Sun Mar 15th, 2020 at 02:31:58 PM EST
Today, municipal elections are being held, as scheduled, in France, while simultaneously the country switches into lockdown.
I see no conspiracy; on the contrary, the governments seems be in "rabbit caught in headlights" mode, and probably thought it would catch more flak from postponing the elections than from maintaining them. On the other hand, maintaining the elections in the current crisis may well be a useful way of de-fusing the political impact of elections which Government-aligned candidates seemed on track to lose badly.
Macron's "La République en Marche" movement has failed pretty miserably in its strategy to put down roots at a local level (Lyon is something of a special case, as we shall see). They are running lists in all major cities, but were not expected to win any. The crisis will overshadow the elections; depressed turnout will help de-legitimize any surge for the left; and perhaps there will be a "legitimist" reflex on the part of people who work that way, to soften their defeat.
Personally, I'm a sort of microcosm of the divided French left : in Lyon, as is common in the larger cities of France, there are three competing lists from left of centre, and I have ties to all of them.
Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger
I ran on a Green Party list in the last elections in 2014, but I have mostly passed on this cycle. I was involved last year in the early stages of the constitution of Lyon En Commun, a municipalist organisation that is running lists in all nine sectors of Lyon, but dropped out while I was contesting the EU elections. Following our comprehensive defeat in that little adventure, I haven't found the motivation to get back on the horse that threw me off.
During the EU episode, my outfit, Diem25, was partnered with Générations, a left-wing offshoot of the Parti Socialiste. Our local partners from that party are aligned with the PS in the municipal elections, which is natural enough (along with the Communists and various other left splinters), and I find that I don't have the stomach to join them in campaigning with a party which betrayed the left so comprehensively under Hollande. I would expect them to get something like 10% tonight.
The Greens, both locally and nationally, have been pushing a centrist-environmentalist line, playing down their leftist roots, and hoping to attract voters disappointed by Macron. My old Green colleagues will tell me that they haven't really changed, but they have been somewhat swamped with new activists who don't necessarily share their core values... They are on track for the best score among the Left lists, perhaps over 20%
Lyon en Commun, in common with a number of such municipalist lists in larger French cities, is officially supported by Mélenchon's "France Insoumise" party. That is not a political problem for me, because I agree with their approach to municipal matters; but FI doesn't operate in a democratic manner internally, and their operatives were pretty clearly pursuing the party's agenda during my brief involvement.
The current Mayor of Lyon, Gérard Collomb, has been in place for decades, and has been drifting right from his mainstream PS starting point. He was also a key political mentor to Macron, and jumped to his party when it was formed. He was Minister of the Interior for a year, and while he was away, his carefully selected placeholders got a taste for power, and refused to step aside when he came home. So we have the amusing situation of his "official" LREM-supported lists running against LREM "dissidents", as well as lists from the old Right, Le Pen's RN, and... those three lists from the left.
Basically nobody has any idea what is going to happen. It's a two-round system, with a week of negotiations to be followed with the deposition of merged lists for the second round two weeks from now.
Turnout is indeed down : I saw a national figure of 18% of electors who voted before noon, compared to 23% at the same time in 2014. I will be down at the polling station at 8 pm to help with the count. Then the fun and games start.
I like to think that there is a chance of beating the incumbent, but it's not even sure that the three groups of the left will even sit down together to discuss the second round...