French presidential runoff, 2012

Socialist presidential candidate Hollande has won the presidency of France, with 51.9%. That’s closer than expected, but a majority is a majority.

It is only the second time in the Fifth Republic (i.e. since direct elections began in 1965) that power has shifted from the right to the left, and also only the second time an incumbent has been defeated in a reelection bid.

One might conclude that the only way the Socialists can win is for voters to be tired of the incumbent conservative. Or when they have a candidate named Francois.

Now on quickly to the legislative elections. As happened in 1981, in the honeymoon elections following Mitterrand’s win, I would expect a large Socialist majority and premier, plus a broad left cabinet, to result.

3 thoughts on “French presidential runoff, 2012

  1. By my count, France has run nine elections for President using the popular vote, including this one.

    Out of the nine elections, the Socialists have won three times. The other six elections were won by the right, in five cases the “right” being a mutating party descended from the supporters of de Gaulle.

    Five French presidents ran for re-election, and were successful three times and lost two times.

    This really seems like a pretty balanced party system. Contrast this to the United States during the same period, for example. Between 1964 and 2008, the US had twelve indirect presidential elections. Republicans won six, Democrats won five, and the remaining election was a Democratic popular vote victory but a Republican took office due to the indirect nature of the election. Presidents ran for re-election eight times, wining five times and losing three times. These are somewhat similar sets of outcomes, though it appears the parties are more balanced in the US but incumbents have a slightly bigger advantage.

    However, unlike in France, a candidate can win a presidential election in the US without gaining a popular vote majority (or even plurality in some cases). During this period, Democratic candidates gained a popular vote majority three times and Republicans gained a popular vote majority five times. Presidents gained popular vote majorities four out of the eight times they ran for re-election. When this is taken into account, the US system is less balanced in terms of partisanship but more balanced in terms of incumbent advantage, in other words the two party systems look more similar.

    I think the economic situation in most Western countries means that incumbents are going to have a tougher time in the next few years electorally.

  2. “By my count, France has run nine elections for President using the popular vote, including this one.”

    Counting the 1848 presidential election, there have been ten elections by popular vote, and one – 1958 – by electoral college. I wonder whether the 1848 French presidential election was the first in the world by direct popular vote, or if there had been some earlier cases in Latin America?

  3. I am reasonably certain that France had the first-ever direct presidential election (1848).

    Most Latin American countries used electoral colleges or selection by congress until around the turn of the 20th century or in some cases much later.

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