Sunday, March 14, 2010

Staying Home

Abstention seems to be the winner in the regional elections: a record 52% stayed home and sat on their hands. Europe Écologie didn't do quite as well as predicted, and the Front National did slightly better. The two parties are about equal in strength. Nationally, the Socialists topped the UMP by enough to comfort Aubry in her leadership, but I think it would be a serious mistake to think that this relative success indicates that the party's internal problems have been resolved.

Sarkozy is now faced with a thorny political problem, however. His electorate is demobilized and apparently disappointed with what he has achieved. Some voters that he had peeled away from the FN have apparently drifted back again. His management of the press no longer seems to yield results, and the periodic announcements of renewed reform elicit only yawns. The bloom is off the rose, and even off the romance with Madame. His has been the fate predicted for Obama in the United States, even though Sarko controls his legislature and has been able to do what he wanted to do, albeit within the limits imposed by the crisis. He has ruled out a remaniement, which is the usual response to rebukes of this sort. But will he stick to this decision? The loss is clearly his, no matter how much the UMP will point to abstention, local issues, etc.

Bernard Girard, in a response to my post yesterday on the elections, argues that I'm wrong to see the lack of "presidentialism" in Europe Écologie as a problem. In Bernard's view, it's rather an opportunity, because the French are irritated by the devastating effects of presidential politicking on the leadership of the major parties. Indeed, this is one explanation for the high abstention rate. I accept this criticism. Bernard nevertheless concedes that EE will have to find a presidential standard-bearer between now and 2012. He also points out that it will need to add some intellectual heft, develop new ideas, and answer criticisms that have begun to emerge of the ecological platform. Indeed, it will, and it will be interesting to see what develops in the regions such as Ile-de-France, where the PS and EE will have to merge their lists. Will EE try to use its leverage to influence the internal politics of the PS? If there is to be any hope of a victory for the Left in 2012, it will have to come out of this nexus. This is where the renovation of the Left will happen, if it happens at all.


Kirk said...

I'm guessing that the low turnout is do, in majority, to the fact that 1) people really don't know exactly what the regions do, and 2) this wasn't a local campaign, but another variant of "tout sauf Sarkozy". The left parties didn't campain on any real platform, but rather an anti-Sarkozy one.

What stuns me, though, is watching these politicains on TV, especially the Socialists, claiming that the election results were due to the fact that people were against the changes wrought by Sarkozy (and his minions, of course), whereas the Socialists have had six years of running 24 of 26 regions. So if it really makes a difference that the Socialists are in power in the regions, why hasn't it made a difference these six years? They're crowing that they can stem the tide of Sarko-ism, but why have they not done so yet?

I'm disheartened to see that the FN got 20% in my region (PACA), and that daughter Piglette Le Pen also got 20%. I suggested to my wife that we go out and spit on one of every five people we see in town, at random.

We also called our son to make sure he votes next weekend (he didn't vote today).

In any case, it's just another sign of how the French want nothing to do with politics. They'll complain a lot, but they can't be bothered to do anything, even to vote.

Kirk said...

I have to make a correction. It turns out that Le Pen only got 12.4% in my department. So I can only spit on one in every 8 people (though I don't have numbers for my town yet.) I'm in the second-least-populated department in France, so that doesn't mean that the FN got like 30% in the Bouches-du-Rhone, but it's certainly above 20% down there.

MYOS said...

Based on what I've seen here, many UMP voters simply switched to FN to say they really dislike what Sarkozy is doing (or, more accurately, NOT doing). The FN scores are disturbing, esp. in the North. Many did not vote.

However, Kirk, don't complain too much about "bothering to vote": Americans are even worse. :p

Some voted for the PS because overall the socialist governors do a good job with the trains, the high schools, etc, and aren't associated with the national "PS" party and its mess. Some voted for the left because they wanted to express distrust or dislike for what the government does. Remember that there were 20 ministers running.

EE scored much lower than expected in several regions but remain the "third force". At 11-13 everywhere, they can't compete with the PS.

Also, contrary to what Melenchon just said, the Modem is not crushed to death. Its voters will either stick with EE or will follow Bayrou next time he can be a candidate. Moderates exist in all democracies and won't magically "disappear" just because there existence bothers M.Melenchon.

In Ile de France, really bad score for Valerie Pécresse. In Auvergne, surprising score for Front de Gauche.

All UMP representatives say the scores don't matter because so few people voted, so next week all UMP voters should go out and vote.

MYOS said...

Jean Marie Le Pen 21% PACA - that's HUGE, especially since the UMP rep is "DNA tests" Mariani!!!

MYOS said...

I must be losing my mind: another post from Kahn that I actually like, although I seriously doubt some of his final predictions:

MYOS said...

Nicolas Sarkozy can't replace Fillon: Fillon would immediately spring up as an opponent within his own party and since he's competent and popular on the right he could take the 2012 nomination from him.

The two candidates who scored high among working class employees (my translation for "ouvriers et employés") are Royal and Frêche.

The North is a disaster: FN seems to be Party #2 before UMP! Worse than in Kirk's state, since at least the South has always voted FN.

Frêche's score is a rebuke. This morning, the PS was all "voter en conscience pour faire barrage à la droite". LOL.

How did Royal manage to get close to 40% by herself, with 6 ballots on the left?
Looks like she sucked out EE voters - in her state EE is below 12% - but that can't be all of it.

No EE state then : Alsace scores disappoint.

Color me disappointed for the Modem.

Kirk said...

Update on FN votes in my town: just under 13%. Still a lot less than down on the coast, but a scary amount.