Sunday, April 22, 2012

Random Thoughts

We thought we had seen la droitisation dure of Sarkozy's campaign, but the results suggest that he will have to veer even further to the extreme right if he hopes to win. He must win over Le Pen's voters, and clearly they're not going to be easy to get. The large underestimation of the Le Pen vote by the polls suggests that Hollande's lead in round 2 is not as comfortable as it might appear. And the Mélenchon phenomenon seems to have been significantly overestimated: his total is less than the sum of the votes of the extreme left parties he decimated.

As much as I dislike Mélenchon, I had hoped that his supporters would provide Hollande with a comfortable reserve. At 15, this would have been the case; at 11, it isn't. And the Le Pen vote is obviously very difficult to interpret. The pollsters all underestimated, as usual. We therefore can't trust their estimates of the likely report des voix. If I were Hollande, I would be pleased to have come in first but very, very worried about the next two weeks and about what tactics Sarkozy might now employ in the debate. Immigration will obviously be THE hot-button issue, despite France's low actual immigration rate.

As for the Mélenchonistes who have enjoyed the disarray of us "social liberals," I can only say that populist passions, as we see, can blow from the right as well as the left.


Anonymous said...

And Melenchon just gave another one of his arrogant, confused speeches, and notably made it sound like there was a conspiracy against him. I'm glad he lost as badly as he did.

Gregory Brown said...

I didn't hear the same speech you did, Anonymous. He was direct in calling upon his supporters to ignore the political commentary and to engage fully against Sarkozy and for the left "sans negotiations".

Robert said...

If Sarko veers even further to the right, does he not risk alienating many of those Bayrou voters who might still be thinking of supporting him in the runoff?

wm said...

One in every five French men and women are Front National?

I find that incredibly worrisome...

Anonymous said...

Does anyone get the feeling I have that the Le Pen vote is a function of the Melenchon phenomenon and His forecast success was the dog whistle issue for some voters on the right? With the threat of the red-scare abated, the Le Pen vote stays at home or doesn't transfer in full to Sarko?

Louis said...

With all the caveats that an intricate situation requires, there are a few things we actually can say.

90% of the Melenchon voters will go to Hollande.
60% of Bayrou's will go to Sarkozy. Because Bayrou's voters are, ultimately, on the right. They might dislike Sarkozy, they might think him rash and unpleasant, they might represent other ideas, but they fall on the right when push comes to shove. Everything written on the demise of French Christian Democracy points to this direction.

After that, the big question mark is Le Pen's voters. As I see it there are two broad alternatives. Either the vote was about immigration, and they will go to a Sarkozy that will try harder to appear like the crusader of "gaulois" France against Europe and the barbaric hordes. Or the vote was a protest vote based on a rejection of Sarkozy's economic and social bilan, and the votes will divide between nothing and Hollande.
My gut-feeling, for what it is worth, is that Immigration, race and all that jazz about Islam and foreign invasion has not been the reason for people to vote for Marine Le Pen. It is about the economy, and Sarkozy, and thus I think the first round Le Pen voters will turn to Hollande, or stay away.

Just a feeling. Sorry for that long rant.

Anonymous said...

So why would Melenchon's success prompt voters on the right to vote for Le Pen? It doesn't make sense. If anything the Le Pen vote is a function of the success of anti-globalization politics. They're not in competition with one another. They're propelling each other.

Anonymous said...

In my area, Le Pen made incredibly high inroads (keep in mind that I live in a working class area, part industrial part rural, which has traditionally voted FN much much less than the rest of France and this time MLP often got a higher score than Sarkozy).
The vote is not racist, as far as I could tell, but "on the right but against Sarkozy" or "nobody listens to us, nobody cares" or "we've tried the others and it's not worked, let's try that one"
(unscientific and limited to my area).
As I expected, l'UMP uses "the vote for foreigners in local elections" as a mace against the PS.

FrédéricLN said...

@ Anonymous April 22, 2012 4:31 PM : I rather agree with your analysis of Le Pen vote, but why Le Pen and not others then ? (Dupont-Aignan…). I would perhaps reframe "I just don't want to hear those politicians who destroyed the country by opening doors to all kind of foreigners (that includes Wall Street and Romanian Roms), I just want to slam the door on them" — and the higher the "slammer" candidate in polls, the stronger the voice.

@ Louis "60% of Bayrou's will go to Sarkozy. Because Bayrou's voters are, ultimately, on the right. They might dislike Sarkozy, they might think him rash and unpleasant, they might represent other ideas, but they fall on the right when push comes to shove."

That may be your opinion, but it has already been contradicted by the facts in 2007 (40% Royal, 40% Sarkozy, 20% blank/void/did not vote), showing that the center was as different from the left as it is from the right, why would it be different in 2012 ?

Louis said...

@FredericLN: Thank you for that, as you wrote it is a hunch, which I could have worded more cautiously. I will stand for correction if the second round vote proves me wrong.
But my reflection is that, in this race, contrary to the 2007 vote, voices on the center that could lean on the Left have already expressed themselves - by siding with Hollande. Royal was a different candidate, with less of a "centrist" feel, and 2007 were other times. So the potential for second round Left voting among the Bayrou pool, in my opinion, does not figure today so strongly as it did in 2007.
So let's see.
@Anonymous: thank you for this witness account, and I think you have a point here.

TexExile said...

Why is Marine's score such a shock? The Ministry of Interior results now have her on 17.9%. I am not at all happy about that, but I recall that her father stood at 16.9% in the first round a decade ago, in circumstances far less favourable to the FN than today's. The result doesn't please me but neither does it shock me and if there is a glimmer of hope in it, it is that the FN has reached something like a ceiling.

Anonymous said...

@wm said: Surely both the le Pen and Melenchon outcomes are protest votes. Voters angered by the euro crisis, the banksters and crumbling social order are fed up with mainstream politicians and its not just in France. They are lining up behind populists across the EU. Perhaps EUrocrats ought to start listening if they want democracy to survive.

Anonymous said...

@TexExile: The national score isn't as much of a shock, especially since it's been downgraded from about 20% to 17.9%. But in the area where I live, the FN comes before Nicolas Sarkozy - and traditionally, protest votes here have been cast on the left. I arrived in 2007 and the general opinion was that the town was 70% on the left. Granted, 5 years is hardly enough to draw conclusions but in Le Monde's articles this area has been consistently quoted as "on the left". The neighboring town (8,000 people) has a public building dedicated to the Communistes Révolutionnaires (probably from decades past, as it looks like a concrete block with angular figures). The town council races I witnessed were between the PS, the PC, the NPA, and "sans étiquette" because being on the right, just 4 years ago, was a recipe for disaster.
The surge of the FN in such areas - on the fringe of a "big" city*, part industrial part rural, with traditional leftist protest votes - is worrisome because people who voted for Marine Le Pen didn't use to and aren't the traditional "racist" voters. I'm sure a bunch of them are all against "Arabs", but overall the sense I got is one of desperation: the post office is down to 2 hours a day, the police station was closed, classes are getting closed and either parents can afford private school "in the city" or must accept diminished prospects for their children; most of all factories are closing and no one's hiring, except part-time or for temp jobs, and the State does not do anything. "Sarkozy thinks a phone calls is industrial policy, but we're too small for him to pick up the phone" is something I've been told directly. Upon reflexion I come to wonder what Le Pen's score would have been if Mélenchon had not been so high (relatively speaking, since he started with about 5% and the PC was all but dead in 2007, and probably before then too).

@FredericLN: The Dupont Aignan vote was also higher than expected, about double. Together, the "protest vote on the right" reaches 20%, whereas the UMP vote is about 17%.