In 13 French regions a second round of regional elections was held. In seven regions, the Sarkozyite right has won (there used to be left-wing majorities in all of them before the elections). In five regions left-wing majorities were reached which are based on the lists affiliated with the Parti socialiste (PS) after the first round of elections.
The loss of the majority in Île-de-France represents a severe blow to the PS, Greens and Front de Gauche. In this region, the left was defeated by a Sarkozyite ex-minister who had obviously managed to mobilise numerous Front National (FN) voters (despite the candidacy of an FN list in the second round of elections and especially because the conservative list included candidates who can be counted to the very right of the political spectrum – e.g. active members of the movement against “marriage pour tous” (same-sex marriage).
This result is partly due to the great loss of the left in the recent communal and departmental elections in this region.
In the second round of elections, in only five out of 13 regions it was possible to vote for a left-wing option and thus for an opposition to the right or the FN.
The PS’s withdrawal of its lists lead to the situation that almost all of the other lists of the left disappeared, as the electoral law provides a 10% threshold for lists to put forward their candidacy and merge with others in the second round of elections.
Therefore, in many regions the elections were basically centred on the question of whether to accept that the FN would take over the region or not.
In all regions, the voters’ answer was an unequivocal “no”, even though this answer had forced left-wing voters to choose a right-wing ballot in the absence of other options. This means that in many regions no actual left-wing opposition will remain.
It becomes increasingly clear that the motivation to vote for the FN in the first round of elections originated from the fear of unemployment, social threat, as well as frustration with “politics”, the political system or governmental policy (which is currently not supported by a majority in the population, as polls show). Also, polls have demonstrated that FN voters justify their choice with these reasons rather than issues such as security and migration.
It is fair to say that most voters were not so much concerned about regional policy, but rather wanted to express their dissatisfaction with “politics” and their frustration with the lack of perspective (particularly obvious when examining the voting patterns of young voters).
Sunday night’s comments of the big political parties’ representatives demonstrate certain astonishment and panic in the face of the FN’s electoral success and the way the party has managed to distinguish itself as a political actor working towards an economic and social awakening. Today, everyone agrees that we need to take the voters’ message seriously and cannot carry on in the same old way with regards to our political content and methods.
In fact, democracy proves to have plunged into a severe crisis, if such a high percentage of the population considers the FN a reasonable political actor which opposes the current system and (almost) manages to reach a majority. At the same time, the second round of elections shows that voters may be mobilised with the argument of creating a barrier against the FN.
In many of the regions governed by the right there will not be any opposition whatsoever. In order to counteract this, the former PCF, Green and Front de Gauche candidates in Marseille / Provence / Côte d’Azur have put forward a very original idea: the creation of a self-organised regional assembly of the civil society and social movements, in order to democratically monitor the right-wing and FN regional councils, support alternative projects and create a regional cooperation network themselves, in order to re-establish the left on a regional level.
On the whole, the agenda includes some vital issues on a national level:
- What will become of this republic which has lost its inclusive character?
- What kind of a left do we need? What kind of a left can be built that can change the content and shape of politics, as well as the power relations in France and Europe, in order to develop new ideas for an alternative project that will be supported by a majority? In what way can left-wing dynamics efficiently oppose right-wing populists? These questions must be addressed by the Social Democrats (after they suffered huge losses due to their strategy to react with withdrawal to the danger emanating from the FN), the Greens, as well as all elements of the Front de Gauche.
- The strategy of PS leaders is rather dramatic. In view of the presidential elections in 2017 they are doing their utmost to enable a second round of elections between the PS candidate and the FN. According to PS leaders, this represents the only scenario in which the PS could potentially score a victory. This strategy entails placing the FN continuously at the centre of attention, avoiding a debate to the left of the PS and permanently calling upon all other left-wing forces to support the PS and therefore blocking the FN and putting it under pressure. This is the PS’s goal even though only a policy change, a left-wing momentum can reach mobilisation of left-wing activists and voters.