Cue the anguish, France 2015 edition

In regional elections in France, the National Front has made “big gains”, maybe even a plurality of nationwide votes. This should produce lots of anguished commentary in the coming hours.

But relax. With around 30% of the vote, the FN is still nowhere near threatening to win the presidency or the national assembly when both next come up in 2017.

The FN was expected to do well, even before the terrorist attack in Paris just over three weeks ago. I am somewhat surprised that President Hollande’s Socialists did so poorly–apparently third place, on 22.7%. I might have expected more “rally round the tricolor” effect. But I don’t think we should wring our hands too much over 30% in regional elections for the FN.

7 thoughts on “Cue the anguish, France 2015 edition

  1. In some polls that were done BEFORE the attacks, Marine Le Pen was able to beat Hollande in a hypothetical, while getting as much as 41% against Sarkozy. Considering this, combined with the effect of the attacks, I would disagree with “the FN is still nowhere near threatening to win the presidency”.

    Hollande’s approval ratings did rise significantly, but not his party’s.


    • It would be interesting to see if Socialists would tactically vote for Sarkozy (or whoever the Republican nominee is in 2017) in the first round, to avoid a Hollande (or whoever the Socialist nominee is) vs. Le Pen race.

      In such a contest, I don’t think it could be certain that Republican voters would vote for the Socialist. Such tactical voting is rather unusual to France, though, and if Sarkozy ran a right-wing campaign to try and pick up some of Le Pen’s voters, Socialists might not turn out to back him.


  2. In looking closely at the results of the first round, in most of the regions where the FN did well, the second place candidate, and thus the member to challenge the FN in the next round, is likely to be a Republican. Thus the anguish will likely be over as voters for the Socialists should, as they had in the Presidential elections of 2012, gravitate more towards the mainstream right option over the FN.

    Regional results for the first round are available for viewing at the link below


  3. I suppose the increase in support for the FN also means that Duverger’s statement on the two-round system (that it leads to large numbers of parties arranged into two opposing blocs) might be called into question. It will be interesting to see how 2RS responds to a third bloc with very significant support; we’ve seen what it did to Francois Bayrou and MoDem. I can’t see the Republicans or the PS totally disappearing (although a poor performance by a Republican president could lead to the party totally collapsing). Maybe the difference between having a threshold for entering the second round and only entering the top two candidates has something to do with that.


    • I do think Duverger’s statement on that was insufficiently general. There surely can be three blocs, and the most general thing we can say about two rounds is that it means the median-preferred of the top two wins. And that will rarely be the FN, unless it makes a lot more progress towards (perceived) moderation. Alternatively, they might win if there is simply a big enough turnout fall-off, which could occur if the pattern Matt B. refers to (Socialists constantly having to pick between right and farther right) becomes common.


  4. As of course we now know the FN candidates got beaten by considerable margins. Even in the Alsace-Lorraine-Champagnes-Ardennes region, where the outgoing Socialist regional president refused to stand down his list on the orders of party HQ, the candidate of the right and centre-right gained almost 20 points to outdistance his FN rival handily.

    Whats interesting to see now in the two regions where the Socialist candidates agreed to withdraw from the three-way race is that the victorious right-wing candidates have announced that they would set up consultative bodies to allow the now-unrepresented left-wing parties some sort of voice in how the region is run. In Nord-Pas de Calais-Picardie, the new president plans to convene a quarterly consultative conference of all the regions parliamentary representatives, who are in their majority from the left wing parties. In the PACA region in the southeast, the new president proposes a “council of territories” with representatives of local government bodies, which would have left wing representation in it.

    While one might be sceptical about how effective these bodies would be, has there be any comparable attempts in other systems to at least consult with large unrepresented groups in a situation where they have been shut out of the legislature? Admittedly these elections are a special case, since the victorious candidates clearly owed their considerable margin of victory to the discipline of left-wing voters.


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