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France Municipal Elections: The Aftermath - Part 1

by Bernard Wed Jul 15th, 2020 at 08:40:31 PM EST

As the French farmers say: It's only once the cattle fair is over that you can count the cow pies.

After three years of Macron presidency, the municipal elections were seen as a sign of where the French people stand vis a vis the main political parties, and, of course, would these local elections point to any trend for the future presidential and legislative elections scheduled the spring of 2022. Especially after a long story of protests against the Macon-led neo-lib agenda: first, the "gilets jaunes" Winter of Discontent, then the 2019 protests and strikes against the retirement reforms; finally, in the wake of the global movement spurred by the killing of George Floyd, a general protest against police brutality and an endemic everyday racism.

Frontpaged with minor edit - Frank Schnittger

The first round was scheduled for March 15; at the time, the COVID-19 pandemic was growing exponentially throughout the country and many voices were urging the government to postpone the elections and impose a lockdown sooner rather than later, to stop the spread of the virus. Macron dithered and postponed the decision to after the first round, ordering the nationwide confinement from Wednesday 18 March.

As explained in eurogreen's diary, the vast majority of the 35,000 municipal governments were elected after the first round, but a second round was needed for about 13% of the cities, representing 38% of the French voters overall, because most of the large cities were in that case. After the confinement was eventually lifted on May 11, the second round finally took place on Sunday June 28.

One week later, the newly elected municipal councils have had their first meetings and the new mayors have been duly elected. Here is a quick roudnup of the main French cities and the changes since the last elections in 2014 are (source and source):

  • EELV (Greens): A green wave, but no tsunami

  • Out of the 42 French cities with a population over 100,000, EELV won 7, plus Marseille (with a left-wing coalition), in most cases after having beaten a right-wing incumbent. Grenoble was the only large city where EELV was already an incumbent since 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 - often dismissed as "the bobo vote", 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 medium sized cities with a population between 3,500 and 100,000, less than 1% of the total, so a green wave, yes, 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 PS led lists didn't run under a 'PS' label, but with 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): The rout

  • For Macron and his dream of establishing 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 and large cities: Trending up
  • 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 (aged 30) in Poitiers, all three EELV.

  • Marseille: It's complicated

  • Then again politics in the 2nd largest French city have always been very convoluted, ever since it was founded by the Greeks in 600 BC (in Marseille, the Romans are Johnnies come lately).

    The local political theater is so eventful that it is worthy of its own Netflix series (Oh, wait). Having been run for decades by the PS, Marseille had flipped to the right (UMP, now LR) since 1995. But earlier this year, Michèle Rubirola left EELV to lead a left-wing coalition named 'Le Printemps Marseillais' (Marseilles Spring). The coalition won a relative majority during the second round, 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 the so-called "third round" that was held on July 3. After a full day of political negotiations, the RN abstaining in a huff and two rounds of voting, Ghali finally rallied behind Rubirola who was elected mayor (I understand she is back as a EELV member).

    The Aftermath

    The obvious failure of Macron and his allies to establish some local government network throughout the country, and what it portends for the upcoming 2022 elections, has shaped Macron's decision to reshuffle his cabinet with a rightward bent.

    To be continued...

    As in Ireland, there was a Green wave, but unlike Ireland where the left/nationalist Sinn Féin made major gains, it seems the left and right have consolidated their positions at the expense of the far right and left.  Also, as in Ireland, the incumbent party and Leader suffered major losses. It seems dissatisfaction with the Status quo is growing, but apart from the slight trend towards the Greens, it is not resulting in a clear switch to either left or right.

    To what extent did the Pandemic and its management by the government effect the result?

    Index of Frank's Diaries

    by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jul 16th, 2020 at 07:42:28 PM EST
    Pardon the late question:

    "it seems the left and right have consolidated their positions at the expense of the far right and left. " So in France as in the USA are the Center-Left and Center-Right just wings of an unacknowledged Corporatist Party? Only differing on social issues?

    by StillInTheWilderness on Mon Aug 10th, 2020 at 03:14:20 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    I know the Democrats are a centre right party and the republicans far right. What is the centre left party of which you speak?

    Index of Frank's Diaries
    by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Aug 10th, 2020 at 08:31:10 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Ha ha. You know full well the Democratic Party is the faux Left with all sorts of lip service about unions and working people and the poor while bellying up to the billionaires' bar.  And mainstream Republicans don't open;y advocate racial internments and abandoning elections. Trump is not a Republican he just got that Party by hostile takeover. So, no openly fascist party and no party advocating universal health care or guaranteed jobs or limits on corporate control of the marketplace. Even Bernie Sanders was revealed as a fraud, just giving up a fight that could be won and endorsing Biden, the very antithesis of what Sanders talked about and  a general bagman for the New York banks.
    by StillInTheWilderness on Mon Aug 10th, 2020 at 11:12:12 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    I believe Frank's comment was referring to Ireland. In France we have several right wing parties: LREM (Macron), LR (Sarkozy), UDI and some center-right like Modem (Bayrou). They all more or less push the same big business agenda; Macron has just been smoother about it. PS is difficult to evaluate: it's main corporatists elements have joined Macron's LREM in 2017 and the party is barely alive since then.
    by Bernard (bernard) on Mon Aug 10th, 2020 at 08:54:14 PM EST
    [ Parent ]

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