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Chronicle of a Foretold Election: A Third Round?

by Bernard Mon Jun 6th, 2022 at 09:16:03 PM EST

Last April, we've had the two rounds of French Presidential elections. It was presented as a cliffhanger between incumbent Emmanuel Macron and Extreme-Right challenger Marine Le Pen. In the end, it wasn't even close: On April 24, Macron was re-elected 58% to 42% for Marine Le Pen.

But what about that so-called "third round" I've been mentioning since my first diary on the subject?

Parliamentary elections are scheduled for June 12 (first round) and 19 (second round). Even within the "presidential" regime of the French Fifth Republic, the president needs a majority at the Parliament to support his Cabinet: the National Assembly can overthrow the Cabinet with a censure motion.

This is where things can get interesting: when the president fails to get or looses the majority at the National Assembly, he has no choice but to appoint a leader from the new parliamentary majority as Prime Minister - a configuration called "cohabitation".

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

"Cohabitations" happened a couple of times over the past forty years: the most important lasted five years (1997-2002), when then-president Jacques Chirac appointed Socialist leader Lionel Jospin as Prime Minister. Even though the president and the PM were on opposite sides, the country was effectively run by the PM and the parliamentary majority. There is relatively little the president can do in that case, other than  the option to call snap elections and hope to get a majority this time (and even then, he is only allowed to do that once a year at most, per the Constitution),

A matter of calendar

Since 1958, the presidential term was seven years. In May 1997, Jacques Chirac, who had won the presidency two years prior, in May 1995, organized a referendum to reduce the duration to five years. At the same time, he called for snap elections, hoping to enlarge his majority at the National Assembly; the maneuver backfired and the PS won a majority. Chirac had no other choice than to appoint L.Jospin as PM on June 2nd, 1997.

Since then, the presidential elections have always taken place in May (2007, 2012, 2017 and 2022), and the parliamentary elections the following June. And each time, the voters gave the newly elected president the much needed majority at the National Assembly: it worked for Sarkozy (2007), Hollande (2012) and even Macron (2017), even though his new party, La République En Marche, had only be in existence for a few months.

But this year, there was a snag: Election Day in France is always on a Sunday and two Sundays in May of 2022 were public holidays: May 1st (Labor Day) and May 8th (End of WW II). So the Constitutional Council decided to run the presidential elections in April instead: April 10 and 24, even though Macron's term ended on May 13. Macron eventually won re-election but this year, the parliamentary elections are not happening until next Sunday, a good seven weeks after Macron's victory and enough time for that post-election halo to fade away.

A new Left Alliance

Meanwhile, Mélenchon, who was decidedly thinking ahead, has used his own thrust from his 3rd place at the presidential election to try to organize a left wing coalition, sort of similar to the one that brought Mitterrand to power more than forty years ago. Early May the NUPES (New Ecologic and Social People's Union) was created despite remaining disagreement on programs, combining Mélenchon's France Unbowed (LFI), the Socialist Party (PS), the Communist Party (PCF) and the Greens (EELV). The basic aim was to run a unique left wing candidate in each constituency, to maximize the chances, given the FPTP French system.

Should the NUPES alliance win a majority, Macron would have to appoint a NUPES leader, most likely Mélenchon himself, as PM. Mélenchon early on sowed the seeds of that idea, calling on the voters to "elect [him] Macron's Prime Minister".

Parliamentary elections are based on constituencies (577 total, include 12 for French citizens abroad). As a recap from my diary ten years ago:

To win on the first round, a candidate needs an absolute (50%+1) majority. In most constituencies, a second round takes place one week later, between all candidates having received a number of votes representing at least 12.5% of registered voters. This means that more than two candidates can run in the second round (unlike in the presidential election). In that case, a plurality of votes is enough to win the seat.

As I noted then,  a party can secure a majority of seats with only 30% of the votes. Due to that system, it is very difficult for pollsters to get even a rough estimates of the projected number of seats, based on the voting intentions. Still many pollsters were predicting an absolute majority to LREM, Macron's party, but a funny thing happened on the way to the voting booth: until recently, LREM had done very little campaigning, being all wrapped up in the appointment of the Elisabeth Borne cabinet.

During that time, NUPES, the left wing alliance, has hit the ground running and its candidates have been campaigning for over a month now; to a great effect: pollsters projections now show than LREM may not get an absolute majority, even if all are predicting a plurality.

Needless to say, alarm bells have been ringing all over Macronland: Jupiter himself reportedly stopped phoning Putin to instruct his lieutenants to shift gears and go on the offensive in the media. How will that play out? We'll see next Sunday for the first round.

Note that the first round has already finished in the 11 constituencies for French citizens living overseas.

Those who bother to register and vote are generally right wingers : Macronists won 10 out of 11 in 2017.

The second round will be between Macronist and NUPES in 10 out of 11 cases, and with numerous right-wing candidates eliminated, logically the Macronists will win everywhere... Unless a lot of (younger) people who didn't vote in the first round turn up.

Special mention for the 5th district (Spain, Portugal and Monaco). Manuel Valls (remember him? prime minister under Hollande) got the nod from Macron to be the official candidate, but the sitting Macronist MP disagreed and beat him in the first round. Har.

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

by eurogreen on Tue Jun 7th, 2022 at 09:24:16 AM EST
Polling for legislative elections in France is difficult, because of the 577 different constituencies. The trend that emerged though is that an absolute majority (289) for Macron's party is no done deal.

Macron could lose absolute majority in parliament, poll finds Politico.eu

French President Emmanuel Macron could have a hard time eking out an absolute majority in parliament in the upcoming legislative elections as support for rival left-wing groups edges up, according to fresh polls.

Parliamentary elections -- the upcoming one is slated for June 12 and 19 -- are typically difficult to predict because they consist of 577 distinct local races. But an Ifop poll published Tuesday has Macron's camp worried, as it projects them winning 250 to 290 seats, with the majority threshold at 289. Even worse, the numbers have been trending down since late May, when Ifop had the president's allies landing between 275 and 310 seats.

Other polling firms show the president's camp faring better. POLITICO's Poll of Polls projects a likely range of 275 to 318 seats, but the trend here is also pointing downward over the past weeks.

A scenario in which the presidential camp remains the biggest group in parliament but gets less than 289 seats could potentially gridlock the National Assembly, as it would lack a majority with a clear agenda.

Unlike other European countries, there is no culture of coalitions among French pols, since a dominant party usually has a majority of seats; NUPES is actually one of the few examples.

by Bernard (bernard) on Thu Jun 9th, 2022 at 06:12:41 PM EST
Latest polling before the embargo (yesterday at 23:59): the NUPES slightly ahead of Macron's LREM, but, as I wrote in the diary, it does not mean it will ultimately gain a majority of seats (289) next Sunday, due to the peculiarities of the FPTP system.
by Bernard (bernard) on Sat Jun 11th, 2022 at 12:18:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Elections législatives 2022 : la recomposition politique se confirme - Le Monde.fr
Les élections législatives de 2022 marquent une recomposition profonde du paysage politique français. Si 2017 a vu le dépassement du clivage droite-gauche, notamment avec l'élection d'Emmanuel Macron, suivie par la vague de députés élus de La République en marche (LRM), 2022 est l'année de la tripartition. Trois pôles de poids équivalent structurent l'offre politique.

Their reading is that French politics has evolved from two blocks (right-wing & left-wing) to three "of equivalent weight": Left, "Center" and Extreme right.

That's one reading. You might also consider that the two left & right poles are still there and it's just the extreme right that has grown, to the detriment of the former Gaullist/Chirac/Sarkozy party, now called LR. In addition, many LR have defected to Macron's LREM, which has now become the de facto mainstream right party. Similarly, Macron has been able to lure some of the more conservative socialists (or assimilated to the PS, like the present PM, Elisabeth Borne) to grow the LREM ranks and maintain the fiction that it is a fusion of right and left (yeah, right).

by Bernard (bernard) on Sat Jun 11th, 2022 at 12:13:57 PM EST
Um. It's hard. But I will try to give my impression of the big picture, which will probably change this evening...

Citizens in France have, in a large proportion,  forgotten or never learned that Left/Right is a thing.

The current three blocs, for me, are Left, Right, and Don't Know but Angry.

The third group vote Le Pen.
Reconquête (Zemmour), les Républicains, and the Macronists are three flavours of Right. The fact that they are currently running against each other is useful.

The left is united. (Well, there are numerous dissidents, mostly from the PS, who refuse to admit that they are no longer the navel of the world ; but mostly, they stand in districts which are safe for the left, and may have a useful bridging function for electors who are reluctant to vote further left in the first round.)

The third bloc are mostly people who have no political references to analyse the world with. They are more racist than average, but is not necessarily their primary motivation in voting RN. They are angry about a lot of things, some of which are indeed the responsibility of the current government. (There is also an ideological minority, which includes all of the party's activists, who are way more extreme in their views than the party's current program; but most of these have bled away to Zemmour, whose electorate is largely bourgeois).
A large part of the motivation of Mélenchon's populist positioning over the past decade has been to offer those third-bloc voters a way out of their dead end, and into the political spectrum.

This effect will be crucial to many second-round run-offs between Macronists and NUPES.  And to any possibility of a left majority,  not that I can see that.

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

by eurogreen on Sun Jun 12th, 2022 at 08:27:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Voting has already started in territories and countries West of the GMT time zone: Caribbean, French Guiana, French Polynesia and all French Consulates in the Americas.

In a couple of hours, polls will open in New Caledonia and French Consulates in Auckland, Sydney etc..

First (partial) official results to be announced from Sunday evening, 20:00 CEST. Then a hectic week in all political teams to prepare for the second round next Sunday.

by Bernard (bernard) on Sat Jun 11th, 2022 at 12:30:42 PM EST
My job this morning is to stamp today's date on each elector's card, after my fellow assessors have checked their identity -- mine is the least useful of the administrative tasks, but enables me to observe that a significant proportion of the voters in the first hour of polling are people who voted in the first round of the presidential election, but not the second.

These will typically be people who voted Mélenchon, and are now turning out to vote for the (Green) NUPES candidate.

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

by eurogreen on Sun Jun 12th, 2022 at 07:13:32 AM EST
First estimates at 20:00 CEST:

Abstention : 52.8% - a record...

In terms of votes:

NUPES (Left alliance): 25.2%
Ensemble (Macron's party + Bayrou's party + allied): 25.2%
RN (Le Pen's party): 18.9%
LR (Sarkozy's party): 13.7%
Reconquete: (Zemmour's party): 3.9%

However, due to the constituency based system, the projections in terms of seats are:

NUPES: 150 to 190 seats
Ensemble: 255 to 290 seats
LR: 50 to 80 seats
RN: 20 to 45 seats
Others: 10 to 17 seats

Remember that the majority is 289 seats, so it looks like Macron might not have an absolute majority at the National Assembly. Most likely scenario in that case: an ad hoc right-wing coalition with LR.

by Bernard (bernard) on Sun Jun 12th, 2022 at 06:27:33 PM EST
I'm a little bit disappointed, but only because of the wild hopes of the past few weeks. This is a great result for the left, considering where it's come from. And it can be amplified by mobilising the very large number of Mélenchon voters from the presidential election who didn't bother to vote today.

Differential abstemtion is often a key to an election. Today it seems to have been evenly spread between the left and various shades of right.

Team Macron (slightly) and Team Le Pen under-performed with respect to the presidential results, which is a fair indication of the dynamics of the (non-)campaign.

Hyperlocal results :

  • My own district is mostly bourgeois inner-city Lyon, and has never elected an MP from the left. The Green candidate will fight the second round against a sitting  Macronist MP, and presumably lose it, unless there is a major mobilisation of NUPES voters. About 55% of electors voted, better than the terrible national average, but leaving a considerable reservoir of electors who voted for Mélenchon but didn't turn out today. So... differential abstention, who knows?
  • The neighbouring district that I have been pasting posters in for the last few weeks has always been on the left for the past hundred years... the candidate "parachuted" in by Nupes, who happens to be Mélenchon's son in law, will have an easy second round, having got 40% today (and numerous left-wing independents eliminated).

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Sun Jun 12th, 2022 at 09:29:30 PM EST
If I understand things correctly, very few seats are elected after the first round, and most are decided in the second round. However, the critical issue thing about the first round is the shaping of the arena for the second round. And a candidate needs to be in top two or have more then 12,5% to enter the second round.

So, are the total result roughly well spread? If so with this first round result, NUPES and LREM should be in the second round in pretty much all constituencies, RN in almost as many and LR in about half.

Then it comes down to participation. I notice that in 1981, 1988 and 1997 the participation rate was both higher in the second round and PS won. So can NUPES mobilise and win?

by fjallstrom on Mon Jun 13th, 2022 at 07:31:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
First question : There is a rule about winning in the first round, you need not only to get more than 50% but also more than (?) 25% of registered voters.
I saw several candidates who got more than 50%, but all are going to the 2nd round, because of less than 50% turnout in most districts.
Just checked : 4 NUPES and one LREM elected in the first round. Historically there are many more.

Second question : The results are very uneven geographically. In the west, the most common second round will be LREM/NUPES. In the north-east and south-east, RN/Republicains is quite common.
Scroll down to the map, highlighting who came first by district.

Ah... I just saw that in the end, the Macronists just edged NUPES nationally : 25,75% against 25,66%

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

by eurogreen on Mon Jun 13th, 2022 at 10:45:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Adding to eurogreen's:

According to Le Monde, only four candidates were elected at the first round in 2017, but 36 in 2012 and 110 in 2007. Why so? Two things:

Up until the 2010's, the political landscape was essentially the PS and allies (Greens & Communists) on one side and the mainstream right (UMP, now LR) on the other. The Extreme right didn't have that much weight during parliamentary elections and fewer Front National candidates could qualify for the second round, often in a "triangular", with a PS and a UMP candidate. Now, the RN (FN's new name) gets a much greater share of the vote and fewer candidates manage to clear the 50% mark on the first round.

The high abstention is also playing a part: to win in the first round, a candidate must also get a number of votes at least equal to 25% of the registered voters. Yesterday, nine candidates got over 50% of the vote but didn't clear that second threshold: this is the case for Marine Le Pen in the north (53.96%) and Mélenchon's successor, Manuel Bompard in Marseille.

Are the results evenly spread? Actually no, and that is the problem for NUPES whose electorate is mostly concentrated in the big cities and suburban areas. This is why Macron's alliance (Ensemble), whose electorate is more evenly spread throughout the different constituencies, is projected to win more seats (255-295) than NUPES (150-190). Extra mobilization of the left voters may actually reinforce the victory of NUPES candidates in urban areas, but getting more seats than Ensemble looks like a very long shot (another Le Monde explainer if you don't mind a bit of Google translate).

by Bernard (bernard) on Mon Jun 13th, 2022 at 06:56:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a mechanical effect of the two-round system : in each district (or nearly) where a Macronist is qualified for the second round, they are the "centrist" option. i.e. if up against a RN or even Républicain candidate, they will benefit from a certain number of votes from electors of the eliminated left-wing candidate, in order to shut out the right winger.

Likewise, if it's Macronist vs NUPES, the electors of the eliminated candidates of the right and the far right are most likely to vote Macronist.

UNLESS... Mélenchon's rhetoric tends to make the second round a referendum against Macron. It remains to be seen how many RN voters buy that.

And, again, when more than half of electors didn't vote in the first round, it all depends on which side motivates its electorate.

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

by eurogreen on Wed Jun 15th, 2022 at 10:24:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
While the campaign goes on in France, Macron goes to Kyiv (finally), together with Scholz and Draghi.

German, French, Italian leaders arrive in Kyiv to show solidarity

KYIV, June 16 (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi arrived in Kiyv on Thursday on a joint trip to show their backing for Ukraine as it struggles to withstand a Russian assault.

BFM TV showed live footage of the overnight train arriving in the Ukrainian capital.

The visit has taken weeks to organise with the three men looking to overcome criticism within Ukraine over their response to the war.

"It's an important moment. It's a message of unity we're sending to the Ukrainians," Macron said as he arrived in Kyiv.

Asked why the visit was taking place now, an Elysee official said they had considered it was best to do it just before an EU summit next week that is due to discuss Kiyv's bid to join the 27-naton bloc.

[Train blogging nostalgia]

by Bernard (bernard) on Thu Jun 16th, 2022 at 07:26:48 AM EST
by Bernard (bernard) on Sat Jun 18th, 2022 at 04:23:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Results will be good for NUPES,  but Mélenchon will not be Prime Minister.
Based on a scientific study of the 281 electors so far in my local polling place. Slight increase over the first round, but not the demographic differental I was hoping for. My district will stay Macronist, so no majority for NUPES.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Sun Jun 19th, 2022 at 11:33:41 AM EST
... at 20:00 CEST:

NUPES (Left): 156 seats
Ensemble (Macron, Bayrou): 224 seats
LR (Right, Sarkozy,...): 78 seats
RN (Le Pen): 89 seats
Others (Left): 21 seats
Others (Centrist): 4 seats
Others (Regionalists): 12 seats

These are very preliminary estimates and I noted that the figures vary, depending on the polling institute. It will continue to move as results come in during the evening, especially from big cities where polling stations just closed a few minutes ago.

The relative majority for Macron is definitely what's on the menu. The most likely results will be a coalition between Ensemble and the LR party (now a kingmaker).

Also of note the higher than expected RN extreme right score, mostly to the detriment of Ensemble, confirming their footprint in "peripheral" territories, away from the big metropolises.

by Bernard (bernard) on Sun Jun 19th, 2022 at 06:22:21 PM EST
Revised estimates (21:15):

NUPES (Left): 149 seats
Ensemble (Macron, Bayrou): 230 seats
LR (Right, Sarkozy,...): 76 seats
RN (Le Pen): 85 seats
Others (Left): 21 seats
Others (Centrist): 4 seats
Others (Regionalists): 12 seats

Some heavyweights of Macronland have been defeated, but two ministers who have been accused of sexual assault, Damien Abbad and Gerald Darmanin, have been re-elected.

by Bernard (bernard) on Sun Jun 19th, 2022 at 08:02:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
from public TV

  • NUPES 133 sièges
  • Divers gauche 20 sièges
  • Divers 1 siège
  • Régionalistes 10 sièges
  • Divers Centre 4 sièges
  • Majorité présidentielle 245 sièges
  • LR, UDI, Divers droite 74 sièges
  • Droite souverainiste 1 siège
  • RN 89 sièges

The NUPES estimate deflated as the evening went on. Overall, a disappointment. I await with mild interest the explanations as to why the predictions were so far off.

I've had a look at the numbers in various districts, to understand how the transfers went between rounds.

The big problem for the NUPES was the lack of reservoirs of votes in the second round. Very often NUPES was first in the first round, but whichever right-wing opponent (LREM, R, RN...) made it to the second round had the electors of all the eliminated right-wing candidates, as long as they were polite...

Given that pretty much the same people turned out in both rounds (less than 50% of registered voters, nationally, and slightly less in the 2nd round), it's possible to make some educated guesses.  

Typically, LREM and R candidates picked up each other's electors in the second round, and part of the RN voters.
All the NUPES candidates increased their first-round scores substantially. Typically I can only make their scores work if I add in about half of the RN voters.

This was my working hypothesis, see my earlier posts. What is confusing me is why the polling company prediction models expected more seats for NUPES. They must have assumed a larger share of RN transfers than I did.

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

by eurogreen on Mon Jun 20th, 2022 at 02:43:05 PM EST
The "outremer" (confetti of empire) results are entertaining : a near-wipeout for pro-Macron candidates. Mostly "regionalist" left-wing candidates who were supported by NUPES, and may choose to sit with them in Parliament.

In French Polynesia (Tahiti etc), all three districts went to the local independence party; this warms my heart as a south Pacific person.

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

by eurogreen on Mon Jun 20th, 2022 at 02:46:26 PM EST
Even better: Tematai Le Gayic, elected in Papeete, is the youngest person to be elected at the National Assemby during the Fifth Republic: he is 21 years old (born in 2000).

Tahiti pro-independence candidates sweep seats in French National Assembly

In an unprecedented result, French Polynesia's pro-independence Tavini Huiraatira Party candidates have won a clean sweep of all three seats in the French National Assembly.

The three will sit with the left-wing Nupes group which emerged as the second biggest force in the 577-strong National Assembly.


A surprise novice in the Assembly is Tahiti's Tematai Le Gayic, who as a 21-year-old has become the youngest person ever to be elected to the National Assembly of the Fifth French Republic.

Le Gayic, who interrupted his university studies for the election campaign, won just under 51 percent of the votes in the Papeete constituency to defeat former Tourism Minister Nicole Bouteau of the ruling Tapura Huiraatira party.

by Bernard (bernard) on Mon Jun 20th, 2022 at 06:31:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Macronland: France has become ungovernable!

Israel: Hold my beer.

by Bernard (bernard) on Mon Jun 20th, 2022 at 08:24:21 PM EST
Macron is going to have to learn on the job :
Parliamentary Democracy 101.

The Prime Minister is named by the President, and must resign if they don't obtain a confidence vote in the Assembly. The Prime Minister conducts the government of France.

Rocard, Cresson and Bérégovoy, three Prime Ministers of Mitterand's second term, 1988-1995, could give him advice on running a government without a majority in parliament. Except Rocard died five years ago, and Bérégovoy shot himself after losing the parliamentary election to Chirac in 1993. That leaves Edith Cresson, France's first female Prime Minister, who is still around.

They negotiated on a case by case basis with the Communists or with centrist factions to get legislation passed.
They also made extensive use of article 49.3 of the Constitution, which allows the Government to declare a piece of legislation passed unless challenged by a vote of confidence. This worked because there was no alternative majority available.

However, the Constitution was amended in 2010, and it now specifies that article 49.3 can only be used on one piece of legislation per year, plus the Budget.

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

by eurogreen on Tue Jun 21st, 2022 at 09:45:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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