Category Archives: France


France – Legislative election 2nd round

The result of the legislative election was never really in doubt once François Hollande had won the presidential election. There was very likely to be a majority for the left. The interesting element of the result is that, together, the Socialist Party (PS), its official partners, the Left-Radicals (PRG), and the miscellaneous left who are part of the presidential majority won an overall majority. Even so, the PS will govern in coalition with the Greens (EELV). There is no need for the coalition to be enlarged to include the Left Front (FDG), which was a possibility at one point of the campaign.

On the right, the election was marked by the return of three extreme-right deputies, though the National Front leader and presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen, was not elected.

One factoid is that only one of the candidates who stood at the presidential election will be sitting in the next legislature. He is the anti-European right-wing candidate, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan. Cécile Duflot, the leader of EELV, was elected, but she is a minister and therefore does not take her seat. The leader of the centrists, François Bayrou, and the candidate for the FDG both lost.

Anyway, while the socialist prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, formally tendered his resignation as is the rule, he was duly reappointed. It is worth bearing in mind that this is only the third time since 1959 that the left has had a majority in the Assembly and on one of those occasions it faced a period of cohabitation. So, this election is not normal in French politics terms. In fact, the situation is unique, because the Senate also has a left majority, though it is more fragmented and less stable. Even under Mitterrand, the Senate was controlled by the right.

Adam Carr’s website presents the results very nicely.


France – Legislative elections

In France, the first round of the legislative election was held on Sunday. The second round will be held this Sunday. These elections are Matthew Shugart calls ‘honeymoon elections’, meaning that they occurred just after a presidential election. At such elections, we would expect the newly elected president’s party to do well.

The hypothesis held up very well. Here is a graphic for the 2012 election compared with the 2007 election (which was also a honeymoon election, but for the right):

This graphic also shows that the extreme right did much better this time than five years ago.

Overall, 36 deputies were elected at the first ballot, 23 socialists, 7 from the right-wing UMP, two Radicals, one ecologist, one centrist, and two others. Also, 12 seats will be contested by only one candidate at the second ballot.

The projections suggest that the left will easily win a majority next Sunday. It is just possible that the Socialist party (PS) could have a majority by itself. Even if it does, though, it is still committed to a coalition with the Greens.

While the overall result of the second round of the election is not really in doubt, the interest lies in the impact of the National Front and certain specific contests.

The FN is likely to contest about 60 constituencies at the second round and there are likely to be around 30 constituencies where the FN candidate has won enough votes to compete against both the Socialist and the UMP candidate. These are so-called ‘triangulaires’, or three-way contests. These elections are the most interesting because either the FN vote splits the right-wing vote and the Socialist wins, or the anti-FN vote splits between the PS and the UMP and the FN wins. Overall, the National Front is likely to return a very small number of deputies, perhaps between one and five.

The most interesting specific contest concerns Ségolène Royal. She was the Socialist candidate at the 2007 presidential election when she lost to Nicolas Sarkozy. She is the ex-partner of the new Socialist president, François Hollande. If elected, she is likely to be elected as the new President of the National Assembly. However, she is challenged by a dissident socialist, who is doing very well and who is well placed to beat her on Sunday. This would be news in itself, but President Hollande’s current partner, Valerie Trierweiler, has announced on Twitter that she is supporting the dissident. For his part, President Hollande is supporting Royal. So, there is an intriguing combination of politics and personal life playing out in public.

I will post about the result of the second round next week.


France – Presidential inauguration, new PM

François Hollande was inaugurated as President of France yesterday. Almost immediately afterwards he appointed the new PM, Jean-Marc Ayrault.

PM Ayrault is mayor of Nantes and the former leader of the Socialist (PS) group in the National Assembly. In fact, he was leader of the PS group from 1997-2012.

Interestingly, neither President Hollande nor PM Ayrault has any ministerial experience. From 1997-2002, the last time the PS was in government, Hollande was leader of PS.

There used to be a rule that the first PM under a new president was a political appointment, whereas the next PM was more technocratic. This rule held pretty well until 2007 when President Sarkozy appointed François Fillon but then kept the same PM for his full five-year term. Anyway, the appointment of PM Ayrault would certainly be classed as a political appointment rather than a technocratic one.

The set of ministers will be announced over the next few days. Given some people, such as Martine Aubry and Manuel Valls will be very disappointed not to be PM, they can expect senior ministerial positions.

France – Presidential election, 2nd round

The second round of the French presidential election was held on Sunday. Here is the result:

François Hollande (Socialist) – 51.68%
Nicolas Sarkozy (UMP – right) – 48.32%

So, François Hollande becomes only the second socialist after François Mitterrand to be elected as president under the Fifth Republic (1958-). He is the first socialist president to be elected since 1988. Nicolas Sarkozy becomes the second incumbent president to fail to be re-elected. The first was Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in 1981.

The key test is now the legislative election. These will take place on 10 and 17 June. When legislative elections have closely followed presidential elections, they have usually generated a large presidential majority. This was the case in 1981, 2002 and 2007. However, in 1988 the Socialists enjoyed only a plurality, falling a handful of seats short of an absolute majority.

This time, the Socialists can expect to win a majority in conjunction with the Greens, with whom they had already agreed a deal on seats at the legislative election prior to the presidential election. There is also the possibility that supporters of the Left Front candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, may be part of a coalition. However, no deal has been agreed with them and mutual désistement arrangements may be difficult to agree at this late stage.

Le Monde reports that at the second round of the presidential election Hollande was ahead of Sarkozy in 333 of the 577 legislative constituencies. While this is not a sure-fire indicator that the left will win such a majority in June, they are likely to do so. Indeed, maximising the likelihood that the president would be supported by a legislative majority was the main point of the 2000 constitutional amendment that reduced the length of the presidential term to five years and placed the presidential election before the legislative election.

The main talking point of the legislatives is how many seats the extreme-right National Front (FN) is likely to win. Up to now it has had difficulty winning any seats under the two-ballot plurality system. However, this time it might do so, especially in certain constituencies where there is a ‘triangular’ contest between the left and the UMP. However, I would not put money on them winning very many.

As for the UMP, its very survival is at stake. Sarkozy is unlikely to play a role in the immediate future. Former PM and party grandee, Alain Juppé, has already announced that he will not be standing for election at the legislatives. There has been ongoing rivalry between the PM, François Fillon, and party leader, Jean-François Copé. The party may maintain some semblance of unity prior to the legislatives, but it is unlikely to last. Some of the centrists are already semi-detached. The anti-European right of the party is well organised. In France, right-wing parties tend to be electoral vehicles for presidential candidates. It would not surprise me if the UMP ceased to exist in its current form over the course of the next few years.

France – Presidential election, 1st round

The first round of the French presidential election was held yesterday. Here are the results:

François Hollande (Socialist) – 28.63%
Nicolas Sarkozy (UMP – right) – 27.08%
Marine Le Pen (National Front – extreme-right) – 18.01%
Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Left Front – left) – 11.13%
François Bayrou (MODEM – centrist) – 9.11%
Eva Joly (Greens) – 2.28%
Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (Forward the Republic – anti-European) – 1.8%
Philippe Poutou (New Anticapitalist party – extreme-left) – 1.15%
Nathalie Arthuad (Worker’s Struggle – extreme-left) – 0.57%
Jacques Cheminade (unclassable) – 0.25%

So, the second round, which will be held on 6 May will pit François Hollande against the incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy. For months the polls have been suggesting that Hollande will win pretty easily at the second ballot.

I am tweeting the French presidential election. If you want to follow events there, then please follow me on Twitter @robertelgie

France – Presidential poll

Time to take stock of the French presidential election.

The bottom line is that the Socialist candidate, François Hollande, has been way ahead in the opinion polls for months. He has been consistently leading at the first ballot and second ballot polls have been showing him beating President Sarkozy by up to 60-40. In some ways, Hollande has not run a very good campaign since he was chosen as the party’s candidate in October. He has flip-flopped on various policies and he has the charisma of a stone. Even so, relative to the opposition, he has been doing OK.

All of that is to say that Sarkozy has been finding the campaign difficult. There are rumours that he will officially declare his re-election campaign today. However, everyone has been aware that he would be a candidate for months. His problem is mainly economic. The French economy has not been doing well and even though Sarkozy has won (or not lost) some supporters by claiming that he will manage the economy better than Hollande, the level of unemployment is high, growth is low, debt is enormous and, generally, there is a feeling that it is time for a change.

A few weeks ago there was even a doubt that Sarkozy would win through to the second ballot. The National Front candidate, Marine Le Pen, was hot on his heels and there were dissident right-wing candidates gnawing away at his electorate. Gradually, though, most of the other right-wing and centre-right candidates either have announced that they are not standing or it has become clear that they are unlikely to get enough support to stand at all. In addition, Sarkozy has adopted a number of populist themes that have weakened Le Pen.

In terms of other candidates, the centrist, François Bayrou is fourth. He is polling respectably but has not been able to challenge for second position. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the poor performance of the Green candidate, who is polling just 2%. The Greens won 16% of the vote at the 2009 European elections. The communist-backed candidate, former socialist, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, is having a good campaign and currently stands at 8.5%.

Yesterday’s IPSOS poll gives a sense of how the campaign stands:

Up to now, it has been a rather underwhelming campaign. Maybe it will heat up soon.

I am tweeting the French presidential election. If you want to follow events there, then please follow me on Twitter @robertelgie

France – PS primary 2nd round

In France, the second ballot of the Socialist party’s (PS) primary election was held on Sunday. The primary was held to choose the party’s candidate for the 2012 presidential election. Here is the result:

François Hollande, 56.4%
Martine Aubry, 43.6%

Around 2.7 million people voted.

In between the two rounds, all of the eliminated first-round candidates announced that they would vote for François Hollande, even though polls suggested their supporters would not necessarily all follow this recommendation.

The polls show that Hollande and Sarkozy are, at this stage, likely to qualify for the second ballot of the presidential election next year and that Hollande will beat Sarkozy by up to 60-40. In the end, I expect Hollande to win but the result to be a little closer, all else equal!

I am tweeting the French presidential election. If you want to follow events there, then please follow me on Twitter @robertelgie

France – PS primary

In France, the Socialist party (PS) held a primary election on Sunday to choose its candidate for the 2012 presidential election. The election is important because currently the opinion polls show that the Socialists are likely to win the presidential election. Therefore, whoever the party selects as its candidate is likely to be the next president.

The voting was open to all registered voters. Around 2.5 million people voted. No candidate won an absolute majority. So, there will be a second round between the top two candidates next Sunday. The count is not fully validated yet, but the relative positions of the candidates are very unlikely to change and the percentages are pretty firm.

François Hollande, 39%
Martine Aubry, 31%
Arnaud Montebourg, 17%
Ségolène Royal, 7%
Manuel Valls, 6%
Jean-Michel Baylet, 1%

As expected, therefore, the second ballot will be between François Hollande, the former leader of the party, and Martine Aubry, the current leader.

Hollande is seen as being more centrist-friendly than Aubry and in presidential polls he does slightly better than Aubry in a contest versus Sarkozy. However, both Hollande and Aubry beat Sarkozy at the second ballot. So, the stakes are very high for both candidates at next week’s run-off.

The second round is likely to be very close. The supporters of Arnaud Montebourg are more likely to vote for Aubry than Hollande, whereas the supporters of Manuel Valls are likely to vote for Hollande. Baylet has called on his (few) supporters to vote for Hollande. Ségolène Royal is the former partner of François Hollande. She was the big loser at the primary and her votes may determine the outcome of the primary election and, indeed, the presidency.

I am tweeting the French presidential election. If you want to follow events there, then please follow me on Twitter @robertelgie

France – Left majority in the Senate for the first time ever

In France, a partial renewal of the Senate took place on Sunday. A total of 165 of 348 seats were up for election. The very big news is that for the first time in the history of the Fifth Republic (1958- ), the left has a Senate majority. Indeed, arguably, it is the first time that there has been an upper house left-wing majority in the history of the French Republic.

The left now has 177 seats, or a slim majority. In total, the left gained 25 seats. Here is the seat distribution so far.

Socialists: 146 (+22)
Communists and Left Party: 21 (-3)
Greens: 10 (+6)
Centrists: 26 (-5)
UMP: 146 (-15)

The Senate is elected by local councillors (regional, municipal etc.). Given France has thousands of very small communes (e.g. villages in the country), the electorate is very rural and usually conservative. This has generated an in-built right-wing majority since the beginning of the Fifth Republic. Now, the left controls all regions bar one, about 60% of all departments, and a lot of large towns. There have also been certain changes to the way in which senators are elected. In addition, the right was divided in certain constituencies (especially Paris) and generally the government was unpopular. All of these factors combined to allow the left to win just enough seats to gain a majority.

The left comprises a fairly diverse set of groups, ranging from the communists to the centre-left. Therefore, even though it has a majority, it is not clear how cohesive this majority will be. However, it is likely to be cohesive enough to elect the president of the Senate on 1 October.

The left’s majority will make it slightly more difficult for the right-wing majority in the National Assembly to pass legislation. Potentially, though, the biggest impact of the change will come if and when the left win the presidential and legislative elections next year. If they do, then they can pass law to reform the Senate (previously the Senate had a veto) and the way it is elected.

I am tweeting the French presidential election. If you want to follow events there, then please follow me on Twitter @robertelgie

France – Constitutional law passed

The French parliament has adopted a constitutional law. The law is designed to oblige the government to bring down the budget deficit over a three-year period. The bill would apply both to the state budget and to the budget of local authorities.

The bill will only have constitutional force if President Sarkozy convenes a constitutional congress. This is a meeting of the National Assembly and the Senate. If convened, a super-majority (60%) vote is required for the reform to be adopted. President Sarkozy has not yet indicated whether or not he will convene the congress.

The chances are that he will. However, even if he does, the chances of the reform being adopted are touch and go. The Socialists are opposed to the reform, because they claim that the right has increased the deficit. Knowing this, Le Monde reports that in the run up to next year’s presidential election President Sarkozy will want to hold a congress so that the Socialists are forced to vote ‘no’. If he does and they do, he can then claim that if the Socialists are elected then there will be fiscal irresponsibility.

I am tweeting the French presidential election. If you want to follow events there, then please follow me on Twitter @robertelgie