The polls have long pointed to an FN victory, but the margin is even larger than predicted: the FN outpolled the UMP by 5 points and the PS by 11. Once again the word séisme is being used, but the metaphor seems ill suited to the inexorable progress of the FN, which may have won a majority of working-class votes in this election. Rather than attempt an instant analysis, I'll wait until more data are available. The outlines of the story are familiar in any case. The main issue is how to sort out the percentage of the FN vote that is a protest against the mainstream parties and the percentage that represents a true "vote of adhesion." This is of course an impossible task, and as time goes by a more and more futile one, since the FN with its second-generation "bleu marine" ideology has become a fixture of the landscape that will not be easily removed, having succeeded in its generational renewal by electing many young candidates and in its geographical expansion by extending its influence beyond its traditional bastions.
One immediate consequence may be a challenge to the UMP leadership of J.-F. Copé. Already under attack from within the party for alleged malversations, Copé is now in the position Harlem Désir was in after the municipals: his electoral strategy has been shown to be a dismal failure. This may strengthen the hand of those who would like to unseat him. Time will tell.
As for the PS, its dismal showing follows and perhaps exceeds its dismal showing in the municipals. It is a party disavowed whose president still has 3 years to serve. This spells trouble.