"Le service publice ne porte plus son nom": This is the harsh judgment of the Mediator of the Republic. The government has always presented its policy of non-replacement of 1 in 2 retiring civil servants as a "reform" rather than a "degradation" of administrative services, but no justification was ever given for believing that a truncated civil service could perform the same function that a more fully-staffed civil service had been capable of. Perhaps the overuse of the adjective "bloated" convinced too many people that it was so. Perhaps stereotypes of the typical civil servant as "lazy" and "inefficient" made it possible to believe that they really were useless. Perhaps the reflexive use of images such as "dégraisser le mammouth" planted false ideas in people's minds. In any case, the Mediator now calls attention to the reality of what has happened.
It seems possible, moreover, that this decline in public service might have something to do with the decline in support for the party that has governed France more or less alone for the past decade. I don't have time to analyze the results of the cantonals in detail, so I will wait for other commentators to ponder the results. But one possibility is that we can read this election as a sanction vote. The UMP's losses are significant, but they did not result in gains for the PS, which has been dominant at the departmental level. The gains went rather to extragovernmental parties: not only the FN but also the ecologists and the parties of the extreme left. For many ordinary citizens, government is not working. It may be as simple as that. Of course the distribution of the protest vote is not meaningless. There are many diagnoses of the problem, and therefore many ways of protesting, some of which may seem aberrant. But if the governing parties want to improve their image, the first thing they have to do is improve the quality of government services.