Category Archives: France

EU 2014: France


The European Parliament elections were held in France on May 25, 2014. Its results, with the victory of the far-right National Front (FN), made headlines across the EU and became one of the top media stories out of the EP elections.

Electoral system and history

France returns 74 MEPs to the European Parliament, two more than in the 2009 election. Since the 2004 election, France’s MEPs are elected in eight multi-member inter-regional constituencies – special constituencies drawn for EP elections which follow the boundaries of France’s existing administrative regions. In each region, seats are distributed by closed party-list proportional representation (highest averages method) with a regional threshold of 5%. In practice, however, because of the low magnitude of a lot of the constituencies, the effective thresholds can be significantly higher. France’s eight EP constituencies are Nord-Ouest (10 MEPs, composed of the regions of Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Picardie, Haute-Normandie and Basse-Normandie), Ouest (9 MEPs, composed of the regions of Bretagne, Pays-de-la-Loire and Poitou-Charentes), Est (9 MEPs, composed of the regions of Champagne-Ardenne, Bourgogne, Franche-Comté, Lorraine and Alsace), Sud-Ouest (10 MEPs, composed of the regions of Aquitaine, Midi-Pyrénées and Languedoc-Roussillon), Sud-Est (13 MEPs, composed of the regions of Rhône-Alpes, Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur and Corsica), Massif central-Centre (5 MEPs, composed of the regions of Centre, Limousin and Auvergne), Île-de-France (15 MEPs, composed of the region of Île-de-France and French citizens resident abroad) and Outre-Mer (3 MEPs, composed of all overseas regions and collectivities). The Outre-Mer constituency is further subdivided in three ‘sections’ with one seat each: Atlantic (Guadeloupe, Guyane, Martinique, Saint-Barthélemy, Saint-Martin, Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon), Indian Ocean (Mayotte, La Réunion) and Pacific (New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Wallis-et-Futuna). The constituency’s three MEPs are allocated at the constituency-wide level, but the names of the MEPs to be elected for each list are determined by the results of their list in the sections. For example, a party which won one seat in the constituency and polled highest in the Pacific section would see the list’s Pacific section candidate elected.

From 1979 until 2004, French MEPs were elected in a single national constituency using proportional representation with a 5% threshold. The new electoral system was adopted by the centre-right government of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin in 2003, with the stated aim of fighting decreasing turnout and increasing ties between citizens and local MEPs. Smaller parties, which have been the losers of the new system, have supported the re-creation a single national constituency. In 2013, deputies from the Left Radical Party (PRG), a small centre-left party allied to President François Hollande’s Socialist Party (PS), tabled a bill to re-create a single national constituency. While the idea was supported by all small parties – from the FN to the Left Front (FG) – it died in first reading because both the PS and the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), the main right-wing party, opposed it. However, in 2010, when the PS was in opposition, its senators had supported a bill to create a national constituency.

There has been a near-consistent decline in turnout in EP elections in France, like in most European countries, since the first elections in 1979. In 2009, turnout reached a record low of 40.6%, while thirty years prior, turnout in the first EP election was 60.7%. Like in other EU countries, EP elections in France have usually been seen as midterm elections fought around national political issues, often with the aim of punishing an incumbent government.

In European elections, the system of proportional representation (since 2003, the EP elections are the only French national elections fought under a pure PR system) and the low stakes of the election have led many of those who did vote to vote for smaller parties or protest parties rather than their traditional parties. As such, past EP elections have seen the success of a number of ‘small’ parties, results which were not replicated in subsequent high stakes national elections.

On the right, a lot of voters who backed the traditional mainstream right in national elections have voted for conservative Eurosceptic (non-FN) parties – the UDF dissident Majorité pour l’autre Europe list led by Philippe de Villiers in 1994 (12.3%), the Charles Pasqua-Philippe de Villiers alliance in 1999 (13.1%, placing second ahead of the mainstream RPR list led by Nicolas Sarkozy) or de Villiers’ Movement for France (MPF) in 2004 and 2009. These successes for Eurosceptic conservatives outside the mainstream parties of the right (Jacques Chirac’s neo-Gaullist RPR and the centre-right alliance UDF) failed to be replicated in the next presidential elections. In 1995, fresh from his success in the EP elections and having launched his own party (the MPF), Philippe de Villiers’ presidential candidacy won only 4.7%. In 2002, Charles Pasqua (a former leader of the hard-right and Eurosceptic wing of the RPR, who broke with Chirac in 1990) failed to win the signatures necessary to run for President (his alliance with de Villiers having already fallen apart, two years earlier).

Before 2004, other lists from the right have enjoyed some success as well. In 1989, a Christian democratic (CDS) list ran independently of the UDF, led by Simone Veil and the rénovateurs – a group of twelve young ambitious politicians from the RPR and UDF (including big names such as François Fillon, François Bayrou, Michel Barnier, Bernard Bosson, Philippe de Villiers, Jean-Louis Borloo etc…) who challenged the old guard’s (Jacques Chirac, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, Raymond Barre) hold on the RPR-UDF machines after the 1988 defeat. It won 8.4%, a result which was disappointing at the time and led to the early demise of the rénovateurs challenge. Between 1989 and 1999, a right-wing rural hunters’ party (Hunting, Fishing, Nature, Traditions – CPNT) won significant support, culminating at 6.8% and the election of 6 MEPs in 1999. CPNT appealed to a very rural and culturally conservative electorate largely made up of hunters, largely but certainly not exclusively right-leaning in presidential elections (the far-right has won a large share of the CPNT vote, especially in the Somme estuary, CPNT’s strongest region).

On the left, the Greens have seen their support in EP elections fluctuate fairly dramatically, but they achieved very strong results in 1989 (10.6%), 1999 (9.7%) and of course 2009 (16.3%). In general, Green support in French EP elections have followed zig-zag patterns. In 1994, the Greens – divided between two lists (one by the Greens, the other by Génération écologie) – lost all their MEPs due to the deep infighting in the green movement after their underwhelming result in the 1993 elections and the questions over political alliances. In 2004, the Greens fell back to 7.4% and lost 3 seats, hurt by the new electoral system and the decision of their 1999 top candidate – Daniel Cohn-Bendit – to run in Germany instead.

The far-left has usually had limited success in EP elections, given that the French far-left usually does better in more personalized presidential elections provided that they have a telegenic and amiable face. However, in 1999, a common list between the two ‘fraternal enemies’ of the far-left (the traditional Trotskyist Workers’ Struggle, LO and the more May ’68-New Left Revolutionary Communist League, LCR) won 5.2% and 5 MEPs. In 2004, the LO-LCR common list collapsed to 2.6%. In 2009, the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) – the reformed LCR under Olivier Besancenot – won 4.9% but no seats; the NPA’s poor showing and the end of a brief popularity upsurge for Besancenot around that same time led to the NPA’s premature death.

The far-right FN has a mixed record in European elections. The party’s first national breakthrough came in the 1984 EP election, when the FN emerged from near-total obscurity to win a remarkable 11% of the vote – just a few points behind the Communists, whose support fell from 20.5% in 1979 to only 11.2% in 1984. In the 1980s, the FN’s support in EP elections (1989: 11.7%) was fairly close to its support in national elections – especially legislative elections (10% in 1986 and 1988). In 1994, however, the FN won ‘only’ 10.5% of the vote, while Le Pen took 15% in the 1995 presidential election. In the 1999 EP election, held in the wake of the painful and debilitating split between Jean-Marie Le Pen and his former ally Bruno Mégret in December 1998, the FN list won only 5.7% of the vote (and Mégret’s MNR list won 3.3%, falling short of the threshold in what would be the MNR’s best result before a slow death). However, only three years later, Le Pen famously qualified for the presidential runoff in 2002, taking 16.9% of the vote in the first round. In 1999, besides the split, a lot of FN supporters had also sat out the election – demotivated by the split on the far-right, they lost a major motivator to vote in an election which most ultimately cared or knew little about. In 2004, the FN increased its support to 9.8%, although that result too remained weak in comparison to the FN’s results in the 2004 regional elections held just a few months earlier. In 2009, the FN’s vote fell to 6.3% and the party saved just three MEPs. In 2007, Le Pen had been crippled by Nicolas Sarkozy’s candidacy, who stole first round FN supporters and left the FN in a chaotic and disorganized state. In 2009, the FN was still at a weak point: the leadership handover from the patriarch to his daughter would take place in 2011, Sarkozy’s popularity had declined but retained some degree of goodwill from far-right supporters, and the record-high abstention penalized the FN.

In contrast, the traditional forces of the left and right – the PS and RPR-UDF/UMP – have not done well in a lot of EP elections. In 1984, Lionel Jospin’s PS list suffered from the unpopularity of President François Mitterrand and won only 20.8%. In 1994, the PS list led by former Prime Minister Michel Rocard won a terrible 14.5%, putting an early end to Rocard’s presidential ambitions. Rocard faced the open enmity of his eternal enemy, President François Mitterrand, who offered a very thinly-veiled endorsement to controversial businessman and ephemeral politician Bernard Tapie’s Énergie radicale list, which ended up taking a remarkable 12%. In 1999, after Philippe Séguin withdrew his name due to Chirac’s weak support of his leadership and candidacy, the RPR-DL (Démocratie libérale, the split of the right-wing liberal wing of the UDF, led by Alain Madelin) list led by Sarkozy and Madelin fell to third place with only 12.8% against 13.1% for the Pasqua-Villiers list. In 2004, Chirac’s UMP was dragged deep down by his unpopularity, and won only 16.6% against 28.9% for the PS. In 2009, while the UMP did quite ‘well’ for a governing party in an EP election (27.9%), the PS won only 16.5%, saving second place by a hair against the Greens (Europe Écologie). The PS had been severely weakened by the leadership chaos and infighting at the Reims Congress in late 2008 (the infamous Martine Aubry-Ségolène Royal contest) and its subsequent difficulty at being a credible opposition.

The Communist Party (PCF) fell from low to low in EP elections between 1979 and 2009 – falling from 20.5% in 1979 to 5.9% in 2004, with nothing seemingly able to shift the tide – in 1999, for example, PCF leader Robert Hue’s Bouge l’Europe! list had expanded to social movements and non-communist leftist activists, but its support still fell from 1994. Only the creation of the Left Front (FG), in which the PCF added the institutional and grassroots structures to Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s new Left Party (PG), shifted the tide somewhat. In 2009, the FG lists- with Mélenchon leading the list in the Southwest constituency – received 6.5%, which was far from spectacular but nevertheless allowed them five instead of three MEPs (in both 2004 and 2009, one MEP came from the Reunionese Communists).

Political context

These EP elections came only two months after municipal elections in March 2014 and come as President François Hollande has completed his first two years in office.

Hollande is now the most unpopular President in the history of the French Fifth Republic. Almost every single pollster which regularly measures the popularity of the President and Prime Minister have his approval rating below 20%. Ifop’s June 2014 barometer showed his approval rating at 18%, with 81% disapproving. Ipsos showed his approval rating at 19% in May 2014. TNS-Sofres has Hollande even lower: only 16% expressed ‘confidence’ in the President, with 81% expressing no confidence in him.

The results of the municipal elections in March, which I covered in very extensive detail here and here, were a bloodbath for the left, which had not expected such a phenomenal defeat. The right now controls 63.3% of all municipalities with over 30,000 inhabitants while the left holds only 35.5% – before the election, the left held 57.9% of these same municipalities. The right gained a number of large cities and towns from the left (Toulouse, Reims, Saint-Étienne, Angers, Limoges, Tours, Amiens, Caen, Argenteuil, Roubaix, Tourcoing, Pau, Ajaccio, Quimper, Valence, Chambéry, La Roche-sur-Yon and Belfort among hundreds), while the left only gained two towns from the right (Avignon and Douai). Slightly mitigating the intensity of the defeat, the PS managed to hold Paris and Lyon – two cities which the left had gained from the right in 2001. In Marseille, however, the PS, which was initially optimistic about its chances of gaining the city from the right, ended up a very distant second, tied with the far-right FN in the municipal council (after having placed third behind the FN in the first round) and losing three of the four municipal sectors it controlled prior to the election. The 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. Overall, the FN and similar far-right parties/candidate won 13 towns in France – with a major symbolic first round victory in Hénin-Beaumont, the depressed northern mining basin town which has been FN leader Marine Le Pen’s political base since 2007. The FN had strong results in these municipal elections, with results in a number of communes being higher than Marine Le Pen’s 2012 presidential result (a high-water mark for the FN) while the FN made strong gains in some places between both rounds (indicating the party’s ability to attract additional supporters in a runoff); however, the results also showed that there remains a clear limit to the FN’s growth. For example, all the FN’s victories in the second round except in one town came triangulaires/quadrangulaires – three or four-way runoffs in which the FN won with less than 50% of the vote and in other cities targeted by the FN, putative ‘republican fronts’ were actually successful at blocking the FN from winning the city hall.

Hollande’s unpopularity is largely due to the economic crisis, which has been fairly severe and difficult in France. Unemployment was 10.1% in the first trimester of 2014, which is up from around 9.5% when Hollande took office – although the current increase in unemployment began in 2011, under Sarkozy’s presidency. However, Hollande had promised to ‘reverse’ the increase in unemployment when he took office in 2012, and it’s clear that on that commitment, the government has failed badly. In September 2012, for example, Hollande had promised to ‘reverse’ the trend within a year, and despite all indications to the contrary, the government and the President reiterated that promise for the first half of 2013, until September 2013 when it was clear that unemployment would not fall. Over 3.3 million people are unemployed, using the narrowest definition, up from 2.9 million in May 2012. Since then, the government has shifted its rhetorical techniques to emphasize a ‘stabilization’ of unemployment and watering down, delaying the reduction of unemployment. Economic growth has been flat or in recession since Hollande took office two years ago, with 0.3% growth in 2013 and 0% growth in the first trimester of 2014. The debt and deficit situation of the country is hardly better, and the government’s performance on those issues has been poor. Hollande failed to keep his electoral promise of reducing the deficit to 3% of GDP in 2013, but with weak growth, the budget deficit in 2013 was finally 4.2% of GDP – even breaking the government’s second target (3.7%). Now, the government insists that it will meet the EU Commission’s deadline to reduce the deficit to 3% in 2015, but already the Commission has projected that the deficit will be 3.8% in 2014 and 3.7% in 2015 (although the government’s numbers project a 2.8% deficit in 2015). While it would be unfair to blame Hollande for the entirety of the mess which France is in, the government has a large share of the responsibility in the worsening of the economic situation since 2012.

Under Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault’s often chaotic, cacophonic and incoherent cabinet, the government was often like a deer in the headlights – powerless, lost and incompetent in its handling of the economy. The policies adopted by the government to address unemployment, growth and the budget have all been inadequate and criticized on both the right and the left. For the right – but also a large majority of French voters – their main issue with Hollande’s economic policies have been the tax increases. The government increased the top bracket on the income tax (incomes over 150,000 euros) from 41% to 45%, the wealth tax (ISF) was toughened up, family tax benefits were cut, a pension reform increased employees and employers’ contributions (the same reform also increased the contributory period to 43 years, after the right’s 2010 reform, opposed by the PS, had raised it to 41 and increased the legal retirement age to 62). The government also increased the VAT’s standard rate from 19.6% to 20% (to finance a €20 billion tax credit to employers to reduce unit labour costs), the intermediate rate from 7% to 10% and maintained the reduced rate at 5.5% (despite previously promising to bring it down to 5%). Although the government announced in early 2013 that there would no tax increases in 2013, it was quickly forced to backtrack and announce ‘small’ tax increases in 2014 and talk of ‘tax cuts’ after 2016.

In 2012, Hollande’s manifesto was filled with flowery but ultimately meaningless blabber about ‘growth’ and opposition to austerity policies. In power, Hollande has continued austerity policies – consisting of tax increases, spending cuts and public sector job cuts – which had begun under Sarkozy (although, in the French tradition, austerity is disguised as ‘efforts’). Hollande approved the European Fiscal Compact without any substantial changes, despite having pledged to renegotiate it. The pledge for Eurobonds has been buried, the government gave up a promise to legislate on ‘excessive pay’ in the private sector and Hollande’s ambitious promises to deepen European/Eurozone political integration have been abandoned. The Constitutional Council forced him to scrap his much-publicized 75% tax on incomes over €1 million. The government reframed the 75% tax a temporary tax to be paid by employers on salaries over €1 million.

In 2014, Hollande announced a pacte de responsabilité with employers, proposing to reduce payroll taxes paid out by employers if they took on new, especially young, workers. The announcement, which led to significant talk of Hollande shifting to the right, was met with skepticism in France. Regular citizens, who have seen Hollande’s record of failure since 2012, have little optimism in his proposal. The left and unions were skeptic or hostile towards the idea of dropping costs on employers (up to €30 billion in cuts to payroll taxes) in exchange for very vaguely defined (and probably minimal) job creations. On the left, the rumour that Germany’s Peter Hartz would come to advise Hollande led to fears of a ‘neoliberal’ economic agenda.

Following the municipal elections, Hollande fired Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who was seen as weak, indecisive, lacking authority and had been very effaced compared to the President. Manuel Valls, the popular Minister of the Interior under Ayrault, replaced him as Prime Minister. Valls, a fairly young Catalan-born ambitious politician perceived as being on the PS’ right, who, as interior minister, often ranked as one of the government’s most popular members because of his hardline policy on criminality and immigration. Although Valls himself had previously decried the Sarkozy administration’s controversial immigration policies, he effectively continued them – deporting undocumented migrants and dismantling Roma encampments. Valls ran into several controversies while he was interior minister, but none of them really hurt him. Last fall, he said that 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. 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 to Matignon as Prime Minister was, from the looks of it thus far, an attempt for Hollande to divest himself of some domestic political responsibilities and lay low for a while. The initial reaction from the opposition – left and right – was negative. The left, especially the left outside of the PS, is very critical and suspicious of Valls, who has a strong reputation as a ‘maverick’ and iconoclast challenging the left’s dogma, for example on the sanctity of the 35-hour work week introduced by Lionel Jospin’s gauche plurielle government (1997-2002). The Greens (EELV, Europe Écologie-Les Verts), who had sat in the Ayrault government, faced a major test of credibility with Valls’ nomination and the issue of their continued participation in government. Already under Ayrault, EELV had been displeased with several of the government’s decisions, notably the unceremonious dismissal of the environment minister (Delphine Batho) who had lamented budget cuts at her ministry, and a left-wing anti-government minority within EELV challenged the pro-government leadership of the party at EELV’s federal congress in October 2013. With regards to valls, former EELV leader and housing minister Cécile Duflot had decried Valls’ comments on the Roma, and after his nomination to Matignon, EELV’s two ministers (including Duflot) announced that they would not join a Valls cabinet. Valls met with EELV and proposed the creation of large environment ministry, 3 portfolios and a dose of proportional representation, but EELV voted against participation in the Valls government. However, on April 8, 10 of EELV’s 17 deputies voted in favour of the government on the initial vote of confidence in the National Assembly.

Valls’ government included Ségolène Royal, the PS’ 2007 presidential candidate and François Hollande’s former girlfriend (and mother of their four children), as Minister of the Environment. To reassure the left, two of the Ayrault government’s members from the PS’ left, Benoît Hamon and Arnaud Montebourg, received promotions to Minister of National Education, Higher Education and Research and Minister of the Economy respectively. Neither had been particularly impressive, especially Montebourg, ever the flamboyant one, in Ayrault’s government. 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 has continued his anti-austerity posturing, as he had in the old government, but he has been fairly quiet (uncommon coming from him) thus far.

In his speech to the National Assembly, Valls largely recycled existing pledges and promises made by Hollande – most notably confirming the pacte de responsabilité. On that topic, Valls announced several specific initiatives: removing employer contributions on minimum wage jobs, reducing employer contributions on low-wage jobs, reducing employee contributions and reducing the corporate tax by 2020. In mid-April 2014, Valls detailed the government’s plan to ‘save’ €50 million. The government called for €18 million in ‘savings’ from the state budget, €11 million from local governments, €10 million from health insurance and €11 million from other social security benefits. ‘Savings’ included a freeze in social security benefits, a deferment in the increase of several welfare benefits (including the RSA, a minimum income for unemployed, underemployed or low-wage workers) and a continued freeze of the ‘indexation point’ (used to calculate civil servants’ wages) until 2017 (the indexation point has not increased since 2010). The latter means that, with inflation and no concomitant increase in the base for calculating public sector pay, civil servants will suffer not only a pay freeze but a net loss in salary.

The €50 million savings plan, effectively an austerity program in all but name, was very controversial and provoked strong negative reactions from the PS’ left, which had already been suspicious of Valls’ intentions. The austerity plan was approved by the National Assembly on April 29, with 265 votes in favour, 232 against and 67 abstentions. What was historic, however, was the abstention of no less than 41 deputies of the Socialist group (SRC), the bulk of them from the PS’ left. 11 PS deputies, from the left of the party, had abstained on the vote of confidence in early April. On the austerity program, there were now 41 frondeurs within the ranks of the governing party. Only 3 green deputies voted in favour, with 12 of them voting against. The predominantly Communist GDR group voted against, while the centre-right UDI group largely abstained while only the Left Radicals (PRG) – very close allies and junior coalition partners of the PS – voted in favour.

Valls also announced plans to reduce the number of regions in metropolitan France from 22 to 14, abolishing general/departmental councils by 2021 (despite the fact that he had re-created them himself, as interior minister!) and abolishing the general power of competence (which was abolished by Sarkozy in 2010, re-instated by Valls in 2013…). Hollande presented a draft map of France’s 14 new regions, which the government (but no-one else) insists will result in cost savings, efficiency and competitive regions. The regional reform and the new map (which reduces regions by merging existing ones, instead of re-drawing new ones) has been poorly received.

French voters have been surprisingly kind on Valls so far, although the popularity trend is already looking south. His approval ranges between a high of 52% (in the latest Ifop, BVA) and 39% (CSA); in all cases, his popularity is declining, slowly but surely. Hollande has seen no improvement in his popularity since March, although he has hit a floor of 16-20% approval. At this point, a lot of voters have lost all faith in Hollande (or his policies) and that practically anything he says or does has no effect on his popularity. He has lost so much credibility that it would take a miraculous and huge improvement in the economy for Hollande’s popularity numbers to look north again. The situation for the PS is so bad that Hollande himself has already openly said that he may not seek reelection if unemployment does not decline before 2017.

The government has been further dragged down by a plethora of other issues: broken promises, promises delayed indefinitely (assisted reproductive technologies, law on families), corruption scandals (the Jérôme Cahuzac, the then-budget minister, and his secret offshore account in Switzerland), crises (the manif pour tous against same-sex marriage and adoption, the Leonarda affair).

Parties and lists

FG campaign literature, IdF constituency (own picture)

FG campaign literature, IdF constituency (own picture)

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the Left Front (FG)’s presidential candidate in 2012, has been extremely critical of the government’s austerity policies. However, despite incessant and violent attacks by Mélenchon and the FG on the government’s policies, they have largely been unable (thus far) to profit from the government’s unpopularity with left-wing voters. Mélenchon is a polarizing figure; his abrasive, in-your-face and often unpleasant public person is off-putting to many voters and the FG generally appears to lack credibility as a credible leftist alternative to the PS. The municipal elections opened up very public and damaging divisions between Mélenchon’s small Left Party (PG), which is firmly anti-PS and the Communists (PCF), the largest party in the FG, which still retains some attachment (mostly for strategic and self-serving electoral reasons) to the old alliances with the PS. The FG is a contradictory alliance of people with similar ideologies but differing strategies. The PCF latched on to Mélenchon’s charisma and relative appeal to a left-wing electorate, and it initially served the PCF well in the 2012 presidential election. However, after the FG (PCF)’s unexpectedly horrendous performance in the 2012 legislative elections, there was some reticence within the PCF towards Mélenchon’s radical and dogmatic opposition to any kind of cooperation with the PS in elections. In the 2014 municipal elections, the PCF chose to ally by the first round with PS lists in major cities such as Paris, Toulouse, Rennes, Grenoble, Tours and Rouen. Mélenchon’s Left Party (PG) is largely an empty shell and, with the departure of Marc Dolez (the PG’s only deputy), Mélenchon is the only one in the PG who is actually elected to some kind of parliamentary institution (the EP). Given that it has nothing to lose from doing so, the PG has followed a strategy of total independence from the PS, refusing any first round alliances with the PS. In municipalities where the PCF allied with the PS in the first round of the local elections, the PG ran independent lists of its own, often alongside other components of the FG (Ensemble, a new movement uniting various small parties – old and new – ranging from dissident ‘reformist’ communists to dissident factions of the NPA which left the dogmatic far-left microparty disagreeing with its anti-FG stances). These PG lists did fairly poorly, although in Grenoble, where the PG allied with EELV against a PS-PCF list, the EELV-led list was victorious in the second round against the PS list backed by the retiring PS mayor.

The FG managed to hold together for the EP elections; although Gauche unitaire, an old far-left movement which emerged from a pro-FG faction of the old LCR (now NPA) in 2009, decided not to participate on FG lists. The FG was defending four incumbent MEPs in metropolitan France, in addition to one MEP from the Overseas constituency (Younous Omarjee, who replaced Reunionese Communist MEP Élie Hoarau in 2012).The FG incumbents were Patrick Le Hyaric (PCF-Île-de-France), the current director of the communist daily L’Humanité; Marie-Christine Vergiat (independent-Southeast), an independent left-wing activist; Jacky Hénin (PCF-Northwest), the former PCF mayor of Calais (2000-2008) and Jean-Luc Mélenchon (PG-Southwest). Mélenchon has been one of the least active MEPs, participating in only 71% of roll-call votes. The PG held the top candidacy in the East and Centre, while former NPA spokesperson Myriam Martin (who joined the FG in 2012) led the list in the West. In the Overseas constituency, the FG supported the ‘Union for the Overseas’ list led by incumbent PCR MEP Younous Omarjee and supported by the Martinican Progressive Party (PPM), the largest party in the regional and general councils of Martinique. The FG campaigned against austerity (with the clear target being the French government, rather than the EU), for higher wages, against the proposed Transatlantic free trade agreement with the US and against NATO.

On the far-left, which is as divided as ever but also weaker than ever, there was no agreement on common lists between the NPA and Workers’ Struggle (Lutte ouvrière, LO) nor was such an hypothesis ever realistic. LO, led by the party’s leader and public face Nathalie Arthaud (candidate in Île-de-France) had lists in every region, including the Overseas. The NPA, which is increasingly divided, ran only 5 lists.

PS-PRG campaign literature in the Île-de-France constituency (own picture)

PS-PRG campaign literature in the Île-de-France constituency (own picture)

The Socialist Party (PS) had already performed very poorly in 2009, and was not expected to perform much better in 2014 given Hollande’s massive unpopularity. The only question, especially after the PS’ defeat in the municipal elections in March, was whether or not the PS would perform better or worse than its 2009 result (16.48%). At the end of the EP term, the PS was left with 12 MEPs (it had elected 13 in 2009). The PS formed common lists with the Left Radical Party (PRG), a small party ostensibly following in the radical-socialist (social liberal, pro-European) tradition but in reality known solely as being an annex of the PS. The PRG had not participated in 2009 and ran a few lists independent of the PS, with very weak results, in 2004. The PS’ top candidates were: incumbent MEP Gilles Pargneaux, an ally of Lille mayor Martine Aubry (Northwest); incumbent MEP Isabelle Thomas from the party’s left (West; Emmanuel Maurel, a regional councillor also on the left of the PS, was second); Édouard Martin, a CFDT trade unionist active in social movements against the closing of the last blast furnaces in Lorraine (East; Catherine Trautmann, a two-term MEP and former mayor of Strasbourg, was second on the list); Jean-Paul Denanot, the president of the regional council of the Limousin since 2004 (Massif central-Centre); Virginie Rozière, a little-known PRG member and deputy director of cabinet to Sylvia Pinel, a PRG cabinet minister (Southwest); former MEP Vincent Peillon, the former education minister who was not kept in the new Valls cabinet because of an unpopular education reform (Southeast); four-term MEP Pervenche Berès (Île-de-France) and Joseph-Louis Manscour, a former Martinican PS deputy (Overseas; Marie-Claude Tjibaou, the widow of assassinated New Caledonian Kanak nationalist leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou, was the lead candidate for the Pacific section). Harlem Désir, an incumbent MEP and secretary-general of the PS from 2012 until March 2014, was due to run for reelection as the PS’ top candidate in Île-de-France, but after the PS defeat in the local elections (for which he was held responsible by many Socialists), he was quietly fired from the party leadership and became Secretary of State for European Affairs – even if some of his EP colleagues judged him to be a completely useless and inactive MEP.

Unsurprisingly, the PS’ campaign literature made no mention of the government and only included very small PS and PRG logos (all PS lists were named Choisir notre Europe – choosing our Europe). Instead, they very much emphasized Martin Schulz, the PES candidate for president of the Commission. Quite disingenuously (and dishonestly), the PS campaign attacked austerity policies and ‘social dumping’, calling for pro-growth job policies, fair trade and a tax on financial transactions (an issue which the PS government seems to have forgotten about). No mention was made, of course, that the Valls government is effectively carrying out austerity policies (although it denies it) rather than ‘growth-oriented’ policies.

There was a new movement/party on the left contesting the EP elections: Nouvelle Donne, or New Deal, a party founded in November 2013 by Pierre Larrouturou, a longtime but little-known activist on the left (who has come and gone from the PS several times) who has embraced causes such as a four-day workweek or, these days, an interventionist economic policy modeled on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal policies in the US. The party was joined by EELV deputy Isabelle Attard, EELV MEP Malika Benarab-Attou and PS MEP Françoise Castex. The party’s campaign was fairly Eurosceptic or EU-critical, attacking the EU from a left-wing angle – austerity policies, ‘fiscal dumping’, the need for a ‘social treaty’ and the democratic deficit (no new treaty without a referendum). It called for a €1,000 billion pact to save the climate, fighting layoffs and renegotiating working hours. Pierre Larrouturou, who is a regional councillor (elected for EELV, when he briefly joined that party between 2009 and 2012), was top candidate in Île-de-France.

Europe Écologie-Les Verts (EELV) had nowhere else to go but down after the record-breaking and shocking performance by the Greens (Europe Écologie coalition) in the 2009 EP elections (16.28%). The 2009 success was the result of a perfect storm for EE: a divided and chaotic PS a few months after the Reims Congress, and the green movement’s remarkable ability to temporarily overcome the factional and strategic divisions which had weakened it for so long. EE was a coalition which extended from traditional Green politicians to non-partisan environmentalist activists in NGOs and anti-globalization movements – uniting people like José Bové, the peasant leader and anti-globalization leader; political newcomers from civil society like Eva Joly (the Norwegian-born magistrate, who went on to become EELV’s 2012 presidential candidate), Sandrine Bélier and Yannick Jadot and regionalist allies like François Alfonsi (from the PNC – Partitu di a Nazione Corsa, a moderate nationalist party from Corsica). The candidacy of Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who had already led the French Greens’ list in 1999 but had run for the German Greens in 2004, also provided a charismatic and well-known leader to the movement. Some in the media have also speculated that the airing of Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s movie Home (on global biodiversity and environmental destruction) days before the vote may explain the very late surge for EE, undetected by most pollsters at the time. Although EE’s success prompted The Greens to transform the party into EELV in 2010, aiming to attract new members and activists who had not been members of the old green party, since 2009, the party’s star has faded. In 2012, after a very mediocre campaign, Eva Joly won only 2.3% of the presidential vote. In the legislative elections, EELV only elected 18 deputies thanks to an electoral alliance sealed with a magnanimous PS. In the Ayrault government, in which EELV had two minister (Cécile Duflot as housing minister and Pascal Canfin as junior minister for international development), the party faced internal and external criticism for largely bowing down to the PS and largely accepting several policies which they privately disagreed with. In 2013, there was major internal pressure within the party for it to leave the government or at least take a more assertive stance. Pascal Durand, the national secretary of EELV, was forced to retire after launching an ‘ultimatum’ to the government. At EELV’s federal congress in October 2013, a left-wing anti-government minority faction won about 40%. Several prominent members of EELV have since left the party: Cohn-Bendit in late 2012, and Noël Mamère in September 2013.

EELV campaign literature, IdF constituency (own picture)

EELV campaign literature, IdF constituency (own picture)

The EELV top candidates were: Karima Delli, a young MEP of Algerian descent (originally from the poor textile town of Tourcoing in the Nord) elected in Île-de-France in 2009 but running in the Northwest; Yannick Jadot, an incumbent MEP and former Greenpeace member (West); incumbent MEP Sandrine Bélier (East; Antoine Waechter, the old leader of the Independent Ecologist Movement, MEI, was ranked in second); Clarisse Heusquin (Massif central-Centre); incumbent MEP José Bové, the famous anti-globalization peasant leader (Southwest); incumbent MEP Michèle Rivasi, also a former Green deputy (1997-2002) (Southeast; incumbent MEP Karim Zéribi, a former Socialist, was second) and Pascal Durand (Île-de-France; Eva Joly was second). EELV also had a list in the Overseas. EELV supports a federal Europe, and its campaign focused on environmental priorities, promoting democracy, reducing the ‘power of the market’ (it opposes the FTA with the US) and ‘changing economic models’.

EELV lost the support of its minor regionalist partners, the Régions et peuples solidaires (R&PS) – an alliance of left-leaning autonomist parties from several regions (Brittany’s Breton Democratic Union, Corsica’s PNC, the Partit occitan, Basque and Catalan nationalists, the Mouvement région Savoie) affiliated with the EFA. R&PS ran lists in 6 regions (all except the East and Northwest), the most important being a Corsican one led by incumbent PNC MEP François Alfonsi in the Southeast, the Breton Democratic Union (Union démocratique bretonne / Unvaniezh Demokratel Breizh, UDB) list led by regional councillor Christian Guyonvarc’h in the West, a Basque list led by Jean Tellechea from the Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ-PNB) and an Overseas list led by incumbent EELV MEP Jean-Jacob Bicep. In the West, there was also a strong regionalist led led by Christian Troadec, the popular Breton nationalist mayor of Carhaix (Finistère) who was a key leader in the 2013 bonnets rouges protests against the application of the écotaxe, a proposed tax on heavy goods vehicles. Troadec’s list – Nous te ferons Europe ! – was backed by Troadec’s local left-wing Mouvement Bretagne et progrès and the moderate nationalist Breton Party (Strollad Breizh).

UDI-MoDem campaign literature, IdF constituency (own picture)

UDI-MoDem campaign literature, IdF constituency (own picture)

In the centre, François Bayrou’s Democratic Movement (MoDem) formed common lists with the Union of Democrats and Independents (UDI).

The UDI, created in late 2012, is an alliance of several small centre-right pro-European parties which were allied with the UMP during Sarkozy’s presidency and continue to be closely identified with the UMP-led parliamentary right. The UDI included Jean-Louis Borloo’s Radical Party (PR, social liberal and pro-European), Senator Jean Arthuis’ Centrist Alliance (AC, largely an empty shell in the centrist tradition of partis de notables), the New Centre (NC, the original pro-Sarkozy dissidents from Bayrou’s UDF in 2007, which has a strong base of elected officials but little independent electoral support), the European Democratic Force (FED, founded by Jean-Christophe Lagarde and other anti-Hervé Morin dissidents of the NC in 2012), the Modern Left (LGM, a social liberal party founded by Jean-Marie Bockel, a Blairite ex-Socialist who joined the Fillon government in 2007), Territories in Movement (TEM, the personal machine of Jean-Christophe Fromantin, the maverick right-wing deputy and mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine), the Liberal Democratic Party (PLD, a tiny libertarian/right-wing liberal party), GayLib (the former gay rights lobby within the UMP) and two tiny shells. The UDI is often seen as a recreation of the centre-right Union for French Democracy (UDF), which was one of the two major components of the right-wing bloc in French politics between 1978 and 2002, and which was originally an alliance of several ideological families of the traditional non-Gaullist right (liberals, Christian democrats in the MRP tradition, anti-Programme Commun right-wing social democrats and the Radicals). The UDI won the support of former members of the UDF who had joined the UMP in 2002, like Pierre Méhaignerie or Louis Giscard d’Estaing (the son of the former President, who also supports the UDI). The UDI has a strong parliamentary caucus, with 28 deputies and 30 senators, but the party suffers – like a lot of non-Gaullist centre-right movements before it in French politics – from the lack of a strong leader in France’s presidential-centric system and the absence of a reliable electoral base. Jean-Louis Borloo, the UDI’s leader and one of its most most popular and well-known figures, has retired from politics for health reasons and the initial reaction was that his retirement will badly hurt the UDI. There are, nevertheless, a few other talented or promising politicians within the UDI.

The MoDem was crushed in the 2012 legislative elections, which followed Bayrou’s mediocre performance in the presidential race. Although Bayrou had personally endorsed Hollande in the 2012 runoff, since 2012, the party has generally moved towards the right-wing opposition. In the 2014 municipal elections, the MoDem supported the right (UMP-UDI) by the first round in a number of major cities including Paris, in return for the UMP begrudgingly endorsing Bayrou’s ultimately successful bid for mayor of Pau. Relations between the MoDem and the UDI (or its component parties prior to 2012) have generally been fairly acrimonious, but there has been a clear thaw since 2012. The alliance for the EP elections served both parties’ strategic objective: for the MoDem, to retain its base in the EP and prominence in French politics; for the UDI, a tailor-made opportunity for the party to prove that it is not a mere annex of the UMP and that it can run without UMP if it wishes too (a strategy the UDI tried in some towns, notably Caen, Strasbourg and Rouen in the locals). In 2009, the Radicals (which were still an affiliate of the UMP) had elected 4 MEPs, the NC 3 MEPs and the Modern Left 2 MEPs running on the UMP’s Presidential Majority lists.

The UDI-MoDem lists – known as L’Alternative or Les Européens – were led by: incumbent Radical MEP Dominique Riquet, a close ally of Borloo in Valenciennes (Northwest); Mayenne Senator Jean Arthuis from the AC (West); incumbent MoDem MEP Nathalie Griesbeck (East); incumbent FED MEP Sophie Auconie (Massif central-Centre); incumbent MoDem MEP Robert Rochefort (Southwest); incumbent MoDem MEP Sylvie Goulard (Southeast, elected in the West in 2009); incumbent MoDem MEP Marielle de Sarnez (Île-de-France, with incumbent UDI MEP Jean-Marie Cavada in second) and a list in the Overseas. The UDI and MoDem are two parties which come a very pro-European (federalist) tradition in French politics, and it ran a pro-European campaign although it did not use the word ‘federal’ unlike EELV. It called on the EU to strengthen and concentrate its powers in industrial policy, infrastructure, social and fiscal harmonization, small businesses, protection of European industry, foreign policy and a coherent immigration policy and border police. It also called on a more democratic EU, with a directly-elected European president and more direct democracy.

Corinne Lepage, a former environment minister under Chirac (1995-1997) and a centre-right green who ran for president in 2002 as candidate of her ‘blue green’ party (Cap21), had been elected MEP on a MoDem list in 2009, but Cap21 left the party a year later and Lepage unsuccessfully tried to run for President in 2012. She ran for reelection atop her own new lists – Europe Citoyenne – with Lepage as the movement’s candidate in Île-de-France. It claimed to be a non-political movement of normal citizens, emphasizing ethics and the creation of a ‘heart’ of the EU with 6-10 members acting as the lead forces for the EU.

Denis Payre, a businessman, launched an ‘independent citizens’ movement, Nous Citoyens (We citizens) in late 2013. With lists in all metropolitan constituencies, the list, despite being fairly vague on specifics and claiming to be ‘independent’ (with lists of non-politicians) leaned towards the liberal centre-right with pro-European positions.

UMP campaign literature - IdF constituency (own picture)

UMP campaign literature, IdF constituency (own picture)

The Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) is the main opposition party to the PS government, and it has led an uncompromising opposition to the government’s policies on nearly every front and has been very virulent in its criticism of what it describes as the ‘socialist state’. However, the UMP has done a fairly mediocre job in opposition and the party faces nearly as many crises as the PS.

Sarkozy’s defeat in May 2012 traumatized the UMP, which, for the first time since its creation in 2002 was now an opposition party. In November 2012, a UMP congress to elect a permanent president for the party turned into a nearly fatal civil war between the two candidates, the incumbent secretary-general Jean-François Copé and Sarkozy’s Prime Minister François Fillon. In an election marred by fraud and vote rigging by both sides, Copé was initially proclaimed the winner by 98 votes by an internal party commission. Fillon’s supporters later challenged the results, claiming that Fillon won by 26 votes because the party commission ‘forgot’ to include 1,304 votes cast in three overseas federations. This opened a civil war between both men; mediation by party elder and the popular moderate mayor of Bordeaux (and former Prime Minister) Alain Juppé failed, an appeals commission (led by a man who had backed Copé) ruled on a challenge lodged by Copé against filloniste fraud in the Alpes-Maritimes – it proclaimed Copé as the winner nationally, now with 952 votes (they cancelled the results, very selectively, in pro-Fillon Alpes-Maritimes and New Caledonia), and Fillon created a dissident parliamentary group in the National Assembly (R-UMP). Facing the very real threat of a split in the UMP, which would cripple the financially strapped party, the two enemies agreed to a temporary compromise in January 2013: Fillon’s R-UMP would dissolve, Copé would remain president while all other leadership positions in the party would be ‘doubled’ – one filloniste, one copéiste (creating an unwieldy and tense leadership, described by critics as a ‘Mexican army’). 

Copé suffered from a very acute image problem: he is extremely unpopular with voters (Ipsos’ monthly barometer in March 2014 showed him with a 70% disapproval rating, Fillon had a 49% disapproval – both men’s ratings took a hit from the 2012 congress and civil war). Copé was perceived as too right-wing, too economically liberal, too rash and the story of the 2012 congress (and how, if he won, it owes a lot to organized fraud and vote rigging by Copé’s men) further hurt his image. His leadership, by all accounts, was hardly inspiring stuff. The UMP has been desperate to oppose the government at every turn, in the process latching on to the most ridiculous of ‘controversies’ and non-issues – for example, Copé once complained about how a children’s book on nudity was destroying the youth; the UMP, at the same time, briefly went nuts with faux outrage over ‘gender theory’ education in public schools (the government has a program to promote and teach gender equality in primary school). In the meantime, the UMP is not considered to be a credible alternative to the government – it lacks coherent policy (except being anti-government), its fire is often stolen by the far more popular far-right FN and the division between Copé and Fillon remains very clear – quite tellingly, at a final EP election ‘unity rally’, Fillon only came in for his speech and left as soon as Copé took the stage.

Copé has also been mixed up in several scandals. In late February 2014, Le Point revealed that an events organization firm (Bygmalion) owned by two friends of Copé received €8 million in UMP funds for organizing events in the 2012 campaign.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the defeated President, has never been far behind in all this. It is known that he took his defeat in 2012 pretty badly, and holds a deep grudge against Hollande (his singer/songwriter wife, Carla Bruni, wrote a song, Le pingouin, which was widely assumed to be referring – negatively – to Hollande). The UMP’s rank-and-file remains, by and large, solidly sarkozyste and would love to see him return in 2017. For UMP sympathizers and many on the right in general, Hollande’s disastrous presidency only vindicates Sarkozy and reinforces their burning desire to see Sarkozy return to the presidency in 2017. That Sarkozy himself is very much planning for a return in 2017 is probably the worst keep secret in French politics right now. If he were to do so, polls show that Sarkozy would win the UMP’s 2016 primaries in a landslide. But Sarkozy, since 2012, has been dogged by several scandals.

In December 2012, the campaign finance and public financing commission rejected Sarkozy’s 2012 campaign finance report. The issue plunged the financially troubled party further in debt, but an appeal by Sarkozy to UMP members to contribute to the party allowed the UMP to raise over 11 million euros in just two months, which is equivalent to the sum lost by the party in public financing after Sarkozy’s campaign finances were invalidated. Sarkozy has faced other scandals. In March 2013, Sarkozy was indicted in the Bettencourt affair (illegal payments from L’Oréal shareholder Liliane Bettencourt to UMP members, part of a wider tax fraud case involving Bettencourt and her family) but charges against him were dropped in June 2013. One of the most important ones is the Sarkozy-Gaddafi scandal: in April 2012, Mediapart published documents which indicated that the former Libyan regime of Muammar Gaddafi may have given 50 million euros to Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign. During the Libyan Civil War, officials in Gaddafi’s regime, including his son Saif al-Islam had said that Libya had funded Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign. In April 2013, a Parisian court opened a judicial investigation (citing no names) in the Gaddafi case. On March 7, 2014, Le Monde revealed that Sarkozy (and two former interior ministers Claude Guéant and Brice Hortefeux, close allies of Sarkozy cited in the Gaddafi case) had their phones bugged as part of the judicial investigation, beginning in September 2013. The transcripts of the wiretaps had found that Sarkozy and his lawyers were benefiting from insider information on the judicial process from judges and law enforcement sources – Sarkozy was appealing to the Court of Cassation the decision a judge in the Bernard Tapie scandal to send Sarkozy’s personal agenda to the judge in charge of the Bettencourt case.

The wiretap case shifted against the government, when the UMP successful changed the angle of media focus in the case to whether or not Christiane Taubira, the Minister of Justice, had been aware of the wiretaps. Taubira claimed that she had not been aware until the media revealed it; the following evening, Ayrault said that the government had indeed been aware. Taubira later showed two documents which she claimed proved that she was not aware, but those documents in fact did state that the minister was kept aware. The UMP claimed that Taubira lied and called on her resignation, but it may now appear that Taubira was not lying – her chief of staff was aware, but had not shared the information with Taubira. Since then, new revelations by Mediapart, on how Sarkozy was suspicious of the wiretaps and bought a phone under a ‘fake name’ to talk with his lawyer.

Sarkozy published an op-ed in the right-wing Le Figaro only days before the first round of the municipal elections in March 2014. He claimed, disingenuously, that he remained silent and ‘in retreat’ since 2012 and that he has no desire for revenge or ill-feelings against anyone. He continues by saying that ‘sacred principles of our Republic are being trampled unprecedented violence and unscrupulousness’ and even denounced Stasi-like techniques.

The UMP’s preparation for the EP elections was hindered by the difficult balancing act between the Copé and Fillon factions of the UMP, and the wranglings of the UMP’s small but vocal Eurosceptic (often from the party’s hard right) faction. Henri Guaino, a UMP deputy from the ‘social Gaullist’ tradition, said that he could not support the UMP list in his region because of its pro-EU top candidate; Juppé issued a thinly-veiled rebuke telling him to leave the party if he was unhappy. The UMP’s campaign concealed all ties it had with the EPP or Jean-Claude Juncker, the federalist candidate of the EPP. Instead, it explicitly targeted Hollande and ran on the terribly vague slogans of ‘a more efficient Europe’ and ‘a Europe which works’ – mixing support for the EU with pablum about ‘a stronger France’ in Europe. It opposed enlargement and Turkish membership, called for a reduction in immigration and a stronger Europe in international negotiations. In another Sarkozy op-ed right before the vote, the former President called to suspend the Schengen agreements and replace it with new agreements conditional on a common immigration policy and a Europe of co-existing identities. Oftentimes, however, the EU-critical rhetoric coming out of the UMP (and PS) is mostly for show: for example, of 40 UMP parliamentarians who signed an op-ed penned by Laurent Wauquiez and Henri Guaino (criticizing the current form of European integration, ‘excessive’ freedom of movement, austerity, social and fiscal dumping), only 8 of the 33 deputies who signed the op-ed actually voted against the European Fiscal Compact (17 UMP deputies in total had voted against, along with 20 SRC deputies) and two of them had voted against Lisbon at the time (5 UMP deputies in 2008 had voted against Lisbon, against 206 who voted for it). Therefore, when it comes to a vote, a lot of the UMP and PS deputies who criticize the EU will actually vote for the EU treaty or policy in question.

The UMP lists largely included incumbent MEPs or former deputies defeated in 2012 – confirming the old adage about the EP being a repository for failed or defeated politicians. In the Northwest, the UMP list was led by Jérôme Lavrilleux, a general councillor in the Aisne who served on the Sarkozy 2012 campaign and is a close ally of Copé, for whom he’s served as chief of cabinet since 2004. Tokia Saïfi, an ex-Radical filloniste MEP (elected since 1999), was second on the list. In the West, the list was headed by Alain Cadec, an incumbent MEP and general councillor (Côtes-d’Armor), followed by Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, an incumbent MEP and former president of the regional council of Poitou-Charentes (2002-2004, succeeded her ally Jean-Pierre Raffarin, lost reelection to Ségolène Royal in 2004). Marc Joulaud, the mayor of Sablé-sur-Sarthe – the former stronghold of François Fillon – who lost his bid to succeed his mentor (Fillon) as deputy in Fillon’s old constituency in 2012, was third on the UMP list. Nadine Morano, a fairly unpleasant loudmouth copéiste and former junior minister who lost her seat in the National Assembly in 2012, led the UMP list in the East; Arnaud Danjean, a filloniste incumbent MEP, followed her on the list. In the Massif central-Centre, the UMP was once again led by Brice Hortefeux (incumbent MEP), a close friend of Sarkozy and former cabinet minister (immigration, then labour and finally interior between 2007 and 2011). Jean-Pierre Audy, France’s most active MEP, was third on the list. In the Southwest, the UMP list was led by Michèle Alliot-Marie, a political veteran who’s served in cabinets under Chirac and Sarkozy (in portfolios such as defense, justice, interior and foreign affairs) who lost reelection in her constituency (first elected in 1988) in June 2012; as foreign minister, until February 2011, she had gotten into hot water for vacationing with friends of Ben Ali during the Tunisian Revolution. In the Southeast, the UMP was led by Renaud Muselier, another deputy defeated in 2012, who likely got his MEP gig in exchange for not getting Marseille city hall with his rival, the patriarch Jean-Claude Gaudin (the UMP mayor since 1995) opting to run for reelection. The UMP list in Île-de-France was led by Alain Lamassoure, a strongly pro-European MEP in the EP since 1999. Lamassoure’s political base, however, is in the Basque Country, and he was elected from the Southwest in 2004 and 2009. Incumbent MEP and the mayor of Paris’ 7th arrondissement Rachida Dati was second, with two other incumbent MEPs placing third and fourth on the UMP list. In the Overseas constituency, the UMP was represented by their incumbent MEP, Maurice Ponga, from New Caledonia – although Ponga’s local party, the Rassemblement-UMP, is no longer the official UMP affiliate in New Caledonia.

Christine Boutin, a political gadfly and former cabinet minister known for her very socially conservative positions (and other controversial positions for which she is often the target of ridicule) ran socially conservative pro-life and anti-gay marriage lists in all 8 constituencies – Force Vie. Boutin had been fairly close to the UMP between 2007 and 2009, and served in Fillon’s government until she got fired in 2009, at which point her small Christian Democratic Party (PCD) took its independence from the UMP and Boutin gradually shifted away from the UMP, although she endorsed Sarkozy in 2012 after failing to run herself and the PCD’s elected officials all won as UMP-endorsed candidates. Since the 2012 election, Boutin has left the leadership of the PCD and somewhat acted as a loose cannon and was a major leader in the 2013 manif pour tous against same-sex marriage. Earlier this year, Boutin – who is a bit nuts – claimed that homosexuality was an abomination; her name has stuck in popular memory in France for allegedly waving her Bible during a 1998 debate on civil unions (legalized by the left-wing government at the time) and she has faced controversy and ridicule for having married her first cousin. Christine Boutin led the Force Vie list in Île-de-France, with the PCD mayor of Montfermeil Xavier Lemoine in second position. In the Southwest, the top candidate was Jean-Claude Martinez, a former FN MEP (1989-2009) who left the FN in 2008 because he strongly opposed Marine Le Pen. The list’s platform focused on opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, but had more Christian-social positions on economic issues (‘social market economy’, a European basic income). On the EU, it opposed Schengen, Turkish membership, EU ‘deepening’ and called on the affirmation of ‘Christian roots’ of Europe and an ‘alliance of civilizations’ with Latin America.

Nicolas Dupont-Aignan is the leader of Debout la République (DLR, Arise the Republic), a small right-wing paleo-Gaullist and Eurosceptic party founded in 1999 and an independent party since it broke with the UMP in 2007. NDA won 1.8% in the 2012 presidential election, and DLR’s media profile is very low – stuck in between the UMP to its left and the FN to its right (it claims to be a non-extremist anti-EU party; something of a FN-lite or ‘bridge’ between the UMP and FN, comparable to UKIP, the uniqueness of Gaullism notwithstanding). NDA did not run in the EP elections (a symbolic 29th place on the DLR list in IdF notwithstanding), but DLR put up lists in all 8 regions. Only Dominique Jamet, a right-wing journalist/writer, who was DLR’s top candidate in Île-de-France (the only region where DLR could win a seat, with the lowest effective threshold at 6% according to DLR’s campaign lit). With a slogan of ‘neither system nor extreme’, DLR proposed to drain the EU of 80% of its powers, end Schengen, adopt French protectionist policies, limit the number foreign workers in France and reducing bureaucracy and welfare dependency in France. Unlike UKIP and some other Eurosceptic parties on the right, DLR’s economic positions are more statist – in the traditional Gaullist tradition of dirigisme.

FN campaign literature, IdF constituency (own picture)

FN campaign literature, IdF constituency (own picture)

The one party expected to profit the most was the far-right National Front (FN). Marine Le Pen won a record high 17.9% of the vote in the first round of the April 2012 presidential election, and after Sarkozy nearly killed the FN in 2007, the FN under Marine Le Pen’s leadership has roared back. Marine Le Pen benefits from a better image than that of her father and FN patriarch, Jean-Marie Le Pen. If most academics agree that under the veil of dédiabolisation, not much has changed in reality and policy; she does a much better job at appearances and communication than her father, who has a knack for provocative, racist and outrageous statements, lacked. She appears, in the eyes of part of the public, as cleaner, more acceptable, more credible and more moderate. Marine Le Pen has been quite careful at ensuring that the cranks and neo-fascist loons in the FN are kept quiet and has moved quickly, as much as she could without alienating her father and the more radical factions of the FN (who have been suspicious of her), to remove from public spotlight anybody who was inconvenient for the FN’s rebranding efforts. Marine Le Pen has surrounded herself with a new generation of FN leaders who are more polished and presentable to the media than some of the old guard (men like Bruno Gollnisch, who have said crazy things in the past); they include men like Florian Philippot, a technocrat who is now a FN vice-president.f

An Ipsos poll in November 2013 showed that a majority of respondents still think the FN is a far-right party, dangerous for democracy and would never vote the FN and most don’t think that the FN is a credible alternative. The FN’s positions, the poll showed, are not endorsed by a plurality (with one exception, on maintaining local services) although very substantial minorities (up to 46%) agree with the FN on immigration and immigration. However, the results did show favourable trends for the FN: a 9% drop since 2003 in those believing the FN is dangerous for democracy, a 13% drop since 2003 in those who say the FN is a far-right party (most notably with FN voters themselves, 57% in 2003 said the party was far-right but only 34% think so nowadays, a confirmation of the shifts in the FN’s electorate) and an overall ‘potential’ support of 35% (combining those who have already voted FN and those who say they may potentially do so).

The FN did quite well in the municipal elections, although they did confirm that there are clear limits to the FN’s growth. The majority of polls during the EP campaign showed the FN as the single largest party, maintaining a small but consistent lead over the UMP while a limping PS languished in third place. The FN’s campaign was relatively undisturbed by the obligatory last-minute racist provocation from the patriarch, who suggested that the ebola virus could solve the ‘demographic explosion’ in the world within three months. The FN’s electorate, still largely made up of malcontents and protest voters rather than dogmatic fascists or far-rightists, seems to have accepted Jean-Marie Le Pen’s continued presence in the party as a strategic necessity but downplaying his influence as that of a senile old man. Nevertheless, there is a thinly-veiled conflict between Marine and her father within the FN. Marine Le Pen has made real efforts to ‘clean up’ the party – expelling the neo-Nazi nutcases (Alexandre Gabriac, a vile skinhead elected to a regional council in 2010 on a FN list got kicked out in 2011 after publication of pictures showing him doing the Hitler salute to a Nazi flag), drawing closer to the European radical right and dropping ties with the extremists (although Bruno Gollnisch nevertheless attended the rally of the quasi-Nazi Jobbik party in Hungary) and polishing the party’s public image and rhetoric. She has also shifted the FN’s policy and its thematic focus – a greater focus on economic issues (where she has taken a statist and interventionist tone – with protectionism and the préférence nationale, and strongly anti-austerity and anti-neoliberal angle; a major break with the FN’s original radical economic liberalism of 1984) and refocusing the immigration rhetoric around the popular ‘republican value’ of laïcité (and nothing about the ‘Christian roots’ or Catholic traditionalism, as existed in the past; the FN no longer supports repatriating all immigrants). She has been backed in her shift by a ‘new guard’ of young, polished and somewhat technocratic figures – Florian Philippot (the ‘teacher’s pet’; a polished technocrat strongly attached to the dédiabolisation and moderation), Louis Aliot (Marine Le Pen’s boyfriend), Steeve Briois (the new FN mayor of Hénin-Beaumont and Marine Le Pen’s local right-hand man in her stronghold) and more minor FN cadres such as Nicolas Bay, David Rachline and Julien Sanchez. On the other hand, her father has become identified with a traditionalist wing, which is suspicious of excessive dédiabolisation – which it sees as unacceptable moderation which is causing the FN to lose its specificity – and is silently critical of Marine Le Pen for ‘abandoning’ traditional issues such as immigration, security and same-sex marriage (Marine Le Pen and Philippot did not participate in the manif pour tous, but Gollnisch and Marion Maréchal-Le Pen – the young granddaughter of Jean-Marie and Marine’s niece who is now one of two FN deputies – did march in it). At times, Jean-Marie Le Pen has even been publicly critical, in a thinly-veiled manner, of his daughter’s leadership and he is especially irked by the influence of her young ‘clique’ led by Aliot and Philippot. In this, Jean-Marie has been joined by Marion, who has emerged as a major rival of Marine and provided a young face to Jean-Marie’s ‘faction’.

FN campaign literature - inside with details of platform (own picture)

FN campaign literature – inside with details of platform (own picture)

In 2009, the FN had elected only three MEPs – Le Pen father and daughter and Gollnisch. The FN was not hurt by the fact that its three incumbents MEPs were quite inactive in the last EP, with low attendance records and limited participation in the daily and ‘unglamorous’ parliamentary activities; some in the media attempted to question them on their records, but they disingeniously claimed that the VoteWatch website was unreliable and biased (Mélenchon, another top inactive MEP, made a similar claim) or avoided the issue. Marine Le Pen refused to participate in a French TV debate with Martin Schulz, the PES candidate, likely because she would have been asked by the President of the EP why she was so inactive in her job. In the end, she had the last laugh…

This year, with polls showing them in the lead and therefore heading for a record 20+ seats, the composition of the FN lists beyond top candidates mattered a lot more. However, besides a fairly small elite of party cadres and elected officials in regional and municipal councils, the FN lacks the UMP or the PS’ grassroots bases across the country – so a lot of their candidates beyond the first two or so names tend to be quite anonymous (with the danger, as they saw in the locals, that these nobodies turn out to be hidden neo-Nazi cranks or racist fruitcakes). The law requiring the lists to alternate men and women to ensure gender parity also annoys the FN, a largely male-dominated party which has publicly ranted against the need for gender parity on lists.

In the Northwest, Marine Le Pen led the FN list, followed by Steeve Briois. Nicolas Bay, a former mégretiste turned young Marine protégé and politburo member, was fourth on the list. In the West, a weak region for the FN, the list was led by Gilles Lebreton, a law professor aligned with the small SIEL party (an ideologically quasi-identical party besides a Gaullist identity, aligned with Marine’s Rassemblement Bleu Marine broad front-thing). In the East, the FN list was led by Florian Philippot, who is trying (with very mixed results) to set up a base in the depressed old coal mining basin of Moselle (he ran for mayor of Forbach but lost to the PS incumbent in March, victim of a number of right-wing voters flocking to the PS in the runoff to block the FN). Jean-François Jalkh, a quiet party vice-president, was third on the list behind Sophie Montel, a regional councillor and FN leader in Franche-Comté. In the Massif central-Centre, the FN list was led by Bernard Monot, a libertarian economist. In the Southwest, it was Louis Aliot, styled the ‘prince consort’ by an irritated Jean-Marie Le Pen, who led the FN list. In the Southeast, the other major FN stronghold, the FN list was led by Jean-Marie Le Pen (who is the FN’s ‘boss’ in the PACA region), followed by party vice-president Marie-Christine Arnautu (an ally of Jean-Marie) and Bruno Gollnisch (elected in the East in 2009, but whose historical base was in Rhône-Alpes although he seems to have shifted to the Var now). In Île-de-France, the FN’s list was led by Aymeric Chauprade, a souverainiste realist polisci academic known for his controversial work on ‘civilizations’ and pro-Russian viewpoints. The FN also had an Overseas list, but the FN is obviously weak there outside some regions (New Caledonia).

The FN’s campaign was quite simple and had a clear target: the EU – the ‘destroyer’ of the nation-state and the culprit for unemployment, deindustrialization, outsourcing, mass immigration, dilution of the French identity, criminality, ‘communitarianism’ and undemocratic supra-national governance. The FN called for border controls to stop anarchic immigration and free movement of Romas and criminals, opposed austerity policies (the tax increases and destruction of social services), relaunching growth and jobs by abandoning the Euro for the Franc, reindustrializing France through protectionism, ‘refounding’ democracy by ‘returning to the people its legislative sovereignty’, protecting the labour market (by abolishing the EU directive on posted workers which allows, the FN said, for the mass immigration of cheap foreign labour), defending French agriculture and industry, opposing the FTA with the US, defending public services and defending identity and traditions. The FN’s slogan was straightforward stuff: NON à Bruxelles / OUI à la France (also the official registered name of all FN lists).



An oddity in the French electoral system: the individual lists are responsible for the costs of printing their own ballots, which are sent to the city halls (for distribution at the polling station) and by mail to all voters (alongside their campaign literature, or profession de foi, which they must also print and cover the costs thereof). The government (often subcontracted out) is responsible for distributing ballots and campaign lit it has received from the lists to all voters, by mail. Parties with lists in five of the eight constituencies, however, have access to free campaign ads on TV. Lists which have received over 3% of the vote will have the costs of printing ballots, campaign ads and campaign lit refunded. Given that it is very easy to run in EP elections provided you have a complete list with an equal number of men and women, a huge number of small lists sign up to run. Given the costs of actually printing ballots and campaign material, a lot of these small makeshift lists or parties usually decide to either call on their voters to print out their ballot, distribute ballots in public the day before the vote or send a limited number of ballots to polling stations on election day. Therefore, in the mailers sent out by the government to voters, only the major lists and ‘major minor’ lists actually have included their ballot and/or campaign lit.

The picture shows sample ballots in the Île-de-France constituency – PS-PRG, FN, Force Vie and DLR.

Turnout: 42.43% (+1.8%)
Seats: 74 (nc, +2 on 2009 EP election)
Electoral system: Closed list proportional representation in 8 inter-regional constituencies, 5% threshold at the constituency level, highest averages method

The results were calculated by Laurent de Boissieu on his website, because the Interior Ministry are totally incompetent nincompoops when it comes to accurately representing nationwide results. Seat changes compared to the 74 French MEPs as they stood at the end of the term.

FN (EAF) 24.86% (+18.52%) winning 24 seats (+21)
UMP (EPP) 20.81% (-7.07%) winning 20 seats (-5)
PS-PRG (S&D) 13.98% (-2.5%) winning 13 seats (+1) [12 PS, 1 PRG]
UDI-MoDem (ALDE) 9.94% (+1.48%) winning 7 seats (-3) [4 MoDem, 1 UDI-NC, 1 UDI-RAD, 1 UDI-AC]
EELV (G-EFA) 8.95% (-7.33%) winning 6 seats (-6)
FG (GUE-NGL) 6.61% (+0.13%) winning 4 seats (-1) [1 FG-PCF, 1 FG-PG, 1 FG-Ind., 1 UOM-PCR]
DLR (EUDemocrats) 3.82% (+2.01%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Nouvelle Donne 2.9% (+2.9%) winning 0 seats (-2)
Nous Citoyens 1.41% (+1.41%) winning 0 seats (nc)
LO 1.17% (-0.03%) winning 0 seats (nc)
AEI 1.12% (-2.51%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Force Vie – PCD 0.74% (+0.74%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Europe Citoyenne 0.67% (+0.67%) winning 0 seats (-1)
Citoyens du Vote Blanc 0.58% (+0.58%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Nous te ferons Europe! – MBP – PB/SB 0.44% (+0.25%) winning 0 seats (nc)
UPR 0.41% (+0.41%) winning 0 seats (nc)
NPA (EACL) 0.39% (-4.6%) winning 0 seats (nc)
R&PS (G-EFA) 0.34% (+0.34%) winning 0 seats (-2)
Pirate 0.21% (+0.21%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Others 0.61% (-5.8%) winning 0 seats (-1)

EU Parliament 2014 - Dept

The French results made headlines across Europe and much of the world, and it was the election – out of the ’28 elections’ – which retained the most attention, and became the main basis for (often flawed) media analysis of ‘pan-European’ trends in the results especially as it relates to the surge of (some) Eurosceptic/populist parties. The far-right FN topped the poll – a first for the party in any nationwide election in France – with its best percentage of the vote in its history. With 24 MEPs, the FN will not only be the single largest French party in France’s delegation to the EP (the second-largest) but it will also be one of the biggest individual national political parties in the new EP. It is a huge caucus for the FN, which will now have all their national leaders and several prominent local/regional leaders serving as European parliamentarians.


More sample ballots in the IdF constituency – UMP, FG, EELV and UDI-MoDem (own picture)

It is worth keeping in mind, before jumping to conclusions, that this was a low turnout election: 42.4%, although for the first time since 1994, turnout was actually slightly higher than in the last EP election – something which most people did not expect. The FN won about 25% of those who voted, but that’s only equivalent to 10.1% of the electorate. The FN lists won 4,712,461 votes – which is less votes than Marine Le Pen won in April 2012 (6,421,426) with 17.9% of the vote. This is not to say, however, that if turnout had been at presidential-levels the FN would not have done strikingly as well. An Ifop pre-election poll asked those who planned not to vote who they would vote for if they did actually vote showed the FN leading with 24% against 22% for the UMP, with the PS performing just as poorly (14%) and EELV quite a bit better (11%). The overall results were strikingly similar to the voting intentions of those who intended to vote and the final results. Therefore, if turnout had been considerably higher, it is likely that the FN would have performed as well as it actually did – likely with 23-25% of the vote.

Differential turnout played a key role in the FN’s success, but it is not the only factor explaining its victory. According to Ifop’s exit poll, 51% of Marine Le Pen’s 2012 voters turned out on May 25, compared to 42% of the wider electorate, 56% of Sarkozy’s first round voters, 57% of Bayrou’s voters but only 42% of Hollande’s first round voters and 34% of Mélenchon’s voters. Ipsos reported very similar numbers (except for Bayrou’s voters), with about half of Marine’s 2012 voters showing up but about 42% of Hollande’s first round voters doing likewise. An Ifop publication on the FN’s performance, based on analysis of the actual results, found that turnout increased the most in those places where the FN gained the most between 2009 and 2014.

It is quite a remarkable feat for the FN to achieve, however, considering how structurally ‘abstentionist’ its electorate is – manual workers (35% turnout per Ipsos), those without the Bac (41% turnout), low income households (30% turnout) and the anti-EU voters (according to OpinionWay, 66% of those who want to abandon the Euro and 72% of those who say that the EU should be abandoned did not vote) are all FN-leaning demographics which have below average turnout. In 2009, admittedly a low-point for the FN, about two-thirds of FN sympathizers had not voted. The FN overcame these major obstacles and motivated a core group of supporters to turn out. In a low turnout election decided by who turns out and mobilizes their base best, the FN did a significantly better job than the left. As in the municipal elections in March, most left-wing voters unhappy with the government or the partisan offer on the left largely stayed home rather than vote for another party.

Ifop/Paris Match daily tracking polls during the campaign (source:

However, it is important to point out that this result did not come as a surprise (although one could have assumed that it was a major surprise given the media’s usual sensationalism on election night). Polls since April 2014 have almost all had the FN in first place, stable between 21% and 24% of voting intentions since at least March, with the UMP in a consistent second with 21% to 23.5% of voting intentions. The PS, as in 2009, saw its support decline during the campaign from about 19-20% in April and declining to 16% by the end of the campaign. EELV increased its support, unsurprising given that it is a party which benefits from greater attention during an election campaign. From 7-8% at the outset, it increased to 9-10% at the end of the campaign. The FG, however, declined somewhat. Ifop had a daily tracking poll with Paris Match, and it last had the UMP ahead of the FN in late April.

The current political and socioeconomic situation in France has created a perfect storm for the FN, which has been the only major political party to benefit from the situation. It is useful to refer to Ipsos’ very informative study on French society from January 2014. According to that study, the main issues in France are unemployment (56%), taxes (43%, up 16 from 2013!), buying power (36%) followed by pensions (24%), safety (23%), social inequalities (21%) and immigration (21%). Ipsos’ exit poll found that immigration (31%), purchasing power (30%), the Eurozone crisis (27%), unemployment (27%) and peacekeeping in Europe (21%) were the most important issues on voters’ minds; for FN voters, immigration was one of the two main issues for 64% of them.

Immigration, unsurprisingly, has been the top issue for FN voters throughout the party’s history – one of the very few constants in the demographics of the FN’s electorate since 1984. Although a majority of voters still do not agree with the FN on immigration, a rising proportion do (42% according to an Ipsos study on the FN late last year). President Nicolas Sarkozy’s rhetoric on tough immigration, beginning in the 2007 campaign and reaching a climax with his (in)famous discours de Grenoble and the 2012 campaign (heavily influenced by Patrick Buisson, a political strategist with old ties to the far-right), arguably legitimized the FN’s positions on immigration and served to blur the differences between the FN and the ‘respectable’ parliamentary right. For years now, French voters have expressed support for tough policies against immigration and a large majority agree with the view that ‘there are too many foreigners in France’ (66% in Ipsos’ aforecited January 2014 poll). Manuel Valls was so popular as interior minister largely because he took hard stances against illegal immigration and Roma squatter camps, and his controversial measures (the Leonarda expulsion) and statements sparked an outcry on the left with a minority of pro-immigration activists and voters, but the electorate largely endorsed him on those statements and issues.

Most political institutions and office holders, except mayors, are poorly perceived according to data from Ipsos: a majority lack confidence in the justice system (54%), the EU (69%), the National Assembly (72%), deputies (77%) and political parties (92%). Pessimism is widespread: 90% say France’s economic power has declined in the past ten years although 65% still think that decline is not irreversible. There remains a strong demand for the notion of ‘authority’, with 87% feeling that authority is too often criticized and 84% saying that France needs a ‘real leader’ to ‘restore order’. A majority (about 60%) expressed protectionist views. A large majority expressed dissatisfaction with politics: 65% feeling that most politicians are corrupt, 78% saying that the democratic system is not working well, 84% who think politicians act primarily for their own interests and 88% decrying that politicians don’t preoccupy themselves with what people like them think.

Opinions are split on the EU depending on the kind of question asked, but there is a general slant towards more Eurosceptic opinions. According to Ipsos’ exit poll, 41% feel that membership in the EU is a good thing while only 23% explicitly say that it is a bad thing (the rest saying that is neither good nor bad), and a large majority continue to reject the FN’s pet idea of returning to the Franc – that idea was supported by only 28% of respondents in Ipsos’ exit poll. At the same time, however, 64% said that national powers should be strengthened and 51% said that the EU worsened the impact of the economic crisis in France.

EP vote based on vote in the 2012 presidential elections (only voters who turned out, source: Délits d’opinion)

Politically, the government is – as explained above – extremely unpopular, and even if Valls remains popular at this early stage, there is little optimism that his polices will succeed. Obviously, given such a situation, the PS as the governing party has become terribly unpopular. Besides the unending succession of policy failures and bad results, the several major promises broken and the direction of the government’s policies have alienated, disappointed or angered a good number of voters on the left. The PS, like Hollande, lacks any credibility. However, neither the FG or EELV have been able to profit from the PS’ unpopularity. As in many other European countries, the crisis and the sad state of social democracy have not significantly strengthened the radical left. In France, the FG has been totally unable to benefit from Hollande’s unpopularity. The coalition has been divided, unable to overcome the strategical contradictions between its numerically dominant party (the PCF) and its charismatic heavyweight and public figure (Mélenchon); the latter has a clear interest in the FG being an independent force with a clear and coherent stance against the PS and the government, while the latter is still mostly concerned about saving its ass.  Yet, for all his charisma and appeal to certain left-wing voters, Mélenchon is a terrible spokesperson for the radical left. He is unpleasant, abrasive, rude, condescending and retains public attention only for his latest tirade against a journalist or Marine Le Pen. Le Pen, in contrast, is a far smarter political strategist: while the FN dislikes journalists and hates them questioning their policies or actions, Marine Le Pen appears calmer, measured, polished and relatively polite to the general public. The FG has received mostly negative coverage in the media for the last few months, stemming from the extremely public divisions between the PCF and PG factions and speculation about the ‘upcoming’ (?) death/explosion of the FG. FG supporters were worn down by these internal squabbles (in addition to squabbles within some of the parties making up the FG, like Gauche unitaire), general pessimism about the state of the FG/left and the direction of the country.

The UMP is in no better shape than the PS, and its performance as the largest opposition party to the government has been horrendous by most standards. In Ipsos’ exit poll, only 21% of voters said that the UMP-UDI would manage the economy better than the government (the same percentage thought the FN would manage the economy better). In a recent OpinionWay poll on the opposition, only 14% of voters – and 32% of Sarkozy’s first round voters from 2012 – identified the UMP as the party which was the best opposition to the government, against 40% who answered ‘none of the above’ and 34% who said that the FN was the strongest opposition. The UMP was badly hurt by the crisis which followed the 2012 congress, and the ensuing protracted factional conflict reduced the popularity of both Fillon and Copé. To make matters worse, Copé is one of the most unpopular politicians in France, and his stint as president of the UMP did not nothing to shake off the image of Copé as an opportunistic, double-faced, insincere, morally bankrupt and corrupt career politician. Copé’s hold on the party was not only weakened by the smoldering and lingering factional conflicts between copéistes and fillonistes, but also – especially in the past few months – by a series of scandals, most recent the Bygmalion scandal. Nicolas Sarkozy also continues to cast a long shadow over his party, and the constant speculation over his imminent (or not) ‘return’ to active politics has further weakened the hold of the leadership on the party and confirmed depictions of the UMP as being rudderless and leaderless in Sarkozy’s absence. The bulk of the UMP’s rank-and-file are praying for Sarkozy’s return, and the UMP base remains heavily sarkozyste; on the other hand, the fillonistes and juppéistes oppose Sarkozy’s return and there remains strong resistance from ambitious politicians in the UMP to the prospect of Sarkozy ‘usurping’ their spot in 2017. However, Sarkozy’s popularity with the broader electorate has not improved all that much: he remains very unpopular on the left – even with Hollande’s massive unpopularity, there is little convincing sign of buyer’s remorse. Ipsos’ exit poll found that only 38% of voters want Sarkozy to ‘return’ (86% of UMP sympathizers) and, on another question, 54% judge that he would not be a good candidate.

The UMP, since its defeat in 2012 and the rising strength of the FN, has been divided over which political direction it should move towards – to the right, to become a clearer direct competitor to the FN; or the centre, to reassure centrist voters about the UMP and build a winning coalition in 2017 by a ‘traditional’ moderate and pragmatic appeal to the centre (Mitterrand 1988, Chirac 2002). As a result, the UMP’s ‘policy’ direction has been totally incoherent and it has largely failed to appear as a credible alternative to the government on a good number of issues. As noted above, the UMP’s strategy to mitigate the internal incoherence and discordance over the policy line has been to virulently oppose the government at nearly every turn and latch on to the most ridiculous of ‘controversies’ and non-issues. This strategy, however, has often appeared to be desperate and unconvincing to most voters. In the EP elections, the UMP further proved its internal dissonance, in this case over its views on the EU. The party includes a broad range of views on the EU, from committed federalists to actual Eurosceptics and those pretending to be Eurosceptic if that’s what cool kids do. The PS is, of course, in a similar position, but this year the most public dissonances over the EU came from the UMP.

The UMP won the municipal elections because local dynamics are more favourable (even in the context of a national wave) to the UMP. It has a strong existing base (unlike the FN), with popular incumbent mayors or strong locally-implanted candidates (former mayors, parliamentarians, local star candidates) which parties such as the FN generally lack at the local level. In the second round, especially in closely-fought left-right battles in duels (two-way) or triangulaires (three-way, generally with the FN), there was a consolidation of the far-right vote behind the candidate of the parliamentary right to defeat the left. However, despite a strong numerical result in March, the UMP won the municipal elections ‘by default’. In contrast, in an EP elections, those local dynamics are no longer relevant and EP elections are, of all elections, the ones in which voters are the most likely to use their vote to ‘let off steam’ and punish the largest parties.

The end result was that the FN topped the poll with nearly 25% of the vote and elected 24 MEPs (23 – one of them, Joëlle Bergeron, a random nobody, got into trouble when they found out that she supports voting rights for foreigners, and faced leadership pressures to not take her seat – she will be taking it, but will sit in the EFD group alongside UKIP) – up from only three in the last session of the EP. The UMP, with 20.8% of the vote, saw its support fall by about 7.1% from the last EP election in 2009. The UMP – which ran in alliance with the NC and GM (which are now part of the UDI) at the time – had a fairly ‘good’ result for a governing in the 2009 election, although 27.9% against a combined 39.2% for the left (FG-PS-EELV) at the time was not a particularly stellar result. Nevertheless, the then-governing UMP’s fairly decent performance was the result of a minor uptick in Sarkozy’s popularity around the time of the election and differential turnout, with the participation of a slightly more right-leaning and pro-EU electorate than is usual.

The PS had its worst result in a EP election – falling below not only its 2009 results (16.5%) but also the record low of 1994 (14.5%). The PS lists received only 2,650,357 votes against over 10.2 million votes for Hollande in the first round of the 2012 presidential election. According to Ifop, of the minority of Hollande’s first round electorate which actually voted on May 25, only 53% of those voters backed the PS (in contrast, of the first round Sarkozy 2012 voters who voted in the EP election, the UMP retained 62% of them; the FN won 86% of Marine’s 2012 supporters who turned out). Compared to 2012, the PS not only bled a whole ton of voters to abstention, a substantial percentage of those who did turn out voted for other parties on the left – EELV (14%), the FG (7%) and Nouvelle Donne (5%) while another 6% backed the FN. Ipsos and OpinionWay reported quasi-identical figures. Basically, only a small quarter of Hollande’s first round voters from 2012 remained loyal to the PS. Of course, given the very different nature of presidential and EP elections, it’s not a perfect comparison: even if the government was very popular, fairly substantial loses to abstention and other small parties of the left (such as EELV) would be expected. But it can serve to underline how horrible the PS’ performance was.

In contrast to 2009 and 1994, the two other EP elections in which the PS did terribly, there was no strong left-wing competition to the PS in this election. In 2009, a lot of the PS-leaning base – especially well-educated, white-collar and middle-class urban and suburban dwellers – switched to EE, which benefited from a perfect storm of favourable tailwinds in 2009. In 1994, the PS list led by Michel Rocard faced the quasi-public enmity of the Élysée Palace and President Mitterrand, who supported Bernard Tapie’s anti-establishment and anti-system Énergie Radicale list, which ended up with 12% of the vote. Although with EELV (9%), FG (6.6%) and Nouvelle Donne (2.9%) there was some left-wing competition to the PS, it was rather weak and amounted to only 32.5% of the vote.

The UDI-MoDem alliance, with 9.9%, slightly improved on the MoDem’s performance alone in 2009. The parties, to put it simply, largely retained a centrist and Christian democratic electorate which had largely voted for Bayrou in April 2012. There were, according to the several exit polls, significant voter ‘flows’ between 2012 and 2014: depending on the pollster you trust, the UDI-MoDem held between 48% and 59% of the Bayrou 2012 vote which turned out on May 25, with the rest going to the right (UMP) and some to the left (EELV); of the UDI and MoDem sympathizers which voted, about three-fifths to two-thirds of them backed their parties’ common lists, with the rest going to the UMP or other parties in smaller numbers.

Compared to its 2009 high, EELV suffered major loses – over 7% of its vote and a caucus cut down by over half from where it stood in 2009. A significant decline in support from its 2009 heights was to be expected, because 16.5% represents an abnormally high level of support for the green movement in France even in a European election. As explained above, EE(LV) in 2009 had cashed in on a perfect storm: a very rare moment of unity in green ranks, a unique cohesion between the political and non-political/civil society actors in the green movement, the candidacy of a popular and charismatic leader (Cohn-Bendit), a divided and weakened PS (very similar to the state in which the UMP is in today) and even the Home effect (although that theory has always appeared, personally, to be post hoc confabulation by a clueless media). In 2014, EELV lost most of that: the new party, although meant to unite old Greens with new members from social movements and civil society has largely turned out to be Les Verts 2.0 (a party of professional politicians out of touch or disconnected with the green movement in society), the absence of a leader like Cohn-Bendit and the loss of any particular advantage over the PS. On that last point, EELV has clearly been weakened by its participation in the unpopular Ayrault government and the perception that it compromised on a lot of its values and generally performed very poorly in cabinet. At the same time, however, 9% (or 8.95% to be exact) is not a bad result for EELV – it is a bit below the Green records of 1989 and 1999, but it is higher than the Greens’ result in 2004 (7.4%).

The FG, however, as mentioned briefly, performed poorly – with 6.6%, its support was basically equal to 2009, while the FG (PCF) lost one MEP (Jacky Hénin, a longtime incumbent, lost his seat in the Northwest constituency). The FG’s clear under-performance is a another hit for the very fragile alliance. Given Hollande’s unpopularity, the parallel unpopularity of the PS, the growing left-wing opposition to Valls and the government’s moderate policies and EELV’s weaknesses, the FG could stand to benefit from the current situation. But instead of gaining support from the left, it has been drawn down by its internal divisions and a very ‘clan’-like behaviour which has kept the FG from presenting a strong, credible and coherent left-wing alternative to the PS. This is not all that surprising, however, if you look at the history of the radical left and the PCF in France. The PCF since the 1980s is often ridiculed by critics as being the stupidest communist party in Europe, which is often not far from the truth given the PCF’s electoral strategies. The French radical left has and always will be an exploded nebula – a complex array of factions, movements, parties, social organizations and warring politicians who spend most of their time fighting one another. Mélenchon’s strength in 2012 came from his one-off ability to unite the radical left and part of the PS left behind a single candidate, drawing a diverse electorate which had supported the far-left or the PS in 2007 (but at the same time, not all those who backed far-left candidates in 2007 voted for Mélenchon in 2012, whose hold on the 2007 radical left (LO+LCR+PCF) base was very imperfect); that ability, which owed a lot to the particular dynamics of the campaign (Hollande’s persistent image, on the left of the left, as weak, indecisive and with questionable left-wing credentials; Mélenchon’s successful campaign and his personal charisma), was a one-off thing and it has since not transferred on the FG. The 2012 legislative election was the first cold shower for the FG, which unexpectedly suffered substantial loses to the PS. As long as France’s radical left remains so caught up in its arcane and silly squabbles and divided over what strategy to adapt, it cannot expect much success at the polls.

The smaller parties had mixed performances, although their cumulative result was, as would be expected in an EP election, very strong. DLR did very well for a party with relatively low notoriety and no clearly-defined base of support; it won 3.8% of the vote (but did not come close to a seat anywhere), up from an already fairly decent (for the times) result of 1.8% in the 2009 election. Nouvelle Donne, for a new party lacking strong leadership and resources, did well although it obviously failed in its wet dream of surpassing the PS. It won 2.9% of the vote, largely appealing to an urban, young, well-educated progressive electorate which had voted EELV, PS or FG in 2009. It remains to be seen if the party will go the way of so many other similar projects on the left or if it could manage to establish a tiny base for itself. Nous Citoyens won 1.4% of the vote – with the ideologically fluffiness and the vague slogans, it likely won protest votes and ‘NOTA votes’. The Independent Ecologist Alliance (AEI) first ran in 2009 as a coalition of three parties: Antoine Waechter’s MEI (founded as by Green dissidents in 1994 who rejected the Greens’ turn to the left and alliance with the PS-led left), Génération écologie (originally Brice Lalonde’s party, which lost all relevance and shifted right in the mid-1990s) and La France en action (a very vague and shady ‘green party’, allegedly used by religious sects such as the Scientologists and Raëlians to make money). It won 3.6% of the vote – thanks in good part to various star candidates in the regions including Antoine Waechter, former weather presenter Patrice Drevet and singer Francis Lalanne). However, it fell apart in 2010 as the MEI and GE left the AEI to pursue their own alliances (Waechter has finally made up with his old enemies and the MEI now regularly allies itself to EELV; GE briefly allied with the PRG in 2011-2012 and then dropped out of view again), leaving the AEI as La France en action. Given the loss of star candidates and support, the AEI ran only five lists and dropped to 1.1%.

Christine Boutin’s Force Vie did poorly, as expected; the market for a socially conservative and in-your-face religious right party in France is tiny (and the Catholic traditionalist minority was historically aligned with other parties, such as the FN) and Boutin is mostly known because she’s the target of so much parody and ridicule. Boutin’s list won 1.2% in Île-de-France, its second best result after the West (1.45%). Corinne Lepage lost reelection in her terribly ill-advised bid to run independently on her own platform. Europe Citoyenne‘s best result, by a mile, came in Île-de-France, where Lepage herself won 2.3%.

The Breton regionalist list (Nous te ferons Europe!) led by Christian Troadec in the West did surprisingly well – winning 3.05% in the region as a whole, 7.2% in the region of Brittany and 11.5% in Finistère. In Brittany, Troadec’s list easily outperformed the other regionalist list – led by the old UDB, which won only 2% of the vote in the region. In Corsica, nationalist MEP François Alfonsi’s list – which received only 0.75% in the Southeast region, won a solid third with 21.5% of the vote and placed second with 22.9% in Haute-Corse. In the Southwest, the Basque regionalist list won only 0.25%, but managed 3.3% in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques (which also includes non-Basque regions).

On the far-left, the NPA did horrendously. Granted, the NPA managed to put up against five lists while its fraternal enemy, LO, put up lists everywhere and held its vote share from 2009. In Île-de-France, where LO leader Nathalie Arthaud went up against Olivier Besancenot, the old face of the NPA, the LO list narrowly beat the NPA 0.85% to 0.84%. Even led by Besancenot, who in the past carried a personal vote, the NPA’s poor result shows how moribund the outfit really is and how totally irrelevant Besancenot has become. The French far-left is at its weakest level in years.

Demographic and geographic analysis

The trends in the ‘Marine era’ spatial and sociodemographic distribution of support for the FN noted in 2012 were confirmed this year. These trends included a ‘proletarianization’ of the party’s electorate, a strengthening of the ni-ni (alienated and dissatisfied voters identifying with neither the left or right) component of the FN at the expense of the ideologically far-right base, very high levels of support in the old industrial regions of the north, a slight fall-off (compared to 2002) in the southern bases, a stark urban-suburban/rural divide, very strong support in distant exurban areas (périurbain), a very strong negative correlation with higher levels of education, a reduced gender gap and finally a ‘nationalization’ of FN support with some strong gains (compared to 2002) in traditionally weak regions west of the famous Le Havre-Meaux-St. Etienne-Perpignan axis. The novelty of 2014 would be the nationwide gains made by the FN, which won incredible results in its strongholds and strong results in traditionally weak regions. However, the low turnout means that these gains are slightly less impressive in reality than on paper, but still…

Exit polls all confirmed that the FN won excellent results with voters in the lower social categories (CSP-) – employees and manual workers (ouvriers).

From the three main exit polls (Ifop, Ipsos and OpinionWay), the FN received 43 to 46% of the vote with ouvriers – well, the minority of them which actually voted. With employees, a largely feminine but broad sociological category (which has been generalized to lower-echelon employees and so forth; consisting of lower-level public servants, clerks, secretaries, administrative employees, cashiers, clerks, salesmen but also personal service workers), the FN won between 34% and 38% depending on the pollster. The UMP performed very poorly with ouvriers (10-11%, with Ipsos reporting a likely exaggerated 17%), and the PS support collapsed (8-12%). The FG won about 9% of ouvriers which turned out on May 25. EELV won about 6-9%, depending on the pollster, which is below average but a comparatively decent result for a party whose electorate is largely white-collar. With employees, the PS did slightly better, with support at 12% (Ifop) 0r 15-16% (Ipsos/OpinionWay); EELV and FG both did fairly well, with 8-10% and 7-10% respectively. The UMP won only 12% or 15% of employees.

Averaged exit poll results by socioprofessional category (source: Délits d’opinion)

Délits d’opinion averaged the numbers from all exit polls, and found the FN won about 45% with ouvriers against 13% for the UMP, 9% apiece for the FG and PS, 8% for EELV and only 5% for the centre. With employees, it averaged to 36% for the FN against 14% apiece for the UMP and PS, 9% for EELV, 8% for the FG and 6% for the centre. The strength of the FN with employees, three-quarters of which are women, shows the absence of a gender gap in the FN’s vote: Ifop did show a 5-point gap (but it was largely due to older women being significantly less FN than older men), OpinionWay and Ipsos both reported a statistically insignificant or nonexistent gender gap. In the past, the FN’s electorate had been a fairly significant gender gap and masculine bias in the FN electorate, which is the norm for a far-right party, but it has been reduced or eliminated with Marine Le Pen. The FN’s figures with workers and employees are both major gains on the FN’s 2012 results with these groups, but making comparisons is silly given the major differences in turnout between the two elections.

In the FN’s support, there remains a difference between those in the private and public sectors. Those employed in the private sector have a strong right-wing lean, and it’s with those in the private sector that the FN performed better. The private sector is marked by greater job insecurity, lower unionization rates, less generous social conditions and more concerns about unemployment, purchasing power and cost of living pressures (but with tough times befalling the public sector, the FN has been pulling strong numbers with public employees as well – likely expanding from its base with military personnel and policemen). In the sphere of workers and employees, the FN’s traditional demographics are cashiers, vendors, those employed in small industries/firms and construction sector workers. The left does far better with public employees. Additionally, the FN does better with non-unionized workers (34% vs 25% according to Ifop), but the FN support has increased with unionized workers – Ifop reported that, in the EP election, the FN won 33% with those close to Workers’ Force (FO), 27% with those close to Sud-Solidaires and 22% with those close to the largest union, the historically communist CGT (the FG won 30% support with those aligned with the CGT). Its support was lower, 17%, with those close to the French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT), a moderate union with roots in the 1960s New Left and Christian left tradition.

FN support tends to be middle-aged, and weakest with older voters (retirees were one of the FN’s weakest groups, with 18-19% support). According to OpinionWay and Ifop, which had detailed age breakdowns, the FN did best (32% average) with those 35 to 39 but did almost as well with those 18 to 24 (29% average), 50 to 64 (26%) and 25 to 34 (24%). With those over 65, the FN won 16% against 31% for the UMP. Worryingly for the PS, its support, like the UMP, increased with age (9% for the PS with those 18-24 and 17% with those 65+). Younger left-wing voters, like in other countries in the EU (Austria, most significantly) preferred the Greens (14-15% with those 18 to 34).

Traditionally and historically, ouvriers formed the backbone of the French left, which, in the glory days of the 50s and late 70s used to command the support of about seven in ten workers. A strong tradition of socialization in a Communist milieu in the immediate post-war era maintained strong familial links of left-wing (and oftentimes, Communist) political orientation. However, since Mitterrand’s election in 1981 and especially since the 1990s, the left has been alarmed at the pace at which their old backbone have been deserting them and flirting for anti-system options, be it the unconventional far-left of Arlette and Olivier or the far-right of Jean-Marie and his daughter. There is a feeling that the left has abandoned its working-class roots and has shifted its style, rhetoric and strategy towards gentrified middle-classes, salaried public employees and the bobos. Indeed, the PS’ style since 1983 has been edging towards either feel-good consensual, moderated toned-down centre-leftism or New Left rhetoric about social justice, equality or tolerance. The Marxist rhetoric about the class struggle, the proletariat and even the mitterrandien creed of changer la vie was left on the side of the road, ready to be picked up by parties to the left or right of the PS. That being said, unlike the PCF, the PS was never a ‘worker’s party’ (parti ouvrier) – even in the 1970s. The share of manual workers in the PS membership has always been very low – significantly lower than in the PCF; today, the vast majority of PS members are from the new middle-classes (teachers, public servants, intermediate-grade public/parastatal sector, social workers and white-collar professionals) and workers made up only 3% of the PS membership according to a 2011 study (down from 10% in 1985). The PCF, which had a real working-class membership in the better years, has seen a similar decline of its working-class component and a concomitant increase in the number of cadres and middle-classes; at the same time, most of the PCF’s remaining working-class members are unionized and work in the public sector or parastatals. The PS, meanwhile, has grown further disconnected from social movements and the unions.

Since the 1980s, the working-classes in Western Europe have suffered acute social dislocation. The working-classes have suffered from deindustrialization (factory closures), the fall of large industrial interests (shipbuilding, mining), a significant increase in unemployment, a marginalization of the secondary sector by the tertiarization of western economies and the loss of working-class identities and class consciousness as the ouvrier ceased to be the vanguard of societies. Simultaneously, the nature of French society – particularly the working-class and industry – was altered by a major increase in North African immigration. With the recent economic crisis (and yet more unemployment and even lower incomes), many have felt that yet another psychological ‘threshold’ of working-class resentment and alienation has been broken. Cautious optimism has been replaced by pessimism – pondering whether the crisis will ever end, feeling that politics is controlled by an international financial oligarchy. Recent studies have found that there was a deep-seated feeling of insecurity (physical but also economic and social) and injustice.

Naturally, immigration – and the ethnocentric sentiments it creates – is quite inseparable from socioeconomic explanations aforementioned. In situations of social dislocation, the victims seek a scapegoat who can be held responsible – either entirely or in large part – for their situation. The immigrant, who settled in the same industrial urban regions as the original working-class, is seen as responsible for the lack of jobs (since they took the jobs), the loss of social welfare protections (the immigrants and their often large families seen as leeching off welfare) and increased criminality. For such voters, the FN, which offers a simple solution to the ‘immigrant problem’ and quick fixes to their socioeconomic woes, is a very attractive option. The FN speaks directly to their feelings of exclusion, marginalization, alienation and demands for a ‘strong’ response to their problems. Guy Michelat and Michel Simon in Les ouvriers et la politique convincingly showed, however, that the working-class vote for the FN only becomes significant on the condition that voters express authoritarian sentiments and hostility towards immigrants – regardless of socioeconomic anxiety, sense of insecurity or rejection of the political system. There is a strong correlation between ethnocentric attitudes and a high FN vote; but unlike with the left or the far-left, there’s no correlation between the FN and negative views towards economic liberalism and globalization. However, Michelat and Simon’s numbers did show that the FN vote still increased alongside the degree of identification with the working-class. While voters supportive of immigration will not vote for the FN regardless of socioeconomic woes or working-class ties, working-class voters opposed to immigration are more likely to vote for the far-right than non-working-class voters with similar views on immigration.

Guy Michelat and Michel Simon in Les ouvriers et la politique also established that the connection between the PCF’s loses with workers and the FN’s gains, which both began at the same time (1980s), was extremely tenuous and a fairly minor occurrence. There was very little direct transfers from the PCF to the FN – the PCF’s working-class electorate grew old and retired, voted to the far-left or joined the very large numbers of non-voters election after election. The FN’s gains with working-class voters came primarily from those who had voted for the right or the PS. The existence of a fairly substantial number of blue-collar voters who tend to support the FN in the first round but the left (PS) in a second round against the right, which first became a major phenomenon in 1995, has created an engaging academic debate on whether this should be called gaucho-lepénisme (PS-leaning voters who vote FN in the first round) or ninisme. The latter, to which I admittedly lean towards, argues that what is called gaucho-lepénisme should instead be seen as part of a wider phenomenon of political disengagement and working-class alienation from the traditional left. Nonna Mayer (Ces français qui votent Le Pen) claimed that while the FN’s working-class supporters have left-wing roots through their parents and may vote for the left against the moderate right in a two-way runoff scenario, they no longer identify with the left and exhibit signs of profound political apathy and general pessimism towards politics and partisanship in general. In short, while voters of left-wing tradition do make up a significant part of the FN vote, it is simplistic to assume that it’s as easy as PCF/PS voters just deciding to vote FN now.

Taxes on the wealthy: opinions of FN voters by region (source: Ifop)

Mayer’s arguments underline the common idea that there are two major ‘blocs’ of FN voters – to put it crudely, one is ideologically far-right and less blue-collar while the other is a traditional protest vote which is more blue-collar and not ideologically far-right. The idea has recently been picked up by the media, which has decided to dumb the picture down further (as usual), and linked the idea of these two blocs (which have become somewhat geographically defined) to the animosity between Marine Le Pen and Jean-Marie Le Pen/Marion Maréchal-Le Pen. In 2013, Ifop had an interesting study on the ‘FN du nord’ and the ‘FN du sud’ which found similarities and differences between the FN core geographic bases in the northeast (Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Picardie, Champagne-Ardenne, Lorraine, Haute-Normandie) and the south (PACA, Languedoc-Roussillon). They share isolationist/protectionist views, quasi-universal hostility to immigration and foreigners, feelings of insecurity but also fairly ‘hard’ stances on unemployment (agreement with the idea that unemployed people could find work ‘if they really wanted’); although the intensity of anti-immigrant sentiment is highest with the southern ‘ideological’ FN. There were more important differences of opinion regarding same-sex marriage (the south being about 10% more opposed, although all segments of FN voters rejected it by wide margins); but the widest differences of opinion came on economic issues – the south expressing right-wing views and the northeast more statist views. For example, Ifop’s study found that 60% of FN voters in the south said taxes were too high, compared with only 37% of FN voters in the northeast. Unsurprisingly, the southern and northeastern FN also reflected sociological differences: 50% of the FN voters in the northeast were workers/employees against 36% of those in the south. Retirees made up 24% of the southern electorate but only 16% of the northeastern one; CSP+ groups and self-employed made up 14% of the southern electorate and 7% of the northeastern one. Finally, the FN’s southern base, according to Ifop, split 59% to 15% in Sarkozy’s favour in the 2012 runoff (with the other 26% not voting or spoiling their vote) while those in the northeast only split 42-20 in Sarkozy’s favour with 38% not voting or spoiling their votes.

Exit polling on the vote by ideological self-definition in 2012 also confirmed the dual nature of the FN’s vote: Marine won 71% of those who were ‘very right-wing’ and 18% of those who were ‘right-wing, but took first place with 36% with the voters who identified as ni-ni (neither left nor right). Marine Le Pen won only 4% support with those who identified as left-wing, although that was a bit better than Sarkozy+NDA (1%). There was no such exit polling question this year, but the usual breakdown by partisan self-identification is still quite telling: Ifop, Ipsos and OpinionWay showed that the FN topped the poll with those who declared no partisan affiliation (although estimates of FN support ranged from 24% to 35%…); in addition to taking nearly every single voter who identified with the FN. In addition, the FN lists in 2014 also pulled a substantial number of support from voters who identified with the UMP/UDI: 11-16% of UMP supporters, 5-10% of UDI supporters. 4% of those identifying with the left voted for the FN, although the FN won up to 8% of Hollande’s first round voters (those who actually did vote) and, according to OpinionWay, 12% of his runoff electorate (only 32% of the minority of his 2012 runoff electorate which actually voted stayed with the PS). The FN also won 32% of the Sarkozy runoff electorate which turned out, against 45% for the UMP and 12% for the centre.

The FN’s strong numbers with working-class voters was seen geographically by the astronomical FN results in the northeast, especially departments in Picardie – Aisne (40%), Somme (37.2%), Oise (38.2%) – and the Pas-de-Calais (38.9%). These results were even higher than the equally as excellent FN numbers in its southern strongholds: Vaucluse (36.4%), Pyrénées-Orientales (35.2%), Gard (32.9%), Var (35%), Alpes-Maritimes (33.2%) and the Bouches-du-Rhône (32.5%). The FN also did well in other parts of the northeast – Ardennes (33.5%), Meuse (33.7%), Haute-Marne (33%) and Haute-Saône (34.2%). The FN’s huge numbers in Picardie and the Pas-de-Calais owe partly to a personal factor: Marine Le Pen led the FN list in those regions, and like in 2009, the FN did comparatively better in the Northwest constituency (as a whole: FN 33.6% and UMP 18.8%) thanks to Marine than in other strongholds (Southeast with daddy: 28.2%; East with Philippot: 29%; Southwest with the Prince Consort: 24.7%).

Results of the FN by canton (source: own map, created through

In the Pas-de-Calais, where Marine Le Pen and friends have made the old left-wing mining basin their top stronghold (expanding out of Hénin-Beaumont, as noted with some very strong FN local results in some other towns in the mining basin in March 2014), the FN utterly dominated the mining basin (despite generally lower-than-average turnout) – 53.5% in Hénin-Beaumont, 43.3% in Liévin (vs. 17.5% for the PS), 39.6% in Lens (18.1% PS), 42.2% in Carvin (15.2% PS), 43.3% in Bully-les-Mines (15.2% PS), 43% in Nœux-les-Mines (15.2% PS) and 43% in Bruay-la-Buissière (15.9% PS). It did equally as well in the few towns in the Pas-de-Calais mining basin, a Socialist stronghold, which were historically dominated by Communists – Auchel (45%, 12.9% FG), Divion (44.8%, 17% FG), Avion (40.7%, 27.9% FG) and Méricourt (45.3%, 19.7% FG). In the department, the FN also did very well in other traditionally solidly left-wing old industrial and working-class cities and towns – Arques (41.1%), Isbergues (36.5%), Lumbres (39.9%), Guînes (44.4%) and Marquise (34.7%) – or the industrial waterfront cities of Calais (31.8%, with a strong 22% for the FG list led by the former mayor, defeated in 2008 and 2014), Boulogne-sur-Mer (33.4%), Le Portel (42.6%) and Outreau (39.5%). Although the FN’s best results came from the old industrialized regions, it also posted strong results – over 30% – in the rural and historically conservative and religious Artois. Its worst results were in the affluent resort town of Le Touquet-Paris-Plage (18.3%, the UMP won 42.8%) and Arras, a more white-collar and middle-class city (23.5% vs 17.1% for the UDI-MoDem).

In the Nord, the FN’s strength extended into the mining basin, which in the Nord had historically been thoroughly dominated by the PCF. The FN won 43.5% in the canton of Denain (15.8% for the FG), 39.9% in the canton of Marchiennes, 37.2% in Douai-Sud, 41.2% in Anzin (where some of the earliest coal mines began operating in the 19th century) and 45% in Condé-sur-l’Escaut. The city of Valenciennes (the political stronghold of Jean-Louis Borloo), a city in the mining basin which has managed its post-industrial re-conversion better than most, the UDI-MoDem list led by Dominique Riquet, the former mayor of the city between 2002 and 2012, topped the poll with 35.5% against 24.2% for the FN. In the south of the department, a poor and economically depressed region formerly dominated by heavy industries (metallurgy in the Sambre valley) or small industrial towns, the FN also did strikingly well. In the metallurgical Sambre valley, centered around Maubeuge, the FN received 40.1% in Maubeuge-Sud, 40.2% in Berlaimont, 42.6% in Bavay and 43.1% in Hautmont. In the other old industrial centres in the south of the department, the FN won over 40% in the cantons of Clary, Carnières and Marcoing and about 39% in the cantons of Trelon and Solesmes. In the industrial waterfront areas along the English Channel, the FN won over 40% of the vote in the cantons of Graveline, Grande-Synthe and Dunkerque-Ouest. Once again, it was a matter of differential turnout – in the very poor industrial town of Grande-Synthe, a PS stronghold, turnout was as low as 28.3% – allowing the FN to win 40% over 17.9% for the PS.

In the Lille metropolis, the FN dominated – for different reasons and with different levels of support. It did very well in some old textile towns such as Haubourdin (37.9%), Seclin (31.2%), Armentières (30.5%), Halluin (36.7%, Tourcoing (30%) and Wattrelos (42.7%) – where turnout was low but still not extremely low; thanks to low turnout – likely especially pronounced in immigrant neighborhoods, which are strongly left-wing and anti-FN, the FN won 26.1% in Roubaix (the PS placed third with 14.1%!) but turnout there was 24.7%. On higher turnout (38%) in Lille, the FN won 18.9% against 18.2% for the PS and 16.3% for EELV; at the cantonal level, there was a clear divide between the city’s poor white proletarian faubourgs which went strongly for the far-right on low turnout (30.1% in Lomme, 24.7% in Lille-Est [Hellemmes]) and the poor immigrant neighborhoods (which narrowly went to the PS), the gentrified bobo/hip/artsy Wazemmes and downtown area (EELV narrowly won Lille-Centre) and the wealthy right-leaning neighborhoods (the UMP won Lille-Nord and suburban Lille-Ouest). In Lille’s most affluent suburbs – the canton of Marcq-en-Barœul – the UMP won 33.9% against only 14.9% for the FN. The far-right also won the most votes in the left-wing university new town of Villeneuve-d’Ascq, albeit with only 19%.

The Aisne, Oise and Somme are three historically industrial departments (with industry traditionally concentrated in smaller towns, although some of the cities were industrial centres too) which have seen industry decline, unemployment increase and the economic situation worsen considerably. Outside the Paris exurbia in the Oise and southern Aisne and the suburbs of the cities, which are more affluent, it is a very poor region with many old industrial cities suffering from high unemployment and demographic decline. When there are jobs for people in the ‘rural’ areas, they need to commute a long distance to reach them; geographically isolated and marginalized semi-rural areas of this type are top FN strongholds. The FN did very well in depressed ex-industrial/working-class towns – Flixecourt (Somme, 49%), Corbie (Somme, 39.4%), Friville-Escarbotin (Somme, 39.8%), Doullens (Somme, 41.9%), Gamaches (Somme, 32.9%), Ribécourt-Dreslincourt (Oise, 41%), Thourotte (Oise, 40.6%), Chauny (Aisne, 38.2%), Hirson (Aisne, 35.7%), Guise (Aisne, 39.5%) and Bohain-en-Vermandois (Aisne, 46.9%). It also performed strikingly well in the cités cheminotes (PCF strongholds) of Tergnier (Aisne, 41.1%) and Montataire (Oise, 36.4%). In the Creil-Montataire-Nogent urban area – an old industrial area (with a metallurgical industry in Creil) which is now one of the poorest urban areas in France and has a large immigrant population from North Africa – the FN did very well, perhaps due to very low turnout on the left and from immigrants (Creil 32.8%, Nogent-sur-Oise 35.8%; the PS won only 18.9% in Creil, where it usually does very well).

Bernard Schwengler, a specialist of the FN vote in Alsace, coined the term ouvrier caché to explain the strong FN vote in rural areas of Alsace, Lorraine and indeed most of the east. Although these very small villages and towns are rural, they are not agricultural but rather traditionally industrial (without precluding local workers also working their own fields as farmers), with a dense network of small businesses and local industries although with industrial decline, a lot of residents are forced to commute long distances to urban areas (or to Germany, in some regions). In regions such as l’Alsace bossue, southeastern Moselle and most of the Vosges and Haute-Marne, the rural blue-collar areas where the FN is doing very well have been hit the hardest by rural desertification (population decline, local shops closing, public services moving to larger towns) and they are marginalized and ‘enclaved’ areas with poor connections to major urban centres and they fall outside the wider urban areas of the cities (Strasbourg, Metz, Nancy etc).

While this region has a very low immigrant/foreign population, workers come in contact with immigrants at their place of work. Schwengler described how these voters felt that their work was no longer valued or recognized, and lamented the loss of reference points – the left no longer defends the working-classes, the lack of job opportunities and so forth. Sentiments of working-class alienation went hand in hand with an ethnocentric rejection of the immigrant as a scapegoat – the interviewees said that the foreigners did not want to work, and complained how they allegedly received undue material advantages (social benefits despite ‘never having worked’) and the sentiment that their advantages came on the back of the hard-working locals who had no social assistance and low wages. It is, in effect, a local version of the so-called ‘halo effect’, whereby the FN does best in areas located close to areas with a large immigrant population rather than in the area with the high immigrant population. In Alsace and Moselle, the FN’s working-class support came from the right.

The Bas-Rhin confirmed Schwengler’s theses – in the department, the FN and UMP were divided by only a handful of votes (25.2% to 24.9%) – and the map showed a rather neat polarization, like in 2009, between areas in the Strasbourg sphere of influence and those remote areas outside of it. The PS narrowly won Strasbourg proper (23.4% to 19.2% for the UMP, 14.6% for the FN and 12.8% for EELV), likely due to the presence of the former PS mayor and incumbent MEP Catherine Trautmann on the PS list in second place (she failed to be reelected, the PS taking only one seat in the East), while the UMP won the city’s affluent suburban cantons by solid margins – in the canton of Truchtersheim, for example, the UMP won 30.7% against only 21.8% for the FN. The FN’s results were lower (under 30%) and the UMP stronger in the fairly wealthy cantons of the Alsace viticole in the Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin. The FN also did poorly in cantons near the German and Swiss borders (Wissembourg and Lauterbourg in the Bas-Rhin, Huningue in the Haut-Rhin) where a large percentage commute to work in Germany or Switzerland.

On the other hand, the FN won over 35% in Sarre-Union and Drulingen, two cantons in the Alsace bossue and won 34% in the cantons of Saales and Schirmeck, culturally French cantons in the Vosges mountain with an old mining industry. In the Haut-Rhin, where the FN won 30.1% against 23.4% for the UMP, the FN’s best result came from the canton of Saint-Amarin (38%), an old small industrial centre iin the Vosges mountains. It also did very well in the potash basin to the north of Mulhouse (35.5% in the canton of Cernay, 34.9% in Wittenheim, 36.3% in Einsisheim) and in the Val d’Argent (an old silver mining area in the Haut-Rhin and Vosges) with 34.9% in the canton of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines and 41.6% in the canton of Fraize (Vosges). These old industrial regions in Alsace, where the FN has always performed very well, are almost all economically depressed regions which have suffered from deindustrialization and a continued demographic decline which began in the 1970s or before.

In Moselle, the FN won 31.1% against 19.7% for the UMP. The FN performed very well in the former coal mining basin, with 35% in the canton of Forbach, 39.3% in the canton of Stiring-Wendel, 41.2% in Saint-Avold-2 and 40.7% in the canton of Freyming-Merlebach; it also swept the Fensch valley – a region of old iron works or defunct iron ore mines – with 35.5% in the canton of Hayange (the city of Hayange, where the FN won 37.7%, has a FN mayor now), 36.9% in the canton of Rombas, 33% in Marange-Silvange, 31% in the canton of Florange (in the depressed town of Florange, famous for the controversies surrounding the closure of the ArcelorMittal plant, the FN won 31.2%) and 35.4% in Moyeuvre-Grande. Across the border, in the Pays-Haut of Meurthe-et-Moselle, the FN still struggled in this region of the iron country dominated by the PCF. The FN won only 25% or so of the vote in the cantons of Villerupt and Herserange, 24% in Longwy, (and, in Moselle, it won only 26.8% in the canton of Fontoy); the FG still topped the polls in a few towns in the Pays-Haut including Villerupt and Hussigny-Godbrange. I speculate that the tradition and presence of Italian and Polish immigrants in this industrial region of Lorraine – in addition to the continued local strength of the PCF in the region – serves to weaken the FN in a region which would be assumed to be as solid for them as the Fensch valley or the coal mining basin of Moselle.

Another general region where the FN did quite well was the greater Paris basin – the far-right won some very strong numbers on the exurban outskirts of the Parisian metropolis, in the outer reaches of the Seine-et-Marne, Val-d’Oise, Essonne and extending into the Oise, Aisne, Eure, Yonne and Loiret. These are right-leaning lower middle-class exurban/outer suburban communities, which have grown rapidly in recent years as high property prices in the urban cores, urban decay in the old suburbs, white flight have forced people to live further and further away from their workplaces in the downtown cores. Those who have been ‘forced’ to move away from the downtown cores did not do so by choice, their low incomes and lower-paying jobs (there are, obviously, few young professionals or cadres sups in these exurbs, but lots of middle-aged employees) meant that they could not afford to live in increasingly costly downtowns and inner suburbs. Clearly, white flight and security concerns motivated some to ‘escape’ the old proletarian suburbs of the Seine-Saint-Denis, but they probably did not particularly wish to live where they may live today. The expression périurbain galère (the French idiom la galère refers to a particularly tough or unfavourable siutation) is a good expression of their lifestyle. By their lower education levels (most have the Bac or a trades certificate) they can only rarely aspire to higher paying jobs. They are forced to a long commute to work, and suffer from public transit strikes or traffic jams. A lot those who suffer the périurbain galère struggle to make ends meet: mortgage payments on their houses or car(s) and rising gas prices. These regions, where the left is weak, have tended to become the FN’s new strongholds in Île-de-France.

There is an important contrast between what can be described as the périurbain choisi and périurbain subi (basically, “chosen” exurbia and “suffered” exurbia). The first denotes more comfortable upper middle-class exurban areas, accessible and connected to large business and educational cities, populated by professionals and higher-income earners who have chosen to live in the suburbs. The latter denotes lower-income, though not “poor” people who have been compelled to move to less desirable, less accessible and semi-rural exurban municipalities because of rising property prices in the old inner city and the inner suburbs. In this case, the FN vote can express concerns about security and opposition to immigration – because despite living in “lily-white” areas, these inhabitants work and socialize alongside immigrants in more ethnically diverse urban conglomerations – but it also expresses the concerns of a lower middle-class electorate which is considered about social marginalization, their wages, their purchasing power and their economic future. Similar to the Poujadist vote in 1956, there is a certain fear of ‘proletarianization’ or déclassement (falling down the social ladder). Marine Le Pen’s appeal to the “invisible” rural and exurban France likely struck a chord and hit all the right notes for these voters. Their vote for the FN does not necessarily represent racism but rather fears about the future and frustration at their marginalization in the “invisible” peripheral regions of France.

The FN received over 30% of the vote in the exurban cantons of the Seine-et-Marne and Val-d’Oise, and reached over 40% of the vote in most of the Oise, a department which combines several favourable demographics for the far-right (a declining, depressed and aging old working-class/industrial base in small centres and marginalized semi-rural cantons; the périurbain subi exurban vote. The pattern can also be observed in the Eure and the Yonne (the regions of these departments closest to Paris).

Average FN results 1995-2014 relative to the distance from nearest city of 200,000+ inhabitants (source: Ifop)

Ifop has been looking at the FN’s vote share across France in relation to distance from urban centres for a few years now, and analyzed the EP results from that fascinating angle again this year. As in 2012, the FN’s support was weakest (19.5%) in communes which are located 0 to 10km from a urban centre of over 200,000 inhabitants and peaked at about 29% of the vote in communes falling between 30 and 60km of a large urban centre, before slowly declining as distance from the urban core increased further. As these numbers show, the exurban support for the FN is not only confined to the Parisian basin. It’s also a factor in Lyon (Rhône department), with the strong support for the FN in lower middle-class outer suburbs to the east of the city (canton of Meyzieu 31% FN, canton of Saint-Symphorien-d’Ozon 29.7% FN, canton of Décines-Charpieu 27.1% FN) contrasting with low support in the affluent suburbs (canton of Limonest 16.9% FN, canton of Caluire-et-Cuire 15% FN). Around Toulouse, the FN won about 28% in the cantons of Fronton and Grenade, which are exurban areas of the city, while it won only 15.3% in the affluent suburban canton of Castanet-Tolosan

In the 1995 presidential election, the FN’s support was highest (16-16.5%) in communes falling between 10 and 30km of a large centre, while in 2002, Le Pen’s support had been highest – at 18% – in areas between 20 and 50km of a large centre. Since 1984, there has been a particularly pronounced decline in the FN’s support in the urban cores – Paris being perhaps the best example (although many other large cities, notably Lyon, are also good examples); this has been compensated by a significant increase in the FN’s support in outer suburban, exurban and semi-rural areas. Compared to 2012, however, the FN gained in all communes, although the smallest gains (+5.2%) came in the urban cores and the strongest gains (+8%) from the strongholds 30-60km from them. Nevertheless, with the major differences in turnout level, it is unwise to compare both elections directly unless turnout is taken into account.

One of the strongest predictors of voting for the FN is the level of education. According to the average of four exit polls, the FN vote ranged from 36% to 10% depending on an individual’s education. With voters who had no diploma or certification lower than the Bac, the FN won 36% against a distant 19% for the UMP and 13% for the PS. With voters who had the Bac, the FN won 28% against 22% for the UMP and 13% for the PS. With those voters who had the Bac and two years of post-secondary education (Bac +2), the UMP defeated the FN by 3 points (23% to 20%), with the PS increasing its support to 15% and EELV taking 13% of the vote. With the most educated voters – those with a Bac +3 or more (a Bac +3 is equivalent to a bachelor’s degree, anything above that would be a masters or doctorate) – the FN was fifth (10%) behind the UMP (21%), PS (18%), UDI-MoDem (16%) and EELV (12%). In socioprofessional categories, the most educated voters tend to be cadres (managerial and professional positions, including lawyers, academics, doctors, journalists, artists). In this CSP+ category, the FN won only 12% (average) against 21% for the UMP, 16% for the UDI-MoDem, 16% for the PS, 12% for EELV and 6% for the FG. Therefore, the FN’s support decreased with higher levels of education, a higher socioprofessional status and higher incomes (Ipsos and OpinionWay asked for income, and found the lowest support for the FN and the highest support for the UMP, centre and PS [!] in the top income brackets; with the FN’s strongest results from the lowest income brackets, although still pulling a strong vote at or above national average in middle-income categories). In an enlightening tale of who stuck with the PS in 2014, the Socialists had their best result with the higher income, education and socioprofessional groups. As you could infer from the above results in industrial regions, not only did many of the left’s voters in those regions abstain, the voters who turned out punished the PS.

The strong link between education and FN support can be seen in the divide between some urban centres and the ‘rest of the country’. The so-called idéopôles – a term coined by researchers Fabien Escalona and Mathieu Vieria – are large urban centres with a strong, globalized economy and a strong cultural activity (often through the presence of universities or well-educated bobos (American readers will be familiar with the idea, given that it originated in the US). The term can be dangerously reductive in that it tends to assume that each idéopôle is just that, obscuring the social diversity within these cities. For example, while Lille is counted as an idéopôle, the city has a very large low-income population made up of immigrants and ‘poor whites’; other idéopôles such as Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, Montpellier and Strasbourg all have significant low-income population living in zones urbaines sensibles (ZUS – the equivalent of ‘inner city neighborhoods’ in the US – although in France they tend to be geographically concentrated on the peripheries of cities). Yet, the term is still a useful notion. In this election, the FN performed below average in all the idéopôles identified by Escalona and Vieria: 9.3% in Paris, 13.6% in Lyon, 14.1% in Toulouse, 18% in Montpellier (first place, but only a few votes ahead of EELV – 17.7%), 14.6% in Strasbourg, 13.3% in Grenoble (where EELV won the most votes – 20.4% – ahead of 18.6% for the PS), 10.1% in Nantes, 18.9% in Lille (as noted above, due to a division of the left, and the FN was very weak in those areas of the city which really are idéopôles) and 20.5% in Aix-en-Provence. In the secondary ‘ideopoli’ of Bordeaux and Rennes, the FN won 11.5% and 9.4% respectively. In all idéopôles besides Aix, the PS and EELV vote was above average. In cities such as Rennes and Nantes, PS and EELV placed first and second, ahead of the UMP.

It is not quite a urban-rural divide, however, because the FN did very well in cities such as Marseille (30.3%), which are poorer and include very large concentrations of low-income areas, immigrant-heavy cités, lower middle-class banlieues pavillonnaires (residential suburbs with individual houses) and formerly working-class communities. In Marseille, the results were quite interesting: the FN, as expected, did best in the 13th and 14th arrondissements (the 7th sector, where it won the local sectoral city hall in March) with 39.3% and 42% respectively with some very strong results in the 10th and 11th arrondissements (37.7% and 38.9%). The UMP won the affluent neighborhoods and coastal suburbs (5th, 7th and 8th arrdt with over 35% in the 8th) and the PS was shut out. EELV topped the poll in the 1st arrdt, a very poor and immigrant-heavy downtown ‘inner city’ area, taking 18.7% against 17.8% for the PS. Amusingly, the PS did better in the affluent UMP stronghold of the 8th (11.2%) than the 15th, a very poor and immigrant-heavy area of the quartiers nords (10.9%, but turnout was only 25.6%) which has usually been a PS stronghold. Even in the very poor and solidly left-wing 2nd and 3rd arrdts, the PS won only 16% or so. In the Bouches-du-Rhône, the FN won shocking numbers in its strongholds – 49.3% in Marignane, 40.4% in Vitrolles, 46.1% in Berre-l’Étang, 43% in Miramas and 47.4% in Miramas.

The FN won its best southern results in the Rhône valley – 46.3% in the canton of Beaucaire (Gard), 44.6% in the canton of Saint-Gilles (Gard), 40.6% in the canton of Vauvert, 42.3% in Carpentras-Nord (Vaucluse), 40.9% in Carpentras-Sud (Vaucluse), 40.4% in the canton of Cavaillon (Vaucluse), 46.3% in the canton of Bédarrides (Vaucluse), 42.8% in Orange-Ouest (Vaucluse), 41.7% in Orange-Est (Vaucluse), 44.8% in Bollène (Vaucluse) and 40.2% in Pierrelatte (Drôme). This is a largely urbanized region, and the far-right has been present in one form or another since the 1960s in most of the area. It is often pinned down to the large population of pieds noirs – French settlers in Algeria who were resettled in chaotic and controversial conditions in France in 1962, largely settling in PACA and Languedoc-Roussillon – and an associated tradition of reactionary-nationalist/conservative politics with support for the OAS during the Algerian conflict. But it is not the only factor, and is merely a contributory factor. Agriculture is of lesser importance today, but the region’s strong fruit and vegetable industry has always required a large seasonal workforce. While these roles were often filled by Italians, Spaniards or Portuguese in the 1960s and 1970s, they were progressively replaced by Moroccan and other North African immigrants. By and large, this urbanized region is fairly poor – low incomes, low education levels and most jobs falling in the CSP- category – but not proletarian or working-class, rather predominantly lower middle-class and petit bourgeois (shopkeepers, small employees). This population (sometimes called petites gens) suffer or feel, directly or indirectly, problems such as high unemployment, poverty, cost of living pressures, immigration (there are large immigrant concentrations in cities or neighborhoods nearby) and criminality. The cities where the FN does very well – Béziers, Perpignan, Carpentras and Avignon (among others) – were not industrial centres, but they all have high levels of poverty and unemployment. In cities such as Béziers, Perpignan, Fréjus or many smaller towns inland in the Var and Alpes-Maritimes, the downtown cores have suffered from pauperization and desertification (shops closing down, poverty, criminality); these factors ranked high on the list of FN priorities in the municipal elections back in March, where they won city halls including that of Béziers, Beaucaire, Fréjus and Camaret-sur-Aigues.


The map above shows the results by canton, with the FN in a purple shade (please click the image for the full-size splendor). The map was coloured by Stéphane Guillerez, who kindly shared the data and maps with me. It can complete my commentary on the FN’s results and the showings of the other parties across France. In addition to the FN strongholds noted above, strong levels of support (above 30%) can be seen in the Nord-Isère, much of the Ain, the Garonne valley extending to the coastal regions of the Charente-Maritime, wide swathes of the Franche-Comté and Bourgogne and even many regions in the Basse-Normandie. Although we should keep in mind the matter of turnout and the nature of the EP election, the FN’s support has nationalized. The far-right party won cantons from Alsace all the way to the Finistère in Brittany; although the FN’s strongholds remained east of the imaginary Le Havre-Meaux-St. Etienne-Perpignan axis, it won very strong results in its weaker regions. Simplifying matters, across France, the FN’s support is highest outside of major urban areas in outer suburban, exurban or semi-rural areas – regions with lower incomes, lower educational levels and a population largely made up of CSP- workers and employees. In the Garonne valley (and adjacent regions such as the Blayais and l’Entre-Deux-Mers in the Gironde), the outline of which can be seen in the 30%-shaded FN cantons running from the Saintonge (Charente-Maritime) to Montauban (Tarn-et-Garonne), there are a lot of low-income groups including shopkeepers, blue-collar workers in small industries (construction, small metal factories, agro-industry), lower middle-classes, pieds noirs, fruits and vegetable producers and less affluent small winemakers (whose wine is less prestigious than Saint-Émilion, Sauternes or Médoc).

The FN polled well in Nord-Isère, a region which has been favourable to the far-right for decades now. A predominantly urban and historically industrial region (with various industries in towns such as Vienne, Roussillon and Bourgoin-Jallieu, the Nord-Isère is now largely under the exurban influences of Lyon and Grenoble, and the decline of traditional industries in the major cities has led to urban decay and rising criminality. The FN polled up to 41% in the canton of Pont-de-Chéruy, an exurban canton of Lyon. In the south of the department, however, the far-right did quite poorly: in the very affluent suburban cantons of Meylan and Saint-Ismier (outside Grenoble), the FN polled only 17.2% and 12.3% respectively.

The FN performed well in the old industrial (predominantly mining, with smaller metallurgical and textile industries) valleys of the Gier and Ondaine in the south of the Loire department, from Firminy to Rive-de-Gier/Givors (Rhône); a region which was badly hit by deindustrialization in the 1980s and which – in parts – retains high levels of unemployment, pockets of severe deprivation and a largely blue-collar population. The FN won 22.2% in Saint-Étienne as a whole, 29.5% in the old mining basin canton of Firminy (traditionally favourable to the PCF), 30.1% in the old industrial (but right-leaning) city of Saint-Chamond, 30.8% in the canton of Rive-de-Gier, 32.7% in the canton of La-Grand-Croix and a peak at 36.6% in the old mining basin of Le-Chambon-Feugerolles. In the Rhône department, the FN won 30.9% against 19.5% to the FG in the old working-class Communist stronghold of Givors, although turnout was below 30%.

Some other old industrial basins – regions which tend to be more economically depressed, and retain a lower-income and less education population – offered strong results for the FN – in the Alpes-Maritimes, the FN’s strongest results came from the old industrial Vallée du Paillon (a former PCF stronghold, incidentally), where the party took 44% in the canton of L’Escarène and 41.4% in the canton of Contes. In the Haute-Savoie, the FN’s strongest results came from the industrial basin of Cluses-Scionzier with 36.3% in the canton of Scionzier and 31% in the canton of Cluses (in contrast, in the affluent lakeside suburban canton of Annecy-le-Vieux, the FN won 16.3% and in the affluent Geneva suburbs of Saint-Julien-en-Genevois, the far-right polled 19.3%). In the Haute-Loire, the FN won over 30% of the vote in the old industrial cantons of Aurec-sur-Loire and Sainte-Sigolène (a Catholic working-class region which has always leaned to the right), but it won only 23.5% in the canton of Auzon, part of an old mining basin which is strongly left-wing. In the Tarn, the FN won 27.3% in the city of Mazamet, an old fellmongering industrial centre (which has, however, always leaned to the right) and narrowly topped the poll over the PS in Carmaux (24.6%), the old solidly left-wing mining town of Jean Jaurès. In the textile town of Lavelanet (Ariège), the FN won 33.4% against 19.4% for the PS. The FN did quite well in the industrial suburbs of Rouen in the Seine valley (topping the poll in nearly all of them), with 31.7% in the Communist cité cheminote of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, 32.3% in Le Grand-Quevilly, 33.5% in Petit-Couronne, 30.3% in Grand-Couronne and 33.3% in Elbeuf. However, the pattern is not universal: in other old industrial or mining basins, the FN did not do so well – for example, in the old coal mining town of Decazeville (Aveyron), the FG topped the poll with 22.1% and the FN was third with 17.7%. The FN performed below its national average in other old working-class/industrial towns such as Lacq (Pyrénées-Atlantiques), Saint-Nazaire (Loire-Atlantique) and Decize (Nièvre).

The UMP was the largest party in three of the eight EP constituencies: Île-de-France, West and the Overseas.

Results of the UMP by canton

Although the FN did quite well in Île-de-France, a region where the general trends in the past few elections have generally been unfavourable to the FN, the UMP managed to retain first place thanks to the FN’s very weak support in Paris itself and the UMP’s dominance of its core clientele – the affluent suburban communities in the Hauts-de-Seine and Yvelines, two departments where the UMP topped the poll. In the Yvelines, a rather clear divide is visible between regions where the UMP did best and those where the FN did better. In the very affluent canton of Saint-Nom-la-Bretèche, the UMP polled 31.7% (in similarly affluent cantons such as Le Vésinet, Poissy-Sud and Le Chesnay, the UMP won over 30% of the vote). In the canton of Bonnières-sur-Seine, the most distant and exurban canton in the northwest of the department, the UMP’s support fell to 20% while the FN won 33.2%. In the canton of Mantes-la-Ville, a low-income area whose chef-lieu is now ruled by the FN, the far-right polled over 30%. Similarly, in the Essonne, which the FN won, the UMP dominated the affluent suburbs of Bièvres and Limours (as well as Gif-sur-Yvette, an affluent community and major research centre; the PS won the affluent and highly-educated scientific research centre of Orsay (with 19.3%) but also the low-income banlieues of Les Ulis and Manuel Valls’ town of Évry. The FN did best in the exurban and distant southern half of the department, winning 36.4% in the canton of Méréville. Nicolas Dupont-Aignan’s DLR dominated around his political stronghold of Yerres, where the DLR list won 36.1% of the vote.

The FN won 20.7% in the Seine-Saint-Denis, a result largely due to the low turnout (31.2%), especially from the left. The FN has done quite poorly in the ’93’ in recent elections, even in low-income working-poor suburbs where the far-right had done quite well in the 1980s and 1990s. Thanks to low turnout and a division of the vote, however, the FN topped the poll, especially in the less inner suburban communes. The FG won Saint-Ouen, Saint-Denis, Aubervilliers and Bobigny (among others), while EELV narrowly topped the poll in Montreuil (with 20.2% against 17.9% for the FG) and placed second behind the PS in Pantin, Les Lilas and Le Pré-Saint-Gervais. The UMP won its best result, 26.6%, in the affluent town of Le Raincy. The FN was strongest in the canton of Montfermeil, where it won over 30% (it does best in white middle-income banlieues pavillonnaires).

In the West, the UMP won a large bloc of cantons, clearly visible on the map above, straddling the departments of Loire-Atlantique, Maine-et-Loire, Vendée and the Deux-Sèvres. With the exceptions of the urban cantons of La Roche-sur-Yon and the suburban cantons in the vignobles nantais, this corresponds to the traditionally conservative areas of the deeply Catholic inner west – the bocage vendéen and the Choletais. The FN has never broken through in these areas, which despite a major decline in religiosity and the active influence of the Church, remain steeped in a ‘zombie Catholic’ or Christian democratic tradition which is traditionally pro-European and humanist. OpinionWay polled by religion, and found only 10% support for the FN with regular church-goers compared to 34% with non-practicing Catholics. The UMP (38%) and centre (23%) heavily dominated the small devoutly Catholic minority vote. It’s interesting how the ‘zombie Catholic’ effect is clearly visible in the Maine-et-Loire – the UMP topped the poll in the choletais and bocage angevin, historically the most Catholic, clerical and conservative regions, while the FN was the largest party in most of the Beaugeois and Saumurois, where religiosity has always been lesser and social structures traditionally different (in the days of the great André Siegfried, the choletais and bocage angevin were the realms of powerful nobles and large landholdings while the Beaugeois was a region of poorer smallholdings, with an anti-clerical and republican tradition; the Saumurois had a ‘Bonapartist temperament’ because of the dominance of wealthier smallholders in vineyards). In the Mayenne, there was a very powerful favourite son effect for Jean Arthuis, the UDI-MoDem top candidate who as (ex-)senator and president of the general council is a powerful and influential political boss in the department. Arthuis’ list won 32.2% in Mayenne against 18.4% for the FN. In Château-Gontier, where Arthuis was mayor from 1971 to 2001, he won 48% of the vote. Some of this vote spilled over in the Segréen (Maine-et-Loire) and the very conservative and Catholic/clerical eastern half of Ille-et-Vilaine (although I suppose this is another favourite daughter effect, for Laurence Méhaignerie, second on the list and the daughter of the longtime Christian democratic-UDI mayor of Vitré Pierre Méhaignerie).

Results of the UDI-MoDem by canton

The UDI-MoDem’s support was quite odd: the vague outlines of the traditional Christian democratic map (which is that of historical religiosity/clericalism) are there, with the centre’s strength in the West, Alsace-Moselle, the southern Massif Central and the weakness in the Limousin and along the southern seaboard. But, in the details, there are several exceptions to that pattern and ‘oddities’ – in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, the centre’s support came from Béarn rather than the Basque Country, the traditional Christian democratic/Catholic stronghold; support was weak and patchy in Lozère, Haute-Loire and Cantal, even the Catholic plateaus; support in the Nord was strong in Catholic Flanders but extended throughout most of the department, into the Valenciennois; and support in Moselle was strongest around the Metz-Thionville agglomeration rather than the Plateau Lorrain. Additionally, there were strong results in traditionally less religious regions: the Loir-et-Cher, the Eure-et-Loir, the Marne, the Puy-de-Dôme, the Artois (Pas-de-Calais), parts of the Somme, the Valenciennois (Nord) and the Hautes-Alpes.

Explaining the oddities, one notices the obvious favourite sons/daughters factors (Dominique Riquet in the Valenciennois, Nathalie Griesbeck in the Metz-Thionville area, Arthuis in the Mayenne) but also the clear influence of local UDI (less so MoDem) local barons (deputies, mayors). In the Loir-et-Cher, the strong centrist support in the west of the department (Vendôme) corresponds quasi-perfectly with the constituency of UDI deputy (and president of the general council) Maurice Leroy, while there was also solid numbers for the list in the Blois constituency, held until 2012 by Nicolas Perruchot (ex-NC, now UMP). In the Eure-et-Loir, the strongest numbers came from the constituency of UDI deputy Philippe Vigier. In the Somme, the list did well in the canton of Albert (14.3%) because the mayor of Albert is UDI deputy Stéphane Demilly and in Amiens (14.4%), governed by Brigitte Fouré (UDI) since March. In the Pas-de-Calais, the list did well in Arras, which is governed by the UDI. In the Drôme, the centrists did well in Montélimar (20.2%), whose mayor is UDI deputy Franck Reynier. In the Meurthe-et-Moselle, the centrists won 16.6% in Nancy, whose mayor is now former Radical deputy Laurent Hénart. In the Seine-et-Marne, the centrist list topped the poll in Montereau-Fault-Yonne, the city of UDI deputy Yves Jégo. In the Puy-de-Dôme, the centrist list won 21.4% (second place) in Chamalières, an affluent suburb of Clermont-Ferrand and stronghold of the Giscard dynasty (the current mayor is Louis Giscard d’Estaing, a former deputy and son of the former President) and the support extended in the surrounding area in a way which looks awfully similar to the pre-redistricting shape of Giscard’s old constituency. In the Seine-Saint-Denis, the centrists did very well in Drancy (22.1%), governed by UDI deputy Jean-Christophe Lagarde, and also did quite well in Bobigny and Le Bourget, both of which have UDI mayors.

Therefore, the ‘added value’ of the UDI to the MoDem was in the form of local barons who brought along their regional strongholds/constituencies, which is very unsurprising considering that the UDI is very much a parti de notables in the long tradition of the non-Gaullist centre-right.

In Brittany, there was a particularly interesting favourite son and regionalist protest vote in the centre of the Armorican peninsula. Christian Troadec, the regionalist mayor of Carhaix (Finistère) led a Breton regionalist list which won over 11% of the vote in the Finistère and spilled over into the Côtes-d’Armor and Morbihan. Troadec is less of a politician than a ‘political entrepreneur’ who pays a lot of attention to Breton identity and culture (he famously created the popular music Festival des Vieilles Charrues in CarhaixOn the cantonal and communal map, an impressive bloc of support for Troadec’s list is visible in the centre-west of Brittany, expanding out of the canton of Carhaix-Plouguer, where Troadec won 39.7%. He won most communes in the Monts-d’Arée region of Finistère and the inland Cornouaille in the Finistère and Côtes-d’Armor. Troadec’s vote clearly has a strong favourite son tinge to it, given that a generic regionalist list does not perform that well (that being said, with its concentration in the Bretagne bretonnante, it superficially matches the traditional base of Breton nationalism). However, Troadec had run in the 2010 regionals and peaked at 6.8% in the Finistère, so his personal vote is not the only factor. A major reason for his strong result is likely due to his role as one of the major leaders of the bonnets rouges protest movement in Brittany, which began last fall out of opposition to an ‘ecotax’ on heavy goods transport vehicles, protesting the crisis in the agro-industry and expressing regionalist demands including the reunification of Brittany and increased decision-making powers for the region. The movement is led by the local left, but has been controversial because of how some sectors of the far-right and the employers in the polluting agro-industry have latched on to the movement. Troadec’s support corresponds to the poorest and socioeconomically depressed region of Brittany, isolated and distant from the well-off urban and suburban centres driving growth in a region usually seen as more well-off than most. It has an aging, blue-collar and less educated population with fewer job opportunities; but the FN has always performed very poorly in this region. It is also a solidly left-wing region – the Monts-d’Arée were described by Siegfried as a ‘radical democracy’ and have been the most left-wing region in Brittany for over a hundred years. The inland Cornouaille in the Finistère and Côtes-d’Armor is also a solidly left-wing region (a poor region of smallholdings, lesser religiosity and a tradition of radical democratic and anti-nobility sentiments), historically dominated by the PS and (less so nowadays) the PCF. Troadec likely won a lot of left-wing protest votes, from voters severely turned off from the government because of national and local issues (the ecotax/bonnets rouges issues, and perhaps its lip-service to regionalist demands such as reunification and the ratification of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages).

Troadec’s support interested Ifop, which has produced an interesting analysis, showing the very localized friends-and-neighbors vote for his list, whose support declines as one gets further away from Carhaix. It also links his vote to support for the 1675 anti-tax révolte des bonnets rouges in western Brittany, the leftist tradition of the Monts-d’Arée/Haute-Cornouaille and the post-war rural communist tradition born out of the PCF-led resistance to the Nazi occupation. Ifop’s study also found that Troadec largely ate into PS support from 2009, but also dragged down EELV and UMP support and limited FN gains.

In the Ille-et-Vilaine, the FN’s strong support in exurban and remote ‘fragile’ regions is clearly visible. The left dominated Rennes (a ‘semi-idéopôle‘) and its middle-income suburbs (the right won the most affluent suburbs of Cesson-Sévigné, Saint-Grégoire and Pacé), the UMP won the affluent coastal towns of the Côte-d’Émeraude (Saint-Malo, Dinard, Cancale) while the right and centre were both strong in the solidly conservative and clerical regions of eastern Ille-et-Vilaine. The FN won a large swathes of communes lying to the southwest of Rennes – semi-rural and growing exurban areas within commuting distance of Rennes, but with a slightly less affluent population than the inner suburbs. It also did well in the Baie-du-Mont-Saint-Michel, a remote (it is not exurban) ‘socially fragile’ and low-income region. This Insée study on the social makeups of regions in the department can be compared to the map of the results – the high-income regions around Rennes and on the coast had low support for the FN, the low and middle-income regions had significantly higher results for the FN.

The UMP also dominated another very Catholic region – the southern Massif Central (Cantal, Lozère, Aveyron; especially the mountainous regions of the Aubrac, Margeride and Plateau of Saint-Flour). The UMP won over 30% – even 40% in some cantons – in these very rural, agricultural (herding) and deeply Catholic/clerical regions. In the Aveyron, EELV – led by local icon José Bové – was quite successful around Millau and in the Larzac while the three left-wing parties – EELV, FG and PS won the Protestant and solidly left-wing communes in the Cévennes (Gard/Lozère).

Results of the PS by canton

The PS won only two departments in metro France – the Corrèze (Hollande’s political stronghold) and the Haute-Vienne, both of them traditional strongholds of the left (ignoring the favourite son love affair for Jacques Chirac in the Corrèze from the 1980s to 2007). The PS won 33.7% in Hollande’s city of Tulle (Corrèze) and was also victorious in Limoges and Saint-Junien (Haute-Vienne). The Limousin’s socialist-communist tradition, a fascinating issue, owes to a wide variety of complex factors – to cite a few: smallholders, sharecroppers, rural poverty, strong anti-clericalism, workers’ activism, heavy toll of World War I and very active left-wing resistance to the Nazis. Traditions have not died out in this region: the FG still topped the poll in the canton of Bugeat (Corrèze), which had already been a PCF stronghold in the interwar era. Laird Boswell’s Rural Communism in France, 1920-1939 is an excellent read for anybody interested by the full roots of rural communism in this part of the world.

In urban areas, due to very low turnout from the Socialist base in low-income and multiethnic neighborhoods and cités, the PS largely held an older, more educated, more white-collar electorate (one which turns out in greater numbers structurally and may be expected to be slightly less anti-government). In the Hauts-de-Seine, for example, the PS only topped the poll in Clichy and Nanterre, two old working-class cities which while still fairly low-income have seen some significant social changes with the growth of a new middle-class with higher education and white-collar jobs (only 16% of the active labour force in Nanterre, for example, are ouvriers today); the FG won in Gennevilliers and Bagneux, which remain more heavily low-income and working-poor to this day, with the PS placing a terrible third behind the FN. In the Val-de-Marne, the FG and the FN won the poorest suburbs (28.1% for the FN in Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, the FG won Valenton, Ivry-sur-Seine, Bonneuil-sur-Marne, Champigny-sur-Marne etc) while the PS did better in the old working-class suburbs which are now more socially diverse and somewhat gentrified (to a much lesser extent than other high-points of gentrification such as Montreuil) – Créteil, Le Kremlin-Bicêtre, Cachan and Fresnes. In the Seine-Saint-Denis, the FN – mostly due to turnout being so absurdly low – narrowly won the grimmest banlieues such as Clichy-sous-Bois (one of the poorest major towns in France, infamous since the 2005 riots; turnout was barely over 20%), La Courneuve, Stains (with 22% turnout), Sevran and Villepinte. The FG won the old Communist heartlands of Saint-Denis, Aubervilliers, Saint-Ouen, Bobigny and Bagnolet; the PS and EELV did best in the communes closest to Paris which have seen real gentrification (Montreuil, Les Lilas, Pantin to a much lesser extent). In the Val-d’Oise, the PS did win the tough low-income banlieue of Sarcelles, but it lost low-income suburbs such as Argenteuil, Gonesse, Villiers-le-Bel, Goussainville and Persan to the FN. The PS won Cergy, a predominantly administrative and academic middle-class ville nouvelle. In the Grande Couronne of Paris, the pattern was much the same: in the Essonne, although the PS saved faced by winning the Manuel Valls stronghold of Évry and also won the low-income suburb of Les Ulis, but the FN won Corbeil-Essonnes, Épinay-sous-Sénart, Fleury-Mérogis and Ris-Orangis (the FG won the Communist stronghold of Grigny, a very poor and multiethnic suburb home to the huge ZUS of La Grande Borne, a famous and disastrous post-war social housing project of huge proportions). The PS had more success in the highly-educated ‘knowledge corridor’ centered around the research town of Orsay, and was also victorious in Massy, a socially mixed but generally more middle-income academic and administrative suburban town. In the Yvelines, finally, the FN won the low-income banlieues of Trappes, Les Mureaux, Chanteloup-les-Vignes and Limay (with sub-30% turnout everywhere but Limay) while the UMP won the low-income and multiethnic banlieue of Mantes-la-Jolie (28% vs 19.2% for the FN) – although the city is solidly on the left nationally, the right is dominant in local politics since 1995 (with Pierre Bédier, a corrupt politician sentenced to a suspended jail sentence and political ineligibility for a kickback scandal, serving as mayor for most of the time from 1995 to 2005 and president of the general council from 2005 to 2009, who has since triumphantly returned to politics as president of the CG since April 2014) and the FN has done poorly in Mantes-la-Jolie from its heyday in 1995-7.

PS loses from the 2012 presidential election in the Paris region

Outside of Paris, the same pattern repeated itself in Marseille (see above), Lyon, Grenoble, Bordeaux, Rouen (see above) and Lille (see above). In Lyon, the PS remained the largest party in Villeurbanne – a longtime Socialist stronghold and historically working-class suburb of Lyon, which has seen significant gentrification and the growth of a middle-income population in recent years (while still retaining a large low-income and immigrant population). The PS won 19.8% in the city (where turnout was healthier, at 36.9%) against 18.8% for the FN. The FN, however, “swept” the low-income suburbs – the old PCF strongholds of Vaulx-en-Velin (28% vs. 19.4% for the PS and 13.2% for the FG on 21% turnout), Vénissieux (27.1% vs. 15.8% PS and 14.4% FG, on 28% turnout) and Pierre-Bénite (25.4%, the PS and FG in third and fourth), the lower-income blue-collar suburbs of Saint-Fons (29.8% FN on 25.7% turnout) and Feyzin (31.8% FN on 35.7% turnout). In suburban Grenoble, the FN won (but with mediocre percentages, even on low turnout) but with mediocre percentages, even on low turnout)  the three major ‘Red Belt’ proletarian suburbs of Fontaine, Échirolles and Saint-Martin-d’Hères, as well as the poor suburban town of Pont-de-Claix (with a more substantial result of 29.2%, but on 31.1% turnout). In Bordeaux, the FN won its best results in the poorer suburbs of the Rive Droite of the Gironde (victorious in Floirac with 21.6%, second to the PS in Cenon with 21.5%, first in Lormont with 24.9% and strong first in Bassens with 27.7%); in the wealthier left-wing middle-income suburbs of Mérignac, Pessac and Talence the FN’s support ranged from 12.6% in Talence to 16.4% in Mérignac (and the PS won all of these three communes). Four parties were closely in Bègles, an old industrial and proletarian suburb just south of Bordeaux – which has been ruled by ex-EELV deputy Noël Mamère since 1989, but has a Communist tradition: EELV won 17.9%, followed by the PS (17.7%) and FG (17.4%) and the FN in fourth (16%).

Results of FG/UOM by canton

The FG did quite poorly in some traditional PCF strongholds. In the NPDC mining basin, the FG’s results fell from 22.9% to 15.8% in the canton of Denain, 22.1% to 14.1% in Marchiennes, 36.5% to 20.8% in Rouvroy and 31.9% to 18.4% in Divion. In the industrial Vimeu region of the Somme, the FG’s support fell from 16.4% to 13.3% in the canton of Friville-Escarbotin. In Tergnier (Aisne), FG support fell from 18.4% to 13.6%; FG support also fell in Tergnier (Aisne), the cité cheminote of Romilly-sur-Seine (Aube), the old PCF stronghold of Vierzon (Cher, an old industrial city), the rural communist country of the Bourbonnais (Allier) and Limousin, the Cévennes mining basin (Alès/La Grand-Combe/Bessèges), the Vallée du Paillon (Alpes-Maritimes), Marseille’s industrial hinterland (Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône – from 37.3% to 29.5%, Port-de-Bouc – from 45.6% to 37.2%, Martigues – from 21.6% to 20.5%) and the communist region in Basse-Bretagne. However, the FG made gains in much of the Pays-Haut iron and steel basin in Meurthe-et-Moselle, increasing support from 18.8% to 21.2% in the canton of Herserange, 17.4% to 18.9% in Villerupt, 17.7% to 19.2% in Homécourt and 11.9% to 13.2% in Fontoy (Moselle). The FG also made gains in the Decazeville-Aubin mining basin (Aveyron), Carmaux (Tarn) and the solidly left-wing rural and mountainous regions of the Southwest (12.2% in Hautes-Pyrénées – the FG’s best result; 11.9% in the Ariège; 9.1% in the Pyrénées-Orientales and even 8.4% in Lozère – where the FG did extremely well in the Protestant cantons of the Cévennes, with 20.4% in Saint-Germain-de-Calberte). I had already noted, in 2012, that Mélenchon’s support was comparatively poor in traditional industrial Communist strongholds (compared to the results of Robert Hue in 1995, who had nevertheless won less support than Mélenchon did) but unusually strong in rural regions, both of communist and socialist tradition. I am hesitant to state that this was the result of a direct transfer of PCF voters to the FN in working-class areas (notably the coal mining basin of the NPDC); while this was likely a small factor, I would tend to suppose that this is more the result of an erosion of Communist traditions as a result of generational change (the traditional cohorts of the working-class, which was raised and lived in a different era of relations between working-class identity and Communism, dying off) and the transformation of the meaning of  ‘working-class’ (more non-unionized jobs, atomization, unemployment, low-paying jobs in industry and services requiring longer commutes) in these regions over 20 years after the last mine closed.

The FG also had some poor performances in its urban strongholds: Saint-Pierre-des-Corps (Indre-et-Loire), where the FG topped the poll with only 21% (down from 43%); Allonnes (Sarthe), where FG support declined from 23.1% to 18.5% and the FN won nearly 30%; Dieppe (Seine-Maritime), Le Tréport (Seine-Maritime) and Gonfreville-l’Orcher (Seine-Maritime). The FG’s support showed greater resistance in the Parisian region.

Results of EELV by canton

EELV’s support was unusually rural in this election: its best departments were Aveyron (16.7% – holding its 2009 levels) and Drôme (14.4%), with Paris only in third (13.8%). EELV also did well in the Lot (13.7%), Haute-Garonne (13.4%), Loire-Atlantique (13%), Ille-et-Vilaine (12.6%), Hautes-Alpes (12.6%), Hérault (12.6%), Lozère (12.5%) and Isère (12.3%). While EELV won strong results in its traditional urban strongholds – Paris, Grenoble (20.4%), Rennes (18.9%), Nantes (17.7%), Montpellier (17.7%), Toulouse (16.9%), Lille (16.3%), Bordeaux (15.6%) and Lyon (13.3%, with 21.9% and first place in the bob0 1st arrondisement), Strasbourg (12.8%), it also did very well in rural cantons – particularly in the Larzac and Grands-Causses regions of the Aveyron and the Diois and Baronnies regions of the Drôme. The Greens have usually performed well in these regions, especially in the Drôme. The Diois and Baronnies are both old rural communist strongholds, a tradition built by the historic presence of Protestants in the region, the republican-leftist traditions of smallholders, poverty and active resistance in World War II; the region is now a popular tourist destination, and it has attracted a small influx of ‘neo-rural’ left-wing/countercultural (‘soixante-huitards‘) urban transplants seeking the mythical calm and quaintness of the unspoiled country. In these rural regions and others, EELV may also have attracted a left-wing, anti-PS protest vote.

In EELV’s results, the very marked cutoff between the Limousin/Auvergne regions and the Midi-Pyrénées/Languedoc-Roussillon lets me suppose that there may have been a personal vote of sorts for José Bové in his Southwest constituency, or that EELV’s vote in the Massif-Centre constituency may have been drawn down by its little-known top candidate (Clarisse Heusquin, a young lawyer who does not seem to hold any elected office).

Favourite sons and local political dynamics (notably the mayor’s partisan affiliation) were important in several regions. Some of the favourite son effects and local political dynamics have been noted above – Valenciennes for the UDI, Mayenne, Troadec in central Brittany and the comparatively stronger performance by Marine Le Pen in the Northwest and specifically in Hénin-Beaumont. Others include a likely a favourite daughter vote for Michèle Alliot-Marie in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, strong support for the UDI-MoDem in and around François Bayrou’s base in Pau and a bizarre favourite son for incumbent UMP MEP Arnaud Danjean in his native Louhans (Saône-et-Loire) with 43.6% for the UMP list (an oddity given that Danjean has no local political mandate and was only second on the UMP list).

Favourite sons and friends-and-neighbors are the main voting determinants in the Overseas constituency, where turnout is low (17.1%) and often results in very weird results. The prize for weirdest result is for French Guiana, with EELV taking 41% of the vote (as I figure, José Gaillou, second on the EELV list was from Guiana) on 10% turnout. The UOM-FG list won in La Réunion and Martinique, the two regions where it had local support (from the PCR in La Réunion and the PPM in Martinique); the PS won Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon and Polynesia, the UMP won wealthy Saint-Barthélemy/Saint-Martin, Wallis-et-Futuna, Mayotte and New Caledonia (the PS and UOM-FG won most of the Kanak communes).


The FN’s remarkable victory, although predictable and unsurprising, still came a shock both in France and across the EU; the FN’s French success, even if it was not ‘replicated’ in the other EU member-states, became the main takeaway of the EP election in most initial media analyses and was used to feed the narrative of a generalized swing to Eurosceptic/far-right parties across the EU.

Despite the low turnout and the nature of an EP election, it remains a fantastic result for the FN and little indicates that the FN would not be able to replicate its EP results (23-25%) in a national, high-stakes election with much higher turnout. The FN has, by the looks of it, an increasingly loyal partisan base which is less ‘ashamed’ of admitting their support for the far-right party than in the past. Given the socioeconomic condition of France, an economic crisis which has only widened and deepened existing gaps in French society (between the minority who have ‘won’ from globalization and the new economy, and the increasingly invisible masses who felt as if they have ‘lost’ from globalization and economic transformations), the unpopularity of the left-wing government, the absence of a credible ‘radical’ alternative on the left (like in many EU countries…) and the pitiful state of the UMP torn apart by a continued low-scale civil war and waves of corruption scandals, it can appear ‘natural’ that the FN would be on such a strong footing today. As long as the economy does not show a major improvement, that the right unites around a leader who is popular (but it is doubtful whether Sarkozy fits that role) and that the government regains all its lost credibility, we can only presume that the FN will remain as strong. Even if the economy does improve, it will not change the roots of the FN’s success – which, unlike with that of the Greek or Hungarian far-right, predates the current economic crisis. Since the 1980s, Western society has been transformed by major economic transformations, changes in traditional value structures, the erosion of traditional ‘pillars’ of society, immigration, new technologies, increased education, new conceptions of gender roles and new attitudes which come into conflict with traditional ‘values’ and attitudes. Those who feel alienated, insecure, angry, concerned and worried as a result of these transformations – those less-educated individuals ‘left behind’ by the increased levels in educational achievement; groups of lower socioeconomic status who face unemployment, job insecurity and low wages as a result of the economic transformations; those forced to live outside the ‘cores’ in the ‘peripheries’ because of higher property prices, immigration-related fears and socioeconomic status – provide the FN with its base of support, although not all those who fit this ‘profile’ have shifted to the FN.

Unfortunately for the FN, there was little time to celebrate as the party soon ran into another major controversy which has divided the party. Jean-Marie Le Pen has a weekly Journal de bord (a sort of video blog) on the FN website, where he comments on current events in an ‘interview’ format with a FN member (usually, the one starring alongside the former leader of the FN is a little-known member from the party’s radical wing, but who is married to Frédéric Chatillon, a former member of the extremist far-right students union GUD who has the lucrative contract of printing FN materials and campaign lit). His weekly video blog episodes In an episode after the EP election, Le Pen was commenting on some left-wing/anti-FN celebrities and artists refusing to put on shows in FN municipalities and more particularly on the anti-FN comments of Patrick Bruel, a Jewish (Algerian-born) singer/poker player who has been a staunch opponent of the FN for decades (in 1995, he had cancelled his shows in municipalities such as Toulon which elected a FN mayor in the June 1995 municipal elections). In yet another case of Jean-Marie letting the inner racist and anti-Semite get the better of him, he commented on the topic of Bruel that “we’ll include him in the next batch” (fournée – batch of bread to be baked). It is not Jean-Marie’s first run-in with anti-Semitism: in 1987 he famously stated that he thought that gas chambers were a ‘detail’ of World War II (officially, he continues to claim, because the war is made up of a series of ‘details’ – even the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he claims, are ‘details’) and in 1988 he made a wordplay on the name of Michel Durafour, a centrist politician who had joined Michel Rocard’s PS-led gouvernement d’ouverture, calling him ‘Durafour-crématoire‘ (four crématoire means crematory oven in French).

Given that the comment went against Marine Le Pen’s smokescreen strategy and much-vaunted dédiabolisation, the comments became the centre of a firestorm within the FN. Louis Aliot said that Jean-Marie Le Pen’s comment was dismaying and politically stupid. Florian Philippot said that while the FN had no lessons to take from a wealthy guy like Bruel and, said that Jean-Marie Le Pen should have known what he was saying (but Philippot said the comments were not anti-Semitic). FN deputy Gilbert Collard, who is not from the FN per se and is a bit more FN-lite uncomfortable with racist/anti-Semitic throwbacks  (he’s mostly a colourful and slightly insane guy), went as far to suggest that Jean-Marie Le Pen should retire (he is currently ‘honourary president’ of the FN) because his comments hurt the FN and RBM. And finally, Marine herself said that her father made a political mistake and seemed quite naturally peeved at her father’s latest outburst. However, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who prizes his ‘liberty’ (which he interprets as the right to mouth off what he wants) and is, as noted previously, not the biggest fan of his daughter’s leadership, young clique and the process of dédiabolisation, is quite angry at how other FN leaders ‘ganged up’ on him. He said that those who misinterpreted his comments (Aliot) were ‘imbeciles’, disingenuously claimed that he didn’t know Bruel was Jewish (but admitted that he would have said what he said even if he ‘knew’), suggested that his daughter was being influenced by her young clique, that she was losing sight of the party’s history/specificity by cleaning it up and insinuated that Collard was just a random loser who should bugger off.

A civil war is unlikely, given that the FN is not stupid – it certainly knows that all splinter parties from the FN have ended up in the ditch, with only the FN remaining a major force. However, a cold war-like situation may arise, and Jean-Marie Le Pen remains a liability for Marine Le Pen as long as he’s alive. It remains to be seen, however, if this latest controversy will actually hurt the FN or if its base will remain resilient.

The UMP, after a bad result on May 25, went from bad to worse the next day, when MEP-elect Jérôme Lavrilleux, a close ally of Copé, reluctantly admitted cost overruns and that a share of the costs of Sarkozy’s 2012 campaign had been billed to the UMP rather than the Sarkozy campaign to cover up the costs which were exceeding legal campaign spending limits. This was the latest twist in the Bygmalion affair: originally, we thought that the story was that the UMP had been overcharged by Bygmalion, owned by close friends of Copé, to the price of €8-12.7 million. The UMP was apparently charged for events which never actually took place. Now, the UMP is the one accused of forcing Bygmalion to issue false invoices addressed to the party rather than the campaign (about €11 million). Lavrilleux admitted this after Bygmalion’s lawyer had came out, hours earlier, with the claims of false invoices being demanded by the UMP to the event planning company. Lavrilleux, however, claimed that neither Copé nor Sarkozy were aware of the issue. Overall, Sarkozy’s campaign may have spent up to €39 million in 2012, far surpassing the legal spending limit of €22.5 million.

The pressure mounted on Copé, whose weak leadership had been weakened further by the first revelation of the Bygmalion affair in March and the defeat in the EP election, and he had no choice but to resign as UMP president after a political bureau met on May 27. According to official statements and leaked details, the meeting was quite heated – François Fillon, Copé’s sworn enemy, called on Copé to resign because the UMP was headed to disaster and that he had lost all confidence in Copé. Fillon’s demands were supported by the fillonistes and the ‘neutrals’ or ‘soft’ fillonistes – Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet and Xavier Bertrand. Copé resigned officially on June 15, handed power over to a ‘triumvirate’ (+ one) and a new congress to elect a president will be held in October 2014. The new triumvirate of the UMP is made up of Fillon (declared candidate for 2017), Alain Juppé (neutral in 2012, anti-Copé in 2014, likely has presidential ambitions in 2017) and Jean-Pierre Raffarin (copéiste in 2012, long-time poor relationship with Fillon) – three former Prime Ministers. On June 10, faced with pressure from the sarkozystes (mostly ex-copéistes), the leadership was widened to include Luc Chatel, a party vice-president and senior copéiste in 2012, who became secretary-general to support the three-man leadership. The copéistes-sarkozystes worried that the makeshift filloniste-juppéiste alliance of convenience was trying to sideline them and block Sarkozy from returning in 2017.

This hasn’t solved the mess: while everybody is claiming that all is well and that the focus is now on ‘unity’, the reality is one of deep disunity and cacophony. Every potential leader of the UMP is eager to make a mark for himself, either by publicizing their ambitions for the leadership in 2014 or presidency in 2017, or by calling for major ‘renovation’ of the party (NKM, for example, has proposed that the UMP should change its name). Two candidates have officially announced their candidacies for the congress: Hervé Mariton (a former villepiniste despite his pro-Iraq War and pro-NATO views in the past, who became a copéiste for 2012 and most recently led the UMP’s charge against same-sex marriage/adoption) and Bruno Le Maire (a young former villepiniste and fairly decent agriculture minister under Sarkozy from 2009 to 2012, who was neutral in 2012 and is a likely presidential hopeful for 2017). Christian Estrosi, a longtime sarkozyste-turned-senior filloniste in 2012 who has since left Fillon’s clan, is now officially a candidate for the presidency in 2017. For the 2014 congress, Fillon may yet run, while other ambitious leaders with eyes on 2017 – Xavier Bertrand (a soft filloniste in 2012, with a small group of allies), Laurent Wauquiez (a filloniste in 2012 and leader of the ‘social right’) – may also run. Juppé is widely seen as the only UMP leader who could potentially upset Sarkozy in 2017, and polls of UMP sympathizers always place him a distant second behind Sarkozy for a potential UMP primary in 2016. He has said that the new president elected in 2014 shouldn’t run in 2017, and he has a small group of loyal allies behind him. The old copéiste group is divided between a small circle still loyal to Copé and a larger clan of neo-sarkozystes (Nadine Morano, Brice Hortefeux, Guillaume Peltier, Claude Guéant, Henri Guiano, Patrick Balkany); it is unclear what they will do in 2014.

The left is in poor shape as well. The government will not be changing courses as a result of the EP election, largely because it already changed courses in March after the municipal elections and because Valls remains relatively popular (but carrying no impact on the government’s general perception, which is largely negative and tied to Hollande’s extreme unpopularity). The PS knew it would do horribly in the EP election, so the thumping came as less of a hit for them, although it doesn’t change the very dire state of the PS and the government.

Additional maps of interest

Nouvelle Donne support by canton

A predominantly urban and suburban party in affluent, white-collar and highly educated urban areas. The outlines of some urban areas are clear (Rennes, Nantes, Caen, Angers, La Rochelle, Montpellier, Lille, Grenoble, Dijon, Niort) on the map; the extensions outside of urban/suburban areas is close, in many regions, to traditional Green support (Rhône-Alpes). There is a relatively strong R² relationship between the ND and EELV vote in this election (0.42).

Change in FN support from 2012 to 2014

There was, as indicated in the analysis, a very clear personal vote for Marine Le Pen in her EP constituency (the Northwest), with a substantial increase (turnout decreases notwithstanding) in all departments of the Northwest EP constituency. In other regions, patterns were more patchy and difficult to generalize, although the FN’s support also increased (again, turnout decreases notwithstanding) from 2012 in the coastal departments of PACA (where Jean-Marie Le Pen was the FN’s top candidate). Around Perpignan, there may have been a larger increase due to Louis Aliot, the FN’s top candidate in the Southwest whose local base is Perpignan.

The FN’s support decreased from 2012 in Corsica: this is likely due to Corsican nationalist voters who had backed Marine Le Pen in 2012 (the support of some nationalist voters for the FN/her candidacy is documented and proven by local results), who instead voted for incumbent MEP François Alfonsi’s moderate nationalist list this year.

Change in UDI-MoDem support from 2012 (Bayrou) to 2014

A map showing the local factors and local barons (often UDI) who provided a boost (‘added value’) to the centrist vote in some regions.


Some odd and interesting patterns…

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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%.


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%).


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.


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.


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).


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%.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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%.


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.


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.


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%)


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.


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.

France 2014 (R1)

The first round of municipal elections were held in France on March 23, 2014. The municipal councils of nearly all 36,681 communes in France – in metropolitan France, Corsica and all but four overseas collectivities. 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.

To summarize, for those unwilling to read the full details, in communes with over 1,000 inhabitants (which means about 9,000 communes altogether, but making up the vast majority of the population), elections are held by closed party-list voting. In the first round, a list must obtain over 50% of the vote to win outright. If no list wins outright, all lists which won over 10% of the vote are qualified for the second round while lists which have won over 5% of the vote may ‘merge’ (fusion) with a qualified list, which means that the list with which they merge will be altered to include names of candidates who were originally on the list which was merged. Lists who have won over 10% of the vote may also choose to withdraw without merging, or withdraw and merge with another qualified list. In the second round, a relative majority suffices. The list which wins, either in the first or second round, is immediately allocated half the seats in the municipal council. The other half of seats are 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).

The size of the municipal council varies based on the population of the commune, from 7 to 69 seats. Lyon has 73 seats, Marseille has 101 and Paris has 163.

As explained in detail in the first preview post, the election – the first since the 2012 presidential and legislative elections – comes as President François Hollande is extremely unpopular – with about 20% approval ratings, he is one of the most unpopular president of the Fifth Republic. It owes to the terrible economic situation (over 10% unemployment), the government’s perceived inability to deal with these economic problems, its general ineptness and internal dissonance and policies which have won the opposition of both the right and much of the left. Going into the municipal elections, the left hoped that the local dynamics which are often predominant in municipal elections would prevail; but it certainly feared the precedent of the 1977 and 1983 ‘wave’ municipal elections which saw huge one-sided waves against the governing coalition.

A note on terminology used in this post, in French, because hard to adequately translate in English: an adjoint au maire is a deputy mayor, responsible for a given portfolio, but the use of deputy mayor would cause confusion to Francophones since député-maire in France is commonly used to refer to one who serves concurrently both as deputy in the National Assembly (député, MP) and mayor. A premier adjoint is the ‘first deputy’ or top-ranking adjoint to the mayor. A triangulaire is a three-way runoff, a quadrangulaire is a four-way runoff.


Abstention was about 36.45% according to the Interior Ministry, down from a 39.5% prediction fro an Ipsos estimate at around 8pm on election night. This is a record low turnout for a municipal election since the War, down from the previous low, set in 2008 (33.5% abstention), and following a consistent trend of declining turnout since 1983 (21.6% abstention). There was much talk in the media from journalists and politicians about the ‘record low’ turnout and some grandiose declarations from politicians trying to put their spin on things, but it helps to put things in perspective. While following a trend of declining turnout in local elections, turnout was higher than in the 2012 legislative elections (57.2% in the first round) and far better than the last two subnational elections (2010 regionals: 46.3% turnout in the first round; 2011 cantonals: 44.3% turnout in the first round). It is obvious that part of the explanation stems from greater dissatisfaction with politics and the political system in general, a widespread feeling that no party adequately represents their feelings and/or a view that politicians are all ‘the same’ and not worth our time. However, researchers have argued that the trend has been been the result of a decline in ‘regular voting’ and the rise of ‘sporadic participation’ (participation intermittente) – voters turn out based on the stakes of the specific election, rather than turning out ‘by duty’ in every type of election as in the past (when turnout at all types of elections was generally similar across the board). This is evidenced by the very high turnout in the last two, high-stakes, presidential elections in 2007 and 2012 (83.8%, 79.5%); this disproves the idea that there is a general civic crisis. The rise of sporadic participation is a result, partly, of generational changes: older voters (except those over 75-80) feel a ‘duty’ to vote in all elections, while younger voters are more likely to be sporadic voters (and the 20% or so who never vote are also over-represented in younger age groups).

As in the past, turnout was highest in rural communes with a small population (where voters often personally know the candidates and the municipal election has a very local, close-to-home dimension) while it was lowest in the largest urban areas (56.3% in Paris, 53.5% in Marseille, 56.1% in Lyon). Abstention was particularly high, again, in low-income and historically working-class towns hit hard by unemployment and social crises: 62% in Vaulx-en-Velin, Roubaix, 61% in Évry, Stains, 59% in Bobigny, 58% in Saint-Denis and Aubervilliers. Sporadic voting and systematic abstention is positively correlated to lower levels of education and incomes; the feeling of political dissatisfaction and disconnect with the political system is particularly acute in those places. This excellent number-crunching post from Libération also lists the major towns (pop. over 10,000) with the lowest abstention: Corsica (21% in Bastia) and La Réunion feature prominently on the list, along with some smaller towns in metro France (generally in the western half). Corsica is an interesting case, because it has particularly low turnout in presidential elections (74.3% in 2012) but very strong turnout in more localized elections because there’s a much closer connection to local politics (which are very clan/family-based) on the island. La Réunion appears to be a similar case.

Ipsos’ ‘exit poll’ of sorts confirmed the positive correlation between age and higher turnout and job status and higher turnout (49% of manual workers voted, 65% of managers and higher professionals did so). In past elections where the governing party is particularly unpopular (2010 regionals, for example), turnout from government supporters was lower. Something similar seems to have happened, but it seems as if the issue was mostly that right-wing voters were far more mobilized than left-wing voters staying at home: 68% of PS sympathizers voted, compared to 75% of UMP/UDI sympathizers. Greens (56%) and FN (60%) sympathizers and those without partisan sympathies (50%) had lower turnout. When asking non-voters why they didn’t vote, 44% said that the elections would have no impact on their daily lives, 39% said to show opposition towards politicians in general and 22% said to show opposition to the government. 34% of voters said that they would use their vote to show opposition to the government and Hollande, but 55% said they would neither oppose or support the government through their vote. And only 23% said that their vote would be determined by the national political situation (rather than local).

The overall result of the first round can be summarized thus: a major victory for the far-right FN, a bad thumping for the governing PS and the makings of a good overall election for the UMP. What retained attention in the French and foreign press was the FN’s success; in those cities where the FN stood, the FN won 16.5% of the vote, up from 9.2% in 2008. In places where the FN has a strong local footing in place, the results were rather tremendous, improving significantly on Marine Le Pen’s local performance there in 2012 and on the FN’s results in the 2012 legislative elections. In Hénin-Beaumont (Pas-de-Calais), a poor town in the old coal mining basin of northern France which Marine Le Pen has turned into her solid electoral base since 2007, the FN’s candidate, Steeve Briois (Le Pen’s local lieutenant and ally) was elected mayor by the first round with 50.3% of the vote, defeating a sitting PS mayor. The FN placed first in four major cities in southern France: Perpignan (Pyrénées-Orientales), Béziers (Hérault), Avignon (Vaucluse) and Fréjus (Var). It also placed first in smaller towns such as Saint-Gilles (Gard), Beaucaire (Gard), Tarascon (Bouches-du-Rhône), Brignoles (Var), Digne-les-Bains (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence) and Forbach (Moselle). It obtained very strong results in many other cities, most significantly Marseille, where the FN placed second overall, ahead of the PS. It also did well (over 25%) in Carpentras (Vaucluse), Sorgues (Vaucluse), Cavaillon (Vaucluse), La Seyne-sur-Mer (Var), Noyon (Oise), Hayange (Moselle), Elbeuf (Seine-Maritime), Le Petit-Quevilly (Seine-Maritime) and several towns in the Pas-de-Calais mining basin.

As Libé’s analysis of the results in the communes with over 10,000 inhabitants pointed out, in the 409 of those communes with FN lists, the FN won 14.4%, which is down from Le Pen’s 15.7% in 2012. However, in the FN’s top 10 communes on March 23, where they took 39.9% on average, Le Pen had taken ‘only’ 29% in 2012, so there was a clear improvement on the FN’s presidential result in towns where the FN lists were headed by well-known national (or local) figures. So there remains an heavy element of local notoriety and implantation, even in the FN’s result. All that notwithstanding, it was very much a great night for the FN. Municipal elections, as Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, are traditionally a rather difficult election for the FN (reasons explained more thoroughly in the intro to my second preview post): difficulty to run lists in many places, lack of local infrastructure (no incumbents in most cases, lack of office holders, weak local party) and the focus on local issues and local dynamics; although the FN did comparably well in 1995. Therefore, that the FN has been able to draw a significant number of voters to vote for their lists (in many cases, led by nobodies or obscure party bosses and officeholders) in a locally-focused election is a clear success for the FN. It is also good news for them that they came close to matching Le Pen’s 2012 result (and in many cases exceeded it too); Marine Le Pen’s result in April 2012 was a high point for the FN and she likely drew protest voters to her name who would usually not vote for the FN in other types of elections.

The results also showed that the FN’s influence has ‘nationalized’ further, with the party winning impressive results in towns where the FN has usually been weak: most notably in Brittany – with over 10% in Saint-Brieuc, Lorient and Fougères but also 15% in Le Mans and 17% in Limoges.

Overall, Libé calculated that in all communes with a population of over 10,000; the result was 46% for the right (+3.5 since 2008), 42.3% for the left (-7.9), 8.9% for the far-right (+7.4) and 2.7% for others (-3.1). On the left, the main loser were the governing leftist parties (from 44.6% in 2008 to 36.4% in 2014) and specifically the PS (from 36.3% to 25.7%) while EELV and other centre-left parties/candidates (DVG) gained ground. As some cities show (most notably Grenoble) there was a strong vote for left-wing candidates outside the PS; in other places, it is also clear that the PS label hurt candidates, with Montreuil being the best example.

The national mood hurt the PS far more than pollsters had expected it, with Marseille as the most catastrophic example of a place where the PS had high hopes going into March 23 and are now wondering what the f- just happened. In several cities, especially Marseille, the pollsters were wrong – often underestimating the FN, but also overestimating the PS in a lot of cases. What happened? The FN’s underestimation is nothing new and can be expected; some people apparently don’t want to admit a FN vote to pollsters (or there was a strong last minute swing to the FN in the booth). The PS’ overestimation is more surprising (if anything, in some cases, an unpopular governing party can be slightly underestimated) and pollsters should have some answering to do (especially in Marseille). Was it their turnout models? The turnout was not a surprise to anyone who had been following things, and pollsters knew that and their turnout estimates were generally correct. Was it the difficulty of polling a fairly micro level?

As it stands, the PS will lose several mid-sized towns to the UMP/UDI in the second round: Amiens, Valence, Pau, Laval, Chambéry, Roanne, Charleville-Mézières, Salon-de-Provence, Saint-Chamond, Aulnay-sous-Bois, Montbéliard and Brive-la-Gaillarde are lost and can’t be salvaged; the PS is clearly in trouble in Caen, Angers, Evreux, Angoulême, Saint-Étienne, Ajaccio, Belfort and Quimper and the runoff will be close in Strasbourg, Reims, Tours, Tourcoing, Clichy, Pessac and other towns. With the threat that vote transfers from EELV or Left Front (FG) candidates eliminated or withdrawn will be bad, the second round could be a real rout for the PS with very few chances at compensatory gains (Avignon, Bourges, Calais, Douai and Corbeil-Essonnes are the only major ones in which the PS retains a fighting chance at gaining the seat from the UMP/UDI). It could end up like 1983, although the second round in 1983 there had been a small rally-round-the-flag effect on the left which allowed the PS to unexpectedly save a few things (Lille).

Several major towns (population over 30,000) and many smaller towns (population over 10,000) have already switched from left to right. By the first round, the largest city to switch sides is Niort (pop 57,813, Deux-Sèvres), where incumbent PS mayor Geneviève Gaillard, elected in 2008, was defeated by Jérôme Baloge (UDI) in a landslide – 54.3% against only 20.4%. Niort, whose economy is famously based around insurance mutuals and the ‘social economy’, is a left-wing stronghold, having voted 64% for Hollande in 2012 and being governed by Socialist mayors since 1957. Gaillard, who has been deputy for the area since 1997, gained the city hall in 2008, running as the official PS candidate against the incumbent mayor, Alain Baudin, who was not selected by the PS and ran as a dissident. The episode created much bad blood on the left, and Gaillard was accused by members of the PS majority of authoritarianism. Her 2008 opponent, Alain Baudin, was third on Baloge’s list. Gaillard charges that Ségolène Royal, the PS regional council president, may have had a role to play in her defeat, after a communiqué from Royal said that Niort hadn’t switched to the right but rather been won by a list of a ‘large coalition’ against a ‘list of divisions and cumul des mandat‘.

Also lost by the first round is Clamart (pop 52,731, Hauts-de-Seine), where incumbent PS mayor Philippe Kaltenbach was forced to retire after being indicted in a corruption case in 2013. The UMP-UDI list led by local opposition leader Jean-Didier Berger, an ally of Philippe Pemezec, the UMP mayor of Le Plessis-Robinson (and longtime rival of Kaltenbach), won 53.8% against 32.9% for the PS-EELV-PCF list. In the Yvelines department, Poissy (pop 37,662), a right-leaning town gained by the PS in 2008, switched back to the right with no less than 62.4% for the UMP against 24.8% for the PS incumbent. The PS’ victory in 2008 owed much to Jacques Masdeu-Arus, the UMP mayor in office since 1983 who at the time had been sentenced in a corruption case but since he was appealing he was able to run for reelection. In the Val-de-Marne, the UMP defeated the PS incumbent in L’Haÿ-les-Roses (pop. 30,574) by the first round, 54.1% against 46%. The town had been ruled by Socialists since 1965 and Hollande won 59.8% in this middle-class suburban community in May 2012. The incumbent who was defeated had taken office in 2012, after his predecessor was indicted in a corruption case in 2011.

Another gain for the right was Chalon-sur-Saône (pop. 44,847, Saône-et-Loire), historically a small industrial centre gained by PS in 2008 after 25 years of right-wing rule, where incumbent PS député maire Christophe Sirugue was defeated 32.6% to 52.4%. Other gains in smaller towns include Châteauneuf-les-Martigues (a defeat for incumbent PS député maire Vincent Burroni), the Toulouse suburb of Balma, Dole (a victory for UMP deputy Jean-Marie Sermier), Ablon-sur-Seine, L’Aigle, Sainte-Luce-sur-Loire and the emblematic troubled post-industrial town of Florange.

Comparable gains for the left are far fewer: only one town with over 10,000 people seem to have switched – Vire (Calvados), where the UMP incumbent since 1989 was retiring and a PRG general councillor replaces him.

The government’s clear defeat in the first round and a second round which will probably largely confirm the first has taken the government by surprise and there is increasing talk of an early cabinet shuffle, originally expected for the aftermath of the European elections in May (where the PS knows it will perform horribly). Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who is as unpopular as Hollande and very much of a low-key non-entity with weak authority over his cabinet, may be replaced and other cabinet ministers will likely go too. Cabinet shuffles are commonplace in France after a government takes a thumping in a midterm election, and it rarely improves matters for the government in the long run.

Detailed results analysis: 12 largest cities


1 51.72 27.36 10.84 5.03 2.53 0.49 2.02
2 24.25 22.82 32.96 3.97 2.8 1.88 11.01 0.31
3 29.09 47.29 10.78 4.99 3.99 2.4 0.5 0.95
4 37.82 37.4 9.3 5.2 3.82 5.86 0.61
5 28.49 33.94 8.92 3.62 4.39 19.43 0.64 0.57
6 52.62 26.12 6.65 4.8 2.36 3.36 3.64 0.45
7 41.01 16.92 3.04 5.95 1.1 2.98 17.81
8 46.61 15.4 3.5 4.76 1.41 19.26 5.16 3.86
9 39.42 39.15 8.01 4.86 3.72 4.24 0.57
10 21.48 44.36 11.49 5.41 6.41 4.85 3.35 0.61 0.95
11 26.82 44.75 11.55 5.47 6.27 3.14 0.63 1.32
12 33.34 37.39 10.06 6.76 5.38 0.55 0.86 5.62
13 24.98 44.46 9.82 7.46 5.87 1.74 1.06 0.78 1.33 2.5
14 33.1 37.89 8.77 5.74 5.24 5.74 0.66 2.83
15 48.56 29.1 4.46 6.3 2.68 4.64 2.72
16 63.04 12.98 2.31 6 1.04 9.31 5.3
17 53.53 25.38 6.58 6.45 3.08 4.43 0.52
18 25.23 39.85 12.65 6.78 7.18 3.62 1.15 1.85
19 25.76 42.18 12.86 7.94 7.11 1.36 1.04 1.72
20 17.5 37.29 10.89 7.48 10.35 2.21 3.35 7.91
0.79 1.36
Paris 35.91 34.40 8.86 6.26 4.94 3.36 2.84 1.01 0.55 0.55 1.31

Maps by precinct

In Paris, the UMP-UDI-MoDem lists led by Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet (NKM) came out with a narrow lead in the city-wide popular vote, raising optimism and confidence on the right while warning Anne Hidalgo, the Socialist candidate and favourite to succeed retiring PS mayor Bertrand Delanoë, that the contest might not be the walk in the park many on the left thought it would be. Of course, a city-wide lead in popular vote is meaningless: the election in Paris, as noted in the intro, is not decided based on the share of the votes across the city but rather by the victor in each of Paris’ 20 arrondissements. It is very much like the electoral college in the United States, and like in the US winning the city-wide popular vote doesn’t necessarily mean you won the election.

In this case, the actual race in the arrondissements indicates that Hidalgo, the PS candidate, remains the narrow favourite to win in the second round. The UMP pulled ahead of the PS in two arrondissements currently held by the PS – the 4th and 9th arrondissements, where the UMP has a tiny lead (less than 1 point) over the PS and trails the combined total of the left. Even if the UMP were to win both these arrondissements on March 30, it would not be enough because they have 2 and 4 conseillers de Paris respectively. As a handy simulator on shows, if the 4th and 9th go right and nothing else moves, the left would win with a comfortable majority on council (about 89 seats, with 82 required for a majority).

Instead, the key ‘swing states’ in Paris are 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. NKM is the UMP’s top candidate in the 14th arrondissement, while the young sitting municipal councillor Valérie Montandon is 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.

On March 23, the PS lists placed ahead of the UMP lists in both these key arrondissements, with 37.4% to 33.3% in the 12th and 37.9% to 33.1% in the 14th. With the merger of the EELV lists (10.1% and 8.8% respectively) into the PS lists, the left solidifies its lead – and has smaller and probably less certain reserves with those who voted for the PG lists (5.4% and 5.2% respectively) in the first round, even if there is no merger agreement between the PS and PG in Paris.

Yet, if NKM is to become mayor, the UMP lists must absolutely win both arrondissements, and that would give them a very narrow 82-81 majority in the Council of Paris. Victories in the 4th and/or 9th arrondissements are not absolutely necessary, but they would share up a more comfortable majority.

This also assumes that the UMP holds all arrondissements it currently has, whereas the 5th arrondissement is very tight. In the first round, the PS list won 33.9% against 28.5% for the UMP list, with a dissident list led by Dominique Tiberi, the son of the incumbent mayor (and former RPR mayor of Paris from 1995 and 2001, indicted for corruption and sentenced for voter fraud in 2013) Jean Tiberi, won 19.4%. NKM dodged a fatal bullet by reaching a merger agreement with Tiberi’s list, likely in exchange for juicy concessions to Tiberi (who had a very strong bargaining position). The 5th is an old right-wing stronghold – it was where Jacques Chirac got elected when he was mayor from 1977 to 1995 – but it has shifted to the left in the past few years, with Hollande winning 56.2% of the vote there in May 2012. The runoff there will be close, but assuming good transfers from Tiberi to the UMP, the right has a narrow advantage. But defeat in the 5th would be fatal to the UMP’s chances of winning Paris.

Therefore, given the numbers and where the race is fought, Hidalgo and the left remain the favourites. Nevertheless, the first round results and the UMP’s strong performance means that they cannot be overconfident. The UMP had a much better performance than in 2008, when it won only 27.9% of the vote; meanwhile, the PS lists took a sharp hit from Delanoë’s landslide result in 2008, when the PS lists had won 41.6% in the first round. The national climate played a major role, but the contest was also ‘fairer’ than in 2008: Hidalgo is less charismatic and not as strong a candidate and Delanoë (and she also lacks the advantages of incumbency), while NKM is clearly a much stronger UMP candidate than Françoise de Panafieu, a boring old politician. NKM was mocked for her somewhat aloof and bourgeois/snob airs (most notably her gaffe on the Paris subway being extraordinary and filled with charming characters), and her campaign was wracked by the highly-publicized string of dissident candidacies on the right (as well as squabbles between the UMP, UDI and MoDem for the lists); but her moderate platform (focused on the ‘middle-classes’ and a promise not to raise taxes) was a fairly good fit for a right-wing candidate in contemporary Paris.

The UMP won four arrondissements by the first round. In the 1st, a small high-end bourgeois district in central Paris, incumbent mayor Jean-François Legaret (UMP) was reelected with 51.7% while the PS list lost 10 points from its 2008 result. In the 6th, another bourgeois district, UMP incumbent Jean-Pierre Lecoq won 52.6%. In the 16th, the wealthiest and most right-wing arrondissement in Paris, incumbent mayor and deputy Claude Goasguen was reelected handily with 63% against 13% for the PS and 9.3% for David Alphand, a sitting DVD arrondissement councillor backed by Charles Beigbeder’s Paris libéré lists. in the 17th, incumbent UMP mayor Brigitte Kuster won 53.5% against 25.3% for Annick Lepetit, a PS deputy (the PS’ result is down 11 points from 2008 here). Although the southwestern half of the arrondissement is very bourgeois and right-wing, the Épinettes (and parts of the Batignolles) in the northeast are quite strongly left-wing (the Épinettes is a former working-class neighborhood which is largely gentrified by young professionals, although it remains significantly poorer than the rest of the arrondissement; there are also significantly poorer peripheral areas with HLM towers lining the périph).

In the 7th and 8th, two other solidly right-wing very affluent arrondissements, the UMP will have to wait for March 30 to win, because of strong dissident candidates on the right. In the 7th, UMP mayor Rachida Dati, who has her share of enemies on the right (she is criticized locally for not caring much about her gig as mayor of the 7th), did poorly with 41% of the vote. Christian Le Roux, a former maire adjoint of the arrondissement, placed second with 17.8% while Michel Dumont, who was mayor of the arrondissement until being pushed aside for Dati in 2008, won 7.5%. In the 8th, the UMP list won 46.6%, while Charles Beigbeder, the ringleader of the Paris libéré alliance of right-wing dissidents, won 19.3%. Overall, the performances of Beigbeder’s otherwise little-known candidates was mediocre; except in the 16th where the candidate was a sitting councillor and in the 14th (NKM’s arrondissement) where his candidate was Marie-Claire Carrère-Gée, the traditional local UMP candidate in the past who was sidelined to make way for NKM.

In the 2nd arrondissement, dissident candidate Hélène Delsol won 11% of the vote (and fourth place); she was the original UMP candidate until NKM removed her in early March because her list did not respect the UMP’s deal with the UDI (Delsol was also a close supporter of the anti-gay marriage Manif pour tous; NKM was one of the few UMP deputies not to vote against the bill when it passed – she abstained). It was also in the 2nd arrondissement, on the left since 2001 and likely to remain so on March 30, that EELV did best: Jacques Boutault, who has been the Green mayor of the arrondissement (thanks to an agreement with the PS) since 2001, topped the poll with 33%, up from 29.9% in 2008 (when he had placed second behind the PS list in the first round).

Unlike in 2008, when the PS won several of its strongholds by the first round, no PS list won outright on March 23. Its best performance came from the cosmopolitan and ‘bobo’ 3rd, where incumbent mayor Pierre Aidenbaum won 47.3%.

Again, the results reflected the old east-west polarization in Paris; the UMP’s best performances came from the beaux quartiers – old conservative strongholds which have been on the right for over 100 years while the PS did best in the east – which used to be heavily working-class and revolutionary neighborhoods known for their revolutionary ferment (the east was where the barricades went up in 1848 and where the 1871 commune took longest to crush) and socialist history. However, Paris is now a middle-class city which were few workers; the contrast is now between an older, established and very affluent bourgeoisie and ‘new middle-classes’ – younger, mobile, highly educated, less affluent (but not poor) professionals with high cultural capital (often working as cadres, many as journalists, academics, artists etc) living in the gentrified neighborhoods of eastern Paris. There are, however, deep social inequalities, and the high housing prices (a major issue in this election) have pushed out the lower middle-classes and working poor. Paris still has a significant poor population (many immigrants or foreigners), with heavy concentrations in a string of HLM towers in the periphery of the city.

The PS’ other best results came from the eastern arrondissements of the 10th, 11th, 13th (all over 44%), the 18th (nearly 40%) and the 19th (42%). The 10th is known as a ‘boboland’ (the Canal Saint-Martin is known as a ‘bobo’ hotspot) although it includes some poorer immigrant-heavy areas (Porte Saint-Denis, Bas Belleville). The 13th remains one of Paris’ poorest areas, with a lot of social housing but also some gentrified middle-class areas. The 18th includes Montmartre, a famously hip bobo area, but also La Goutte d’Or, a working poor neighborhood with a very large immigrant population. The 19th, historically working-class, is similar: there is a contrast between deprived peripheral areas (La Villette) and some more recently gentrified areas (Buttes-Chaumont). The 20th is the most left-wing arrondissement in Paris, with 71.8% for Hollande. The PS did not do as well (37.3%) because of competition from EELV but also the PG (Danielle Simonnet, the PG’s mayoral candidate ran here) which won its best Parisian result (10.4%) and from former PS mayor Michel Charzat (7.9%, he was mayor until 2008, when he ran as a dissident and won 30.5% in an all-leftist runoff against the PS-Green list). The 20th includes most of Belleville, an old working-class neighborhood which has a huge symbolic place in French socialist mythology (being identified in collective memory as the socialist, revolutionary working-class stronghold); the 20th and 19th remain two of the city’s poorest areas, and there are still many pockets of deprivation in Belleville and the periphery, but there has been recent gentrification here as well.

In the 15th, a bourgeois (but not always so: until the 1950s, it was more blue-collar and the PCF polled quite well) arrondissement where Hidalgo has run in the past, her own list did poorly with only 29.1% against 48.6% for the UMP list led by incumbent mayor Philippe Goujon.

EELV won 8.9%, a good result for the party, improving on the Greens’ 6.8% in 2008 but still below their 2001 results. It quickly found an agreement with the PS, and EELV’s lists will merge with those of the PS in every arrondissement.

EELV’s support is also very eastern, with low support in the conservative west (‘green-minded’ voters there find the Greens far too left-wing). This year, EELV, outside the 2nd, did well in the downtown core (1, 3), the inner east (10, 11, 12) and outer east (18, 19, 20) – over 12% in the 18th and 19th. In the 18th, EELV polled over 15% in Montmartre and Clignancourt, but it also did quite well (over 10%) in La Goutte d’Or; in the 19th, it did best the Buttes-Chaumont area, with peaks over 20%. There has been gentrification in all these areas and there is a large potential EELV-type electorate, but these very good results may also indicate that EELV was a ‘replacement vote’ on the left for those who didn’t want to vote PS in the first round.

The PG, on the other hand, did poorly – its 4.9% result is a disappointment for them, although the silver lining is that Simonnet qualified for the second round in the 20th, with a bit over 10% of the vote. The PG and PS found no agreement and Simonnet maintains her list in the runoff; the PS seemed to have very little interest in reaching an agreement with the PG, with the PG decrying the conditions in which they were received by the PS (in some backroom which looked more like a storage shack). The lack of agreement between the PG and PS further deepens the rift between Mélenchon’s PG and the PCF, which supported the PS by the first round. In the second round, the PG will therefore be on opposite sides from the PCF. In the 20th, PG supporters will be hoping that Simonnet’s list wins at least 12.5% to obtain one seat for the PG on the municipal council.

The FN won 6.3%, doubling its 2008 result (a terrible 3.2%) but effectively just matching Le Pen’s 2012 result in Paris (6.2%). Although Paris was once a FN stronghold – in 1984, for example – the city, with the aforementioned social and cultural changes, has become a dead zone for the far-right whose results have gotten progressively worse since the late 1980s. There was no clear east-west divide in the FN’s vote in 2014, like in 2012; instead, the FN polled best in poorer peripheral areas on the outskirts of the city.

The second round may prove closer than expected, but the dynamics and structure of the election indicate that Hidalgo, despite a mediocre first round showing, remains the favourite, especially in the two key arrondissements where the election will be played out.


1 38.6 15.02 26.96 8.98 6.96 0.59 0.36 2.53
2 24.18 16.54 17.46 7.11 5.41 23.81 1.1 4.38
3 41.76 18.15 24.66 7.71 5.15 0.91 0.31 1.35
4 50.08 17.31 19.08 7.02 6.52
5 45.78 25.56 15.28 6.07 4.39 1.73 1.19
6 35.17 25.85 16.63 5.53 3.43 13.4
7 27.83 32.88 21.66 6.43 8.1 2.17 0.92
8 21 27.59 31.71 10.8 5.47 0.89 1.13 1.7

After the first round, Marseille came to symbolize the rout of the PS. The city, which was the stronghold of Socialist strongman Gaston Defferre between 1953 and 1986, has been governed by the UMP’s Jean-Claude Gaudin since 1995 and the PS has been eager to regain Marseille ever since it lost it. It came very close in 2008, and despite the unfavourable national climate, it had some reason to be optimistic this year. The polls all confirmed a very tight race between Gaudin and PS-EELV candidate Patrick Mennucci; in the 3rd sector, the key ‘swing’ sector in Marseille, all polls showed a nail-bitingly close contest between UMP mayor Bruno Gilles and the PS’ star candidate, junior minister Marie-Arlette Carlotti. When the results came in, the PS was left reeling – in awe, wondering what just happened. The pollsters were all wrong: the UMP lists placed far ahead of the pack, with 37.6%, against 23.2% for the FN and 20.8% for the PS-EELV. All the hopes of gaining Marseille were crushed in one second, and the PS’ strategy of drawing attention to the ‘winnable’ contest in Marseille to obscure the likely defeats in other cities blew up in their faces. The PS has no chance of winning Marseille on March 30; the focus is now on saving what can be saved, which is a fairly important task in its own right because what is saved on March 30 will be crucial for senatorial elections in the fall.

The FG, which won a very mediocre 7.1% in a city which was at one time one of the main strongholds of the PCF (and the north, the current 8th sector in particular, one of the safest PCF areas outside the Red Belt), will merge its lists with that of the PS. In the 8th sector, FG mayoral candidate Jean-Marc Coppola, a PCF regional councillor, won 10.8%, the FG’s best result.

Independent left-leaning and anti-establishment lists led by Pape Diouf, the former president of the Olympique de Marseille (OM) football club from 2005 to 2009, won 5.6% (6.4% for Diouf himself in the 7th). Pape Diouf’s lists included members of civil society, civic associations and EELV dissidents who opposed EELV’s alliance with the PS. Pape Diouf’s lists, although left-leaning, attacked the clientelism of both PS and UMP and presented itself as a civic, apolitical opposition to the political establishment. However, many of Diouf’s candidates, including Sébastien Barles (EELV) in the 1st sector, were hoping that they would reach a merger agreement with the PS lists after the first round. Instead, Diouf announced that there would be no merger and refused to endorse anybody. His decision, apparently taken autocratically, irked many of his supporters.

In the 3rd sector, where we had been told to expect a close battle between the PS and UMP, the PS list led by junior minister Marie-Arlette Carlotti is 17 points behind the UMP list of incumbent mayor Bruno Gilles. In the 1st sector, which is Patrick Mennucci’s sector and was a PS gain in 2008, Mennucci himself find himself trailing UMP deputy Dominique Tian by more than 11 points and must save his own seat. The PS only leads in the 8th sector in Marseille’s northern suburbs, where the PS list led by incumbent mayor and senator Samia Ghali (Mennucci’s main rival in the 2013 primary) topped the poll – but only narrowly, with 31.7% against 27.6% for the FN. In the 7th sector, the other northern sector, the PS list led by incumbent mayor Garo Hovsepian is trailing in third place, with 21.7% against 32.9% for the FN list led by FN mayoral candidate Stéphane Ravier and 27.8% for the UMP. In the 6th sector, another sector presented as a ‘swing’ sector and potentially winnable for the PS, the PS list led by general councillor Christophe Masse is in even worse shape: in third, with a mere 16.6% against 35.2% for the UMP’s Roland Blum-Valérie Boyer tandem and 25.9% for the FN. Robert Assante, the incumbent ex-UDI/ex-UMP mayor of the 6th sector, won 13.4% running a dissident list. Assante had left the UMP after he was pushed aside in favour of his enemy, Valérie Boyer, for a seat in the National Assembly. His list has merged with that of the UMP; according to this deal, Assante will retain his mayoral position, something which in turns alienates Boyer, who had been promised that job.

The most shocking result is from the 2nd sector, a very poor left-wing stronghold. The left was divided between the PS-EELV list led by Eugène Caselli, the PS president of the urban community (Marseille Métropole Provence, MPM) and a PRG list led by incumbent mayor Lisette Narducci, a close ally (many would say tool) of the controversial and highly corrupt PS president of the general council, Jean-Noël Guérini (who retains significant weight in Marseille politics, as some kind of Godfather; he’s especially strong in the 2nd sector, since he is the general councillor for the canton of Marseille-Les Grands-Carmes, the family seat since 1951). The UMP list placed first with 24.2%, but the Narducci list placed second, with 23.8%, against only 17.5% for Caselli’s official PS list.

Guérini, who was the PS mayoral candidate back in 2008, is angry at the way the PS has disowned and denounced him after he was hit by several corruption and nepotism scandals. He is especially at odds with Patrick Mennucci (and Carlotti), two erstwhile allies from 2008 who have since turned into the strongest opponents of the ‘Guérini system’ and focused the PS campaign on ethics and fighting corruption. In the PS primary, Guérini was widely suspected of using a bit of his machine to favour Samia Ghali, who disingenuously ran as the local ‘anti-system’ candidate – in the second round against Mennucci, Ghali saw her biggest gains in the 2nd and 3rd arrondissements (the 2nd sector) – Guérini’s stomping grounds. Since then, Guérini was said to be covertly backing Gaudin to take his revenge on Mennucci.

After the first round, Guérini’s marriage of convenience with the UMP and Gaudin was made official. On March 25, Gaudin announced that he had reached an agreement with the PRG (=Guérini’s tools) and Narducci in the 2nd sector, merging the UMP and PRG lists with Narducci taking first place on the new list (with the promise of retaining her mayoral position in case of victory). Narducci claimed that she merged her list to ‘fight the FN’ and said that the PS had refused her proposal for negotiations. However, as Caselli argued, the argument doesn’t hold: the 2nd sector is in no danger of falling to the FN; the PS is furious, denouncing a rogue and unnatural alliance with the UMP. For the UMP, the alliance is perhaps not the best from a PR standpoint but it doesn’t care – it’s great Machiavellian politics. Gaudin allies with Guérini to perpetuate his clientelist system in alliance with the other political boss of the department; in Marseille, a likely UMP-PRG victory in the second sector does a lot to guarantee an absolute majority in the municipal council for Gaudin and it throws more wrenches in the PS’ desperate post-first round strategies. The PS campaign is trying to seize on the UMP-Guérini alliance, now focusing its campaign on an appeal to vote against the ‘Gaudin-Guérini system’ and corruption on March 30. The alliance of an old and increasingly tired mayor with a very mixed record (Marseille is an increasingly socially divided and highly stratified city with huge violence, drugs and crime problems in the poor north; unemployment is high) with a corrupt politician may also play into the FN’s hands, and help push some dismayed right-wingers to vote for the FN in the second round.

To explain the PS’ surprise disaster in the first round, one good explanation might be turnout: it was only 53.5% in the city as a whole, with turnout below 50% in the 2nd, 7th and 8th sectors (the most left-wing sectors). According to a post-election Ifop poll, there may have been a strong partisan difference in turnout: it reports that only 40% of Hollande’s first round voters from 2012 voted compared to 65% of Sarkozy’s voters and 78% of Le Pen’s voters. Comparing raw votes in 2012 to 2014, Mennucci’s lists won only 53k against 104,818 for Hollande in April 2012. Ravier and Gaudin also lost votes compared to Le Pen and Sarkozy, although Gaudin remarkably only lost 4,000 or so from Sarkozy’s April 2012 total. Therefore, one explanation for the PS’ result might be major demobilization of the PS base since 2012, combined with the superior mobilization of the UMP and FN electorate.

An Ifop study at the precinct level confirmed the poll findings: there was a positive correlation between support for Hollande in April 2012 and abstention, with 41% abstention in polls where Hollande was the weakest and 63% abstention where he was the strongest. Abstention also increased (since 2012) most where Mennucci’s losses on Hollande’s 2012 showing were the heaviest. Some other Hollande voters who did turn out voted for Pape Diouf’s lists, which won 13% on average in polls where Hollande had won over 50% in April 2012, compared to only 3.7% in polls where Hollande had won less than 20% in April 2012. Again, Diouf’s support was strongest where the PS’ loses from 2012 were the most pronounced. In contrast, the study found no correlation between decline for the PS and increase for either the UMP or FN (since 2012).

Libé also mentions a potential casting error in the 7th sector: pushed by the area’s (corrupt) deputy, Sylvie Andrieux (ex-PS), the sitting PS mayor Garo Hovsepian (Andrieux’s suppléant) was pushed to run for reelection while Christophe Masse, a powerful PS general councillor whose electoral base is in the 7th sector, was pushed to run in the 6th sector, where his base is much weaker. Andrieux was allegedly unwilling to see Masse, a potential rival for her seat, establish a rival foothold. In the 3rd sector, we may also be led to believe that Carlotti suffered from her direct association with the unpopular government (although she’s a low-profile junior minister).

There is a major north-south social divide in Marseille, a poorer city with much more visible and dramatic social divides than either Paris or Lyon. According to a 2014 study, the poverty rate ranges from 9% (8th arrdt) to 55% (3rd arrdt) in Marseille, whereas it ranges from 9% to 21% in Lyon and 7% to 25% in Paris. Marseille’s northern suburbs (quartiers nord) are predominantly poor, with very high unemployment rates, high immigrant population, major social problems, severe challenges with violence and crime and the concentration of the population in densely populated cités which sprung up under Defferre’s administration as the city struggle to accommodate a growing population from the post-1962 exodus of pieds noirs from Algeria and later North African immigration. The southern suburbs, particularly hilly neighborhoods lining the Mediterranean (in the 7th and 8th arrdt), are far more affluent and privileged. Jean-Claude Gaudin’s solid personal electoral base is in the 4th sector where he was reelected, as in 2008, by the first round with 50.1% for his UMP list. The 4th sector includes the 6th arrondissement, the old central bourgeois arrondissement which does have a left-leaning bobo element (the Cours Julien area in Notre-Dame-du-Mont) and the 8th arrondissement, a seafront arrondissement whose northern half (Le Périer, La Plage, Saint-Giniez) is the most affluent part of the city and also the UMP’s strongest area.

The 1st sector presents an interesting contrast between its two components, the 1st and 7th arrondissements. The 7th includes Le Roucas-Blanc, a very affluent seaside neighborhood which is solidly UMP; the 1st is a poor (43% poverty) multicultural rundown inner-city area with unemployment at about 30% and about 30% of the population without any diploma; although it does include some gentrified areas. The 1st is Mennucci’s electoral base, while the 7th is in Dominique Tian’s constituency.

The FN won its best results in the 5, 6, 7 and 8 sectors – taken as a whole, they cover the whole outer eastern half of the city – the northern suburbs but also the east of the city (Vallée de l’Huveaune). The areas where the FN tends to do best in Marseille are lower middle-class areas which are rather low-income, have low levels of education, blue-collar employment but don’t necessarily have record-level unemployment and poverty; they have a substantial foreign/immigrant minority, but not a majority. These are, especially the 7th sector, ‘settled’ area with relatively little mobility (very few recent settlers) and a population which has lived in the area for 10 years or more. More often than not, these areas aren’t cités (many of them in a ZUS) with HLM towers, but rather neighboring residential suburban neighborhoods – banlieues pavillonnaires (residential suburbs with individual houses). In fact, in a lot of cases, the precincts covering the largest cités (which have the largest immigrant population) tend to be solidly left-wing with very low FN support. According to these maps, the FN vote reached record levels in some of these northern residential suburbs – over 35-40% in places such as Château Gombert (13th) and Verduron (15th) – lower middle-class areas, comparatively affluent compared to other neighborhoods in the north. These are neighborhoods were a lot of individual houses are now gated, as noted in this article.

In the northern suburbs, the left (PS in particular) is hegemonic in most of the large cités (ZUS) – places with extremely high unemployment (sometimes over 40%), very low education levels (less than 5% with a BAC+3), the highest levels of poverty (over 55% in the 3rd arrdt, 44% in the 2nd and 15th, 43% in the 1st and 42% in the 14th) and a very large immigrant population. In some cases, a strong PS vote may be accompanied by a strong FN vote, but in general, the strongest precincts for the left are generally very weak for the FN – in the aforecited link with maps, the FN apparently polled less than 10% in the HLM cités of Verduron (15th). The 8th sector, the only one where the PS came out ahead on March 23, includes the core of the quartiers nord – in the two arrondissements of this sector, 65% and 56% respectively live in a ZUS. These areas, including former villages such as Saint-André and Saint-Henri (16th arrdt), used to be working-class (tileries, Marseille’s harbour etc) areas, and consequently were PCF strongholds until not so long ago. Samia Ghali, the incumbent PS mayor of the sector, has a very strong political machine in those neighborhoods. In the 2nd sector, which includes Marseille’s two poorest arrondissements, the PS, as noted above, faced crippling competition from the PRG (Guérini stooge) incumbent, who likely received the full support of Guérini’s networks – Guérini is the general councillor for the canton of Marseille-Les Grands-Carmes since 1982 (replacing his father, who won the seat in 1951), which covers the bulk of the 2nd arrondissement.

In the 3rd sector, the PS had been counting on the illusory bobo vote which would swing the sector to the left. The 3rd sector, the key swing sector, is mix of downtown affluent and bobo middle-class area (Le Camas in the 5th, Cinq Avenues in the 4th) with more suburban right-leaning areas (with a significant FN base). The 5th arrondissement has seen a large influx of out-of-town residents, making it a highly mobile area. Indeed, the area has seen gentrification with a highly mobile young population settling in these accessible downtown areas; but there’s also a large older population, and Marseille’s (small) bobosphere is spread out of the 1st, 6th, 5th, 4th and even 7th arrondissements. The Cours Julien, often cited as Marseille’s main bobo drag, is in the 6th arrondissement (although it’s drowned by the UMP bourgeois areas, the particular bobo part of the 6th is solidly on the left and Mennucci likely did well there). The phenomenon may also have been overstated: Marseille remains a city famous for its social problems and high poverty, and the influx of a few out-of-towners doesn’t change the social reality… but the media would never let reality ruin a good story.

The UMP will hold Marseille on March 30. At first, there was a chance that Gaudin might have fallen short of an absolute majority, but that would require a PS victory in both the 1st and 2nd sectors, which now seems rather unlikely given the UMP-PRG alliance in the 2nd. The focus in Marseille will now focus on individual races: in the 1st sector, will Mennucci be able to save his own seat? In the 2nd sector, will Narducci’s voters follow her into the alliance with the UMP? In the 7th sector, finally, will Stéphane Ravier, ahead in the first round, win the triangulaire? There was heavy pressure on Hovsepian (PS) to withdraw because he placed third and the ‘danger’ of the FN victory in the sector – most pressure came from hypocrites in the UMP although some in the PS (agriculture minister Stéphane Le Foll) also called on the PS list to withdraw. If the transfers from the FG are good, and Diouf’s voters split in favour of the left, the PS still has a chance at holding the sector. The FN, as always, has little reserves and faces the historical tendency for the FN’s vote to decline somewhat in triangulaires. Will this time be different?


1 25.94 19.12 6.18 33.45 11.27 3.1 0.91
2 27.22 47.12 11.52 4.84 6.05 3.23
3 38.63 28.01 12.36 5.41 9.79 4.64 1.12
4 34.26 26.46 8.56 10.02 11.87 2.84 1.93 0.83 3.1
5 36.29 35.65 11.31 4.58 8.16 3.03 0.93
6 26.79 50.06 10.41 3.13 6.19 3.4
7 38.81 23.84 13.04 7.75 10.87 3.62 0.89 1.14
8 40.30 23.2 18.44 5.43 7.73 3.16 1.7
9 45.67 22.10 13.78 5.61 7.53 3.66 1.62

In Lyon, the incumbent PS mayor Gérard Collomb is seeking reelection for a third term. After a massive landslide in 2008 which saw him effectively win by the first round, his results in 2014 are not as remarkable but his third term remains a lock. Collomb, in keeping with Lyon’s noted propensity for centrist and moderate mayors and politics, is a good fit for the city – he’s on the right of the PS, and has criticized the government on some issues. He has good relations with right-wing mayors in the Grand Lyon, and his landmark project to transform the Grand Lyon urban community into a de facto department will be going ahead in 2015. Although the city likes moderate politicians, the MoDem has been weak and was divided this year – Eric Lafond, a former member of the MoDem excluded from his party, ran centrist lists in every arrondissement but won only about 3%.

In the first round, Collomb’s PS lists topped the poll in all but three arrondissement, two of which (the 2nd and the 6th) are very affluent strongholds of the right. Indeed, in the 6th arrondissement, the most bourgeois arrondissement, the UMP list led by Dominique Nachury won outright with 50.1% against 26.8% for the PS (a major drop from the PS’ 43.3% in the 2008 landslide). In the 2nd, a central arrondissement on the Presqu’île, the UDI-led list won 47.1% against 27.2% for the PS.

The PS’ best results came from the 8th and 9th arrondissements, with 40.3% in the 8th and 45.7% for Collomb’s own list in the 9th. The 9th is an old industrial zone on the outskirts of the city; it includes La Duchère, a large low-income and ethnically diverse cité on the limits of the city (unemployment is over 30%, about 30% are immigrants and the area is classified as a ‘zone urbaine sensible’ or ZUS). The 8th, at the other end of the city, is also an old working-class area, with two large ZUS/cités (États-Unis and Mermoz) and other poorer peripheral neighborhoods.

It is also the FN’s strongest arrondissement, especially the poorer areas which are outside but close to the ZUS (which have significant immigrant populations); with 18.4%, the FN list led by the mayoral candidate and FN regional councillor Christophe Boudot is qualified for the runoff. The FN outperformed Marine Le Pen in every arrondissement; in 2010, she had only broken 10% in the 8th and 9th, peaking at 14% in the 9th.

The closest battle will be in the 5th, where the PS (36.3%) lead over the UMP (35.7%, list led by its mayoral candidate, Michel Havard). 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). With the PS and EELV (8.2%) lists merging, the PS should retain this key arrondissement. In the 3rd arrondissement, which was gained by the PS in 2008, the PS has a ten point lead in the first round over the UMP.

On the Presqu’île of Lyon, the left-wing stronghold of the 1st arrondissement showed interesting results. The 1st is 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. She placed first, with 33.5% against 25.9% for the PS. Like in Paris, the PS and FG found no agreement in Lyon, so the FG list in the 1st and 4th arrondissements (the 4th includes the similarly bobo Croix Rousse, but the right is stronger because it includes some wealthier and older areas in the west) are maintaining themselves in the runoff; in the 1st, the PS list is now led by the first round EELV candidate. If there is one interesting contest to follow in Lyon on March 30, it would be the battle of the lefts in Lyon-1.


Jean-Luc Moudenc (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 38.19%
Pierre Cohen (PS-PCF-PRG-MRC)* 32.26%
Serge Laroze (FN) 8.15%
Antoine Maurice (EELV) 6.98%
Jean-Christophe Sellin (PG-FG) 5.1%
Christine de Veyrac (UDI diss) 2.45%
Élisabeth Belaubre (Cap21) 2.42%
Jean-Pierre Plancade (DVG) 2.12%
Ahmad Chouki (EXG) 1.67%
Sandra Torremocha (LO) 0.63%

The race in Toulouse, a left-leaning city which was governed by the right between 1971 and 2008, is a rematch of the 2008 election between then-mayor Jean-Luc Moudenc, now a UMP deputy for a constituency covering part of the city (and a few of its affluent UMP-voting suburbs) and Pierre Cohen, the PS candidate who narrowly won (with 50.4%). Cohen now has the advantage of incumbency and the city’s strong bias for the left (62.5% for Hollande in May 2012), which means that in such a climate against such a strong candidate, he has a fighting chance. But the results of the first round put him in a weaker position than was expected prior to the first round. Firstly, he trails the UMP by nearly 6 points. The merger with Antoine Maurice’s EELV list (7%) and the assumption that EELV’s votes will transfer well to him (a reasonable assumption, in my mind, but nothing precludes a surprisingly bad transfer to the PS) helps him out and tightens the contest. Transfers from the PG list, which won 5.1%, might not be as good because there was no merger between the PS and PG lists. On the right, Moudenc can count on a solid chunk of the first round FN vote (but not all of it) as well as nearly all of UDI MEP Christine de Veyrac’s tiny 2.5%.

Two polls have come out after the runoff, and they confirm one thing: the runoff is very tight and up in the air. CSA had Cohen ahead of Moudenc with 50.5%, while Ifop had Moudenc ahead with 50.5%. A repeat of the 2008 photo-finish appears to be the horizon.


Christian Estrosi (UMP-UDI)* 44.98%
Marie-Christine Arnautu (FN) 15.6%
Patrick Allemand (PS-EELV-MRC) 15.25%
Olivier Bettati (DVD) 10.13%
Robert Injey (FG) 5.38%
Philippe Vardon (Nissa Rebela) 4.44%
Jacques Peyrat (DVD) 3.69%
Michel Cotta (EXD) 0.63%

Very little suspense in Nice, where the popular incumbent Christian Estrosi (UMP), first elected in 2008, will be handily reelected – although it will be in the second round rather than by the first round. Nice nowadays is a right-wing stronghold, with 60.3% for Sarkozy in May 2012 (little indicating that the PCF was once a major force in Nice); the city’s population is significantly older than most other major cities (especially compared to young cities like Toulouse) and largely middle-class (employees, shopkeepers, intermediate grade professionals). The FN also has a long history in the city, which has been a base for the far-right since 1960s and the influx of pied noirs refugees from North Africa to the region. In the recent years, however, the FN’s support has been less impressive, with a portion of the FN’s old right-wing petit bourgeois electorate staying with Sarkozy’s UMP after 2007. In 2012, Marine Le Pen nevertheless won 23% (but that was down from her father’s 26.8% in 2002). In this election, the FN, which won a paltry 4% in 2008, was interested in a strong candidate but it had trouble finding one (it settled on Marie-Christine Arnautu, who had Jean-Marie Le Pen’s blessing) and the campaign faltered in the face of Estrosi’s popularity and his focus on criminality and security issues (Estrosi has a strong national profile on those issues, and finds himself on the right of the UMP as far as crime/immigration is concerned) which likely drew some FN voters. Arnautu nevertheless placed second, albeit with a mediocre result, while Estrosi’s result was over 10 points better than Sarkozy’s first round result in 2012. The left did very poorly, with only 15.3% for a PS-EELV list (and 5.4% for the FG, whose list hasn’t merged with that of the PS), down from 22% for Hollande in April 2012 and for Allemand’s list in 2008 (which also faced a dissident list, which had won 6.5%). On the right, Olivier Bettati, the dissident UMP general councillor for Nice-8, did rather well. Bettati is a former adjoint au maire, but his relations with Estrosi have always been quite cool and they’re now frigid (he is maintaining his list in the runoff). Another right-wing, however, had less success: Jacques Peyrat, a former FN deputy and the former mayor of Nice (1995-2008) who was defeated by Estrosi in 2008, won only 3.7% – he had taken 23.1% in 2008. Peyrat, who had allied with his former colleagues in the FN in 2011 and 2012, now was left all alone without any partisan support. On the far-right, Philippe Vardon, the leader of the local extremist Nissa Rebela party, a regionalist and far-right (neo-fascist, skinhead type) party, won 4.4%.

Estrosi will glide to victory in the second round, with a huge majority.


Johanna Rolland (PS-PCF-PRG-UDB)^ 34.51%
Laurence Garnier (UMP-UDI-PCD) 24.16%
Pascale Chiron (EELV) 14.55%
Christian Bouchet (FN) 8.14%
Sophie Van Goethem (DVD) 5.59%
Guy Croupy (PG-Alternatifs-GA-NPA) 5.04%
Pierre Gobet (DVD) 4.3%
Xavier Bruckert (MoDem-UDI diss) 2.1%
Hélène Defrance (LO) 1.16%
Arnaud Kongolo (Ind) 0.46%

Nantes has been governed by the PS since 1989, and current (soon to be former?) Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault was mayor between 1989 and 2012. The PS had already gained Nantes in 1977, ending 30 years of right-wing rule (but CNIP mayor André Morice, from 1965 to 1977, governed with an anti-Gaullist and anti-communist alliance including centre-right and Socialists); the shift followed the general shift of Brittany and the inner west from Christian democratic centre-right to moderate centre-left – a movement which was spearheaded by urban areas, and followed only later by more suburban and rural areas (except those rural areas already on the left prior to the 1970s). Nantes has since become a left-wing stronghold, with 61.5% for Hollande in May 2012, although the UMP retains a resilient base in bourgeois areas to the west of the historic centre. In the first round, Johanna Rolland, a young (34-year old) première adjointe and protege of Ayrault, placed first with 34.5% against 24.2% for Laurence Garnier, a UMP municipal councillor who is also 34. In 2008, Ayrault had won reelection by the first round, with 55.7% against 29.9% for the UMP, but at the time, the Greens were on his list by the first round (as they had since 1995). EELV and the PS in Nantes have been quite at odds for the past few years, because of a disagreement of national proportions on the construction of a new international airport for Nantes (and Rennes) in Notre-Dame-des-Landes: the PS, spearheaded by Ayrault and most of the PS leadership nationally (except its left-wing), has strongly supported the project, while EELV has strongly opposed the project. The crisis has had repercussions on national politics, notably as it concerned the behaviour of EELV’s cabinet minister serving in a government which supports the airport. Running independently, EELV performed very strongly, with 14.6%. As these maps show, EELV did best in downtown central Nantes, a young and well-educated area with a high proportion of cadres (professionals). Its results, predictably, were far less impressive in the low-income cités located on the outskirts of the city.

The disagreements on Notre-Dame-des-Landes did not prevent EELV and PS from reaching a merger agreement quickly. The runoff will oppose the PS-EELV and the UMP, and the PS will win without much trouble.


Fabienne Keller (UMP-MoDem) 32.92%
Roland Ries (PS)* 31.24%
Jean-Luc Schaffhauser (FN) 10.94%
Alain Jund (EELV) 8.52%
François Loos (UDI) 7.55%
Jean-Claude Val (FG) 3.96%
Tuncer Saglamer (Ind) 2.63%
Armand Tenesso (DVD) 1.08%
Pierrette Morinaud (LO) 0.73%
Élisabeth Del Grande (POI) 0.4%

Strasbourg, the Alsatian capital, is one of the UMP’s top targets and it has high hopes that Fabienne Keller, the UMP mayor of the city between 2001 and 2008, will take her revenge on PS mayor Roland Ries, who had defeated her in a landslide six years ago. Although Alsace is one of France’s most conservative regions, Strasbourg is often a pink ‘spot’ on the map – in 2007, Sarkozy won the city by a hair and Hollande won it with 54.7%. The city had traditionally been governed by centrists in the post-war era (from 1959 to 1989), but the PS held it between 1989 and 2001 and in the interwar years, when Alsatian politics were heavily influenced by a pro-German autonomist movement, Strasbourg had a Communist (autonomist) mayor between 1929 and 1935! In 2008, with the unfavourable national climate and public divisions within the UMP administration, Keller was steamrolled, trailing by ten points in the first round and losing 58 to 42 in the second round. This year, although Ries has the advantage of incumbency, and unlike the PS in 2001 and the UMP in 2008, no apparent divisions in his ranks, the cards have changed with the unpopularity of the PS government. In the first round, Keller came out narrowly ahead, with 32.9%, against 31.2% for the incumbent. Both are down from their 2008 results (although Keller improves on Sarkozy’s 27.5% in April 2012), but Ries especially so – down nearly 13 points. The runoff will be very tight. Keller has merged with the UDI list led by former cabinet minister and deputy François Loos, which won 7.6%, while Ries has merged with the EELV list, which won 8.5% (improving on the Greens’ 6.4% in 2008).

The bad news for the UMP in this extremely tight runoff is that it will be a triangulaire. The FN is usually weak in Strasbourg (11.9% in 2012), but with 10.9% this year, it narrowly surpassed the crucial 10% threshold. Although in such circumstances it is likely that the FN’s vote will drop somewhat in the second round (to 9% or so), with the defectors likely voting UMP (or PS, for a smaller share), the UMP’s dreams of reconquering Strasbourg might very well be thwarted by the FN’s qualification for the runoff. A poll by Ifop showed Ries leading Keller by 1 point, 46 to 45, with 9% for the FN. Ries wins 79% of Jund’s voters, Keller wins 82% of Loos’ voters and also 23% of the first round FN vote.

Rue89 Strasbourg has published excellent interactive maps by precinct. Fabienne Keller (UMP) won her best results in the north of the city, specifically the affluent central neighborhoods of L’Orangerie and Contades and the comfortable middle-class suburban neighborhood of Robertsau; in these areas, the UMP candidate won over 40% of the vote, in some cases 45-50%, in most precincts. The left has made gains in downtown Strasbourg, the result of ‘boboisation’ and gentrification – Ries won most polls in the Gare, downtown, Esplanade and Krutenau – these are predominantly young areas with large student populations (Esplanade, downtown), a large proportion of professionals, high levels of education but they also remained socially mixed areas, evidenced by the large proportion of social housing Esplanade and some poorer areas in the Gare area, a formerly working-class area close to the railway depot. Alain Jund won double digit results in the downtown, Gare and Krutenau; the FN is generally weak (predictably), but there remains substantial FN support in the more downtrodden precincts (Esplanade, Vauban) where social housing is dominant.

Both the UMP and PS split roughly equal in the Neudorf, a populous residential area south of downtown, traditionally lower middle-class or working-class but which has seen gentrification, bringing a younger and more educated population. The FN has substantial support in the poorer parts of the Neudorf. Further south, Ries won strong numbers in the cités of the Neuhof and Meinau, low-income working-class neighborhoods; but the UMP and FN were strong in the suburban residential areas surrounding these cités – the FN is particularly strong in the Neuhof, where its candidate won over 20% in numerous polls outside the cités – lower middle-class suburban areas with comparatively low unemployment but a low-income population with low levels of education and CSP- jobs (employees, workers). These are also in proximity to the cités, which have a large Muslim immigrant population (the halo effect of FN support).

Ries was also very strong in the cités on the western periphery of Strasbourg – with over 40% support in Hautepierrre, a large neighborhood of 1960s-era HLMs and social housing tracts for the working-class. Turnout in these areas is very low – below 40%, even 30%, in most cases. Ries also won most polls in the similarly low-income and working-class neighborhoods of Cronenburg Ouest, Koenigshoffen and Elsau; but, once again, he was defeated by the UMP and FN in the similarly low-income (marginally better off) but residential and white(r) suburban precincts. The FN won between 15 and 20% in parts of Elsau and Montagne Verte. In these kinds of neighborhoods, the left at all levels has lost support (while gaining in places such as the Neudorf and downtown).

It is also worth pointing out some very strong results in Hautepierre, Cronenburg and Elsau for Tuncer Saglamer, a ‘citizen’ candidate of Turkish descent (according to Rue89, he is known for ties to an organization which is supportive of the governing Turkish AKP). He won over 20% in Cronenburg, about 15% in Elsau and 10% in Hautepierre. Certainly, the candidate’s Muslim faith, shared with many inhabitants of these cités attracted many voters, dissatisfied with politics in general. Similar lists – listes citoyennes (citizens’ lists) – drawn from civil society in the banlieues have won some substantial support in other cities (especially in the 93), drawing on locals’ dissatisfaction with both left and right (and they won’t vote FN, for obvious reasons) and the sentiment that politicians in the PS take them for granted and use them as pawns in their electoral machines or for clientelist purposes (a very fair assessment).


Jean-Pierre Moure (PS-EELV-PRG-MRC)^ 25.27%
Philippe Saurel (DVG-PS diss) 22.94%
Jacques Domergue (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 22.72%
France Jamet (FN) 13.81%
Muriel Ressiguier (FG) 7.56%
Joseph Francis (UDI diss) 4.52%
Thomas Balenghien (NPA-FASE-PG diss) 2.05%
Maurice Chaynes (LO) 0.89%
Annie Salsé (POI) 0.24%

Montpellier, a young, professional and university city, is a left-wing stronghold – Hollande won 62.4% here in May 2012, and the PS has governed the city since 1977. However, this year, there is a highly contentious battle on the left for the mayor’s seat. Incumbent PS mayor Hélène Mandroux, described as a weak politician with little weight in metropolitan and regional politics and internal PS politicking, was forced to ‘retire’ despite her initial intentions to run again. Intervention from Paris ensured that she didn’t cause trouble. The official PS candidate is Jean-Pierre Moure, the current president of the agglomeration community who, in that position, gradually asserted his power over the local PS organization and rallied to his side most of the frêchiste Socialists – supporters of former mayor and regional president Georges Frêche, excluded from the PS in 2010 for anti-Semitic statements but who was reelected to the regional presidency in a landslide in 2010 (crushing an official PS list led by Mandroux in the first round) and who retained much weight and power in the PS in the Montpellier region until his death in October 2010. Moure, who is allied with EELV, very strong in Montpellier (18.9% in the 2008 runoff), faced a strong dissident candidacy – Philippe Saurel, a member of the governing majority considered close to interior minister Manuel Valls who had refused to participate in the primaries. In the first round, Moure came out ahead, with 25.3%, but Saurel placed a strong second with nearly 23%. Jacques Domergue, a former UMP deputy, placed third with a paltry 22.7% (which is, however, the right’s usual first round base in Montpellier). The FN is weak in Montpellier, with 13.7% for Le Pen in 2012, but 13.8% was enough for France Jamet, a FN regional councillor to qualify for the runoff.

The rivalry and bad blood on the left was enough to preclude any miraculous coming-together of the two PS lists. Despite calls from Ayrault, Valls, PS leader Harlem Désir and most of the PS leadership, Saurel has decided to maintain his list in the second round. The media, always looking for a scoop, is saying that this four-way runoff opens the door to a UMP gain on the back of the left’s divisions. While that cannot be ruled out, it looks fairly unlikely: with no FN reserves to fall back on because the FN is qualified as well, the UMP has little reserves except that of a UDI dissident who won 4.5%. The runoff will be tight, and again the UMP has an outside chance at sneaking up the middle to win, but it is hard to predict which of Moure, Saurel and Domergue will emerge as the winner.

An Ifop poll confirmed that the runoff is very close: it showed Saurel leading Moure by 1 point, 31 to 30, with the UMP in a threatening third at 26% and the FN stable at 13%.


Alain Juppé (UMP-UDI-MoDem)* 60.94% winning 52 seats
Vincent Feltesse (PS-EELV) 22.58% winning 7 seats
Jacques Colombier (FN) 6.06% winning 2 seats
Vincent Maurin (FG) 4.59%
Yves Simone (Ind) 2.58%
Philippe Poutou (NPA) 2.5%
Fanny Quandalle (LO) 0.51%

Hollande won 57.2% in Bordeaux in May 2012, thanks to strong results in Saint-Michel (historically working-class, now increasingly hip and gentrifying young area, albeit with persistent poverty and high unemployment) and peripheral ZUS (La Bastide, northern Bordeaux Maritime etc), although the UMP retains, in national elections, a very strong base in Caudéran and Bordeaux’s western neighborhoods which are very affluent. But at the municipal level, it has been a Gaullist stronghold since 1947 – first under Jacques Chaban-Delmas, mayor from 1947 to 1995, and since 1995 with Alain Juppé. The PS has made big gains at the national level, most emblematically with Juppé’s defeat in a central Bordeaux constituency in the 2007 legislative elections to a little-known PS candidate, signaling a shift to the left in the well-educated and professional middle-class areas (downtown, Saint-Augustin, Saint-Genès). Nevertheless, the right has remained thoroughly dominant in municipal elections – since at least 1971, the election has always been decided in the first round. This year was no different. Juppé was reelected with 60.9%, which is the best result for the right since 1983, against only 22.6% for Vincent Feltesse, the PS president of the urban community (CUB). The PS’ result is down about 12 points from its performance in 2008, when it had won a respectable 34.1% against 56.6% for Juppé. The FN, weak in Bordeaux (8.2% in 2012), nevertheless was represented on city council between 1989 and 2008 thanks to first round victories for the UMP allowing it to win seats by winning over 5% of the vote. In 2008, it fell to only 2.6%. This year, with 6%, it regains a two-seat bench on the city council.

The UMP is also in a favourable position to regain control of the CUB, which has been presided by the PS since 2004 because of the PS’ control of most of Bordeaux’s largest suburbs (Mérignac, Pessac, Saint-Médard-en-Jalles, Cenon, Lormont etc). But, in addition to the big defeat in Bordeaux, the left lost a few small suburban communes to the right in the first round and it is in a difficult position against the UMP in the runoff in Pessac, the CUB’s third largest city with over 58,000 inhabitants. Alain Juppé, who already presided the CUB from 1995 to 2004, would likely be president of the CUB if the UMP wins control.

Juppé’s excellent result increases speculation about a potential presidential candidacy in 2017. Juppé is one of the most popular politicians in France, with a 52-35 favourable rating in the Ipsos March 2014 barometer, with 76% favourable opinions with UMP sympathizers (ranking second behind Sarkozy) and 47% favourable opinions with PS sympathizers (making him the most popular right-wing politician on the left). Juppé has a moderate, pragmatic and consensual image; he remained neutral in the UMP’s 2012 civil war and escaped unharmed and he has a positive record as mayor of Bordeaux. Juppé ranks a very distant second behind Sarkozy (but miles ahead of both Copé and Fillon) when UMP sympathizers are asked their favourite 2017 presidential candidates.


Martine Aubry (PS-PRG-MRC)* 34.86%
Jean-René Lecerf (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 22.73%
Éric Dillies (FN) 17.15%
Lise Daleux (EELV) 11.08%
Hugo Vandamme (FG) 6.17%
Alessandro Di Giuseppe (Church of the Most Holy Consumption) 3.55%
Jacques Mutez (DVG) 1.88%
Nicole Baudrin (LO) 1.47%
Jan Pauwels (NPA) 1.1%

Lille is a PS stronghold, with 62.4% for Hollande in May 2012. Historically an industrial city dominated by the textile industry (along with a smaller metallurgical industry), it has a long history of working-class activism and socialist politics – Gustave Delory, from Jules Guesde’s POF, was elected mayor in 1896 and the Socialists have governed Lille since 1919, except for the German occupation and an ephemeral right-wing Gaullist mayor from 1947 to 1955. Famous Socialist leaders including Roger Salengro (mayor, 1925-1936), Augustin Laurent (1955-1973) and Pierre Mauroy (1973-2001) have all served as mayors of Lille. As an industrial and poor working-class city, Lille suffered the effects of deindustrialization and its population declined between the 1960s and the 1990s; it also gained a bad reputation as a dreary and depressed post-industrial city. However, under Mauroy and now Martine Aubry (mayor since 2001), Lille’s reputation and economic health have improved considerably thanks to the development of a strong tertiary economy. As a university city, it is also an ‘ideopolis’. Old working-class neighborhoods such as Wazemmes and parts of Moulins, alongside the regenerated Vieux-Lille have seen gentrification, with a young population of students or single professionals. However, many old working-class neighborhoods of the city – Lomme, Faubourg de Béthune, Lille-Sud, Moulins, Fives and Hellemmes – remain low-income neighborhoods with high unemployment, low qualifications and CSP- jobs (employees, workers); they are classified as ZUS. The PS has very strong support in these deprived areas, but it also polls strongly in Wazemmes and parts of downtown, the Vieux-Lille and Saint-Maurice Pellevoisin. The right remains strong in the old bourgeois neighborhoods in the old town and Vauban-Esquermes. Martine Aubry, the PS mayor since 2001, is very popular and has a good record at promoting the revitalization and regeneration of Lille, notably with cultural events. She was reelected handily in 2008, with 46% in the first round (despite the Greens winning 11%) and 66.6% in the runoff after a merger with the Greens and MoDem. Her reelection this year was never in doubt. In the first round, however, her performance was rather mediocre, with 34.9% (although it is close to Hollande’s 35% in April 2012, which was her level in 2001, when she faced a stronger Green list (15.5%). The main beneficiary, besides abstention (52.6%) was the FN and not the UMP. UMP senator Jean-René Lecerf won barely one point more than what the UMP’s Sébastien Huyghe had won in 2008; however, the FN, which qualified for the runoff in 1995 and 2001, saw its support increase from 5.7% to 17.2% (far better than Marine Le Pen’s 13%), its best showing in a municipal election. The FN has strong support in Lomme, Hellemmes, Fives and Lille-Sud; the FN won 26% in the associated commune of Hellemmes this year.

The runoff makes little doubt. With the support of EELV, whose list predictably merged with the PS, Aubry will be handily reelected.


Nathalie Appéré (PS-PCF-UDB-PRG)^ 35.57%
Bruno Chavanat (UDI-UMP-MoDem-PCD-PB) 30.12%
Matthieu Theurier (EELV-PG-Ensemble) 15.09%
Gérard de Mellon (FN) 8.37%
Caroline Ollivro (Regionalist/federalist) 3.82%
Rémy Lescure (MoDem diss-Pirate) 3.4%
Valérie Hamon (LO) 1.69%
Alexandre Noury (LaRouchite) 0.97%
Pierre Priet (POI) 0.96%

Rennes is a left-wing stronghold – Hollande won 67.2% of the vote in May 2012, and it has been held by the PS since 1977. The left finds strong support in nearly every part of the city – the low-income peripheral cités (Villejean, Maurepas, Le Blosne, Bréquiny), middle-class neighborhoods, students (Rennes is a major university town) and the young professional population of the city centre. In 2008, Daniel Delaveau, the PS mayor of the suburban town of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Lande, easily succeeded the longtime mayor, Edmond Hervé, who had been mayor since 1977. Delaveau won 47% in the first round and 60% in a three-way runoff with the UMP (27%) and MoDem (12.2%). Delaveau, who has been in active politics since 1983, did not seek reelection this year. The PS candidate to replace him was Nathalie Appéré, the 38-year old deputy for the 2nd constituency since 2012. This was somewhat controversial because she was a public opponent of the cumul des mandats, yet she hasn’t, to my knowledge, pledged to step down as deputy upon her election as mayor (she is under no legal obligation to do so until 2017). Her first round performance is down over 10 points from the PS’ 2008 result, largely benefiting Matthieu Theurier, the candidate of a EELV-PG alliance. As a relatively young, middle-class, university ‘ideopolis’, Rennes offers a strong base for EELV – the Greens had won 8.9% in 2008 and the Greens won the city in the 2009 EU elections. The EELV-PG list won 15%, and has merged with the PS list, not without creating some issues. The right’s candidate, UDI municipal councillor Bruno Chavanat, backed by the UMP (and the MoDem, although the MoDem’s 2008 candidate, Caroline Ollivro, ran as a regionalist/federalist), did relatively well and the FN’s candidate did better than the FN in 2012. In the second round, Appéré will win handily, albeit with a majority significantly reduced from the PS’ 2008 majority.

The right had more success in suburban Rennes: it gained Bruz (the second largest commune in Rennes Métropole) by the first round, the UDI incumbent Grégoire Le Blond in the solidly leftist Chantepie was reelected handily and the UMP is very likely to gain Cesson-Sévigné from the PS (the third largest commune in Rennes Métropole).


Arnaud Robinet (UMP-UDI) 39.63%
Adeline Hazan (PS-PCF-EELV)* 38.29%
Roger Paris (FN) 16.01%
Karim Mellouki (PG-PCF diss-Ensemble) 3.41%
Thomas Rose (LO) 2.65%

Reims, controlled by the right since 1983 (and, except for a PCF mayor between 1977 and 1983, the city has a moderate and centre-right tradition), was gained by the PS’ Adeline Hazan in 2008, thanks to the divisions of the right (two UMP rivals in the first round: Renaud Dutreil and Catherine Vautrin) – the transfers from Dutreil, who won 23% in the first round, to Vautrin (the candidate backed by the retiring DVD mayor and the MoDem) were so bad that Hazan won with 56% in the runoff. She faces a much more difficult reelection – the city has no clear partisan lean (a slight edge to the left), with Hollande winning with 53% in 2012 but Sarkozy (in 2007) and Chirac (in 1995) both winning with about 51%. The left finds strong support in the peripheral areas of the city, poorer areas with social housing projects; the right is very strong in the central core, which is affluent. The FN has significant support, with 18% in 2012, with the best numbers in the peripheral cités and lower middle-class residential suburbs. In the first round, the UMP candidate, Arnaud Robinet (a deputy in the National Assembly, Dutreil’s heir of sorts), who has united the divided right around his name (Vautrin is second on his list), won 39.6%. Hazan did fairly well, with 38.3%, down from 42% in 2008 but beating Hollande’s numbers from the first round in 2012 (30%). The FN won 16%, and their qualification may be just enough to save Hazan (a PS-UMP runoff would have been fatal for her). Nevertheless, the runoff will be extremely tight.

Other major races


Gaël Perdriau (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 36.74%
Maurice Vincent (PS-PCF-PRG)* 31.34%
Gabriel de Peyrecave (FN) 18.3%
Olivier Longeon (EELV) 5.41%
Belkacem Merahi (PG) 4.18%
Hubert Patural (DVD) 2.39%
Romain Brossard (LO) 1.64%

Saint-Étienne was another major pickup for the PS in 2008: Maurice Vincent, benefiting from a triangulaire with former UDF-MoDem deputy Gilles Artigues, defeated UMP incumbent Michel Thiollière, ending 25 years of centre-right rule. Saint-Étienne was a major industrial centre – one of France’s first industrial cities in the mid-19th century – set in the middle of a (now shut down) coal basin and a very industrial valley (the Gier valley, known for mining, metallurgy, weapons manufacturing etc). However, it has never been a left-wing stronghold, although the PCF had strong support and it briefly held the city hall between 1977 and 1983; nevertheless, Hollande won 58% in 2012 – polling strongly in the low-income cités with a large immigrant population (Montreynaud, Montchovent, Tarentaise-Beaubrun-Severine). Saint-Étienne has suffered from deindustrialization and struggle to reinvent itself – its population has been consistently declining since 1968, and unemployment is high. In this context, the FN is a strong presence in the city, having qualified for the runoff in every municipal election between 1989 and 2001 and with 17.6% for Marine Le Pen in April 2012. The incumbent PS mayor, Maurice Vincent, faces a very tough runoff, despite a triangulaire with the FN. The right’s candidate, Gaël Perdriau (UMP), has managed the unlikely feat of uniting the disparate and divided right (still reeling and fighting amongst itself from the 2008 defeat) – the UMP, Gilles Artigues (now UDI) and supporters of Thiollière. He won 36.7% in the first round, against 31% for the incumbent. The FN also did very well, with 18%, a result better than that of Marine Le Pen in 2012. The triangulaire will be difficult for Vincent, who did not reach a merger agreement with EELV, which won 5%.

The right is likely to regain Saint-Chamond, an industrial town in the Gier valley which the PS gained from the right in 1989. The incumbent PS mayor already trailed in the first round, with 24.6% against 33.8% for a DVD, which faced competition from a UMP list which took 18.7% (it has withdrawn) and the FN (15.6%).


Éric Piolle (EELV-PG-Alternatifs) 29.41%
Jérôme Safar (PS-PCF-PRG-MRC-Cap21)^ 25.31%
Matthieu Chamussy (UMP-UDI-AEI) 20.86%
Mireille d’Ornano (FN) 12.56%
Philippe de Longevialle (MoDem) 4.56%
Denis Bonzy (DVD) 3.53%
Lahcen Benmaza (Ind) 1.82%
Catherine Brun (LO) 1.19%
Maurice Colliat (POI) 0.81%

Grenoble, a left-wing stronghold (64% for Hollande), has a highly interesting contest – fought largely on the left – to succeed retiring PS mayor Michel Destot, who has been mayor since 1995. The outgoing mayor’s heir-apparent, Jérôme Safar (PS, allied with the PCF), had a substantial lead in polling and was considered as the favourite despite stiff competition from Éric Piolle (EELV), a regional councillor supported by the PG. When Piolle placed first, beating Safar, it was a major surprise and there is now a very real possibility that, nearly out of the blue, Grenoble – a major city with a population of 157,000 – will elect a EELV mayor. The right is structurally weak in Grenoble (only 21% for Sarkozy in April 2012), and it continues to suffer from the effects of Alain Carignon, the RPR mayor of Grenoble between 1983 and 1995 whose political career ended in disgrace due to corruption scandals for which he served jail time. Carignon has attempted to return to active politics since 2007, and did so again this year, firstly by trying to become the UMP candidate and then by lobbying for an eligible spot on the UMP list led by Matthieu Chamussy, the leader of the municipal opposition. Chamussy tried to resist Carignon’s lobbying, but the UMP leadership in Paris (led by Copé) briefly withdrew its nomination from Chamussy after he demoted Carignon. A compromise was reached and Carignon is ninth on the UMP list. In the first round, Chamussy placed a distant third with 20.9%, while Piolle won 29.4% against 25.3% for the PS. The FN did well, with 12.6%, enough to qualify for the runoff in a city where the party is usually rather weak.

There was strong pressure, especially from EELV and parts of the PS, for Safar to withdraw from the runoff given the left-wing tradition of the runner-up dropping out in favour of the first-placed left-wing candidate. However, given wide policy differences between the two candidates, no agreement of any kind was reached and Safar has maintained his candidacy. The PS has withdrawn its endorsement from Safar. Safar has been endorsed by MoDem candidate Philippe de Longevialle, who was a member of Destot’s governing majority. The second round will be extremely tight. On the basis of the first round, Piolle has an edge, but given the MoDem candidate’s endorsement and other unpredictable factors (turnout, vote transfers etc), it is still possible that Safar can pull it out. It remains rather unlikely, as in Montpellier, that the weak UMP will be able to benefit from the left’s divisions enough to actually win, but stranger things have happened.

Grenoble is a young and highly-educated city with a strong academic and research orientation. Politically, the city has been noted for its progressive and ‘New Left’ traditions – former mayor Hubert Dubedout (1965-1983) is recognized as a model of ‘municipal socialism’ and his administration was a laboratory for innovative and utopian urban policy projects. The Greens have a strong base in the city – in the 2008 elections, the Greens won 15.6% in the first round and 22.5% in the second round. A gain by EELV, in alliance with the PG and other ‘alternative’ forces of the left outside the PS (often on bad terms with the PS) would be a major victory for EELV, and would be emblematic of the potential strength of opposition to the PS on the left.

This website has maps by precinct for each candidate. EELV is particularly strong in Berriat, in the west of the city, with support over 40% in a number of polls and over 30% in most other polls, spilling over into the downtown area. Berriat is a gentrified, formerly working-class, neighborhood which has a vibrant young and middle-class population. There is also strong support downtown, which is where the UMP did well, with decent support in the most affluent polls. EELV also performed well, along with the PS, in the southeastern end of the city – a rather low-income area developed up in the 1960s; the support for EELV there would indicate that it didn’t only appeal to the typical bobo clientele, but also had some support in the quartiers populaires (although EELV did poorly in Teisseire, another large low-income ZUS).


Christophe Béchu (UMP) 35.91%
Frédéric Béatse (PS-PCF-EELV)* 26.77%
Jean-Luc Rotureau (PS diss) 16.2%
Laurent Gérault (UDI) 7.44%
Gaétan Dirand (FN) 6.73%
Nathalie Sévaux (Ind) 3.29%
Martin Nivault (PG-NPA-Ensemble) 2.1%
Marie-José Faligant (LO) 0.93%
Hubert Lardeux (POI) 0.6%

Angers, which has been held by the PS since 1977, is one of the UMP’s main targets. Its candidate, the president of the general council Christophe Béchu had already come extremely close to defeating PS mayor Jean-Claude Antonini in 2008, winning 49.4% in the runoff after having placed first in the first round with 45.6%. Playing in the UMP’s favour this year (besides national trends) is the division of the left: incumbent PS mayor Frédéric Béatse, who has been in office since 2012, faced a challenge from Jean-Luc Rotureau, a PS councillor who lost a 2012 internal vote to decide Antonini’s successor (won by Béatse) and saw his request for open primaries rejected. The situation after the first round, however, isn’t catastrophic for the PS: Béchu’s result, down about 10 points from his 2008 result, is hardly brilliant – although he does lead the PS by nearly ten points. Rotureau did as well as polls predicted he would – which is rather well but not in a position to actually win himself. Rotureau has chosen to withdraw from the runoff, but he makes no endorsement. Similarly, UDI candidate Laurent Gérault (7.4%) didn’t merge with the UMP. Although Béchu remains the favourite, given that transfers from the dissident to the official PS candidate will probably be rather poor, there does remain a small outside possibility that the PS will miraculously save this city, which gave 57% to Hollande in May 2012.


Maryse Joissains-Masini (UMP)* 37.79%
Édouard Baldo (PS) 19.65%
Bruno Genzana (UDI) 11.32%
Catherine Rouvier (FN) 10.34%
François-Xavier de Peretti (DVG-PS diss-PRG) 8.11%
François Hamy (EELV) 4.88%
Anne Mesliand (FG) 4.78%
Jean-Louis Keïta (Ind) 2.82%
Najia Jennane (DVG) 0.24%

Despite everything – defeat in 2012, a political profile which is a bit out of place for the city (very right-wing in a city which, while centre-right, has trended to the left and is generally affluent, young, liberal and with a large student population), major divisions in the majority and an open judicial investigation for corruption – the incumbent UMP mayor, Maryse Joissains-Masini, in office since 2001, remains the favourite to win reelection (and perhaps ensure a smooth mid-term transition to her daughter, Sophie Joissains, a UDI senator). In the first round, she handily won first with a huge margin over her closest rival, PS candidate Edouard Baldo. Her result, 37.8%, is also up from her result in the 2009 by-election and Sarkozy’s first round showing in Aix in 2012. The only danger for her is that all her opponents are on bad terms with her: Bruno Genanza (UDI), a former ally, ran a list with other UMP dissidents, and won 11.3% – he has chosen to withdraw but hasn’t endorsed Maryse. That being said, the PS really doesn’t look like it is anywhere close to victory. It did not reach a merger agreement with François-Xavier de Peretti, the son of a former UDF mayor who ran a list made up of centrists (like him, he’s an ex-MoDem), PS dissidents and others with the backing of Guérini; because EELV and the FG won less than 5%, there can’t be a merger with them either. With this situation, Maryse will likely be reelected, and probably with room to spare – unlike in her past three elections (2001, 2008, 2009) which were all won by a hair.


Serge Babary (UMP-UDI) 36.42%
Jean Germain (PS-PCF-MoDem)* 27.82%
Gilles Godefroy (FN) 12.93%
Emmanuel Denis (EELV) 11.3%
Claude Bourdin (PG-Ensemble-NPA) 8.35%
Anne Brunet (LO) 1.67%
Claire Delore (POI) 0.48%

Held by the PS since Jean Germain defeated longtime conservative strongman Jean Royer (mayor from 1959 to 1995, famous for his failed foray into national politics as a very socially conservative candidate in the 1974 presidential election) in 1995, Tours may now switch to the right. Likely weakened by natural fatigue after 13 years in office, Jean Germain has also been the focus of recent controversy for which he was indicted (for embezzlement) in October 2013. In a time of media scrutiny into those cumulards – parliamentarians with several local offices – Germain has also been cited as one of the most cumulard politicians in France (he’s a senator). After the first round, Germain, unforeseen by polls, is in a very difficult position. He trails the UMP candidate, Claire Delore, by about 9 points and is far below his 2008 result (46.7%). However, all hope is not lost for him and the PS: with 12.9%, which is a bit better than what Le Pen won in 2012, the FN is qualified for the runoff in a triangulaire against the PS and UMP. The EELV list, which has merged with Germain’s PS list, provides him with a significant reserve and a PG list also polled well. Serge Babary has very little potential reserves, except first round FN voters who will vote UMP in the second round, while Germain’s reserves – on paper – are much better. Yet, it remains a close contest.


Brigitte Fouré (UDI-UMP-MoDem) 44.79%
Thierry Bonté (PS-EELV)^ 24.65%
Yves Dupille (FN) 15.54%
Cédric Maisse (PG) 8.86%
Bruno Paleni (LO) 2.55%
Nicolas Belvalette (DVG) 2.17%
Mohamed Boulafrad (DVG) 1.4%

Gained by the left in 2008, Amiens is now nearly certain to switch back to the right on March 30. Brigitte Fouré, a UDI general councillor and a former mayor of Amiens (between 2002 and 2007), running in tandem with UMP deputy Alain Gest, took a decisive lead in the first round, with 44.8% against only 24.7% for Thierry Bonté, a vice-president of the agglomeration community who won the PS primaries to succeed retiring one-term mayor Gilles Demailly (PS). Even if the FN qualified, with 15.5%, and the left theoretically has wider reserves than the right, with such a decisive advantage in the first round, there is little doubt that Amiens will switch to the right. Amiens, historically a fairly working-class city, was governed by Socialists until 1971 and by the PCF between 1971 and 1989, before being gained by Gilles de Robien (UDF), who lost reelection in 2008. Hollande won nearly 60% of the vote in Amiens in May 2012, largely due to strong results in the old working-class neighborhoods and the post-war peripheral cités.


Dominique Gros (PS-PRG-EELV)* 35.68%
Marie-Jo Zimmermann (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 34.24%
Françoise Grolet (FN) 21.32%
Jacques Maréchal (PG) 3.57%
Stéphane Aurousseau (NPA-FASE) 3.31%
Mario Rinaldi (LO) 1.36%
Marie-Jeanne Becht (POI) 0.52%

The situation for the PS in Metz is rather positive. The Socialists gained the city, which had been governed by the right for ages, in 2008 – but only due to a very divided right, split between 4 lists in the runoff and 2 in the second round. The city is also historically right-leaning, and Hollande won only 51.7% in Metz in May 2012, performing best in the lower-income ZUS (Borny, Bellecroix, the north) but also winning young middle-class bobo areas in the central area. Nevertheless, after the first round, PS mayor Dominique Gros is in a relatively favourable position, although still vulnerable. He leads the field with 35.7%, up from 34% in the first round in 2008 – although this time he won’t benefit from a divided right. UMP deputy Marie-Jo Zimmermann leads a united right, winning 34% in the first round. 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. The FN has very strong support in the city’s lower-income areas, but especially in lower middle-class suburban residential neighborhoods. The second round remains quite open: the PS has potential reserves to its left, but transfers from the far-left are notoriously poor and the PG may not be any better. The race will certainly be decided by a handful of votes.


Louis Aliot (FN) 34.18%
Jean-Marc Pujol (UMP-UDI)* 30.67%
Jacques Cresta (PS-PCF) 11.87%
Clotilde Ripoull (DVC) 9.62%
Jean Codognès (EELV) 5.66%
Philippe Simon (CDC) 2.81%
Stéphanie Font (NPA) 2.24%
Axel Belliard (DVG) 1.89%
Liberto Plana (LO) 1.01%

Perpignan is the largest city in which the FN has a real chance of winning, although it remains a long shot. Perpignan is very favourable terrain for the far-right: it has a substantial pied noir population since the 1960s (although that is never enough to explain the far-right’s success in the region), a large immigrant population, high unemployment (16%), a generally lower middle-class population, major concerns over security and a depressed and pauperized downtown which has seen shops close down. Marine Le Pen won 22.5% in Perpignan in April 2012, and her boyfriend, Louis Aliot, has built a substantial base and network in the city over the past few years. In the first round, Aliot led with 34.2%, with incumbent UMP mayor Jean-Marc Pujol, who is seeking his first full term in office, trailing with 30.7%. The left did extremely poorly, with only 11.9% for Jacques Cresta, a PS deputy and 5.7% for Jean Codognès, a former Socialist who has since joined EELV. Jacques Cresta, following the ‘logic’ of the ‘republican front’ against the FN (which is not and has never really been a thing), dropped out, turning it into a two-way battle between the UMP and the FN. Although recent experience shows that the FN can make remarkable gains, including from first round PS voters, in two-way runoffs against the UMP, it remains an uphill battle for the FN to win here. Its reserves are still sparse. A CSA poll showed Pujol leading Aliot 59 to 41.


Yvon Robert (PS-PCF)* 30.24%
Jean-François Bures (UMP-MoDem) 23.29%
Patrick Chabert (UDI) 13.62%
Guillaume Pennelle (FN) 13.38%
Jean-Michel Bérégovoy (EELV) 11.09%
Raphaëlle Brangier (PG) 5.33%
Clément Lefèvre (NPA) 1.93%
Frédéric Podguszer (LO) 1.03%

Traditionally a fairly bourgeois city surrounded by a very industrial, proletarian and socialist region to the south, Rouen has moved to the left quite substantially – with Hollande, who was born in Rouen, winning 59% of the vote (with strongest support in low-income cités, such as Le Plateau, but also some gentrified and bobo areas downtown). Governed by the right and centre since 1945, the PS gained the city in 1995 but lost it to a centrist in 2001. In 2008, the PS regained Rouen in the first round. The incumbent PS mayor, Yvon Robert, took office when Valérie Fourneyron was named to cabinet in 2012; but he had previously served as mayor between 1995 and 2001. Although a poll had shown him to be in little trouble, the results of the first round indicate that he could be vulnerable. He leads with 30.2% against 23.3% for the UMP, with the FN placing a very solid fourth with 13.4% – a result up on Marine’s performance in the city in 2012. On the left, the mayor’s list has merged with that of EELV, which won 11.1%. On the right, the UDI list led by Patrick Chabert and senator Catherine Morin-Desailly has merged with the UMP list. Assuming orderly and clean transfers from EELV to the PS and from the UDI to the UMP, the left retains a small advantage and is left with more reserves than the right, with the PG winning 5%.


Jean Rottner (UMP-UDI)* 42.17%
Pierre Freyburger (PS-EELV-PRG-MoDem) 31.39%
Martine Binder (FN) 21.85%
Aline Parmentier (FG) 3.06%
Julien Wostyn (LO) 1.53%

An old industrial city – known as the ‘French Manchester’ – Mulhouse has a Socialist tradition, having elected a SFIO mayor in 1925; however, the Socialist tradition in Mulhouse has always been very moderate and anti-communist: Émile Muller, the Socialist mayor from 1956 to 1981, left the PS in 1970 in opposition to the alliance with the PS and later joined the UDF (leading a small Social Democratic Party within the UDF made up of other moderate anti-communist Socialist dissidents refusing the alliance with the PCF) and Jean-Marie Bockel, the PS mayor from 1989 to 2010, was very much on the PS’ right-wing (declaring his model to be Blair’s Third Way) and left the PS to join Sarkozy’s government in 2007. He was reelected in 2008 with the support of the right. Bockel retired in 2010, although he remains president of the agglomeration community, and Jean Rottner (UMP) became mayor, allegedly as part of a deal signed in 2007 with Sarkozy. The city has shifted to the right, especially the far-right, since deindustrialization hit the city hard after 1973, but Hollande still won 52%. The PS remains strong in old working-class neighborhoods and peripheral ZUS with a large immigrant population. The FN has a solid base of support in Mulhouse, although it was stronger in the 1990s – Le Pen senior won 26.7% in the 1995 election, while his daughter won ‘only’ 17.5% in 2012; at the municipal level, thanks to strong local candidates (Gérard Freulet, who even won the canton of Mulhouse-Nord in a cantonal election in the 1990s, won 30.5% in 1995 and 34.5% in the runoff; it still won about 26% split between the MNR and FN in 2001; in 2008, with FN regional councillor Patrick Binder, it won 14.3% in the runoff). In a more favourable climate, the PS could have regained Mulhouse (after all, in 2008, Bockel was reelected by a hair – 43.2% vs 42.6%); but in the current climate, it stands no chance. The UMP incumbent (Bockel is fifth on the list) came out far ahead of the PS in the first round, with 42.2% against 31.4% for the PS, a former premier adjoint when Bockel was in the PS and a general councillor. The FN, represented by Martine Binder, a regional councillor and the wife of Patrick Binder, did very well with 21.9% of the vote, a result significantly better than the FN’s 2012 presidential election. The UMP will win easily in the runoff; the PS’ potential reserves on the left being woefully insufficient.


Joël Bruneau (UMP) 30.79%
Philippe Duron (PS-PCF-PRG-MRC)* 26.21%
Sonia de la Provôté (UDI-MoDem) 18.01%
Rudy L’Orphelin (EELV) 10.22%
Philippe Chapron (FN) 7.31%
Étienne Adam (Ensemble-NPA-PG) 5.81%
Pierre Casevitz (LO) 1.62%

The PS is in serious danger of losing Caen, a city which it gained in 2008, breaking the right’s dominance over the city since 1945. The city has been shifting left, with Hollande taking 60.7% in May 2012. However, in the first round, the UMP candidate, regional councillor Joël Bruneau, placed first with 30.8% against a paltry 26.2% for incumbent PS mayor Philippe Duron, who had won by a landslide in 2008. The right also has wider and deeper reserves than the PS does: Bruneau’s list merged with the UDI list, led by general and municipal councillor Sonia de la Provôté, which won a solid 18%. With the FN failing to qualify for the second round, it also provides the UMP with a small reserve. On the left, the PS merged with the EELV list, which won 10%. On these numbers, it seems likely that the PS, which had finally gained Caen after decades of coming up short (with Louis Mexandeau), might lose it after only one term.

Saint-Denis (93)

Didier Paillard (FG-EELV-MRC)* 40.21%
Mathieu Hanotin (PS) 34.3%
Houari Guermat (UMP-UDI) 8.78%
Georges Sali (DVG) 7.74%
Stanislas Francina (DVD) 4.09%
Catherine Billard (NPA) 2.74%
Philippe Julien (LO) 2.12%

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, is seeking 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, incumbent PCF mayor Didier Paillard, backed by EELV, led Hanontin by about 6 points. However, the PCF-PS runoff will be very close. The UMP candidate, with 8.8%, failed to qualify for the runoff, and those right-wing supporters who turn out on March 30 are far more likely to support the PS to turf the PCF mayor (as has happened in other cases, notably in Montreuil in 2008, when the right contributed to Dominique Voynet’s defeat of the Communist incumbent). But there’s also a PS dissident, who seems to hail from the party’s left, who won 7.7%, and it’s hard to tell which way his voters (if they turn out) will lean.

In neighboring Aubervilliers, gained by the PS from the PCF in 2008, ending PCF dominance since 1945, the incumbent PS mayor Jacques Salvator narrowly trails former PCF mayor Pascal Beaudet, 32.1% to 32.9%. Unlike in Saint-Denis, the UMP candidate did qualify (12.3%), which changes the dynamics of the runoff somewhat. Like in Saint-Denis, however, it is impossible to say whether the PS or PCF will win.


Laurent Hénart (UDI-UMP-MoDem)^ 40.47%
Mathieu Klein (PS-PCF-EELV-PRG) 35.75%
Pierre Ducarne (FN) 6.91%
Frank-Olivier Potier (DVD) 6.17%
Bora Yilmaz (PG) 5.44%
Denis Gabet (DVD) 4.03%
Christiane Nimsgern (LO) 1.19%

The PS was confident that it could gain Nancy, a bourgeois white-collar city governed by the right since the war but shifting fast to the left (55% for Hollande in May 2012). The incumbent UDI mayor, André Rossinot, in office since 1982, is retiring this year in favour of his dauphin, former deputy Laurent Hénart, who lost reelection in a constituency covering nearly all of the city in 2012. The PS had a strong candidate, Mathieu Klein, a young vice-president of the general council, and two polls before the first round gave the PS a narrow advantage over Hénart in both the first and second round. So when the first round results fell, it was a major blow for the PS’ hopes in Nancy. With 40.5%, Hénart leads Klein by nearly 5 points. And with the FN usually quite weak in Nancy, there will be no triangulaire here which would arrange things for the left. Laurent Hénart will win comfortably in the runoff.


Jean-Pierre Brard (CAP) 25.54%
Patrice Bessac (FG) 18.8%
Manon Laporte (UMP-UDI-MoDem) 16.68%
Ibrahim Dufriche-Soilihi (EELV)^ 15.25%
Mouna Viprey (DVG) 10.95%
Razzy Hammadi (PS) 9.8%
Aline Cottereau (NPA) 1.93%
Aurélie Jochaud (LO) 1%

Montreuil was the ultimate left-wing civil war. The city, historically a poor working-class town in the Red Belt, was governed by the PCF between 1945 and 2008 (although the mayor since 1984, Jean-Pierre Brard, had left the PCF in 1996 for the CAP) until Brard lost reelection to Green senator Dominique Voynet, who had the backing local dissident Socialists (the PS officially supported Brard’s reelection bid) and the votes of right-wing voters whose candidates had failed to qualify for the second round. Voynet’s term was a disaster, with her heterogeneous majority beginning to divide in 2010 over her decision to raise taxes over the opposition of some of her PS allies. Facing certain defeat, Voynet preferred not to run for reelection, but she was widely seen as the driving force and master behind Ibrahim Dufriche-Soilihi, the EELV candidate. The city is a big prize, and attracted many contenders on the left. Jean-Pierre Brard has retained a strong base in Montreuil since his defeat, although he lost his seat as deputy in 2012 to the PS’ Razzy Hammadi, a former PS youth leader who had difficulty getting elected anywhere. However, Brard’s age and his autocratic tendencies make him a polarizing figure and his candidacy faced strong opposition. The FG, which had backed Brard’s reelection bid in 2012, supported PCF regional councillor Patrice Bessac; the PS candidate was Razzy Hammadi, supported by the powerful PS boss of the department, Claude Bartolone (who has been eager to destroy the remnants of PCF outposts in the 93). There was also a PS dissident, Mouna Viprey, who had been excluded from the PS for supporting Voynet in 2008 and served as an adjointe au maire under Voynet (until 2010).

In the first round, Brard narrowly led, with a fairly weak 25.5%. Bessac, as predicted, placed second with 18.8%. The right did about as well as it could, united behind a single candidate (Manon Laporte, the wife wife of former rugby coach and junior minister for sports Bernard Laporte). Razzy Hammadi, meanwhile, suffered an extremely embarrassing defeat, being the only one of the five main left-wing candidates to fail to qualify for the runoff, winning a terrible 9.8%. The FG, EELV and PS lists merged to form some kind of common front against Brard, although Mouna Viprey refused to join this heterogenous alliance and is maintaining her candidacy in the runoff. The alliances of FG, EELV and the PS add up to a total of 44%, which would place them miles ahead of Brard. However, perfect transfers of that kind are far from certain, and there remains a significant dose of uncertainty as to the conclusion of this ultimate left-wing civil war and four-way runoff. has produced some handy maps of the support for the five left-wing candidates. They both show a very clear split between the Bas-Montreuil, in the west, and the Haut-Montreuil, in the east. The Bas-Montreuil, which used to be a poor proletarian area, has been very gentrified and now has a mixed population of young, well-educated professionals and cadres (many journalists, artists etc) but also poorer immigrant families and young families; the Haut-Montreuil, developed in the post-war years to accommodate a growing working-class population, is marked by grands ensembles (housing estates/HLMs) and significantly lower levels of education and less CSP+ jobs. It is worth pointing out that while Bas-Montreuil is wealthier and more professional, it isn’t an affluent area – unemployment remains high, incomes are still rather low by national standards, precarious work is high and there is a growing wealth gap between the poor and the richer residents. In 2008, Voynet’s support had been heaviest in the Bas-Montreuil, while Brard remained dominant in the poorer Haut-Montreuil. This year, Brard won over 35% in most polls in the east of the city, while polling in the low teens (placing third or fourth) in the gentrified Bas-Montreuil. Hammadi’s vote was more evenly spread out, with stronger results in both ends of the city. FG candidate Patrice Bessac did best in the Bas-Montreuil. EELV and Viprey also polled best in the Bas-Montreuil.


Philippe Lottiaux (FN) 29.63%
Cécile Helle (PS-EELV) 29.54%
Bernard Chaussegros (UMP)^ 20.9%
André Castelli (FG) 12.46%
André Seignon (UDI-MoDem) 4.79%
Stéphane Geslin (EXG) 1.41%
Kader Guettaf (DVG) 1.23%

The result in Avignon has sparked a lot of interest, a lot in the form of silly concern trolling. The FN candidate, a Parisian who only moved to Avignon in November, placed first with 29.6% of the vote – a result significantly better than Le Pen’s 20.5% in 2012. The FN finds very strong support in lower middle-class banlieues pavillonnaires located outside the historic heart of the city – these areas suffer or feel, directly or indirectly, problems such as high unemployment, poverty, cost of living pressures, immigration (there are large immigrant concentrations in low-income and troubled ZUS located nearby) and criminality. Cécile Helle, a PS regional councillor, placed a very close second with 29.5%, 27 votes behind the FN candidate. The current UMP mayor, Marie-Josée Roig, who has held the office since 1995, is retiring and leaves office facing corruption and nepotism allegations. Her heir, Bernard Chaussegros, is a low-key businessman who suffers from low name recognition and may be dragged down by the corruption allegations marring the UMP incumbent’s retirement. Like Lottiaux, Chaussegros, although born in the Vaucluse, moved back from Paris only a year ago.

The FN’s result led Olivier Py, the director of the Avignon festival, a popular theater festival held in the city’s historic heart during the summer months, to warn that he would ask for the festival to be moved if the FN won. He claims that the FN would manipulate and use the festival to its own advantage, either to present itself as a more respectable party or to promote the FN’s own cultural visions – very nationalistic, hostile to foreign culture and alternative forms of cultural expression. Both the FN and UMP candidates have criticized Py, with Lottiaux saying that Py is not the owner of the festival and is spreading fear. While Py’s reaction is totally legitimate and understandable given the record of previous FN local administrations on cultural issues, there is a risk that it could strengthen the FN; or, at the very least, have no effect because FN voters are unlikely to be swayed by a cultural festival.

Although nearly 30% in undoubtedly an excellent result for the FN, a lot of the concern in the media is overstating things. It was not a massive ‘surprise’ to see the FN place first: the last poll had placed it at 27%, two points behind the PS, so within the margin of error for first place. Fairly low turnout (57.2%) should also be kept in mind, although despite less votes being cast than in April 2012, Lottiaux did win more votes than Le Pen had in the first round. Finally, the odds of the FN winning are low. It has no reserves, while Cécile Helle merged with the FG list led by PCF general councillor André Castelli, which won 12.5%, down from 14% in 2008. Even if transfers from the FG to the PS are less than perfect, it should be more than enough for her to win.


François Bayrou (MoDem-UMP-UDI) 41.85%
David Habib (PS)^ 25.76%
Yves Urieta (Ind/DVD) 13.2%
Georges De Pachtere (FN) 6.74%
Eurydice Bled (EELV) 5.34%
Olivier Dartigolles (FG) 5.32%
Mehdi Jabrane (Ind) 1.75%

After falling short in 2008, François Bayrou, three-time presidential candidate and MoDem leader, is favoured to become mayor of Pau. Although he had personally endorsed Hollande over Sarkozy in 2012, Bayrou is running with the support of the right, and he will be elected thanks to the votes of the right. Obviously, the UMP was not universally keen on endorsing Bayrou – many in the party have not forgiven him for endorsing Hollande in 2012. However, thanks to the support of his friend Alain Juppé, Bayrou won the endorsement of the UMP. In the first round, Bayrou won 41.9%, beating his PS opponent, David Habib (a deputy and mayor of a neighboring town) by about 16 points. In addition to the national mood, the PS has been weakened by divisions over the succession of retiring one-term mayor Martine Lignières-Cassou: the outgoing mayor’s preferred candidate was not selected (he ranked third on the PS list) and Habib was alleged to be removing many incumbent councillors from his list. Bayrou also ran a fairly strong campaign, focusing exclusively on the local aspects – he refused to speak to or even be followed by national media crews, and he has said that he wouldn’t run for President in 2017 (his mayoral term would expire in 2020). In third place, former mayor Yves Urieta (2006-2008), a former Socialist who ran for reelection in 2008 with the support of the UMP, won 13% running as an independent centre-right candidate. Although qualified, he chose to withdraw without endorsing anybody. Many of his votes should transfer to Bayrou, who will win the second round handily.

La Rochelle

Anne-Laure Jaumouillié (PS)^ 30.21%
Jean-François Fountaine (DVG-PS diss-PRG) 28.79%
Dominique Morvant (UMP-UDI) 18.91%
Jean-Marc de Lacoste-Lareymondie (FN) 8.51%
Jean-Marc Soubeste (EELV) 6.04%
Jessica Dulauroy (DVG) 3.78%
Thierry Sagnier (Ind) 2.7%
Antoine Colin (EXG) 1.01%

La Rochelle is the other major left-wing battle. 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, who had endorsed Royal. The candidate backed by the mayor, Anne-Laure Jaumouillié, a 34-year old teacher who has been a municipal councillor since 2008, won the PS primaries by 34 votes over Jean-François Fountainea 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. However, unlike Olivier Falorni in June 2012, he will not be able to benefit from the full backing of the UMP (the UMP candidate didn’t qualify for the runoff in 2012 but did so this year). Nevertheless, an Ipsos poll found Fountaine leading Jaumouillié by 5 points, 45 to 40, with 15% for the UMP. Only 55% of the UMP’s first round voters, according to the polls, were still supporting the UMP candidate, while Fountaine drew 31%. He is also pulling 22% of FN voters.


Robert Ménard (FN-DLR-MPF-RPF) 44.88%
Élie Aboud (UMP)^ 30.16%
Jean-Michel Du Plaa (PS-EELV) 18.65%
Aimé Couquet (FG) 6.29%

Béziers will likely elect a far-right mayor on March 30, in the person of Robert Ménard, the former boss of Reporters Without Borders, who claims to be an ‘independent’ and to have never voted for the FN, but who is backed the FN. Béziers, located in the Hérault department, is socially similar to Perpignan: a very large pied noir population, high unemployment, a pauperized downtown, security concerns, an aging population (many retirees) and a lower middle-class population of shopkeepers and employees. Although polls had shown a swing to Ménard over the course of the campaign, no pollster had predicted that Ménard would come out with such a huge lead in the first round – he was ahead by only a few points in poll, but on March 23, he lead UMP deputy Elie Aboud, the candidate to succeed retiring UMP mayor Raymond Couderc, by nearly 15 points. Given that Le Pen only won 25.7% in April 2012, Ménard had substantial crossover appeal to other voters, presumably on the right.

Ménard would likely have won even in a two-way runoff with the UMP, but, unlike in Perpignan, the PS candidate, who has no chance, has not dropped out. Totally unassailable, Ménard will win handily on March 30. An Ifop poll showed him winning 47 to 31, with the PS candidate winning 22%.


Simon Renucci (CSD)* 36.57%
Laurent Marcangeli (UMP-UDI-Bonapartist) 35.17%
Joseph Filippi (Aiacciu Cità Nova-Nationalist) 10.78%
José Risticoni (FN) 8.31%
Anne-Marie Luciani (DVG) 3.83%
Jacques Billard (DVD) 2.78%
François Filoni (Ind) 2.56%

The incumbent centre-left mayor of Ajaccio since 2001, Simon Renucci, faces a very close contest for reelection against UMP deputy Laurent Marcangeli, who had defeated Renucci in the 2012 legislative election. In the first round, Renucci won 36.6% against 35.2% for his UMP rival. Joseph Filippi, a nationalist candidate backed by both moderate autonomists (Femu a Corsica) and the separatists (Corsica Libera), placed third with 10.8%. He remains qualified for the runoff, so the result will be decided by the behaviour of those who voted for other minor candidates, such as the FN.


Jean-Pierre Bechter (UMP-UDI)* 45.47%
Bruno Piriou (FG) 22.33%
Carlos da Silva (PS) 21.14%
Martine Soavi (DVG) 4.71%
Mohamed Chabbi (DVG) 3.41%
Jean Camonin (EXG) 2.91%

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 have merged, although da Silva is only 31st on the new FG-PS list. Despite the UMP’s wide lead in the first round, a left-wing victory remains possible if (and only if) transfers from the various left-wing candidates to Piriou go off without a hitch.


Jean Zuccarelli (PRG-PCF)^ 32.51%
Gilles Simeoni (Inseme per Bastia) 32.34%
François Tatti (DVG-PRG diss-PS-EELV) 14.64%
Jean-Louis Milani (UMP) 9.73%
Eric Simoni (Corsica Libera) 5.4%
Sylvain Fanti (DVD) 3%
Jean-François Baccarelli (AEI) 2.34%

Bastia is a very interesting and highly contested race. The incumbent PRG mayor, Émile Zuccarelli, who has been mayor since he succeeded his father in 1989, is retiring – in favour of his own son, Jean Zuccarelli, who was defeated in the 2012 election while trying to regain his father’s old seat in the National Assembly from the UMP. Politics in Corsica are very family and clan-based, and political dynasties often last for hundreds of year: the city of Bastia has been governed by the Zuccarelli clan since 1888. Émile’s decision to have his son, Jean, replace him alienated François Tatti, a former ally who saw himself as Zuccarelli’s heir, and Tatti ran as a dissident with the support of Emmanuelle de Gentili (PS) and EELV. But the strongest competition came from Gilles Simeoni, a moderate nationalist leader who is the son of nationalist icon Edmond Simeoni. In the first round, Zuccarelli placed first with 32.5%, 29 votes ahead of Gilles Simeoni (32.3%). Zuccarelli is in a very difficult position against an heterogeneous anti-Zuccarelli alliance between the nationalists, Tatti’s dissidents and the UMP (the list is led by Simeoni, with de Gentili in second, Tatti in third and the UMP candidate in fifth).


Steeve Briois (FN) 50.25% winning 28 seats
Eugène Binaisse (PS-PCF-EELV)* 32.04% winning 6 seats
Gérard Dalongeville (DVG) 9.76% winning 1 seat
Georges Bouquillon (MRC) 4.05%
Jean-Marc Legrand (DVD) 3.88%

It was one of the most remarkable victories of the first round in a highly symbolic city for the far-right. FN candidate Steeve Briois, Marine Le Pen’s local lieutenant and ally in her adoptive electoral home in the Pas-de-Calais, was elected mayor of Hénin-Beaumont with 50.3% against 32% for the PS-PCF-EELV list led by incumbent mayor Eugène Binaisse (PS). Former mayor Gérard Dalongeville, arrested in 2009 for embezzlement, placed a distant third with 9.8%. Hénin-Beaumont, like most of its surroundings, is a poor former mining town in the coal mining basin of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais. The mines closed down by the 1990s, leaving behind a very poor area with few employment opportunities, high unemployment, low incomes, degraded public services, a tired old left-wing clientelistic machine and a population which is largely forced to commute long distances to find jobs in larger centres (Douai, Lille). In Hénin-Beaumont itself, the PS was historically the dominant party over the PCF, having governed the city since 1953. The PS in the Pas-de-Calais has been very weakened by factional conflict and endemic corruption; this has been especially true in Hénin-Beaumont itself, where Dalongeville was removed from office because of corruption and financial mismanagement in 2009 and the PS has struggled to lift itself up. The FN, led by Marine and Steeve Briois (who has been active in politics in the area since the 1990s, has managed to benefit from the socioeconomic reality of the place and the PS’ troubles, and set up a strong local machine. The FN speaks openly of its aims to recreate a tradition akin to ‘municipal communism’, providing services to its constituents. In the next six years, the town will receive disproportionate media attention as everybody tries to evaluate how the FN manages the city.


Florian Philippot (FN) 35.74%
Laurent Kalinowski (PS)* 33%
Éric Diligent (DVD) 18.99%
Alexandre Cassaro (UMP) 12.25%

In eastern Moselle’s old coal mining basin, another FN leader – vice-president Florian Philippot – is seeking 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. Despite being very working-class, like most of the coal basin in Moselle, it is historically right-wing (51.5% for Sarko in 2012). 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. There were only four candidates in the first round, all four qualified and there was no alliance on the right or ‘republican front’ behind the PS incumbent to defeat the FN. This puts Philippot in a strong position to win, having placed first in the first round with 35.7% against 33% for the PS. There is an outside chance of some anti-FN strategic voting in favour of the PS: UMP deputy Céleste Lett, the mayor of Sarreguemines, has endorsed the PS incumbent to defeat the FN. The prospect of a FN victory also worries Forbach’s cross-border German partners: as a border city, Forbach has close ties with cities and the regional government of the Saar in Germany. Both the CDU and SPD in the Saar have signaled concern about the prospect of the FN winning.


Sonia Lagarde (Calédonie ensemble) 36.28%
Gaël Yanno (UCF-UMP) 34.66%
Jean-Claude Briault (R-UMP-Avenir ensemble-LMD-MoDem)^ 15.42%
Jean-Raymond Postic (FLNKS-UC-PT-LKS) 6.86%
Marie-Claude Tjibaou (FLNKS-UC diss-FLNKS-Palika-PS) 4.57%
Bertrand Cherrier (Ind) 2.2%

In New Caledonia’s capital and largest city, there was an interesting battle on the right, the dominant force in an overwhelmingly white European and anti-independence city. The right was divided between Calédonie ensemble (moderate centre-right, allied to the UDI) deputy Sonia Lagarde; the old Rassemblement-UMP, the dominant force of the local right but increasingly challenged from all parts since 2004, split between Jean-Claude Briault, backed by retiring mayor Jean Lèques, the party leadership (Pierre Frogier) and the president of the government Harold Martin’s centre-right Avenir ensemble and Gaël Yanno, a municipal councillor and deputy for Nouméa until his defeat by Lagarde in 2012. Yanno’s supporters, strong in Nouméa, split from the R-UMP in 2013 over Frogier’s conciliatory policy towards the nationalists and received the support of the metropolitan UMP and Copé. In the first round, Lagarde and Yanno dominated, with 36.3% and 34.7% respectively, while the candidate of the governing majority won only 15.4%. He chose to withdraw from the second round. Lagarde won the second round with 51.6% against 48.4% for Yanno.

Other contests

In Le Havre, incumbent UMP mayor Edouard Philippe was reelected in a landslide by the first round with 52% against 16.7% for Camille Galap (PS-EELV), 16.4% for Nathalie Nail (FG) and 13.4% for the FN. Le Havre, an industrial and fairly working-class city, leans to the left but it has been held by the right since 1995. It was governed by the PCF between 1965 and 1995.

In Toulon, incumbent UMP mayor Hubert Falco was reelected to a third term with 59.3% against 20.5% for the FN and 10.1% for the PS.

The incumbent PS mayor of Dijon, François Rebsamen, remains the favourite for a third term in office. He won 44.3% in the first round, against 28.3% for the UMP and 12.7% for the FN.

Similarly, the PS faces little difficulty in the lower-income Lyon suburb of Villeurbanne, which has been held by the party since 1947. Incumbent PS mayor Jean-Paul Bret won 41.5% in the first round against 22.5% for the UMP, 17.5% for the FN and 15.8% for EELV. EELV has been rather strong in Villeurbanne, which has seen some degree of gentrification and is increasingly middle-class rather than working-class. The EELV list did not withdraw, so it will be a four-way runoff. In neighboring Vaulx-en-Velin, a poorer working-class suburban town and old PCF stronghold (since 1929), the PS list ended up narrowly ahead of the incumbent PCF mayor, 27.1% to 26.1%; the UMP won 17%. The second round will oppose the PS, PCF and UMP – two independent lists withdrew, one (16.8%) merged with the PS and the other (10.5%) with the PCF.

In Le Mans, incumbent PS mayor Jean-Claude Boulard placed first in the first round with 34.7% against 21.1% for the UMP, 15.2% for the FN and 11.3% for a UDI list. The UMP and UDI lists merged, but there was no similar merger between the PS and the FG (9.1%), which may weaken the PS. The runoff will be close, although the PS likely retains a narrow advantage.

In Nîmes, the UMP incumbent, Jean-Paul Fournier, is in little trouble after the first round. He won 37.2% against 21.8% for the FN, 14.7% for the PS and 12% for the FG. No list has withdrawn, so it will be a four-way runoff, meaning that the left has no chance of victory.

In Brest, PS mayor François Cuillandre should win a third term. In the first round, he won 42.5% against 27.6% for Bernadette Malgorn (UMP), a regional councillor and former regional prefect; another UMP candidate, municipal councillor Laurent Prunier, won 9.9%. The runoff will presumably go in the PS’ favour. In the second largest city in the Finistère, Quimper, however, the PS is in deep trouble. Incumbent PS mayor Bernard Poignant, a close friend and ally of Hollande, trailed the UMP in the first round, 27.9% to 29.3%. A MoDem list led by incumbent municipal councillor Isabelle Le Bal won 14.9% and merged with the UMP list. A EELV list (7.6%), a left-wing regionalist (6.1%) and the PG (5.8%) may provide Poignant with some reserves, but he remains in a very difficult position against the UMP-MoDem, which can additionally count on some share of the FN’s 8.4%.

In Clermont-Ferrand, an open seat held by the PS, PS candidate Olivier Bianchi won 31% in the first round against 24.9% for the UMP, 12.7% for the FN, 11.5% for FG-far left candidate Alain Laffont and 8% for Michel Fanget (MoDem), a former UDF deputy. The PS remains the favourite, given its merger with Laffont’s list, while there was no similar alliance between the UMP and the MoDem on the right.

In Limoges, an old Socialist stronghold, PS mayor Alain Rodet faces a potentially difficult runoff. In the first round, he won 30% against 23.8% for the UMP, 17% for the FN, 14.2% for the FG (which has withdrawn) and 12.3% for the centre (which merged with the UMP). An Ipsos poll after the first round showed Rodet ahead by 6, 46 to 40 against 14% for the FN.

Jean-Louis Fousseret, the incumbent PS mayor of Besançon, a city governed by the party since 1953, should hold on in a tight contest. He won 33.6% in the first round against 31.6% for the UMP, with the FN qualifying for the runoff with 11.8%. The FG won 7.1% and a DVG candidate took 6.2%.

The right-wing battle in the affluent Parisian suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt turned to the advantage of incumbent mayor Pierre-Christophe Baguet (UMP, ex-UDF) who won 48.8%. In second, Pierre-Mathieu Duhamel (UMP), backed by former mayor/senator Jean-Pierre Fourcade, Juppé and local UMP (elected as a dissident in 2012) deputy Thierry Solère, won 27.9%. In the extremely affluent suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, Sarkozy’s old stronghold before the presidency, the incumbent UDI député-maire, Jean-Christophe Fromantin, begrudgingly backed the UMP which failed to recruit former cabinet minister Michèle Alliot-Marie to challenge him, was reelected easily with 66.5% against 18.1% for Bernard Lepidi (DVD),  a self-described Sarkozyst candidate. In neighboring Levallois-Perret, incumbent UMP mayor Patrick Balkany had no trouble, winning reelection by the first round with 51.6%. Balkany, in office since 1983, has strong support at home but he’s a highly controversial guy, being mixed up in countless corruption scandals and with a fiery temper (during the campaign, he stole a TV crew’s camera when they asked him about his latest indictment for corruption). His closest rival was Arnaud de Courson (32.4%), an anti-Balkany right-wing general councillor who defeated Isabelle Balkany in a Levallois cantonal by-election a few years ago. In neighboring Clichy, the PS mayor Gilles Catoire faces a very close battle. He won 25.3% in the first round, against 21.9% for the UMP and 20.7% for 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. An EELV list won 11.4%, and a PRG list won 8.1%. The EELV list has not withdrawn, citing major differences and disagreements with Catoire; the PRG list merged with Schuller’s UDI list, while the UMP remains in the race as well.

The incumbent UMP mayor of Orléans, Serge Grouard, was reelected with 53.6% against 23.2% for the PS, 10.3% for the FN and 8.3% for the FG.

In Argenteuil, a low-income suburban community in the Paris region, PS mayor Philippe Doucet is in trouble. He placed second, with 41.8%, against 44.2% for Georges Mothron, the former UMP mayor between 2001 and 2008 and deputy between 2002 and 2012 (when Doucet defeated him). The FG won only 6.6% in a city which was a PCF stronghold between 1945 and 2001. In close by Cergy, the PS is also locked in a close battle against the UMP: 43.2% against 42% for the PS and UMP respectively in the first round, with the FG at 7.6%.

Roubaix, France’s poorest major city and a depressed old textile town in the Lille region, incumbent PS mayor Pierre Dubois placed second with 20.4% against 21.3% for the UMP, with the FN coming in very strong with 19.3%, and a PS dissident, André Renard, winning 10.1%. Renard’s list merged with another PS dissident list, led by former adjoint Richard Olszewski (7.9%) while the incumbent mayor merged his list with Slimane Tir’s EELV list, which took 8.8%. The incumbent PS mayor of Tourcoing Michel-François Delannoy, reelected by the first round in 2008, is also in difficulty with 39.2% against 37.7% for young UMP deputy Gérald Darmanin. The FN, which won 17.5%, may allow the PS to narrowly save this old textile town. In Halluin, an old working-class town on the Belgian border which is increasingly a middle-class suburb, the PS may lose this city to the UMP, which won 40% against 33.8% for the PS in the first round. UMP victories in Roubaix, Halluin and Tourcoing may very well allow the UMP to gain control of the Lille urban community, currently led by Martine Aubry, the PS mayor of Lille.

In Poitiers, the PS mayor Alain Claeys should hold on. He won 35.7% in the first round against 24% for the UMP, 15.3% for EELV (which maintains its list) and 12% for the FN.

In the Seine-Saint-Denis, there were several interesting results. In Aulnay-sous-Bois, gained by the PS in 2008, the UMP’s young copéiste candidate Bruno Beschizza is heavily favoured, with 41.3% in the first round against 26.7% for incumbent PS mayor Gérard Segura. In Bobigny, a PCF stronghold since the 1920s, a shocking result: the right (UDI) placed first, with 44% against 40.4% for the incumbent PCF mayor. The PCF may lose this solidly left-wing Communist stronghold to the right. In the confusing race in Bagnolet, the FG candidate won 21.3% against 21.2% for the PS, 17.9% for EELV, 15.9% for incumbent ex-PCF mayor Marc Everbecq, 10.4% for a DVG candidate and 10.2% for the right. The runoff is a tight match: Everbecq, a controversial and unpopular mayor, withdrew without endorsing anybody while the DVG list which won 10.4% merged with the PS. All other lists which qualified maintained their candidacies. The PCF is also threatened by the right in Le Blanc-Mesnil while the UMP is the heavy favourite to gain Villepinte.

In Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, an old cité cheminote in the Val-de-Marne and old PCF stronghold, the PCF incumbent finds herself in trouble – she won 38.9% in the first round, against 31.8% for the UMP and 26% for the FN. But in one of only two cases of such alliances in the entire country, the UMP list – later disavowed by the party leadership – merged with the FN list. The other city where this happened was L’Hopital, an old mining town in Moselle, where the FN list (24%, in second behind the left) merged with a DVD list.

In Meaux, UMP leader Jean-François Copé was reelected with 64.3%. In Fontainebleau, incumbent mayor Frédéric Valletoux, who was not endorsed by the UMP but who received the support of Fillon and Valérie Pécresse, placed first with 43.7% against 35.8% for the official UMP candidate, backed by Copé.

In Cannes, the UMP battle between David Lisnard, the filloniste candidate backed by the retiring mayor, and Philippe Tabarot, the copéiste challenger and brother of Michèle Tabarot, the mayor of Le Cannet and the copéiste general-secretary of the UMP, will turn to the advantage of the former. Lisnard won 48.8% against 26.7% for Tabarot, the FN coming in third with 14.8%.

In Calais, an old PCF stronghold gained by the UMP’s Natacha Bouchart, the PCF may regain the seat – Bouchart placed first, with 39%, but the PCF list led by former mayor Jacky Hénin (22.6%) merged with the PS list led by PS deputy Yann Capet (19.7%) while the FN, which had withdrawn in 2008 to favour Bouchart against Hénin, won 12.5% and isn’t withdrawing this time. In Dunkerque, incumbent PS mayor Michel Delebarre, an old politico who’s been at the helm of the industrial city on the English Channel since 1989, is in trouble against Patrice Vergriete (DVG), a former adjoint running as a dissident. The dissident won 36% against 28.9% for Delebarre; the FN placed third with 22.6%.

In Bourges, the PS may gain the city from the right, with incumbent UDI mayor Serge Lepeltier retiring. The PS list placed first with 24.4% against a UDI list, backed by Lepeltier, which won 24.2% and a UMP list which won 21.6%. The UDI and UMP merged, and the PS merged with a FG list which took 17.6%.

In La Seyne-sur-Mer, an old shipbuilding city on the outskirts of Toulon, the PS mayor since 2008, Marc Vuillemot, placed first with 29.3% against 26.3% for the FN. UMP deputy Philippe Vitel won 17%, but he merged his list with a UDI list which won 12.8%.

Again in the Var, one key FN target is Fréjus. David Rachline, a FN leader, placed first with 40.3%. Philippe Mougin (UMP-UDI) placed a distant second with 18.9%, closely followed by incumbent mayor Élie Brun, sentenced in early 2014 in a corruption case but appealing in order to seek reelection (as a dissident, having lost the UMP endorsement), who won 17.6%. Although the PS, which won 15.6%, withdrew to block the FN, there was no agreement reached on the right and the FN should be able to win the city handily, benefiting from the right’s divisions. In Brignoles, FN general councillor Laurent Lopez placed first with 37.1% against 35.5% for UMP deputy Josette Pons and 27.4% for the PS-PCF list (the PCF has held the city since 2008); the left withdrew, leaving the UMP alone to face the FN.

In the Vaucluse, the FN targeted several towns. In Carpentras, the incumbent PS mayor leads with 37.3% against 34.4% for the FN’s Hervé de Lepinau, the suppléant of FN deputy Marion Maréchal-Le Pen. UMP deputy Julien Aubert won 16.6% but he did not withdraw. In Sorgues, the incumbent UMP mayor was reelected with 51.2%, but the FN list placed a strong second with 33.8%. In Cavaillon, UMP deputy and incumbent mayor Jean-Claude Bouchet ranked first with 41.6% against 35.7% for the FN, the EELV-PS list, which did not withdraw, won 17.6%. In Orange, incumbent far-right (but not FN) mayor and deputy Jacques Bompard, in office since 1995, was reelected with 59.8%. His wife, the incumbent mayor of Bollène, nearly won reelection by the first round, taking 49.3%.

In the Gard, FN deputy Gilbert Collard placed first in Saint-Gilles, the first town ever won by the FN (in 1989), with 42.6% against 25.4% for the UMP and 23.1% for incumbent PS mayor Alain Gaido, who withdrew to block the FN. The FN also placed first in Beaucaire.

Election Preview: France Municipal Elections 2014 – Part II

In the first part of this election preview, I explained how local government works in France and the context to these municipal elections. Focus now shifts to the major contests which are worth following. Please note that this is a hurried and basic guide, with only basic details for each race. It is also far from a thorough guide: I have likely forgotten many interesting races, and omitted races which I feel are less interested (but results may prove me wrong!).

Follow @welections on Twitter on March 23 and 30 for major results.

Overview: lists and party strategies

One of the major issues attracting interest in this election was the ability of the FN to run a large number of lists in a major cities, and their ability to win municipalities. The FN has usually struggled in municipal elections, more so than in other elections. The focus on local issues and local dynamics (the popularity of sitting mayors, local political machines) has usually hurt the FN, a protest party par excellence which has a weak local organization in many places. Secondly, electoral rules has also hurt the FN. In order to run, all parties must submit a complete list (and, since 2001, those lists must include an equal number of men and women) of candidates. For the FN, which has very few municipal councillors across France and relatively few elected officials compared to all other parties, it struggles to put up complete lists. Putting up complete lists requires recruiting and finding a large number of willing candidates, of both genders (the FN is a largely male-dominated party, in terms of cadres and candidates); lacking a local organization in many places, it also has difficulties in recruiting candidates for those lists, given that there’s generally been some reluctance by individuals in cities (especially in less populated towns where people are more likely to know one another) to take a spot on a FN list, fearing consequences it might have for them for employment and in their social circles. The result has been that when the FN does put up lists, a lot of its candidates, who can’t be properly vetted, turn out to be cranks and fruitcakes. Embarrassment ensues when the media digs up a picture of them posing in front of a Nazi flag, posting some racist nonsense on social media, praising some fascist lunatics on the internet or saying something beyond the pale. For example, the FN was forced to drop one of its candidate in the Ardennes after it was revealed that she compared justice minister Christiane Taubira (who is black, from French Guiana) to a monkey. In Nevers, however, it came too late for the FN: one of their candidates on the list has pictures of herself with Nazi flags or with Nazi/SS memorabilia on Facebook. According to media reports this year, the FN may also turn to unorthodox tactics to fill up its lists: by tricking random citizens into signing up for their lists (under guises of ‘signing a petition’) or putting up dead people; Le Monde reports the cases of senior residents protesting their appearance on FN lists against their will.

The FN’s best performance in municipal elections came in 1995, when the FN ran 444 lists in communes with over 9,000 people and won 505 seats. That year, the FN also won several major towns: Toulon, Orange, Marignane – with a later by-election victory in Vitrolles. In other towns throughout France, the FN won significant results: Perpignan (32.7%), Marseille (22%), Saint-Priest (34.5%), Vénissieux (27.5%), Vaulx-en-Velin (31%), Villefranche sur Saône (35.2%), Mulhouse (30.5%), Dreux (35.2%), Mantes-la-Jolie (25.6%), Noyon (44%), Roubaix (24.4%) and Tourcoing (32.5%). In 2001, the FN was badly hurt by the 1999 split by Bruno Mégret (whose wife was mayor of Vitrolles) to create the National Republican Movement (MNR). On the ground, a lot of FN elected officials – like Toulon mayor Jean-Marie Le Chevallier – left the FN for Mégret’s MNR (Le Chevallier remained neutral) and many FN sections in departments defected. Therefore, only 184 lists ran in communes with over 9,000 inhabitants. If Jacques Bompard, the well-entrenched mayor of Orange was reelected handsomely, he had already taken his distances with the FN and would later leave the party entirely (he briefly joined Philippe de Villiers’ MPF before creating, in 2010, his own party, the Ligue du Sud). In Marseille, where Mégret ran for the MNR, the MNR placed ahead of the FN. In Toulon, the ex-FN mayor, running against an official FN candidate, failed to even qualify for the runoff. In 2008, one year after Sarkozy crippled the FN electorally, the FN was in an even more difficult position and only managed to put up 106 lists; the silver lining was a decent showing for Marine Le Pen in Hénin-Beaumont, her adopted electoral home base, and the election of one municipal councillor in Marseille. Elsewhere, the FN was crushed.

After the FN’s 2012 successes and the feeling of the wind being in its sails, Le Pen was determined to put up as many lists as possibles. Invariably, the FN ran in the aforementioned problems, but it has put up 422 lists in communes with over 9,000 people. A handy Ifop study shows the presence of FN lists on the territory compared to 1995. It has managed to significantly expand its territorial footing, putting up FN lists in western and southwestern cities generally unfavourable to the FN. In the Pas-de-Calais, Marine Le Pen’s stomping ground, the FN ran 7 lists in 1995; today, it’s putting up 16 lists. Compared to 1995, however, there is a clear decline of the FN’s presence in the Parisian region: it ran 30 lists in the Seine-Saint-Denis, 23 in the Hauts-de-Seine and 25 in the Val-de-Marne in 1995 – this year, the FN has only 2, 8 and 10 lists in those departments. Similarly, the FN’s presence in Lyon’s suburbs is weaker than it was in 1995.

On the left, a major issue was the strategy of the Left Front (FG) and specifically the PCF, which is the only FG party with a significant municipal base. As mentioned in the last post, since 1977, there’s a powerful strategy of first round left-wing unity (union de la gauche) behind a single candidate. Through that strategy, the PCF has managed to save for itself a few seats in municipal councillors and the administration of left-wing controlled communes. It has not staved off the PCF’s inexorable decline, although the PCF still controls a sizable number of towns and the tradition of municipal communism remains a reality in some places. The PCF’s presence in municipal councils is especially important for the PCF because municipal councillors form the bulk of the electoral college which elects senators; hence, having many municipal councillors allows the PCF to defend its senatorial caucus. Therefore, the imperatives for the PCF to ally, by the first round, with the PS was and remains strong. That, however, displeases the PCF’s allies in the FG, especially Mélenchon’s PG. Mélenchon, whose party is so tiny it has nothing to lose by going it alone, has been on a firm anti-PS stance when it comes to first round alliances with the PS (since the 2010 regional elections, which already split the FG in some regions).

Mélenchon insisted on autonomous first round FG lists in as many towns as possible. The PCF’s incumbent councillors and leadership saw it otherwise. In a number of major cities, the PCF decided to ally with the PS by the first round. Paris caused a massive firestorm in the FG, endangering the future of the alliance and poisoning PG-PCF relations with the European elections coming up in June. In Paris, the local PCF voted 57-43 to participate in the PS lists by the first round, as the national leadership, backed by Paris senator Pierre Laurent (whose seat in the Senate depends on the PCF having seats in Paris), had wanted it. In other cities, such as Lyon, Brest, Caen, Grenoble, Nancy, Nantes, Reims, Rennes, Rouen, Saint-Étienne, Toulouse and Tours, the PCF is also backing the PS by the first round. In all those cases, the PG and smaller components of the FG (Ensemble etc) with a similar anti-PS stance, opted to form autonomous lists anyways. In some towns, such as Rennes and Grenoble, they allied with the Greens (EELV). In a handful of towns, the PG’s lists allied with the far-left New Anticapitalist Party (NPA), which is otherwise marginalized and isolated.

EELV chose autonomous lists in many cases, although in place such as Amiens, Angers, Besançon, Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrand, Dijon, Le Mans, Limoges, Marseille, Metz, Montpellier, Nice and Reims it allied with the PS by the first round. In Paris and Lyon, EELV has autonomous lists; although EELV is part of the governing majority in Paris, it has run independently of the PS there in the past municipal elections, while in Lyon the Greens had allied with the PS by the first round since 1995.

On the right, the Union of Democrats and Independents (UDI) – a centre-right coalition of small parties led by Jean-Louis Borloo – has generally chosen alliances with the UMP, but it has also been wanting to show that it can exist autonomously of the UMP. In the European elections, the UDI will run a common list with François Bayrou’s MoDem. In Strasbourg, Rouen, Caen and Aix the UDI is running independently of the UMP in the first round, sometimes with the MoDem’s support. Otherwise, the UDI is generally on UMP-led lists, while the UMP supports UDI-led lists in Amiens, Nancy and Rennes. The MoDem has more or less firmly aligned with the right, even if Bayrou endorsed Hollande over Sarkozy in 2012. The MoDem’s claims of being ‘beyond left and right’ and aiming to fill the centre ran into the reality of left-right politics in municipal elections as early as 2008. That year, the MoDem followed a confusing strategy: autonomy here and there, allied with the UMP there, allied with the PS here and so forth. Its incumbent mayors, elected for the centre-right UDF in 2001, won reelection with the right’s support. In a strategy which has left many confused, the MoDem supports many UMP-UDI lists by the first round, most notably in Paris. The cause of the MoDem’s alliance with the UMP-UDI seems to be in return for the UMP and UDI endorsing Bayrou’s mayoral candidacy in Pau. In Tours and Dijon, two towns where the MoDem has been in the PS-led governing majority since 2008, the MoDem is allied with the PS incumbents by the first round. In Marseille, the MoDem’s candidate, Jean-Luc Bennahmias, a MEP who joined the MoDem from the Greens (and is on the MoDem’s left) endorsed the PS-EELV list, but Bayrou’s national leadership disavowed him to officially back the UMP incumbent.

Major contests: France’s largest cities


Paris is always one of the most closely followed races in all municipal elections; sometimes frustratingly because many other races are actually far more interesting. Nevertheless, the capital, political centre and largest city in France is always the ultimate crown. Paris, however, has had an elected mayor with actual powers for only a short while: after the 1871 commune de Paris, municipal government (and the office of mayor) was abolished in favour of direct rule by the prefect (although a city council with a president of the council retained very symbolic powers), and it was only restored in 1977. That year, Paris was the major prize and all parties wanted it: the RPR’s leader Jacques Chirac, who had just broken with President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, threw his hat into the race; he went up against a patchy PS-PCF alliance marred by PS-PCF infighting and a centre-right led by Michel d’Ornano backed by the Prime Minister and (unofficially) by Giscard. Chirac’s lists defeated d’Ornano in the first round, with about 26% to 22% city-wide, and the RPR went on to a narrow victory over the left in the second round. Chirac proceeded to establish Paris’ city hall as his political base (alongside his seat as deputy in rural Corrèze in central France). He became very popular with consensual policies, and when he won reelected in 1983 and 1989, Chirac’s lists swept all 20 arrondissements in Paris – a huge feat given the political polarization of the city.

With Chirac elected to the presidency a month prior, he was succeeded in 1995 by his local ally, Jean Tiberi (RPR). Although Tiberi’s lists held a large majority on the Conseil de Paris, with 98 out of 163 seats, the left made major gains – winning 62 seats on council, and gaining no less than six arrondissements from the right, all in the historically left-leaning eastern half of the city. It was under Tiberi’s administration that the whole RPR machine built by Chirac since 1977 began to unravel, with the first revelations of corruption – kickbacks and corruption in the construction of social housing, the ‘faux emplois‘ (fake jobs) with salaries paid by the city to RPR cadres who didn’t work for the city and so forth. Tiberi was targeted by a judicial investigation opened in 1999 about his role in the corruption in the social housing (HLM) office. By the time of the 2001 elections, the right refused to endorse Tiberi, instead backing Philippe Séguin (RPR), who became the official candidate of the right (RPR-UDF-DL). Tiberi and his supporters ran dissidents lists in every arrondissement. On the evening of the first round, Séguin’s lists won 25.7% and placed on top of the right in 14 out of 20 arrondissements, while the tibéristes won 13.9% and topped the right in 4 arrondissements, including the Tiberi stronghold of the 5th arrondissement. The PS-PCF, led by PS senator Bertrand Delanoë, won 31.3% and negotiated a second round alliance with the Greens, who won a solid 12.4%. Although the right united for the runoff in all but three safely right-wing arrondissements, the divisions haunted and crippled the right in the runoff: vote transfers were imperfect, allowing the PS-Green alliance to win 12 out of 20 arrondissements and a solid majority (92 seats) on the city council. City-wide, Delanoë won on a minority of the vote (49.6%), with the combined total of the right over 50%.

Delanoë’s victory in 2001 owed a lot to the divisions of the right, but it also signaled a political shift in Parisian politics. Gentrification and the political shift of well-educated, middle-class urban professionals towards the PS (and Greens) is the other explanation for Delanoë’s initial victory – and why Paris is increasingly safe for the left. Delanoë became very popular during his first term, with landmark projects including Paris Plages (summer recreational activities and beaches on the banks of the Seine), the Vélib’ (a bicycle sharing system), an expansion in social housing and promotion of cultural activities. With high popularity and weak opposition, Delanoë was easily reelected in 2008, with about 41% of the city-wide vote in the first round. The Greens suffered major loses, winning only 6.8% in the first round, weakening their position against the PS. The right, united behind UMP deputy Françoise de Panafieu, won only 27.9%. In the second round, the left won a slightly expanded majority, but in a confirmation of the city’s political polarization, the left did not gain any arrondissements from the left. One of the closest contests was in the 5th arrondissement, where Jean Tiberi (UMP) ran for a fifth term as mayor of the arrondissement. Although polls had placed the left ahead, Tiberi won 45% against 44.1% for the PS in the runoff.

Strengthened by his victory, Delanoë took an increasingly prominent role in national politics and he was considered the early favourite to win the PS leadership at the 2008 Reims Congress. But after a poor campaign, Delanoë’s motion performed poorly and he ultimately withdrew from the leadership ballot, endorsing Martine Aubry. Refocusing his attention to municipal politics, Delanoë declined to run for reelection this year.

The PS candidate is Anne Hidalgo, who has served as Delanoë’s première adjointe (top deputy) since 2001 and could be seen as Delanoë’s heir-apparent. Behind her, Hidalgo has united the PCF and Left Radicals (PRG). EELV, a critical member of the governing left-wing majority since 2001, once again opted to run independently in the first round (the Greens have run alone in the first round ever since 1977) before allying with the PS lists in the second round. As in 2001 and 2008, EELV’s hope is for the strongest possible showing in the first round to gain a stronger bargaining position against the PS in the runoff and obtain a number of seats in the executive. EELV nominated Christophe Najdovski, an adjoint au maire. The PCF’s decision to ally with the PS, as noted above, created a national firestorm in the FG, prompting the PG and other small FG components to run their own autonomous list, led by incumbent city councillor Danielle Simonnet (PG).

The right was far more confident of its chances at victory in Paris this year, and the UMP sought to attract a top-rate star candidate (after de Panafieu, a mediocre candidate with a bourgeois image). Originally, speculation centered on Sarkozy’s Prime Minister François Fillon (who abandoned his seat in the Sarthe to run for a seat in Paris in the 2012 legislative elections) and Rachida Dati, the copéiste UMP mayor of the 7th arrondissement since 2008 (she’s also a MEP and was justice minister under Sarkozy’s first years). Fillon, who saw that victory would nevertheless be an uphill battle, did not run and Dati’s polling numbers were very poor. In a February 2013 open primary, the UMP nominated Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet (widely known as NKM). NKM, who is députée-maire of the suburban town of Longjumeau in the Essonne, served as environment minister under Sarkozy between 2010 and 2012. Her moderate (unlike the vast majority of the UMP, she abstained rather than vote against same-sex marriage/adoption) and ‘green’ profile is a fairly good fit for a left-leaning and socially liberal city like Paris. NKM defeated second-tier opposition handily, with 58% by the first round. If she successfully managed to forge a first round alliance with the UDI and the MoDem (which ran autonomously in 2008), she has been less successful at holding her campaign together. For the past few months, NKM’s campaign has been dogged by awkward moments by the candidate (struggling to shake off a bit of a bourgeois image) and, more importantly, dissident after dissident.

There are right-wing dissidents running against the official UMP-UDI-MoDem lists in all but two arrondissements. The Parisian right has been in poor shape since the 2001 defeat, and the severe divisions in UMP ranks during the 2011 senatorial elections and the 2012 congress worsened matters even further. A number of dissidents have pooled together around Charles Beigbeder, a copéiste businessman and brother of the crazy writer-philosopher Frédéric Beigbeder, who announced a dissident candidacy in the solidly right-wing bourgeois 8th arrondissement in December 2013, after a disagreement with NKM on his place on the official list. Beigbeder has federated some right-wing dissidents around his Paris libéré makeshift label, although besides him none of his candidates have much notoriety.

But, to complicate things further, there are stronger local UMP (and some UDI and MoDem) dissidents in other arrondissements. In the 5th arrondissement, the UMP incumbent Jean Tiberi was sentenced to 3 years electoral ineligibility (in addition to a fine and suspended jail sentence) for the ‘faux électeurs‘ (fake voters; Tiberi and his wife Xavière were accused of voter fraud by registering fictional names in the arrondissement; the common joke is that Tiberi’s strongest demographic was the cemetery) affair in 2013 and the UMP refused to support his son Dominique, who is running as a dissident. Polling has shown that Dominique Tiberi, whose family still controls a powerful machine in the arrondissement, may pull up to 20%, qualifying for the runoff. A triangulaire with the official UMP-UDI-MoDem candidate, Florence Berthout, and the PS candidate would be deadly for the right, especially given that the arrondissement has been moving left rapidly: Hollande won 56% in the 5th in 2012. In the solidly right-wing bourgeois 7th arrondissement (71% Sarkozy), the incumbent mayor Rachida Dati (UMP) is facing stiff competition on the right, with two prominent dissidents: Michel Dumont, the former mayor of the arrondissement (2002-2008) and Christian Le Roux, a former premier adjoint. Dati, as her opponents point out, seems to have little interest in either of her gigs (MEP and mayor).

NKM has chosen to run in the 14th arrondissement, which has been held by the PS since 2001 and gave Hollande over 60% in May 2012. Similar to the 12th arrondissement, it is one which is a must-win for the right if it is to win city-wide, but it is a huge uphill battle for her. Polls show that Carine Petit, the PS top candidate in the 14th, has a wide lead over NKM and the left would easily retain the arrondissement in the second round.

Paris was one of the far-right’s earliest strongholds: in 1983, Jean-Marie Le Pen’s list in the 20th arrondissement (eastern Paris) won 11.3% in the first round and 8.5% in the runoff – it was one of the FN’s first electoral successes, a year before its national breakthrough. In 1989, the FN won over 10% in four arrondissements, including 15.6% in the 20th for Le Pen. In 1995, the FN broke 10% in 9 arrondissements and obtained its only city councillor to date. However, the FN-MNR split crippled the Parisian far-right, which has also been one of the big losers of the demographic shifts in the city: less blue-collar, with the arrival of ‘new middle-classes’ with high cultural capital and also high repulsion towards the FN. The FN won 3.2% in 2008 and Marine Le Pen won only 6.2% of the vote in Paris in April 2012. The FN candidate is Wallerand de Saint-Just, a far-right lawyer from the FN’s traditionalist Catholic wing. With about 8-9% in citywide polls, there is an outside chance that the FN may win over 10% of the vote in some arrondissements, qualifying for the runoff.

Anne Hidalgo is the favourite in Paris. She has several advantages going for her: structurally, the electoral system in Paris tends to favour the left, whose strongholds are worth more seats on council than the right’s western strongholds. This means that the left would likely win even if it won a minority of the vote across the city. Secondly, Paris has shifted towards the left in recent years, culminating in no less than 55.6% for Hollande in May 2012.  The electorate in the key swing arrondissements is increasingly allergic to the UMP in its current shape: the Sarkozy and post-Sarkozy rhetoric of the right is a very poor fit for Paris, especially the swing arrondissements. The UMP’s constant vilification of the Parisian ‘bobo’ (bourgeois bohemian; a term which most on the right use without actually knowing what it means or who it refers to) does it no favours. Nevertheless, given the national climate far more favourable to the UMP than 2008, NKM should manage a more respectable performance for the right – but a personal defeat in the 14th and a potential gain by the PS in the 5th would be major blows to the right. Citywide polling is rather useless, but Hidalgo is stable at 52-53% in all runoff scenarios while both her and NKM poll roughly 35-39% in the first round. EELV, desperate for a good result given the party’s troubles, is between 5 and 7% in the polls, which would be mediocre.


The most interesting major city to watch on both March 23 and 30 is Marseille: the largest city in the south of France is well worth following in every municipal elections because Marseille politics is so… fascinating, but this year the contest in Marseille could go both ways. All will be decided by the results in one, maybe two, key sectors. The mayor of Marseille since 1995 is Jean-Claude Gaudin (UMP).

Between 1953 and 1986, Marseille was the fiefdom of Gaston Defferre. In a city with a very strong PCF base – the PCF dominated politics in the working-class northern neighborhoods of the city (the present-day 8th sector), Defferre, a Socialist, governed with a coalition uniting Socialists, centrists, Radicals and non-Gaullist right – a coalition reminiscent of the anti-communist and anti-Gaullist Third Force coalitions so popular under the Fourth Republic. Defferre’s main opposition was the PCF, while the Gaullists, outside his majority, were a rather weak force in the city. The 1960s was the heyday of Defferre’s socialocentriste coalition; in 1977, Defferre was reelected without the PCF but his right-wing supporters had left and, finally, in 1983, Defferre’s final victory was with the PCF. That same year, Defferre was reelected despite losing the popular vote to Jean-Claude Gaudin (UDF), who had been an adjoint in Defferre’s previous administrations. The reason? As interior minister, Defferre had gerrymandered the sectoral map to benefit the left; a gerrymandering undone by Chirac’s government in 1986. Under Defferre’s administration, Marseille saw several major social and economic transformations: the fall of the French colonial empire, which had fueled Marseille’s industrial economy, led to an influx of white pied-noirs settlers from North Africa in the 1960s, followed by waves of mass immigration from North Africa. Defferre, as mayor, built a clientelist system which governed through corrupt agreement with the unions and the mafia – Marseille, as a major harbour, was and is a major transit point in drug trafficking from Asia to North America.

Defferre failed to groom an heir-apparent, and his succession opened a crisis in the Marseille PS which lasted for at least ten years. In 1986, after his death, Defferre was replaced by Robert Vigouroux, a PS senator backed by municipal councillors and due to be a ‘transition’ mayor until the 1989 elections. In 1989, the lingering crisis exploded: the PS-PCF officially nominated Michel Pezet, a PS deputy who had the support of the PS membership. Vigouroux ran for reelection as a dissident, rallying PS and PCF dissidents to his lists. The conflict on the left took a national dimension, because Michel Pezet was a close ally of Prime Minister Michel Rocard, while Rocard’s sworn enemy, President François Mitterrand the Élysée Palace gave covert support to Vigouroux, in a move to deny Rocard and Lionel Jospin the control of the Bouches-du-Rhône PS federation (the most important PS federation) ahead of the 1990 Rennes Congress. Vigouroux, who attracted significant crossover support from the right to his side, was elected in a landslide – sweeping all 8 sectors, taking about 42% to Pezet’s 15% and the UDF-RPR’s 24%. The Vigouroux episode proved to be a flash in the pan: the local PS dumped him, favouring instead local businessman and aspiring politician Bernard Tapie, leading Vigouroux to ally with the right (and endorsed Balladur in 1995), but the right lost interest in him after Tapie was eliminated from politics due to his corruption scandals. Vigouroux retired, leaving a few hardened supporters to back centre-right senator Jacques Rocca-Serra. The PS-PCF nominated Lucien Weygand, president of the general council, but this time Pezet, with Rocard’s blessing, ran as a PS dissident. Gaudin, leading a united right, won 36% in the first round against 28.7% for Weygand, 22% for the FN, 6% for Pezet and 4.8% for Rocca Serra. In the second round, Gaudin took five out of eight sectors, winning a solid majority on the council – 55 seats against 37 for the right and 9 for the FN.

Gaudin had little trouble winning reelection in 2001, against weak opposition from the left and a far-right weakened by its division between the FN and Mégret’s MNR. 2008, however, was won by a hair. Jean-Noël Guérini, the local big boss of the PS and president of the general council, gave Gaudin a run for his money. The left was able to pick up the first sector, in downtown Marseille, from the UMP, but the result hinged on the race in the third sector, where Guérini ultimately lost to the UMP by 2.8%. Gaudin was reelected, but he held only 51 out of 101 seats on the municipal council, against 49 for the left and 1 for the FN, which had taken a seat in the 8th sector in the first round.

At 74 years old, many felt that Gaudin would not run for reelection. The prospect of an open seat whet the appetite of many UMP parliamentarians: Renaud Muselier, the mayor of the third sector, was once perceived as Gaudin’s successors, but relations between the old patriarch and the younger initial heir-apparent broke down after 2008 and Gaudin likely clapped his hands at Muselier’s defeat in the 2012 legislative elections against Marie-Arlette Carlotti, the PS junior minister for the disabled. Other potential successors included Dominique Tian, Guy Teissier and Valérie Boyer, all three sitting deputies. Gaudin announced he would seek reelection in November 2013.

The PS is eager to regain Marseille. The PS in the Bouches-du-Rhône has been wracked by internal divisions and corruption scandals, all revolving around Guérini. Guérini, who hails from the same Corsican village as two of France’s most famous gangsters (but denies any family connection), has been embroiled in a major scandal since 2009. Guérini’s brother runs waste management companies suspected of ties to organized crime, and Guérini is said to have intervened to favour his brother’s businesses. In September 2011, Guérini was indicted on several charges, including conspiracy and influence peddling. The scandal proved a headache for the national PS, which dragged its feet in disciplining Guérini and rooting out corruption; only suspending him once he was indicted. Guérini was indicted in two new scandals in 2013. Nevertheless, Guérini remains senator and president of the general council. While many of those who were originally under his wings have transformed themselves into upstanding moral opponents of his corruption, Guérini retains significant influence over the PS in Marseille and the department and the local PRG is, for all intents and purposes, a guériniste front.

The PS held an open primary in October 2013, which attracted six candidates, including five heavy-weights: Marie-Arlette Carlotti, the junior minister and perceived as the establishment/government candidate; Patrick Mennucci, mayor of the 1st sector and deputy since 2012; Samia Ghali, senator and mayor of the 8th sector; Eugène Caselli, president of the urban community and Christophe Masse, vice-president of the general council. All candidates had, at one time or another, supported Guérini. But Mennucci and Carlotti have since clearly broken with Guérini, and Guérini seems to dislike both pretty strongly, having encouraged one of his stooges (Lisette Narducci, the PRG mayor of the 2nd sector) to run against Mennucci in the 2012 legislative elections. Mennucci focused his attacks on Force ouvrière (FO), a union accused of ‘co-governing’ the city with Gaudin and the CU with Caselli. FO is extraordinarily powerful in the local and metropolitan administration, it has its word to say in promotions, demotions and hiring while the mayor of the president of the CU both favour FO over other unions. Samia Ghali, who became senator thanks to Guérini’s backing, was considered by her opponents as Guérini’s candidate.

In the first round, Ghali won 25.3% against 20.7% for Mennucci, while Carlotti won 19.5%. Caselli took 16.6%, Masse won 14.3% while Henri Jibrayel, a deputy and Ghali’s rival in the 8th sector, won 3.7%. Ghali received very strong support in her strongholds of the quartiers nord, where she has a strong machine and GOTV operation. Overall, it was very much a friends-and-neighbors primary, each candidate (except Jibrayel) dominating their home turf. In the second round, Menucci was endorsed by Carlotti, Jibrayel (who hates Ghali) and Caselli while Masse (on bad terms with Mennucci) remained neutral. Somewhat disingenuously, Ghali presented herself as the ‘anti-system’ candidate and decried that her opponent was the candidate of the Parisian establishment, the Élysée and Matignon. Mennucci won the runoff with 57.2%. Ghali’s ‘concession’ was extremely ungrateful, whining that she had been up against 5 candidates and the government and, upon mentioning Ayrault and Hollande, the crowd booed. The ambiance was so terrible that talk of dissident lists ran wild, while her supporters swore not to back Mennucci. Ultimately, knowing what’s best for her, she made her peace with Mennucci. Mennucci’s lists have united all his primary opponents (except Jibrayel, who was never interested in municipal politics anyways): Mennucci in the 1st sector, Caselli in the 2nd sector, Carlotti in the 3rd sector, Masse in the 6th sector and Ghali in the 8th sector.

EELV, led by Karim Zéribi, a MEP (ex-PS), originally envisioned to run its own autonomous lists, but given the party’s weak base in the city, it rallied Mennucci’s PS lists in January. Zéribi is the top candidate in the 5th sector, which is safely UMP. Mennucci was also joined by the MoDem’s local leader and 2008 candidate, MEP Jean-Luc Bennahmias, a former Green. Bennahmias and some of his friends joined Mennucci’s lists in February 2014, but the national MoDem leadership (= Bayrou) disavowed him and are backing Gaudin.

For the first time since 1977, the PCF won’t be running with the PS in the first round. Jean-Marc Coppola (PCF), a regional vice-president, is the top candidate for the FG. Mélenchon won 13.8% in Marseille, and the PCF retains some level of support, especially in their old strongholds in the north of the city. But the PCF lost the mayoralty of the 8th sector in 2008; the PCF had controlled Marseille’s northern neighborhoods since World War II.

Guérini is behind a PRG list in five sectors. The only one which has a presence and nuisance power on the PS is that of Lisette Narducci, the loyal guériniste incumbent in the 2nd sector. In the 2012 legislative elections, Narducci won about 22% of the vote in the 2nd sector. However, the 2nd sector is firmly on the left; there is no chance of the right winning it.

Marseille has long been a strong spot for the FN: Marine Le Pen won 21.2% in April 2012 in Marseille, even placing first of all candidates in two arrondissements. In 2008, the election of one FN municipal councillor was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise horrible season for the FN. The FN’s lists are led by Stéphane Ravier, a regional councillor and the FN’s 2008 candidate. Ravier is leading the FN list in the 7th sector, located in northeastern Marseille – a low-income white working-class area with large immigrant pockets, it is one of the strongest regions in the city for the FN (Le Pen won 25% in 2012). Across the city, with the FN polling between 16% and 21%, the FN will likely qualify for the second round in every sector (unless some are won by the first round) and have a clear nuisance power for the UMP. Indeed, Mennucci’s hope of defeating Gaudin are hugely dependent on the FN’s numbers: a strong FN will create difficult triangulaires across Marseille, drawing votes from the UMP and allowing the PS to win with a plurality.

The race will be decided in one key sector: the 3rd sector, the same where Guérini’s mayoral ambitions hit a wall in 2008. Marie-Arlette Carlotti, one of two cabinet ministers who is a top candidate this year, is the PS top candidate in the 3rd sector, against Bruno Gilles, the UMP incumbent. The sector is a mix of right and left-leaning areas; poorer areas, middle-class neighborhoods and left-voting gentrified and educated downtown neighborhoods. Overall, Hollande won it with 52.9% in May 2012. The control of Marseille will be decided there: a UMP hold more likely than not reelects Gaudin, a PS win would probably be enough for them to win Marseille. It will be a contest to watch: polling shows that the runoff is well within the margin of error, with a 1-2% lead for Carlotti.


There is much less media interest in Lyon, the third largest city in France. The city, a fairly bourgeois place, has a long tradition of centrist or moderate mayors: Édouard Herriot, the Radical grandee, served as mayor of Lyon between 1908 and 1957 (with the exception of the war years). He was replaced by Louis Pradel, a centre-right independent who preached local interests, uniting a broad array of politicians from the centre to Jacques Soustelle’s French Algeria friends. He was the target of major Gaullist assaults in both 1959 and 1965, but both times Pradel was reelected and in 1971, the Gaullists now backed Pradel. He was replaced after his death by Francisque Collomb (UDF), who was badly defeated in 1989 by Michel Noir, a young ambitious RPR leader whose rising star was shot down by a corruption scandal involving Noir and his father-in-law (a corrupt businessman). In 1995, Noir, indicted for corruption, retired but supported dissident lists around Henry Chabert, his adjoint. The UDF-RPR nominated former Prime Minister Raymond Barre (UDF), who narrowly outpolled the noiristes in the first round (29% to 26%) and defeated the PS-Greens and FN in the runoff. Barre’s retirement after one term reopened the civil war on the right, now divided between an official RPR-UDF list led by Michel Mercier (UDF) and Jean-Michel Dubernard (RPR) and lists led by Charles Millon (DLC), a former regional president. The division of the right, as in Paris, allowed Gérard Collomb, a PS senator backed by the Greens, to win the second round. In the city council, the left took 42 seats against 21 for the millonistes and 10 for the official right.

In tune with Lyon’s political moderation and benefiting from a shift to the left of the city’s well-educated and urban middle-class milieus, Collomb has been very popular. Governing very much as a centrist, Collomb was reelected in a landslide in 2008: his lists won 6 out of 9 arrondissements in the first round, while the UMP only won (in the runoff) the very affluent 2nd and 6th arrondissements, rock-ribbed strongholds of the right. Collomb has not been afraid of going against his party: in the 2012 legislative elections, Collomb backed Thierry Braillard (PRG), a dissident, against a EELV candidate endorsed by the PS; Collomb has also signaled that he is less than enamoured with Hollande’s record thus far. Collomb’s relations with the president of the general council, Michel Mercier (UDI), are also solid: it is thanks to an understanding between both men that the transformation of the CU of Lyon into a de facto department is going ahead.

Running for a third term, there is nothing which can stop him. He is weakened by a more fragmented left: EELV is running autonomously, with Étienne Tête as top candidate; the FG lists include Nathalie Perrin-Gilbert, the ex-PS dissident mayor of the 1st arrondissement. The UMP has likely chosen the best possible candidate. In a primary, local members chose Michel Havard, a former deputy and a moderate. He defeated Georges Fenech, a deputy for a suburban constituency known for his more right-wing positions.

Other cities

Toulouse: In 2008, the PS, led by Pierre Cohen, finally regained Toulouse, a left-leaning city which it had lost back in 1971. Since 1971, the city, which voted for the left in national elections, was governed by the right: Pierre Baudis (1971-1983), succeeded by his son Dominique Baudis (1983-2001), followed by Philippe Douste-Blazy (2001-2004) and ultimately Jean-Luc Moudenc (2004-2008). Despite the national climate, Moudenc, a rather well-liked consensual moderate, put up a solid fight. In the first round, Moudenc came out ahead (42.6%) of the PS (39%) and he lost the runoff by a tiny margin (49.6% to 50.4%). This year’s election is a rematch of the 2008 election: Jean-Luc Moudenc, who was elected to the National Assembly in the 3rd constituency in 2012, is backed the UMP, UDI and MoDem (Christine de Veyrac, a UDI MEP, has maintained her dissident candidacy but she’s not a factor) while incumbent mayor Pierre Cohen is backed by the PS, PCF and PRG. Unlike in 2008, the Greens (EELV) are running autonomously behind Antoine Maurice, a sitting municipal councillor. There is a PG list led by sitting municipal councillor Jean-Christophe Sellin. Polls indicate a very close battle, especially in the first round. However, it appears that with good transfers from EELV and the PG, Cohen is the favourite in the second round. The last poll showed Cohen leading the second round 52-48, but trailing the first round by 1.5.

Nice: Christian Estrosi (UMP) won the 2008 election, comfortably defeating Patrick Allemand (PS) and incumbent mayor Jacques Peyrat. Peyrat is a Algérie française type, ex-FN (FN deputy in 1986) who was close to Jean-Marie Le Pen but, having been defeated by a hair in several close races, quit the FN in 1994 to move closer to the right while still publicly supporting much of the FN’s policies. He was elected mayor in 1995, defeating incumbent RPR mayor Jean-Paul Baréty (1993-1995) by over 10 points in a quadrangulaire with the left and the FN.

Peyrat was also close, however, to the Médecin clan – he was first elected to the municipal council in 1965 when mayor Jean Médecin (1928-1944, 1947-1965) took him under his wing. Médecin the elder, a right-wing nationalist (but, formally, close to the Radicals), was an enthusiastic Pétainiste in 1940 and until the Italian occupation in 1942, and viscerally anti-Gaullist. Médecin successfully set up a ‘système Médecin‘ – a clientelistic network, a distributor of patronage, a local lobby, the expression of a local ‘notable’ who refused all ties with national parties – a right-winger who could be called a fascist without exaggeration who was on good terms with the local PCF deputy, Virgile Barel; nationalistic but more pro-European and pro-American/NATO than most Gaullists. He was deputy from 1932 to 1962, of some relevance nationally but ultimately not very interested by national politics and, because of his independence and localism, kept away from most Parisian cabinets. Jacques Médecin succeeded his father in 1965. He was less anti-Gaullist than his father, being instead very much anticommunist; he was still very right-wing (if not far-right; he said he shared 99.9% of the FN’s idea) and racist. Very crooked, he resigned and fled to Uruguay in 1990, before being extradited to France in 1994 and sentenced in four separate trials but somehow fled back to Uruguay and escaped jail in 1996. While Peyrat wasn’t an ally of Jacques Médecin, there was a rather friendly entente between the two men, whose political differences didn’t go much beyond the fact that one was open about being in the FN and the other was too closely tied to the dynastic family history to do so. Indeed, in 1995, Peyrat visited Médecin in jail and presented himself as his natural successor. Peyrat, however, didn’t set up a ‘système’ of his own, and joined the RPR in 1996, serving as deputy (1997-1998) and senator (1998-2008).

His time was up in 2008, when the now Sarkozyst UMP had little interest in the old man and was, locally, led by Christian Estrosi – who in those years was known as one of Sarkozy’s most loyal footsoldiers. Estrosi is very much on the right: his main image is that of a law-and-order guy who recently prided himself on his administration’s ‘dealing’ with the Roma (and proposed to help other mayors with tips on how to do so). Estrosi is the leading baron of the UMP in the Alpes-Maritimes, his support for Fillon was enough for Fillon to carry the department in the 2012 congress. Estrosi’s reelection, perhaps by the first round, makes no doubt. The city is firmly on the right. The FN’s campaign, led by party vice-president Marie-Christine Arnautu (supported by Jean-Marie Le Pen, over the opposition of his daughter; the FN patriarch is given free rein by her daughter over FN affairs in PACA), has foundered. It is likely that many FN voters have flocked to Estrosi, whose campaign has focused on highlighting his record on criminality.

Estrosi’s non-FN right-wing dissidents are no threat. Jacques Peyrat wants his old job back, but he lacks partisan support (he floated back to the FN, running for them in 2011 and 2012). Olivier Bettati, a UMP general councillor and former ‘adjoint au maire‘ who has always distrusted Estrosi. Bettati, a copéiste, defeated Estrosi in a cantonal election back in 1994. The PS-EELV list is led by local opposition leader (and perennial candidate) Patrick Allemand.

Strasbourg: Governed by centrists (notably Pierre Pfimlin, from the MRP, between 1959 and 1983), Strasbourg was gained by the left, namely Catherine Trautmann (PS) in 1989. She was reelected by the first round in 1995, but she resigned her job in 1997 to become culture minister in Jospin’s government. Her return to municipal politics upon her departure from the government in 2000 created a crisis within the PS majority: she wanted her jobs as mayor and president of the CU, whereas Roland Ries, who had held both offices since 1997, had been previously set to retain the presidency of the CU. Although an agreement was found to allow Trautmann to retake both jobs, the episode profoundly divided the left in Strasbourg. In 2001, Trautmann’s PS-Green list faced a dissident list led by Jean-Claude Petitdemange, a member of the municipal majority and leader of the PS federation in the Bas-Rhin. In the first round, Trautmann won 29.1%, a few decimals behind Fabienne Keller (UDF), while Petitdemange won 12.1%. The latter’s decision to maintain his list in the runoff, sparking a triangulaire, proved fatal for the PS: Keller won with 50.9%, against 40.4% for Trautmann and 8.7% for Petitdemange. In 2008, buoyed by a helpful national climate, Roland Ries (PS) regained control of Strasbourg for the left. Fabienne Keller’s administration had been marred by complaints of authoritarianism by some of councillors in the right-wing majority, as well as a conflict with Robert Grossmann, the president of the CU. In the first round, Ries led Keller by over 10 points – 43.9% to 33.9% – and, with the backing of the Greens (6.4%), Ries won the runoff in a landslide with no less than 58.3%.

This year is another rematch between Keller and Ries, and the UMP is far more confident of its chances of victory. Going for the UMP is the national climate and the right’s greater mobilization in times of lower turnout; going for the PS is the popularity of the incumbent and the city’s lean to the left (Hollande won 54.7%, the culmination of a strengthening of the left since the 1990s in gentrified neighborhoods and the downtown core). Both sides face significant, but not damaging, challenges from their own sides: EELV is running autonomously, like in 2008, with Alain Jund; the UDI is trying its luck with an independent candidacy by François Loos, a former deputy and industry minister under Chirac. The race, originally looking good for the left, has tightened significantly. The last two polls showed that, in the case of a straight PS-UMP runoff, both candidates are tied at 50% apiece. A lot hinges on whether or not the FN, weak in Strasbourg, will qualify for the runoff. If it does, a triangulaire would favour the left, which holds a lead of a few points over the UMP in those scenarios. The UMP is heavily targeting the city, which may be the biggest city which it may gain: the enemies of the party, Copé and Fillon, were brought to a ‘unity’ rally with Keller a week or so ago.

Montpellier: Montpellier has been governed by the PS since 1977, and now leans solidly towards the left – Hollande won 62.4% in the city back in May 2012. Governed by Georges Frêche between 1977 and 2004, he was replaced by Hélène Mandroux. Mandroux originally governed in the shadow of her controversial but masterful predecessor, who remained president of the CA while he served as president of the regional council after 2004. She was easily reelected in 2008, with 47.1% in the first round against 26.1% for UMP deputy Jacques Domergue and 11.1% for the Greens. In the second round, she won 51.9% against 29.5% for the UMP and 18.6% for the Greens. Mandroux, however, saw her relationship with Frêche deteriorate. She was called upon to lead an official PS list against Frêche in the 2010 regional elections (Frêche had been excluded from the PS for anti-Semitic comments), and her result in the first round – 7.7% – was an unmitigated disaster which weakened her leadership. She was left further weakened by conflicts in her majority, still divided between frêchistes and anti-frêchistes. Mandroux was unable to take control of the CA after Frêche’s death in 2010; it went to Jean-Pierre Moure, who allied himself with the frêchistes. In the PS, she gradually lost her influence. Despite these challenges, Mandroux insisted on running for reelection, but in a convoluted process, she was convinced by Ayrault to withdraw her candidacy in favour of Jean-Pierre Moure. However, Moure’s nomination, confirmed in a primary, has divided the PS. Philippe Saurel, a member of the governing majority considered close to interior minister Manuel Valls, is running as a dissident after having refused to participate in primaries (claiming they were manipulated). Saurel’s support in polls has increased exponentially over the campaign, and the last poll placed him at 21%, only 3 points behind UMP-UDI-MoDem candidate Jacques Domergue and 7 points behind Moure, who has won the support of EELV (slightly surprising, given EELV’s longstanding opposition to the Frêche system and the party’s ability to poll well if it ran independently, as in 2008). Saurel has seemingly little intention of withdrawing from the runoff. To jumble things up further, the FN, led by regional councillor France Jamet, has been consistently polling over 10%. A four-way runoff, even maybe a five-way runoff with the FG, is a real possibility. However, despite UMP wet dreams of winning thanks to PS divisions, polls show that Moure retains a strong advantage in all runoff scenarios.

Bordeaux: Hollande won 57% in Bordeaux in 2012 and the city is firmly on the left politically, but there’s no chance that the PS will win it this year. Since 1947, the city has been governed by Gaullists: Jacques Chaban-Delmas was elected for the first time in the Gaullist RPF wave of 1947 and governed the city until his retirement in 1995. Chaban-Delmas, a leading ‘baron of Gaullism’, was reelected year after year with huge majorities by the first round, even in unfavourable climate like 1977. In 1995, he supported Alain Juppé, an ally of Chirac and the new Prime Minister, who won 50.3% in the first round. Juppé, forced out of politics by his sentencing in a corruption scandal (where he is seen as having taken the fall for Chirac), returned as mayor in 2006 following a by-election. His defeat in the 2007 legislative elections to a little-known PS candidate caused undue optimism on the left, which nominated a heavyweight candidate to challenge Juppé in 2008: regional president Alain Rousset. But it wasn’t to be: Juppé won 56.6% by the first round, against 34.1% for the left. The PS, however, won control of the CU of Bordeaux. This year, Juppé is nearly ensured another term by the first round. His PS opponent is Vincent Feltesse, the president of the urban community of Bordeaux.

Lille: Incumbent PS mayor Martine Aubry (since 2001) is a lock to win a third term in a city governed by Socialists with uninterrupted since 1955. The UMP candidate is senator Jean-René Lecerf and the FN, led by Éric Dillies, will likely qualify for the runoff as it had in 2001 and 1995.

Reims: In 2008, the PS (Adeline Hazan) gained Reims, governed by the right since 1983, thanks to the divisions of the right between Renaud Dutreil (UMP, 23% in the first round) and Catherine Vautrin (UMP dissident-MoDem, backed by the retiring DVD mayor, 25.2%). With bad transfers between the two right-wing lists, Hazan defeated Vautrin with 56.1%. This year, the city is a key target for the UMP, which is led by young deputy Arnaud Robinet and supported by Catherine Vautrin, who is also a deputy. Polls indicate a very tight race, with the FN likely to qualify for the runoff.

Le Havre: A major industrial centre and Communist stronghold (it had a PCF mayor between 1965 and 1995, most famously André Duroméa), Le Havre was gained by the RPR in 1995, and the right has twice frustrated Communist attempts to regain its former stronghold. In 2008, incumbent mayor Antoine Rufenacht (UMP) defeated PCF deputy Daniel Paul with 54.7% in the runoff. In the first round, the PCF list, with 29.2%, had outpolled a PS-Green list (13.9%). Rufenacht retired in favour of Édouard Philippe, who was elected deputy in June 2012. With no polling in the race, there’s an element of added suspense: can the left finally regain a city which gave Hollande 58.6% of the vote? Which of the PS and FG will come out ahead on the left? Can the FN, which won 20.8% in 1995 but has performed poorly since then, qualify for the second round?

Saint-Étienne: With the exception of a PCF mayor between 1977 and 1983, Saint-Étienne, despite being a rather blue-collar and industrial city, had been governed by the centre-right for most of its history. In 2008, incumbent mayor Michel Thiollière (Radical-UMP) was seen as the favourite, but he was badly hurt by Gilles Artigues (MoDem), a former UDF deputy who won 20.2% in the first round against 37.9% for Thiollière and 33.7% for Maurice Vincent (PS-PCF-PRG-MRC). In a fatal triangulaire with the centre, Thiollière was narrowly defeated, 41.6% against 46.1% for Vincent. Vincent, now a senator, is credited for cleaning up the city’s finance, after his predecessors had signed up for ‘toxic debts’. Nevertheless, and despite Hollande’s strong result in the city in 2012 (58.3%), Vincent is very vulnerable. Gaël Perdriau (UMP, leader of the opposition) has managed the feat of uniting a very fractious and divided right, including supporters of the former mayor and Gilles Artigues (UDI, third on the list). The first round promises to be closely fought, while the second round will almost certainly be a triangulaire with the FN (Marine won 17.6% in the city, and the FN qualified for the runoff in 1989, 1995 and 2001) in which the incumbent has a small, but weak, lead.

Grenoble: Governed by the PS since Michel Destot (PS) won the city in 1995, the incumbent is now retiring. The city is firmly on the left, with 64.3% for Hollande, and the FN is weak (10.9% in 2012); nevertheless, the left is traditionally divided between the PS and the Greens. There is a strong New Left/environmentalist tradition in Grenoble, most famously channeled by former mayor Hubert Dubedout (1965-1983) and the local Groupe d’action municipale (GAM). More recently, the Greens won 12% in 1995, 19.8% in 2001 and 22.5% in the 2008 (runoff, after 15.6% in the first round). The PS candidate, backed by the PCF, is Jérôme Safar, an ally of the outgoing mayor. He faces a strong challenge from Eric Piolle, a EELV regional councillor who is supported by the PG. The right in Grenoble continues to traumatized and divided by the tenure of Alain Carignon (RPR, 1983-1995), once a rising star of the right before his career was compromised by two corruption scandals (for which he actually served jail time). Carignon, who is unpopular with the wider electorate and divides within his own party, wanted to run this year. The UMP, however, endorsed opposition leader Matthieu Chamussy, who placed Carignon further down on his list (eligible for a seat only if the list won); Carignon refused and convinced Copé to withdraw the UMP endorsement from Chamussy in October. Facing pushback from Chamussy and the Fillon camp, the UMP backtracked and Chamussy was re-endorsed, while Carignon took the 9th spot on the UMP list. Polls show that Grenoble will stay on the left, but there is an interesting battle between Safar (PS-PCF) and Piolle (EELV-PG): polls have shown Piolle to be in second, about 10 points behind Safar, but ahead of the UMP. Even in the case of a triangulaire with EELV, the PS should likely win (a normal two-way battle would result in a left-wing landslide).

Angers: Angers has been governed by the left since 1977, but fittingly for a Christian democratic department, the PS has been centrist: Jean Monnier, the mayor between 1977 and 1998, was excluded from the PS in 1983 for refusing to ally with the PCF and forming a coalition with the centrist CDS. Reelected handily with centrist crossover support, Monnier’s successor, Jean-Claude Antonini has somewhat followed in his footsteps (but no formal alliances with the centre-right) and his relations with the PCF and far-left were tense. Antonini, reelected by a wide margin in 2001, survived a very hot race in 2008, which pitted him against Christophe Béchu, the young UMP president of the general council and the ‘rising star’ of the local right (he’s been a UMP candidate in municipal, cantonal, regional, European and senatorial elections!). Antonini resigned in 2012, and was replaced by Frédéric Béatse (PS), who defeated Jean-Luc Rotureau (PS) in an internal vote. The succession has been badly handled: Rotureau, whose demand for open primaries was rejected, is running as a dissident against the incumbent mayor. With polls indicating that the dissident is taking up to 17%, the situation looks perfect for a UMP gain: Christophe Béchu, now a senator and president of the general council after having been a regional councillor and MEP, is the favourite and polls show that he would win the runoff by a comfortable margin (and will likely dominate the first round).

Aix-en-Provence: Incumbent UMP mayor Maryse Joissains-Masini, in office since 2001, is facing a tough reelection – but she’s used to winning very narrowly. But this year, two years after losing her seat in the National Assembly, she is weakened by a divided right and a judicial investigation against her for a case of emplois fictifs. Her municipal majority is divided, with Bruno Genzana (UDI), a former member of her majority, leading a UDI list backed by Jean Chorro (UMP), a former premier adjoint to the mayor. Attempts at mediation and compromise have failed; the mayor is dead-set on running for reelection and grooming her daughter, UDI Sophie Joissains, to succeed her. However, the left is also divided in its own right: the PS candidate is Edouard Baldo, but there is an independent centre-left list (backed by Guérini) led by François-Xavier de Peretti (ex-MoDem, son of a former UDF mayor) and Alexandre Medvedowsky (PS, candidate in 2008 and 2009). Maryse won her first term in 2001 with 50.7%, and won reelection in 2008 with 44.3% against 42.9% for Medvedowsky (PS) and 12.8% for de Peretti (MoDem). Invalidated, she won a 2009 by-election with 50.2% against 49.8% for Medvedowsky (PS-MoDem-Greens). One poll shows Maryse as the favourite, but if de Peretti’s list joins that of the PS and the FN qualifies for the runoff, she could be in mortal danger.

Amiens: The PS scored a surprise victory in Amiens over incumbent mayor Gilles de Robien (NC) in 2008, with Gilles Demailly (PS) winning 56.2% in the runoff. Demailly is not seeking reelection, and the PS-PCF-EELV list is led by Thierry Bonté, vice-president of the CA. The right is led by Brigitte Fouré (UDI), a general councillor and former mayor (2002-2007, while Robien was in cabinet); she’s running in tandem with Alain Gest (UMP), deputy and a former president of the general council who would be president of the CA in the case of victory. The FN has a strong enough base – over 16% for Le Pen in 2012 – to qualify for the runoff. The last poll showed the right leading by 10 in the first round, but a perfect tie in the runoff.

Metz: For the first time since 1848, as the media reported, the PS gained Metz in 2008. Dominique Gros profited from the division of the right, whose legendarily ugly divisions in Metz and Moselle finally hurt them. Metz had been governed since 1971 by Jean-Marie Rausch, a centrist (CDS) who had joined the PS government in 1988. Rausch was reelected with PS support in 1989, and his last two victories – in 1995 and 2001 – came despite RPR and PS opposition. In 2008, the right and centre was a huge mess: Rausch, running out of steam, piled on for another term; the UMP endorsed Marie-Jo Zimmermann, a UMP deputy; Nathalie Griesbeck, a MoDem MEP and general councillor ran and there was one smaller DVD list. In the first round, Gros (PS) won 34% against 24.2% for Rausch, 16.9% for Zimmermann, 14.7% for Griesbeck and 5.6% for the other right-winger. The UMP HQs instructed Zimmermann to withdraw in Rausch’s favour, but she refused and merged her list with that of the MoDem and the DVD. In retaliation, the UMP withdrew their support from her list to support Rausch. In the runoff, Gros won 48.3% against 27.4% for the incumbent and 24.3% for Zimmermann. The contest this year is cleaner and competitive: Gros (backed by the PRG and EELV) faces Zimmermann, who leads a united right and centre (UMP-UDI-MoDem). The outcome hinges on the FN: if the list led by regional councillor Françoise Grolet qualifies, a triangulaire would likely favour Gros; a two-way runoff, according to polls, would be open-ended but the one poll showed the UMP ahead by 2 in a PS-UMP runoff scenario.

Perpignan: Located in southwestern France, Perpignan, where Le Pen won 22.5% in 2012, is a major FN target. The city has been governed by the right since the 1970s, when Socialist mayor Paul Alduy (1959-1993) was excluded from the PS in 1976 for opposing the alliance with the PCF. He was succeeded by his son, Jean-Paul Alduy (UDF, UMP), reelected in contentious conditions in 2008 and reelected in a 2009 by-election. He has since retired, and Jean-Marc Pujol (UMP) replaced him and is now running for a first full term. The FN candidate is Louis Aliot, a regional councillor and party vice-president who is also Marine Le Pen’s boyfriend. Aliot has built a strong base for himself in Perpignan, a city with high security and immigration concerns favourable to a strong FN vote; even in 2008, a terrible year for the FN, Aliot’s list won 12.3% in the first round (but only 9.4% in 2009). The left is divided, between Jacques Cresta, a newly-elected PS deputy and Jean Codognès, a former PS deputy and candidate in both 2008 and 2009 who’s new atop a EELV list. While Aliot is polling nearly 30%, he is nowhere near striking distance of first. The UMP incumbent should hold his seat without much of a sweat.

Boulogne-Billancourt: Suburban, affluent (but it hasn’t always been so: it used to be a fairly leftist industrial place) and in the Hauts-de-Seine, Boulogne-Billancourt is a right-wing stronghold (63% Sarkozy in 2012) and the right has been in charge since 1971. However, the right is very divided, split by complex personal animosities and complicated by shifting alliances. As in 2008, the right is very divided: incumbent mayor Pierre-Christophe Baguet (UMP, UDF until 2006) won the seat in 2008, defeating senator Jean-Pierre Fourcade (UMP dissident), who had been mayor between 1995 and 2007, when he had resigned in favour of Pierre-Mathieu Duhamel (UMP), in order to block Baguet from being mayor. Duhamel betrayed Fourcade by not running in 2008 and allowing Baguet, endorsed by the UMP, to run unencumbered; that forced Fourcade to run. In the 2008 runoff, Baguet won 44.3% against 34.9% for Fourcade and 20.8% for the left. This year, Pierre-Mathieu Duhamel is running against incumbent mayor Pierre-Christophe Baguet. Baguet is the official UMP candidate, but Duhamel is backed by Alain Juppé, Fourcade and sitting deputy Thierre Solère (app. UMP), who was elected in 2012 as a dissident candidate (backed by Duhamel) against the official UMP candidate, Claude Guéant.

Caen: In 2008, the PS finally gained Caen: for years, the PS, led by Louis Mexandeau (a PS deputy between 1973 and 2002), had tried for thirty years – each time in vain – to wrestle control of city hall from the hands of Jean-Marie Girault (UDF, mayor 1971-2001) and his successor, Brigitte Le Brethon (UDF, UMP). Finally making good on the city’s shift to the left – Hollande won about 61% in 2012 – the PS, led by Philippe Duron, the president of the regional council, defeated incumbent UMP mayor Brigitte Le Brethon, who had already lost her seat in the National Assembly to Duron in 2007. In the runoff, Duron won 56.3%. This year, the PS may fall victim to the national mood. But first, the right will need to figure out who will lead it in the runoff: in one of the most competitive ‘primaries’ between UMP and UDI, the UMP’s regional councillor Joël Bruneau faces UDI general councillor Sonia de la Provôté (a strong candidate, having gained, despite very unfavourable tail winds, a Caen canton from the PS in 2011). A poll in late February showed the UMP with 26% against 20% for the UDI (and 28% for the PS mayor, who faces a EELV and PG-NPA list, both standing at 9% in that poll). That same poll showed that, regardless of the candidate, the right leads the mayor in the runoff: 51-49 if it’s the UMP, 53-47 if it’s the UDI.

Saint-Denis (93): Saint-Denis, a proletarian suburb in Paris’ famous Red Belt, has been held by the PCF since 1945, and before that since 1922 (save for the Doriot episode in the mid-1930s). Up until recently, the PS had not challenged the PCF’s hegemony over the city; however, the decline of the PCF in national elections has whet the PS’ appetite and the PS ran a candidate against PCF mayor Didier Paillard in 2008; the PCF held on rather easily, with 51.1% in the runoff but the PS took 30.6% in the runoff. In 2012, in a major shock, FG incumbent Patrick Braouezec was defeated by PS candidate Mathieu Hanotin, a young ally of the department’s powerful PS president of the general council, Claude Bartolone (whose ambition is to further cripple the PCF). This year, competition is even more ferocious: Paillard, backed by EELV, faces Hanotin, the new PS deputy. A poll gave the FG a 10 point lead over the PS in the first round, with the UMP on 10%. A runoff with the UMP would help the FG; a two-way battle between the FG and PS in the runoff may play more to the PS’ advantage, given that UMP voters would likely back Hanotin to defeat the PCF.

Nancy: The PS has never held Nancy, which has been ruled by centre-right or Gaullist mayors (albeit sometimes in socialocentriste coalitions with the Socialists) since at least 1945. The incumbent mayor, André Rossinot (UDI), in office since 1983, is retiring (but still running for reelection to the municipal council) in favour of Laurent Hénart (UDI), a young deputy defeated in 2012. The city is one of the left’s best hopes for a pickup: the PS-PCF-EELV candidate, Mathieu Klein, a young vice-president of the general council, is a strong candidate and the city has shifted left (55% for Hollande). Two polls have both shown Klein as the narrow favourite, but nothing is decided yet.

Argenteuil: The RPR, led by Georges Mothron and by focusing heavily on security issues, picked up Argenteuil, a working-class suburb in the Val-d’Oise which had been ruled by the PCF since 1945. In 2008, he was defeated by Philippe Doucet (PS-PCF), although very narrowly (50.6% for the left in the second round). This year, Mothron, who lost his seat in the National Assembly to Doucet in 2012, is running against Doucet, who has lost the support of the PCF, running autonomously on a FG list. One poll back in 2013 showed Doucet in the lead, but that was a while ago and it’s very unclear how things will shape up.

Montreuil: In the Seine-Saint-Denis, Montreuil is another solidly left-wing and historically very proletarian suburban commune, governed by the PCF since 1945. In 2008, incumbent mayor Jean-Pierre Brard, in office since 1984 (originally PCF, he left the party in 1996 for the CAP), faced a strong challenge from the Greens, who had already placed a distant second in 2001. The Greens have been increasingly strong in Montreuil, a result of gentrification in parts of the city which has seen educated and professional ‘bobos’ replace older working-class residents. In 2008, the Green candidate was Dominique Voynet, a two-time Green presidential candidate and senator; although Brard was still endorsed by the PS, Voynet was supported by many local PS dissidents. In the first round, Brard won 39.4% against 32.5% for Voynet; in the runoff, benefiting from the absence of the right, she won with 54.2%. Her administration, however, has been a mess, wracked by numerous divisions in her majority. Knowing that she would lose reelection badly, she will not be running again. The result is a very divided left. Brard, who lost his seat in the National Assembly in 2012, is running again and is the man to beat; but he doesn’t have the FG’s support (unlike in 2012) and his age and autocratic tendency make him a polarizing figure on the left. The FG candidate is PCF regional councillor Patrice Bessac. The PS is behind Razzy Hammadi, a former PS youth leader who had difficulty getting elected before emerging victorious in the constituency covering Montreuil in June 2012. Hammadi, however, is rather unpopular on the left and even within his own party, and faces a PS dissident, incumbent (pro-Voynet) municipal councillor Mouna Viprey. While EELV is in poor shape here, their candidate, Ibrahim Dufriche-Soilihi, backed by Voynet, is still worth noting. The UMP’s candidate is Manon Laporte, the wife of former rugby coach and junior minister for sports (2007-2009) Bernard Laporte. Polls show a real mess: Brard is ahead, with a substantial lead in the first round, but all other leftist candidates are in contention: the FG’s Patrice Bessac appears to be in second, while Hammadi (PS), Dufriche (EELV) and Laporte (UMP) fight for third. Viprey, with 9-10%, may qualify for the runoff. The first round is so messy that the runoff has not been polled: because nobody knows what it’ll look like!

Nouméa: Politics in New Caledonia are complicated and worlds apart from metro France, but the contest in the capital of the territory – Nouméa – is very interesting. A white city, Nouméa is strongly on the right (with the anti-independence parties) while the pro-independence left is a non-factor. As in 2008, therefore, the battle is fought on the right. The city has been controlled since 1977 by the RPCR/Rassemblement-UMP, the leading right-wing party whose leadership of the right has been challenged in the past decade and which is very divided. Incumbent R-UMP mayor Jean Lèques is retiring in favour of Jean-Claude Briault. Briault is backed by senator Pierre Frogier’s R-UMP and president of the government Harold Martin’s centre-right Avenir ensemble. But in 2013, the R-UMP split, with right-wingers opposed to Frogier’s conciliatory policy towards the nationalists walking out of the party to create a new party, led by Gaël Yanno, a municipal councillor and deputy for Nouméa until his defeat by Calédonie ensemble‘s Sonia Lagarde in 2012. Gaël Yanno’s supporters have split the governing majority down the middle, with 20 councillors against 22 for Lèques -Briault-Frogier. Yanno is running, with the endorsement of the national UMP; Sonia Lagarde, Calédonie ensemble (UDI) deputy since 2012 and runner-up in 2008, is also running. With little coverage in the French metropolitan media, I can’t say I have any idea how this right-wing civil war, which sets the ground for a major showdown in the May 2014 provincial election, will shape up.

Avignon: The RPR, with Marie-Josée Roig, gained Avignon in 1995 and successfully defended it against a high-profile PS assault in 2001 (led by then-cabinet minister Elisabeth Guigou) and narrowly held it again in 2008. Roig, embroiled in corruption allegations and accused of employing her son as her parliamentary assistant, is retiring and supporting Bernard Chaussegros, a low-profile UMP businessman, to succeed her. With a weak UMP candidate, Avignon is the most likely PS pickup. Cécile Helle, a PS regional councillor, has a wide lead in polls. In the first round, the last poll showed her with 29% against 27% for the FN, 23% for the UMP and 16% for the FG (led by PCF general councillor André Castelli, who won over 14% in 2008); in the runoff, she leads the UMP by 15.

Pau: The race in Pau drew nationwide attention in 2008: François Bayrou, the leader of the MoDem, tried to conquer a city governed by the PS since 1971 (with local icon André Labarrère until his death in 2006). The incumbent PS mayor, Yves Urieta, had switched sides to support Sarkozy’s government (like the PS mayor of Mulhouse, Jean-Marie Bockel) and was seeking reelection with the UMP’s endorsement. Bayrou faced Martine Lignières-Cassou, a somewhat anonymous PS deputy. The first round saw the PS pull ahead with 33.9% against 32.6% for Bayrou and 27.8% for Urieta. In the runoff, the PS won 39.8% against 38.8% for Bayrou and 21.4% for Urieta. It was a major defeat for Bayrou. He’s trying again this year, after losing his seat in the National Assembly to the PS in June 2012. This year, Bayrou, despite having endorsed Hollande in the 2012 runoff, has ensured for himself the backing of the UMP. It’s a marriage of convenience, which annoys the right of the UMP and the local party, but which allows the UMP to count on Bayrou’s support in places such as Paris. The PS mayor retiring, the PS candidate is David Habib, a PS deputy since 2002. Urieta, who now lacks UMP backing, is running as an independent. Polling have shown a growing lead for Bayrou, who is uniting the right without hassles; in the latest poll, Bayrou leads Habib by 14 in the first round and would win a triangulaire (with Urieta, polling in the low 10s), by 8.

Aubervilliers: Aubervilliers, an historic PCF stronghold (held since 1945), was the only Seine-Saint-Denis city with a ‘PS-PCF primary’ in 2008 to fall to the PS. This year, incumbent PS mayor Jacques Salvator faces a rematch against former PCF mayor Pascal Beaudet (FG). Beaudet was defeated by 3 points in a four-way runoff in 2008, but he successfully picked up an Aubervilliers canton from the PS (held by Salvator’s wife) in 2011, which may indicate that this rematch will be rather close. There has been no polling that I know of.

La Rochelle: In 2012, La Rochelle made national headlines because of the left-wing civil war in the legislative election between Ségolène Royal (2007 presidential candidate and Hollande’s ex girlfriend) backed by the PS mayor Maxime Bono, and local PS dissident Oliver Falorni, who emerged victorious by a wide margin. The painful civil war in La Rochelle, a left-wing stronghold governed by the left since 1971, isn’t over yet. Bono, who took office at the death of his predecessor Michel Crépeau (PRG, mayor 1971-1999), is retiring but is supporting Anne-Laure Jaumouillié, a 34-year old teacher who has been a municipal councillor since 2008. She won a primary (by 34 votes, out of 3.6k votes) over Jean-François Fountaine, a veteran 62-year old politician who is vice-president of the CA La Rochelle. Fountaine, a former member of the PRG, was 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). Fountaine, alleging irregularities, refused to withdraw and is standing as a dissident with PRG support against the PS candidate. A poll in late February found the PS candidate leading Fountaine by 2 in the first round, with the UMP, as in 2012, suffering from a left-wing civil war which draws some right-wingers to vote strategically (for Fountaine, who is drawing UMP-UDI votes). However, unlike in 2012, the UMP will qualify for the runoff, which changes matters because Falorni’s victory owed a lot (but not entirely, unlike Bono/Royal pretended) to right-wing support in both rounds.

Cannes: On the sunny Côte-d’Azur, Cannes is a right-wing stronghold and sees a civil war on the right, as in 2008. Incumbent UMP mayor Bernard Brochand, in office since 2001, is retiring in favour of his young dauphin, general councillor David Lisnard, who is a filloniste like his mentor. Lisnard faces a challenge from Philippe Tabarot, a general councillor and leader of the municipal opposition since 2008 – he is also the brother of Michèle Tabarot, the mayor of Le Cannet and the copéiste general-secretary of the UMP. Tabarot lost to Brochand by a bit over 1,000 votes in 2008. The national UMP, divided between supporters of both candidates, has chosen not to choose any candidate: no official endorsement, so both are UMP members and candidates. Polls show that Lisnard, endorsed by Sarkozy, is the favourite, with a 7 point lead in the first round over Tabarot and consistent and significant leads over Tabarot in the second round. The left and FN may both qualify for the runoff, but are non-factors.

Béziers: This is the largest city in which the FN has a fighting chance of winning. The UMP incumbent, Raymond Couderc, is retiring this year in favour of UMP deputy Élie Aboud. The FN, along with Nicolas Dupont-Aignan’s Arise the Republic (DLR) and small right-wing parties (RPF, MPF), is backing Robert Ménard, a pied-noir journalist and former president of Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Ménard was more on the left in the past, but has moved towards the far-right, without joining or voting for (he claims) the FN although he has openly said that he shares most of the FN’s positions. The race, which has attracted national attention, has seen a clear tightening in Ménard’s favour: he now leads the field in the first round, while he trails Aboud in the runoff by only 1 or 2 points.

Ajaccio: A very close and interesting battle in Napoleon Bonaparte’s hometown. The incumbent mayor, Simon Renucci (CSD/DVG), has held office since 2001, when he ended 54 years of Bonapartist (yes, for real) rule – in all, the local Bonapartist party, the CCB, ruled Ajaccio for 109 of the 117 years between 1884 and 2001. Handily reelected in 2008, Renucci was defeated in the 2012 legislative elections by Laurent Marcangeli (UMP), who is now his top rival. Polls have shown that Renucci remains the favourite, with a substantial lead over Marcangeli (who is endorsed by the CCB). The nationalists are united (between autonomists and separatists) here, but while they may be kingmakers in a runoff, they are not in contention (15% in polls).

Corbeil-Essonnes: The town is a low-income suburb which leans solidly left in national elections (63% for Hollande) and was ruled by the PCF between 1959 and 1995, when Serge Dassault (RPR), a businessman who remains owner of Le Figaro and leading player in the family enterprise, the aeronautics and weaponry giant Dassault. Reelected in 2008, with 50.7% against 49.4% for the PCF, his PCF rival accused him of vote buying and the election was invalidated, and Dassault declared ineligible to hold municipal office for one year. In a 2009 by-election, Dassault’s protege Jean-Pierre Bechter (UMP) was reelected by a 27 vote margin against the PCF. Bechter was reelected with a wider majority against a common PCF-PS candidate in a 2010 by-election. Dassault, who remains in the Senate, is now facing another scandal: he’s alleged of paying millions of euros to ensure Bechter’s victory. His senatorial immunity was lifted in February 2014. This year, Bechter is running for reelection, facing a divided left: the PS is supporting Carlos da Silva, a deputy and close ally of Manuel Valls (who was mayor of neighboring Évry until 2012); the FG candidate is Bruno Piriou (PCF), a general councillor. The outcome of the PS-PCF battle is very unclear; regardless of who wins that, the runoff is a pure tossup.

Bastia: Incumbent mayor Émile Zuccarelli (PRG), in office since he replaced his father in 1989, is retiring and wants his son, Jean Zuccarelli, to succeed him. Traditionally hegemonic in the city, the family took a hit with Émile Zuccarelli’s defeat at the hands of the UMP in the 2007 legislative elections (nationalists, who loathe the stridently anti-nationalist and Jacobin Zuccarelli, vowed to have him defeated) although the divisions of the opposition allowed him to win reelection without too much trouble in 2008. But in 2012, Jean too fell victim to nationalist backlash and failed to reconquer his father’s seat in the National Assembly. The succession has been handled poorly: a frustrated former ally of the mayor who saw himself as his heir-apparent, François Tatti, is running as a dissident. The moderate nationalist candidate is Gilles Simeoni, the son of nationalist icon Edmond Simeoni. The race promises to be a nail-biter: polls show Simeoni and Zuccarelli nearly tied in the first round, with the runoff hinging on the alliances forged: if Tatti joins forces with Simeoni, then the nationalists would be the favourites; if Tatti does not withdraw, the runoff remains very close with no clear favourite.

Hénin-Beaumont: Hénin-Beaumont, an impoverished former mining town in the Pas-de-Calais’ mining basin, is Marine Le Pen’s political homebase since 2007. In addition to the social reality of the depressed post-industrial town, the division, troubles and discredit of the local PS (former mayor Gérard Dalongeville was arrested in 2009 for embezzlement) has been a godsend for the FN. In addition, locally led by Le Pen’s lieutenant Steeve Briois, the FN has done a great job at setting up a powerful machine on the ground – to the point where the FN speaks openly of its aims to recreate a tradition akin to ‘municipal communism’, providing services to its constituents. Although Briois/Le Pen’s list did poorly in the 2008 election, the 2009 by-election which followed Dalongeville’s removal from office, the FN won 47.6% in the second round. In the 2012 legislative elections, Marine Le Pen won a majority of the vote in Hénin-Beaumont in the runoff (she lost the constituency because her PS rival, Philippe Kemel, did well in his town of Carvin). This year, incumbent PS mayor Eugène Binaisse is seeking reelection, going up against Steeve Briois. Dalongeville, despite having been sentenced to prison last year, is running as a left-wing independent. Polls have shown that Briois may win the runoff.

Forbach: Forbach is one of the FN’s main targets. It is the largest city in Moselle’s coal mining basin, and as such it is working-class and economically depressed (14% unemployment, declining population since 1982) town. Despite being very working-class, like most of the coal basin in Moselle, it is historically right-wing (51.5% for Sarko in 2012). 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. Kalinowski had been general councillor since 2004 and was elected deputy for the 6th constituency in 2012, defeating Le Pen’s campaign director and FN vice-president Florian Philippot in a PS-FN runoff (with only 53.7%: transfers from the UMP incumbent, defeated by the first round, to the FN were very high). Philippot, an ENA/HEC technocrat has set up shop in the depressed post-industrial Moselle coal basin, which is one of the FN’s strongest regions. The right is divided, between the official UMP candidate Alexandre Cassaro, the leader of the Jeunes Pop and very close ideologically to the far-right; and the local dissident, Eric Diligent, who is more centrist. One poll has shown a very close race between the PS and the FN, with both candidates tied in the second round.

Other races to follow:

  • Right hoping for a gain from the left: Auxerre, Laval, Belfort, La Seyne-sur-Mer, Aulnay-sous-Bois, Brive-la-Gaillarde, Quimper, Valence, Chambéry, Albertville, Briançon, Bourgoin-Jallieu, Clamart
  • Left hoping for a gain from the right: Nîmes, Bourges, Mulhouse, Calais, Biarritz, Bayonne, Montauban, Vienne
  • Left-wing solid or likely: Nantes, Rennes, Brest, Dijon, Besançon, Clermont-Ferrand, Limoges, Roubaix, Tourcoing, Dunkerque, Tours, Créteil, Villeurbanne Istres, Poitiers, Dieppe, Le Mans
  • Right-wing solid or likely: Toulon, Orléans, Saint-Quentin, Chartres
  • PS-PCF primaries in many towns in the Seine-Saint-Denis: Bagnolet, Saint-Ouen, Sevran, Villepinte, Villetaneuse
  • Right-wing divisions: Saint-Maur-des-Fossés
  • FN targets: Sorgues (Marion-Maréchal Le Pen in second on the list), Carpentras, Brignoles (after a FN gain in a cantonal by-election in 2013, the new FN general councillor takes on the incumbent left and a UMP deputy), Saint-Gilles (FN deputy Gilbert Collard running for mayor in the first town won by the FN), Fréjus (a divided right with the ex-UMP mayor running as a dissident may help the FN win)
  • Crazy: Noyon (two brothers, one UMP and one PS, fighting it out with the FN on a strong footing), Propriano

Follow @welections on Twitter on March 23 and 30 for major results.

Election Preview: France Municipal Elections 2014 – Part I

Municipal elections will be held in France on March 23 and 30, 2014. The municipal councils of all 36,681 communes in France will be up for reelection.

How it works: French municipal government

La commune in France

Communes of France

The commune is the lowest echelon of government in France, below the State, the regions and the departments. France has 36,681 communes – 36,552 in metropolitan France and Corsica and 129 in overseas departments and regions. Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, French Polynesia and New Caledonia (overseas collectivities) are also divided into communes, like the rest of France, and they vote at the same time in municipal elections. Only Saint-Martin, Saint-Barthélemy, Wallis-et-Futuna and uninhabited territories (French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Clipperton Island).

France has, by far, the most communes of any EU country: Germany has about 12,000 municipalities, the UK has about 10,5000 civil parishes, Spain and Italy have about 8,100 municipalities. Most French communes are very sparsely populated: 54.3% have less than 500 inhabitants, 73.4% have less than 1,000 inhabitants. Yet, only 14.6% of the French population lives in communes with less than 100,000 people; about half of the population lives in 946 communes (2.6% of all communes). The smallest populated commune, Rochefourchat, has a legal population of one; there are six communes in the Meuse which have no inhabitants: they were destroyed during the Battle of Verdun (1916) and never rebuilt. They have retained a status as communes (officially, communes mortes pour la France), but they are totally uninhabited and administered by a mayor and two deputies nominated by the prefect.

Communes are a Revolutionary creation, dating back to 1789 when the new Revolutionary authorities established about 40,000 communes, largely corresponding to religious parishes. Indeed, almost every single commune in France has a Church (in addition, nowadays, to the obligatory local monument aux morts for the war dead). Until 1870, the State’s policy was to abolish communes with excessively low populations which were no longer viable and creating communes in areas where the original map was problematic (large territory, hamlets blocked by physical features). By the waning days of the Second Empire, municipal mergers (fusions) were unpopular with the local populations, and the Republican opposition promised emancipation for communes. An 1884 law established the main structures of local government, the broad principles of which have remained unchanged to this day. Each commune has a municipal council directly elected by the population and a mayor elected by the municipal council. The 1884 law also established the clause de compétence générale (a legal clause which has allowed communes/departments/regions to intervene in all matters which they can argue to be in the local public interest).

In part because of their long history and Revolutionary heritage, communes are still largely perceived as the base of local democracy and decision-making – a core “republican value”. Citizens, especially in small villages, are very attached to their commune and they have tended to care a great deal about local politics and local democracy (again, particularly in rural areas), much more so than in other countries. Turnout in French municipal elections has been above 60% in every election since World War II; in fact, it was over 70% in every election before 1995 and while 2008 marked an all-time low, turnout was still 65%. Turnout increases linearly as the population of the commune decreases.

The extremely large number of communes in France, combined to successive rural exoduses since the Industrial Revolution which have reduced the populations of thousands of small rural communes, has made local governance problematic. Successive governments since the 1890s, and particularly since 1945, have struggled to come up with solutions to this fundamental challenge to local democracy. Given that communes, by and large, are hostile to mergers with larger (more viable) communes; most governments since the 1890s have usually shied away from promoting ambitious municipal merger schemes. The main exception to that tradition came in 1971, with the Marcellin law (after interior minister Raymond Marcellin), which sought to promote municipal mergers. Individual prefects were instructed to come up with merger plans, which were to be approved by municipal councils. These could either be full mergers, in which one commune would disappear entirely within another, or retain some individual autonomy (for example, a delegated mayor and a decentralized town hall providing vital records) as a commune associée (associated commune). The Marcellin law was a failure: individual prefects acted differently (either proposing vast mergers, or limited and partial mergers depending on the region) and created a mess, and the associated commune status was unattractive. Between 1971 and 2009, only 1,100 communes effectively disappeared (most in the 1970s). There are currently 712 associated communes. A good number of the original mergers and associations were later dissolved, with old communes regaining their independence.

The 2010 Sarkozy reform tried to encourage municipal mergers and effectively replaced the moribund Marcellin law’s associated communes with the status of commune nouvelle (new communes) which is pretty much the same thing as associated communes (although slightly closer to a full merger) with the guidelines for their creations not all that different from the ones in the Marcellin law. Its application has been very limited: there are only 17 fewer communes in 2014 than in 2008.

The intercommunalité (EPCI)

Map of EPCI in France as of Jan. 1, 2014 (source:

Given the failure of the amalgamation schemes and the general impracticality of merging communes, governments have been forced to consider other structures to make local governance viable. The solution has been intercommunal cooperation, which began taking its current form rapid post-war urban/suburban expansion and rural depopulation in the 1960s. Intercommunal cooperation takes two distinct, but overlapping and co-existing, forms: loose “associative” cooperation to provide certain public services or utilities (water, electricity, waste management, school transportation) or more cohesive “federative” cooperation which has more powers, responsibilities and more ambitious aims including economic development.

The structure of intercommunal cooperation is thus complex, but at the same time increasingly important. Intercommunal structures have gained more and more powers and financial resources, at the expense of communes but also from departments, regions and the State. Intercommunal cooperation structures are known as établissements publics de coopération intercommunale (EPCI) or intercommunalité.

Communes or EPCI are responsible for: elementary schools (buildings, equipment), culture (shared power with the State and departments/regions), youth (nurseries, recreation centres), sports (equipment and subsidies), tourism, local urban policy/planning, advice and approval for territorial planning, environment (shared power over water, protected zones; waste management, water sanitation and distribution), local marinas, communal roads, urban transportation/public transit, school transportation, management of local public/social housing, municipal police forces (except Paris), traffic and parking.

The oldest form of intercommunal cooperation is the very loose “associative” form whereby communes – but also other territorial collectivities (departments, regions) – join together to provide one or more public services or utilities. The first such form of intercommunal cooperation was created in 1890, expanded in 1935 and 1959. These EPCI lacking fiscal autonomy (they rely on financial contributions from members) include 8,979 Syndicat intercommunal à vocation unique (Sivu, providing only one service), 3,187 Syndicats mixtes (associating different territorial collectivities, intended as a forum for different territorial collectivities and actors to cooperate amongst themselves), 1,233 Syndicat intercommunal à vocations multiples (Sivom, providing more than one service) and 9 Pôles métropolitains (a 2010 creation to encourage cooperation between different agglomerations). These types of EPCI are losing their attractiveness; the number of syndicates has declined from about 15,300 in 2010 to 13,400 in 2014.

Of far greater importance are the EPCI with fiscal autonomy, the most common, widespread and important form of intercommunal cooperation in France. In 2014, there are 2,145 such EPCI grouping 36,614 communes in metro France and the four DOMs (excluding Mayotte). 49 communes outside Paris and Mayotte remain ‘isolated’ – that is, not a member of any EPCI, but of those, 41 are in the petite couronne outside Paris (where a major reform of intercommunal government is in the works) and four are islands with no legal obligation to join an EPCI. Straightforward so far? It isn’t supposed to be – there are many different types of EPCI with fiscal autonomy in France.

The first intercommunalité structure was the district, created in 1959 (abolished in 1999 and phased out by 2002), followed by the more ambitious communautés urbaines (urban communities, CU) in 1966. In 1992, a law created the communautés de communes (community of communes, CC). The 1999 Chevènement law beefed up the responsibilities of urban communities and the CC, abolished the failed structures, and created a new kind of structure: communautés d’agglomeration (agglomeration communities, CA). The 2010 Sarkozy reform set out to clean up and rationalize the intercommunal structure – forcing all communes in metro France (with Parisian and insular exceptions) to join an EPCI, created a fifth structure: the metropolis (métropole), for very large urban areas.

The métropole (metropolis) – only one exists thus far (Métropole Nice Côte d’Azur) – is limited to large urban areas; legally, it is reserved for territories with a population of over 500,000 and/or the four original urban communities created in 1966. This meant that seven current urban communities are eligible to gain the metropolis status. The component communes transfer some of their powers to the metropolis. These responsibilities include social, cultural and economic development; urban planning and policy; management of local social housing plans; management of public services (sanitation, water, cemeteries, slaughterhouses); environmental policies including recycling and air pollution reduction. The department transfers responsibilities such as departmental roads and school transportation, with the possibility of the metropolis gaining full powers over social action, middle schools and other services from the department. The region and the State may also devolve powers to the metropolis.

A January 2014 law (the loi du 27 janvier 2014 de modernisation de l’action publique territoriale et d’affirmation des métropoles) will significantly expand and transform the metropolis status. On January 1, 2015; all EPCI with a population over 400,000 inhabitants in an urban area of over 650,000 people will be transformed by decree into metropolises (Bordeaux, Grenoble, Lille, Nantes, Nice, Rennes, Rouen, Strasbourg, Toulouse). That same day, the CU of Lyon will be transformed into the Métropole de Lyon, which will replace the department of the Rhône (and assume all departmental powers) in its territory. In 2016, the Métropole d’Aix-Marseille-Provence will be created (in the face of local opposition), uniting 92 communes representing 93% of the Bouches-du-Rhône’s population. In 2016, the Métropole du Grand Paris, uniting Paris and the three departments of the petite couronne, will be created; its legal responsibilities will be similar to that of a CU (spatial planning, housing, urban policy, economic/social/cultural development, environment, quality of life).

There are 15 Urban Communities (Communauté urbaine, CU). The urban communities were created in 1966, meant to cover the largest urban areas. Four CU were created by the law in 1966 (Lyon, Lille, Bordeaux, Strasbourg), today there are 15 CUs in France (Lyon, Lille, Marseille, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Nantes, Strasbourg, Nancy, Brest, Dunkerque, Le Mans, Arras, Creusot-Montceau, Cherbourg, Alençon). Although the 1999 Chevènement law reserved the CU status to territories with a population over 500,000; urban communities created before that date have been allowed to retain their status, so 9 of the 15 CUs have a population under 500,000 – the smallest CU, Alençon, has only 48.7k people. The 2010 reform, creating the metropolis, lowered the threshold for the creation of new CUs to 450,000.

Every CU has mandatory powers, transferred from the component communes. These powers are: social, cultural and economic development; urban planning and policies; public transit; management of social housing; management of public services (sanitation, water, cemeteries, slaughterhouses); and environmental policies including recycling and air pollution reduction. Communes may devolve further powers to the CUs, while they may gain some power over social action from the department.

The Agglomeration Communities (Communauté d’agglomération, CA) – of which there are 222 in 2014 – were created by the Chevènement law in 1999 for urban areas including medium or large cities. According to the law, CAs must have a population of over 50,000 with at least one commune of at least 15,000 inhabitants (unless the CA includes the capital and/or largest city of a department). However, the law allowed for the transformation of districts, communauté de villes (a failed scheme introduced in 1992, abolished in 1999) or CCs into CAs even if they did not meet the population requirements. Since 2010, the threshold for the creation of a CA, if it includes the department’s capital (chef-lieu) was reduced to 30,000. The CA scheme has proven to be extremely popular, from 50 CAs in 2000 there are now 222.

Every CA has powers, transferred from the communes, over social, cultural and economic development; urban planning and policies; social housing; and public transit. Each CA must also choose 3 of 6 additional powers from the following powers: road maintenance, sanitation, water, environmental protection, social action in the community’s interest, and cultural/sports equipment. Communes may decide to devolve other powers to the CA. Furthermore, the CA may decide to define additional powers which it judges to be in the community’s interest.

The Community of Communes (Communautés de communes, CC), created in 1992 for rural areas, are the loosest type of EPCI with fiscal autonomy. The CC has been extremely popular and they have, slowly and incompletely, replaced Sivu or Sivom structures; although since 2010, the number of CC has declined significantly (from 2,409 to 1,903) as a result of the mergers of some smaller CCs by prefectural decree or their transformation into CAs. CCs have two main advantages for small rural communes, which remain very closely attached to the “republican traditions” of communal independence and local democracy. Firstly, they allow them to provide local services in cooperation with neighboring communes. Secondly, the CCs are a form of territorial organization which allows them to maintain their independence vis-à-vis larger urban areas (CAs) which would like to gobble them up. There are 1,903 CCs currently.

The CCs have two mandatory powers transferred from the communes: economic development and spatial planning. They must also choose one power from the following six ‘options’: environmental protection, housing policy, road maintenance, construction and management of preschools, elementary school, cultural and sport equipment, social action in the community’s interest, and sanitation.

There are four Syndicates of New Agglomerations (Syndicat d’agglomération nouvelle, SAN), created in 1983 but being phased out. The SAN were meant to cover specifically new towns (villes nouvelles) such as Cergy-Pontoise, Marne-la-Vallée, Sénart or Ouest Provence (Rives de l’Étang de Berre). The 1999 law gradually phased them out, from a maximum of 9 SAN in 2000 there are now only four left, 3 of them in the Paris region. Many former SAN have become CAs, the remaining 4 SAN are expected to do likewise.

Although the State and prefects in each department have often played a large role in spearheading the EPCI, they cannot usually unilaterally force any commune to join an EPCI. With some exceptions, the final decision for joining an EPCI rests with individual communes. Mayors, especially those from thinly populated rural communes, remain closely attached to the notion of communal independence and many respond unfavourably to decisions and instructions from above. In urban areas, political and parochial disputes have traditionally tended to hamper the development of cohesive and rational EPCI – suburban communes suspicious of domination of the larger urban commune, urban communes not wanting to subsidize suburban communes and political disputes (left-wing mayors not wanting to be in an EPCI with right-wing mayors, and vice-versa).

EPCI financing

Communes and intercommunalities have three main sources of funding: taxes (about the three-fifths of their revenues), unconditional transfers and grants from the State and loans.

The main local direct taxes are the housing tax (taxe d’habitation), the land value taxes (taxe sur le foncier bâtitaxe sur le foncier non bâti) and the cotisation foncière des entreprises (CFE). Communes and the five types of EPCI outlined above are said to be fiscally autonomous. While they are not allowed to create or levy taxes on their own (the taxes are created and collected by the State) they have the power to set the rates for local taxes. Fiscal autonomy, however, is conditioned by the State which has set various guidelines, limits or rules for local taxation.

The 2010 reform introduced a major, and rather controversial, change to local finances. The professional or business tax (taxe professionnelle, TP) was abolished and replaced, partially, by the Territorial Economic Contribution (contribution économique territoriale, CET). The TP was a tax paid by every business/corporation and was the largest single source of revenue for all territorial collectivities, which set the local rate. Arguing that the TP was hindering the country’s economic competitiveness, Sarkozy abolished the TP. It was replaced, but only partially, by the new CET.

The CET is the sum of two taxes paid by businesses/corporations: the cotisation foncière des entreprises (CFE) which is a land value tax (taxe foncière) and the cotisation sur la valeur ajoutée des entreprises (CVAE) which is a value added tax based on a businesses’ annual turnover. The entirety of the CFE is directed by the communes and EPCIs, who have retained the right to set the local rate. The CVAE, whose rate is set by the State, and is distributed between the region (25%), department (48.5%) and communes/EPCI (26.5%). The replacement of the TP by the CET meant that territorial collectivities not only lost a major source of revenue but also a good deal of their fiscal autonomy. Nevertheless, the State promised to fully compensate territorial collectivities for any loses incurred by the transition. Since the CET rakes in less revenue than the TP, new taxes or fiscal transfers (from the State or between territorial collectivities) have been created to make up the difference. One of those new taxes is the imposition forfaitaire sur les entreprises de réseaux (IFER), a tax on energy equipments (wind turbines, electricity generating plants, electrical transformers etc). The IFER is split between all territorial collectivities.

There are two (and a half) kinds of financing/funding for EPCIs with fiscal autonomy. The ‘Additional taxation’ (régime de la fiscalité additionnelle) is the initial and basic system, which applies for 855 CCs and 2 CUs created before 1999 which haven’t switched to the other system. The EPCI here has the power to set intercommunal tax rates (for the four local taxes: housing tax, land value taxes, CFE) but these tax rates are ‘additional’ to the local tax rates set by the component communes. The intercommunal tax rate in effect sets a ‘ceiling’ on the tax rate for each commune, but this system allows for variations in the tax rates (especially the CFE) between communes in the same EPCI. The communal fraction of the CVAE is divided between the intercommunality and the communes. Some CCs may choose a  Fiscalité professionnelle de zone (FPZ) scheme, which creates economic activity zones (ZAE) within the territory of the EPCI which will have a single, uniform intercommunal CFE rate (all transferred to the EPCI). Businesses located within the ZAE will pay the intercommunal CFE, but business located outside a ZAE will pay different tax rates depending on the commune.

The other system is the ‘Unique professional taxation’ (régime de la fiscalité professionnelle unique, FPU), which is mandatory since 1999 for all CAs, SAN and since 2010 for the new metropolises. The FPU is also mandatory for all CUs created after 1999 and is automatically granted to those created before 1999 unless they decide otherwise. 13 of the 15 CUs have chose the FPU system, as have 1,048 CCs. Under the FPU system, only the intercommunality decides on the CFE rate and it receives the entirety of the CFE’s revenues (and all of the communal fraction of the CVAE). Therefore, communes member of an EPCI which has opted for the FPU do not receive any part of the CFE or CVAE. The EPCI still sets ‘additional’ tax rates on the three other taxes.

EPCI governance

Each EPCI with fiscal autonomy (metropolis, CU, CA, CC, SAN) has a deliberative assembly, the Conseil communautaire or community council, which has a similar role to a municipal council. Each member-commune is represented in the community council proportionally to its population, with each commune holding at least one seat. In addition, no single commune may hold over half of the seats in the community council. All community councillors are municipal councillors or mayors.

Each community council elects a president (in addition to vice-presidents) which has a role similar to a mayor, except for the whole EPCI. EPCI executives form a “loophole” in the current regulations concerning the cumul des mandats, which means that most presidents of EPCIs tend to be the mayor of the largest commune in the EPCI (or another large town in the same EPCI), provided that the largest commune and the EPCI are of the same political ‘colour’.

In the past, all community councillors were elected by the respective municipal councils – which meant that the opposition group(s) in any commune were almost always excluded from the community council and whole delegations from a commune represented the governing majority. Given the significant and ever-increasing powers of EPCIs, their management by unelected bodies was often criticized and weakened their democratic legitimacy.

In 2014, community councillors will be elected semi-directly in communes with over 1,000 inhabitants. The full workings will be addressed in the next section.

Municipal elections: Electoral systems

Municipal councils are elected for a six-year term.

All French and EU citizens, aged over 18 with full civic and political rights, may register to vote. Since 2001, EU citizens are allowed to vote granted that they have resided in the commune for the past six months and/or pay local taxes. Although EU citizens are allowed to run for office and serve as municipal councillors, they are constitutionally banned from becoming mayors or assistants to the mayor/deputy mayors (adjoints au maire).

Unlike in some other EU countries (Scandinavia, Ireland, Benelux etc), resident non-EU foreigners are not allowed to vote in local elections in France. The extension of voting rights in local elections to non-EU foreign citizens has been a matter of hot political debate for years, and it returned to the spotlight during and after the 2012 presidential campaign. François Hollande promised to extend voting rights to foreigners in his presidential campaign, but since the left lacks the required majority in both houses of Parliament to affect such constitutional change, it has been dropped from the government’s agenda for constitutional reform.

Each commune is governed by a directly-elected municipal council, whose size varies in proportion to the population of the commune.

Population Seats
1-99 7
100-499 11
500-1,499 15
1,500-2,499 19
2,500-3,499 23
3,500-4,999 27
5,000-9,999 29
10,000-19,999 33
20,000-29,999 35
30,000-39,999 39
40,000-49,999 43
50,000-59,999 45
60,000-79,999 49
80,000-99,999 53
100,000-149,999 55
150,000-199,999 59
200,000-249,999 61
250,000-299,999 65
300,000+ 69
Lyon 73
Marseille 101
Paris 163

The mayor is elected by the municipal council. In the first and second rounds, a mayoral candidate must win an absolute majority of valid votes. In the third round, a plurality is sufficient. In all communes, a mayor also has one or more adjoints (deputies).

Electoral system in communes with over 1,000 inhabitants except Paris, Lyon and Marseille

Municipal councillors are elected by a two-round semi-proportional system with closed lists. The commune forms a single ‘constituency’, it is not further subdivided into any sections. Since 2000, lists must respect gender parity – this means that lists must alternate between men and women. This system, between 1983 and 2013, applied to communes with a population over 3,500; it was extended by the 2013 Valls law to all communes with over 1,000 inhabitants.

A list must obtain an absolute majority of valid votes (50%+1) and 25% of registered voters to win by the first round. If no list meets this requirement, a second round is organized one week later. All lists which have won over 10% of valid votes are qualified for the runoff. Lists which have obtained between 5% and 10% of the valid votes are allowed to merge (fusionner) with a qualified list for the runoff, which will change the ordering of candidates on that qualified list. A list which is qualified for the runoff may nevertheless choose to drop out or merge with another list. In the second round, a plurality of the votes is enough to win.

The list winning the most vote automatically wins half of all seats in the municipal council, rounded up to the nearest whole number if necessary. The remaining half of the seats are attributed proportionally to all lists which have won over 5% of valid votes using the highest averages method. Therefore, the winning list not only receives a huge majority bonus, it also receives a good share of the other half of the seats (proportional to its vote share).

Obviously, the result is that whichever list wins the election – even if it is by a single vote and/or with something like 35% of the vote – will have a huge super-majority in the municipal council. For example, in Pau in 2008, the winning list won 39% of the vote and 71% of the seats.

The mayor often tends to be the top candidate of the winning list.

Electoral system in communes with less than 1,000 inhabitants

Municipal councillors are elected by majority at-large voting (also called bloc voting or multiple non-transferable vote, MNTV). Gender parity laws do not apply.

These elections still feature lists of candidates, although lists are not mandatory. However, unlike in larger communes where the lists are closed, in these communes voters will vote for individuals (they have as many votes as there are seats) and panachage is allowed – voters may strike off the name of a candidate on a list, or they may reorder candidates on a list. Until 2013, write-ins for other citizens who were not candidates were valid, and the vote remains valid even if there are more or less names on the ballot than there are seats in the municipal council. Votes are then counted by each individual candidate rather than by lists.

Since 2013, candidates must declare their candidacy to the préfecture two weeks and a half before the election. If the number of candidates declared for the first round is less than the number of seats to be filled, new candidacies may be declared on the Tuesday before the second round.

Candidates are elected in the first round if they have won an absolute majority of valid votes (50%+1) and 25% of registered voters. If not all seats are filled by the first round, the remaining seats are filled in a second round a week later. In the second round, a plurality suffices. Studies have shown that the actual use of ‘panachage’ by voters is extremely limited.

Paris, Lyon and Marseille

Arrondissements of Paris (source: Wikipedia)

The three largest cities in France have a special electoral system, adopted in 1982 with the so-called ‘PLM law’. Unlike other communes with over 1,000 inhabitants, the commune as a whole does not form a single ‘constituency’. Rather, these cities are subdivided into de facto constituencies. Paris has 20 arrondissements, Lyon has 9 arrondissements while Marseille has 8 sectors each made up of two arrondissements.

The election is played in each individual arrondissement/sector, with the same system as in other communes with over 1,000 inhabitants.

Each arrondissement or sector has a local council with a variable number of seats. In turn, the municipal council is composed of representatives from each arrondissement/sector, whose number of seats on the municipal council is roughly half the seats in their arrondissement/sector council. The first name(s) elected on each list in each arrondissement/sector will sit in the municipal council.

Each arrondissement or sector also has a mayor (maire d’arrondissement/secteur), and the arrondissements/sectors have limited autonomy and manage a small budget given by the city-wide municipal government.

In Paris, there are a total of 354 conseillers d’arrondissement, with a minimum of 10 seats in each arrondissement’s council. The 2013 Valls law redistributed the number of conseillers de Paris between each arrondissement, with the overrepresented arrondissements with a small population losing seats while the underrepresented arrondissements gained seats. The overall relation between the population and the number of councillors for each arrondissement is now far more equal.

Arrondissements of Lyon (source: Wikipedia)

In Lyon, there are a total of 148 conseillers d’arrondissement, again with a minimum of 10 seats for the least populated arrondissements (arrdt. 1, 2, 4). The municipal council has 73 seats, with the least populated arrondissement (arrdt. 1) holding four seats and the two most populated (arrdt. 3 and 8) with 12 seats.

Marseille has 16 municipal arrondissements, but unlike in Lyon or Paris they serve no administrative role. Elections, instead, are held in eight sectors which are made up of two arrondissements each. Each sector has a local council, for a total of 202 sectoral councillors in the entire city. The city council has 101 seats.

Therefore, to summarize, there are no city-wide municipal elections with a single list in Paris, Lyon or Marseille. There are, instead, elections in each arrondissements/sector which decide the city council. You could compare this system to the electoral college in the United States, with some differences.

Unlike the electoral college, the individual elections in each administrative division does not give a WTA result, although each arrondissement/sector’s delegation to the city council will be heavily dominated by whichever list won the election in that arrondissement/sector. If a list was to win every single arrondissement or sector, it would have a governing majority comparable to governing majorities in other French cities. However, because of the PLM law, there is a small chance that no single list could win an absolute majority. Furthermore, if the election is close and the main rivals each win roughly the same number of arrondissements/sectors, it is quite likely that whoever wins will have only a thin absolute majority on the council (this is currently the case in Marseille, with 51 seats for the mayor’s majority against 49 for the left and one for the FN).

Sectors of Marseille (source: Wikipedia)

Like in the United States, the PLM system means that one party’s lists may win the most votes in the city as a whole but still win less seats than some other list on the city council. This has happened in the past, most famously in Marseille in 1983 when Gaston Defferre lost the popular vote but held a majority on city council because he had, as interior minister, gerrymandered the sectors in such a way to win reelection. The right-wing government under Jacques Chirac changed the sector map in Marseille to what it currently is in 1987.

Electoral system for intercommunal councillors

For the first time this year, some intercommunal councillors who sit in the Conseil communautaire will be elected semi-directly by voters. In communes with more than 1,000 inhabitants, those who will serve on community councils will be elected from party lists based on the result of the party lists in the decisive round (where one list wins) in the commune. Ballots (for each individual list) will include, on the right hand side, a list of candidates for the community council which are drawn from the list of candidates for the municipal council. There are as many candidates are there are seats – with one additional candidate if there are less than five seats, and two additional candidates if there are more than five seats. All candidates in the first quarter of the list for the municipal council must be on the list for the community council, in the same order; all candidates for community council must be included in the first three-fifths of the list for the municipal council. Seats are distributed based on the results of the election, using the electoral system for communes with over 1,000 inhabitants.

In communes with less than 1,000 inhabitants, intercommunal councillors will still be elected indirectly with seats being attributed to the mayor, and, if more seats are to be filled to his/her adjoints.

This year, due to legal changes complicating matters in small towns, 64 communes – all but one with less than 1,000 inhabitants – have no declared candidates for the first round.

Local and national dynamics in municipal elections

Municipal elections in France obey both local and national dynamics.

In small towns – certainly all those who will still vote under the majority at-large system this year but many of the towns with over 1,000 inhabitants which used to vote under that system – local politics is local, with little to no national influence. One author, using an American term, used the idea of ‘ambiguous consensus’ to describe the form which local politics take in those communities – indeed, governance there is consensual, pragmatic and non-partisan. Most mayors in those communes do not have a political etiquette, and if they do, it hardly means anything: their governing team may include people with opposite political sympathies. Because governing those small towns does not require full-time politicians, a lot of small town mayors and councillors are ‘regular’ citizens working another job, in addition to their local political responsibilities. In many cases, there is no opposition to the incumbent mayor and his/her list; certainly the electoral system in small towns makes the vote very personal and not remotely political. But even in a lot of the small towns with over 1,000 inhabitants which will vote for party lists this year, there is little to no partisan competition: lists – assuming there is more than one (which is not always the case) – are non-partisan and focus solely on local issues and it’s foolish to assign partisan labels to them. But that hasn’t stopped the Ministry of the Interior, in its infinite wisdom.

Therefore, for the sake of political analysis, when reading municipal elections, attention generally focuses on the 260 or so communes with a population with over 30,000 – with attention given to smaller communes if they have major candidates, symbolic importance to national politics or are of human interest. In those major towns and cities, municipal elections follow local and national dynamics, as research has shown.

Local factors

Firstly, local issues – and local factors, such as the personality and popularity of individual candidates or the local partisan/political climate (if distinct from the national climate) – play a major role in municipal elections, even in these larger communes.

In general, mayors tend to be fairly well regarded by the majority of the population and optimism in the direction of the town/city is generally far higher than optimism (or lack thereof) for the direction of the country. According to an Ipsos poll in late February 2014 in communes with a population over 25,000; 71% of respondents, on average, declared that they were satisfied with their mayor. Another Ipsos poll just out on March 20 shows that 64% of voters say that their municipal government has done a good or excellent job. Unless they’re caught with the hands in the marmalade or are particularly incompetent, it’s harder for a mayor to be widely disliked (like many national politicians are) because they have less powers, their actions generally receive less media attention (outside their town) and mayors often strive to be consensual rather than polarizing. Furthermore, given the tradition of the cumul des mandats in France, a lot of mayors are also parliamentarians, so they have the chance to favour their hometown and shower it with national funding and favours.

It is also quite telling that in polls, this year like in 2008, voters tell pollsters that they will vote firstly based on local issues. According to an Ifop poll recently released, 69% will vote mainly based on local considerations. 20% will vote primarily to punish the government, and only 7% will vote primarily to support the government. A CSA poll reported quasi-identical numbers: 65%, 19% and 5% respectively.

This year, according to polls, the most important issues for voters are local taxes (cited by about 50%), environment/quality of life, criminality/safety, economic development/jobs and transportation. According to CSA’s poll, issues such as criminality, parking, immigration, housing and pollution are far more important in large towns (pop 30,000+) than in small towns; in the smallest towns (pop <1000), those issues hardly figure at all while connectivity/broadband access is rather significant. At the same time, issues such as taxes, transparency and economic development are relevant across the board. There are also clear partisan dimensions in those issues, obviously; criminality, immigration are priorities for right-wing and far-right voters, but are of lesser importance for left-wing voters, who tend to be more concerned with issues such as housing and transportation.

In Les élections municipales en France (2001, published by La documentation française), Pierre Martin showed that, with national and partisan trends controlled, there existed a clear advantage for an incumbent mayor at the end of his/her first term in office. This is similar to the ‘sophomore surge’ for one-term US congressmen seeking reelection for the first time. The advantage after two or more terms in office is progressively eliminated, and after several terms in office, many mayors are threatened by weariness of voters and their own teams. However, while almost all ‘freshmen’ mayors receive a boost at their first reelection, the phenomenon of weariness does not effect them all in the same way: different mayors and administrations may tire far more quickly than others, some mayors – even in large cities – can manage to build very solid bases which resist well to weariness. 

Local factors also explain individual results when the election is analyzed through national lenses. They explain, for example, why a certain town – based on presidential results – which is quantitatively more likely to switch sides didn’t do so, while another town, quantitatively less likely to switch sides, did so. They also explain why some towns went against the national trend in a given year. Finally, they explain why towns generally unfavourable to one political side in national elections may be governed – for quite some time – by that same political side. For example, the city of Bordeaux has leaned to the left in the most recent nationwide elections, but it has been a municipal right-wing stronghold since 1947. Toulouse, governed by the right between 1971 and 2008 despite voting for the left in nationwide elections for most of the time, is also often cited as an example of such a phenomenon.

National factors

Municipal elections in France since 1959: party control of communes of over 30,000 inhabitants (at time of election, in %)

Municipal elections in France since 1959: party control of communes of over 30,000 inhabitants (at time of election, in %)

It’s also clear that local factors can’t explain everything. Municipal elections in France, unlike in many other countries, are organized on the same day across the entire territory of the republic, which make them a particularly good occasion for voters less interested by local issues to show their opposition (more often than not, because dissatisfaction is a better mobilizer than satisfaction) to the national government. In a way, municipal elections may be interpreted like midterm elections – generally more difficult for the governing party, even if it is not overly unpopular, and with a potential to be particularly bloody for the governing party if it is clearly unpopular. That being said, regional, European and cantonal elections in France are also similar to midterm elections, and in the case of regional and European elections perhaps even more so than les municipales since a lot of voters in those elections aren’t aware of regional/European issues and vote primarily based on national issues.

The idea of municipal elections being midterms holds true since 1947 when the results are taken only through national lenses (in the detail, looking at individual towns, it is less useful). In 1977, the incumbent right-wing government of President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and Prime Minister Raymond Barre was unpopular and the economy in bad shape. The left swept municipal elections that year, gaining 57 communes with over 30,000 inhabitants. In 1983, the economy was still in the dump, cards were reversed: the left was now in power, with President François Mitterrand and Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy. The right swept municipal elections in 1983, gaining 35 communes with over 30,000 inhabitants. The most recent municipal elections, in 2008, also saw a significant swing to the left, one year after Nicolas Sarkozy’s victory. After 2008, the left controlled 57.7% of communes with over 30,000 inhabitants, up from 44.5% in 2001.

These were the most extreme cases of major nationwide waves against the governing party in municipal elections. In 1959, 1965, 1971, 1989 and 1995, the incumbent government was less unpopular and therefore the results were more mixed; although on the whole, the governing party didn’t do as well as in the last national elections – 1959, for example, saw a strong performance by the Communists (PCF) just one year after the PCF was badly trounced in the first elections of the Fifth Republic.

Historically, turnout also shifted depending on the national mood. Until turnout began declining, seemingly irreversibly, after 1989, turnout in municipal elections varied based on the unpopularity of the government. In 1977 and 1983, the two classic anti-government waves, turnout was very high: 78.9% and 78.4% – compared to 75.2% in 1971 and 72.8% in 1989. In those cases, the unpopularity of the government strongly mobilized the opposition electorate to vote against the government. In 1971 and 1989, when the government parties did fairly well, the opposition’s voters were less motivated to turn out. Since 1989, however, municipal turnout has declined one election after another. Even 2001 and 2008, which saw significant anti-government movements, saw turnout decline from the previous municipal election.

Dynamics of municipal elections

National factors cannot explain everything in French municipal politics. There are particular political and partisan dynamics or phenomenons in municipal elections which are fairly unique to municipal elections themselves. These include: the tradition of municipal communism, the survival of anti-communist socialist-centrist alliances until 1977, the dynamics of first round left-wing unity since 1977 and the weakness of Gaullism in local politics until 1971/1983.

Municipal government in several communes in France, especially Paris’ working-class suburbs in the petite couronne but also many other towns throughout the country, has been marked since 1935 (or 1945) by the tradition of ‘municipal communism’ (le communisme municipal). Indeed, in those solidly left-wing and historically proletarian communes, the PCF established itself as the dominant party in local government in 1935 or 1945 (in isolated cases, such as Bobigny or Saint-Denis, in 1925). From the standpoint of urban politics and social policy, municipal communism is a rather important historical phenomenon. In power, communist municipalities implemented social policies aimed at the general welfare (especially that of the working-class) and the promotion of social, cultural and recreational infrastructure. Communist municipal governments in suburban Paris built social housing, theaters, summer camps, pools, recreation centres or local health dispensaries. Communist mayors were also local administrators faced with numerous contradictions stemming from the PCF’s theoretical positions, notably opposition to a ‘bourgeois state’. On the ground, with their powers constrained at the outset by hostility from the State, they were forced to be pragmatic. For example, in his study of rural communism in the interwar Limousin, Laird Boswell found that nascent PCF administrations in those cash-strapped villages were often quite conservative fiscally, much to the dismay of revolutionaries in their ranks. With limited resources and government hostility, they were forced to govern very pragmatically.

After 1945, 1977 was the high point of municipal communism, as this interactive feature in Le Monde shows. In the petite couronne, the PCF was dominant. In la province, the PCF held the town halls of Reims, Le Havre, Saint-Étienne, Le Mans, Nîmes and Amiens. Today, it retains control of a significant number of communes in the petite couronne, but faces an increasingly hungry Socialist Party (PS), which in 2008 and again in 2014 ran candidates against PCF incumbents. The PCF controls no major city (100,000+ inhabitants) outside the Parisian suburbs; Le Havre was lost in 1995 and Nîmes lost in 2001 (after gaining it back in 1995).

Against the Communist threat, local Socialists in the past responded by forming anti-communist coalitions with centrist and non-Gaullist right-wing parties. The most famous of these socialo-centriste coalition was Gaston Defferre, the Socialist mayor of Marseille (1953-1986) who governed against the PCF until his last term (1983-1986). But while Defferre is the most emblematic of such Socialist-centrist coalitions, it was not unique to Marseille: such coalitions existed at one time or another in Lille, Toulouse, Roubaix, Limoges, Arras and Besançon. These municipal alliances managed to survive after the 1960s, running in contradiction to the national Socialist Party’s strategy of national alliances with the left. In fact, socialist-centrist coalitions, while increasingly less commonplace, remained fairly widespread up until 1977 – even if the PS and PCF had signed a programme commun in 1972. Now, such alliances are a thing of the past; but the tradition may still rear its head: in 1989, the PS mayor of Angers was excluded from the PS for sealing a formal alliance with the opposition centrist CDS while in 2008, a number of PS mayors (notably François Rebsamen in Dijon) were supported by François Bayrou’s MoDem by the first round.

Since 1977, on the left, the tradition has been first round unity – l’union de la gauche (union of the left). Although the electoral system in place since 1983 makes it possible for smaller parties to safely run a list in the first round in the expectation of merging with a larger list for the runoff to obtain seats on council, there is a strong tradition of first round unity – the PS, PCF and small left-wing parties including the Greens and Left Radicals (MRG/PRG). Since 1977, in most towns, the PS and PCF (and smaller parties, oftentimes) have run a common list by the first round. The PRG, which learned a few times (most recently in 1995) that it is worthless without stronger allies, almost always invariably allies with the PS by the first round. Outside of a few cities where relations between the PS and PCF may be poor, the PCF has traditionally allied with the PS by the first round. For example, the PCF ran allied with the PS by the first round in Marseille in every election since 1983. In Paris, the PS and PCF have been united in the first round since 1977. The Greens may sometimes want to show independence from the PS, knowing that they can scare the PS a bit in some towns, but in a lot of cases, again, the Greens join l’union de la gauche in the first round.

On the right, there has been a similar tradition of first round unity, although it is sometimes not as strict and generally more prone to dissidence. Prior to the creation of the single party of the right, the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) in 2002, the two main parties of the right – the Rally for the Republic (RPR) and Union for French Democracy (UDF) – usually ran common lists by the first round, with a few cases of so-called ‘primaries’ (first round competition between RPR and UDF) – for example, Lyon in 1995.

Another historical factor worth noting is the weakness of Gaullism in local politics after 1958. Although Charles de Gaulle’s parties, the UNR/UDR, became dominant in national politics (and hegemonic on the right) after 1962, the UNR/UDR was quite weak in local government until 1971, if not 1983. For example, in 1959, one year after de Gaulle’s triumphant return, the UNR’s assault on ‘traditional’ parties of the right (moderates, CNI) and centre (MRP) failed badly, with the UNR holding only 15% of communes with a population of over 30,000 inhabitants in 1959. Similarly, a UNR assault in 1965 had little success. Only with Georges Pompidou’s election in 1969 did the UDR begin making its peace with ‘traditional’ parties of the right, running with them instead of against them. In 1971, the UDR’s share of communes with over 30,000 people increased to 18.1%, if only to fall to 7% in the left-wing wave election of 1977. In 1983, the RPR for the first time became more powerful than the UDF in municipal government.

A French political tradition of great importance to local government is the cumul des mandats. A large majority of senators and deputies hold at least one other elected office – often, serving as mayor. For example, the mayors of Lyon and Marseille are both senators. Some of the more extreme examples of this French quirkiness: two Prime Ministers, Pierre Mauroy (1981-1984) and Jacques Chirac (1986-1988) concurrently served as mayors of Lille and Paris respectively; more recently, Alain Juppé served as foreign minister and mayor of Bordeaux at the same time. There has been increased public attention on the issue in recent years. Upon taking office, the current government barred all cabinet ministers from being mayor at the same time. After originally delaying it indefinitely, the government made good on one of its campaign promises in January 2014. According to a new law, deputies and senators will no longer be able to be parliamentarians and mayors (or head of a local executive: EPCI, general council, regional council etc) at the same time. This law will only be applied following the 2017 election. Banning (excessive) cumul des mandats is popular with voters, but it is, as could be expected, a tough issue for legislators themselves. In the Senate, members of both the opposition and government parties sought, unsuccessfully, to oppose the law or create a loophole for themselves. Their main argument was that the cumul des mandats gives them a strong local footing.

In the aftermath of the law’s approval, some interest in this year’s municipal election was paid to the issue of candidates who already held another elective office. Le Monde drew up an interactive map compiling the names of all candidates in municipal elections who are already deputy/senator etc.

2014: Context

These municipal elections are widely watched as the first nationwide test for President François Hollande, the PS president elected in 2012 against UMP incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy. After nearly two years in office, Hollande is deeply unpopular. TNS-Sofres’ monthly tracker poll in March had Hollande’s approval rating standing at a puny 17%, nearly an all-time low for a French President. Every pollster has his disapproval rating over 70%, in many cases over 75%. That being said, two recent trackers – from Ifop and Ipsos – have shown a tiny uptick (+1 to 22% for Ipsos, +3 to 23% for Ifop), although at this level it’s almost a dead cat bounce. In summary, the incumbent President is more unpopular than nearly every single one of his predecessors – including Giscard in 1977 and Mitterrand in 1983.

As I noted in my analysis of the runoff in 2012, “the fact that the election was more Sarkozy’s defeat than Hollande’s victory and that Hollande owes his victory to anti-Sarkozysm will certainly come back to haunt the PS and Hollande in the near future, once voters forget Sarkozy and shift their judgement to the new incumbent.”

The causes of Hollande’s unpopularity are plentiful and beyond the scope of this post. At the roots of it all, however, is France’s bad economic situation. While not at ‘Greece’ or ‘Spain’ levels, France is clearly hit very badly by the ongoing European economic crisis. Unemployment stood at 10.2% in the last trimester of 2012, and it has increased from about 9.5% since Hollande took office in May 2012. Economic growth was flat in 2012 and barely positive in 2013. The country’s public debt is over 93% of GDP, and it missed its 2013 budget deficit target (3.9% of GDP, was 4.1%). It is clear that, if we’re honest, Hollande isn’t to blame for the roots of the crisis. Voters will invariably blame their government for their economic woes. However, at the same time, Hollande’s economic policies – rightly – got him a lot of flack, left and right.

At times, the government has been a bit like a deer in the headlights when it comes to dealing with the economic crisis. It has been seen as powerless, lost and incompetent in its handling of the economy. The right has criticized the ‘amateurism’ and jumbled response of the government and denounced high taxes. The outcry against the heavy burden of taxes, part of a government effort to reduce the deficit, has been particularly pronounced. The government increased the top bracket on the income tax (incomes over 150,000 euros) from 41% to 45%, the wealth tax (ISF) was toughened up, family tax benefits were cut, a pension reform increased employees and employers’ contributions (the same reform also increased the contributory period to 43 years, after the right’s 2010 reform, opposed by the PS, had raised it to 41 and increased the legal retirement age to 62). The government also increased the VAT’s standard rate from 19.6% to 20%, the intermediate rate from 7% to 10% and maintained the reduced rate at 5.5% (despite previously promising to bring it down to 5%.

The VAT increase, voted in 2012 and taking effect in 2014, was to finance a 20 billion euro tax credit to employers to reduce unit labour costs.

Many on the left, however, also dislike the government’s economic policies. Hollande and the PS won the 2012 election on a fairly anti-austerity platform complete with flowery rhetoric about ‘growth’ and such niceties, but once in power it has largely continued Sarkozy’s austerity policies (disguised as ‘efforts’ because austerity is unpronounceable by governments since the 1980s). Hollande approved the European Fiscal Compact without any substantial changes, despite having pledged to renegotiate it. His government has implemented harsh austerity measures, including tax increases and spending/job cuts in the public sector. The Constitutional Council has also forced him to scrap his much-publicized 75% tax on incomes over a million euros. The government reframed the 75% tax a temporary tax to be paid by employers on salaries over 1 million euros. With good reason, many on the left feel that Hollande’s policies are no different than his predecessor’s policies.

In 2014, Hollande announced a pacte de responsabilité with employers, proposing to reduce payroll taxes paid out by employers if they took on new, especially young, workers. The announcement, which led to significant talk of Hollande shifting to the right, was met with skepticism in France. Regular citizens, who have seen Hollande’s record of failure since 2012, have little optimism in his proposal. The left and unions were skeptic or hostile towards the idea of dropping costs on employers (up to 10 billion euros in cuts in payroll taxes) in exchange for very vaguely defined (and probably minor) job creations. On the left, the rumour that Germany’s Peter Hartz would come to advise Hollande led to fears of a ‘neoliberal’ economic agenda. The government’s latest idea will need to be financed by more painful cuts in the public sector.

There has been a groundswell of popular opposition to the government, fueled by widespread pessimism in the country’s future and disillusion/dissatisfaction with the government’s policy. In Brittany, beginning in October 2013, an heterogeneous popular protest movement (led mostly by farmers or agrifood workers) attacked the government’s so-called écotaxe, a proposed tax on heavy goods vehicles (actually decided on by the right in 2009). The movement, styled the bonnets rouges after an 1675 anti-tax revolt in Brittany, brought together an heterogeneous bunch: employers in agri-food, rural communities and leaders, Breton autonomists/nationalists, the far-left and some of the far-right. The heterogeneity of the movement and the self-serving motivations of some (particularly employers, held responsible by some for an outdated and polluting agrifood industry) led some on the left, notably José Bové and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, to criticize the movement. Nevertheless, the ‘wind of revolt’ in Brittany, traditionally a politically moderate region, forced the government to back down on the écotaxe and announce several measures to help the Breton economy and please the demands of some autonomists (notably promises to finally ratify the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages).

Electoral promises of ‘reindustralization’ and government talk of ‘made in France’, a project spearheaded by Arnaud Montebourg, industry minister and former leader of the PS’ left-wing, have run into the reality of globalization, economic crisis and the workings of the global economy. There has been little to no reindustralization worth speaking off. Montebourg’s grandstanding in late 2012 on the issue of an ArcelorMittal steel plant at Florange (Moselle), when he threatened to nationalize the site, won him a rebuke from the government (which refused to hear of nationalization), personal embarrassment and criticism from unions.

The government and Hollande have continued to run into embarrassing issues, gaffes or crises since taking office. The law legalizing same-sex marriage and adoption, promulgated in May 2013, mobilized a large segment of right-wing socially conservative opinion against the government and the law, with thousands taking to the streets in November-December 2012. There were more protests after the adoption of the law in 2013 and 2014. Members of the UMP and the far-right National Front (FN) joined the ranks of the protests, which brought together an heterogeneous coalition of opponents: social conservatives, traditionalist Catholics, integrist Catholics, neo-fascists and far-right politicians from France and other European countries (controversially, the BNP’s Nick Griffin, alongside FN parliamentarians). The UMP claimed that the “socialist power” (they often tend to present the PS government as some kind of East German authoritarian regime) was intervening in the private lives of citizens. The movement brought out fairly repugnant groups: homophobes, neo-fascists, skinheads, anti-Semites and assorted cranks. In April 2013, an homosexual couple was attacked and beaten up. In June 2013, far-left activist Clément Méric was killed by far-right skinheads. In January 2014, a jour de colère protest was organized by far-right groups, including monarchists, traditionalists, neo-fascists and anti-Semites; more moderate supporters of the anti-gay marriage movement (La manif pour tous) condemned the jour de colère protests.

While the government moved forward despite opposition on same-sex marriage, in January 2014, the government backtracked on a proposed bill on the family. The anti-gay marriage movement had raised concerns, many of them invented wholesale or badly twisted, that the government sought to legalize assisted reproductive technologies (the bill would not have legalized it, even if Hollande said he was personally in favour, and many PS deputies supported it) and surrogacy (which the government never supported, let alone intend to legalize it). Backtracking in the face of popular opposition is a specialty of French governments left and right, hoping that it will kill the issue and diffuse tensions. But it is never a good PR strategy for the government: in backtracking, it alienates those who backed the government on the specific issue while those who opposed the issue are no more likely to start liking the government.

The government’s image has been hurt further by public divisions, contradictions or gaffes by individual cabinet ministers. The government, which is rather inexperienced and lacks internal cohesion, has seen several cabinet ministers contradict one another or announce policy which isn’t actually government policy. The Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, is frustrated by the lack of cabinet solidarity and has been forced to put ministers back in their place, but at the same time he’s quickly turning into a non-entity which is nearly forgotten by the media and seemingly plays little role in public government policy and communication. His approval ratings are in the trash, like Hollande.

In March 2013, the government was rocked by a huge scandal: Jérôme Cahuzac, the junior Minister of the Budget, had been revealed to have had a secret offshore account in Switzerland. After vehemently denying the accusations, he was forced to resign from cabinet in March after a court opened a preliminary inquiry and after a court indicted him for tax fraud in April, he admitted that he had a Swiss bank account. There were questions over what Hollande, Ayrault and the government knew of the affair before its media revelation in December 2012.

The Minister of the Interior, Manuel Valls, whose presidential ambitions are no secret (he ran in the PS primaries in 2011) and who is often seen as a maverick (on the right of the PS, and challenging sacrosanct policies of the left such as the 35 hour workweek), has gained significant popularity (ironically, perhaps more so on the right than on the left) for his tough-on-crime and immigration policies. Valls’ ministry has continued to deport undocumented migrants, dismantle Roma encampments, preached a hardline policy against crime and violence (extremist, criminal or otherwise); at times, it’s hard to spot obvious differences between Valls and his right-wing predecessors, whom the PS had criticized. 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, from Montebourg (it’s no secret that Montebourg dislikes Valls and Ayrault) and the Greens. His comments did not outrage public opinion, because it is favourable to tough anti-immigration policies (a poll showed that most French approved of his comments); several mayors, especially on the right, have been outspoken on difficulties posed by Roma encampments (one mayor, Gilles Bourdouleix, the mayor of Cholet, suggested that Hitler perhaps hadn’t killed enough gypsies…). But they further hurt the government with a small but vocal minority of pro-immigration/multiculturalism activists on the left, who have already been very much at odds with Valls’ policy.

In October 2013, immigration caused another major uproar: Leonarda Dibrani, a 15-year old undocumented immigrant 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 the far-right’s Marine Le Pen called on him to resign for humiliating France. The UMP proposed abolishing jus soli, Valls talked of reforming asylum policy.

Valls remains one of the most popular ministers, but his widespread support has dropped in recent months. He is the third most popular politician in France according to Ipsos’ March 2014 barometer, but with a polarized 46 positive, 42 negative split. In Ifop’s poll of cabinet ministers in March 2014, he ranked fifth, with a 53% approval.

In July 2013, the environment minister, Delphine Batho, was fired after having publicly deplored the budget cuts which her ministry suffered in the latest round of austerity cuts. Batho later criticized the government’s environmental policies (specifically, its lack of interest in environmental and energy transformations) and the influence of energy and resource companies. Batho’s firing was probably an attempt by Hollande and co. to appear ‘tough’ on cabinet dissonance after the Cahuzac scandal; it happened that a minor figure in a lesser ministry was the scapegoat for that.

Batho’s resignation placed some attention on the government’s environmental policy, and raised new questions on the presence of Green (Europe Écologie-Les Verts, EELV) ministers in government. EELV owes much of its 17-member caucus in the National Assembly to an electoral agreement with the PS in the 2012 legislative elections, and the personal/financial benefits of holding a cabinet portfolio (a ‘strapontin ministériel‘ – a cabinet jump seat) have turned EELV’s ministers (led by Cécile Duflot, former EELV leader and the poorly-regarded housing minister) into leaders of a pro-government branch, which criticizes the government on some issues but when push comes to shove always sides with the government. A significant left-wing minority inside the party, which won nearly 40% support at EELV’s federal congress in October 2013, is very critical of Hollande and would like for EELV to leave cabinet. Several EELV parliamentarians have signaled their opposition; Noël Mamère, one of the Greens’ most visible and well-known deputies, left EELV in September 2013, decrying EELV’s complacency, support for the government and its transformation into a party of stale self-interested, self-serving elected officials.

On the left of the PS, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the Left Front (FG)’s presidential candidate in 2012, has been extremely critical of the government’s austerity policies. However, despite incessant and violent attacks by Mélenchon and the FG on the government’s policies, they have largely been unable (thus far) to profit from the government’s unpopularity with left-wing voters. Mélenchon is a polarizing figure; his abrasive, in-your-face and often unpleasant public person is off-putting to many voters and the FG generally appears to lack credibility as a credible leftist alternative to the PS. Furthermore, as will be touched upon later, the municipal elections opened up very public and damaging divisions between Mélenchon’s small Left Party (PG), which is firmly anti-PS and the PCF, the largest party in the FG, which still retains some attachment (mostly for strategic and self-serving electoral reasons) to the old alliances with the PS.

Sarkozy’s defeat in May 2012 traumatized the UMP, which, for the first time since its creation in 2002 was now an opposition party. In November 2012, a UMP congress to elect a permanent president for the party turned into a nearly fatal civil war between the two candidates, the incumbent secretary-general Jean-François Copé and Sarkozy’s Prime Minister François Fillon. In an election marred by fraud and vote rigging by both sides, Copé was initially proclaimed the winner by 98 votes by an internal party commission. Two days later, Fillon’s supporters challenged the results, claiming that Fillon won by 26 votes because the party commission ‘forgot’ to include 1,304 votes cast in three overseas federations. This opened a civil war between both men; mediation by party elder and the popular moderate mayor of Bordeaux (and former Prime Minister) Alain Juppé failed, an appeals commission (led by a man who had backed Copé) ruled on a challenge lodged by Copé against filloniste fraud in the Alpes-Maritimes – it proclaimed Copé as the winner nationally, now with 952 votes (they cancelled the results, very selectively, in pro-Fillon Alpes-Maritimes and New Caledonia), and Fillon created a dissident parliamentary group in the National Assembly (R-UMP). Facing the very real threat of a split in the UMP, which would cripple the financially strapped party, the two enemies agreed to a temporary compromise in January 2013: Fillon’s R-UMP would dissolve, Copé would remain president while all other leadership positions in the party would be ‘doubled’ – one filloniste, one copéiste. Originally, a new congress should have been held in the fall of 2013, but fearing another crisis before the 2014 elections, the UMP decided to postpone the congress until 2015.

Copé suffers from a very acute image problem: he’s extremely unpopular with voters; for example, Ipsos’ monthly barometer in March 2014 showed him with a 70% disapproval rating (18% approval). Fillon, in contrast, has a 39% approval (49% disapproval); both men’s ratings took a hit from the 2012 congress and civil war. Copé is perceived as too right-wing, too economically liberal, too rash and the story of the 2012 congress (and how, if he won, it owes a lot to organized fraud and vote rigging by Copé’s men) further hurt his image. His leadership, by all accounts, has hardly been inspiring. The UMP has been desperate to oppose the government at every turn, in the process latching on to the most ridiculous of ‘controversies’ and non-issues – for example, Copé recently complained about how a children’s book on nudity was destroying the youth (or something); the UMP, at the same time, was going insane with faux outrage over ‘gender theory’ education in public schools (the government has a program to promote and teach gender equality in primary school). In the meantime, the UMP is not considered to be a credible alternative to the government – it lacks coherent policy (except being anti-government), its fire is often stolen by the far more popular far-right FN and the division between Copé and Fillon remains very clear (quite tellingly, at a recent electoral rally in Strasbourg attended by both, Fillon and Copé were never side by side!).

Copé has also been mixed up in several scandals. Most recently, in late February 2014, Le Point revealed that an events organization firm (Bygmalion) owned by two friends of Copé received 8 million euros in UMP funds for organizing events in the 2012 campaign. After the revelation of the scandal, Copé’s ratings in the aforecited Ipsos tracker fell 4%.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the defeated President, has never been far behind in all this. It is known that he took his defeat in 2012 pretty badly, and holds a deep grudge against Hollande. The UMP’s rank-and-file remains, by and large, solidly sarkozyste and would love to see him return in 2017. For UMP sympathizers and many on the right in general, Hollande’s disastrous presidency only vindicates Sarkozy and reinforces their burning desire to see Sarkozy return to the presidency in 2017. That Sarkozy himself is very much planning for a return in 2017 is probably the worst keep secret in French politics right now. If he were to do so, polls show that Sarkozy would win the UMP’s 2016 primaries in a landslide. But Sarkozy, since 2012, has been dogged by several scandals.

In December 2012, the campaign finance and public financing commission rejected Sarkozy’s 2012 campaign finance report. The issue plunged the financially troubled party further in debt, but an appeal by Sarkozy to UMP members to contribute to the party allowed the UMP to raise over 11 million euros in just two months, which is equivalent to the sum lost by the party in public financing after Sarkozy’s campaign finances were invalidated. Sarkozy has faced other scandals. In March 2013, Sarkozy was indicted in the Bettencourt affair (illegal payments from L’Oréal shareholder Liliane Bettencourt to UMP members, part of a wider tax fraud case involving Bettencourt and her family) but charges against him were dropped in June 2013. Sarkozy, as explained in this article, is also involved in other scandals.

One of the most important ones is the Sarkozy-Gaddafi scandal: in April 2012, Mediapart published documents which indicated that the former Libyan regime of Muammar Gaddafi may have given 50 million euros to Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign. During the Libyan Civil War, officials in Gaddafi’s regime, including his son Saif al-Islam had said that Libya had funded Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign. In April 2013, a Parisian court opened a judicial investigation (citing no names) in the Gaddafi case. On March 7, 2014, Le Monde revealed that Sarkozy (and two former interior ministers Claude Guéant and Brice Hortefeux, close allies of Sarkozy cited in the Gaddafi case) had their phones bugged as part of the judicial investigation, beginning in September 2013. The transcripts of the wiretaps had found that Sarkozy and his lawyers were benefiting from insider information on the judicial process from judges and law enforcement sources – Sarkozy was appealing to the Court of Cassation the decision a judge in the Bernard Tapie scandal to send Sarkozy’s personal agenda to the judge in charge of the Bettencourt case.

The wiretap case shifted against the government, when the UMP successful changed the angle of media focus in the case to whether or not Christiane Taubira, the Minister of Justice, had been aware of the wiretaps. Taubira claimed that she had not been aware until the media revealed it; the following evening, Ayrault said that the government had indeed been aware. Taubira later showed two documents which she claimed proved that she was not aware, but those documents in fact did state that the minister was kept aware. The UMP claimed that Taubira lied and called on her resignation, but it may now appear that Taubira was not lying – her chief of staff was aware, but had not shared the information with Taubira. Since then, new revelations by Mediapart, on how Sarkozy was suspicious of the wiretaps and bought a phone under a ‘fake name’ to talk with his lawyer

Yesterday, on March 20, Sarkozy published an op-ed in the right-wing Le Figaro. He claims, disingenuously, that he has remained silent and ‘in retreat’ since 2012 and that he has no desire for revenge or ill-feelings against anyone. He continues by saying that ‘sacred principles of our Republic are being trampled unprecedented violence and unscrupulousness’ and even denounced Stasi-like techniques.

One person who has clearly benefited from the political climate is Marine Le Pen, the charismatic and increasingly popular leader of the far-right National Front (FN). Le Pen won a record high 17.9% of the vote in the first round of the April 2012 presidential election, and after Sarkozy nearly killed the FN in 2007, the FN under Marine Le Pen’s leadership has roared back. Marine Le Pen benefits from a better image than that of her father and FN patriarch, Jean-Marie Le Pen. If most academics agree that under the veil of dédiabolisation, not much has changed in reality and policy; she does a much better job at appearances and communication than her father, who has a knack for provocative, racist and outrageous statements, lacked. She appears, in the eyes of part of the public, as cleaner, more acceptable, more credible and more moderate. Marine Le Pen has been quite careful at ensuring that the cranks and neo-fascist loons in the FN are kept quiet and has moved quickly, as much as she could without alienating her father and the more radical factions of the FN (who have been suspicious of her), to remove from public spotlight anybody who was inconvenient for the FN’s rebranding efforts. Marine Le Pen has surrounded herself with a new generation of FN leaders who are more polished and presentable to the media than some of the old guard (men like Bruno Gollnisch, who have said crazy things in the past); they include men like Florian Philippot, a technocrat who is now a FN vice-president.

An Ipsos poll in November 2013 showed that a majority of respondents still think the FN is a far-right party, dangerous for democracy and would never vote the FN and most don’t think that the FN is a credible alternative. The FN’s positions, the poll showed, are not endorsed by a plurality (with one exception, on maintaining local services) although very substantial minorities (up to 46%) agree with the FN on immigration and immigration. However, the results did show favourable trends for the FN: a 9% drop since 2003 in those believing the FN is dangerous for democracy, a 13% drop since 2003 in those who say the FN is a far-right party (most notably with FN voters themselves, 57% in 2003 said the party was far-right but only 34% think so nowadays, a confirmation of the shifts in the FN’s electorate) and an overall ‘potential’ support of 35% (combining those who have already voted FN and those who say they may potentially do so). These results should temper some of the mass panic and concern trolling of some who seem to think that Le Pen will win in 2017…

It is useful to close this explanation of the political climate in France with a look at Ipsos’ very informative poll on French society. In 2014, the main issues are unemployment (56%), taxes (43%, up 16 from 2013!), buying power (36%) followed by pensions (24%), safety (23%), social inequalities (21%) and immigration (21%). Most political institutions and office holders, except mayors, are poorly perceived: a majority lack confidence in the justice system (54%), the EU (69%), the National Assembly (72%), deputies (77%) and political parties (92%). Even less people have confidence in the PS (18%) than in the FN (22%) or UMP (24%). Pessimism is widespread: 90% say France’s economic power has declined in the past ten years although 65% still think that decline is not irreversible. There remains a strong demand for the notion of ‘authority’, with 87% feeling that authority is too often criticized and 84% saying that France needs a ‘real leader’ to ‘restore order’. A majority (about 60%) expressed protectionist views. A large majority expressed dissatisfaction with politics: 65% feeling that most politicians are corrupt, 78% saying that the democratic system is not working well, 84% who think politicians act primarily for their own interests and 88% decrying that politicians don’t preoccupy themselves with what people like them think. Voters are split on issues of government intervention in the economy. A large majority of voters are skeptical of further European integration, with 70% saying that national powers should be reinforced – but at the same time, returning to the franc is still a minority view (33%, but growing) and there’s no clear consensus in the electorate on whether the EU has been a good or a bad thing. 66% think there are too many foreigners in France.

Before the results start coming out on Sunday (20:00 Paris time), expect another post detailing the main contests to follow.

Lot-et-Garonne 3rd (France) by-election: Losing streak

A legislative by-election was held in the Lot-et-Garonne’s 3rd constituency in France on June 16 and 23, 2013. The constituency’s deputy, Jérôme Cahuzac (Socialist Party, PS), was compelled to resign his seat on April 16, 2013 after having been removed from Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault’s government on March 19, 2013. In France’s semi-presidential system, a sitting deputy relinquishes his legislative seat to his suppléant (running mate) once he enters government. Until 2008, upon leaving the government, the former deputy needed to run and win in a by-election to retrieve his seat in the National Assembly. Since a constitutional reform in 2008, the former deputy automatically regains his seats upon leaving the government. However, given the nature of the accusations against him which had forced him to leave the government, Cahuzac had little choice but to resign his seat as deputy, creating a vacancy.

French legislative elections or by-elections are fought on a two-round system. A candidate must win over 50% of valid votes representing at least 25% of registered voters to win outright by the first round. If a second round is organized, all candidates who have won over 12.5% of registered voters are qualified for the runoff; or, if no candidates meet this requirement, the top two candidates in the first round. In by-elections were turnout is almost always lows, this means that only the top two candidates will qualify.

Jérôme Cahuzac held this constituency between 1997 and 2002 and again between 2007 and 2012. Cahuzac gained a profile as a moderate and ‘expert’ on fiscal and budgetary issues, serving as president of the National Assembly’s finance commission after 2010. After having served in François Hollande’s campaign team in the 2012 presidential election, he was name junior minister for the budget in Jean-Marc Ayrault’s government in May 2012, after Hollande’s victory. With a reputation as an orthodox ‘budget hawk’, he was in charge of dealing with France’s large government deficit and public debt.

In December 2012, the online newspaper Mediapart accused Cahuzac of tax evasion, alleging that he had a hidden offshore account in Switzerland until 2010 (at which point it was closed and the money transferred to another account, in Singapore). Unwilling to reveal their sources, Cahuzac vehemently denied Mediapart‘s allegations and received the backing of the President and Prime Minister. At that point, Mediapart was running on the basis of a voice recording from 2000, a conversation between Cahuzac and his asset manager. This recording’s veracity was confirmed by sources close to Cahuzac and some of his former local political rivals. On March 19, 2013, a Parisian court opened a preliminary inquiry into suspicions of tax evasion. While continuing to claim his innocence, Cahuzac was removed from government that same day. On April 2, Cahuzac was indicted on a charge “laundering of tax fraud proceeds and money laundering of proceeds from a company whose products or services are covered by Social Security” and he was forced to admit, on his blog, that he did indeed hold 600,000 euros (likely more) in an offshore account. Swiss authorities had already discovered a bank account belonging to him.

President Hollande and Prime Minister Ayrault minced no words in disowning him, Hollande saying it was a “moral fault”. On April 9, Cahuzac was excluded from the PS. However, legitimate suspicions abound as to whether or not Hollande, Ayrault and the top echelons of the PS knew that Cahuzac had concealed his offshore account before he admitted to it himself. Mediapart claimed that the interior ministry authenticated the voice recording in a three-page report to the presidency; it also claimed that Cahuzac’s then-senior minister, Pierre Moscovici (minister of the economy and finances) intervened in January 2013 to protect Cahuzac.


The Cahuzac affair, the first major scandal for the new Socialist government, could not have come at a worst time for the government. A bit over a year after taking office, President Hollande’s disapproval rating stands at 70% (!) and his Prime Minister’s disapproval ratings only slightly better at 65-67%. This is the lowest approval rating for any President after a year in office, and approaching all-time lows for presidential unpopularity (mid to low 20s).

A large part of this unpopularity stems from the politcal and economic conjuncture. France is wracked with high unemployment (over 10%), an economy in recession and a very large public debt (90%). At least some of France’s economic woes are beyond the government’s control, although voters will invariably lay the blame on a poor economy on whoever has the bad luck of being in power. It is likely that if President Nicolas Sarkozy had won reelection in May 2012, his approval ratings would be just as low as Hollande’s. However, the economic crisis has only aggravated matters and a good part of this government’s unpopularity is of its own making.

At times, the government has been a bit like a deer in the headlights when it comes to dealing with the economic crisis. It has been seen as powerless, lost and incompetent in its handling of the economy. The right has criticized the ‘amateurism’ and jumbled response of the government and denounced high taxes. Many on the left, however, also dislike the government. Hollande and the PS won the 2012 election on a fairly anti-austerity platform full with flowery rhetoric about ‘growth’ and nice things, but once in power it has largely continued Sarkozy’s austerity policies (disguised as ‘efforts’ because austerity is unpronounceable by governments since the 1980s). Hollande approved the European Fiscal Compact without any substantial changes, despite having pledged to renegotiate it. His government has implemented harsh austerity measures, including tax increases and spending/job cuts in the public sector. The Constitutional Council has also forced him to scrap, entirely, his much-publicized 75% tax on incomes over a million euros. With good reason, many on the left feel that Hollande’s policies are no different than his predecessor’s policies.

Other election promises – constitutional reforms, cracking down on dual office holding (cumul des mandats) and so forth – have been watered down or indefinitely delayed. The government was successful in passing its landmark same-sex marriage and adoption law in May 2013, but it was passed at the price of riling up social conservative and Catholic public opinion in the form of enormous anti-gay marriage rallies.

On the symbolic aspect of things, Hollande had made a big deal of Sarkozy’s centralizing, autocratic and flashy presidential style and he famously presented himself as the ‘normal President’ in contrast to the ‘hyper-President’. Yet, the symbolic changes at that level have been slow to come. The ‘normal president’ mantra was quickly dropped. By choosing his close ally Jean-Marc Ayrault as Prime Minister, Hollande signaled that he was continuing in Sarkozy’s, rather than Mitterrand’s, footsteps by choosing a close ally and partner as Prime Minister. While the left criticized Sarkozy for sidelining the Prime Minister and concentrating powers in the executive branch, Hollande has done largely the same. Ayrault, a year later, appears effaced and a mere ‘sidekick’ in comparison to his President.

Within the government, there has often been cacophony and public disagreements between cabinet ministers, which Ayrault has struggled to deal with. Cabinet solidarity appears to be quite shaky. For example, Arnaud Montebourg – the minister of industry and a leader of the PS’ left-wing faction – told Ayrault that he was managing France like the municipal council in Nantes (Ayrault was mayor of Nantes before becoming Prime Minister) and that he was ‘pissing off’ everybody with the controversial new airport project on the outskirts of Nantes (which Ayrault strongly supports, along with most of the PS, but not Montebourg and the Greens). Ayrault confirmed Montebourg’s insubordination but he was not fired. There have also been internal disagreements between the PS and its most demanding junior partner, the Greens (EELV) – which is seriously considering leaving the governing coalition. The Left Front (FG) led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon and the Communist Party (PCF) have been vocal critics of government policies.

There have been eight legislative by-elections since the last legislative elections (seven of them actually ‘count’ because Wallis-et-Futuna has no impact on national politics and vice-versa – the ‘right-winger’ backed by the UMP who won that by-election now sits with the PS…). The PS held four of these eight seats, and it has lost all of them. It was eliminated by the first round in two seats it already held and in two other seats in which it was the main challenger in 2012.

The first ‘mid-term’ electoral test for the government will be municipal elections in March 2014, followed by European elections in June 2014. The left might manage to hold on fairly well in the municipal elections, but European elections are usually brutal for the governing party and the PS will likely take a massive thumping. Many assume that Hollande will change Prime Ministers after the Euros in June 2014.


Location of the Lot-et-Garonne’s 3rd constituency (outlined in red)

Lot-et-Garonne’s third constituency includes the northeastern region of the Lot-et-Garonne, the region centered around Villeneuve-sur-Lot. The constituency includes the cantons of Beauville, Cancon, Castillonnès, Fumel, Laroque-Timbaut, Monclar, Monflanquin, Penne-d’Agenais, Prayssas, Sainte-Livrade-sur-Lot, Tournon-d’Agenais, Villeneuve-sur-Lot Nord, Villeneuve-sur-Lot Sud and Villeréal. Its boundaries have remained unchanged since 1986.

This is a predominantly small town constituency, with some more rural and sparsely populated regions. Villeneuve-sur-Lot, with a population of 23,530 is the largest city in the constituency. Sainte-Livrade-sur-Lot (pop. 6,410) and Fumel (pop. 5,186) are the two other major towns in the constituency, although a good number of towns have over 2,000 inhabitants. In general, the main centres of population are concentrated along the Lot river, which flows through the constituency and its three largest communes. The ‘inland’ communes tend to be rural, isolated from major urban centres. Historically an agricultural region, the constituency nowadays tends to be lower middle-class, with a large blue-collar (ouvriers and employees) population and a high percentage (36%) of retirees.

Historically, the department (and this constituency) was rural and agricultural – wheat, wines, fruits and vegetables being the dominant crops in the department. As recently as 1968, agriculteurs (farmers who owned and work their land) still made up a plurality of the working population in most of the constituency, excluding the major cities and the Fumélois. The Lot-et-Garonne’s social structure was a mix of smallholdings and métayage (a form of sharecropping), although métayage was more dominant in the Marmandais (the western half of the department). Agriculture declined significantly after the Second World War, continuing a rural exodus which had begun in the mid-nineteenth century and continued into the 1970s, although urban areas grew considerably after the 1920s.

The exception to the agricultural nature of the constituency was found in the three main urban centres. Villeneuve-sur-Lot has always served as an important commercial centre by virtue of its geographic location on the Lot river. Sainte-Livrade-sur-Lot’s economy has been more closely tied to its rural surroundings. Fumel and its immediate surroundings, located at the eastern extremity of the constituency along the Lot river, has had a large iron working/metallurgical industry since the 1850s. Some rural areas, however, have some industrial backbone as well – construction, small businesses and so forth.

After the Algerian War and Algerian independence (1962), a large number (about 20,000) of pieds noirs and harki refugees settled in the Lot and Garonne valleys. In the interwar years, the region had already received Italian and Spanish immigrants.

Politically, this region of the department has been a closely disputed bellwether since the 1980s. The Communist Party (PCF), which was extremely powerful in the Marmandais as early as the mid-1920s until 1981, was never as strong in the Villeneuvois, although it did fairly well in the industrialized Fumélois and in some rural cantons in the north. Instead, the constituency remained dominated by notables and moderate ‘bourgeois parties’ – Georges Leygues, a centre-right republican who served President of the Council between September 1920 and January 1921, held the continuously seat between 1885 and 1933. The Radical Party, the epitome of the parti de notables which dominated small-town republican and anti-clerical areas such as this one for decades, was rather strong in the region as well. In 1958, a former Radical-turned-Gaullist (Jacques Raphaël-Leygues, none other than Georges Leygues’ grandson) won this seat for the Gaullist UNR. He was defeated in 1962 by Édouard Schloesing, a moderate Radical who refused the Programme commun with the PS and PCF in 1972 and was reelected – one last time – in 1973 for the centrist ‘Reformist Movement’ (MR). The first left-winger to represent the constituency was Marcel Garrouste, a Socialist elected in 1978, 1981 and 1988.

Nevertheless, the left – echoing a long Radical tradition which retained leftist overtones for quite some time – dominated presidential politics until 1981. Mitterrand easily won the constituency in 1965, 1974 and 1981 – on the current boundaries, he won 55.8% of the vote in 1981. The substantial shift away from the left came in one shot – in 1988, Mitterrand actually performed below his national average in the seat, winning only 52.8% in the second round. Since then, numbers have been stabilized – the constituency is a pure bellwether. The results in presidential elections since 1995 have been remarkably close to national numbers: 53.2% for Chirac in 1995, 53.7% for Sarkozy in 2007 and 51.8% for Hollande in 2012. Even in the first rounds, with the exception of the far-right which tends to be a few points above average and the Greens and far-left who are a few points below, the numbers for the PCF, PS, UDF and RPR-UMP have been very similar to national numbers.

Results of presidential, regional and European elections in Lot-et-Garonne's 3rd constituency since 1988 (1981 notional results)

Results of presidential, regional and European elections in Lot-et-Garonne’s 3rd constituency since 1988 (1981 notional results)

What explains the sudden shift away from the left, between 1981 and 1988? The left-wing  anti-clerical and republican tradition which had prevailed for over a hundred years declined, with a rural exodus, urbanization and social dislocation bred by such changes. This was likely aggravated by the economic crisis of the 1980s. Immigration became a major issue in this region starting around the same time. The region’s strong fruit and vegetable industry has always required a large seasonal workforce. While these roles were often filled by Italians, Spaniards or Portuguese in the 1960s and 1970s, they were progressively replaced by Moroccan and other North African immigrants. The constituency has a fairly large foreign population (6%), although some of those ‘foreign nationals’ are British or other EU citizens who settled in rural southern France.

Each main party’s strength is almost evenly distributed throughout the constituency. In the 2012 runoff, Hollande did best in the cantons of Fumel (59.6%) and Tournon-d’Agenais (57.7%) – both industrialized (metal) areas in the Fumélois; but in all other cantons, his support ranged from 47% to 54%. Similarly, Marine Le Pen’s support was fairly evenly spread – she did not do significantly worse in major cities (she won 23% in Sainte-Livrade-sur-Lot, although she performed a bit below average in the other towns) and her support ranged from 19% to 23%. The FN traditionally tends to be strong along the Lot and Garonne rivers, a region mixing Pieds-Noirs with seasonal immigration, fruit/vegetable farms and small businesses (a perfect recipe for a strong FN vote); but in 2012, Marine Le Pen improved on past far-right performances in the more rural ‘inland’ cantons.

Villeneuve-sur-Lot, like many similar commercial and rather bourgeois towns in the old Radical southwest, was a Gaullist stronghold until 2001 – in many elections (such as 1981), the right’s strength was concentrated in Villeneuve-sur-Lot while the left prevailed in the surrounding rural areas. It has since shifted to the left. In 1998, Jérôme Cahuzac gained the canton of Villeneuve-sur-Lot-Sud and he gained the town hall from the RPR’s Michel Gonelle in a triangulaire in 2001. He was reelected by the first round in 2008. Hollande narrowly won Villeneuve-sur-Lot in the 2012 runoff.

As a rural area, the Chasse, pêche, nature et traditions (CPNT) did very well in the constituency in the 1990s. It won 10.1% in the 1999 European elections, and CPNT presidential candidate Jean Saint-Josse did rather well in isolated rural cantons in 2002 – up to 19% support.

The PS narrowly held the seat in the 1988 legislative elections, with former deputy Marcel Garrouste. However, Garrouste retired prior to the catastrophic 1993 elections. Hurt by the atypical candidacy of Anne Carpentier, owner of a satirical local paper, the PS found itself eliminated by the first round and the second round was a fraternal runoff between the UDF mayor of Monflanquin, Daniel Soulage, and the RPR mayor of Villeneuve-sur-Lot, Michel Gonelle. Soulage won a by a hair. In 1997, however, the PS – with Jérôme Cahuzac – staged its revenge and narrowly defeated Soulage (UDF) in the runoff, with 50.7% for Cahuzac. In 2002, the pendulum swung back to the right – Alain Merly, the UDF-UMP mayor of Prayssas, defeated Cahuzac in the runoff, with 51.8%. Merly served only one term, retiring before the 2007 election. Cahuzac, trying to regain his old seat, faced Jean-Louis Bruguière, a famous counter-terrorism magistrate. Cahuzac defeated Bruguière in the second round, winning 52.1%.

The 2012 election was different from all others. Jérôme Cahuzac, who had just been named to cabinet and was riding on wave of notoriety (and popularity), won a record 46.9% by the first round and steamrolled the UMP’s candidate, Jean-Louis Costes, in the second round with 61.5%. Cahuzac likely received a substantial local boost from his nomination to cabinet, a ‘cabinet effect’ which benefited a few other of his (former) colleagues in June 2012.

No less than seventeen candidates faced off in the first round of the by-election.

The UMP candidate, as in June 2012, was Jean-Louis Costes, the mayor and general councillor for (the strongly left-wing) Fumel and the leader of the departmental opposition in the general council. Jean-Louis Costes appears to be on his party’s right – he is a close sympathizer of the Mouvement initiative et liberté (MIL), a hardright Gaullist movement known for its strongly anti-leftist, anti-immigration and anti-Islam attitudes. Its ranks include the likes of Bernard Debré, Yves Guéna, Charles Pasqua and Jean Tiberi. He faced some minor right-wing dissidents, including Joffrey Raphaël-Leygues, the 18-year old grandson of former UNR deputy Jacques Raphaël-Leygues (and great-great-grandson of Georges Leygues), who ran as an ‘extreme centrist’ (I really love that).

The PS candidate was Bernard Barral, a retired 66-year old businessman. The left was shaken up for a few weeks in early-mid May by persistent rumours that Jérôme Cahuzac would seek to regain his old seat as a PS dissident candidate. Cahuzac has taken his ‘forced’ resignation and subsequent lynching by his former colleagues quite badly – while he has admitted that he did have an offshore account, he doesn’t seem to think that it was a big deal and he feels that he has been betrayed by his old party and colleagues. He seems quite intent on taking his revenge, and he is out for blood – particularly Socialist blood. In early May, he apparently surveyed the ground for a potential dissident candidacy and said – with such chutzpah – that “some are speaking for me without a mandate to do so”. A poll by LH2 showed that he would have won 11% as a dissident candidate. He ultimately decided against running, but it’s quite clear that he intends to stage a comeback – perhaps in the 2014 local elections in Villeneuve-sur-Lot. The PS also faced FG and EELV candidates.

The FN candidate was 23-year old Etienne Bousquet-Cassagne, the departmental secretary (leader) of the FN in the department. Bousquet-Cassagne symbolizes a new generation of FN candidates being promoted by the party’s leader, Marine Le Pen. Seeking to assert her control over the party, sideline the ‘old guard’ and sanitize the far-right’s image (dédiabolisation), she has been promoting a new generation of young leaders and candidates to prominent roles in the FN’s leadership (Florian Philippot, a 31-year old Gaullist technocrat, is the FN’s vice-president and rising star). This strategy has ruffled a lot of feathers and displeased the more radical (neo-fascist) old guard of the FN, but it is quite irrelevant in the electoral scheme of things – FN dissidents have invariably been crushed and killed off by the FN leadership since 1998.

There was also a slew of perennial candidates – most of whom didn’t actually live in the department, let alone the constituency. Nicolas Miguet, leader of the anti-tax ‘Rally of French Taxpayers’ (RCF) and tax fraudster, ran here. You also had a monarchist candidate, a libertarian, one for the far-left (NPA), a Pirate and a few other jokers.

Turnout was 45.88%, down from 64.16% in 2007 but nonetheless an excellent turnout for a by-election.

Jean-Louis Costes (UMP) 28.71% (+1.71%)
Etienne Bousquet-Cassagne (FN) 26.04% (+10.33%)
Bernard Barral (PS) 23.69% (-23.17%)
Marie-Hélène Loiseau (FG) 5.08% (+0.58%)
Anne Carpentier (Parti d’en rire) 3.28%
Lionel Feuillas (EELV) 2.78% (+0.75%)
Yamina Kichi (MoDem) 2.33%
Benoît Frison-Roche (DVD) 2.32%
Hervé Lebreton (SE) 1.69%
Joffrey-Raphaël Leygues (DVC) 1.44%
Maria-Fé Garay (NPA) 1.11% (+0.46%)
François Asselineau (UPR) 0.58%
Nicolas Miguet (RCF) 0.42%
Cédric Levieux (Pirate) 0.19%
Stéphane Geyres (Libertarian) 0.17%
Michel Garcia-Luna (AR) 0.16%
Rachid Nekkaz (RSD) 0.00% (0 votes!)

Turnout in the second round was 52.47%. Blancs et nuls votes (invalid) stood at 7.48%, up from 2.18% in the first round.

Jean-Louis Costes (UMP) 53.76%
Etienne Bousquet-Cassagne (FN) 46.24%

The PS candidate was eliminated by the first round, similar to what happened in March in the Oise’s 2nd constituency. In this case, however, it is even worse. The Oise result was bad for the PS, no doubt about that, but it was a right-wing constituency (and one which has been moving rightwards consistently since 1981) – Sarkozy won 56% in the runoff there and Hollande had placed third in the first round with only 22% of the vote. This constituency, however, is a bellwether constituency (not a left-wing stronghold as the 2012 results indicate). Of the seven ‘normal’ by-elections since June 2012 (again, excluding idiosyncratic Wallis-et-Futuna), this is the first one in a seat which Hollande won in the runoff.

After losing in the Oise, the PS lost two by-elections in constituencies for French citizens living abroad. The PS did, all things considered, fairly well in the first constituency (United States and Canada), winning 25% (with an additional 7.4% for the EELV candidate, who had backed the PS in 2012) and saving face (despite losing) in the second round with 46.8%. But that was probably due, in large part, to the flukes of low turnout (13%) and the personality of the UMP’s candidate, Frédéric Lefebvre – a former junior cabinet minister under Sarkozy who had been parachuted into the constituency in June 2012, much to the distaste of the local right-wing networks. Although Frédéric Lefebvre managed to win the seat in the by-election, his result was nothing to write home about.

However, the result for the PS in the eight constituency (Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel) was disastrous – in a seat which it had won in 2012 (but that was a huge fluke), it was eliminated by the first round with only 14.6% of the vote. But while that was a bad result, no doubt about it, the PS’ victory in June 2012 owed a lot to the fraternal (Israel-induced) divisions of the right. Hollande had won 37% in that constituency in the May 2012 runoff, with Sarkozy handily winning on the back of quasi-unanimous support (around 90%) in Israel. The UMP candidate in June 2012, who ran again in the by-election, was accused by a right-wing dissident of being too pro-Palestinian (even if she was quite pro-Israeli, just not to the extent of the dissident in question), and the dissident went on to back the PS in the second round. In the by-election, the PS was hurt by a EELV candidate who drew a lot of left-wing/PS voters away in Greece, and it was eliminated by the first round – the runoff was a fraternal battle between the UMP’s Valérie Hoffenberg and Meyer Habib, running for Jean-Louis Borloo’s ostensibly centre-right Union of Democrats and Independents (UDI). Meyer Habib, who was publicly endorsed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, won the second round with 53.4%.

The PS’ result is beyond disastrous. To be fair, commentary on the loss of nearly half of their votes from June 2012 (or -23.2% in percentage terms) should be tempered by the observation that the PS’ result in June 2012 was abnormally high given the constituency’s swingy nature – a lot of those votes were likely fairly non-ideological personal votes for Cahuzac, who, back then, was something of a rising star and quite popular both in his constituency and France as a whole. Cahuzac’s 46.9% in the first round in June 2012 should not be interpreted as a sign that this is a solidly left-wing seat or that 46% represents the average share for the PS. Nevertheless, even when compared to more ‘normal’ results – 2007, 2002 and 1997 – it is clear that the PS has taken quite a tumble. In 2007, Cahuzac won 37.6% in the first round. In 2002, he had won 34% and in 1997 he had taken 27.6% (his gains between 1997 and 2002 likely came from the PCF and the Greens, whose votes collapsed in 2002). Another reference point for comparison might be presidential and regional elections: in 2012, Hollande won 27.6% in the first round in the constituency; in 2010, the PS list had won 33.8% in the constituency for the first round of regional elections; in 2007, Royal won 25.8% in the first round.

As in the last by-elections, an important share of the PS’ 2012/2007 voters likely did not vote in the by-election. However, unlike in past by-elections, the first round results do not indicate a clear correlation between higher abstention and a higher share for the left either in the by-election or in 2012. In fact, turnout was generally lower where the FN did best. Furthermore, abstention in the first round (54%) was much lower here than in the Oise (67%) – sure, the Oise is more abstentionist by nature, but we might have expected that turnout would be rather low here considering circumstances: a large left-wing electorate (one much larger than in the Oise) tempted to not show up, a little-known PS candidate and the stench associated with the Cahuzac scandal.

We may reasonably assume that some ‘lost’ PS voters did in fact turn out, but voted for other leftist/left-leaning candidates: either the FG or EELV candidates but also Anne Carpentier, the aforementioned left-inclined satirical candidate who won 3.3% in the first round (more than the EELV candidate). There is some evidence, it would seem, that the FN’s strongest gains came from precincts where the left had done well in its happier days – the PS will hate to admit it, but some of its past voters voted for the FN this year.

As always, analysis of this election is clouded by partisanship, mindless blabbering by the inevitable self-proclaimed ‘experts’ and journalists who have no clue about elections coming up with their grand theories. One particular factor merits attention, to help explain the PS’ catastrophic result. The PS leadership has preferred to go the easy way out, finding scapegoats for its (largely self-induced) defeat: the Greens split the vote (reasonable, but the PS-FN gap was 770 votes and EELV won 914 votes, meaning that 84% of the EELV’s voters would have needed to vote PS for it to qualify) and it’s all Cahuzac’s fault. Cahuzac likely contributed to aggravating the situation for the PS, but the PS’ defeat was self-induced, by external (the government’s unpopularity, the crisis) and internal factors.

Results by canton of the first and second rounds of the by-election (own map)

Results by canton of the first and second rounds of the by-election (own map)

At the local level, the PS had a mediocre candidate who lacked an obvious geographic base in the constituency. Cahuzac had a local base in Villeneuve-sur-Lot, and he did a few points better in Villeneuve-sur-Lot than the constituency as a whole. Jean-Louis Costes, the UMP’s candidate, is mayor and general councillor of Fumel, a strongly left-wing town (62% Hollande). This hadn’t been of much help against Cahuzac in June 2012, although he did manage to hold Cahuzac down to 56% in Fumel (the commune). However, in a by-election against a little-known PS candidate with no similar local implantation, this was a major boon for Costes: he won 49.8% in the canton of Fumel, against 22% for the PS and 15.2% for the FN. In contrast, Barral (PS) peaked at only 28% in Tournon-d’Agenais and his support generally ranged from 20% to 25% in almost every other canton.

The UMP’s result, by itself, was nothing exceptional. In past by-elections, despite the unpopularity of UMP president Jean-François Copé since the November 2012 kerfuffle, the UMP’s vote had increased by a fairly substantial margin in the first round – on average by 7 or 8%. The only exception was the last by-election in the 8th foreign constituency, but that was most likely due to the right’s eternal internecine warfare there and very low turnout. Yet, in the Lot-et-Garonne, Costes won only 28.7% – only a marginal improvement on his 27% from June 2012, a result which had been very poor – in 2007, the UMP won 42% in the first round and in 2002, 30%. Some right-wing votes were probably dispersed between the many minor right-wing/centrist candidates and, to a certain extent, the FN.

The Left Front (FG) was, once again, unable to benefit from the PS’ collapse – its candidate won only 5.1%, a minor improvement (0.6%) on a fairly paltry showing in 2012. This harks back to two episodes where the PCF was in opposition to a PS government – from 1984 to 1986 and from 1988 to 1993. However, in both cases, the PCF was only able to stop the bleeding – it did not gain (a significant amount of) votes.

In the second round, Costes (UMP) won with 53.8%, a slightly wider margin than the UMP’s victory in Oise-2 (51.4%) and, on the whole, a fairly good result for the UMP given that the FN had a lot of momentum going into the runoff and many were wondering whether or not the FN would be able to pull off an upset victory.

Nevertheless, it is another excellent result for the FN – after gaining 10 points from 2012 in the first round, the FN increased its vote in the runoff by some 20 points (nearly 8,000 additional votes). What is more, unlike in the Oise-2, the FN candidate won more votes in the runoff (15,647) than Marine Le Pen had won herself in April 2012 (some 13,000). The UMP candidate gained 8,762 votes between the two rounds.

While left>FN transfers undeniably exist, the June 2012 legislative election showed that they were far less significant than right>FN transfers. In 9 right/FN runoffs in the last legislative election, there was only a weak correlation (0.21) between left-wing strength in the first round and FN gains between both rounds; there was, however, a 0.64 correlation between left-wing strength and a decline in voter turnout between between both rounds. Turnout declined by an average of 8% in the 9 right/FN battles in June, it only increased by 1.2% in left/FN battles. The percentage of voters who turned out in the runoff but cast blank or invalid votes was also very high (over 10%) in right/FN runoffs.

However, as in Oise-2, turnout increased (pretty significantly here, to the point where turnout was higher than abstention) between both rounds although there was, a large increase in invalid votes. Once again, this begs the question – where did the FN’s nearly 8,000 new voters come from?

In the Oise, an ecological inference analysis by Joël Gombin had found that 43% of the PS candidate’s first round voter had voted for the FN candidate in the runoff, with the remnants split between staying home, invalid votes and the UMP. However, a study done by the PS federation in the department disproved this ‘transfer’ theory in favour of the ‘substitution’ theory which holds that there was a significant change in the composition of the electorate between the two rounds, with first round leftists not voting being compensated by a large increase in turnout on the far-right. Analyzing 84% of the listes d’émargement (signing sheets where voters sign their initials after casting their ballot), the PS found that there was a large change in the electorate – about 4,700 first round voters did not vote a week later, but about 6,350 voters who had voted in the first round did so in the second round. This observation was more in line with the results of the 9 right/FN runoff in June 2012.

It is quite possible that the same thing happened in the Lot-et-Garonne, but there is also a strong possibility that a significant number of left-wing voters from the first round voted FN in the second round. If this was true, this would be a major defeat for the old strategy of the ‘republican front’ (anti-FN alliances). Unlike in the Oise, where the local PS candidate had not endorsed either the UMP or the FN candidate, the PS here endorsed the UMP candidate and Costes – fairly ironically given how he’s on his party’s right (MIL) – embraced the ‘republican front’. The ‘republican front’ strategy has been challenged and almost thoroughly discredited since 2010. On the one hand, the UMP no longer automatically endorses the left against the FN and many UMP leaders – Copé first and foremost – have had ambiguous statements on all this. The UMP nowadays tends to prefer the ni ni strategy – neither the left nor the FN – although the party remains split between a moderate faction of the ruling elite which still has sympathy for the ‘republican front’ and a more conservative activist base which has a large minority favouring open electoral alliances with the FN. The PS, meanwhile, still has a preference for the ‘republican front’ but the UMP’s strategy has unnerved it, to the point where some local PS candidates will endorse neither the UMP nor the FN. Recently, there were allegations that the PS in the Vaucluse covertly supported FN candidate (now deputy) Marion Maréchal-Le Pen by not withdrawing its candidate from the three-way runoff in which Marion Maréchal-Le Pen emerged victorious.

Finally, the continuation of a ‘republican front’ strategy tends to play right into the FN’s hand. A large part of Marine Le Pen’s rhetoric is denouncing the corrupt ‘UMPS’ elites – a message incessantly regurgitated by her new circle of obedient young leaders and candidates, including the FN candidate in this constituency. A ‘republican front’ between UMP and PS can easily be presented by the FN as ‘proof’ that both parties are, in reality, two sides of the same coin and are in cahoots with one another. And neither the UMP nor the PS try very hard to disprove that – PS deputies recently found common cause with UMP deputies in significantly watering down the government’s post-Cahuzac transparency and ethics legislation.

In the first round, the left (PS-FG-EELV) won around 10,400 votes (11,872 if you include Carpentier, the NPA and the Pirates). There were an additional 3,984 invalid votes in the second round, and we can safely assume that most of those were from left-wingers. 992 additional valid votes were cast in the second round. The UMP candidate gained 8,762 votes – the additional votes from the MoDem and the other right-wingers/centrists give him an additional 2,437 votes from the first round. There are therefore about 6,300 additional UMP votes which came from other ‘sources’. The FN candidate gained about 8,000 new votes. On these numbers, it would appear that the FN gained a large number of its additional votes from left-wing voters. But this is an extremely rudimentary and  unscientific calculation. It can neither prove nor disprove the ‘transfer’ or ‘substitution’ theories.

Legislative by-elections since June 2012, comparison chart (own work)

Legislative by-elections since June 2012, comparison chart (own work)

As in the Oise-2, this by-election has shown two things – the PS is unpopular and faces an electoral drubbing if these numbers hold up in a national election; the FN is the only political force in the country which is truly on the upswing and it has proven that it has a remarkable ability to gain significant support from one round to another in duel runoffs. The cordon sanitaire is – in good part – gone. The FN has a far less ‘toxic’ image. Marine Le Pen’s dédiabolisation efforts are paying off, and many voters – left and right – are willing to vote for the FN over a more ‘acceptable’ party in the runoff when their preferred candidate is eliminated. We cannot treat voters as mathematical, rational and predictable individuals who can be expected to follow the directions given by their party of choice. Despite the strong enmity between national PS and FN leadership, there is some overlap between both parties. Some left-wing voters will prefer the FN over the right when faced with that choice.

The PS has lost four seats in by-elections, two of those were lost by the first round. PS candidates lost votes in all seven ‘normal’ by-elections, in all but one they lost a significant amount. The PS was eliminated by the first round in a total of four out of these seven by-elections. In France, midterm by-election loses for the governing party are the rule, so this is not particularly surprising although still quite spectacular.

Oise 2nd by-election (France)

A legislative by-election was held in the Oise’s second constituency in France on March 17 and 24, 2013. The results of the June 2012 legislative election in the constituency were declared invalid by the Constitutional Council, for reasons related to false statements in the incumbent deputy’s campaign propaganda. A by-election was held on the same day in Wallis-et-Futuna’s at-large constituency; these were the fourth and fifth legislative by-elections since the June 2012 elections: by-elections were held in Hérault (6), Hauts-de-Seine (13) and Val-de-Marne (1) in December after the initial results of the June 2012 elections were invalidated in these three constituencies. There are two pending by-elections in the constituencies for French citizens abroad (constituencies 1 and 8), the results of the June 2012 election in those two seats were also recently invalidated by the  Constitutional Council but a date has not yet been set for the by-elections.

French legislative elections or by-elections are fought on a two-round system. A candidate must win over 50% of valid votes representing at least 25% of registered voters to win outright by the first round. If a second round is organized, all candidates who have won over 12.5% of registered voters are qualified for the runoff; or, if no candidates meet this requirement, the top two candidates in the first round. In by-elections were turnout is almost always lows, this means that only the top two candidates will qualify.

The incumbent deputy in Oise’s 2nd constituency, reelected in June, was Jean-François Mancel of the centre-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP). The incumbent deputy in Wallis-et-Futuna, elected in June, was David Vergé, classified as a right-winger but who sat with the Socialist (PS) group. In Wallis-et-Futuna, the ConCon also declared Vergé and some other candidates from the June 2012 to be ineligible for any elected office for a period of one year.


These by-elections come at a bad time for the incumbent centre-left government. Less than a year after he defeated incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy, François Hollande is nearing record levels of unpopularity, his approval ratings having sunk faster than any other President under the Fifth Republic. His approval rating currently stands at about 31%, the lowest for any President after ten months in office and approaching the record lows set by Jacques Chirac in his second term (mid to low 20s). Part of this unpopularity stems from the particular politcal and economic conjuncture. The French economy, like that of most of its neighbors, remains weak with high unemployment, low economic growth and a large public debt. The situation, naturally, was never going to brighten up miraculously with the election of a new head of state. Secondly, Hollande’s victory in May 2012 owed a lot to the ephemeral appeal of anti-Sarkozysm on the left and parts of the centre. As I noted in my analysis of the runoff last year, “the fact that the election was more Sarkozy’s defeat than Hollande’s victory and that Hollande owes his victory to anti-Sarkozysm will certainly come back to haunt the PS and Hollande in the near future, once voters forget Sarkozy and shift their judgement to the new incumbent.” While the economic context has further aggravated matters, a good part of the government’s unpopularity is of their own making.

Faced with an ever bleaker economic picture – unemployment at 10% and up nearly 1% on the previous years, flat economic growth in 2012 and a high public debt (90%) – the government has suffered heavily from the perception that it is slow to react and that it has found itself completely lost and powerless against the economic crisis. The right, which disliked Hollande from the get-go, has criticized the ‘amateurism’ and jumbled response of the government and decried its economic policies (the UMP has placed particular emphasis on higher taxes). But many on the left have felt let down by the government on the economic front. It was fairly clear that for all of the PS’s flowery rhetoric about growth, it would be forced to implement austerity measures including spending cuts in the public sector (the public sector is a PS stronghold); and it has done so, although it has disguised it as ‘efforts’. Hollande had promised to renegotiate the European Fiscal Compact to give it a more ‘pro-growth’ orientation, but he and his governing majority ultimately approved it without any major changes. The Constitutional Council has also forced him to scrap, entirely, his much-publicized 75% tax on incomes over a million euros. For many voters on the left, very little positive change is perceptible and many voters feel that Hollande’s policies are no different than his predecessor’s policies.

On a whole slew of other issues and campaign promises, the government has either ‘delayed’ reforms or watered them down fairly significantly. For example, because it lacks a three-fifths majority to pass major constitutional changes, a number of promised constitutional reforms have been have been written off the agenda. Faced with major internal unease within its own majority, the government has ‘delayed’ – probably indefinitely – a major reform to crack down on dual office holding (cumul des mandats). Proportional representations seems, once agian, to have been lost somewhere along the road. The latest round of ‘decentralization reforms’ which seem to be obligatory for every President has been delayed, held up in the Senate and met with the wrath of some local officials. While the government will likely be able to legalize same-sex marriage and adoption rights eventually, it has mobilized social conservative groups and is widely rejected by the quasi-entirety of the opposition.

On the symbolic aspect of things, Hollande had made a big deal of Sarkozy’s centralizing, autocratic and flashy (bling-bling) presidential system and he famously presented himself as the ‘normal President’ in contrast to the ‘hyper-President’ Sarkozy. Yet, the symbolic changes at that level have been slow to come. The ‘normal president’ mantra was quickly dropped. By choosing his close ally Jean-Marc Ayrault as Prime Minister (rather than party rival Martine Aubry, for example) Hollande signaled that he was continuing in Sarkozy’s, rather than Mitterrand’s, footsteps by choosing a close ally and partner as Prime Minister. While the left criticized Sarkozy for sidelining the Prime Minister and concentrating powers in the executive branch, Hollande has done largely the same. Ayrault, ten months down the road, appears effaced and a mere ‘sidekick’ in comparison to his President.

Having been in opposition for ten years upon taking office last spring, the PS and the wider ‘presidential majority’ has had some trouble adapting to the rigours of governing. Cabinet ministers, from early on, have contradicted each other or diverged from the government line publicly, and Ayrault has often appeared powerless or unable to put his ministers back in place. And the government has been hit by its first ethics scandal: the budget minister, Jérôme Cahuzac, a respected figure, was forced to resign on March 19 after facing allegations of tax fraud and a secret bank account in Switzerland. Meanwhile, some signs of internal disagreements between the PS and its minor allies (particularly the Greens/EELV) have appeared on some issues, while the Left Front (FG) led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon and the Communist Party (PCF) have been vocal critics of government policies.

A few government ministers have been able to escape the government’s unpopularity. Top amongst them is Manuel Valls, the Interior minister, who is the most popular in France at the moment with wide support on the left and right. He has largely continued his right-wing predecessors’ tough crime and immigration policies, notably by continuing the expulsion of the Roma and dismantling illegal ‘squatter settlements’. Valls’ tough policies on crime, security and immigration has the right worried that the PS might be succeeding at ‘reappropriating’ the security issue from them.

Despite the government’s unpopularity, the right-wing opposition has had trouble appearing as a better alternative. Sarkozy’s right-wing party, the UMP, was almost torn apart in November at the party congress meant to choose Sarkozy’s successor as the head of the party. Although both warring sides in the UMP’s civil war have since come to an agreement (a new congress in the fall, in the meantime the leadership is made up of an equal number of members from both sides), it is an uneasy truce between the two rival camps united only by their common opposition to the government. The few major UMP politicians who are very popular with the electorate at this point in time are those who are out of the limelight and the intrigues at the Parisian headquarters (Christine Lagarde as IMF managing director, Alain Juppé as mayor of Bordeaux and respected ‘party elder’). Finally, Nicolas Sarkozy’s potential ambitions for a rematch against Hollande in 2017 might be complicated by his recent indictment in an old corruption/party financing scandal.


Map of the Oise’s 2nd constituency (outlined in red)

Oise’s second constituency includes the west of the Oise department and the southwest canton of Beauvais, the main urban centre in the region. The constituency, whose borders have remained the same since 1986, is made up of the cantons of Auneuil, Beauvais Sud-Ouest, Chaumont-en-Vexin, Le Coudray-Saint-Germer, Fromerie, Grandvilliers, Noailles and Songeons. This constituency includes parts of four traditional natural regions: the Plateau Picard in the north; the Bray in the centre; the Thelle/Thérain valley running towards the south; and the Vexin français in the southwestern end of the constituency.

The common way of describing constituencies similar to this one is ‘rural’. Indeed, Beauvais is the only large city in the constituency where no other commune has over 3,000 inhabitants. However, the ‘rural’ descriptor is both deceptive and simplistic; the second constituency is much more of an exurban/small town constituency rather than a purely rural area. With the exception of the two northernmost cantons, most of the constituency is a patchwork of villages and small towns economically and socially tied to Beauvais and/or Paris. Beauvais is the only commune in the canton where over half of the economically active population are employed in the town where they live. Historically, this is also a working-class area with small industrial centres or small industries (glass-making, sugar beets, metallurgy, railway classification yards in cités cheminotes).

Politically, alongside the rest of the department and most of the region, the constituency has shifted heavily to the right and far-right over the course of the past decades. Socialist President François Hollande won 43.9% in the constituency in May 2012; about 4% worse than Lionel Jospin (PS) had done in the constituency in 1995 (remembering that Hollande did about 4% better nationally). For an even starker contrast, 31 years ago, François Mitterrand won the constituency with 51.5% in the 1981 election – nationally, Hollande and Mitterrand (1981) won by almost the exact same margin, in this constituency Hollande performed nearly 8 points worse than Mitterrand in 1981.

Nevertheless, this constituency has never really been markedly left-leaning. Less industrialized and urbanized than other parts of the department, the French Communist Party (PCF) was never as strong here than in other parts of the department, and there was some subsisting Radical strength in the more agricultural parts of the constituency (Bray) in the 1950s.

Nicolas Sarkozy won the constituency with 60.7% in 2007 and held it with 56.1% last May. In the second round, Sarkozy was victorious in every canton in the constituency with the exception of Beauvais Sud-Ouest, where Hollande won 53.4% thanks to his strength in Beauvais itself (the part of the city contained in the constituency includes a large zone urbaine sensible, a low-income urban neighborhood). Sarkozy thoroughly dominated the near totality of the ‘rural’ part of the constituency, with results above 58% in most cantons. The sole remnants of left-wing strength outside Beauvais subsist only in Sérifontaine (canton of Le Coudray-Saint-Germer, an old PCF stronghold with a large metal industry) and Feuquières, a glass-working town in the north of the constituency (canton of Grandvilliers), an extension of the ‘Glass valley’ region along the Bresle river. But whereas Lionel Jospin had won nearly 60% in both those towns in 1995, Hollande won only 53.6% in the former and 55.8% in the latter. Some isolated remnants of left-wing dominance from another era may still prop up, however, in towns such as Hermes, an old cité cheminote where Hollande won 48.7%. For the sake of comparison, Mitterrand had won majorities in six of the seat’s eight cantons in the 1981 runoff and over 54% in Beauvais SO (54.4%) and Coudray-Saint-Germer (54.4%).

Results of presidential, European and regional elections since 1988 (1981 presidential results are notional numbers)

Results of presidential, European and regional elections since 1988 in Oise-2 (1981 presidential results are notional numbers)

Marine Le Pen did extremely well in the constituency, placing first in the first round with 27.9% against 27.6% for Sarkozy and only 22.1% for Hollande. Compared to her father’s performance in 2002 and 1995, she posted some very impressive results in constituencies just like this one across eastern and northern France. The FN has always been rather strong in this constituency, but Marine Le Pen was stronger than her father had ever been in the constituency.

The seat is an interesting mix of two distinct FN electorates: the area around Beauvais and the south of the constituency, in the Thelle/Thérain valley and the Vexin, are exurban areas drawn to Paris or smaller regional centres (Beauvais, Creil etc). The FN’s electorate there is relatively blue-collar as well, but it is of a more ideologically right-wing and périurbain subi variety. Even though the local foreign population is low (3%), because many of the inhabitants in the region tend to commute to large cities and interact/confront large immigrant populations there, the FN’s rhetoric on immigration is a powerful influence. The FN’s original support in the region came largely from these kind of areas – for example, in the 1984 Euro elections, the FN did better in the exurban-type cantons (Auneuil, Chaumont-en-Vexin, Beauvais SO) than in the industrial-type cantons (Formerie, Grandvilliers, Coudray-Saint-Germer). This is also a type of FN electorate which embraced Nicolas Sarkozy by the first round in 2007: Sarkozy won 33.4% in the first round in 2007, against only 23-24% for the mainstream right in 2002 (Chirac, Madelin, Boutin). His gains – and Le Pen’s loses – were heavier in the southern part of the constituency, the most suburban/exurban part.

However, the two northernmost cantons (Formerie and Grandvilliers) are less suburban/exurban. Demographically, they are the most working-class parts of the seat and also the most economically deprived (highest unemployment, lowest incomes); but most of the old industries are dead, and most people work outside their town/village of residence. The FN vote is more recent, and the FN support tends to be a ‘pure’ protest vote which rejects the main parties and expresses discontent but also concerns and fears with the economic situation. These voters are described as ninistes in that they identify as ‘neither left nor right’, rather than very right-wing like their counterparts in other parts of the country. Marine Le Pen performed best in these two northern cantons, winning 32% and 34% respectively. In 2007, they also showed themselves to be more resistant to ‘electoral Sarkozysm’ – Le Pen’s loses were significantly lower in Formerie and Grandvilliers than in the other cantons.

Marine Le Pen also won 31% in the cantons of Coudray-Saint-Germer and Noailles – including 38% in Hermes. Her worst results were in Beauvais SO (20.7%) and the canton of Chaumont-en-Vexin (24%), which includes more affluent and well-educated Parisian outer suburbs.

The constituency has been held by the right since it took its current shape, with the exception of 1997 when the PS’ Béatrice Marre defeated the right thanks to a triangulaire with the FN. Logically, the UMP regained the seat in 2002 with 55% in the runoff and held it in 2007 with a reduced majority (52.8%). The UMP won the 2012 triangulaire by only 63 votes.

The UMP (RPR before that) incumbent since 1978 (with the exception of 1981-1986 and 1997-2002) is Jean-François Mancel, who is also the general councillor for the canton of Noailles and was president of the Oise general council between 1985 and 2004. Fitting in with his environment, Mancel is broadly on the right of the UMP (he is a copéiste); in fact, in 1998, he negotiated electoral alliances at the cantonal and regional level with the FN. Mancel is not a particularly strong incumbent and is not very influential within the ranks of his party, he has been weakened by a number of corruption allegations.

The main candidates were the same as in the June 2012 election: Mancel for the UMP, Beauvais SO general councillor Sylvie Houssin for the PS and Florence Italiani for the FN.


The results of the first round (March 17)

Jean-François Mancel (UMP) 40.61% (+7.25%)
Florence Italiani (FN) 26.58% (+3.35%)
Sylvie Houssin (PS) 21.37% (-9.13%)
Pierre Ripart (FG) 6.64% (+1.39%)
Clément Lesaege (Pirate) 1.97%
Renée Potchtovik (LO) 1.57% (+0.84%)
Michel Ramel (DVD) 1.25%

Turnout 32.79% (blank and invalid votes: 2.76%)

The results of the runoff (March 23)

Jean-François Mancel (UMP) 51.41%
Florence Italiani (FN) 48.59%

Turnout 35.3% (blank and invalid votes: 10.09%)

The first round was a major defeat for the PS. Sylvie Houssin, the PS candidate, was eliminated from the runoff by the first round, having won only 21.4% of the vote – over 9% less than in June. The local PS candidate was badly hurt by the government’s unpopularity. As is usually the case, a large part of the left-wing/PS electorate which had voted for the PS in June 2012 did not turn out in this by-election. This had already been the case for the PS in the 3 by-elections in December (which had ended in three bad defeats for the PS, including the loss of one seat to the UMP); but it worked the other way around in 2010 or 2011, when the UMP lost a good number of its voters to abstention. The results at the communal level, turnout in the first round was clearly lower in left-wing precincts, and higher in those precincts where the FN or UMP performed better.

The two main winners of the first round were the UMP and the FN. Mancel nearly came back to his level in the “blue wave” first round of the 2007 legislative election (41.9% against 21.1% for the PS); although basically all candidates won less raw votes than in June, Mancel only lost about 5,500 votes while Houssin shed a full 9,300 votes.

The FN had a strong performance in the first round, in addition to qualifying for the runoff by finishing ahead of the PS. This is a bit different from what happened in the December by-elections, particularly the one in the Hérault where the FN had fancied its chances. In December, the FN had fallen flat on its face in the Hérault’s 6th constituency; their intakes in the two petite couronne seats where they were weak was also unimpressive. What is the difference between the two by-elections? The FN’s underwhelming result in the Hérault in December may, in part, have something to do with the local FN electorate: a clearly ideologically right-wing electorate, which has shown itself to be more susceptible to the UMP’s consistent attempts (since 2007) to woo them over. In the Hérault, many either did not turn out or supported the UMP candidate, who was the former UMP deputy (defeated by the PS in June) who himself was on the party’s right. In the Oise, however, the FN electorate is sociologically different and slightly more resistant to the UMP’s strategy. Furthermore, Mancel is not greatly appealing to many ‘soft’ FN voters.

The FG’s candidate won 6.6%, better than he had performed in June 2012 but not a remarkable gain. The FG has been attempting to profit from the government’s unpopularity on the left, and it has been a very vocal critic of Hollande and his government’s policies from the get-go. However, in both the December by-elections and this by-election, the FG’s performance – decent, but not anything to write home about – has likely been below their expectations. The PCF had similarly tried to benefit from the PS’ unpopularity at the end of Mitterrand’s second term, but its electoral performance in 1992 and 1993 showed that it had not really been able to turn the PS’ unpopularity into electoral success. Time will tell if the FG will profit from the government’s unpopularity – particularly with a sizable number of left-wing voters – in upcoming nationwide elections where turnout will be higher.

If the first round had been a major blow for the PS, the runoff was a major blow for the UMP. The boomerang came back and hit the UMP in its face. Mancel was reelected with a majority of only 768 votes against the FN candidate, with 51.4% of the vote. The FN came within a whisker of a major upset victory.

The FN’s strong performance begs one big question: where did its new voters, nearly 6000 additional votes, come from? There are, two main theories on this question: the ‘transfer’ theory and the ‘substitution’ theory. According to the ‘transfer’ theory, the FN gained votes from those who had voted for the PS (or FG) in the first round. This theory is not as crazy as it may seem. To begin with, past elections have shown that a good number of left-wing voters from the first round will vote for the FN against the mainstream rights in runoff elections where the left’s candidate was eliminated by the first round. In both right/FN and left/FN runoffs in the 2011 cantonal elections, the FN gained about 10 points from their first round result; in both right/FN and left/FN runoffs in June 2012, the FN gained about 16% from their first round result. Secondly, the left-wing base in the constituency (outside Beauvais) tends to be white working-class voters, who may realistically prefer the FN over the UMP.

There are also local circumstances at play which may explain PS/FN transfers. Although the national PS leadership de facto endorsed Mancel against the FN, the local PS candidate did not endorse any candidate. She stated that voters were faced with a choice between the extrême droite and droite extrême; two sides of the same coin. Left-wing voters had no reason to show up and ‘save’ Mancel against the FN: there were no national issues at stake, and Mancel is unpopular on the left because of his 1998 deals with the FN and various corruption clouds which have hung over his head for years.

While left>FN tranfers undeniably exist, the June 2012 legislative election showed that they were far less significant than right>FN transfers. In 9 right/FN runoffs in the last legislative election, there was only a weak correlation (0.21) between left-wing strength in the first round and FN gains between both rounds; there was, however, a 0.64 correlation between left-wing strength and a decline in voter turnout between between both rounds. Turnout declined by an average of 8% in the 9 right/FN battles in June, it only increased by 1.2% in left/FN battles. The percentage of voters who turned out in the runoff but cast blank or invalid votes was also very high (over 10%) in right/FN runoffs.

This by-election, however, is an outlier in this case. Turnout increased in the runoff, by about 2%. However, there was a major increase in blank and invalid votes, from 2.8% to 10% (about 2000 ‘new’ blank or invalid votes); the number of valid votes was actually slightly lower in the runoff than in the first round.

Results of the second round of the Oise-2 by-election by commune (own map)

Results of the second round of the Oise-2 by-election by commune (own map)

The ‘substitution’ theory would hold that while a larger number of left-wing voters did not turn out or cast invalid votes, that decline was compensated by the stronger mobilization of FN voters. Florence Italiani did indeed have a bigger reservoir to build on; Marine Le Pen won over 19,000 votes in the constituency in April 2012, Italiani only won 7.2k in the first round and 13,190 in the runoff. Her strong result in the first round might have allowed FN voters who had not turned out on March 17 to mobilize in her favour for the second round.

The national context during the week between both rounds might have further boosted the FN. It was, really, the dream scenario for the FN: a PS cabinet minister forced to resign in an alleged tax fraud scandal, followed by the former UMP President indicted by the courts for a campaign financing scandal; the current economic situation in Cyprus; and the Court of Cassation’s controversial decision to annul a lower court decision which had confirmed the lay-off, in 2008, of a daycare employee who had refused to remove her hijab.

The data from the 9 right/FN runoffs in June 2012 would tend to confirm that the ‘substitution’ theory is a better explanation than the ‘transfer’ electorate, although both are relatively valid. The results from this by-election, however, troubles the substitution theory a bit. That being said, we are dealing with a case unlike the 9 constituencies from June. This was a by-election, with structurally low turnout which will always tend to messy things up a bit. The low turnout levels in both rounds makes it harder for us to draw clear conclusions from the results, and makes it tough to prove either theory.

Joël Gombin did an ecological inference analysis on the runoff at the precinct level for the runoff. He found that 43% of Houssin’s voters from March 17 voted for the FN in the runoff, while remaining 57% split fairly equally (19%, 18%, 20%) between abstention, blank/invalid votes and the UMP. The 43% seems like a reasonable estimate, although it should still be taken with a grain of salt given the difficulties of analysis in low-turnout by-elections.

Indeed, at the communal level, the FN won most of the traditionally left-leaning towns in the constituency (Sérifontaine, Feuquières, Hermes, Formerie; but not Beauvais) and often by quite strong margins. And even in those towns, while turnout remained very low in both rounds, it did not decline by much (if at all) between both rounds. In some low-income precincts in Beauvais, where the left had been strongest in the first round, the FN generally did quite well in the second round despite being well below average in the first round. Yet, we should still be careful about assuming that all FN ‘extra’ votes came from the left. Nothing can prove that the same 30% turned out in both rounds, though it does appear quite unlikely that the runoff electorate would be an entirely different bunch of people than first round voters.

Gombin’s data revealed a few oddities. There is the matter that Italiani would have kept ‘only’ 62% of her first round voters and lost a quarter of them to Mancel. While it is clear that there a number of FN voters who vote for the FN in the first round as a protest vote or to send a message but who will vote for the right or left in the runoff; it is tough to see why a quarter (!) of first round FN voters would prefer to vote UMP in the runoff against the FN. Granted, some right-wingers might have been tempted to send a message by voting FN in the first round but ‘played it safe’ in the runoff, but can they account for some 25% of Italiani’s 7.2 thousand voters from the first round?

His results also indicated that about 19% of Mancel’s first round voters went to the FN in the runoff; he kept 74% of his first round intake. There has been no research, as far as I know, on the behaviour of first round mainstream right voters in right/FN runoff situations, but it can be a bit puzzling as well. One explanation which Gombin tentatively suggested was Nicolas Sarkozy’s indictment in the Bettencourt affair in the week between the first and second round, and the negative effect it might have had on some UMP supporters.


Legislative elections in the Oise-2 since 1993, including the 2013 by-election

The ‘substitution’ theory has been taken up by the local PS in Beauvais, which obviously has political interest in writing off the FN’s strong performance as a result of the mobilization of the electorate rather than the result of left>FN transfers, which would discredit its ‘two sides of the same coin’ strategy. Again, however, it is foolish and overly partisan to write off any kind of left>FN transfers. Both theories are valid, although in this particular case it would seem that evidence leans towards the ‘transfer’ theory

What lessons can be taken out of this by-election? Firstly, it shows that, on the ground, the traditional ‘republican front’ strategy is basically dead and whatever kind of cordon sanitaire which might have existed on the ground in the past between the FN and the other parties is long gone. We should stop treating voters as mathematical, rational and predictable individuals who can be expected to follow the directions given by their party of choice. Despite the strong enmity between national PS and FN leadership, there is some overlap between both parties. Some left-wing voters will prefer the FN over the right when faced with that choice.

While this by-election risks re-opening the old myth that there is a massive reservoir of voters who hesitate between the PS/FG and the FN, it is nevertheless clear that a certain part of the left-wing electorate flirts the FN and is open to voting for the FN in particular circumstances. In this sense, the PS should stop treating the FN issue as something which only concerns the right, because the FN is a potential danger to the left as well (though perhaps not as much of a problem as it is for the right).

The current political situation in France is ideal for the FN. The left-wing government is unpopular, including with a good part of its historical and/or current electoral clientele; but the main right-wing opposition is struggling to keep the lid on a simmering internal civil war and it has generally failed to present itself as the sole credible alternative to the left for the moment. With a morose economic and social situation, and a political climate in which both traditional parties are unpopular; the FN has almost everything going for it as things stand. Furthermore, as this by-election further confirmed, the FN is becoming less and less ‘toxic’ and repulsive to voters and its electoral potential in the runoff – while still far, far away from the 50%+1 it will need to win power – is clearly far wider under Marine Le Pen’s leadership.

Nevertheless, we should be careful about reading too much into low-turnout by-elections and we would do well to steer away from the inevitable mass panic and pandemonium which ensues whenever the FN does well somewhere.

The by-election in Wallis-et-Futuna received next to no attention from the national media, largely because politics on those remote islands of the French Pacific are disconnected from metropolitan politics and are heavily based on local factors. Even if the national parties exist on the islands, these partisan labels are meaningless. Insular politics revolve around local personalities – especially the endorsements of various traditional rulers – and campaigns have no ideological overtones. Voters often vote for the candidate based on family ties or the endorsement of their local ruler. National political trends don’t impact local politics at all. The seat was held by Benjamin Brial, a local Gaullist baron, between 1967 and 1988; and later by his son, Victor Brial, between 1997 and 2007. Albert Likuvalu, affiliated with the Left Radicals (PRG) at the national level, defeated Brial in 2007 but went down to defeat in 2012 – he placed third with barely 17% in June. David Vergé, the victor of the June 2012 election, was aligned with the vaguely centre-right opposition in the local legislature, but he joined the PS group in the National Assembly in July.

The candidate endorsed by the UMP, Napole Polutele, faced two centre-left candidates: Mikaele Kulimoetoke (the runner-up in June 2012) and Lauriane Tialetagi Vergé (PS, the wife of David Vergé, the deputy elected in June 2012 and ineligible for elected office for one year). In the first round, he won 37.4% against 33.1% for Kulimoetoke and 29.5% for Tialetagi Vergé. In the runoff, which featured the same candidates, Polutele won with 37.5% against 32.4% for Kulimoetoke and 30.2% for Tialetagi Vergé. Turnout was 75.7% in the first round and 79.7% in the runoff.

There are, as aforementioned, two pending legislative by-elections will be called in the 1st (North America) and 8th (Israel, Greece, Turkey, Italy) constituencies for French citizens abroad. Both seats were held by PS deputies whose elections were invalidated; both were also declared ineligible for elected office for a period of one year due to irregularities in their campaign’s financing. The PS is extremely vulnerable in both constituencies, both of which favoured Sarkozy over Hollande on May 6 – in fact, Sarkozy won 63% in the eight constituency! Nevertheless, both are unpredictable because turnout will be extremely low (in June 2012, turnout was 20% in the first and 13% in the eight!) and the local right, as in June, is badly divided in both constituencies.

The disintegration of the French right? – UMP Congress 2012

What is happening to the French parliamentary right? The party congress of the main party of the right in France, Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), organized to elect a new leadership after Nicolas Sarkozy’s defeat in May, has triggered the first open internal conflict in the UMP since its foundation ten years ago and may yet lead to its disintegration in the near future.

The foreign press has touched on these events and the crisis of the right in France, but this post aims to provide a much more thorough analysis of the lead-up and background to the crisis, the chronology of the crisis and the future of the French right.

Background: The ‘Families’ of the Right

The Union for a Popular Movement (Union pour un mouvement populaire, UMP) was founded in 2002 with the aim of uniting the disparate forces of the right and centre-right in French politics and to provide then-President Jacques Chirac with a solid party machine. Until the creation of the UMP, the French right had been divided between various “families”.

Chirac, since 1976, had been the dominant figure of the neo-Gaullist family, organized in the Rally for the Republic (Rassemblement pour la République, RPR). The Gaullist movement, founded by General Charles de Gaulle, has seen its ideological direction change over the years as its self-proclaimed leaders reinvented Gaullism to their advantage and their liking  The original Gaullist movement had hoped to transcend the left-right cleavage, and to some extent it did because it attracted a fair number of left-wing Gaullists (Gaullistes de gauche) who came from the social-Christian tradition, the Radical Party or even the socialist tradition. However, by and large, Gaullism quickly became an ideology of the right; though it represented a brand of right-wing politics which is unique to France and rather different from the dominant conservative or liberal-conservative ideologies of other major right-wing parties in Europe. At its heart, Gaullism believes in the ‘greatness of France’ and from this observation stemmed its attachment to the independence of France – refusing its subordination to supranational organizations (EU, NATO), superpowers (the US and the USSR) and global economic powerhouses. Domestically, Gaullism supports a strong state, with a strong and stable executive branch playing a central role. Economically, traditional Gaullist dogma rejected economic liberalism and preferred an interventionist (dirigiste) state. It claimed to represent a third way to liberal capitalism and Marxist revolutionary socialism.

Gaullism retained its influence after de Gaulle’s resignation in 1969 and his death the following year, originally due to the leadership of his movement by his allies and lieutenants (Georges Pompidou, Pierre Messmer, Jacques Chaban-Delmas). In 1976, Chirac, a young Gaullist who had sunk Chaban-Delmas’ 1974 presidential candidacy in Giscard’s favour, managed to seize control of the Gaullist movement, create the RPR and transform the new RPR into his own personal machine. In the process, he sidelined the old guard. Chirac reinvented Gaullism several times, moving from his 70s reformist social democracy (the so-called travaillisme à la française) towards Chicago School monetarism (imitating Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher) and euroscepticism in the 1980s before shifting back leftwards after 1995, with his campaign theme of fracture sociale.

The Gaullist movement was never a homogeneous family. Internal divisions increased in the late 80s and throughout the 1990s, and while ideological direction differentiated some of the emergent factions, personality played a large role. In 1990, Chirac’s leadership (like that of Giscard in the UDF) faced challenges from a young generation of “renewers” (les rénovateurs) and then faced an organized opposition led by Philippe Séguin and Charles Pasqua – representing more orthodox and eurosceptic Gaullism – at a 1990 congress (the opposition won around 31%). In 1995, the RPR split between Chirac and Prime Minister Édouard Balladur ahead of the presidential election, and if Balladur’s unsuccessful presidential candidacy received most of its support from the UDF it also received support from certain non-aligned figures of the RPR, notably Sarkozy. In 1999, the first and only direct elections for the leadership of the RPR, Chirac’s candidate (Jean-Paul Delevoye) was defeated by Michèle Alliot-Marie, nowadays seen as one of the last standing chiraquiennes but in 1999 a non-aligned contender opposed to Chirac’s inner circle. In the first round, two other candidates had stood: François Fillon, a protégé of Séguin and the candidate of “social Gaullism” (a more centre-left faction hostile to neoliberalism and supranationalism and supportive of a stronger government defending the welfare state); and Patrick Devedjian (backed by Jean-François Copé), a balladurien from 1995 who represented the liberal and pro-European centre-right within the RPR.

Against Gaullism, the dominant family after 1981, stood other families: the Christian democrats or démocrates sociaux, the liberal “Orléaniste” right and the right-wing radical tradition. In 1978, these families united to form a broad decentralized party, the Union for French Democracy (Union pour la démocratie française, UDF), which included the Christian democratic CDS, the liberal PR and the right-wing Radical Party (PRV), among others.

The Christian democratic family finds its roots in the Catholic Church’s social teachings and it is the direct heir of the post-war Popular Republican Movement (MRP) and the distant heir of the pre-war social Christian tradition of Albert de Mun or the interwar PDP. The Christian democratic tradition actively supports European federalism. Leaders of this family included, at the outset, Jean Lecanuet, who was progressively replaced by a young generation led, most notably, by François Bayrou.

The liberal family, whose most notable leader was Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, finds its roots in the so-called Orleanist tradition of the right. As such, it represents an internationalist and pro-European brand of liberal-conservatism which actively supports economic liberalism, while also being fairly liberal on moral issues.

In his seminal work on the French right, René Rémond differentiated between the three main families of the right: the Bonapartist tradition, the Orleanist tradition and the legitimst tradition. The remnants of the legitimist tradition – ultra-conservative – are found outside the parliamentary right. Gaullism, with its populist appeal (notably through the active use of referendums to legitimate its power and policies) and authoritarian undertones (favouring a strong, centralized and executive-dominated state), represented the Bonapartist family. Liberalism, on the other hand, with its internationalist and economically liberal orientation, is the pure avatar of the Orleanist family. Furthermore, the liberals/Orleanists represent a more ‘elitist’ faction of the right, more reticent towards populist and plebiscitary appeals and more supportive of parliamentary government, a less centralized state and less dominant executive.

The right-wing radical tradition stems from the majority faction of the old Radical Party which did not support the Common Programme of the left in 1972. Born on the far-left in the 1870s, the Radical Party shifted towards the centre throughout the course of the Third and Fourth Republics. Within the right, the radical tradition is a fervent supporter of key radical principles such as separation of church and state and secularism, but also humanism and internationalism. The right-wing radical tradition supports economic liberalism, but less passionately than the liberals. They are the most liberal on moral issues, and they are strong supporters of European federalism.

Bayrou’s CDS, transformed into the ‘FD’ in 1995, took the leadership of the UDF in 1998. His centralist tendencies within the new party and his desire to create a UDF more independent vis-a-vis the RPR led to split in 1998, following the regional elections. Several liberal UDF regional presidents were reelected with the support of the far-right, which Bayrou refused. This event triggered the division of the UDF between Bayrou’s independent and centrist New UDF, and the liberal centre-right known as Démocratie libérale (DL). Bayrou’s aim of pushing the UDF away from the RPR was met with the disapproval of certain factions of the UDF, which remained true to the ‘presidential majority’ and supported closer cooperation with the RPR. In 2002, a minority of the UDF endorsed Chirac’s reelection bid by the first round over Bayrou’s candidacy (which took 6.8%). For the DL, Alain Madelin, the party’s leader, also ran (and won 3.9%); but a majority of the DL caucus endorsed Chirac by the first round.

Chirac’s reelection in special circumstances (against the far-right) and the need for him to win a majority in the legislative elections led to the creation of the UMP. Following the UMP’s success in the June 2002 legislative elections, the UMP was created as a formal political party. The RPR and DL dissolved into the UMP, while a majority of the UDF joined the new party, leaving Bayrou with a rump of 30 or so deputies loyal to his independent centrist strategy.

The Right’s Leadership

Despite its ideological diversity, the French right lacks a tradition of institutionalized/organized ideological debate and has always been marked by the leadership of strong personalities, all quite fond of ‘democratic centralism’. This differentiates the right from the left (particularly the Socialist Party, PS) which has a long tradition of organized internal debate in party congresses (through the votes on ‘motions’) and a reputation for open factionalism and consistent leadership intrigues. The French right is naturally inclined to a strong leader and in turn reticent towards any institutionalized or organized internal factions or movements, fearing that they could lead to internal conflict and factionalism like within the PS.

The neo-Gaullist/ex-RPR family, predominant within the UMP at the expense of the centrists or liberals, have the strongest tradition of strong leadership. Charles de Gaulle did not tolerate dissent and had the remarkable ability to play his potential rivals off one another and checking their individual ambitions. He was the uncontested leader of his movement, and the Gaullist parties – the UNR and UDR – were notorious for being empty shells which served as his personal vehicles. UNR/UDR deputies, under de Gaulle, had little autonomy and many of them were merely loyal party stalwarts. In 1976, when Chirac seized control of the Gaullist movement and created the RPR, he sidelined the old guard and quickly built up the RPR as a formidable political machine and personal political vehicle. Until the challenges from the rénovateurs and Pasqua-Séguin in 1990, the RPR’s sole raison-d’être was to advance its leaders political career and lifelong goal (winning the presidency). Jacques Chirac tolerated little organized dissent and he was quite vindictive towards those who crossed his path, often excluding them from power while rewarding loyal allies. The best example is, of course, Chirac’s relations with Sarkozy after Sarkozy endorsed Balladur in 1995. Even if he did keep some balladuriens within his cabinet after 1995, Sarkozy himself was pushed out and forced into the political wilderness until 1999 (and, following the rout of the Sarkozy-Madelin list in the Euros that year, until 2002). Even if he was forced to place Sarkozy, popular with the electorate and within the UMP, into senior cabinet positions, Chirac always refused to name Sarkozy as Prime Minister (which is what Mitterrand, finer that Chirac when it came to personal political vendettas, would have done to sink a rival).

The UDF, until 1998, was a decentralized coalition of separate, independent parties (CDS, PR etc) and thus lacked the RPR’s political strength. Yet, the UDF was also marked by strong leaders, even they were not as dominant as Chirac within the RPR or were more prone to internal squabbles. Giscard and later François Léotard predominated the PR, while Bayrou slowly asserted his control of the CDS/FD/New UDF beginning in 1994. The rénovateurs experience was not unique to the RPR: the original team, composed of 12 young ‘rising stars’, included 6 members of the RPR and 6 members of the UDF. The UDF’s six members opposed Giscard and the old guard’s leadership of the party.

As a parti de notables (a party of elected officials rather than a mass party), however, the UDF’s strong leaders most often came in the form of local ‘barons’ (the name given in France to local/regional party bosses, both on the left and right) in departments or regions: Méhaignerie, Gaudin, Barrot, Barre, Monory or Millon. The UDR/RPR also had a strong network of local party bosses, from the earliest days of the Gaullist movement in the 1960s.

At its foundation, Jacques Chirac had envisioned the UMP to be subservient to his own political schemes. Chirac sought to place his longtime ally and protégé, Alain Juppé, as his heir apparent for 2007. Juppé was the first president of the UMP, elected in November 2002 at a party congress with 79.4% of the vote. However, Juppé was found guilty in a chiraquien corruption scandal in 2004 and he was declared ineligible for elected office for a year. This temporarily halted his political career and destroyed both his and Chirac’s plans for 2007. Sarkozy maneuvered to seize control of the UMP, similar to how Chirac had seized control of the UDR in 1976. Chirac was unable to stop Sarkozy’s takeover of ‘his’ party. Sarkozy was elected president of the UMP in November 2004, with 85.1%. Sarkozy quickly transformed Chirac’s party into Sarkozy’s party, with everything centered around the 2007 presidential election.

The UMP statutes allowed for the organization of ‘movements’, representing various ideological factions within the party, which would receive funding in proportion to the votes they received at the congresses. Fearing factionalism, these movements were never put in place.

Even if Sarkozy’s election to the presidency in 2007 vacated the presidency of the UMP for the duration of his term, Sarkozy remained the de facto leader of the UMP, running it from behind. He named the ‘secretary-general’ of the UMP to ensure  the official leadership of the party. In 2009 he named Xavier Bertrand, but Bertrand is not fit for the leadership of a party. In late 2010, he was replaced as secretary-general by Jean-François Copé, who had been the leader of the UMP caucus in the National Assembly.

The 2012 UMP Congress

Nicolas Sarkozy’s defeat at the hands of now-President François Hollande on May 6, 2012 placed the UMP in a funny situation. After his defeat, Sarkozy bowed out of active politics – but he did not indicate that he intended to retire permanently from active public life in France. In doing so, he closed the 2007-2012 era in the UMP’s history, where he served as the party’s de facto leader despite being President of France. However, Sarkozy did not leave office reviled by his own party’s base. The UMP rank-and-file, by and large, remains fondly Sarkozyst. Furthermore, Sarkozy is still relatively young and given that French politicians rarely bow out entirely after one defeat, it is quite possible (though not a certainty) that he could seek to return in 2017.

The UMP needed to choose a new leader, while learning to live in opposition (for the first time in its history) and settling on a political and electoral strategy which could allow it to regain power by 2017. However, the UMP was quite keen on making clear that this congress would not double-up as an early presidential primary (the president elected at the congress would only serve until 2015). Pushed by the success of the PS’ open primaries in 2011, the UMP has signaled numerous times that they will organize an open primary in 2016 to choose its presidential candidate for 2017.

As I had noted right after the legislative elections, the UMP had two options to choose from in terms of political strategy. The French right must now live with a revitalized far-right (FN), stronger than ever and steaming full-steam ahead through clear waters following the presidential election; but at the same time some of the UMP’s troubles since Sarkozy’s ascent comes from its gradual loss of moderate and centrist voters. Therefore, the question is whether the UMP will seek power on a centre-right platform or if it will seek power on a more right-populist/droite décomplexée/Patrick Buisson type of platform, similar to that adopted by Sarkozy in his reelection campaign. The centre-right strategy aims at appealing to moderate centre-right voters which Jean-Louis Borloo now seeks to attract with his new independent centre-right confederation (the UDI); the right-populist strategy aims at reassembling Sarkozy’s 2007 coalition which included a fair number of old FN voters.

The UMP thus needed to choose a new leader and decide on its political future, while remaining – at least the party’s rank-and-file – very loyal to and fond of the ‘outgoing leader’ (Sarkozy), who may yet decide to return to electoral politics in 2017. The most ambitious UMP elites all praise Sarkozy’s presidency and seek to attach themselves to his legacy, but in reality most of them are quite happy that he is gone and they probably would not be too happy if he came back (because he would break their own presidential ambitions). As a result, very few leaders within the UMP dare to publicly signal their disapproval of Sarkozy’s term or their desire to move the party away from his legacy. Whether this is good or bad for the party is a matter of debate, Sarkozy left office rather unpopular with part of the electorate (but not with his own electorate) but French voters are notorious at falling in love with their ex-presidents once they have left office (but Sarkozy’s continuing legal problems and the judicial investigations surrounding old scandals will come back to haunt him). Furthermore, as President Hollande is already very unpopular (with disapprovals over 60%, especially with non-leftists) and his presidency is off to a ominously bad start, some voters might start to reminisce Sarkozy.

This congress was a decentralized congress, with no large partisan rally in a single location. Instead, each departmental federation organized and supervised the election of the president.

The vote was open to party members, those who had joined in 2012 before June 30, 2012 or those who had joined in 2011 and paid their updated membership fees up till election day. The party reported that 324,945 members were eligible to vote in the congress, or about 0.5% of the French population. The largest federation in terms of voters was Paris, which had 26,457 registered members. The Hauts-de-Seine had 17,919 registered members, the Alpes-Maritimes had 15,436 members and the Bouches-du-Rhône had 12,964 members. My friend, on his French blog Sondages 2012, put together a map showing the percentage of UMP members in each department (compared to the total population). The largest proportions are found in Paris’ affluent western suburbs (Paris, Hauts-de-Seine, Yvelines) or the Mediterranean riviera. In good part, the UMP’s membership is made up of politicized right-leaning suburban professionals in the Parisian region on the one hand, and retirees or notoriously conservative small business owners and entrepreneurs (petite bourgeoisie) along the Mediterranean riviera.

Presidential candidates needed to gather support from at least 3% of UMP members (as of June 30) – or 7924 endorsements from members – coming from at least 10 departmental federations. Three prominent candidates (Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, Bruno Le Maire and Henri Guaino tried and failed to gather these 7.9k signatures). Ultimately, only two candidates managed to run: Jean-François Copé and François Fillon.

Jean-François Copé, aged 48, was the incumbent party boss (secretary-general). Copé has been mayor of Meaux, a fairly low-income suburban town in the Seine-et-Marne, since 1995 and deputy for the Seine-et-Marne’s 6th constituency since 2002 (and between 1995 and 1997). Copé is a cunning, ambitious and crafty politician. He made his first steps in politics as a close young ally of Jacques Chirac, and gained a reputation as a chiraquien which allowed him to rapidly gain notoriety under Chirac’s second term (serving as the government’s spokesperson for five years and as junior minister). His relations with Sarkozy, however, were frosty at best. He never served in cabinet under Sarkozy, but he managed to gain the leadership of the UMP’s parliamentary group in the National Assembly. In 2010, Sarkozy named him to the party’s leadership, in return for his support in the 2012 presidential election – Copé’s very public presidential ambitions are for 2017.

Traditionally seen as a chiraquien liberal within the RPR, Copé had backed Patrick Devedjian’s candidacy for the presidency of the RPR in 1999 (Devedjian won 8.9%). During Sarkozy’s term, despite the frosty nature of the relations between the presidency and Copé, he publicly claimed to be a Sarkozyst. Freed by Sarkozy’s departure, the ambitious Copé eyes the 2017 election and has defined himself as the leader of the “droite décomplexée” (a right freed of its taboos and ‘leftist’ political correctness), and he has a straight-shooting and straight-talking political style.

François Fillon, aged 58, was Sarkozy’s Prime Minister for the duration of his five-year term and was elected as deputy for Paris’ 2nd constituency in June. Fillon’s political career, as a parliamentarian, began in 1981 when he succeeded his political mentor, Joël Le Theule, following his sudden death. Fillon’s original political base was the Sarthe – specifically the department’s fourth constituency and the city of Sablé-sur-Sarthe. He served as mayor of Sablé-sur-Sarthe between 1983 and 2008, and served in the department’s general council between 1981 and 1998, including six years as president of the general council between 1992 and 1998. In contrast to Copé who began his political ascension in the shadows of the RPR’s patriarch, Fillon was never a loyal chiraquien. He was a protégé of Philippe Séguin, the leader of the “social Gaullist” and eurosceptic faction of the RPR, which joined with Charles Pasqua to oppose Chirac’s leadership at the Bourget congress in 1990. That same year, Fillon, alongside other young politicians (Michel Noir, Alain Carignon, Michel Barnier, François Bayrou or Philippe de Villiers) was one of the twelve rénovateurs who opposed Chirac-Giscard’s leadership of the right. In 1992, Fillon opposed the ratification of the Maastricht treaty. In 1995, with Sarkozy, he backed Balladur over Chirac. Unlike Sarkozy, however, Fillon managed to save his seat in cabinet (thanks to Séguin’s backing).

Fillon ran for the presidency of the RPR in 1999, as the séguiniste/gaulliste social candidate. Placing third with 24.6% in the first round, he was eliminated from the runoff. Following this defeat, Fillon slowly mended bridges with Chirac and regained the President’s confidence. In 2002, he became minister of social affairs and spearheaded a controversial pension reform. However, Fillon found himself excluded from Dominique de Villepin’s new cabinet in 2005, which deeply angered him. He rushed towards Nicolas Sarkozy, the new president of the UMP, who had previously opposed. By 2007, he had become one of Sarkozy’s closest allies, and he was named Prime Minister. Staying in office for five years, he became one of the longest-serving Prime Ministers in a position which is usually politically fatal to its holder. However, relations between Sarkozy and Fillon soured during the course of Sarkozy’s term. Sarkozy centralized decision making and political leadership in his office, relegating Fillon to the lower position of a “collaborator”.

Leaving behind him his home turf in the Sarthe, Fillon sought and won a new seat in downtown Paris in June.

There are ideological differences between both candidates, but they should not be overstated. The major differences are in terms of personality and political style. The difference is indeed largely stylistic, between on the one hand Copé’s décomplexée populist rhetoric, which targets right-wing/far-right voters; and Fillon’s more consensual and centre-right rhetoric of rassemblement (rally) on the other hand. On issues such as immigration, the economy or labour laws both candidates have broadly similar political positions, their differences again are predominantly stylistic. Copé’s right-populism is bold and muscular – with rhetoric such as “anti-white racism” or the voyous (thugs) who steal the French kid’s pain au chocolat outside the school. In contrast, Fillon’s discourse was more measured.

Copé was boosted by his control of the party apparatus, and his tireless ambitious and political talent. However, Copé is a polarizing figure, widely disliked by left-wing voters and more moderate voters, who perceive him as being too right-wing, too liberal or too rash. Fillon’s advantage was his  stronger standing in political opinion and electability. Fillon remained fairly popular throughout his tenure as Prime Minister, largely because he was more in the background while the flamboyant Sarkozy stole the limelight (hence eroding his political capital). Moderate voters prefer him, they like his calm, measured and reserved personality, which is reassuring and moderate. However, Fillon doesn’t have Copé’s political drive. His image is more that of a “good family man”, calm and reserved, and he has not shown ambition or political skill similar to Copé.

Both candidates ran with two running-mates, forming a presidential ‘ticket’ with candidates for vice-president and secretary-general. Copé’s vice-presidential nominee was Luc Chatel, the former education minister and a liberal within the UMP. His candidacy for secretary-general was Michèle Tabarot, the mayor and deputy for Le Cannet in the crucial Alpes-Maritimes fed. Fillon’s vice-presidential nominee was Laurent Wauquiez, the former higher education minister and leader of the moderate ‘droite sociale‘ (social right) faction; his candidate for secretary-general was Valérie Pécresse, the former budget minister and a former chiraquienne.

Copé’s prominent supporters included leaders of the UMP’s right-wing faction including Lionnel Luca, Thierry Mariani, Éric Raoult or Guillaume Peltier; some leaders of the UMP’s centrist faction including former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin (for reasons largely related to a long-standing spat with Fillon), Marc-Philippe Daubresse, Marc Laffineur or liberal standard-bearer Hervé Novelli; his inner circle including Christian Jacob (the UMP’s parliamentary leader), Roger Karoutchi and Franck Riester; local barons including Jean-Claude Gaudin (mayor of Marseille, along with other bigwigs from the local UMP including  Bernard Deflesselles, Dominique Tian or Renaud Muselier); Valérie Rosso-Debord and Nadine Morano, the party’s top two media-savvy ‘attack dogs’; or again Sarkozysts such as Patrick Balkany (one of the leaders of the Sarkozyst clan in the Hauts-de-Seine’s fractious right-wing politics), Rachida Dati, Brice Hortefeux or even Jean Sarkozy (Sarkozy’s politically ambitious son).

Fillon’s prominent supporters some other members of the UMP’s centrist faction including Gérard Longuet, Jean Leonetti (leader of the anti-borlooiste wing of the PRV),  Pierre Méhaignerie or the party’s Senate leader Gérard Larcher; local barons including – most crucially – the boss of the Alpes-Maritimes fed, Christian Estrosi (mayor of Nice) and his close ally Éric Ciotti, the mayor of Toulon Hubert Falco or Dominique Bussereau; the surprise support of former chiraquiens such as Valérie Pécresse, Patrick Ollier or even François Baroin (the latter especially thought to be more pro-Copé); the late endorsement of Xavier Bertrand (though largely because he hates Copé) or the juppéiste Benoist Apparu; some members of the party’s right including Claude Guéant (though largely for reasons related to the 92 right’s clan politics), Valérie Boyer or Jacques Myard; or the ‘rebel’ Patrick Devedjian, the main rival of the Sarkozy-Balkany clan in the Hauts-de-Seine (92).

At the same time, UMP members were also called to vote on “declarations of principles” (often called ‘motions’ by the media, like in the PS) which would organize movements. ‘Declarations of principles’ needed to gain the support of at least ten parliamentarians from ten departments in order to be put on the ballot, those motions who got over 10% of the votes at the congress would become recognized ‘movements’ and be eligible for funding. Six motions were placed on the ballot: France moderne et humaniste (Modern and humanist France), La Boîte à idées, la motion anti divisions ! (The ‘box of ideas’ – the anti-division motion), La Droite forte – Génération France Forte 2017 (Strong Right), La Droite populaire (Popular Right), La Droite sociale (Social Right) and Le Gaullisme, une voie d’avenir pour la France (Gaullism – a way forward for France).

The France moderne et humaniste was a centrist and liberal motion signed, notably, by Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Luc Chatel, Hervé Novelli, Jean Leonetti and Marc Laffineur. The motion’s aim was to create a sort of UDF faction within the UMP, representing the various political families of the old UDF including the liberals and the Christian democrats (though much more of the former). Despite its centrist platform, the motion was dominated by the copéistes – Raffarin, Chatel, Novelli, Laffineur but also Daubresse, Tabarot, Riester, Claude Goasguen and Sébastien Huyghe. This motion received the most endorsements from UMP parliamentarians.

The Boîte à idées was a fairly vague motion led by, among others, Benoist Apparu, Chantal Jouanno, Bruno Le Maire or Hervé Gaymard and endorsed by Xavier Bertrand and Alain Juppé. The motion did not appear to have any clear-cut ideological direction, though most of its leaders are moderates. Instead, it placed emphasis on internal democracy and debates.

The Droite forte motion was spearheaded by two thirty-something rising stars – Guillaume Peltier, a former young frontiste and a villieriste (MPF) until he joined the UMP in 2009 (because that’s where you go when you’re really ambitious) and Geoffroy Didier, a young UMP regional councillor who had defined himself as a ‘left-wing Sarkozyst’. The Droite forte defined itself as the ‘Sarkozyst’ motion, and as a more socially acceptable and tamer version of the very right-wing Droite pop. Its proposals included getting the public media to hire “right-wing journalists”, cutting legal immigration by half, restoring the 40-hour workweek, constitutional recognition of France as a secular country with ‘Christian tradition’ or the old vague idea of European protectionism. The motion was backed by Sarkozysts including Bernard Accoyer, Brice Hortefeux, Édouard Courtial, Pierre Charon and Jean Sarkozy; and it was largely copéiste.

The Droite populaire was organized as a parliamentary caucus within the UMP in 2010, representing the most right-wing, populist and nationalist faction of the UMP (often accused by the left of being FN lite). The Droite pop was the most well known (and also controversial) of all the main UMP factions, but it lost a good number of its members in the June legislative elections and it was weakened by the creation of the Droite forte, which, again, has that novel ‘young’ and slightly less tainted twist to it. The Droite pop’s leaders include Thierry Mariani and Lionnel Luca, two copéiste.

The Droite sociale is also an older faction, led by Laurent Wauquiez, a former cabinet minister and the new right-wing baron in the small Haute-Loire department. Wauquiez has built his faction and his political ambitions on the ‘defense of middle-classes’ and ‘la lutte contre l’assistanat‘ (basically a right-wing catchphrase which is roughly translated to ‘fighting welfare dependency’). Thought the ‘anti-welfare’ rhetoric might associate it with the party’s right, Wauquiez’s faction is often defined as being one of the party’s moderate factions, following in the tradition of social Gaullism and Christian democracy. The motion emerged as a catch-all filloniste motion, led by Wauquiez (who holds presidential ambitions for 2017 and is a talented young politician who can go places) and backed by a lot of fillonistes, including more right-wing members backing Fillon such as Brigitte Barèges or Valérie Boyer.

The Gaullist motion is led by Michèle Alliot-Marie (MAM), Henri Guaino, Roger Karoutchi and Patrick Ollier (MAM’s husband). Alliot-Marie and Ollier are former chiraquiens (despite MAM’s 1999 candidacy as the non-aligned anti-Chirac candidate), while Guaino and Karoutchi – who both backed Copé – are both former séguinistes. 

Polling these type of internal party primaries is notoriously difficult, because of the limited size of the electorate. However, polling – which targeted all UMP “sympathizers” rather than only UMP “members” (which would be very difficult for any pollster to accurately poll) – consistently showed Fillon with a large lead over Copé, most often over 20 points with polling averages most often over 60%. Every one knew that they needed to take these polls with a truckload of salt, but nobody expected what came on November 18.

The Civil War

Turnout was reported to be about 54% of the party’s 324,945 members – roughly 176.6k voters participated. On November 18, both the Copé and Fillon campaigns claimed victory and both candidates later proclaimed that they had won, the Copé camp claimed a 1000 vote edge while Fillon’s supporters claimed a narrow 224-vote margin. Throughout the evening, both sides exchanged accusations of fraud and vote rigging.

The next day, late in the evening of November 19, the UMP’s internal commission in charge of organizing the vote (the Commission d’organisation et de contrôle des opérations électorales or COCOE) declared Copé the winner by 98 votes:

Jean-François Copé (UMP) 50.03% (87,388 votes)
François Fillon (UMP) 49.97% (87,290 votes)

Copé +98 votes

A glacial Fillon recognized his defeat and conceded victory to Copé, even if he denounced irregularities in the election and talked of a ‘political and moral fracture’ within the party. The next day, Copé offered Fillon the party’s vice-presidency, an offer which Fillon immediately refused. However, Fillon urged his supporters to recognize his defeat and move forward with grudges to maintain the party’s unity. He did not close doors on a presidential candidacy in 2016-2017, but most assumed, on November 20, that the kerfuffle had been resolved and that Copé was accepted as the legitimate winner by the whole of the party.

The situation took an explosive turn on November 21, when the fillonistes took the offensive and proclaimed that they had won. Their claim was that the COCOE had “forgotten” to include 1,304 votes cast in three overseas federations (New Caledonia, Fillon won 643-535; Mayotte, Fillon won 68-41 and Wallis-et-Futuna, Copé won 14-3) in their official results. Their numbers, with the three federations included had Fillon as the winner by 26 votes.

François Fillon (UMP) 50.01% (88,004 votes)
Jean-François Copé (UMP) 49.99% (87,978 votes)

Fillon +26 votes

At the same time, however, Fillon announced that he was renouncing the presidency of the UMP but calling on the ‘truth’ to be established. He called on Alain Juppé, a non-aligned party founder, to become the interim leader of the party and negotiate a way out of the crisis with the Copé faction. On his side, Copé dared Fillon to bring the case to an internal party commission in charge of hearing complaints (commission nationale des recours, known officially as CNR or commonly as CONARE – which sounds like the French word for ‘idiot’ or ‘moron’ or even worse…) and noted that they would need to re-examine all results, including contested results in Nice where the Copé faction accused the Fillon faction of fraud.

But the next day (November 22), seeking to regain the initiative, Copé announced that he would be going to the CNR, alleging fraud by the Fillonistes in Nice and New Caledonia. At the same time, however, he accepted the idea of a Juppé-led mediation in the conflict. However, Fillon’s faction rejected the legitimacy of the CNR, which they deemed to be controlled by the copéistes (indeed, the president of the CNR, Yannick Paternotte, endorsed Copé) while the copéistes insisted that Juppé associate his work to that of the CNR, which they deemed the sole body with the power to handle such issues. Copé’s response thus meant that Juppé would not be able to mediate the dispute. On November 25, Juppé announced that he was giving up while the CNR began its meetings, in the absence of the Fillon camp whose leader announced that he would be taking the matter to court to “reestablish the truth”.

On November 26, Sarkozy intervened in the matter, discretely meeting with Fillon. From the lunch between the former President and his old Prime Minister it was revealed that Sarkozy would not be against the organization of another election, which henceforth became a major issue in the crisis.

The same day, the CNR announced its own, revised, results of the November 18 vote. The CNR invalidated the election in New Caledonia, which they deemed was marred by irregularities in the process which affected the fairness of the vote; they also invalidated some polling stations in Nice (Alpes-Maritimes), where the Copé faction had accused their opponents of fraud. As a result, Copé was proclaimed the winner – again – but with a 952 vote majority.

Jean-François Copé (UMP) 50.28% (86,911 votes)
François Fillon (UMP) 49.97% (85,959 votes)

Copé +952 votes

Party congresses in France, both within the UMP this year and within the PS (in 2008, at the Reims Congress), are prone to manipulation and fraud. The votes are organized by departmental federations, and these federations are often led by powerful local parliamentarians or local barons who endorse a particular candidate. For example, the Alpes-Maritimes fed is led by Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice and one of Fillon’s most prominent backers. The Bouches-du-Rhône fed on the other hand is led by Jean-Claude Gaudin, one of Copé’s biggest backers.

As the leader of their own federations, these local party bosses are often able to organize the vote as to benefit their chosen candidate and often provide their chosen candidate with the backing of their departmental federation. Some kind of manipulation, fraud or even intimidation or vote rigging is prevalent within both the UMP and PS, and it is silently accepted by the national party leaders who could not do without the backing of these powerful party bosses and their big federations.

But when, as was the case for the PS in Reims in 2008, the vote ends up extremely close, then both sides accuse one another of having ‘stolen’ the election. In the 2008 PS vote for first-secretary between Aubry and Royal, it is quite clear that there was flagrant fraud and rigging on both sides: manipulation and fraud organized by local boss Jean-Noël Guérini allowed Royal to win 72.5% in the Bouches-du-Rhône, while similar irregularities in Aubry’s native department (Nord) allowed her to win 76% of the vote there.

If anything, the UMP’s vote this year seems a bit cleaner than the Reims Congress, if judging by the disparities in the results from one neighboring department to another. However, there were irregularities on the UMP vote on November 18 and both sides are guilty. The Copé faction and the CNR might have had a point about Nice, where Estrosi and Ciotti controlled the organization of the votes and probably organized it in a fairly unholy way which favoured their candidate. But the Copé faction is also guilty of irregularities, as the fillonistes allege. The wide use of ‘proxy votes’ (vote par procuration) in some departments was muddy and likely stacked in Copé’s favour, the Fillon faction claimed that Copé had rigged the vote with over 30,000 proxy votes. Furthermore, I’m certain that looking through the results in some of those departments where the Copé faction controlled the vote would also reveal interesting thing.

The CNR, in proclaiming Copé the winner by 952 votes after invalidating the results in three places where Fillon had won (even if not fair-and-square in some cases), lost all legitimacy. You can’t pick-and-choose cases of fraud in such a way. It is clear, again, that there was fraud on both sides, but if you’re going to start quashing results for fraud, then you can’t stop with two polling stations in Nice. However, the CNR was presided by a man who had attended Copé’s campaign announcement in August and it had no filloniste representatives present when it took a decision.

Things became crazy on November 27. In the morning, Fillon and Copé met – apparently at Sarkozy’s insistence – and both sides discussed the organization of a “referendum” where UMP members would be asked if they wanted to vote again. The same day, Fillon announced that he would be creating his own parliamentary group in the National Assembly. A parliamentary group in the National Assembly holds seats in the parliamentary commission and the rules of the legislature give it certain advantages, notably an allocated time for questions and interventions. The UMP parliamentary group is controlled by the Copé faction – led by Christian Jacob, another Seine-et-Marne deputy and one of Copé’s closest allies. Fillon hence created his own group, the Rassemblement-UMP (R-UMP or RUMP) – the same name as the local section of the UMP in New Caledonia, and took 68 of the UMP group’s 196 members.

The creation of the R-UMP complicated the situation and killed the debate on the ‘referendum’ option. Fillon accepted a referendum if Copé stood down and the party was led by an independent interim leadership until the new election, an unpalatable option for the copéistes because it would be a tacit recognition that Copé lacked the legitimacy to remain as the party’s leader. Copé’s faction agreed to a referendum but they set an ultimatum to Fillon: withdraw your group before 3pm on November 28 or there is no referendum. The ultimatum expired, Fillon maintained the R-UMP and the copéistes announced that they would be ending negotiations.

The same day, a group of “non-aligned” UMP deputies led by Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet and Bruno Le Maire launched a petition which called on the dissolution of the R-UMP as per Copé’s ultimatum but also the creation of some kind of Comité des Sages (wise men/elders committee) at the UMP to organize the referendum before January 31, 2013. 72 parliamentarians signed the non-aligned petition, but 27 of them were copéistes (judging that the status-quo favours Copé) and 12 of them were fillonistes, including 3 who had actually joined the R-UMP! (two of those three signatories later unsigned, apparently, because their names no longer appear on the petition). On November 29, everybody and their grandmother in the UMP seemed interested in setting up a commission to organize a vote, an election, a referendum or something: a working group, an independent commission, a commission of elders and so forth. Sarkozy re-intervened  meeting both rivals and demanding that they come to an agreement before December 4.

Both candidates signaled that they favoured the organization of a new vote, but the Copé faction said that a new vote would not be held until after the 2014 municipal elections while the Fillon faction demanded a new vote as rapidly as possible. Today, the crisis remains unresolved and blocked. Both factions are sticking to their guns. Fillon still threatens to take the matter to court, but it is unclear how the courts would rule on an internal partisan matter and how the lengthy judicial process would affect the party’s situation.

The UMP is stuck in a weird and confusing situation as things currently stands. It remains united as a political party, but only half or so of the party recognizes the party’s de facto leader as the legitimate leader. The other half of the party remains in the party, but still does not recognize the legitimacy of the party’s de facto leader. What is the way forward?

Many will ask why the fillonistes, who already have their own caucus in the lower house, don’t just pack their bags and create their own party. The creation of a new political party is a tricky matter in France because of public financing (state funding of political parties) laws. This public funding is based on two ‘fractions’. The first fraction is given to parties who have obtained over 1% in at least 50 constituencies (the law is less rigid for purely overseas parties, they need 1% in all constituencies they ran in). Candidates choose to affiliate with a particular party or funding entity (not necessarily their own political party!) for the first fraction, and parties meeting these conditions receive €1.68 per vote. In 2012, the UMP received about 11-12 million euros, but they also received a 5 million euro penalty for not respecting gender parity laws which means they will receive about 7 million euros from the first fraction. For the second fraction, parliamentarians affiliate themselves with one of the parties/funding structures eligible under the first fraction, who then receive about €42,000 by parliamentarian.

This law makes it difficult for new parties keen to receive public funding to be created. Fillon’s hypothetical party cannot receive funding under the first fraction, but there is an ingenious and commonly-used way around the second fraction. Parliamentarians can affiliate with another party, most often an overseas party, which then transfers the entirety of its public funding to the new party. The New Centre (NC) deputies and senators used this method in 2007, when they had not been eligible for funding under the first fraction. They affiliated with a friendly party in French Polynesia, Fetia Api, which received funding equivalent to the size of the NC’s caucus and then gave it back to the NC.

The name of the R-UMP is perhaps not a random coincidence. If they chose to do so, Fillon’s parliamentarians could affiliate themselves to the New Caledonian section of the UMP, also named the R-UMP, and receive their public funding through the intermediary of that party (which is eligible for funding under the first fraction. However, the second fraction affiliations were due on November 30. As this article explains, only one of the R-UMP deputies (Jean-Pierre Decool, who is only divers droite and not officially UMP) did not affiliate with the UMP under the second fraction. The UMP will thus receive its 20 million euros from the state, crucial for a party deep in debt.

Fillon did not seem willing to signal that he was breaking all bridges with his party. But, in the long-term, the option remains on the table. These affiliations are only valid for a year, so by next year, if nothing has changed, Fillon still has the option of going forward with a split.

It is hard to envision either side changing their positions as things currently stand. Short of a party split, which would be a major thing, one of the only realistic option is that both sides agree to disagree, and find some kind of temporary arrangement whereby Copé can retain the presidency but Fillon saves face by remaining in a prominent position. A solution which would probably last until after the 2014 local elections or the potential 2016 presidential primary. Fillon is in a more difficult position, because Copé retains control of the apparatus and as such he has wider access to the medias in his role as the leader of the main opposition party. The current status-quo favours Copé, and Fillon risks losing the initiative (if he has not lost it already) in the situation and could slowly see the crisis fade away (as is already slowly the case), which would weaken his standing.

Will the UMP’s crisis benefit other parties? Observers have said that the main winners of the crisis are the PS (and the government), Borloo’s new centrist confederation (the UDI) and Marine Le Pen’s FN. Both the UDI and FN have claimed that their membership numbers have increased a lot because of the UMP crisis, though there is always a big difference between what parties say about their membership numbers and the actual reality.

As a sort of indicator, three legislative by-elections were held on November 9 – one of them in the Hérault where the PS had defeated a UMP incumbent (pro-Copé) in June by only 10 votes in a triangulaire with the FN; another in the Hauts-de-Seine where Patrick Devedjian (UMP pro-Fillon) had narrowly defeated a left-wing candidate in the runoff. The results do not seem to indicate that either the PS or the FN benefited from the UMP crisis. In the Hérault, the former UMP deputy is far ahead with 42.6% against 27.7% for the PS incumbent, while the FN – which had been in a position to benefit from the UMP crisis and the unpopularity of the government – fell flat on its face, winning 23.4%, barely up since June. In the Hauts-de-Seine, where the PS and Greens united behind a single candidate (in June, they had been divided in the first round, hurting them in the runoff) and had hoped of toppling Devedjian, they won only 32.5% (when their two candidates had won over 40% in June by the first round) against a big 49.82% for him. In the Val-de-Marne, the runoff will oppose the UDI/UMP incumbent and a UMP dissident with the PS eliminated by the first round (only 19%). Turnout was low, making it hard to draw conclusions, but the left appeared demobilized while the right was more successful in mobilizing its voters. Neither the FN nor the FG were able to profit from the political situation, which should – one assumes – benefit them.

Internal Geography of the UMP

After all, one of this blog’s purpose is to look at the geographic structure of the vote in elections. Given the crisis which ensued, the geographic analysis of both the presidential vote and the motions vote was largely forgotten. Yet it does reveal many interesting things about the “internal geography” of the UMP and the mindset of its members.

The map of the presidential results below  is based on the work of two journalists who compiled national results based on unofficial public sources (including local UMP federations, UMP parliamentarians or the local print media), available here, and the COCOE results. None of the colours or the shades on the map, however, would change if I used solely the COCOE or even the CNR’s official results. However, at a national level, it is interesting to point out that the compilation of results from local sources (including the 3 ‘forgotten’ overseas feds) has Fillon ahead by 248 votes. And indeed, the COCOE’s first results (Copé +98) ‘forgot’ the three overseas feds (1,304 votes total) and their inclusion does indeed bring Fillon ahead by 26 votes.

UMP P2012

Many had tried to summarize the Fillon/Copé battle to a straight fight between the UMP’s moderate wing (Fillon) and the UMP’s right-wing (Copé). There is some truth to this, but again the actual ideological differences between both candidates were fairly sparse and both candidates attracted prominent endorsements from the ‘opposite side’ of the party (some of the UMP’s right for Fillon, a good number of UMP moderates and ex-UDF/DL for Copé). The map confirms that the battle was not purely a moderate vs right-wingers affair.

The internal geography of political parties in France, at least the UMP and the PS, has long been structured by the “favourite son”/”friends and neighbors” effect and the influence of local barons – rather than any sociological or demographic factors. This election was no different, but unlike with the PS, the support of local barons cannot explain the entire map. They can still explain a good deal of it, however.

Both candidates did best in their home turf, their political bases (even if Fillon has now ‘abandoned’ his original political turf in the Sarthe). Fillon won 81.9% in the Sarthe and Copé won 78.4% in the Seine-et-Marne. Fillon also won Paris, his adopted political base since June, with a far more modest (but still hefty) 58.5%. To a certain extent, Fillon’s old favourite son appeal in the Sarthe might have carried over to neighboring departments: he won 69.7% in the Orne and 62.4% in the Mayenne.

The impact of ‘local barons’ was quite important to both candidates in a number of departments. The Alpes-Maritimes, one of the biggest UMP feds and one of the most disputed federations on November 18, gave Fillon about 59.9% (including the polls invalidated by the CNR). Even though Copé’s second running-mate, Michèle Tabarot, is the departmental secretary of the federation; the department’s federation is largely dominated and led by Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice, and his sidekick Eric Ciotti (both of whom, of course, were part of Fillon’s inner circle during the campaign). Fillon was also endorsed by all but two (Tabarot and Lionnel Luca) of the department’s parliamentarians. In the Haute-Loire, Laurent Wauquiez’s support and presence of the Fillon ticket allowed Fillon to win 65.6%. In the Yvelines, Valérie Pécresse’s federation, Fillon won decisively with 59.3%. In the Aube, François Baroin’s backing certainly helped Fillon to win 63.9% in the department. Xavier Bertrand likely swung the Aisne (54.6%) and might even have had an impact in the Somme and the Ardennes.

For Copé, Luc Chatel brought the Haute-Marne to the fold, with 62.9% for Copé. In the big Bouches-du-Rhône federation, led by Gaudin and dominated by the copéistes, Copé won 62.1%. In the Vienne, former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin’s native department, Copé won 61.2%. It is likely that Raffarin’s regional influence also swung the Charente (61.6%), the Deux-Sèvres (52.9%) but also the Charente-Maritime (57%) where the UMP barons split between Copé (Didier Quentin) and Fillon (Dominique Bussereau). In the Oise, Olivier Dassault/Edouard Courtial (pro-Copé) prevailed over Eric Woerth and Caroline Cayeux (pro-Fillon), giving Copé 57.8% in the department. In the Nord, Marc-Philippe Daubresse’s support certainly played a major role in Copé’s victory, with 53.2%.

Other departmental results can also be explained by the backing of the local party establishment. In Brittany, for example, Copé carried only the Côtes-d’Armor, where he was endorsed by local bigwig Marc Le Fur. In Ille-et-Vilaine and Loire-Atlantique, where Fillon had the backing of all local parliamentarians, Fillon won over 55% of the vote. In the Finistère and Morbihan, ‘neutral’ federations held by neither candidate, the vote was closer (52.7% and 50.9% for Fillon respectively). The Meuse, where Fillon took 57.1%, is the home turf of Gérard Longuet, one of Fillon’s backers. In the Marne, Benoist Apparu’s supported boosted Fillon to a narrow win with 51.5%.

The Hauts-de-Seine was disputed between the pro-Fillon clan (led by Devedjian, Ollier, Guéant) and the old Sarkozyst-Balkany clan which backed Copé (Balkany, Jean Sarkozy, Solère, Karoutchi). The former prevailed, with 54.9%. In Paris, Fillon’s adopted political base since June, the former Prime Minister benefited from a strong base of support with the local establishment (Goujon, Lamour, Lellouche) and a weaker local pro-Copé bench (Dati, Charon, Goasguen).

However, local barons cannot explain everything. The Lozère, where local deputy Pierre Morel-à-L’Huissier endorsed Copé, Fillon was victorious with 51.1%. In the Var, the backing of all but three of the department’s 11 parliamentarians including Toulon mayor Hubert Falco was not enough for Fillon: Copé was victorious with 51.5%. In the Manche, both deputies endorsed Copé but Fillon won by a hair (51%). In the Bas-Rhin, 8 of the department’s 10 parliamentarians including André Reichardt (plus regional president Philippe Richert) backed Fillon, but Copé won narrowly with 50.5%; on the other hand, Fillon won 60.1% down the road in the Haut-Rhin.

Generally, local barons prevailed over local sociological/demographic considerations. However, some sociological lessons can be drawn from the map. Copé did very well on the Mediterranean coast, besides the Estrosian Alpes-Maritimes, with over 60% in the Bouches-du-Rhône, Gard, Vaucluse or the Aude and nearly 60% in the Hérault (plus a surprise win despite local barons in the Var). This region, where the UMP draws the bulk of its support from ‘heliotropic’ coastal retirees, small business owners, the petite bourgeoisie or conservative entrepreneurs, is also one of the FN’s original bases since the 1980 (and it is a region where the FN’s electorate is fundamentally right-wing rather than apolitical/protest-driven) and it is a region where immigration is a major issue. The UMP base in this region, demographically and ideologically, is naturally inclined to Copé’s tough right-populist/résistance/décomplexée rhetoric over Fillon’s more moderate and reserved style.

On the other hand, in Paris’ western suburbs – affluent, white-collar, professional and politically moderate – Fillon’s victory owes in part to this favourable demographic makeup (as well as establishment backing). On the other hand, in the Seine-Saint-Denis or the Val-de-Marne, where the UMP’s membership base is likely more concerned by issues such as immigration or public safety, Copé played well: 54.8% in the Seine-Saint-Denis (where the UMP establishment is also very rightist), about 52% in the Val-de-Marne and the Val-d’Oise. Copé’s victory in the Oise but also the Yonne, Eure-et-Loir and Eure also owes a bit to local sociology: in these more distant and less affluent outer exurban conservative regions, the local UMP membership is probably naturally inclined to Copé’s muscular right-populist message (the backing of Orléans mayor Serge Grouard for Fillon explains the Loiret).

In the inner west (Pays-de-la-Loire, Orne, Manche) and Brittany, the region’s historically moderate and Christian democratic political bent likely explains – at least in part (most of the local establishments, except for Laffineur in the Maine-et-Loire backed Fillon) – why Fillon did well. In the southern Massif Central, centered around Wauquiez’s Haute-Loire and Marleix’s Cantal, also has a similar Catholic/centrist political history, and might explain – in part – why Fillon did well (including a surprising win in the Lozère). In the Savoie, local establishment support (Dord, Gaymard, Accoyer) for Fillon added to a favourable sociology: affluent and more politically moderate retirees, ski bunnies or suburbanites.

One surprise was the solidly left-wing Southwest, where Copé did very well: over 60% in the Haute-Garonne, Gers, Lot and over 55% in the Gironde or the Aveyron. The UMP’s local establishment in these departments is generally quite weak, and the UMP was in good part decimated there in June. The only exceptions to the rule are the Pyrénées-Atlantiques (historically Catholic and centrist), Ariège, the Tarn-et-Garonne (Brigitte Barèges, mayor of Montauban, was backing Fillon) and the Dordogne. In his article on the geography of the presidential vote, my friend over at Sondages2012 mentions a few interesting factors: Fillon did not campaign much in the region; the local right-wing electorate, a minority in a sea of red, perhaps being more aggressive (hence pro-Copé) because they are keen on resisting the left. To these interesting hypothesis, I might add another one: the right-wing electorate, and probably UMP membership, in these secular and small-town departments, draws heavily from small business owners/petite bourgeoisie and is, in some aspects, fairly exurban and lower middle-class (in the Garonne valley) – demographic realities favourable to Copé.

The Lorraine was fairly interesting, especially with Fillon’s huge win in the Vosges (65.1%) and Moselle (60.8%). This is a region where the FN is strong, and where the FN’s electorate is also fairly structurally right-wing/conservative rather than apolitical. It is true that the local establishment, outside of the copéiste Meurthe-et-Moselle (Morano, Rosso-Debord), largely backed Fillon. This is also a historically social Gaullist/séguiniste region where the 1999 ‘social Gaullist’ Fillon had done very well (45% in Séguin’s Vosges, wins in Haute-Marne – the General’s historical turf with Colombey, Moselle and a tie in the Meuse); some of Fillon’s 1999 social Gaullist/rénovateur (Isère, Rhône) support evaporated this year, but he seems to have retained the séguiniste/Gaullist base in Lorraine, with the exception of the Haute-Marne where Luc Chatel swung the department heavily to Copé.

The R-UMP Caucus

The R-UMP group in the National Assembly now includes 73 members. The map below shows the current composition of the National Assembly by parliamentary group:

Groupes AN


The R-UMP rallied the majority of the filloniste deputies within the UMP caucus in the lower house. Prior to November 18, Le Monde‘s investigation with UMP parliamentarians had revealed that 155 of the 194 UMP deputies had taken position in the presidential race and 83 of them had backed Fillon (against 73 for Copé). UMP Senators were far more filloniste, the UMP’s senate group did not split and it is led and dominated by fillonistes.

It is interesting to quickly point out those filloniste UMP deputies who did not join the R-UMP group, led by Fillon himself. They include Xavier Bertrand, Benoist Apparu, Bernard Accoyer, David Douillet, Gérald Darmanin and Jacques Myard. Bertrand, Apparu, Accoyer and Douillet could be called ‘soft’ fillonistes, they only endorsed Fillon fairly late in the campaign and were less connected to the Fillon team than, say, Estrosi/Ciotti but also Baroin. Bertrand probably backed Fillon only because of his deep personal enimity with Copé, rather than any personal connections with Fillon. The juppéiste Benoist Apparu was also a late endorser. Accoyer, the former president of the National Assembly, was very reticent to the idea of forming a dissident parliamentary group, probably because a loyal party man and old Sarkozyst, he is attached to the unity of the UMP. Gérald Darmanin and Jacques Myard are two members of the UMP’s right-wing who endorsed Fillon, it would seem that Fillon’s weak support with the right-wingers of the party was also pretty soft. Guy Teissier and Valérie Boyer, two marseillais deputies who joined the R-UMP after its initial creation are both seen as being on the party’s right, though perhaps their membership in the R-UMP as more to do with their personal enmity with the city’s copéiste patriarch, mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin (Boyer is a potential mayoral candidate). Naturally, the UMP’s non-aligned members stayed with the UMP group led by Jacob.

The filloniste inner guard – Pécresse, Wauquiez, Chartier, Baroin but also Estrosi/Ciotti who despite their reputation as Sarkozysts on the right of the party have become very closely tied to the filloniste faction. The Estrosian bench of UMP deputies in the Alpes-Maritimes (all but Luca and Tabarot) joined the R-UMP, as did all Fillon supporters in the Var, Paris or Hauts-de-Seine (Devedjian, after his victory next week, will certainly join the R-UMP too).

Prominent members of the R-UMP caucus include, in addition to the aforementioned names: Dominique Bussereau, Bernard Debré, Dominique Dord, Hervé Gaymard, Philippe Goujon, Serge Grouard, Jean-François Lamour, Pierre Lellouche, Jean Leonetti, Alain Marleix, Patrick Ollier, Camille de Rocca Serra, Lionel Tardy and Éric Woerth.


The Motions Vote: a Sarkozyst party

The motions vote did not interest many people during the Fillon/Copé campaign, and they were forgotten in the aftermath because of the crisis. But they too provide interesting numbers and lessons about the UMP’s 2012 membership base.

Members had the option of not choosing any motion, but only 4% or so of voters did not choose a motion (but altogether, 11% of members either chose a blank ballot choosing no motions or cast an invalid/blank vote). The results were as follows, on the 89% of valid votes:

Droite forte 27.77%
Droite sociale 21.69%
France moderne et humaniste 18.17%
Gaullisme 12.31%
Droite populaire 10.87%
Boîte à idées 9.19%

UMP M2012

The big winner of the motions vote was Guillaume Peltier and Geoffroy Didier’s La Droite forte motion, which won 27.8% of the motions vote. This is a remarkable victory for a young motion led by two thirty-something aspiring politicians who do not hold any major elective office and whose motion was backed by only a select few prominent UMP parliamentarians or national leaders. Their victory and success is the product of a well-orchestrated campaign which seized on the strong appeal of ‘Sarkozysm’ and Sarkozy’s legacy with the UMP’s base. To compensate for their weak establishment support, the motion’s leaders ran a media-savvy campaign with controversial proposals prone to receive attention and a large number of public meetings throughout the campaign.

The motion, although led by copéistes, had a fairly homogeneously appeal which transcended the Fillon/Copé battle. While the motion performed slightly better in those departments where Copé did best (30%), it also did almost just as well in those departments where Fillon won (25.5%). It was the only motion which managed to get over 10% of the vote in every single department. 37 of the departments it won went for Copé, and 23 went for Fillon.

The Droite forte did best in departments which were not ‘held’ by the national leaders of the other motions. Peltier did have a friends and neighbors effect in the Indre-et-Loire (44.9%) which might have spilled over to the Loir-et-Cher (36.5%); but otherwise their map is remarkable by the weak incidence of any friends and neighbors/favourite son effect on its support. Along the Mediterranean coast, again, the very right-wing and Sarkozyst nature of the motion appealed to a UMP electorate made up of retirees, conservative small business owners and the petite bourgeoisie; a region where Sarkozy had done particularly well for a right-wing candidate in both 2007 and 2012. The Droite forte got 50.4% in the Aude, 41.8% in the Gard, 37.5% in the Hérault and 31.9% in the big Bouches-du-Rhône fed. Like Copé, it also did well in the left-wing southwest, where the UMP’s base is demographically similar. In both regions, the Droite forte short circuited the Droite pop.

Slightly more surprising is the motion’s appeal in Mayenne (39%), Manche (36.7%) but also parts of Brittany; all in departments which Fillon carried over Copé and where the right has historically had a moderate and centrist reputation. None of these departments are ‘held’ by the national leaders of the other motions, which appears, again, to be one of the commonalities between all the departments where it did well.

Laurent Wauquiez’s Droite sociale, with 21.7%, was the other good performer. In contrast to the Droite forte, however, the motion’s success was far more localized. It did best in Wauquiez’s home turf, the Haute-Loire (66.2%), where his native son appealed carried over to other departments in the Auvergne – notably the Cantal (44.5%) but also the Allier (37%), the Puy-de-Dôme (34%) but also some neighboring departments outside the region: the Ardèche (55.6%) or the Creuse (43.8%). In internal party votes where ideological differences are present but fairly sparse compared to normal elections, a local leader’s friends and neighbors appeal is very important – not only in his/her native region, but also in neighboring departments. Given the reduced electorate, the proximity of a candidate or a candidate’s strong local implantation is a major factor.

The Droite sociale‘s ranks were heavily dominated by the fillonistes with barely any copéiste parliamentarians backing the motion. Unsurprisingly, the motion did markedly better in departments carried by Fillon (32% in those departments where Fillon took over 60%; 13.7% in those departments where Copé took over 60%). This heavily filloniste appeal is visible in the inner west, where the motion also did very well. It won 34.5% in Fillon’s native Sarthe, 35.8% in the Vendée, 32.5% in the Ille-et-Vilaine and 29.2% in the Loire-Atlantique. It also did rather well in the Moselle (33%), Vosges (29.9%) and the Indre (33.6%) – all three departments where Fillon did very well in the presidential vote. The motion’s vote, with some exceptions, follows the traditional implantation of the Christian democratic and centrist tradition fairly well.

More disappointing for its leader, however, was the performance of Raffarin/Chatel/Leonetti/Daubresse’s France moderne et humaniste (FMH) motion, which sought to represent the old liberal and Christian democratic traditions of the former UDF, DL and parts of the RPR. The FMH motion had received strong support from UMP parliamentarians, totalling 39% support within the ranks of the party’s parliamentarians (against only 8% for the Droite forte motion), but only 18.2% from member. The FMH, with its weak result, did not profit from its strong backing by the party’s parliamentarian elites, but its map heavily reflects the local appeal of its main signatories.

It dominated the Poitou-Charentes, Raffarin’s native region, taking 39.2% in the Vienne (his department) and doing even better in the Deux-Sèvres with 44.4%. Its best result, however, came from the Haute-Marne (it won 48.4%), which is Luc Chatel’s department. Backed by Leonetti but also Copé’s second running-mate Michèle Tabarot, the FMH carried the Alpes-Maritimes with 26.8%. In the Drôme, the support of local parliamentarian Hervé Mariton pushed it over the top, taking 30.1%. In the Meuse, Gérard Longuet’s department, the FMH won 30.4% thanks to his support. In the Aveyron, backed by Yves Censi, it won 30.3%. In Copé’s native turf, the Seine-et-Marne, where it was backed by loyal Copé stalwart Franck Riester, it won 32.6%. Its performance in the Nord (22.7%), Daubresse’s fed, was more disappointing. The FMH’s map reflects no political traditions, rather it is a mish-mash of favourite son effects for its main leaders in their own departments.

Also in the disappointments category, the Gaullist motion’s weak result (12.3%), again despite some strong support with UMP parliamentarians (about 18%) with some big name backers (MAM, Larcher, Accoyer). The Gaullist or neo-Gaullist family had been one of the founding families of the UMP in 2002, the dominant stream within the RPR at the moment of the UMP’s foundation. Once again, the motion’s map is largely a collection of favourite sons/daughters effects. It carried only two departments, the Pyrénées-Atlantiques (26.4%) and the Territoire de Belfort (29.6%) and in both cases these victories owe to the backing of a local leader: Alliot-Marie in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques and Damien Meslot (a deputy) in Belfort.

It did well in the Hautes-Alpes (25.1%), which was Patrick Ollier’s (who is MAM’s husband) department before he moved politically to the Hauts-de-Seine in 2002; it seems as if he might have retained some local influence in a department which otherwise has no major national leaders. In the Vaucluse, where it took 21.1%, its support is due to Julien Aubert, a young deputy who endorsed the motion. In the Marne, where it took 20.8%, it is again due to local support (Catherine Vautrin). Slightly more interesting in the Dordogne (20.6%) and the Lot-et-Garonne (21.4%). The Dordogne is the old stronghold of Yves Guéna, an old Gaullist baron, and the department had an anti-Sarkozyst and fairly Gaullist/villepiniste deputy, Daniel Garrigue until June but Garrigue left the UMP a few years ago on bad terms with Sarkozy. The Lot-et-Garonne is a mystery.

Once again, a map reflecting contemporary personalities and barons rather than any historical traditions. The motion won only 9.8% in Chirac’s Corrèze, and the old Gaullist strongholds of Lorraine (notably Haute-Marne), northern France or the Atlantic seaboard are basically absent or unremarkable.

The Droite populaire, the representative of the party’s right-wing since 2010, did poorly, with only 10.9% of the vote, barely qualifying for recognition as a movement and financial autonomy. The Droite pop, born in 2010 as a very vocal parliamentary caucus within the UMP for the party’s most nationalist and populist right-wing deputies, had been severely weakened after the legislative elections in June when a good number of its members lost reelection (going from 42 to 19 members). As a result, the motion received the support of only 18 parliamentarians. Furthermore, the Droite pop was the main victim of the Droite forte‘s success, which is ideologically broadly similar to the Droite pop and shares with it a knack for provocation, but it also had the added advantages of novelty, charismatic and media-savvy young ambitious leaders and the big appeal of ‘Sarkozysm’ as a brand name within the UMP.

The Droite pop carried a single department, the Vaucluse (30.7%) – a very right-wing (if not far-right) department where the demographics of the UMP membership lean heavily to the right, but also the base of one of the motion’s leaders – Thierry Mariani (even if he is now elected for French citizens in Asia/Oceania). It also did well in the Tarn (26.3%), a federation led by former Droite pop deputy Bernard Carayon. The motion also had some success in the Bouches-du-Rhône (18.5%) where it has a strong bench of current and former deputies (Reynès, Deflesselles, Tian, Diard, Joissains-Masini, Mallié); the Pyrénées-Orientales (18.3%) where it had two parliamentarians until June; the Gard (17%) where it also had parliamentarians until June; the Alpes-Maritimes (15.9%) backed by Lionnel Luca; the Aube (19.4%) backed by Nicolas Dhuicq and the Rhône (16.5%) where it has a few parliamentarians.

Only one motion did not break the 10% threshold to qualify as a motion, the vague ‘Boîte à idées‘ led by some non-aligned and moderate UMP parliamentarians (Le Maire, Apparu) and with some prominent supporters (Juppé, Balladur, Bertrand). The motion had taken a strong stance against the Droite forte. With 9.2% however, it does not qualify as a movement.

The motion won a single department, Bruno Le Maire’s Eure with 26.9%. It won 22.1% in the Haute-Marne, likely due to the support of the department’s other UMP deputy, François Cornut-Gentille. In the Marne, where it was backed by Benoist Apparu, it won 14.3%. It performed well in the Vienne (20%), Saône-et-Loire (19.2%), Seine-Maritime (17.4%), Loiret (17.4%) and Jura (15.3%). In the Jura, Loiret, Seine-Maritime and Saône-et-Loire it was backed by local UMP parliamentarians.

The results of the motions vote carries an important lesson. Nicolas Sarkozy has left a profound mark on the party, and was able to successfully shape it to his liking. Most notably, he shifted the UMP to the right. From a party which at its foundations was dominated by the fairly moderate and ‘Orleanist’ traditions of liberalism, Christian democracy or late-90s chiraquien neo-Gaullism (whose nature as some kind of RadSoc pragmatism and moderation makes it more Orleanist than Bonapartist) from the UDF and RPR, it has become a far more right-wing party, more inclined towards populism or the ‘Bonapartist’ tradition of the right. The membership of the party even appears to be the right of its leaders.

The UMP’s rightward shift at the expense of the old dominant ideologies of the UDF, DL and RPR is visible in the failure of the two motions which had aimed to represent the historical tradition of the UDF, DL and RPR – the FMH and Gaullists, who won only 30.5% together against 38.7% for the Droite forte and Droite pop, two byproducts of the Sarkozyst transformation of the UMP into a far more right-wing ‘Bonapartist’ party. Even the party’s moderate wing preferred the newer Droite sociale led by Laurent Wauquiez to the more traditional and old-style FMH; and it is notable that Wauquiez’s motion, although clearly representing the moderate wing of the party, carries certain right-wing undertones (lutte contre l’assistanat) which are not reflective of the old social Christian tradition and are instead closer to the New Right’s emphasis on personal responsibility and individual initiative.

The acrimonious battle for Sarkozy’s succession has opened a deep crisis, if not civil war, within the UMP which could yet lead to the party’s explosion. With the party’s rank-and-file but also elites shifting to the right since Sarkozy seized control of the UMP from Chirac in 2004, the UMP leadership is finding it increasingly tough to create a synthesis between the different families of the right which have coexisted within the big-tent UMP. Particularly, the party’s ex-UDF centrist wing which finds its roots in the CDS is feeling more and more out of place in the UMP, and are increasingly attracted back towards their traditional home on the centre-right, a home which Borloo, Lagarde and others are trying to recreate in the form of the UDI. Pierre Méhaignerie, a former leader of the CDS and one of the prominent ex-UDF centrists within the UMP (he was Sarkozy’s secretary-general between 2004 and 2007), joined the UDI in the aftermath of the UMP crisis. Others of his political affiliation may follow in his footsteps. The UMP faces difficult days ahead, even if the rapidly growing unpopularity of the PS government provides it with an opening to regain the initiative and recover lost strength.

France 2012 (Legislative): Runoff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Results: Stats and Numbers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EELV 17 seats

PS 277 seatsPS dissidents 11 seats (including Sylvie Andrieux)

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

PRG 12 seats

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

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

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

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

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

PCD 2 seats

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

CNIP 1 seat

DLR 2 seats

FN 2 seatsLigue du Sud 1 seat

Comments and Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Constituency Results and Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

PS and PRG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some other major results for the PS and the PRG:

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

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

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

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

The UMP, NC and centre-right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some other major results for the UMP and the NC:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The FN

As mentioned above, the FN won two constituencies: Gard-2 and Vaucluse-3. In the Gard-2, the FN candid