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Municipal elections in France

by eurogreen Sun Jun 28th, 2020 at 01:26:04 PM EST

I am a citizen assessor today at my local polling place in Lyon: looking up names, and verifying the integrity of the process.

The first round should have been cancelled, as it was held just a few days before confinement. Turnout was, logically, very low, and in particular, elderly electors mostly stayed away, wisely. The government then toyed with the idea of annulling the results of the first round, and holding both rounds of the elections after the confinement; this was unthinkable, particularly in the context, because the lists of Macron's La République en Marche party performed horribly, with no chance of winning a major city in the second round.

The first round was dominated by a "green wave" almost everywhere, with combined green-left lists set to make major gains in many places.

Frontpaged - Bernard

Lyon is a special case: the Mayor, Gérard Collomb, was elected as a Socialist, with the support of all the left and of the Greens; then defected to Macron, becoming minister of the Interior for two years, before hurrying home to prepare his re-election. In the meantime, his chosen placeholder, Georges Képénékian, had acquired a taste for the job of Mayor, and ran against him. Likewise, his replacement as president of the metropolitan region is running against him in that simultaneous election.

With the green wave, it turned out to be the perfect storm for old Gérard, and his lists came third in most districts, behind the Greens and the Républicains, the; traditional right. Too proud or vindictive to merge his lists with those of his disloyal lieutenants, he ended up naming a young, pliable candidate for mayor.

I like to think of him as King Lear, "more sinned against than sinning", in his own opinion, abandoned by his daughters Regan and Gonneril, but supported by the dutiful Cordelia...
Then he messed up the analogy with a dramatic twist, merging his lists with his lifelong enemies Les Républicains.

The various lists of the left united behind the Greens, making first-time candidate Grégory Doucet heavy favourite for Mayor.

Collomb has been running a scare campaign, painting the Greens (with whom he governed for fifteen years) as Khmer Verts, bent on destroying the economy... I couldn't make any sense of it, until I realised that he is trying to mobilize the elderly non voters from the first round, who mostly don't grok the green memes...

And indeed, I have seen a lot of elderly electors this morning, with overall turnout so far behind even the disastrously low level of the first round... So maybe the result will be closer than I expected? We should know by about 9:30 this evening. Stay tuned.

Toady's second round is held in 4600 cities throughout the country, 13% of the 34968 municipalities in France. In the other 87%, the municipal council was elected during the first round, on Sunday 15 March, with a list having reached an absolute majority (this is the case in my town), a few days before the government ordered a countrywide lockdown.

These 4600 municipalities actually account for 38% of the French population, as they include the largest cities, like Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille, Strasbourg or Nantes.

Fun fact: With close to 35000 municipalities (37962 in 1960), France accounts for almost half of the 80000  municipal governments in Europe. 73% of them are small communes with a population under 1000. There are 19 villages with less than 7 permanent residents, including, near Verdun in Northeastern France, six entirely unpopulated villages since WW I.

by Bernard (bernard) on Sun Jun 28th, 2020 at 03:27:31 PM EST
Over the past years, the major electoral development, besides the rise of the extreme-right RN (formerly Front National), is the high score of the French Green party: Europe Ecologie Les Verts (EELV).

For decades, EELV candidates were elected as junior partners in left wing coalitions, generally headed by the PS who ended up always calling the shots. In the last municipal elections in 2014, Eric Piolle, the EELV candidate, ran against the outgoing PS mayor in Grenoble and won: Grenoble has been the only major French town (with pop. over 100.000) with a Green mayor and Piolle looks like he's sailing to an easy reelection.

Six years later, EELV success in Grenoble might very well be replicated in other major French cities, starting with Lyon (our very own eurogreen is helping), but also Besançon and Strasbourg. In Colmar and Toulouse, a left-wing union list is headed by EELV (and Toulouse may well be retaken from the right). In other cities, like Paris, Lille or Marseille, EELV is running as junior partner with the PS. Like Toulouse, Marseille might flip over to the left.

by Bernard (bernard) on Sun Jun 28th, 2020 at 03:50:21 PM EST
These municipal elections have also laid bare the lie that Macron's party, "La République En Marche" is anything but a full-fledged right-wing party (with authoritarian tendencies at that). For the past three years, Macron and his troops have pursued a standard neo-lib policy: tax cuts for the rich, less workers rights, unemployed treated as "slackers". Just like the LR (formerly UMP) party of Sarkozy & Fillon.

Macron, being a smooth talker, has been maintaining that his party is "elsewhere", neither right nor left (and not in the center either, despite being allied to the Centrists led by F.Bayrou). A capitalism with a human face, so to speak. The first strong pushback started started a year and a half go, with the gilets jaunes movement, and, more recently, the anti-racist movement, spurred worldwide by the George Floyd violent death.

Each and every time, Macron and his government have arbitrated in favor of the 1% vs. the 99%, and, facing the Green wave, the largely unsuccessful LREM candidates are joining forces with the right-wing LR as an anti-Green (and anti-Red) front. So much for a president who has been pushing for a green new deal...

by Bernard (bernard) on Sun Jun 28th, 2020 at 04:22:58 PM EST
These elections are turning into a rout for the Macronistas: LREM candidates have been ousted everywhere, starting with Lyon and the resounding defeat of Gérard Collomb, formerly PS who joined Macron three year ago.
Also in Tours, the LREM supported incumbent mayor was overthrown by a left-wing coalition led by EELV Emmanuel Denis.

In Lorient, Defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (also a former PS who joined Macron's party LREM) was ousted, this time by a right-wing rival, thus probably sinking any hope for Le Drian to eventually succeed Edouard Philippe as Macron's Prime minister - vae victis ...

Only relative success: in Toulouse the incumbent right-wing mayor Jean-Luc Moudenc (LR) was re-elected with support from LREM.

by Bernard (bernard) on Sun Jun 28th, 2020 at 08:45:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also: Edouard Philippe re-elected in Le Havre; he left the city hall three years ago to become Macron's Prime minister. It is predicted that he'll leave the position and remain in Le Havre. Jupiter to appoint a replacement in the next few days.
by Bernard (bernard) on Sun Jun 28th, 2020 at 08:50:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bernard, I don't agree that the emergent majority in Marseille is Socialist-led. On the contrary, it seems to be predominantly a bottom-up broad municipalist movement, which has largely outflanked and absorbed both the Socialists and the Greens. But maybe I'm starry eyed.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Sun Jun 28th, 2020 at 04:51:07 PM EST
OK, that was a bit of a shortcut: the union list "Printemps Marseillais" (literally: Marseille's Spring) is much wider than just EELV and the PS: even the PS in Marseille has a strong local accent.

And the main news is that it may end the twenty years of right wing domination in this major city.

by Bernard (bernard) on Sun Jun 28th, 2020 at 05:31:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Marseille, Michèle Rubirola (EELV but heading a large left-wing coalition) is also predicted to win the city hall. Add this to the Green wave sweeping through Lyon, Bordeaux, Strasbourg etc...
by Bernard (bernard) on Sun Jun 28th, 2020 at 08:26:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The political space in France is defined by the presidential election; such are our institutions.
So, with a resurgent Green-led left, who do we have?  Eric Piolle, the mayor of Grenoble mentioned above by Bernard, thinks it might be him. I'll look up an article or two when I've got a moment, and a computer.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Sun Jun 28th, 2020 at 04:56:49 PM EST
We're about to close and count. Same feeble voting rate, about 38% right here, so presumably the same people that voted in the first round. Time to stick my neck out and call an amplified win for Green/Left in Lyon, because that's what French voters do in the second round.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Sun Jun 28th, 2020 at 06:01:14 PM EST
So, the expected percentage for the Green list in my polling place, by addition on the lists that merged, would be 45%.

We're looking at 55%.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Sun Jun 28th, 2020 at 06:51:13 PM EST
In addition to Greboble where Eric Piolle was reelected, EELV candidates won several big cities:
Lyon, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, Poitiers, Besançon and Annecy.

In Lille, EELV was facing the PS Martine Aubry, former government minister and daughter of Jacques Delors. The two parties didn't managed to get a common list of candidates. Ultimately, results (not final) put Aubry ahead with a razor thin margin, which is enough for her to keep her mayoral seat.

by Bernard (bernard) on Sun Jun 28th, 2020 at 08:23:27 PM EST
In Paris, EELV headed by David Belliard merged their list with outgoing mayor Anne Hidalgo (PS). The combined list won 49% of the vote which will ensure an absolute majority of seats to the PS-EELV coalition, and Hidalgo will remain in the city hall for another six years.
by Bernard (bernard) on Sun Jun 28th, 2020 at 08:31:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Comparing the French system to Ireland, some differences stand out.

  1. The Irish system is more centralised with relatively few powers devolved to City and County Councils - Although Ireland is obviously much smaller than France, and Paris alone, would have a much greater population than Ireland.

  2. The 2014 Local government reform act reduced the number of local authorities from 114 to 31 through the abolition of all town councils (and the number of Councillors was reduced from 1,627 to 949) - mainly as a cost cutting measure.

  3. Ostensibly to reduce corruption, Councillors power to overturn planning decisions was removed.

  4. While election to a Council is often a stepping stone to the national parliament and ministerial office, national politicians do not take part in local elections, and the role of Mayors, where they exist, are largely ceremonial.

  5. Local administration is effectively managed by county "managers" and their staff who are unelected public servants who are, in theory, accountable to the elected councils.

  6. Political parties are also organised at local district (constituency) levels and elections are hotly contested.

The Irish systems s often criticised for being over centralised, but as noted above, some French cities (and  German Länder) are larger than all of Ireland. Many would argue than most back bench national parliamentarians are little more than glorified county councillors, focused on local issues to ensure re-election.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jun 28th, 2020 at 10:35:56 PM EST
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jun 28th, 2020 at 10:44:45 PM EST
A pretty good summary of all we've posted around here.
by Bernard (bernard) on Mon Jun 29th, 2020 at 08:37:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The extreme right Rassemblement National (formerly Front National) had only one major victory: Perpignan (pop. 122.000), the southernmost large city in continental France. Louis Aliot, who's been Marine Le Pen domestic partner, will be the mayor.

This is the first time since 1995 that the FN/RN will be running a major city (over 100.000 inhabitants): the FN has been running Toulon from 1995 to 2001, but lost to the LR (mainstream right) in 2001.

by Bernard (bernard) on Mon Jun 29th, 2020 at 08:49:56 AM EST
But overall, things didn't go too well for the RN: they went from 1 438 councilors seats in 463 municipalities, back in 2014, to only 840 seats in 258 cities. Some infographics here.
The extreme-right strongholds are mostly in the northern and northeastern regions, and along the Mediterranean seaboard.
by Bernard (bernard) on Mon Jun 29th, 2020 at 09:16:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Richer old people are presumably concentrated on the Mediterranean seaboard, but what is the particular attraction for the far right in north/northeastern France? Immigration? De-industrialisation?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jun 29th, 2020 at 10:30:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Visiting Marine Le Pen's Strongholds | Handelsblatt |

The maps that show how France voted and why | BBC News |

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Mon Jun 29th, 2020 at 11:42:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jun 29th, 2020 at 11:56:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As the farmers say: It's when the cattle fair is over that you can count the cow pies. So here we are: One week after, the newly elected municipal councils have had their first meetings and the new mayors have been duly elected. This is what it looks like and what the main changes since the last elections in 2014 are (source and source):

* EELV (Greens): A green wave, not a tsunami

Out of the 42 cities with a population over 100,000, EELV won 7 of them, plus Marseille (with a left-wing coalition), mostly having beaten a right-wing incumbent. Grenoble was the only such city, back in 2014, and Mayor Eric Piolle was re-elected by a wide margin. In addition to Grenoble and Marseille, EELV will be running Lyon, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Tours, Annecy and Besançon.
Yet, EELV successes are mostly limited to big city centers and seldom extends to the surrounding suburbs. Most Metropolitan councils will still be run by either the PS or LR; exceptions are Lyon and Grenoble. As for smaller cities: EELV only won about 30 cities with a population above 3,500, less than 1%, so a wave but no tsunami.

* PS (Socialists): Mostly stable
In many big cities, the PS and other mainstream left parties have run a common list with EELV and won, as in  Lille, Rennes, Nantes, Montpellier, Dijon or Paris, but they also supported EELV as junior partners in some of the newly won cities like Lyon, Bordeaux, Tours, Annecy and Besançon. They retained about the same numbers of cities as in 2014 (won some like Nancy, Corbeil, Périgueux, Chambéry, Bourges or Quimper, but lost some to the mainstream right LR (Metz and Arles).
One point of note: many lists didn't run as 'PS', but under a general 'Miscellaneous Left' moniker.

* LR (mainstream right): Mostly stable too
This is the party formerly known as UMP during the Sarkozy times (and RPR during the Chirac times), firmly on the irght but always called 'centre-right' by the English language press. Just like the PS, some towns were won, some were lost, but the overall numbers remain similar to 2014, the bulk being medium sized towns. Also, as is the case for the PS, many lists did run under a generic label rather than a party name, a mark of the general weakness of many traditional political parties in France.

* RN (Extreme right): Receding
Despite winning Perpignan, their only big city, and a couple of medium sized towns, the RN in general is much less successful than in 2014: 827 councilors seats in 271 cities vs. 1,483 seats in 463 cities six years ago.

* LREM (Macronistas): A rout
For Macron and his dream of rooting his own party all over the country to the detriment of both LR and the PS, it's a complete failure. Their only main cities are Le Havre where incumbent mayor and former Prime minister Edouard Philippe has been re-elected, and Pau where Centrist and Macron ally François Bayrou has won re-election too.

* Women: Rising
More and more mayors of large cities are women: incumbents Martine Aubry (PS) in Lille and Anne Hidalgo (PS) in Paris have been reelected. The PS did also score with Nathalie Appéré in Rennes and Johanna Rolland in Nantes.  
Also: Michèle Rubirola in Marseille,  Anne Vignot in Besançon and Léonore Moncond'huy (age: 30) in Poitiers, all three EELV.

* Marseille: It's complicated
Then again politics in the 2nd largest French city have always been convoluted, ever since it was founded by the Greeks in 600 BC (in Marseille, the Romans are Johnnies come lately). Things are so colorful that it should have its own Netflix series (Oh, wait). Having been run for decades by the PS, Marseille flipped to then UMP in 1995. This year, Michèle Rubirola left EELV to lead a left-wing coalition named 'Le Printemps Marseillais' (Marseilles Spring). The coalition won a relative majority last Sunday, but this was not enough: under the sector-based system for the city, the mayor is elected by a 100-member strong general council representing all the sectors. Rubirola's coalition has 42 seats out of 100, with 41 for the right, 7 for the extreme right (who lost a district mayor seat) and 8 seats for Samia Ghalia, a dissident PS. In theory, the right could still get the mayor seat in today's election. After a complete day of political negotiations, the RN abstaining in a huff and two rounds of vote, Ghali finally rallied behind Rubirola who was elected mayor (I understand she's again a EELV member).

by Bernard (bernard) on Sat Jul 4th, 2020 at 07:12:19 PM EST
Worthy of a diary in its own right. Why not publish with an intro addressing some more general questions like: What are the implications  Does the decline of the far right bode well for European politics in general? for Macrons chances of retaining the Presidency? The Green Wave is reflected here in Ireland as well.

It seems that Trump and Brexit have fore-warned people what a far right government could look like, and people will be more appreciative of state supports in a post Covid-19 environment. A lot depends on how economies recover, however.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jul 4th, 2020 at 08:40:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is the new French cabinet an accurate reflection of the change in the balance of power, or an indication that Macron intends to swing to the right in his re-election bid?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jul 6th, 2020 at 09:27:11 PM EST

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