán.

In 2013, new controversial amendments removed the Constitutional Court’s ability to refer to judicial precedent predating the January 2012 enactment of the constitution and may no longer reject constitutional amendments on matters of substance (only on procedural grounds). The amendments also included other laws struck down by courts in the past, including strict limits on advertising during election campaigns (a rule seen as favouring Fidesz)

A judicial reform placed significant power over the judiciary in the hands of the new National Judicial Authority, whose head is the wife of a Fidesz MEP who drafted most of the new constitution. That body has the power to name a lot of local and higher-court justices. In July 2012, the Constitutional Court struck down a section which forced judges over 62 to retire.

In early 2013, the Constitutional Court also struck down a new electoral law which forced all voters to pre-register at least 15 days before the election (the rule was only upheld for ethnic Hungarian citizens residing outside Hungary, who gained the right to vote for the national list seats)

Upon taking office, the new government alarmed investors when some Fidesz leaders mentioned the word ‘default’ and warned that Hungary could become Greece. Foreign investors went into a frenzy, badly hurting confidence in the Hungarian economy even if its fundamentals were much stronger than those of Greece. Orbán quickly moved to smooth out the crisis by announcing new economic measures in June 2010: cuts in income and corporate taxes, the introduction of a 16% flat tax on incomes, a temporary windfall tax on banks, banning mortgages in foreign currencies and cuts in public spending. The government promised to reduce its budget deficit to 3.8% of GDP, a target agreed upon with the IMF and EU in 2008; its economic program aimed to reduce corruption, common petty scams and corrupt dealings in Hungarian businesses and create jobs.

The windfall tax on banks, aimed to raise 0.5% of GDP ($560 million), worried foreign banks in Hungary. In July 2010, the EU and IMF broke off talks with Budapest over the renewal of a $26 billion loan. The EU-IMF were worried about the windfall tax on banks, and demanded stronger commitments to spending cuts and structural reforms in state-owned enterprises. With talks broken off, Budapest announced new economic measures in October 2010: temporary ‘crisis taxes’ on largely foreign-owned telecommunication, energy and retail companies, renegotiation of public-private partnerships, a tax break for families with children and redirecting private pension fund contribution to the state. Orbán said that it was time for those with profits to ‘give more’. The main victims of the ‘crisis taxes’ on telecommunication, energy and retail were mostly foreign companies. The government announced that those in the private pension system who didn’t opt back into the state pension fund would lose all rights to a state pension.

In 2011, the government detailed its spending cuts to reduce the budget deficit to a targeted 1.9% of GDP in 2014. These included an extension of the bank tax, but also cuts in state subsidies for disability pensions, drugs and public transportation and a postponement of corporate tax cuts (from 19% to 10%) until 2013. The government refused to call these measures ‘austerity’. In November 2011, after disappointing economic results, the government reopened talks for assistance (which it called ‘a safety net’) from the IMF. Although the government successfully cut the deficit in 2011, growth remained low, the forint fell and bond auctions failed. The government’s opponents gloated at the failure of Orbán’s ambitious gamble of ‘economic independence’ from the major global financial institutions. In December 2011, the EU and IMF once again broke off preliminary talks, over concerns over new legislation which weakened the powers of the governor of the central bank at the expense of the Prime Minister. The EU was concerned over threats to the independence of the central bank, which added to its concerns with a judicial overhaul which included the forced retirement of over 200 judges over 62 and the independence of a new data protection authority.

In January 2012, the European Commission launched legal action against Budapest on those three issues. With mounting European concern over Orbán’s policies and legislative changes, the EU and IMF decided to play hardball with Budapest, whose poor economic record was forcing Orbán to be slightly more conciliatory. The government decried the EU’s actions as an inexcusable assault on its sovereignty, and pointed to its two-thirds majority won in a free election as a sign of its legitimacy. But the EU and IMF’s behaviour did take its toll on Fidesz, which quickly u-turned and appeared more conciliatory. The government’s new approach had a beneficial impact on the forint and the economy’s health. Nevertheless, in March 2012, the EU suspended nearly 500 billion euros in aid to Hungary, punishing it for failing to keep the deficit in check

Soon after taking office, Orbán’s government amended Hungary’s citizenship law, removing the residency requirement, requiring that applicants only have ethnic Hungarian ancestors and command of the Hungarian language. The law was designed to allow Hungarians in neighboring Slovakia and Hungary to easily acquire Hungarian citizenship (as a second citizenship). Slovakia’s government, under Robert Fico, retaliated by passing a law which would strip Slovak citizens who acquire another passport of their Slovak citizenship.

Parties and campaigns

Fidesz was the favourite in the campaign. The country’s unimpressive economic performance and a certain degree of annoyance with Orbán’s style led to a significant erosion in the party’s popularity in opinion polls, especially in 2011 and 2012, but it has recovered in 2013, partly thanks to populist policies including cuts in utility prices. The country’s economy still faces major issues – the country slipped back into recession in 2012 and growth was only 1.1% in 2013, unemployment has recently declined below 10% but remains high and Hungary remains Central/Eastern Europe’s most indebted country (79% of GDP). The deficit, however, has now fallen below the EU’s 3% limit. However, the economic performance of the country is not entirely negative, allowing Fidesz to take credit for the first signs of recovery. Many aspects of Orbán’s populist and nationalist economic policies (denouncing the IMF/EU, high taxes on banks and largely foreign-owned companies, cuts in income taxes for families, a law allowing Hungarians to repay their mortgages in foreign currency at very good terms while banks are forced to swallow the difference, have been very popular with Hungarian voters. To the crowds, Fidesz plays very heavily on nationalist sentiments – with speeches from Orbán and his stooges decrying ‘colonization’, lashing out at foreign bankers, European bureaucrats and IMF technocrats (compared to Soviet men during the communist era). During the campaign, Fidesz said that the utility price cuts needed to be defended against foreign utility companies, To the IMF and EU technocrats, Fidesz tries to be far more polished. Its nationalist grandstanding is not always matched by its real behaviour with EU leaders.

Fidesz also never missed an opportunity to blame the MSZP for Hungary’s problems or to justify its actions by the necessity to ‘clean up’ the mess it had inherited from the MSZP in 2010.

The left has struggled to pick itself up after the MSZP’s huge defeat in 2010. It has also been hurt by divisions. In 2011, former MSZP Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány founded the Democratic Coalition (Demokratikus Koalíció, DK), a centre-left liberal party slightly to the right of the MSZP. Gyurcsány, who is the favourite target of Fidesz scorn, has become a very vocal opponent of the Orbán government. In October 2012, former Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai (2009-2010), who led a MSZP-SZDSZ technocratic government between 2009 and 2010, announced the creation of his own party, Together 2014 (Eygütt 2014, E14). Bajnai’s party was created by three movements from civil society: the Patriotism and Progress Association, Bajnai’s think-tank founded in 2010; Milla, a group born on Facebook in opposition to Orbán’s media laws; and Solidarity, a trade union movement modeled upon Poland’s Solidarity movement. One Fidesz spokesperson charged that Bajnai had returned to politics to help the banks and multinationals. In March 2013, E14 joined forces with Dialogue for Hungary (PM), a green party founded by 8 dissident LMP MPs who opposed the LMP’s leadership refusal to ally with E14 in 2012 and later LMP’s opposition to an alliance with the other centre-left forces. In April 2013, former cabinet minister and SZDSZ leader Gábor Fodor (the SZDSZ dissolved in 2013, after it was wiped off the map in 2010) formed the Hungarian Liberal Party (MLP).

In August 2013, the MSZP and E14-PM formed an electoral alliance, with joint candidates in single-member constituencies but no agreement for a single prime ministerial candidate between Bajnai and MSZP leader Attila Mesterházy. In January, the two parties agreed to field a common list and appointed Mesterházy as their joint top candidate. A few days later, DK and the MLP, which had originally declined to join the alliance, joined forces with the MSZP and E14-PM, under the name ‘Unity’ (Összefogás).

As might be expected, the left-wing Unity’s campaign focused heavily on Orbán. Mesterházy said that Hungarians had the choice between a ‘modern, European republic’ or ‘the restoration of the Horthy era’. Bajnai said that Hungary was at risk of becoming a ‘post-Soviet country’ (which he called ‘Orbanistan’). The opposition also denounced a ‘Putin-Orbán pact’ over an agreement with Russia on the upgrade of a nuclear power plant, under which Russia will lend Hungary €10 billion of the €12 billion required to finance two Russian-built reactors. Orbán had been fairly anti-Russian and critical of the Kremlin in his first stint as Prime Minister between 1998 and 2002, but since taking office he’s been far less critical of Russia and, without being an ally, hasn’t had much to say about Putin’s actions in Crimea and Ukraine recently.

Unity’s economic platform talked of a ‘New Deal’, with pro-growth policies and the abolition of the flat tax (Gyurcsány mentioned a tax rate of 30% for top earners), and a campaign against corruption. However, Fidesz, which described Unity as an alliance of old politicians with no new faces, scored a huge point with the revelation that Gábor Simon, a former MSZP deputy chairman, had the equivalent of $1,000,000 in an undeclared Austrian bank account. Simon, who denied all wrongdoing, was later arrested on charges of tax evasion and falsifying documents (he owned a false passport from Guinea-Bissau). It isn’t as if Fidesz is a shining example of probity either – under Orbán, many contracts and government jobs have been given out to friends and allies of the ruling party, and a new circle of petty oligarchs have replaced the old petty oligarchs who prospered under MSZP rule. However, while the pro-government media has played unrelentingly on the opposition’s corrupt politicians, it hasn’t talked much about corruption in the ruling party.

Jobbik has moderated or altered its rhetoric, toning down the anti-Roma and anti-Semitic rhetoric in favour of a traditional populist and nationalist platform. Jobbik styles itself as a defender of the weakest members of society; its economic platform proclaims as its main objective the defense of Hungarian industry, farmers, businesses, produce and markets. It supports state intervention in the economy to support poor families, farmers and small businessmen (it opposes privatization, the flat tax and promises tax cuts for families and lowering the VAT on basic goods), cutting taxes and regulations which stifle job creation and protectionism. A key aspect of Jobbik’s appeals to voters is resentment against ‘multis’ – multinational/foreign companies which took a large role in the Hungarian economy after 1990. Jobbik accuses them of exploiting Hungarians as cheap labour, job loses and for hurting Hungarian companies. Jobbik is strongly opposed to the EU (it wants a referendum on continued membership) but admires Vladimir Putin’s Russia, supporting closer economies ties with the east at the expense of the west.

Results

Turnout was 61.73%, down from 64.4% in 2010 and the lowest turnout since 1998. The results were as follows (popular vote data is for the national list vote):

Fidesz-KDNP 44.87% (-7.86%) winning 133 seats (96 FPTP, 37 PR)
Unity 25.57% (+6.27%) winning 38 seats (10 FPTP, 28 PR)
Jobbik 20.22% (+3.55%) winning 23 seats (23 PR)
LMP 5.34% (-2.13%) winning 5 seats (5 PR)
Workers’ Party 0.56% (-0.45%) winning 0 seats
Others 3.44% (-0.32%) winning 0 seats

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s governing Fidesz was reelected in a landslide, securing a second straight term in office. With 133 out of 199 seats in the new National Assembly, Orbán’s party has narrowly held his two-thirds majority which he won in 2010. The two-thirds majority allows Fidesz to amend the constitution, change several laws and appoint the heads and members of many government agencies and departments on its own. As explained above, Fidesz had made heavy use of its two-thirds majority between 2010 to 2014, to adopt a new constitution, change a whole array of laws and fill government agencies with its own men – all over the head of the opposition.

Gordon Bajnai, the leader of E14, said prior to the elections that they would be ‘free, but not fair’. His comment is somewhat valid. While the OSCE observer mission said that the April 6 election “efficiently administered and offered voters a diverse choice following an inclusive candidate registration process”, they also pointed out that “the main governing party enjoyed an undue advantage because of restrictive campaign regulations, biased media coverage and campaign activities that blurred the separation between political party and the State.” In its report, the observer mission further detailed how Fidesz was helped by government advertisements which were almost identical to party ads; a significant bias by a majority of TV stations in favour of Fidesz. It raised concern about “increasing ownership of media outlets by businesspeople directly or indirectly associated with Fidesz and the allocation of state advertising to certain media undermined the pluralism of the media market and resulted in self-censorship among journalists.” New rules limiting the type of political ads which commercial TV stations may air effectively led to the absence of political advertisements on non-public TV, meaning that the ad war on TV was heavily dominated by Fidesz.

The new electoral system allowed Fidesz to retain a two-thirds majority despite losing nearly 8% support from 2010, and winning ‘only’ 44.9% against over 52% in 2010. The new electoral system is less proportional than the old one. While it is not a purely parallel MMM system like that of Japan, unlike Germany or New Zealand’s MMP system, the national list seats do not compensate for disproportional results in the single-member seats. Fidesz won all but 10 of the 106 new single-member districts. In Hungary, where there are relatively little marked regional differences in voting, a landslide election in whatever direction guarantees that the winning party will win all but a tiny handful of seats. The fact that the national system makes no effort to compensate for disproportional results – even the old system had a weak compensatory element – allows the outcome of the FPTP element to stand. Fidesz also benefited a bit from the extension of voting rights to Hungarians living abroad with no address in Hungary (the so-called ‘Transylvanian votes’, because most are from Romania), something engineered by Orbán to benefit his party. Fidesz won 95.5% of the foreign postal votes, although that only amounted to 122,588 ballots for them.

It is very hard to evaluate how Fidesz might have performed with more balanced media coverage, but it is clear that its victory cannot be explained solely with reference to the undue advantages it received during the campaign. Fidesz was the clear winner, and Unity was the clear loser. They gained votes from the MSZP’s pathetic 2010 result, although it remains a rather unimpressive gain. Together with the LMP, the other party which can logically be considered as part of a broader left-wing opposition to Fidesz, they won a bit under 31% of the vote, up marginally from the 29% won by the MSZP, LMP and MDF-SZDSZ in 2010.

The results showed the clear problems faced by the left-wing opposition. Unity never offered a convincing alternative to the majority of voters. Its sophisticated attacks on Orbán’s autocratic tendencies and its publicizing of the threat posed to Hungarian democracy was not a convincing platform for the majority of voters. In contrast, Fidesz offered clear material and tangible benefits to voters: lower utility bills, a renegotiation of forex house mortgages favourable to homeowners (the bill was largely paid by the banks) and a simple populist-nationalist message which clearly struck a chord. To a lesser extent, Jobbik, which increased its support to over 20% and gained over 165,000 votes (mostly from some 2010 Fidesz voters), also offers a convincing message: vilification of imagined or real enemies (multinationals, criminals etc), identification of scapegoats and an image as a youthful rebellious party. Both Fidesz and Jobbik are very well-organized parties with strong networks, especially in rural areas, and allow people to identify as part of a community or share a clear political identity with other like-minded individuals. Orbán has a lot of dedicated, loyal and quasi-spiritual followers. For his supporters, Orbán is a leader fighting for freedom and national sovereignty, against the EU, banks and foreign companies. Orbán often expresses the need for unity and strength to take on imagined enemies of the nation, and his campaign was successful at highlighting the idea that Hungary is doing much better since 2010 (the media helps him out in that, as did a very carefully choreographed PR campaign). The expression of some sort of ‘siege mentality’ by Orbán (and Jobbik, of course) is particularly powerful in Hungary, which continues to struggle with the Trianon trauma/tragedy. Orbán has successfully created a highly-charged and very polarized political environment; criticism of Orbán from his opponents only reinforces his supporters’ admiration and attachment to him.

Some analysts make cultural arguments to further explain Fidesz and Jobbik’s popularity, especially when both parties are portrayed in the mainstream foreign media and viewed (by the few foreigners who actually know more than the raw basics about Hungary) as either autocratic (Fidesz) or outright Nazis (Jobbik). I’m always skeptical of cultural arguments, but they may hold some validity. Hungary has relatively little experience with democracy; in the interwar era, Hungary was always a conservative authoritarian regime incarnated by the forceful figure of Miklós Horthy and Hungary’s communist regime between 1956 and 1988 was an authoritarian but slightly less dictatorial and dogmatic regime under János Kádár. Both men are controversial figures in Hungary, but there remains goodwill in public opinion for both. Horthy in particular has seen his image restored through the efforts of Jobbik (tolerated by Fidesz) since 2010; a memorial to the 1944 German invasion of Hungary (Horthy’s ouster and replacement with Ferenc Szálasi’s pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party) has sparked controversy, with Jewish community leaders denouncing it as part of a continued move to whitewash Horthy’s rule and portray Hungary as an innocent and virtuous victim of Nazi aggression (rather than a willing, if reluctant at times, collaborator – Horthy’s regime joined the Axis in 1941 and had allied with Berlin and Rome since 1938). Orbán has borrowed elements from both Kádár and Horthy’s playbooks.

The argument runs that, as a result of its past and the perception of liberal democracy and capitalism since 1990 as something of a failure, many Hungarians yearn for a strong, paternalist leadership. The Inglehart-Welzel Cultural Map of the World places Hungary as having very high ‘survival’ (economic and physical security, relatively ethnocentric outlook and low levels of trust and tolerance) rather than ‘self-expression’ values. Of EU member-states, only Romania and Bulgaria have higher survival scores (Latvia and Estonia have similar scores to Hungary), and other post-communist countries such as Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have much higher self-expression scores.

Capitalism/the free market economy is unpopular with a large portion of the Hungarian electorate, especially with Jobbik’s voters but perhaps with a lot of Fidesz supporters as well. The economic reforms in the 1990s did not produce the sense that things are looking up, breeding a lingering current of negative views towards ‘capitalism’. The claim is that the neoliberal reforms resulted in foreign intrusion, the cheap selling out of Hungary’s wealth and businesses, unemployment, corruption, inefficient government and increased criminality. The Hungarian left, with the exception of perhaps LMP, has accepted capitalism as the doxa or dominant paradigm of a modern European society, for better or worse. For many voters instinctively angry at the ‘capitalist’ system (vaguely defined), only Jobbik and its radical ideas against capitalism presents an attractive alternative.

The left also has many problems of its own makings. Besides a poor and uninspiring campaign which failed to compete with Orbán and Jobbik’s populism (although the left did try its hand at populism too), the Unity coalition was terribly unattractive to many voters. The left had trouble overcoming its own divisions to present a united figure out of necessity (if it had run divided, Fidesz would probably have won all FPTP seats, and an even bigger majority). Gyurcsány is a polarizing figure, still perceived negatively by many voters (and Fidesz did not fail to play on this), and he probably did not bring much to the coalition. Atilla Mesterházy is a poor leader who did little in four years and has an overinflated ego; the MSZP, an increasingly obsolete party with huge issues, had no idea how to oppose Fidesz. Only Gordon Bajnai appeared to be a more solid leader. The left has a serious demographic challenge, because both the MSZP and Fidesz (especially the MSZP) are unpopular with younger voters. Outside Budapest, the left (=MSZP)’s base is likely a declining and aging electorate; younger voters, who are very dissatisfied with the state and direction of politics, don’t want to have anything to do with the MSZP, seen as a bunch of obsolete old communists. Jobbik, and to a much lesser extent LMP, are very popular with younger voters. Jobbik has devoted a lot of energy in the last few months to rebrand itself a youthful rebellious party, dropping the blatant racism and anti-Semitism.

All but two of the ten districts won by the left were in Budapest, where Unity won 8 of the constituencies against 10 for Fidesz. This excellent interactive map shows the results of the FPTP vote in all districts, and allows you to visualize the 2010 and 2006 results on the new borders. It won two seats in Budapest by solid margins, peaking at 51.3% against just over 30% for Fidesz in Budapest-7, which covers an area similar to the only two districts which the MSZP held in 2010. It covers Budapest’s 13th municipal district, a mix of middle-class/intellectual areas and gentrified/regenerated old working-class districts. The MSZP won all its other districts by small margins (less than 5%), although many Fidesz districts were also won by small margins. However, Fidesz performed strongly in Buda, with over 45% in the 1st, 3rd and 4th constituencies – these seats cover the 1st, 2nd, 12th and 5th municipal districts (the 5th is located in Pest, covering the bourgeois inner city), the most affluent neighborhoods of the city and traditional conservative strongholds. Budapest was traditionally a left-leaning city, and it remains the strongest region of Hungary for the left-wing opposition. Orbán is said to dislike the city, which he distrusts.

Outside Budapest, the left won only two other districts – one covering the southern city of Szeged, the only major city in Hungary with a MSZP mayor after 2010, and a district covering part of the eastern city of Miskolc. The former is a university town, the latter is a depressed and declining old industrial centre in eastern Hungary (it was a MSZP stronghold until it too elected a Fidesz mayor in 2010). Jobbik won over 30% of the vote in both districts in Miskolc.

Some maps at the settlement level here show that while the left placed second in all major cities and major suburban areas (it placed first in Szeged and in Salgótarján, an old mining city in the north), Jobbik ranked second (even first, in some cases) in most rural areas. As in 2010, Jobbik’s strongest results came from eastern Hungary, with results well over 30% in the rural areas of Heves and Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén counties. In Heves-2, Gábor Vona, the Jobbik leader, won 35.8% against 37% for Fidesz and appears to have won Gyöngyös, his hometown and the second largest town in the county. Eastern Hungary is the country’s poorest region, a depressed and run-down region of old industrial centres, mining towns and small villages (Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county was once a leading industrial county due to the mining industry; the left still won the smaller mining towns of Tiszaújváros and Kazincbarcika, where Jobbik nevertheless polled nearly 30%). Unemployment is high, jobs scarce and it also happens to have the highest Roma populations in Hungary. Comparing the unemployment map with that of Jobbik, there is a clear correlation. In Budapest, a comparatively affluent and cosmopolitan liberal city, Jobbik performed poorly (in a few districts, especially those in the most affluent parts of the city, the LMP placed third ahead of Jobbik); it also did poorly in some Pest County suburbs and in parts of western Hungary, which have low levels of unemployment and better economic fortunes (places such as Győr are located in the Budapest-Vienna-Bratislava axis).

It is a worrying sign for the left that, outside Budapest and the cities, the main opposition to Fidesz is now Jobbik. It has lost middle-aged blue-collar voters in small towns, many of whom own homes with forex mortgages, to Fidesz or Jobbik.

Fidesz’s reelection ensures another four years of absolute power for Orbán. The Fidesz caucus is largely made up of sheep-like followers who never challenge the Prime Minister and the party leadership. Since 2010, Fidesz has placed itself in control of most state institutions. It promises ‘consolidation’ and a focus on economic policy, and rejects opposition claims that Hungary is lurching towards a ‘managed democracy’ or, worse, a dictatorship. There is little opposition to Orbán’s absolute power. The left is demoralized and pessimistic after its major defeat, and the Unity coalition already seems to have broken up. Mesterházy, who seems to have an overblown ego, has been reluctant to admit responsibility for the left’s defeat and is intent on remaining at the helm of the MSZP. Both he and Gyurcsány have preferred to blame the electoral system rather than admitting their share of responsibility for the left’s rout. In the EP elections next month, the individual parties in the coalition will seemingly be fighting alone, something which will allow them to individually measure their forces. The left nevertheless will hardly prosper as long as it is squabbling amongst itself or refusing to adapt; it has a lot of thinking to do. Jobbik, meanwhile, is increasingly attractive to younger voters and right-wing Fidesz defectors.

France 2014 (R2)

The second round of municipal elections were held in France on March 30, 2014. The second round of voting concerned all communes whose municipal councils were not elected by the first round. According to Le Monde, of the 9,734 communes (out of 36,681 in France) with over 1,000 inhabitants (all those communes voting using semi-proportional representation), 7,606 elected their council and mayor by the first round. I covered the complex structure, workings, powers and responsibilities of French municipal government as well as the details on the electoral systems in a first preview post. In a second preview post, I listed the major races in the main towns.

In the second round in communes with over 1,000 inhabitants, a plurality suffices to win. All lists which won over 10% of the vote in the first round are qualified, although they may choose to withdraw and/or merge with another qualified list. Lists which won under 10% but over 5% may merge with a qualified list. The list which wins is allocated half the seats in the municipal council. The other half is distributed proportionally to all lists, including the winning list, which have won over 5% of the vote. In Paris, Lyon and Marseille the electoral system is different. Although the above rules are in place, the election is not fought city-wide: instead, it is fought individually in arrondissements/sectors (20 in Paris, 9 in Lyon and 8 in Marseille).

I covered, in extensive detail, the results of the first round here.

Overview: Results

The second round confirmed, even amplified, the results of the first round: a landslide victory for the right-wing opposition, a defeat of monumental and historic proportions for the left and the strong result of the far-right.

According to preliminary results released by the Ministry of the Interior, turnout was 62.13%, down from 63.55% in the first round. It is, again, an historically low turnout for a municipal ballot since World War II, once again continuing the trend of declining turnout which began in 1983. I stick to what I said about the implications and explanations of lower turnout in my post on the first round: it is not catastrophic (it remains higher than in the last legislative, regional, cantonal and EU elections) and it owes a lot to the rise of ‘sporadic participation’ rather than a deep civic crisis.

Libération‘s excellent number-crunching is back, and as far as turnout is concerned, the trends are similar to the first round. Turnout was highest in Corsica and Le Réunion, which, partly because of their insular nature, have a close connection to local politics (and in both cases they are also very clan-based, especially in Corsica) and higher interest for local elections than national elections. Turnout was also rather high in smaller communes where the far-right had qualified for the runoff and was seen as having a serious chance of winning. According to Libé’s list of the top 10 communes (with over 10,000 inhabitants) with the highest turnout, two communes in the Gard where the FN was the favourite to win saw low abstention – 23.7% in Beaucaire (which the FN won) and 24.1% in Saint-Gilles (which it lost). In contrast, turnout remained the lowest in low-income communes – 61% abstention in Villiers-le-Bel, 58.7% in Evry, 56.7% in Vaulx-en-Velin or 55.6% in Roubaix.

Libération reports that turnout increased, on average, from the first round in the 540 towns with over 10,000 inhabitants which voted on March 30. Abstention had been 43.6% on March 23 in those communes, and was 41.1% on March 30. Turnout also increased in nearly all cities where the FN had placed first on March 23: +14.8% in Avignon, the most publicized city; +14.6% in Mantes-la-Ville (Yvelines); +12.2% in Hayange; +12.1% in Forbach; +9.86% in Cluses (Haute-Savoie); +7.12% in Béziers or +4.36% in Perpignan. But there is no correlation between increased turnout and FN defeats – the FN won Mantes-la-Ville, Hayange and Béziers. Turnout also increased in other high-stakes races: Marseille-7, Grenoble, Villejuif, Le Blanc-Mesnil or Ajaccio. This seems to further confirm that idea of ‘sporadic participation’ tied to interest in the stakes of the election rather than civic duty to vote regardless.

The left – and the government, by extension – suffered an historic and monumental defeat in the second round. A few numbers explain the situation. I have focused my analysis, because I’m an individual and not working for a newspaper which pays me or hires me assistants, on the 259 communes with a population over 30,000 inhabitants (ideally, 10,000+ would be an even better threshold, but that’d be 946 communes).

Table 1: Results in communes with over 30,000 inhabitants (France + DOM)

Party Inc. Hold Lost Gain Final Net +/-
FG 34 20 14 2 22 -12
PS 99 50 49 6 56 -43
DVG 12 6 6 6 12 nc
EELV 2 1 1 1 2 nc
PRG 3 0 3 0 0 -3
Regionalist 0 0 0 1 1 +1
MoDem 5 5 0 1 6 +1
UDI 23 20 3 9 29 +6
UMP 71 66 5 44 110 +39
DVD 10 9 1 10 19 +9
FN/EXD 0 0 0 2 2 +2
Source: own work

Overall, the right (and MoDem, since all but one of their mayors were elected as right-wing candidates) now controls 164 communes with over 30,000 inhabitants – 63.3% – while the left (FG-PS-DVG-EELV) – now controls 92 communes with over 30,000 inhabitants – 35.5%. Two are governed by the far-right and one by a regionalist. Before the election, the tables were reversed: the left held 150 and the right held 109 – 57.9% to 42.1%. Using the data (1959 to 1995) from Pierre Martin’s Les élections municipales en France, which tracked the % of cities with over 30,000 inhabitants (at the time of the election – so there were far less communes with over 30,000 people in 1959 than in 2014), I have drawn up a graph showing the evolution of partisan control of communes which had over 30,000 at the time of the election2014 marks the widest victory for the right since my data begins (probably the biggest since 1947): the previous record is 2001 (a very similar sample in terms of actual communes, 245 in total), when the right controlled 55.5% of towns. It falls short of the left’s landslide in 1977, when it held 72% of the 221 communes with over 30,000 people back then. The right’s gains in 2014 totally erase (and expand beyond) the right’s loses in 2008, when the governing UMP-led right suffered a major defeat at the hands of the PS-led opposition. The right’s gains in 2014 are also bigger than the right’s gains in 1983, the other major ‘blue wave’ election in which the right gained 35 of the 220 communes with over 30,000 inhabitants from the left (which fell from controlling 67.7% of these towns to controlling 51.8%; -15.9%). Overall, it is the right’s biggest victory in any municipal election under the Fifth Republic.

% of cities of over 30,000 inhabitants (at time of election) controlled by each party, 1959-2014

% of cities of over 30,000 inhabitants (at time of election) controlled by each party, 1959-2014

On the right, the UMP, as the largest party, enjoyed the most substantial gains – a net gain of 39 cities, losing five cities (2 to the PS, 1 to the FN; the other 2 were ‘lost’ to other right-wing candidates) and gaining 44 others, including 42 from the left (32 of them from the PS). The UMP controls 42.5% of cities with over 30,000 people. The UDI also enjoyed some major gains, a net gain of 6 with a loss of 3 cities (all of them to other right-wing candidates) and gaining 9 others. Additionally, ten cities were gained by DVD candidates (right-wing independents, dissidents) with only one loss (Fréjus, to the FN). The MoDem gained one city – and not the least of them – MoDem leader François Bayrou was elected in Pau, winning the seat from the PS.

On the left, the PS suffered major loses – it held only 50 of its 99 incumbents, lost 49 and gained only 6 cities (and only 2 from the right – Avignon and Douai). Overall, the PS now controls only 21.6% of cities with over 30,000 people – that’s its lowest result since 1971, when the PS won only 20.7% of cities which had 30,000 people back then.

The FG (mostly PCF, all but two of the FG cities are held by the PCF, and the other two are held by PCF dissidents who are now members of the small Fédération pour une alternative sociale et écologique/Ensemble) also suffered major loses, making this the worst municipal election for the PCF. It held 20 cities, but lost 14 and gained only 2. The PCF lost two cities to the PS – Bagnolet and Vaulx-en-Velin – and regained one from the PS – Aubervilliers – and one from EELV – Montreuil. The PCF lost towns such as Saint-Ouen, Le Blanc-Meslin, Villepinte and Bobigny to the right; places which it has no business losing. In La Réunion, the Reunionese Communist Party (PCR) was absolutely crushed, losing all 5 of the Reunionese cities which it controlled. Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s PG lost the only city it held, Viry-Châtillon, to the UDI.

The PRG lost all 3 cities which it held, it is now left without any city with over 30,000 inhabitants. Its largest city appears to be Saumur (pop. 27,093) in the Maine-et-Loire, which was gained by the PRG (a former mayor and deputy) from the UMP incumbent. DVG (left-wing independents, PS dissidents) candidates had a better time; but their gains only came from within the left (PS dissidents winning La Rochelle, Dunkerque, Montpellier and a left-right alliance led by a DVG candidate winning Nevers from the PS; PCR loses to DVG candidates in two places in La Réunion). EELV, ultimately, was the only party which can be pleased with its performance – although it lost Montreuil, the big story of the night was the victory in Grenoble, defeating the PS. In Villejuif, a UMP-led alliance including the right and EELV defeated a PCF incumbent (it is counted as a UMP gain).

In terms of the most important cities – the 41 cities with over 100,000 people – the left controlled 29 and the right had 12 prior to the election; now the right controls 22 against 19 for the left.

The right gained many important cities from the left: Toulouse, Reims, Saint-Étienne, Angers, Limoges, Tours, Amiens, Caen, Argenteuil, Roubaix, Tourcoing, Colombes, Asnières-sur-Seine, Aulnay-sous-Bois, Pau, Ajaccio, Quimper, Valence, Chambéry, La Roche-sur-Yon and Belfort (among hundreds of others). In the first round, the right had already gained a few mid-sized towns from the left – Niort, Clamart and Chalon-sur-Saône (among others). The left, in contrast, had very little success – even those cities where, after the first round, it still held a good chance of winning (Bourges, Calais) it lost; it only gained two towns with over 30,000 people – Avignon and Douai. Some smaller towns gained by the left include Verdun, Longwy, Lourdes, Saumur, Dourdan and Mamoudzou (the largest city in Mayotte). This is to say nothing of the places where the PS was optimistic prior to March 23 but where it was actually crushed – Marseille remaining the classic example.

The FN/far-right gained two towns with over 30,000 people – Béziers and Fréjus. It also won the 7th sector of Marseille, which has a population of 150,326. The far-right’s other victories are Cogolin (Var), Beaucaire (Gard), Bollène (Vaucluse) Villers-Côterets (Aisne), Le Pontet (Vaucluse), Le Luc (Var), Camaret-sur-Aigues (Vaucluse), Hayange (Moselle) and Mantes-la-Ville (Yvelines). In the first round, the far-right had gained Hénin-Beaumont (Pas-de-Calais) and held Orange (Vaucluse). The cities of Orange, Bollène and Camaret-sur-Aigues in the Vaucluse are held by the Ligue du Sud, a small local far-right party led by Jacques Bompard, the député maire of Orange since 1995 and a former member of the FN. The FN was defeated in other of its high-profile target cities – Avignon, Perpignan, Forbach, Brignoles, Saint-Gilles and Tarascon.

The runoff confirmed the undeniable success of the FN in these elections. For example, in 1995, the FN’s previous municipal success, the FN had won four towns (including Toulon), all in the southeast. Now the FN controls ten towns and one sector of Marseille (with over 150,000 people no less), four of which are outside the old far-right bases of the southeast.

There will be a lot of focus on how the FN manages the towns it now controls. The far-right’s record in city halls between 1995 and 2001, most significantly in Toulon and Vitrolles, is widely seen as very negative – famous for defunding some community organizations, censorship in the municipal libraries and financial mismanagement. Marine Le Pen admitted that mistakes were made in the past by FN administrations, and promised that errors would not be repeated. FN municipalities, she says, will not be ideological laboratories, seek to implement the more ‘radical’ aspects of the platform or disobey republican law (for example, FN mayors celebrating gay marriages despite the FN’s opposition to the law). A lot of the new FN mayors’ platforms focused on similar issues: security (increasing the size and power of the municipal police), lowering taxes and favouring the return of small businesses to pauperized downtown areas. Marine Le Pen has said that FN mayors will ban menus offering religious alternatives (to pork) in school cafeterias.

However, it is important to relativize the FN’s success. The runoff results showed, once again, the limits to the FN’s growth and all underline that the FN is not going to win power nationally anytime soon. The FN’s results in many municipalities, including a lot where it had no-name paper candidates, were better than Marine Le Pen’s 2012 result, something of a high-water mark for the FN. In those municipalities where the FN is well rooted thanks to local candidates, star candidates or something in the form of a serious party organization, the FN’s results in the first and second round beat the FN’s results in those same places from the 2012 presidential and legislative election. In the second round in those towns, the FN made further gains – improving on its first round result by about 8 to 14% – for example, a +14.1% gain in one week in Cogolin (Var) or +10.7% in Perpignan.

According to an Ifop study, the FN vote increased by 9.3% in duel (two-way) runoffs and by 2.5% in triangulaires against a divided right or left (2 leftist or 2 rightist lists). In 1995, the FN had gained 4.1% between the two rounds in two-way runoffs.

However, the FN’s victories (outside Orange and Bollène, already held by far-right mayors; and Hénin-Beaumont’s victory in the first round) in every town except Cogolin came in triangulaires/quadrangulaires – three or four-way runoffs in which the FN won with less than 50% of the vote, in some cases less than 40% (Hayange, Beaucaire). In other cases, the putative ‘republican fronts’ in Saint-Gilles, Brignoles and Perpignan (PS candidates withdrawing from the race to block the FN) were successful – the UMP candidates, who in all cases had placed second in the first round, won. In Fréjus, the PS candidate did withdraw, but the division of the right between the UMP and the incumbent DVD mayor (expelled from the UMP due to indictment in a corruption scandal) played a large role in allowing the FN to win. In Forbach, there was a strong increase in turnout and an unofficial ‘republican front’ by DVD/UMP voters from the first round voting for the PS incumbent to block the FN’s Florian Philippot. In Villeneuve-Saint-Georges (Val-de-Marne), a strong increase in turnout and perhaps imperfect transfers allowed the PCF incumbent to narrowly win reelection against a merged UMP/FN list (the UMP disendorsed its list after its alliance with the FN). Together, in the first round, the UMP and FN lists accounted for 57.8% of the vote, but won 49.8% in the runoff (although it won more raw votes than the raw votes won by the UMP and FN lists in the first round).

Finally, in many triangulaire runoffs where the FN qualified as a very distant third (with about 10-15%) and no chances to win, the FN vote – as has been the case historically – declined from the first round. First round FN voters, when the FN has no chance in the second round, prefer to vote for a viable list/candidate (often the right) or ‘return to the fold’ after having protested in the first round by voting FN. According to Ifop, the FN vote fell by 2.5% in classic triangulaires and by 1% in quadrangulaires/quinquangulaires (4 and 5-way runoffs). There was a clear strategic dimension in the FN’s decline in 3-way runoffs: according to Ifop, in triangulaires which saw the commune switch from left to right, the FN vote fell by 4.8% on average whereas in communes which switched from right to left, the FN vote in the triangulaire rose by 0.4%. Individual cases confirm this: in cities which switched to the right, such as Aubagne, Marmande, Maubeuge and Soissons, the FN vote fell significantly in the second round.

There are, therefore, clear limits to the FN’s growth. It is clearly on the upswing, it has a much larger electoral potential than in the past and the climate is favourable to the FN. But the FN is not going to win a presidential election anytime soon.

Finally, as many have pointed out, the FN’s ‘landslide’ netted 12 communes – out of 36,681. Of course, the FN ‘only’ ran 585 or so lists. It won 4.76% in the first round, but taking only those places which had a FN list, it won about 16.5% on average. Secondly, it is extremely tough for the FN – moreso than any other major party – to win elections – it remains repulsive to a majority of voters who say that they would never vote for the FN; and it has no alliances with other parties, meaning that it isolated. In complete isolation in the French electoral system, parties have trouble winning elections outside their strongholds – this was the case for the PCF in 1958.

The FG has argued that, with 22 cities with over 30,000 people, it is a far more relevant and powerful party than the FN despite the media’s heavy focus and interest with the FN. There is a dose of truth to that comment. As far as institutional control, political representation in law-making or deliberative assemblies and influence over policy is concerned, the FG is indeed more powerful than the FN. Despite major loses this year, the PCF retains significant strength in municipal government and it has far more municipal councillors than the FN/far-right does. However, as far as real electoral support is concerned, the FN is more powerful than the FG.

Le Monde‘s excellent new fact-checking blog has a post detailing the performance of 618 lists marked as FG, PCF or PG by the interior ministry (this excludes dissident lists, lists including FG members led by other parties and FG-led lists like those of some PCF incumbents supported by the PS in the first round). They obtained an average of 10.7% where they ran- although PCF lists won 25% on average, while FG and PG lists won 9% and 6% on average. In 214 towns where both FG and FN lists were in direct competition, the FN placed ahead in 177 cases.

The Interior Ministry has also published nationwide results (list vote) here and here. Handling that data is very tricky, because of the ambiguous nature of the labels assigned to each list, the unequal presence of each ‘label’ across the territory and the arbitrary and silly way in which these labels are crafted and assigned (often with partisan spin/political communication aims) by the interior ministry. They make it impossible to accurately track an individual party’s performance, because said party will often have had different strategies from place to place – first round alliances with others here, autonomous list here, another type of alliance there and no list in some places. Nevertheless, if we ignored the individual labels and group them in broader categories, an imperfect but somewhat instructive image can be drawn. The first round offers the most accurate image, because all communes voted – in the second round, only a small number of communes actually voted. In the first round, the left (PS, DVG, union of the left, Greens) won 35.1% against 43.1% for the right (UMP, DVD, union of the right). The far-left and FG won 3.7%, the centre (MoDem, UDI, union of the centre) won 3.3% and the far-right/FN won 4.9%. The other 10% went to divers (miscellaneous), a horrendous label which designates the non-partisan/independent lists which often dominate the smaller communes now voting under the list system (which used to vote under the majority system until the 2013 reforms).

Distribution of seats in municipal councils by bloc, communes over 1,000 ppl (own work, data collated from MoI)

Distribution of seats in municipal councils by bloc, communes over 1,000 ppl (own work, data collated from MoI)

Overall, in terms of councillors, the right won 46% of the seats (48% including the UDI and union of the centre lists, excluding the MoDem) against 33% for the left, with 16% for ‘miscellaneous’ lists, 3% for the centre, 1% for the far-left/FG and less than 1% for the far-right. That is 99,151 seats for the right throughout all communes with over 1,000 inhabitants against 70,126 for the left, 34,703 for others, 7,014 for the centre, 2,905 for the far-left/FG and 1,646 for the far-right/FN. The ‘miscellaneous’ seats disproportionately come from smaller communes: 80% were elected in communes with less than 3,500 people, the old cutoff between majority and list voting prior to 2013. Nevertheless, likely due to changes in definitions of labels by the interior ministry since 2008, in communes with over 3,500 people, then number of miscellaneous councillors has increased by 4,920 (from 1,270 to 6,190).

Within both left and right, most seats were won by DVD and DVG list – a broad label used for major party dissidents but also independent lists with a general ideological orientation (there are also reports of some lists labelled as DVD/DVG etc against their wishes) – DVD lists won 76,344 seats and DVG lists won 44,260 seats. Again, most of the DVD and DVG lists came from smaller communes – 66% of DVG and 62% of DVD councillors from communes with a population inferior to 3,500. In larger cities, the largest lists on the left and right are the union lists, referring to composite lists supported by the major parties of both sides (PS, PRG, Greens and PCF for the left; UMP, UDI for the right).

1,646 seats for the far-right – 1,544 of which are from the FN – may not seem particularly impressive, in that it’s only 0.7% of all seats. But it is impressive if you consider that the FN only ran in a minority of communes and if you compare 2014 to 2008. In communes with over 3,500 people in 2008, the FN’s lowest ebb, the party (and additional far-right lists) won only 71 seats. In 2014, in communes with over 3,500 people, the FN and the far-right won 1,582 seats – a gain of 1,511 seats (which isn’t much if you consider the right gained 7,035 seats and the left lost 9,436 seats; but still impressive once you keep in mind the FN’s limited presence and the electoral system which grants only very limited representation to losing parties).

Aftermath: Valls Government

After the left’s defeat in the first round, the political buzz in France was that a cabinet shuffle – including, most likely, a change of Prime Ministers – would take place after the second round. Originally, the government had likely thought that it could delay a shuffle until after the European elections in May, which will be bloodier for the PS. But the PS and the left’s poorer than expected performance on March 23 forced Hollande to anticipate the cabinet shuffle.

On March 31, the day after the second round, Hollande addressed the nation in a televised statement in which he said that he had ‘understood’ the message which voters had sent him. A few hours before his speech, it was announced and confirmed that Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault had resigned and that Hollande had nominated Manuel Valls, the Minister of the Interior, to replace him. Hollande confirmed in his televised message that he had asked Valls to lead a gouvernement de combat (combative government). In his speech, Hollande recognized the ‘difficult choices’ he had made, reiterated his government’s commitment to job creation (through private businesses: expressly saying that companies create jobs), his ‘pact of responsibility’ (lower payroll taxes for businesses in exchange for jobs created) and pressing forward with spending cuts. He mentioned a new ‘pact of solidarity’, which he says is aimed at education, social security and purchasing power but which also seems to be the latest way of disguising spending cuts.

Manuel Valls is a 51-year old Spanish (Catalan)-born rising star in the PS, widely seen as belonging to the party’s right. He entered party politics at a very young age, first as a supporter of Prime Minister Michel Rocard (the leader of a reformist and modernist social democratic wing, at odds with Rocard’s sworn enemy, President François Mitterrand) and later, in the 1990s, as a supporter of Lionel Jospin. In 2001, he was elected mayor of the low-income suburban banlieue town of Évry in the Essonne, and won the corresponding constituency in 2002. Within the party, Valls gained a reputation as a maverick iconoclast who challenged the party orthodoxy from a Blairite/Third Way angle. In 2009, he proposed changing the party’s name to modernize its ideological orientation. As mayor of a banlieue with criminality problems and fears of ‘ghettoisation’ (social segregation), Valls has also had a strong reputation as a tough-on-crime and ‘security’-oriented politician. In 2009, he controversially lamented the lack of social diversity in Évry by regretting the lack of whites.

Valls has clear presidential ambitions and despite his youth, low profile and iconoclastic positions in the PS, he ran in the 2011 open primaries. He strongly criticized the other candidates for not telling the truth and being honest about their policies, criticized them as demagogues and presented himself as a straight-talker who wasn’t afraid to challenge dogma. In early 2011, he caused a ruckus by calling to ‘unlock’ the 35-hour workweek (brought in by labour minister Martine Aubry during the Jospin government, considered sacrosanct by most of the PS) and increasing working hours by 2-3 hours. He otherwise took fairly fiscally orthodox policies on spending and budget, proposed an increase in the VAT to create jobs and had positions similar to those taken up by Hollande’s responsibility pact in 2014. Valls won 5.7% in the primaries, a weak result but he achieved his goal – gain standing and prominence in the PS, impose himself as a key figure in the PS.

Valls became interior minister in the Ayrault government and quickly became one of the government’s most popular cabinet ministers – maintaining approval ratings in the 50-60% range, including solid numbers with right-wing sympathizers. Valls’ ministry continued to deport undocumented migrants, dismantle Roma encampments, preached a hardline policy against crime and violence (extremist, criminal or otherwise – he intervened to ban an event by anti-Semitic ‘comedian’ Dieudonné and dissolved right-wing extremist movements); at times, it’s hard to spot obvious differences between Valls and his right-wing predecessors, whom the PS had criticized. Before becoming cabinet minister, Valls had come out in favour of immigration quotas.

In September 2013, Valls said that, with few exceptions, it was ‘impossible’ to integrate the Roma population into French society (because of ‘different lifestyles’) and that the only solution was to dismantle the camps and return occupants to their country of origin. A few months prior, Valls had said that the Roma were intended to stay in Romania or return there. Valls’ comments sparked outrage on the left, including within the government and from the Greens. In October 2013, Leonarda Dibrani, a 15-year old undocumented immigrant from Kosovo attending a French school, was arrested during a school field trip and deported to Kosovo. Valls’ behaviour as responsible minister once again raised debate and criticism on the left. Hollande was forced to intervene, and he haplessly proposed a compromise: while supporting the decision, he proposed that Leonarda be allowed to return, alone, to complete her studies (she refused). On the left, the decision was criticized (even the leader of the PS, Harlem Désir, signaled his disapproval) on humanitarian grounds. The right attacked Hollande’s “indecision”, denounced a terrible blow to the authority of the State and Marine Le Pen called on him to resign for humiliating France. The UMP proposed abolishing jus soli, Valls talked of reforming asylum policy.

Valls’ nomination can be interpreted in different ways. Firstly, it may mark a clear shift in government style. Ayrault was a close ally of Hollande, more akin to a collaborator than a head of government, and was widely seen as sorely lacking leadership and the government as lacking coherence and solidarity. Valls is more of a rival to Hollande (although not publicly) and he is unlikely to settle down as a collaborator; he likely intends to be more offensive and assertive both within cabinet and in public opinion. He has already laid out six principles: clarity, collegiality, efficiency, legal soundness, coordinated communication and better relations with Parliament (denouncing legislative inflation).

Another interpretation, more Machiavellian, is that the Prime Ministerial position will act a major check (probably temporary, given his relatively young age) on his presidential ambitions. It is no secret that the job of Prime Minister is traditionally a thankless one, especially when times are bad. No sitting Prime Minister under the Fifth Republic has ever been elected President (Chirac lost in 1988, Balladur lost in 1995 and Jospin lost in 2002; Pierre Messmer’s potential candidacy didn’t come to fruition in 1974) and former Prime Ministers have generally had it though too (Chaban-Delmas was defeated in 1974, Barre was defeated in 1988). Prior to 2002/2007, the Prime Minister, especially in times of cohabitation, was on the frontline of politics and received the blame for unpopular policy, government mishaps and the general climate. Since 2002, in the absence of cohabitation and the trend towards a more assertive presidency under Sarkozy and Hollande, the Prime Minister hasn’t been on the frontlines as much but nevertheless still became relatively/very unpopular (Raffarin and Villepin under Chirac both become very unpopular, largely for their own mistakes and unpopular policies; Fillon was more effaced and had a better image than Sarkozy and maintained higher ratings, though still fell in popularity; Ayrault was very effaced but his popularity collapse along that of Hollande). The Machiavellian could be that Hollande pulled a François Mitterrand and named a key political rival to Matignon to kill him off – like Mitterrand had done with Rocard, although Rocard was still popular when he was fired in 1991 and Mitterrand needed to go all-out to finish him off in the 1994 European elections. But Hollande, like Chirac, doesn’t seem to think in such Machiavellian terms. Indeed, there are reports that Hollande tried every possible option to avoid having to nominate Valls – he proposed the office to defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, an ally of the President.

Ideologically, Valls’ nomination may be seen as a shift to the right by the government. Indeed, many on the left remain suspicious of Valls and the government’s opponents on the left (led by Mélenchon’s PG) have been very critical of Valls’ nomination – Mélenchon said that Hollande didn’t understand the message of the election and confirmed his alliance with the Medef (the employers’ association). EELV had already been rather critical of Valls – Cécile Duflot, Ayrault’s housing minister and former EELV leader, had strongly criticized Valls’ comments on the Roma – and after his nomination, the two EELV ministers (Duflot and Pascal Canfin) announced that they would not join Valls’ cabinet. There was some discussion about other Green ministers, and Valls met with EELV and proposed the creation of large environment ministry, 3 portfolios and a dose of proportional representation (promised by Hollande in 2012, mysteriously forgotten…). EELV’s executive voted against participation in the Valls government on April 1, preferring ‘critical support without participation’. The right, perhaps a bit worried in private, publicly acted unimpressed with Valls’ nomination, pointing out his record as interior minister and generally noting that his nomination did not signal a shift in policy. Copé called for a break with the ‘socialist model’.

A cabinet of 16 members, with 8 men and 8 women, was announced on April 2. What retained attention across the world was Ségolène Royal, the PS’ 2007 presidential candidate and François Hollande’s former girlfriend (and mother of their four children), who returned to government as Minister of the Environment (an office she had held from 1992 to 1993 under Pierre Bérégovoy) and ranking second behind Laurent Fabius, confirmed as foreign minister, in the official protocol. Royal was defeated by a PS dissident candidate in the 2012 legislative elections, seeing her dream of becoming president of the National Assembly shut down. Since then, she has lobbied publicly and privately to regain national political prominence, never missing a media appearance or a chance to comment on her ex-boyfriend’s performance. After Hollande broke up with his girlfriend Valérie Trierweiler, who had tweeted her support for Royal’s PS rival (whilst the PS, hence Hollande, were supporting Royal) in the 2012 legislative election, there were several reports that Hollande met with Royal more often.

The new cabinet also saw the promotion of a number of cabinet ministers. Benoît Hamon, a young member of the PS’ left-wing, who was only junior minister for the social economy and consumption in the Ayrault government, was promoted to Minister of National Education, Higher Education and Research – replacing Vincent Peillon, who had implemented a controversial reform of the school-week (increasing it from 4 days to 4.5 days) and confronted some teachers in 2013 over a reform of their status. Arnaud Montebourg, who had placed third in the 2011 PS primaries with 17.2% on a left-wing platform preaching ‘deglobalization’ and had served as industry minister (officially ‘Minister for Productive Recovery’) under Ayrault, became Minister of the Economy. Montebourg did not impress much as industry minister, besides various stunts (‘Made in France’), embarrassing fumbles (proposing the nationalization of ArcelorMittal’s steel mill in Florange before being shot down by Ayrault) and his usual flamboyant behaviour. He has remained critical of austerity while in cabinet (but the PS continues to be rhetorically anti-austerity but implementing austerity policies at the same time), although he supported the Gallois report in 2012, which foreshadowed Hollande’s responsibility pact by calling to lower costs on employers (payroll taxes, social security payments) by raising some taxes (VAT) and cutting spending. Montebourg and Hamon, although both rhetorically on the left of the PS, found common ground with Valls in being the leading opponents of Ayrault in the old government. Montebourg famously confronted Ayrault (in private, but revealed by a book) by telling him that he ran France like the municipal council of Nantes and that he was “pissing off the entire earth” (tu fais chier la terre entière) with the Notre-Dame-des-Landes airport.

Montebourg will share office with Michel Sapin, an ally of Hollande and outgoing labour minister (who presided over worsening unemployment), who becomes Minister of Finance. The old economy and finance portfolio, held by Pierre Moscovici, who is removed from cabinet with the promise of being European Commissioner, is therefore split – like in Germany – between economy and finance. Sapin will be in charge of fiscal policy and the budget. Montebourg retains his industry portfolio, the ‘digital economy’, crafts and small businesses, the social economy and consumption. He’ll notably oversee the ‘responsibility pact’. Montebourg’s ministry is currently fighting with Fabius’ ministry for international trade, which was a separate formal cabinet position in the old government. Sapin and Montebourg promise concertation and a collegial decisions, but many are worried over the high likelihood of dissonance and clashes, especially because Montebourg is a hothead who loves himself very dearly.

Christiane Taubira was retained as Minister of Justice, despite public disagreements with Valls on her judicial reform (considered as lax and weak by Valls and the right) and a kerfuffle over the Sarkozy wiretaps right before the municipal elections. Jean-Yves Le Drian, close to Hollande, kept his defense portfolio where he has been quite popular. Following a disagreement between Hollande and Valls on the interior ministry – with Hollande favouring his friend, François Rebsamen (the mayor of Dijon and the president of the PS group in the Senate) and Valls favouring Jean-Jacques Urvoas (a Finistère deputy known for his focus on security issues) – the portfolio was given to Bernard Cazeneuve, an ally of Hollande who was the junior minister for the budget in the old government. Rebsamen instead joined government as labour minister. Marisol Touraine, the health minister, was returned as Minister of Social Affairs, but people have pointed out that the word ‘health’ no longer appears in her (or any other) title!

Aurélie Filippetti kept her job as Minister of Culture and Communication, where she did a relatively good job. Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the young (36) women’s rights minister saw her job upgraded to the convoluted and messy ‘Minister of Women’s Right, the City, Youth and Sports’, although she relinquished her government spokesperson position to Stéphane Le Foll, a loyal hollandiste who kept his job as agriculture minister. Marylise Lebranchu was retained as Minister of Decentralization, State Reform and the Civil Service. Victorin Lurel, the overseas minister from Guadeloupe, was replaced by Georges Pau-Langevin (born in Guadeloupe but a metropolitan politician), who previously held the chair-warming job of junior minister for educational success. Sylvia Pinel, the Minister for Crafts, Commerce and Tourism in the old government replaced Duflot as Minister of Housing and Territorial Equality, despite a very unimpressive record as crafts/artisans minister – it’s almost certainly because Pinel is from the PRG, which needed a spot (Taubira is also affiliated with the PRG).

On April 9, 14 secretaries of state (who only sit on the council of ministers when their portfolio is being discussed) were named. Notably, Harlem Désir, the first secretary of the PS since 2012, whose leadership was criticized and faced some demands for his resignation following the municipal defeat, was named Secretary of State for European Affairs. Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, who was the other candidate in line for the party leadership at the 2012 Toulouse Congress, will likely replace him as PS leader.

There have been a lot of comments – mostly negative or underwhelmed – about the government, concerned about the high potential for continued dissonance, incoherence, turf wars and unilateralism from the hotheads (Royal, Montebourg).

Results: Main cities

Paris

Arr. PS-EELV-PCF-PRG^ UMP-UDI-MD DVD PG
2 58.24 (2) 41.76
3 60.44 (2) 39.55 (1)
4 50.26 (2) 49.73
5 48.7 (1) 51.29 (3)
7 20.33 55.46 (4) 24.3
8 19.35 56.44 (3) 24.2
9 49.63 (1) 50.36 (3)
10 66.04 (6) 33.95 (1)
11 64.37 (9) 35.62 (2)
12 53.04 (8) 46.95 (2)
13 62.42 (11) 37.57 (2)
14 53.08 (8) 46.91 (2)
15 36.62 (3) 63.37 (15)
18 62.42 (12) 37.57 (3)
19 64.45 (12) 35.54 (2)
20 55.07 (11) 31.26 (2) 13.66 (1)
Paris 53.33 (91) 44.06 (71) 1.26 1.35 (1)

In one of the rare successes for the left on March 30, they successfully held Paris, allowing the PS’ Anne Hidalgo to be elected as the first woman mayor of Paris and to succeed her mentor, retiring PS mayor Bertrand Delanoë (2001-2014). Overall, the left has 92 seats (one for the PG, which won one seat running independently in the 20th arrdt) against 71 for the right, a relatively minor change from 2008 when the left won 98 seats to the right/MoDem’s 65 seats. The left is advantaged not only by the city’s shift to the left in the past decades, but also by the US Electoral College-like electoral system which gives the left a clear advantage in a close contest such as this one because the left’s strongholds (especially the 11th, 13th, 18th, 19th and 20th arrdt) are far more populous (and hence elect more seats to the council) than the right’s strongholds (6th, 7th, 8th, 16th).

The outcome of the election hinged on two arrondissements, both must-wins for the right: the 12th and 14th arrondissements, two historically right-leaning sectors which were held by the right until the PS’ victory in 2001 and have swung to the left in national elections, with Hollande winning 58.9% and 60.3% in those two arrondissements in 2012. UMP mayoral candidate Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet (NKM) was the UMP’s top candidate in the 14th arrondissement, while the young sitting municipal councillor Valérie Montandon was the UMP’s top candidate in the 12th. The 12th is, like Paris, predominantly middle-class with a mix of young, highly-educated professionals (leaning left) and an older, more established bourgeoisie on the right; although there’s also a significant number of residents in low-rent housing (HLM). The 14th is rather similar, although with a slightly larger share of the population lives in HLM. In the first round, the PS had already placed ahead of the UMP in both arrondissements, and the added support of EELV lists (10.1% and 8.8% in those two arrondissements respectively) gave the left a clear advantage over the left, although in the 14th, NKM’s list merged with a dissident list led by local candidate Marie-Claire Carrère-Gée (5.7%, backed by Charles Beigbeder’s Paris libéré coalition of right-wing dissidents).

It was therefore not a huge surprise when the PS held both arrondissements with a much reduced but comfortable majority – and nearly identical ones in both (53.04% and 53.08% for the PS-EELV lists respectively). With the loss of those two critical arrondissements, the right’s fate was definitely sealed. This link shows results by precincts for the second round. In the 14th, the UMP won a number of precincts in the north of the arrondissement, relatively wealthier and more bourgeois.

The UMP did regain one arrondissement from the left – the 9th (with 50.4%) – and came within 55 votes of gaining another, the 4th arrondissement, from the PS. But victory in either (or both) arrondissement was insufficient – against the 12th and 14th which elect 1o councillors, the 9th returns only 4 and the even smaller 4th (in downtown Paris) has only 2 councillors now. In the 4th, the UMP won well over 60% of the vote on the two precincts covering L’Île de la Cité and L’Île Saint-Louis, the two natural islands in the Seine which attract only a select few because of the exorbitant housing prices. In the 9th, another ‘border’ arrondissement between the leftist east and rightist west, there is a clear divide between the east and west within the arrondissement. In the bourgeois western neighborhoods of the 9th, bordering the bourgeois hotbed of the 8th, the UMP list did very well – peaking at nearly 70% in one precinct; in the east, demographically similar to the relatively poorer and ‘bobo’ areas of the 10th, the left won.

In the 7th and 8th, two of Paris’ wealthiest arrondissements and conservative strongholds of the bourgeoisie for over a hundred years, the UMP won easily but their main opposition came from right-wing dissidents. In the 7th, incumbent UMP mayor Rachida Dati, who has been criticized for absenteeism and not giving much to her office, had faced no less than four DVD lists in the first round. Only one remained standing, that led by former maire adjoint Christian Le Roux, who won 17.8% in the first round and increased his support to 24.3% in the runoff. Across the Seine, in the 8th, the UMP won 56.4%, but Charles Beigbeder’s Paris libéré list (which merged with another dissident list which had won 5.2% in the first round) placed second with 24.2%. In both cases, the left, extremely weak in both these right-wing strongholds, placed third with about 20%.

In the 20th arrondissement, the city’s most left-wing arrondissement, the left was divided. The 20th was the only arrondissement where, after the first round, the PG list (led locally by the PG’s mayoral candidate Danielle Simonnet) could maintain itself. With the PS seemingly uninterested by an alliance with the PG, there was no agreement reached and Simonnet’s list maintained itself (like in the 7th and 8th for the right, the 20th is so left-wing that there was no risk whatsoever that a divided left in the second round could lose to a united right). Simonnet won 13.7%, up from 10.4% in the first round – enough for her to win a single seat for herself in the city council (the PG list needed 12.5% of the vote to qualify for a seat on council).

With the addition of the four arrondissements held by the UMP in the first round (1, 6, 16, 17), Anne Hidalgo’s PS-EELV-PCF-PRG majority finds itself with 91 seats against 71 for the UMP-UDI-MoDem and 1 for the PG. Within the left, the PS-PCF has 75 seats, down from 87 for the PS-PCF-PRG in 2008, while EELV increases its caucus from 11 seats to 16. On the right, the UMP has 55 seats – up 3 – while the UDI-MoDem has 16 – up 5.

The overall result in the 16 out of 20 arrondissements which had a second round was 53.3% for Hidalgo against 44.1% for NKM. But those numbers are meaningless; the four arrondissements elected in the first round all went heavily for the right. This article from Slate asks if the left won the popular vote across the city. CSA, a pollster, estimated that the overall vote in the ‘decisive round’ (so the first round for arrondissements 1, 6, 16 and 17) was 48.8% for Hidalgo against 46.2% for NKM, with the remainder for the non-UMP/PS lists in the second round and ‘small’ lists (EELV, DVD, PG) in the first round in the four arrondissements. Calculating an hypothetical second round in the four arrondissements, based on the right’s gains from the first to second round in the 16 other arrondissements, the left would likely have won between 49.7% and 50.2% city-wide.

The right lost because it remained unable to expand its support into the decisive swing arrondissements. Its support remains too heavily concentrated in its western strongholds, which contribute relatively few seats whereas the left’s eastern strongholds contribute enough seat to give the left a clear edge over the right in a close contest such as this one. The right effectively needs far more than 50% of the city-wide vote to win. The right nevertheless made substantial gains, in the popular vote, from 2008, a landslide reelection for Delanoë and the Parisian right’s lowest ebb. Still, it fell about 3 points short of victory in the decisive 12th and 14th arrondissements – it did perform far better than Sarkozy had in May 2012, but likely ran into a structural wall at this point: the left is now too strong in these arrondissements.

NKM, despite the hot mess of dissident candidates left, right and centre and several gaffes and faux-pas during the campaign, ran a generally decent campaign and strengthened the right in Paris, which has been divided and electorally weakened in the last few years. Her own political career is hardly over: she remains deputy for the Essonne, but more importantly, she may be the favourite for the presidency of the Grand Paris, a metropolitan structure to be created in 2016 uniting Paris and the three bordering departments of the petite couronne. In the future Grand Paris, the left’s worst nightmare came true: having suffered major loses in all three suburban departments, especially in the Seine-Saint-Denis and Hauts-de-Seine, the right would hold 190 out of 337 seats against 145 for the left, according to Cadre de Ville.

Marseille

Sector UMP-UDI-MoDem-PRG* PS-EELV-FG FN
1 44.89 (9) 40.50 (2) 14.61
2 47.7 (6) 32.64 (1) 19.66 (1)
3 47.75 (8) 33.89 (2) 18.86 (1)
5 51.45 (12) 22.2 (1) 26.35 (2)
6 46.69 (10) 23.36 (1) 29.95 (2)
7 32.15 (2) 32.52 (3) 35.54 (11)
8 23.83 (1) 45.54 (9) 30.63 (2)
Marseille 42.39 (61) 31.09 (20) 26.51 (20)

After the shocking results of the first round in Marseille, which saw Patrick Mennucci’s PS-EELV list place a very distant third with just a bit under 21%, against 37.6% for UMP mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin and 23.2% for FN lists led by Stéphane Ravier, it became clear that the left’s high hopes of victory in Marseille were dead. The local repeat of ‘April 21 2002′ came to symbolize the PS’ rout, in a city which the PS – backed up by polling up until the very end – had high hopes of victory no less. To make matters worse for the PS, Gaudin sealed a controversial alliance with an ally of the controversial and highly corrupt PS president of the general council, Jean-Noël Guérini, who had been working against Mennucci (a one-time part of Guérini’s system turned into a very vocal opponent) since the local PS open primaries in 2013. In the 2nd sector, a left-wing stronghold which happens to be Guérini’s home turf, a guériniste (PRG) list led by the incumbent PRG (ex-PS) mayor of the sector, Lisette Narducci, placed second ahead of the PS list with 23.8% against 17.5%. Gaudin announced the merger of Narducci’s list with the local UMP list, led by UMP general councillor Solange Biaggi; the PS was outraged at the alliance and tried a last-minute remobilization of its electorate by denouncing the ‘Gaudin-Guérini system’.

It amounted to nothing. Gaudin was easily reelected (for a fourth and likely final term in office, given his age), winning a large majority on the city council – with a total of 61 out of 101 seats, a gain of 10 seats from 2008, when Gaudin had been reelected with only 51 seats against 49 for the PS lists (then led by Guérini) and 1 for the FN. The FN and left both won 20 seats – respectively the best and worst performances for those parties in Marseille’s history.

The city as a whole saw significantly stronger turnout than in the first round – increasing from 53.5% to 57.3% across the seven sectors which voted in the runoff. It was up 4.4% in the 1st, up 4% in the 2nd, up 2.4% in the 3rd, up 2.8% in the 5th and 6th, up 7.6% in the 7th and up 6.1% in the 8th. Turnout in the first round had been particularly low in areas where Hollande had done best in April/May 2012, indicating that a very large portion of the left’s potential base stayed home. In the second round, increased turnout across the board does not seem to have advantaged one party over another. The FN, despite lacking reserves, increased its raw vote from the first round in every sector and its share of the PV in all but one sector (the 1st); the PS generally won more raw votes the combined first round totals of the PS-EELV and FG (the FG’s lists, which won 7.1%, merged with the PS-EELV lists) and sometimes even more than the combined totals of the PS-EELV, FG and Pape Diouf’s centre-left civic lists (Diouf’s lists, anti-establishment but largely drawn from the centre-left in terms of candidates and voters, won 5.6% in the first round with a peak at 8% for Diouf in the 7th; Diouf refused any merger with Mennucci); the right also increased its raw vote in all but one sector (the 6th, where a DVD/dissident list by the incumbent mayor, Robert Assante, won 13.4% in the first round and merged with the UMP list of Roland Blum and Valérie Boyer).

In the 1st sector, which was a key sector gained by the PS’ Patrick Mennucci in 2008 from the UMP, Mennucci was defeated by UMP deputy Dominique Tian in the second-closest race in the city. Tian won 44.9% against 40.5% for Mennucci. The 1st sector is a key swing area of Marseille, bridging the left-wing stronghold of the 1st arrondissement (a poor and multiethnic inner-city area, with 72% for Hollande in May 2012) and the right-leaning 7th arrondissement (which includes solidly conservative affluent seaside neighborhoods). The 2nd sector, which includes Marseille’s two poorest arrondissement, is usually a left-wing stronghold (67.9% for Hollande, his best result in the city in May 2012) but this year, it was won by the Gaudin-Guérini alliance. In the first round, the UMP list in the sector had placed first with 24.2% and Narducci’s PRG/Guérini list in a close second with 23.8%. Despite the unusual combination, transfers appeared to be fairly good, and the UMP-PRG list won 47.7% against 32.6% for the PS list, led by Eugène Caselli, the outgoing president of the urban community (Marseille Métropole Provence, MPM). The FN’s support increased from 16.5% to 19.7%.

The 3rd sector was supposed to be the one swing race which would determine the election – with a left-wing victory (back when we assumed that the left would hold all its sectors from 2008!) allowing it to win the mayor’s chair. After the first round, it became obvious that the left stood no chance and that the election in the 3rd was already decided in favour the UMP incumbent, Bruno Gilles. The UMP won 47.8% against 33.4% for the PS list, led by Marie-Arlette Carlotti, who was junior minister for disabled persons in the Ayrault cabinet. Carlotti was able to do little more than win the support of first round FG voters.

The UMP held the 5th and 6th sectors easily, with the FN placing ahead of the left in both. In the 5th, UMP incumbent Guy Teissier was reelected with 51.5% against 26.4% for the FN, which gained an additional 1,000 or so votes from the first round. The left won 22.2%, its worst result in the city. In the 6th, the UMP list was victorious, with 46.7%, although it failed to match the combined first round raw vote or PV of the UMP list and Assante’s DVD list. The FN gained an extra 2,247 votes, placing second with 30%.

The most important race was the 7th sector, which covers northeastern Marseille’s 13th and 14th arrondissements. Like most of the places where the FN tends to do well in Marseille, it is a relatively ‘settled’ (low mobility) lower middle-class area which is rather low-income, has low levels of education and CSP- employment (workers, employees); in the case of the 7th sector specifically, the FN does very well in residential suburban neighborhoods – banlieues pavillonnaires (residential suburbs with individual houses) and not as well in the cités. In the first round, the FN list by Stéphane Ravier, the FN’s mayoral candidate and local leader, placed first with 32.9%, the FN’s best result in Marseille. The incumbent PS mayor of the sector since 2001, Garo Hovsepian, an ally of Samia Ghali and local corrupt ex-PS deputy Sylvie Andrieux, placed third with 21.7%. The left refused to withdraw to ‘block the FN’, arguing that it had the best chance to defeat the FN because of the likely support of those who had backed Diouf (8.1%) and the FG (6.4%) in the first round. While Hovsepian finished second in the runoff, with 32.5%, the FN won the sector – the first time the FN wins a sector in Marseille – with 35.3%. Ravier’s raw vote increased by 3,114 from the first round, a gain of 2.4%. As mayor of the sector, Ravier has relatively little powers – more or less, it boils down to managing a few public spaces and parks in the borders of the sector and other irrelevant responsibilities. But the victory is a major symbolic victory for the FN; it also likely gives the FN in Marseille a great opportunity to build up their networks.

The 8th sector, a low-income and working-class area in the heart of Marseille’s quartiers nord, was the only sector retained by the left. Incumbent PS mayor Samia Ghali, who has a strong electoral machine in the sector, won reelection with 45.5% against 30.6% for the FN and 23.8% for the right. The FN gained a bit less than 1,500 votes between the two rounds. The end result of the PS’ rout in Marseille is that the only survivor of the bloody episode is Samia Ghali, the only prominent PS leader who wasn’t defeated (Mennucci, Carlotti lost but also Caselli and Christophe Masse) and who remains in a relatively solid position. To seal a great election for Guérini, it also happens that Ghali is far more supportive of Guérini than either Mennucci or Carlotti are. For example, while Mennucci and Carlotti’s reaction to defeat was to demand Guérini’s exclusion from the PS at long last and the dissolution of the PS structures in the city to allow for reconstruction; Ghali has made very little public comments on Guérini (downplaying his influence and role) and expressing skepticism at Mennucci/Carlotti’s calls to reconstruct the PS from the ground up.

With a landslide victory in Marseille proper, the UMP has also gained a solid majority in both the current council of the urban community (MPM) and the future council of the broader Marseille-Aix metropolis which will be created by decree in 2016. In 2008, the right had a paper-tight majority in the MPM on paper, but due to dissidents in their ranks, the PS candidate Eugène Caselli was elected. The MPM’s presidency should go to Guy Teissier (UMP), while the right is estimated to hold a huge 96-39 advantage in the future Marseille-Aix metropolis, with 14 seats for the FN.

Lyon

Arr. PS-EELV-PCF-PRG* UMP-UDI-MD FN FG
1 31.34 (1) 24.12 44.52 (3)
2 36.71 (1) 52.98 (4) 10.29
3 53.81 (10) 35.04 (2) 11.13
4 47.03 (4) 37.46 (1) 15.50
5 48.46 (6) 42.61 (2) 8.91
7 58.08 (8) 29.36 (1) 12.55
8 53.30 (9) 28.57 (2) 18.12 (1)
9 59.58 (8) 26.85 (1) 13.55
Lyon 50.64 (48) 34.24 (21) 10.34 (1) 4.78 (3)

Unsurprisingly, in Lyon, incumbent PS mayor Gérard Collomb was easily reelected to a third term in office, with only a slightly reduced majority. Across the city, Collomb’s lists won 48 seats – down from 54 in 2008, when Collomb had won a massive landslide by the first round – against 21 for the right, which gains only 3 seats. The FN returns to the municipal council for the first time since 1995, when it had won 2 seats.

Collomb’s lists were victorious in six out of nine sectors. In the first round, the right held the 6th arrondissement, the city’s most bourgeois arrondissement. In the second round, the right easily held the 2nd, an affluent downtown arrondissement on the Presqu’île. However, the right failed to regain either the 3rd or 5th arrondissements, lost in 2008 and 2001 respectively. In the 5th, the UMP’s mayoral candidate Michel Havard, a former deputy from the party’s moderate wing, narrowly lost to the PS’ Thomas Rudigoz, 42.6% to 48.5%. On the west of the city, the 5th includes the Vieux-Lyon (the city’s historic core), the Fourvière hill and church but also residential suburbs – both middle-class and lower-income HLMs. It voted for Sarkozy in 2012, with a distinctive split between the suburban outskirts (for Sarkozy, minus the lower-income HLMs for Hollande) and the urban area (for Hollande).  There was little contest in the 3rd arrondissement, which the UMP lost to the PS in 2008. The PS list won 53.8% against 35% for the right, with the FN taking 11.1%.

Collomb’s lists won the 7th, 8th and 9th arrondissements – held by the left since 2001 (7) and 1995 (8, 9) respectively – with huge margins. All three arrondissements include lower-income quartiers populaires (La Guillotière, Mermoz, États-Unis, La Duchère) and the 8th and 9th, on the outskirts of the city, both include poorer peripheral neighborhoods. The 9th arrondissement is Collomb’s electoral base, and the list which he personally led won 59.6% of the vote, the highest result for his lists in the city. The FN also won its best results in these arrondissements, peaking at 18% for the list led by FN mayoral candidate Christophe Boudot in the 8th. However, in all arrondissements where the FN qualified for the runoff, they won a (marginally) lower share of the vote than in the first round and lost actual votes in all but the 7th and 8th arrondissements.

A key race was in the 1st arrondissement, a left-wing stronghold centered on the Pentes de la Croix-Rousse (les Pentes), a formerly poor working-class area (famous particularly for its silk workers) which has since been extensively gentrified and is now a bustling cosmopolitan, young, professional (many journalists, artists, academics, young cadres etc) and highly-educated ‘bobo’ area. The incumbent ex-PS mayor Nathalie Perrin-Gilbert, who left the PS in 2013, ran for reelection in alliance with the FG and placed first in the first round with 33.5% against 25.9% for the PS. The FG and PS found no agreement in Lyon, so the FG lists which qualified in the 1st but also the 4th (the 4th includes the similarly bobo Croix Rousse, but the right is stronger because it includes some wealthier and older areas in the west) maintained themselves in the runoff. In the 1st, the FG list won easily, with 44.5% against 31.3% for the PS-EELV. The PS list, led by EELV’s first round candidate (11.3%) failed to win all those who had voted for the PS and EELV in the first round, falling over 500 votes short of the combined PS-EELV vote in the first round while the FG list gained over 1,000 votes from the first round. In the 4th, the FG list gained over 600 votes to win 15.5%.

Although Collomb retains his seat for a third term, it is unclear whether he will retain the presidency of the Grand Lyon, an urban community which will be of even greater political importance come January 2015, when it will be transformed into a metropolis with the full powers of a department on its territory. According to Cadre de Ville, after substantial loses for the left in suburban communes of the Grand Lyon, the left and right find themselves with 77 seats apiece in the new metro council; with the remaining 8 seats split between independents (6) and the FN (2). Michel Havard and the local right claimed victory in the Grand Lyon, while Collomb has said that he will make sure that the left retains the control of the Grand Lyon. Collomb, a centrist and moderate Socialist, has good relations with some independent centre-right mayors in the Grand Lyon and could probably manage to narrowly hold the presidency with the backing of some suburban independent mayors.

Toulouse

Jean-Luc Moudenc (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 52.06% – 53 seats
Pierre Cohen (PS-EELV-PCF-PRG-MRC)* 47.93% – 16 seats

In a rematch of the 2008 election, Jean-Luc Moudenc, a UMP deputy and former mayor who lost reelection in 2008 to the PS’ Pierre Cohen, took his revenge on March 30 with a comfortable victory over the incumbent. Moudenc won 52.1% against 47.9% for Cohen, who had already trailed the UMP by nearly 6 points in the first round although his list did merge with Antoine Maurice’s EELV list, which had won 7% on March 23. Toulouse generally leans to the left – Hollande won 62.5% in the city in May 2012, although the right retains substantial support in some affluent bourgeois neighborhoods in the downtown core. However, the right governed the city between 1971 and 2008.

With gains in suburban communities of Toulouse, the right has also gained control of the urban community (soon to be metropolis) of Toulouse; with 72 seats against 59 for the left.

Nice

Christian Estrosi (UMP-UDI)* 48.61% – 52 seats
Marie-Christine Arnautu (FN) 21.1% – 7 seats
Patrick Allemand (PS-EELV-MRC) 17.84% – 6 seats
Olivier Bettati (DVD) 12.42% – 4 seats

No surprise whatsoever in Nice, with the comfortable reelection for a second term of the UMP incumbent, Christian Estrosi. Nice, which gave over 60% to Sarkozy in May 2012, is a right-wing stronghold, and Estrosi, the leading political boss of the UMP in Nice and the Alpes-Maritimes, is a popular mayor with a focus on criminality and security issues which is a good fit for the city’s predominantly older, middle-class electorate concerned about such issues. Estrosi faced a quadrangulaire with the FN, the left and a UMP dissident (Olivier Bettati, a UMP general councillor and former adjoint au maire, whose relations with Estrosi have always been quite cool). That means that Estrosi didn’t gain much votes from the first round, when he won 45%. The FN increased its support from 15.6% to 21%, although it still remained below Marine Le Pen’s 23% in 2012, and gained over 5,700 votes (likely from Philippe Vardon, a local extremist and neo-fascist candidate, who won 4.4% and former FN-turned-RPR/UMP mayor Jacques Peyrat, who won 3.7%). Patrick Allemand (PS) suffered from poor transfers from the FG, which had won 5.4% in the first round. Bettati gained about 2,300 votes.

The right holds its huge majority in the council of the metropolis of Nice (Métropole Nice Côte-d’Azur) with 87 seats against 28 independents, 8 for the FN and a puny 6 for the left.

Nantes

Johanna Rolland (PS-EELV-PCF-PRG-UDB)^ 56.21% – 51 seats
Laurence Garnier (UMP-UDI-PCD) 43.78% – 14 seats

The PS had no trouble whatsoever holding Nantes, which was ruled between 1989 and 2012 by Jean-Marc Ayrault. PS candidate Johanna Rolland, a young (34-year old) première adjointe and protege of Ayrault, placed first in the first round with 34.5% and over ten points ahead of the right’s candidate, Laurence Garnier, a UMP municipal councillor who is also 34. The PS merged with the EELV list, which won 14.6%, and transfers from EELV to the PS-EELV list in the second round appear to have been good – despite local tensions between both parties on the issue of the Notre-Dame-des-Landes international airport, which the PS (and Ayrault) strongly supports (except for the PS’ left) and which EELV strongly opposes. Both parties agreed to disagree on the airport. The left won 56.2%, down from Hollande’s 61.5% in May 2012, but nevertheless a strong showing.

The PS also retains control of the urban community of Nantes, with an estimated 66 seats against 31 for the right.

Strasbourg

Roland Ries (PS-EELV)* 46.96% – 48 seats
Fabienne Keller (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 45.02% – 15 seats
Jean-Luc Schaffhauser (FN) 8.00% – 2 seats

The reelection of the one-term mayor of Strasbourg, Roland Ries, was one of the few bits of good news for the PS on an otherwise horrendous night for them. The city was held by the PS between 1989 and 2001 before switching to the right with the election of Fabienne Keller (UDF) in 2001, and switching back to the left with Ries’ landslide victory over Keller in 2008. It was one of the UMP’s main targets, and although the city is often a ‘pink spot’ in otherwise rock-solid conservative Alsace, the UMP was confident that with the national climate, a strong candidate and a candidate who is a moderate centrist they could regain Strasbourg. As predicted, the second round was very tight, with Ries winning reelection with 47%. Although the PS obviously insists that Ries was reelected because of his record, it seems very likely that he owes his victory to the triangulaire with the FN, which had barely qualified with 10.9% in the first round. Although there was clear strategic voting or ‘return to the fold’ by first round FN voters – the FN vote fell by nearly 3% and lost over 1,500 votes – it was not enough for the right. Increased turnout – from 49.7% to 54.7% – does not seem to have clearly benefited any candidate.

Rue89 Strasbourg has a map of the results of the second round by precinct. It shows little differences in the broader patterns from the first round, with the PS dominant in the young, well-educated and white-collar bobo areas downtown, gentrified areas (Gare, Esplanade, Krutenau) and the low-income and ethnically diverse peripheral cités (Neuhof, Meinau, Hautepierrre, Cronenburg Ouest, Koenigshoffen and Elsau); the right polling best in the affluent central neighborhoods of L’Orangerie and Contades and the comfortable middle-class suburban neighborhood of Robertsau (north), while also pulling good numbers in the lower middle-class residential suburban areas in the Neuhof, Meinau and Montagne Verte.

The left narrowly saved its majority in the urban community. The PS lost Schiltigheim, the second largest city in the CU, to the UDI but PS incumbents were reelected in Illkirch-Graffenstaden and Ostwald. According to Cadre de Ville, the left holds about 48 seats to the right’s 38, with 3 independents and 1 FN.

Montpellier

Philippe Saurel (DVG-PS diss) 37.54% – 45 seats
Jean-Pierre Moure (PS-EELV-PRG-MRC)^ 27.39% – 9 seats
Jacques Domergue (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 25.87% – 8 seats
France Jamet (FN) 9.18% – 3 seats

In Montpellier, Philippe Saurel, a PS dissident candidate emerged victorious by over 10 points over Jean-Pierre Moure, the president of the agglomeration community and the official candidate of the PS. Saurel, who is said to be close to Valls, is a dentist and former adjoint to retiring PS mayor Hélène Mandroux, refused to participate in primaries (alleging that they would be rigged) and ran as a dissident candidate against Moure, the influential and powerful president of the CA and mayor of a suburban commune, who had been imposed as the PS’ candidate by the local PS establishment and then-Prime Minister Ayrault. Moure was supported by the still influential supporters of late former mayor (1977-2004) and regional presidential (2004-2010) Georges Frêche; Julie Frêche, his daughter, was second on Moure’s list. Also backed by EELV, which is quite strong in Montpellier, and most of the local business community, Moure was seen as the favourite and placed first on March 23, albeit with a mediocre result of 25.3% against 22.9% for Saurel, who presented himself as the ‘anti-system’ candidate. On March 27, Saurel received the endorsement of outgoing PS mayor Hélène Mandroux, who had supported Moure in the first round. Mandroux took her revenge on the party establishment, the PS in the Hérault and on Matignon who had eliminated her from the race and intervened to block her candidacy for another term.

A poll by Ifop had shown Saurel leading Moure by 1 point, 31 to 30, for the second round; but nobody really saw his 10-point victory coming. Saurel, whose support rose by 13,000 votes from the first round, seems to have benefited from increased turnout – which rose from 52.1% to 56.6%, support from FG voters (7.6% in the first round) and perhaps some strategic voting from the right to defeat the PS. The UMP candidate improved his result from 22.7% to 25.9%, representing a gain of about 4,000 votes; the FN, which is weak in Montpellier (unlike in the rest of the department), saw a major decrease in support from the first round, where it had won 13.8% (it lost about 2,800 votes). The result is a major hit to the PS, which suffers the consequences of a badly handled mayoral succession (forcing the incumbent to retire against her will, imposing a candidate, unable to prevent dissidence).

The left is confirmed to hold a solid majority in the future metropolis of Montpellier, which will be created in January 2015.

Lille

Martine Aubry (PS-EELV-PRG-MRC)* 52.05% – 47 seats
Jean-René Lecerf (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 29.71% – 9 seats
Éric Dillies (FN) 18.22% – 5 seats

Martine Aubry, the PS mayor of Lille, was handily reelected to a third term in office at the helm of France’s 10th largest city and a Socialist stronghold since 1919 (except for the German occupation and an ephemeral right-wing Gaullist mayor from 1947 to 1955). Aubry won 52%, up from 34.9% in the first round, an increase of about 9,700 votes; indicating that she had little trouble winning the support of those who had backed EELV (11.1%) or the FG (6.2%) in the first round. In contrast, with no reserves, the UMP’s support increased only marginally, from 22.7% to 29.7% (+3,959). The FN, which had won an exceptionally strong 17.2% in the first round, further increased its support by about 600 votes to 18.2%. The FN won 28.4% in the associated commune of Lomme, a working-class neighborbood in western Lille.

Lille proper, however, was only a silver lining for the PS in the Nord after a fairly horrendous night. The UMP gained Roubaix and Tourcoing, the second and third largest cities in Lille Métropole with populations over 90,000. Both are poor working-class cities which were once major centres for the textile industry, but which have struggled with deindustrialization and now have very high levels of unemployment and poverty (Roubaix is the poorest major city in France). In Roubaix, the PS mayor Pierre Dubois paid the price of a divided left – in the second round, he won 33.2% against 34.8% for the UMP. André Renard, a PS dissident, won 15% of the vote, up from 10% in the first round (he had merged his list with another dissident list, led by former adjoint Richard Olszewski, which took 8% in the first round). The FN placed third with 17%, down from 19% although significantly higher turnout (44.4%, up from 38.4%) meant that it largely held all its votes from the first round. The city had been governed by the left since 1996, after the unusual episode of André Diligent (a UDF mayor from 1983 to 1993, from a Christian left tradition, which is very powerful and influential in the region). In Tourcoing, the young UMP deputy Gérald Darmanin, elected to the National Assembly in 2012, was elected mayor, defeating PS incumbent Michel-François Delannoy, first elected (by the first round) in 2008. Darmanin took 45.6% against 43.4% for the left, seemingly benefiting from rather pronounced FN strategic voting in his favour (he’s on the right of the party) – the FN’s vote fell from 17.5% to 11%, shedding over 1,480 ballots. The gains of Roubaix and Tourcoing are said to give the right a clear majority in the urban community, with about 95 members against 70 for the left, with 9 independents and 5 frontistes according to Cadre de Ville. However, some uncertainty remains, given some division on the right between the UMP and smaller independent right-wing groups; Aubry, on election night, did not concede the control of the urban community, controlled by the left since its creation in 1967 (despite right-wing assaults in 1983, 1995, 2001 and 2008).

Rennes

Nathalie Appéré (PS-EELV-PG-PCF-UDB-PRG)^ 55.83% – 48 seats
Bruno Chavanat (UDI-UMP-MoDem-PCD-PB) 44.16% – 13 seats

Similarly, there was no surprise from Rennes, a left-wing stronghold which has been governed without interruption by the PS since 1977. Nathalie Appéré, the 38-year old deputy for the 2nd constituency since 2012 and the PS candidate, was elected with a wide majority (55.8%) against the UDI’s Bruno Chavanat, a municipal and regional councillor. However, it is the closest fought runoff battle in Rennes since 1983, when first-term PS mayor Edmond Hervé, who went on to hold the office until 2008, was reelected with only 52.8%. It is also down fairly substantially from Hollande’s incredible two-thirds majority in Rennes two years ago. Rennes Open Data has some fabulous interactive maps, for both rounds, with results by precinct which may be of interest to some.

Given that, by itself, Rennes makes up half the population of the Rennes Métropole urban community, the left has retained a comfortable majority in the CU despite the right picking up Bruz and Cesson-Sévigné, the second and third largest towns in Rennes Métropole. Cadre de Ville estimates that the left holds 75 seats to the right’s 27, with 20 independents.

Reims

Arnaud Robinet (UMP-UDI) 46.19% – 44 seats
Adeline Hazan (PS-PCF-EELV)* 42.75% – 12 seats
Roger Paris (FN) 11.04% – 3 seats

The right regained Reims, a city it held between 1983 and 2008 before losing it to the PS, largely because of deep divisions in the UMP back in 2008 which proved very difficult to plaster over in the second round. Adeline Hazan, the one-term PS mayor victorious in 2008, was defeated by about 3 points by her UMP rival, deputy Arnaud Robinet (who ran in alliance with 2008 candidate and fellow deputy Catherine Vautrin). The PS likely hoped that the triangulaire with the FN, which won 16% on March 23, would be enough to save them. But the FN lost over 2,000 votes from the first round, falling 5% to 11%. Given that the right lacked any reserves from first round candidates, the explanation for its victory (and the gain of 5,100 votes) is increased turnout (51.9% to 55.8%) and support from many first round FN supporters. The result in Reims, but also Saint-Étienne, shows that the left can no longer assume that close triangulaires with a weak FN will necessarily be fatal for the right: in an unfavourable national context for the left and given substantial FN loses from the first round, the right is far from out.

Saint-Étienne

Gaël Perdriau (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 47.7% – 44 seats
Maurice Vincent (PS-PCF-PRG)* 40.5% – 12 seats
Gabriel de Peyrecave (FN) 11.79% – 3 seats

Similar to Reims, Saint-Étienne, governed by the right between 1983 and 2008, had been gained by the PS in 2008, due largely to a triangulaire between the incumbent UMP mayor and MoDem candidate Gilles Artigues. The right successfully united its disparate and divided forces, and its candidate, Gaël Perdriau (UMP) ranked ahead of incumbent PS senator-mayor Maurice Vincent, 36.7% to 31.3%. He won the runoff with a solid 7 point majority, 47.7% to 40.5%. Between both rounds, the right increased its support by over 7,700 votes – in the form of first round non-voters (turnout increased by 4.6%) but also, as in Reims, strategic voting from first round FN voters. On March 23, the FN, usually strong in Saint-Étienne, an old industrial city which is struggling with deindustrialization since the 1970s, placed a solid third with over 18%. A week later, the FN won a mediocre 11.8%, losing over 2,500 votes.

The right also regained Saint-Chamond, an industrial town in the Gier valley held by the PS since 1989. The victorious DVD candidate won 50.4% against 39.7% for the PS.

Grenoble

Éric Piolle (EELV-PG-Alternatifs) 40.02% – 42 seats
Jérôme Safar (PS-PCF-PRG-MRC-Cap21)^ 27.45% – 8 seats
Matthieu Chamussy (UMP-UDI-AEI) 23.99% – 7 seats
Mireille d’Ornano (FN) 8.52% – 2 seats

Grenoble was one of the more symbolic and highly contentious races. It began in the first round when, against all predictions, the EELV-PG candidate, EELV regional councillor Éric Piolle, placed ahead of Jérôme Safar, the heir-apparent of retiring PS mayor Michel Dstot (in office since 1995), 29.4% to 25.3%. Against the unwritten rule of the French left which holds that a left-wing candidate placed second or worst withdraws in favour of the strongest left-wing candidate, the PS candidate Jérôme Safar refused to withdraw, citing policy disagreements (related to infrastructure and transportation), although the national PS disendorsed him after pressures from EELV. In the second round, Piolle won very easily, with 40% against 27.5% for Safar. The high interest from the local and national media in the contest led to significantly higher turnout in the second round – 59%, against 52.4% in the first round. Piolle increased his vote count by some 6,900; while Safar gained just over 2,500 votes, the UMP won a bit over 2,700 extra votes and the FN lost over 1,200 votes. Some right-wing supporters likely supported Piolle to defeat the PS, given the right’s poor showing in the second round (24% is barely up on the UMP’s 20.9% in the first round). With only 7 seats for the UMP list, this result also means that former RPR mayor Alain Carignon (1983-1995), whose corruption-marred tenure continues to haunt the weak right, will not be in the new municipal council – he was placed ninth on the UMP list.

The left retains a very wide majority on the council of the future Métropole de Grenoble, with an estimated 72 seats against only 27 for the right. However, the EELV victory in Grenoble and the defeat (by a PS dissident) of the incumbent PS president of the urban community in the suburban commune of Eybens renders the construction of a new left-wing majority in the metro council a daunting task.

Other major races

Angers

Christophe Béchu (UMP) 54.36% – 43 seats
Frédéric Béatse (PS-PCF-EELV)* 45.64% – 12 seats

The right’s victory in Angers closes 37 years of left-wing rule. Christophe Béchu, the UMP president of the general council and senator, was successful on his second attempt to win the city of Angers (he lost to the PS incumbent in an extremely close race in 2008). He benefited from the national climate, but also from the divisions of the left – the incumbent PS mayor, Frédéric Béatse, took office midterm in 2012 and faced a dissident candidacy from Jean-Luc Rotureau, a PS councillor. Rotureau placed third with 16.2% in the first round, before opting to withdraw his list without endorsing anybody. Béatse nevertheless likely won the lion’s share of the dissident’s support, ending up with 1,100 more votes than the combined first round total of the PS and dissident; but beyond raw numbers, it is likely that transfers were still far from perfect and may have dragged the left down.

Aix-en-Provence

Maryse Joissains-Masini (UMP)* 52.61% – 42 seats
Édouard Baldo (PS) 36.49% – 10 seats
Catherine Rouvier (FN) 10.89% – 3 seats

UMP mayor Maryse Joissains-Masini was easily reelected to a third term in office, with 52.6% against 36.5% for her PS opponent. She weathered a series of controversies, a judicial investigation against her in late 2013 and a divided majority. She increased her vote count by 7,292 votes from the first round, likely taking the lion’s share of Bruno Genanza (UDI)’s 11.3% in the first round (about 5,80o v0tes). Genanza is a former ally of the mayor, who ran a list with UMP dissidents, before withdrawing from the second round without endorsing any candidate. On the left, the PS candidate had trouble winning over the votes of all non-qualified left-wing candidates from the first round: François-Xavier de Peretti, the son of a former UDF mayor and a former MoDem member/candidate himself, ran a list with PS dissidents with Guérini’s support, taking 8.1% in the first round but did not merge with the PS list. EELV won 4.9% and the FG won 4.8% as well. Together, these left-wing candidacies accounted for 37.4% in the first round.

Brest

François Cuillandre (PS-PCF-EELV)* 52.71% – 42 seats
Bernadette Malgorn (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 47.28% – 13 seats

A surprisingly narrow reelection for the incumbent PS mayor of Brest, François Cuillandre, who was widely expected to win by a wide margin. Brest is a largely working-class city, with a socialist tradition dating back to the early twentieth century. In May 2012, Hollande won 63% of the vote in the city, winning especially strong results in the post-war cités and grands ensembles, home to a lower-income populations. The PS has governed the city since 1989, and Cuillandre won reelection six years ago with 60.7% in the second round, after having won 45.8% in the first round. This year, the UMP was divided and they chose not to choose between their two candidates – Laurent Prunier, the 2008 candidate and the leader of the UMP in the Finistère, and Bernadette Malgorn, a former regional prefect who has been regional councillor since 2010. Malgorn won 27.7% in the first round, a distant second behind Cuillandre (42.5%) but far ahead of Prunier (10%) and the FN (9.8%). Malgorn, by the looks of it, successfully won the bulk of Prunier and the FN’s vote, which amounted to roughly 47% in the first round. The left retains a large 46-24 majority in Brest Métropole Océane.

Limoges

Émile-Roger Lombertie (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 45.07% – 40 seats
Alain Rodet (PS-FG-PRG-ADS-EELV)* 43.81% – 12 seats
Vincent Gérard (FN) 11.1% – 3 seats

Limoges was perhaps the most surprising result of the night. The city has been a hotbed of socialism for over a hundred years, and Limoges has a very symbolic place in French socialist mythology. Historically an industrial city (porcelain, enamel, textile), Limoges was the birthplace of the CGT trade union in 1895 and was marked by a significant and violent workers’ strike in 1905. During World War II, Limoges, like most of the Limousin, was a hotbed of resistance to the Nazi occupation, and Georges Guingouin, the leader of the communist maquis, served as mayor of the city between 1945 and 1947. The city has been governed by the left since 1912, specifically by Socialists between 1912 and 1941 and since 1947. The current mayor, Alain Rodet, took office in 1990, succeeding Louis Longequeue, who had been mayor since 1956. 1989 was the closest the right ever came to challenging the PS’ hegemony in Limoges – Longequeue was forced into a second round with the right and the Greens, and only won by 1.2% (40.9% to 39.7%). Since then, however, Rodet has been reelected by the first round; in 2008, he was reelected with 56.5% in the first round against 20.8% for the right. In May 2012, Hollande won 64.9% of the vote in the second round. This year, in the first round, Rodet won a very mediocre 30.1% in the first round, against 23.8% for the right’s candidate, a little-known psychiatrist named Émile-Roger Lombertie. The surprise came from the FN, which won nearly 17% of the vote in a city where the far-right has usually been weak (and absent from municipal elections, except for 1995 and 2001) and which only gave 14.8% to Marine Le Pen two years ago. The FG won 14.2%, and a UDI list took 12.3%. The FG list merged with Rodet’s PS list, while the UDI list merged with the UMP list.

In the second round, shocking almost everybody, the UMP narrowly won, with 45.1% against 43.8% for the left. Lombertie increased his first round vote by over 10,500 ballots – certainly drawing most of the UDI’s 5,451 votes but also benefiting from strategic voting from some FN supporters – the FN lost over 2,300 votes, dropping from 17% to 11% of the vote; some first round protest voters opting to vote strategically or ‘traditionally’ (for their preferred party) in the second round. Turnout also increased by about 4%. Besides the national climate, Rodet suffered from voter weariness and the lack of renewal in the outgoing majority. He is a long-time politician, having held elected office since 1977 (deputy since 1981). Small policy mishaps and small communication mistakes further accumulated to create trouble for the governing majority.

France3 Limousin has graphics showing the results of the first and second round by neighborhood. The right performed best in downtown Limoges, traditionally the most bourgeois (and hence right-leaning) area, with a peak at 68% of the vote in the Émailleurs neighborhood, Limoges’ traditional bourgeois neighborhood. The left still performed best in the quartiers populaires on the outskirts of the city – although it faced tough competition from the FN, especially in the first round: the FN won nearly 32% in La Bastide, a low-income neighborhood. The left’s support in these peripheral lower-income areas was nevertheless down very significantly from 2012: Hollande had won over 65%, often over 70%, in most of these neighborhoods. This year, the left peaked at just over 50% in the best of cases.

Tours

Serge Babary (UMP-UDI) 49.75% – 42 seats
Jean Germain (PS-EELV-PCF-MoDem)* 41.65% – 11 seats
Gilles Godefroy (FN) 8.56% – 2 seats

After 19 years in power, the incumbent PS senator-mayor of Tours, Jean Germain, lost reelection to UMP businessman Serge Babary. Germain, who had himself defeated another longtime mayor back in 1995 (Jean Royer, who ruled from 1959 to 1995), had been a generally popular mayor until now, but the right had criticized him for a lack of ambitious projects and a lack of transparency. Germain was likely weakened by the national climate but also by weariness after three terms in office and his indictment for embezzlement in a corruption case in 2013. Germain trailed the right by about 9 points in the first round, but he could count on the backing of EELV’s 11.3% in the first round. Judging from the result, if EELV’s votes transferred reasonably well, the 8.4% who had voted for a PG-NPA list transferred rather messily. Germain fell about 1,500 votes short of the first round total of PS+EELV+PG-NPA. On the right, Serge Babary also benefited from higher turnout (+3.5%) the FN’s losses in a triangulaire (-4.3%, lost over 1,500 votes).

Amiens

Brigitte Fouré (UDI-UMP-MoDem) 50.38% – 42 seats 
Thierry Bonté (PS-EELV-PCF-PRG-MRC)^ 33.8% – 9 seats
Yves Dupille (FN) 15.8% – 4 seats

After the first round, in which UDI candidate Brigitte Fouré (a general councillor and former mayor) led the PS candidate by 20 points, it made little doubt that the right would easily regain Amiens, lost to the left in 2008 (after 19 years in right-wing hands). PS candidate Thierry Bonté, a vice-president of the agglomeration community, managed to do little more than win the bulk of the FG’s first round support (8.9%), but seemingly failed to win much of the far-left and DVG votes from the first round; that brought him to only 33.8%, over 16 points behind Fouré who increased her own support from 44.8% to 50.4%. The FN gained some 242 votes from the first round, increasing their vote a few decimals to 15.8%.

Metz

Dominique Gros (PS-PRG-EELV)* 43.22% – 40 seats
Marie-Jo Zimmermann (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 41.14% – 11 seats
Françoise Grolet (FN) 15.63% – 4 seats

Metz was a very rare piece of good news for the left on March 30. The left had gained the city, for the first time in at least 100 years, in 2008 thanks to a divided right (4 in the first round, 2 in the runoff). In the first round, PS mayor Dominique Gros, who had culture minister Aurélie Filippetti in second on his list, placed first with 35.7% against 34.2% for a reunited right, led by UMP deputy Marie-Jo Zimmermann. The FN, led by regional councillor Françoise Grolet, performed very well, winning 21.3% – a result substantially better than Marine Le Pen’s 17.3% and past FN results in municipal elections. In the second round, the FN lost 5.7% and over 1,600 votes, largely to the benefit of the UMP (+3,299 votes) but perhaps some to the left as well. Dominique Gros also benefited from good transfers from the FG (3.6%) and the NPA-FASE (3.3%).

Perpignan

Jean-Marc Pujol (UMP-UDI)* 55.11% – 43 seats
Louis Aliot (FN) 44.88% – 12 seats

Perpignan was the largest city in which the FN stood a fighting chance, and it had some optimism after its well-implanted local candidate, Louis Aliot (a party vice-president and the boyfriend of FN leader Marine Le Pen), placed first with 34.2% against 30.7% for UMP mayor Jean-Marc Pujol. To prevent a FN victory, the PS candidate, deputy Jacques Cresta, who won only 11.9% in the first round, withdrew. With the left withdrawing, the UMP’s victory made little doubt. On paper, the FN had no obvious reserves from any of the other first round candidates (besides the PS, a centrist candidate won 9.6% and EELV won 5.7%), but it nevertheless increased its support by nearly 11 points and about 4,800 votes. The FN’s additional support came from non-voters – turnout increased from 57% to 62.8% – but it is also clear that, in Perpignan and across the country, the FN now has the ability to substantially increase its support in two-way runoffs against the traditional left or right.

Rouen

Yvon Robert (PS-EELV-PCF)* 46.8% – 41 seats
Jean-François Bures (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 41.48% – 11 seats
Guillaume Pennelle (FN) 11.71% – 3 seats

A rare incidence in recent local politics in Rouen – a sitting mayor won reelection (it hadn’t happened since 1989) and a rare victory for the left on March 30. Incumbent PS mayor Yvon Robert, who had previously held the office from 1995 to 2001 before regaining it in 2012 after Valérie Fourneyron, the PS mayor elected in 2008, was named to Ayrault’s government (she still placed second on his list this year), was reelected with 46.8% against 41.5% for the right. Transfers from EELV, which took 11.1% in the first round before merging with the PS’ lists, were quite good and transfers from the PG appeared to be reasonably good as well. On the right, the UDI list, which won 13.6% before merging with the UMP, transferred well. The FN’s vote fell by about 400 votes and 1.7%; it was insufficient to allow the right to make up the distance which separated it from the left. As in Metz, the PS owes a lot to a triangulaire with the FN.

Mulhouse

Jean Rottner (UMP-UDI)* 45.77% – 41 seats
Pierre Freyburger (PS-EELV-PRG-MoDem) 36.67% – 10 seats
Martine Binder (FN) 17.55% – 4 seats

In a better year for the left, the PS would certainly have stood a very good chance of gaining Mulhouse, which it held from 1989 to 2007 (the PS mayor, Jean-Marie Bockel, defected to the right after Sarkozy’s victory, joining the Fillon cabinet) and which it came extremely close to winning in 2008. However, in the current climate, UMP mayor Jean Rottner was easily reelected with a 9 point majority over PS candidate Pierre Freyburger. The PS had woefully insufficient reserves, 3.1% from the FG and 1.5% from LO, which it likely won over in the second round, but it had nothing else. The UMP increased its vote by 1,765, likely drawing a lot of strategic or ‘traditional’ votes back from the FN, whose support fell from a very strong 21.9% on March 23 to 17.6% in the runoff (a loss of over 700 votes).

Caen

Joël Bruneau (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 57.03% – 43 seats
Philippe Duron (PS-EELV-PCF-PRG-MRC)* 42.96% – 12 seats

After decades of coming up short, the left gained Caen in 2008 – ending the right’s hold on the city, which had endured since 1945; but six years later, the UMP easily regained Caen, defeating first-term PS mayor Philippe Duron. After the first round, Duron already trailed UMP regional councillor Joël Bruneau, 26.2% to 30.8%, and the right could count on much heftier reserves – UDI candidate Sonia de la Provôté, a municipal and general councillor who was one of the UDI’s highest hopes in its ‘primaries’ with the UMP, won 18%, much less than the UDI might have hoped for but nevertheless a strong reserve for the right (the UDI list merged without a hitch into the UMP list). The PS needed to look to EELV, which performed well with 10.2% in the first round, for potential reserves. The right drew the UDI’s support, but also most of the FN’s vote (7.3%), giving it 57% of the vote. On the left, PS mayor Philippe Duron likely drew EELV and PG-NPA (5.8%) votes. But it was very clear from the first round that the left stood little chance of victory.

Saint-Denis (93)

Didier Paillard (FG-EELV-MRC)* 50.49% – 42 seats
Mathieu Hanotin (PS) 49.50% – 13 seats

A working-class and heavily industrialized town in Paris’ suburban Red Belt, Saint-Denis has been a PCF stronghold since 1922 and, more broadly, a left-wing stronghold (77.8% for Hollande in May 2012, Sarkozy only won 12% in the first round). It remains a low-income suburb, with a very high immigrant population, high unemployment and a very young population. The PCF’s all-around dominance in Saint-Denis and the whole department has been challenged by the PS and, in most national elections, the PCF is no longer the largest party in Saint-Denis. In 2012, in a major blow, the PS gained Saint-Denis’ constituency from the FG. This year, that new PS deputy, Mathieu Hanotin, sought to topple what is the largest city in France governed by the PCF and one of the longest-standing PCF bastions in the country. In the first round, PCF mayor Didier Paillard placed first with 40.2% against 34.3% for Hanotin. The UMP-UDI candidate, who won only 8.8% on March 23, did not qualify but the right’s minimal support could be expected to prefer the PS over the PCF (as it has in similar situations elsewhere); there was, however, a PS dissident on the left, Georges Sali, who won 7.7% and formally merged his list with the FG. Predicted to be close, the second round lived up to expectations. Paillard was reelected with a tiny majority of 181 votes.

Next door, in Aubervilliers, in one of the rare good results for the PCF/FG on March 30, former PCF mayor Pascal Beaudet, defeated by the PS in 2008, won his rematch with PS mayor Jacques Salvator, winning 45.7% to 38.9% for the PS, with the right taking 15.4%.

Nancy

Laurent Hénart (UDI-UMP-MoDem)^ 52.91% – 42 seats
Mathieu Klein (PS-PCF-EELV-PRG) 47.08% – 13 seats

Nancy, governed by the right since 1945, was one of the great disappointments for the left. Prior to the first round, with longtime UDI mayor André Rossinot stepping down in favour of his dauphin, former deputy Laurent Hénart, the PS felt that it could gain Nancy from the right (with a strong candidate, Mathieu Klein, a VP of the general council). Polls gave it even more reason to be optimistic. But, in the first round, Hénart placed first with 40.5%, with a substantial edge over the PS (35.8%) – which had no reserves except the PG (5.4%). The left, given first round results, did rather well in the second round – it won about 1,700 votes more than the first round PS+PG total, despite little change in turnout. The right seemingly had some trouble winning the bulk of the FN vote (6.9%), falling about 1,300 votes short of the right+DVD+FN total in the first round. Laurent Hénart’s centrist and moderate profile on the right may have had a negative effect on transfers from the far-right. Nevertheless, a win is a win, and this is a victory which comes in a city in which the PS had such high hopes.

Montreuil

Patrice Bessac (FG-EELV-PS)  37.06% – 38 seats
Jean-Pierre Brard (CAP) 35.39% – 10 seats
Manon Laporte (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 18.14% – 5 seats
Mouna Viprey (DVG) 9.39% – 2 seats

Montreuil, an historically working-class Red Belt suburb which has seen major gentrification in the Bas-Montreuil in the past decades, was one of the most closely-watched left-wing civil wars. In the first round, former mayor Jean-Pierre Brard (mayor from 1984 to 2008, a former Communist) led with a mediocre result of 25.5%, with FG candidate Patrice Bessac (PCF), a regional councillor, placing second with 18.8%. Ibrahim Dufriche-Soilihi (EELV), the candidate backed by retiring EELV mayor Dominique Voynet, elected over Brard in 2008 but whose term was a trainwreck marred by the defection of PS dissidents who had backed her over Brard in 2008, placed fourth with 15.3%. One of those PS dissidents who later broke with Voynet was Mouna Viprey (DVG), who won 11% in the first round. The most humiliating result was that of Razzy Hammadi, the local PS deputy who won Montreuil’s constituency in 2012 by defeating Brard. Backed by the PS boss of the department, Claude Bartolone, Hammadi won only 9.8% – the worst result of the five main leftist candidates. Brard’s age and his autocratic tendencies make him a polarizing figure, and he faced a united front of the FG, EELV and PS (Hammadi did not take a spot on the merged list, preferring to focus on his job as deputy) in the second round. This united front won the second round, but with a small majority of only 494 votes. The FG-EELV-PS alliance fell far short of its potential (43.9%, about 12.5k votes; it won 10,990 votes and 37.1%); a lot of their potential supporters likely backed Brard, a well-known figure in Montreuil who retains a very strong base in the low-income and far less gentrified cités of the Haut-Montreuil.

Avignon

Cécile Helle (PS-FG-EELV) 47.47% – 40 seats
Philippe Lottiaux (FN) 35.02% – 9 seats
Bernard Chaussegros (UMP)^ 17.5% – 4 seats

Avignon attracted the interest of the national and foreign media after the first round, when FN candidate Philippe Lottiaux placed first with 29.6% of the vote, although only 27 votes ahead of Cécile Helle, a PS regional councillor. Judging from the media’s concern trolling and silly overreactions, one would certainly have thought that the FN was the favourite in the second round. Olivier Py, the director of the Avignon festival, a popular theater festival held in the city’s historic heart during the summer months, warned after the first round that he would ask for the festival to be moved if the FN won. However, there was little chance of a FN victory. Helle turned to André Castelli, a FG general councillor whose list won 12.5% in the first round and merged with the PS-EELV list. The far-right had no obvious reserves. Cécile Helle was easily elected, with 47.5% against 35% for the FN. The city had been held since 1995 by RPR/UMP mayor Marie-Josée Roig, who retired this year after corruption and nepotism allegations. Her preferred successor, a little-known businessman who moved back from Paris recently, won only 20.9% in the first round. In the second round, the UMP lost about 250 votes, falling to only 17.5%. While in the traditional left-right-FN triangulaires, the trend is for the FN vote to decline somewhat due to strategic voting largely in the right’s favour, in Avignon there must have been some strategic voting from the right (a UDI candidate also won 4.8%) for the FN, to block the left. Lottiaux won an additional 3,200 votes – increasing his support to 35%. Turnout increased from 57.2% to 65.4%, as was the case in other cities which saw the FN perform very well in the first round. Increased turnout did not only come in the form of anti-FN mobilization from non-voters, it must also have come from the mobilization of potential far-right supporters who hadn’t voted on March 23.

Pau

François Bayrou (MoDem-UMP-UDI) 62.95%
David Habib (PS)^ 37.04%

Three-time presidential candidate and the leader of the MoDem, François Bayrou, was elected mayor of Pau in a landslide – six years after coming very close but ultimately losing to the PS. Although he had personally endorsed Hollande over Sarkozy in 2012, Bayrou successfully lobbied for the support of the UMP (notably through the support of Bayrou’s friend and ally, Alain Juppé, the UMP mayor of Bordeaux), which begrudgingly endorsed him (in return for the MoDem’s support for the UMP in many other cities, notably Paris). Given the national climate and the prospect of ending 43 years of left-wing control in Pau, the right largely united behind Bayrou, who won a very strong 41.9% in the first round against only 25.8% for David Habib, a PS deputy and suburban mayor, the left’s candidate to succeed retiring PS mayor Martine Lignières-Cassou (the fact that her preferred candidate wasn’t selected and that Habib sidelined many of her allies was further help for Bayrou). Bayrou also ran a very locally-oriented campaign, deliberately sidestepping national political issues and national media crews. Yves Urieta, a former PS-turned-centre right mayor (from 2006 t0 2008), won 13.2% running as a DVD independent, but did not maintain his list in the runoff. Bayrou predictably won, winning the vast majority of Urieta’s support and a reasonable number of votes from the FN (6.7%). With this victory and the recent political retirement of UDI leader Jean-Louis Borloo for health reasons, Bayrou is suddenly on a much stronger political footing than he was after the humiliating loss of his own seat in the National Assembly in June 2012.

La Rochelle

Jean-François Fountaine (DVG-PS diss-PRG) 43.68% -35 seats 
Anne-Laure Jaumouillié (PS)^ 40.1% – 10 seats
Dominique Morvant (UMP-UDI) 16.21% – 4 seats

Jean-François Fountaine, a vice-president of the agglomeration community, was elected mayor of La Rochelle as a PS dissident. The candidacy and subsequent defeat of Ségolène Royal by a local PS dissident in the 2012 legislative elections has left major cracks in the PS machine of retiring mayor Maxime Bono (in office since 1999), who had endorsed Royal. The candidate backed by the mayor, Anne-Laure Jaumouillié, a 34-year old teacher who was a municipal councillor since 2008, won the PS primaries by 34 votes over Jean-François Fountaine, a veteran 62-year old politician who is vice-president of the CA La Rochelle. Fountaine, who was a regional councillor between 1992 and 2010, and had a very public spat with Ségolène in 2008 and strongly supported Falorni in 2012 (which led to his falling out with Bono). Alleging irregularities, he refused to withdraw and ran as a dissident candidate. In the first round, the two PS candidates ended up with similar results: 30.2% for Jaumouillié against 28.8% for Fountaine. Like in 2012, the left-wing civil war also drew down the UMP vote – the UMP’s candidate won 24.5% in 2008 (Bono was reelected by the first round) and Sarkozy won 24.2% in April 2012. A small but significant number of right-wingers likely voted for Fountaine by the first round. In the second round, some of the right’s first round voters defected to vote strategically for Fountaine against the PS; the UMP vote fell by 646 votes to 16.2%. A good number of FN voters may also have backed Fountaine, who picked up over 4,100 votes between both rounds. Jaumouillié only won an additional 2,800 votes.

Béziers

Robert Ménard (FN-DLR-MPF-RPF) 46.98% – 37 seats
Élie Aboud (UMP)^ 34.62% – 8 seats
Jean-Michel Du Plaa (PS-EELV) 18.38% – 4 seats

Béziers was the largest town to be won by the far-right, with the election of Robert Ménard, the former boss of Reporters Without Borders who ran as an ‘independent’ with the support of the FN and three smaller right-wing parties (Nicolas Dupont-Aignan’s DLR and the moribund MPF and RPF). The surprise came from the first round, where Ménard placed a comfortable first with 44.9% against 30.2% for UMP deputy Élie Aboud, the candidate of retiring three-term mayor Raymond Couderc (UMP); polls had picked up a late swing to Ménard, but they hadn’t foreseen such a decisive lead in the first round. The left’s candidate, Jean-Michel Du Plaa, who won a very distant third place with only 18.7%, did not withdraw, making Ménard’s election something of a mere formality. Without surprises, Ménard was elected mayor with nearly 47% against 34.6% for the UMP. Ménard gained about 1,800 more votes from the first round, partly benefiting from higher turnout (63.3% to 68.5%). The right gained 2,174 votes and the left won only 386 more votes. The left’s argument for staying in was that it could hope to gain from the support of FG voters, whose list had won 6.3% in the first round. However, squeezed and with no chance of victory, some voters on the left either stayed home, spoiled their ballot, voted strategically for the UMP against the far-right or voted Ménard.

Ajaccio

Laurent Marcangeli (UMP-UDI-Bonapartist) 47.10% – 37 seats
Simon Renucci (CSD)* 46.03% – 11 seats
Joseph Filippi (Aiacciu Cità Nova-Nationalist) 6.86% – 1 seat

The two-term centre-left mayor of Ajaccio, Simon Renucci, was defeated by UMP defeated Laurent Marcangeli, who had defeated Renucci two years ago in the legislative elections. Renucci had placed narrowly ahead in the first round, but Marcangeli took advantage of better reserves (the FN, with 8.3%, a DVD with 2.8%). Joseph Filippi, the common candidate of both major nationalist parties in Corsica (Femu a Corsica and Corsica Libera), saw his support decline in the second round – he won 6.9%, down from 10.8%, losing about 730 votes.

Quimper

Ludovic Jolivet (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 56.65% – 39 seats
Bernard Poignant (PS-EELV-PCF)* 43.34% – 10 seats

The right gained Quimper, a pleasant town of some 63,000 people in western Brittany (Finistère) which has leaned to the left in the past presidential elections (63.5% for Hollande) but which is more unstable at the local level – the PS, led by Bernard Poignant, a former mayor (1989-2001) and close ally of President Hollande, gained the city from the right in 2008. Poignant, who may have paid the price of his well-known proximity with the President and perhaps the effects of the bonnets rouges protests in Brittany last year, already trailed Ludovic Jolivet, a former adjoint au maire under UMP mayor Alain Gérard (2001-2008), in the first round – 29.3% to 27.9%. Isabelle le Bal, a MoDem municipal councillor, won 14.9% but merged her list with the right. The mayor’s reserve were smaller – 7.6% for EELV, which merged, 6.1% for a regionalist leftist list and 5.8% for the PG – and also less reliable. With good transfers from the MoDem and probably the FN (8.4%), the right easily regained Quimper with 56.7%.

Villejuif

Franck Le Bohellec (UMP-UDI-DVG-EELV) 48.69% – 34 seats
Claudine Cordillot (FG-PS-MRC)* 43.52% – 10 seats
Alexandre Gaborit (FN) 7.78% – 1 seat

Villejuif is an old working-class Red Belt suburb in the Val-de-Marne, governed by the PCF since 1925. PCF mayor Claudine Cordillot (in office since 1999) has been criticized, even on the left, for her urban densification policies, tax increases, insecurity problems and inefficient public services. In the first round, supported by the PS, her list won only 32.7%, down from over 45% in 2008. A PS dissident list led by former adjoint Philippe Vidal placed fifth with 10.6%, and an EELV list (with former MEP Alain Lipietz in second) won 10.4%. In second place, a UMP list led by Franck Le Bohellec won 17.2%, a UDI list won 15.8% and the FN won 11.2%. The very bad relations between the mayor’s PCF-PS majority and left-wing rivals (EELV had already run independently in 2008) allowed for the creation of an unusual anti-communist alliance with the merger of the UMP, UDI, PS dissident and EELV lists. The national leadership of EELV decried the ‘counter-natural’ alliance of the local EELV with the right, suspended the candidate from the party and allowed the PCF-PS to use EELV’s logo. Such unusual alliances are not totally uncommon in cases where the incumbent is heavily criticized within his own majority, allowing for dissidents and rivals to ally with the other side to topple him/her.

The alliance’s total vote fell short of its theoretical total from the first round (54%), although with increased turnout (+6.4%) it did win more raw votes than the combined first round total of the first round (7,581 vs 7,422). Some of the DVG and EELV’s lists supporters likely voted for the incumbent instead, not recognizing themselves in a right-wing led alliance, but transfers on the whole were still rather good (and good enough to win!). The FN’s support also dipped somewhat, falling from 11.2% to 7.8% (-330 votes). The new majority, given how heterogeneous it is and why it came together, will probably not survive its entire term. The winning list’s 34 seats include 11 UMP, 10 UDI, 7 DVG and 6 EELV; the actual left, with the 13 seats allied with the right and the FG-PS-MRC’s 10 seats, retain a majority.

Fréjus

David Rachline (FN) 45.55% – 33 seats
Philippe Mougin (UMP-UDI) 30.43% – 7 seats
Élie Brun (DVD-UMP diss)* 24.01% – 5 seat

Fréjus, a town on the Mediterranean coast in the Var, was the second largest town conquered by the FN. On the Mediterranean Riviera, tourism is a key industry in Fréjus, but with the exception of one part of the town (Saint-Aygulf), Fréjus – unlike its neighbor Saint-Raphaël, isn’t a resort town and it is significantly poorer than tourist resort towns in the Var (Saint-Raphaël, Sainte-Maxime, Saint-Tropez). Instead, it is a lower middle-class town with a large population of employees and artisans/shopkeepers. Like other southeastern towns where the FN did well this year, Fréjus has problems with desertification and pauperization of the old downtown and concerns with criminality. In 2012, Marine Le Pen won 26% in Fréjus; in the 2002 runoff, her father won 31.9% against Chirac. The city is otherwise a right-wing stronghold, with 67% for Sarkozy in the runoff in 2012. This year, the problem was that the right was badly divided. Incumbent mayor Élie Brun (ex-UMP), who has been mayor since 1997, when he succeeded François Léotard, the UDF mayor between 1977 and 1997, was sentenced in January 2014 to a 20,000 euro and five ineligibility from public office in a conflict of interest case. The UMP refused to endorse him, and instead backed Philippe Mougin, a former adjoint to Brun. In the first round, the FN candidate, David Rachline, a former FN youth leader elected to the municipal council in 2008 (12.5% of the vote) and to the PACA regional council in 2010, won 40.3%. Mougin trailed in a very distant second with 18.85%, with 17.6% for Brun and 15.58% for PS candidate Elsa di Méo. The PS candidate withdrew to block the FN, but the two right-wing candidates failed to reach an agreement. The divisions of the right made it a near-certainty that the FN would emerge victorious, and it did. Rachline’s support increased by 1,348 votes; the UMP gained 2,804 votes and the mayor gained 1,569 votes.

Corbeil-Essonnes

Jean-Pierre Bechter (UMP-UDI)* 56.52% – 34 seats
Bruno Piriou (FG) 43.47% – 9 seats

Corbeil-Essonnes is a low-income, working-class suburban town in the Essonne department which is solidly left-wing at the national level (63% for Hollande) but which has been governed by the right since 1995, after 36 years of Communist rule. The local right is led by UMP senator Serge Dassault, a businessman who remains owner of Le Figaro and leading player in the family enterprise, the aeronautics and weaponry giant Dassault. Dassault was mayor until 2009, when he was declared ineligible for public office in a vote buying case from the 2008 election (when he defeated the PCF 50.7% to 49.3%). His protege, Jean-Pierre Bechter (UMP), won a 2009 by-election and another by-election in 2010, has also been indicted for benefiting from vote buying and electoral corruption organized by Dassault in the last 3 elections. In the first round, Bechter placed first with 45.5%. The left remains very divided: the FG candidate, PCF general councillor Bruno Piriou, narrowly defeated his PS rival, deputy and general councillor Carlos da Silva, 22.3% to 21.1%. Both lists merged, but vote transfers from the PS and smaller left-wing lists (2 DVG, 1 far-left) proved very poor, given that, in the first round, the left held a theoretical majority but only won 43.5% in the second round. Bechter won an additional 1,607 votes – either from left-wing voters who didn’t ‘follow orders’ or first round non-voters (turnout increased from 48.7% to 52.3%)

Bastia

Gilles Simeoni (Inseme per Bastia-DVG-PRG diss-EELV-UMP) 55.4% – 34 seats
Jean Zuccarelli (PRG-PCF)^ 44.59% – 9 seats

A political sea-change in Bastia: the Zuccarelli clan, which has governed the city since 1888, was ousted from office. The root of the dynastic overthrow is a failed dynastic succession: the incumbent mayor of Bastia (since 1989), Émile Zuccarelli (PRG), retired and anointed his rather hapless son Jean as his successor, in the process alienating a former ally who saw himself as Zuccarelli’s dauphin, François Tatti. Tatti ran a dissident list with the backing of local PS politician Emmanuelle de Gentili and EELV. Zuccarelli’s strongest competition came from Gilles Simeoni, a prominent moderate nationalist leader on the island who is the son of nationalist icon Edmond Simeoni. In the first round, Zuccarelli Jr came in first, with 32.5%, but only 29 votes ahead of Simeoni. In a distant third, Tatti won 14.6% and the UMP list won 9.7%. Simeoni, Tatti and the UMP merged lists to create a united anti-Zuccarelli front. Although transfers were far from perfect (Simeoni fell 181 votes short of the first round total of Simeoni+Tatti+UMP), the result was still a very comfortable victory for Simeoni. Bastia becomes the largest city in France to be governed by a regionalist/nationalist.

Forbach

Laurent Kalinowski (PS)* 47.73% – 27 seats
Florian Philippot (FN) 35.17% – 6 seats
Éric Diligent (DVD) 11.87% – 2 seats
Alexandre Cassaro (UMP) 5.22% – 0 seats

In eastern Moselle’s old coal mining basin, another FN leader – vice-president Florian Philippot – sought to establish his own local roots. Forbach, the largest city in the Moselle’s coal basin, is a working-class and economically depressed (14% unemployment, declining population since 1982) town. The right governed the city between 1953 and 2008, and generally held the corresponding canton for most of that time as well. The incumbent PS mayor, Laurent Kalinowski gained the city in 2008 because of a very divided right. In 2012, Kalinowski was elected deputy, narrowly defeated Philippot in a two-way runoff – the UMP deputy was eliminated by the first round. Although local left-wingers are quick to point out that Philippot is a carpetbagger with little local knowledge of the place (Philippot is a well-educated and polished technocrat) and only plays on residents’ fears, he has nonetheless managed to establish a strong base for himself. In the first round, Philippot placed first with 35.7% against 33% for the PS mayor. The right paid the price of its divisions and performed poorly: centre-right independent Éric Diligent won 19%, while official UMP candidate Alexandre Cassaro won a terrible 12.3%. The right-wing candidates found no agreement amongst themselves and did not withdraw to form a ‘republican front’ against the FN. However, given the very real threat of a FN victory, some on the right advocated for strategic voting for the PS – UMP deputy Céleste Lett, the mayor of Sarreguemines, endorsed Kalinowski. In the second round, there was a significant increase in voter mobilization: turnout increased from 56% to 62.5%. The result was a surprisingly comfortable reelection for the PS incumbent, with 47.7% against 35.2% for the FN. Philippot only won an additional 290 votes. The two right-wing candidates saw their support dry up: Diligent lost 450 votes, the UMP guy lost 507 votes and fell to only 5.2% of the vote. Seemingly, the public endorsement of the PS incumbent by a locally prominent UMP personality had a major impact on a lot of right-wing supporters who chose to vote strategically for the PS to defeat the FN.

Other results

An incomplete summary: for results from every place in France, check out Le Point’s interactive map.

In Dijon, the two-term PS mayor François Rebsamen was reelected with 52.8% against 34% for the UMP and 13.1% for the FN. Rebsamen, who was first elected in 2001, will not be serving out his third term given that he was named to the new Valls government.

In the Lyon suburban municipality of Villeurbanne, a PS stronghold, PS incumbent Jean-Paul Bret was reelected with 45.5% against 25% for the UMP, 15.9% for the FN and 13.7% for EELV. The PCF narrowly lost the old Communist stronghold of Vaulx-en-Velin, a working-class Lyon suburb held by the party since 1929. The PS won 41.7% against 39.2% for the FG/PCF incumbent and 19.1% for the UMP.

The PS held Le Mans, with PS incumbent Jean-Claude Boulard winning narrowly with 45.7% against 42.7% for the UMP and 11.5% for the FN. In the neighboring department of the Mayenne, the UDI gained Laval, gained by the PS in 2008. UDI senator François Zocchetto, an ally of the UDI senator/president of the general council Jean Arthuis, was elected with 51.6% against 41.1% for PS mayor Jean-Christophe Boyer, a little-known new incumbent who took the office in 2012 when the PS député-maire Guillaume Garot, an ally of Ségolène Royal, was named to Ayrault’s government.

Jean-Paul Fournier, the UMP mayor of Nîmes, won reelection with no trouble taking 46.8% against 24.4% for the FN, 14.8% for the FG and a horrible 13.9% for the PS.

In Clermont-Ferrand, PS candidate Olivier Bianchi successfully held the open seat in a city governed by the PS since 1945. He won 47.8% against 41.3% for the UMP and 10.9% for the FN. Bianchi’s PS list had merged with a FG/far-left list led by Alain Laffont, which took 11.5% in the first round. The UMP did not find an agreement with Michel Fanget, a former UDF deputy whose MoDem list won 8% in the first round. Another solid PS stronghold, Besançon, in Socialist hands since 1953, saw the reelection of PS mayor Jean-Louis Fousseret with 47.4% against 44.4% for the UMP and 8.2% for the FN. As in Brest, Le Mans and Clermont, there was a trend of PS incumbents or candidates in Socialist strongholds winning reelection but with surprisingly narrow margins against a weak right-wing opposition which we didn’t think much of.

The PS easily held Poitiers, with the reelection of mayor Alain Claeys, with 41.1% against 34.2% for the UMP, 15.1% for EELV and 9.7% for the FN.

In Dunkerque, the incumbent PS mayor Michel Delebarre (in office since 1989) went down to defeat against a DVG dissident list led by Patrice Vergriete, a former adjoint. Vergriete won 55.5% against 26.3% for Delebarre, and the FN won 18.2%. In Calais, incumbent UMP senator-mayor Natacha Bouchart, who gained this old PCF stronghold thanks to the FN’s withdrawal from the runoff in 2008, was reelected without any trouble this year. She won 52.1% against 39.3% for Jacky Hénin, a PCF MEP and the former mayor who was defeated in 2008. The FN won 8.6%. Transfers from the PS list which won 19.7% in the first round to the PCF were bad, while the FN’s support dropped from 12.5%, helping out the incumbent. In Béthune, an industrial town in the Pas-de-Calais’ mining basin (although Béthune, traditionally more bourgeois, was not a mining town itself), the UDI’s Olivier Gacquerre was elected with 33.6% of the votes against 28.4% for the incumbent député-maire Stéphane Saint-André (PRG) and 28.1% for (corrupt) former PS mayor Jacques Mellick (mayor from 1977 to 1996 and 2002 to 2008, defeated in 2008). The city had been governed by the PS/PRG since 1977.

Douai was one of the few significant gains for the left. Located in the mining basin in the Nord, Douai includes closed-down pits and old miners’ neighborhoods, but as it was a major regional centre, it also has a bourgeois aspect. The right held the city since 1983, with Jacques Vernier (RPR/UMP), who retired this year. The city leans to the left, and with a popular incumbent retiring, the PS was able to gain Douai with 45.9% against 35.8% for the right and 18.2% for the FN.

The freshman PCF mayor of Dieppe, Sébastien Jumel, was reelected handily with 50.4% against 35.1% for the UMP and 14.6% for a DVG list, unofficially supported by most local Socialists.

The right gained Charleville-Mézières, an industrial in the Meuse valley, which had been controlled by Socialists since 1944. Boris Ravignon (UMP), a general and municipal councillor and former adviser to Sarkozy, was easily elected with 54.9% against 33.9% for incumbent PS mayor Philippe Pailla, who didn’t have enough time to lay his bases since taking office in 2013 from Claudine Ledoux (PS). The FN won 11.2%, down from 15.9% in the first round. Ravignon had already taken a wide lead in the first round, with 46.7%.

The PS narrowly saved Auxerre, with the reelection of PS mayor Guy Férez against the young UMP deputy Guillaume Larrivé, a young sarkozyste technocrat-turned-politician (in 2012). The PS won 51.1% against 48.9% for Larrivé.

A major blow for the PS came from Bourges, one of the few towns where the left still had reason to be optimistic about a gain from the right after the first round. However, Pascal Blanc (UDI), the preferred candidate of retiring UDI mayor Serge Lepeltier, was elected with 53.6% against 46.4% for the left. In the first round, both left and right had been split between PS and FG (24.4% and 17.6% respectively), UMP and UDI (21.6% and 24.2%); the FG list merged with the PS, the UMP list merged with the UDI. Although a left-wing victory was no mathematical certainty based on the first round results – the right polled a majority of the votes – the city had been one of the left’s few brightspots.

The PS narrowly survived in Cherbourg, winning 51.8%, and Alençon, winning 50.5%

The right gained La Roche-sur-Yon, traditionally a republican/left-wing island in the middle of solidly conservative Vendée, from the PS which had held the city since 1977. Incumbent PS mayor Pierre Regnault, in office since 2004, was defeated by UMP candidate Luc Bouard, 53.9% to 46.1%. The left had been in trouble after the first round, given that the UMP had more ample reserves from a DVD list led by local councillor Raoul Mestre (9.7%) and the FN (8.5%).

The right regained Angoulême, lost to the PS in 2008. UMP candidate Xavier Bonnefont easily defeated freshman PS mayor Philippe Lavaud, 60.1% to 39.9%. In Corrèze, the UMP regained Brive-la-Gaillarde, lost in 2008, with former UMP deputy Frédéric Soulier (2002-2007) winning 58.8% against incumbent PS député-maire Philippe Nauche who took 41.2%. Brive was a Gaullist stronghold between 1966 and 2008, with left-wing Gaullist Jean Charbonnel as mayor between 1966 and 1995.

The PS mayor of Lorient since 1998, Norbert Métairie was easily reelected with 42.7% against 34% for the UMP, 13.8% for the FN and 9.5% for the FG. The PCF lost Hennebont, an old working-class (ironworks) town on the outskirts of Lorient which had been held by the PCF since 1959. A DVG candidate won 47.7% against 26.6% for the FG-PS list. In Saint-Malo (Ille-et-Vilaine), incumbent mayor René Couanau (DVD, ex-UMP) was defeated in his bid for a fifth term, losing to his former adjoint Claude Renoult (DVD), who won 41.3% in the second round against 30.6% for the left and 28.1% for Couanau.

The right gained Chambéry, with the victory of UMP MEP Michel Dantin with 54.7% against 45.3% for incumbent PS député-maire Bernadette Laclais. The city, a predominantly white-collar college town, had been governed by the PS since 1989 and trending to the left in national elections (nearly 57% for Hollande in May 2012).

The right gained Valence in the Drôme. UMP general councillor Nicolas Daragon winning 53.5% against 40.4% for PS mayor Alain Maurice and 6.1% for the FN. The right had held the city between 1995 and 2008 before the left gained it six years ago.

Marc Vuillemot, the PS mayor of La Seyne-sur-Mer, formerly a shipbuilding centre on the outskirts of Toulon, was reelected with 40.1% against 30.4% for the FN and 29.5% for Philippe Vitel, a UMP deputy. The FN won two towns in the Var: the fairly small towns of Le Luc and Cogolin, the first in the interior and the second on the coast (though the population of the town is inland) near Saint-Tropez. In Le Luc, the FN won 42% against 40.9% for the right. In Cogolin, the only town in which the FN won an absolute majority in the second round, the FN won 53.1% against 46.9% for the incumbent DVD mayor. However, the FN was defeated in Brignoles, where it was victorious in a cantonal by-election last year. FN general councillor Laurent Lopez was defeated by UMP deputy Josette Pons, 59.9% to 40.1%. The left, which held city hall, won 27.4% in the first round but chose to withdraw in favour of the UMP to block the FN.

In the Vaucluse, the FN narrowly failed in its bid to take Carpentras from the PS. The incumbent mayor was reelected with 44.5% against 42.1% for Hervé de Lepinau, the suppléant of FN deputy Marion Maréchal-Le Pen. UMP deputy Julien Aubert saw his first round support (16.6%) fall to 13.4%, likely the victim of strategic voting on the right for both the left (against the FN) and FN (against the left). In Cavaillon, UMP député-maire Jean-Claude Bouchet successfully resisted a FN assault led by Thibaut de la Tocnaye, winning easily 50.6% to 36.5%. The left won 12.9%, down from 17.6% on March 23, clearly suffering from strategic voting to block the FN. However, the FN was victorious in Le Pontet, a lower middle-class suburb of Avignon, winning by a hair – 42.6% against 42.5% from the UMP, a DVD list winning 14.8%. And in Camaret-sur-Aigues, a town which neighbors Orange, governed since 1995 by far-right deputy Jacques Bompard, a candidate from Bompard’s party, the Ligue du Sud, was elected with 36.6% of the vote.

In Tarascon (Bouches-du-Rhône), the FN narrowly lost to the right, 47.3% to 52.7%.

FN deputy Gilbert Collard was narrowly defeated in Saint-Gilles (Gard), winning 48.5% against 51.5% for the right. The incumbent PS mayor, who placed third with 23.1% in the first round, withdrew from the race to defeat the FN. However, in Beaucaire, young FN candidate Julien Sanchez was elected mayor with 39.8% against 29% for the DVD incumbent.

After losing it in a 2009 by-election, the right regained Carcassonne from the PS. Former mayor Gérard Larrat (DVD), who was in office between 2005 and 2009 before losing to PS candidate Jean-Claude Perez in 2009, returned to his old seat with 40.4% against 39.2% for the Perez, the incumbent PS député-maire. The FN won 20.3%. Larrat, who was third in the first round with 18.9%, had merged his list with that of Isabella Chesa (UMP), the daughter of a former mayor, whose list took 18.1% in the first round. The right also regained Narbonne, an old Socialist stronghold which switched to the right in 1971 before the PS won it in 2008. Incumbent PS député-maire Jacques Bascou lost reelection to Didier Mouly (DVD).

The UMP mayor of Montauban since 2001, Brigitte Barèges, was reelected without any trouble despite countless controversies (voting a major increase in her salary, comments on gay marriage – asking if polygamy and bestiality would be next, and some allegedly racist comments). She won 51.3% against 37.8% for Roland Garrigues, a former PS député-maire (1994-2001).

The PS held Villeneuve-sur-Lot, with the reelection of Patrick Cassany, who has been mayor since 2012, with 42.9%. The city, historically on the right, had been won by the (in)famous ‘Mr. Swiss Bank Account’ Jérôme Cahuzac (PS) in 2001. Étienne Bousquet-Cassagne (FN), a young FN cadre in the Lot-et-Garonne whose profile received a major boost with the June 2013 legislative by-election in the Lot-et-Garonne’s 3rd constituency (vacated by Cahuzac’s resignation after the tax fraud scandal), in which he won 46.2% in a runoff against the UMP, won 30.4%. Paul Caubet, leading a composite DVG-UMP-DVD alliance uniting three lists from the first round, won 26.7, falling far short of the three list’s combined total of 40% in the first round.

The PS fell just short of gaining Bayonne, taking 45.2% against 45.4% for Jean-René Etchegaray (UDI); the spoiler being Jean-Claude Iriart, a Basque abertzale (left-wing nationalist) candidate, whose list won 9.4%. The city leans to the left, having given Hollande 59% in May 2012, but it has been held by the Grenet family (right) since 1959 – since 1995 by Jean Grenet (UDI), whose retirement this year led to a succession battle on the right and left-wing hopes to gain the city. However, the right resolved its divisions before the second round, while the PS suffered from the decision of the Basque nationalists to maintain their list, and the merger of the FG list with the abertzale left. In the wealthy coastal resort town of Biarritz, Michel Veunac (MoDem), a regional councillor backed by retiring mayor Didier Borotra (MoDem), was narrowly elected with 51.6% against 48.4% for a UMP-UDI list led by Max Brison, a former premier adjoint to Borotra. Veunac’s list, which placed second with 17.4%, had merged with the PS (16.9%) and an independent (7.3%), while the UMP list had merged with a DVD list (14.1%) and another independent (10.7%).

Former député-maire Daniel Garrigue (DVD) regained his old seat, lost in 2008, as mayor of Bergerac (Dordogne), winning 46.1% in a rematch against the freshman PS mayor (41.3%). The right also regained Périgueux, the capital of the department, with the narrow victory of the UMP candidate with 50.7% against freshman PS mayor Michel Moyrand (49.3%). An old Gaullist stronghold (with Gaullist baron Yves Guéna as mayor between 1971 and 1997), the PS won the town by a hair in 2008, defeating incumbent UMP mayor Xavier Darcos, who was also education minister at the time.

The UMP held Châteauroux, with the easy victory of Gil Avérous, the candidate backed by retiring senator-mayor Jean-François Mayet (UMP). The UMP won 49% against 26.3% for Mark Bottemine, the first round PS candidate who led an unusual and controversial alliance with two DVD lists from the first round (17.3% and 7.3%). This composite alliance fell far short of its potential (42%), probably being hurt by perceptions of it as a grubby alliance of ambitious politicians and, on the left, by the controversial nature of an alliance between the PS-EELV and two lists, very much on the right and opposed to gay marriage. The national PS leadership reiterated its support for the list, but EELV silently withdrew its backing. The FG increased its vote to 13.4%, while the FN won 11.3%.

The FN won one town in the Greater Paris – Mantes-la-Ville (Yvelines). FN candidate Cyril Nauth, a nobody who barely campaign, was elected with 30.3% against 29.4% for PS incumbent Monique Brochot. Former PS mayor Annette Peulvast-Bergeal (1995-2008) ran as a dissident, winning 28.3%.

The PS suffered major loses in the Hauts-de-Seine, already losing Clamart by the first round. In Asnières-sur-Seine, former mayor Manuel Aeschlimann (UMP), who was defeated by a composite PS-Green-MoDem-DVD coalition led by Sébastien Pietrasanta (PS) in 2008, regained his old job, with 50.1% against 49.9% for Pietrasanta. Aeschlimann, who was sentenced in a corruption scandal in 2009, had been particularly controversial as mayor, for his very authoritarian and nepotistic management of the city. This year, ironically, Aeschlimann’s list merged with a DVD list led by Josiane Fischer, who had joined forces with the PS to defeat him six years ago. In Colombes, former UMP mayor Nicole Goueta, defeated in 2008, was also successful in a rematch against freshman PS mayor Philippe Sarre. She was elected with 52.4% against 47.6% for the PS. The only remaining PS mayor in the Hauts-de-Seine is Gilles Catoire in Clichy, who survived an extremely heated race thanks to the divisions of the right. He won 32.7% against 31.1% for the UMP, with Didier Schuller (UDI), a former RPR general councillor attempting to restart his political career after a corruption scandal in the 1990s forced him into exile in the Caribbean, placing third with 24.8%. EELV, which has bad relations with the PS mayor, won 11.4%.

The left – both PS and PCF – was badly defeated in Seine-Saint-Denis, a left-wing stronghold. Certainly the most shocking result came from Bobigny, a poor working-class Red Belt suburb which the PCF had held since the 1920s. Incumbent PCF mayor Catherine Peyge was defeated 46% to 54% by Stéphane De Paoli (UDI), a protege of Jean-Christophe Lagarde, the UDI député-maire of neighboring Drancy. De Paoli largely downplayed his partisan ties, with a very locally-oriented campaign which attracted support from some left-leaning individuals and organizations, and had some ties with Muslim community associations, giving him a base in the cités. The PCF also lost Villepinte, Le Blanc-Mesnil (held by the PCF since 1935) and Saint-Ouen to the right. In May 2012, Hollande won 65% in Villepinte, 66% in Le Blanc-Mesnil and over 70% in Bobigny and Saint-Ouen! In Bagnolet, another Red Belt suburb held by the PCF since 1935, the PS, with 35.6%, narrowly defeated the FG (31.4%). EELV won 20.3% and the right took 12.8%. In Aulnay-sous-Bois, a city gained from the right in 2008, PS mayor Gérard Ségura was defeated in a landslide by Bruno Beschizza (UMP), a former policeman and young copéiste (60.7% to 39.3%). In Le Raincy, the wealthiest town in the department, UMP mayor Éric Raoult, in office since 1995, was soundly defeated by a DVD candidate. Firmly on the right of the UMP, Raoult found himself accused of sexual harassment (sexting) during the campaign.

In the wealthy suburban town of Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, the incumbent UDI mayor Henri Plagnol, who faced much controversy for the city’s highly indebted position and divisions in his majority, was defeated by UMP deputy Sylvain Berrios (who had defeated Plagnol, then the incumbent deputy, in a 2012 by-election), 32% to 28%.

Frédéric Valletoux, the filloniste mayor who was not endorsed by UMP (the Seine-et-Marne is Copé’s personal fiefdom; Valletoux nevertheless received public support from Fillon and Valérie Pécresse), was reelected with 45.8% against 39.9% for the copéiste UMP candidate. The other high profile filloniste-copéiste battle was in Cannes, and ended with the easy victory of David Lisnard, the filloniste dauphin of the retiring mayor, against Philippe Tabarot, the brother of the copéiste UMP general-secretary Michèle Tabarot; Lisnard won 59% to 26%.

Sorry for the delayed publication of this post. Hungary and Québec up next.