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France, Politics

France local elections: disappointment with Hollande and abstention help Le Pen

Pietro Lunetto offers an analysis of Sunday’s elections and argues that despite the headlines, the Left vote held up overall.

The result of the first round of the French administrative has sparked the reaction, often lazy, of the mainstream press, which prefers headlines to detailed analysis of the situation. From the results of the first round, I think you can only identify the trends and a first analysis of the composition of the vote. As often happens in the past, the second round ballot can distort the situation completely. Even in France, unfortunately, high abstention wins the election. If you add to the 35% who abstained in the polls to the rise in citizens who have not even registered to vote, a widespread and deep distrust of the current political – party system becomes clear.

Socialist Party – a party of the center-right

The Socialist Party (PS) has suffered a setback in general and in some of its strongholds, thanks to the discontent with by President Francois Hollande’s broken election promises. The great expectations created by the presidential election campaign only 2 years ago have been completely dashed, and what emerges is a PS that acts as a party of the center-right. The French Communist Party (PCF ) was confirmed as the third force in the country, slightly widening its area of influence, despite the heavy media blackout. This is a result, in part, of the alliance with the PS and the Greens in Paris and other large cities of France. The PCF’s electoral choice lead to discord within the Front de Gauche, of which the component headed by Melanchon decided that the Parti de Gauche ( PdG ) would compete with the electoral lists of the PS- PCF -Green alliance. Where this three-way alliance stood, it seemed to have mitigated the PS retreat, with a transfer of votes from the PS to its two allies. If to this result you added an average of 6-7% for the PdG, the Left overall maintained its position. But it remains to be seen how such an alliance will stand the test of local government, caught between the cuts dictated by the PS at the national level and the fight against austerity of the PCF and the Greens.

Le Pen, rather than an advance, a transfer of votes

If you compare the results of the first round with the last local elections of 2008, the spheres of influence of the left and the right seem to remain roughly unchanged, with frequent changes in the areas where the percentage of votes for the two major political forces [PS and the right-wing UMP] are similar, and therefore where a small shift of votes creates a change in the political colour of the administration. The right-wing neo-fascist Front National (FN) – despite what anyone says about Marine Le Pen with her slogan “neither right nor left” her party remains neo-fascist – seems to have registered a strong advance, according to the polling figures. The percentages, however, are doped with a high rate of abstention. If you compare the geographic areas where the right was most successful, more than an ‘advance of the FN’ its a transfer of votes within the French right, from the most moderate UMP to the FN and other forces of the extreme right. More generally, the data seem to confirm the trend, quite common in situations of economic and social crisis, where the popular vote is biased towards the forces of the extreme right and the radical left, at the expense of the great moderate parties. Of course, its not a question of underestimating the danger of the neo-fascist right in France, but it is worth remembering that a few years ago, the FN was on the verge of securing the Presidency of the Republic. Its electoral support is not a novelty of recent times.

PCF together with Hollande in the second round

The media-created perception of the advance of the FN has forced the secretary of the PCF, Pierre Laurent, to openly declare PCF support to all those candidates who oppose the FN, indicating their view that the threat of the neo-fascist party represents a democratic emergency. If the PCF’s approach is at least understandable in the given situation, it remains that the root causes of the outcome of the election need to be addressed: that the PS, faithful to the principles of austerity which it also defends at European level, has abandoned any idea of social protection and a Left position in general, behaving like a centre-right party. Is it not time to abandon to its fate the PS and all the other center-left-right parties, drawing all the consequences, and to build a twenty-first century left worthy of the name ?


Translation by Revolting Europe

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope


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