France’s municipal elections were held in mid-March – with only ca. 45% voter participation. An overview of the most important results.
Since it is hard to get a picture of the total vote, the following report is limited to an evaluation of some selected results.
In the southern French small town of Béziers the right-wing nationalist Rassemblement National (RN) scored a triumphant victory, with 68% of voters against the LREM (La République en Marche, President Macron’s party), which received 11%. Also in southern France, RN’s elected officials clearly lost with 44% against the conservative Gaullist Republicans (55%). Likewise in southern France, in the tourist and retirement area of Fréjus, and with above-average voter participation, the RN list won an absolute majority against the divided bourgeois right-wing parties and the badly beaten united left (Union des écologistes et de la gauche), which received 7.6%. Also, Beaucaire, which the Front National had won with difficulty in the runoff in 2014, now went to RN with 60% of votes; 60% was also the percentage RN’s elected official received at the former steel production centre of Hayange. In Henin-Beaumont RN’s vote share even rose from 50% to 73%.
In Amiens, a city suffering from unemployment, and Macron’s home base, where there were fervent rallies for Marion Le Pen and her opponent, electoral participation was only 26%. The left list lost here with ca. 25% to the incumbent (30%), and La France Insoumise (LFI) sank to 3.9%. The mayor of Lille, Martine Aubry (PS, Parti socialiste), got an absolute majority in the personal vote, but her list suffered from strong competition by the Greens (25%).
In Bordeaux the Greens scored a close victory (35%) over the bourgeois candidate (34%). As forecast, LREM (12%) did not get very far here, while the left radical NPA (Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste) candidate received a respectable 11% with the support of LFI. Moreover, in Lyon, the Greens also came out in front, with 28.5%, while the Republicans pulled together 17% and the LREM minister and former PS politician Colomb only scored 15%. In addition, in the Alpine research and boom town Grenoble, the Greens retained their lead (41%) with the support of the left radical and grassroots democratic camp, followed by the classic left parties (PS, PCF), which got 27%, while the united bourgeois camp (24%) and RN, badly beaten at 8.5%, were not able to win a single province; and here electoral participation, at 60%, was relatively high.
In the student and Airbus town Toulouse, the incumbent managed to get 35% with the support of LREM; he was followed by the Greens with a notable 28%. PS received 18%, and RN failed with less than 4%. In Strasbourg the Greens, with almost 27%, are going into the runoff as the strongest force, followed by LREM, which got its best results here with 20%; below them were the Social Democrats and Republicans, both with about 18%.
Paris, the capital, saw a victorious list with the PS incumbent Anne Hidalgo (30%), while the LREM candidate landed with 17%, and Rachida Dati, the much hyped ex-Minister of Justice under Sarkozy in the final head-to-head, got 22%. The Greens (EELV, Europe Écologie Les Verts) pulled together 10.79% of votes ahead of the LREM dissident Cédric Villani (ca. 8%) and Danielle Simonnet of LFI (4.6%). Since both bourgeois ladies are refusing to cooperate in the second ballot, Anne Hidalgo, who has for years now been reconstructing the capital into a hipster paradise, will probably be the winner. In the country’s three biggest cities – Paris, Lyon, and Marseille – the mayors will be elected indirectly, according to the composition of the City Council.
The Communists could chalk up 24% in the multi-cultural municipality of Saint Denis in the former red suburbs of Paris, but had to concede defeat to the PS which got 35%. The municipality has seen its population increase from 85,000 (1998) to 111,000 (2015) and has to deal with enormous problems. LFI, with 18%, proved to be a relevant factor here.
In Saint-Ouen-sur-Seine, the PS and Green alliance reached 24%, just behind the bourgeois incumbent (26%), followed by the PCF (Parti communiste français) in alliance with the Left Socialists of Generation.s (19%) and the candidate of the left list Le Mouvement Audonien, which was able to save itself with 10.65% in the runoff. In Montreuil the Communist incumbent prevailed in the first ballot, while in Boulogne-Billancourt, also in the red suburbs, the Republican incumbent accomplished this.
In Clermont-Ferrand, the PS incumbent is, with the support of almost all left tendencies, in a very promising position (38%) for the runoff against the bourgeois candidates (21%); Since here both LREM (18%) and LFI (12%) scored respectable results, the second ballot will probably be won by the left.
During the crisis people largely bet on already governing forces. Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, also the mayor of Le Havre, had to run in the second ballot. Even tactical manoeuvres could not save the reputation of the Macronists. They uniformly scored worse results than their president achieved in the first round of the 2017 election; in some big cities they did not even manage to make it to the second ballot.
The President’s artificial movement project LREM has in three years not been able to significantly anchor itself throughout the country; but from this we cannot draw the opposite conclusion that this quasi-Bonapartist project can no longer keep its grip on the state. While it is true that the left-right conflict, which it promised to overcome, has returned to the political stage, the camps have nevertheless been weakened and are internally divided. In this situation, the Republicans have recovered better than the social democrats of the PS.
Marine Le Pen’s right-wing populist movement, Rassemblement National, has defended its strongholds in individual cities and clearly expanded them because it was able to demonstrate its usefulness in the everyday functioning of administrations.
The Greens (EELV) scored clear-cut successes and are on the way from being a ‘confessional party’ to a ‘real political force’, as its chair Yannick Jadot expressed it.
Due to the pandemic, the runoff was postponed to 21 June.
Originally published at the website of Sozialismus.de (full version) (updated at 20 March)