Sunday, December 6, 2015

Le Premier Parti de France

The polls were accurate. The FN has come in first in 6 of 13 regions. Nationally, it is now the leading party in France with 27.2% of the vote against 27.0% for Les Républicains (according to early estimates). The only surprise is that the "left bloc," if one can call it that, held up better than expected, with about 24% of the vote nationwide going to the PS and another 5 or 6 to EELV and Front de Gauche (which differ substantially from the PS on central issues). The participation rate was just over 50%, up 4 since the regionals of 2010.

As has been clear for some time, France's party system is now tripartite. It will be very interesting to see what left-wing voters do in the second round. In the Nord-PdC-Picardie region, where Marine Le Pen herself is heading the FN list, which garnered over 40% of the vote, the left-wing candidate has called implicitly for a "republican front" (without using the term). His words left little doubt that he will drop out of Round 2 in favor of Xavier Bertrand, who heads the Republican list. Bertrand's statement also avoided alluding to a republican front but simply claimed the right to lead the resistance to the FN as "the Gaullist" candidate. But Le Pen seems likely to win anyway, as does Marion Maréchal Le Pen in PACA.

I will have more to say in the coming day.s


bernard said...

Clearly, the terror attacks threw a substantial part of the electorate into the extreme right arms. It may be interesting to make a comparison here. This happened in France after two major terror attacks in a few months. In Israel, which has suffered from terror attacks continually since the late 1960s, it was only in 1996 that the far right won, ie. close to 30 years later. Talk of resilience! Our exquisite moral minds who criticize Israel at every opportunity might consider sitting back and reflecting on this simple fact.

As regards the political lessons of this election for the future, my first inclination would be to say that Juppe is toast and that Sarkozy will find it much more difficult than expected to be among the two candidates to emerge from the coming first round of presidential election.

Anonymous said...

Stop patting yourself on the back, you piece of shit. France is not occupying or ethnically cleansing anyone in the Middle East, unlike Israel.

FrédéricLN said...

30% to FN now rather than 27%. :-(

Mitch Guthman said...


I agree that, at least on the surface, Sarkozy is the second biggest winner. I think his logic has always been to muscle his way through the UMP primary, and then run as hard to the right as possible on social issues to attract a reasonable portion of Le Pen’s base and take the support of the left’s voters for granted. If that was his plan, and if it’s a good plan, Sarkozy should be happy that things are going according to plan. I just don’t think it’s a very good plan.

For the moment, I don't agree about Juppé. I think he’s the wild card that could deny Sarkozy the nomination, especially if there’s a lot of talk about a “republican front” in the press”. For a republican front to be effective it must attract the voters of the left. Only Juppé has expressed even the slightest willingness to meet the left halfway. Sarkozy and others in the UMP have been asked many times if they would be interested in a republican front and all have coyly refused. Sarkozy, in particular, has gone out of his way to tell the left that he will never support them in the second round but expects unconditional support from them if he is against Le Pen.

Sarkozy’s made two things clear: His offer to the left and to the PS in particular is nothing, not even table scraps. And he has spent years making it clear that his policies and direction of any future Sarkozy government on social issues will be indistinguishable from Le Pen and on economic issues it will be indistinguishable from Angela Merkel. I don’t think the voters of the left would be willing to participate in such a one-sided effort, particularly when it would be in aide of a man who has gone out of his way to piss on them. Only Juppé can rally the totally demoralized voters of the left and center—the real question, though, is can he get them to the polls in enough numbers to beat Sarkozy in the primary?

The other thing is that of all the candidates, I think Sarkozy is most damaged by the FN becoming the first party of France. Sarkozy’s de-demonization effort to attract FN voters in the second round was predicated on the notion that MLP would never really be anything more than a fringe candidate. By reaching out to FN voters, Sarkozy was positioning himself as the FN voter’s logical second choice overall and the best substitute available for Le Pen in the second round. But now it seems quite clear that MLP will probably emerge from the first round as the strongest candidate and most likely eventual winner of the second round, absent another republican front like the one that denied her father. Anyone whose first choice is Le Pen no longer has reason to vote for Sarkozy.

But, consequently, neither does anyone in the left or center have much reason to vote for Sarkozy even against Le Pen. Juppé’s appeal is far broader. He is himself a centrist and is far more acceptable to the left than would be Sarkozy—especially because he’s gone out of his way to antagonize them. I think it’s Sarkozy who is now the odd man out even if he can muscle Juppé out of the primary. Which means that Marine Le Pen can win.

Cincinna said...

So nice to see you back blogging through these elections. I hope you are well, and wish you a very happy holiday.

I agree that Sarkozy and his newly reformed UMP, Les Republicains, are the second biggest winner today.
I have to respectfully disagree about Juppé. Aside from the fact that he is the equivalent of a convicted felon, his élite manner and Gscard like persona will be no match for MLP. If you have further doubts, watch the video of his debate with "Baby le Pen," Marion Maréchal le Pen, who had him totally off kilter searching through his notes, and looking rather old. She really cleaned his clock, a sad thing to watch, because I know and like Juppé very much, but I think his time has come and gone.

Massilian said...

I agree with Mitch, Sarko is history. I already thought so but he added a second layer. He is out of the presidential race. I am also glad that the "incontournable" sharp sighted analyst turned politician Reynié got his ass kicked. How long will he have the nerve to maintain himself for the second round ? Raffarin was perfect.
Good but ugly point raised by Anne Sinclair this morning... how can the FN remain with such an insignificant representation in the Assemblée Nationale ? We have a democratic problem here. Something must change for the next Législatives.... We haven't drunk the bitter part yet.
I am amazed that so many newspaper titled "Le choc !" as if this was a big surprise... Contrary to Bernard, I don't think the terrorist attacks played a major role in favor of the FN. I believe the closer we come to the next election, the more cautious and conservative the voters will become. "We've shaken the tree, many rotten apples fell. But let's not get carried away and play with fire with this election. Le Pen for president is a very bad idea..."
I really believe in Juppé's chances.

Alexandra said...

I too think Juppé will give Marine a run for her money, though I'm not quite as sure that Sarkozy is toast. He is a snake among snakes, capable of quite a lot of treachery. We haven't seen the last of him, even if the idea of him anywhere near the levers of government is more scary to me than MLP. Her crew seem like such amateurs, how will they ever build the necessary machine to go all the way? I also don't think the majority of French people are that revolutionary of spirit to take a chance with someone so vulgaire for the Presidential. Juppé feels a bit been there, done that, old, etc, but I can feel the yearning for a rassembleur among the sane people, and we will see much much greater than 50% turnout for the presidential.

The fact that Juppé is a convicted felon goes not a very long way among the French people I know. Their political class sticks around, refuses to leave the stage, much more than the other political class I know, the American one, where you're either comfortably in your fiefdom, or on your way up or on your way out. The idea that you'd go from a big job to a little one to bide your time for the next big job is unthinkable where I come from, but here, I've seen a certain resignation about this class of technocrats with their entitlement to power like nothing I've ever seen. Among the people I know here in France, there is huge fatigue with the political class, but not enough fury to really kick the bums out.

Let's see what happens in the second round.

Leo said...

An interesting comment by Grunberg on Sarkozy's failed strategy and dismal perspective can be found here:

Mitch Guthman said...


Juppé would not need to be more charismatic or a better debater than MLP to win as the champion of a "republican front". He would simply need to build a united front of voters implacably opposed to a MLP presidency and unalterably committed to voting for the candidate in the second round who is not MLP.

He would, however, need to defeat Sarkozy in the primary. I don't believe he can do this so it will probably be Sarkozy who will meet MLP in the second round. In which case, a MLP who puts immigration and terrorism on the back burner and focuses on anti austerity and a defense of the social welfare state will probably attract enough crossovers and cause enough of the left and Gaullist center to stay home so that she will defeat the Merkozy.

Mitch Guthman said...


I think you are right that the FN will provide the answer to Anne Sinclair’s question quite soon, probably in the next Législatives. Gérard Grunberg indirectly raises the same question in his discussion of the new and unstable tripartite reality of French politics (Thanks to Leo for the link). I think Sarkozy has made an epic miscalculation for the reason given by Grunberg and for the reasons I mentioned in my comment last night.

I thought Grunberg’s analysis was excellent. He also made an interesting point about why Sarkozy never reached out to the left. It looks like Sarkozy was so fixated on attracting some FN support in the UMP primary and positioning himself to fight against the PS in the second round that he totally misread way in which the political currents had shifted.

The interesting thing is that I had been thinking a long time ago that the smart move for Sarkozy would be to move left because those are the voters who are up for grabs. If I understand Grunberg correctly, his thought is that Sarkozy was irrevocable committed to attracting at least some of the hard right away from the FN by positioning himself as the more realistic alternative to Le Pen. Now Sarkozy is in a bad spot: Voters whose first choice is Le Pen are free to vote for her without worrying about leaving the hard right weakened in the second round. But the voters who are up for grabs are not likely to be attracted to a Sarkozy candidacy promising the social policies of Le Pen combined with the economic policies of Merkel.

bernard said...

I guess my comment yesterday was too short not to be misunderstood, though I will not bother responding to the anonymous piece of shit (Art, do you moderate?).

I believe Juppe is toast quite simply because of the dismal score of the LR candidate (Calmel, his protegee) in his own region. A politician who cannot control elections in his own region will not do well in a national election. In any case, Juppe was never a good campaigner, in the way that Chirac was, I'm afraid and I hate to admit it, but Cincinna is right on this one. Further, but maybe I should look at the results more closely or someone will disprove me with hard electoral facts, it seems to me that LR candidates of the somewhat more moderate kind (including close to Modem) did not do very well in this election compared to hard line LR candidates. To be sure, there will be exceptions such as Estrosi and Pecresse, but I suspect what I am saying to be correct generally. This will likely throw the primaries into Sarkozy's arms. And he will mount a campaign to his right for the first round, running after Le Pen and forfeiting his chances of attracting enough left wing voters in the second round. I certainly would not choose between Sarkozy and Le Pen, c'est blanc bonnet bonnet blanc. The reactionaries can sort themselves out without me and many of my friends.

One other point of note in this election is the dismal score of the ecologistes and of the far left in this proportional vote. They are clearly living in LaLa land, but may find out in coming legislative elections that treacherous acts have concrete consequences. Life can become very hard for those who serve a stepladder to the fascists.

Mitch Guthman said...


I take your point (and Cincinna’s) about Juppé’s abilities as a campaigner. I have a similar opinion of him and, in an ordinary election, I believe you and she would be right that Juppé is toast. But, as I’ve said many times before, this will not be an ordinary election since both Juppé and Le Pen would be running not as individuals or even as representatives of their parties but rather as placeholders for some broad philosophical differences.

My point of reference is Jacques Chirac. Chirac didn’t win a landslide election because of his abilities as a campaigner.  It was enough that he didn’t have horns and a tail.  I believe that a similar dynamic will make the personal characteristics of the campaigners largely irrelevant this time, too.

If Juppé is to have any hope in the primary against Sarkozy it will be because of a massive effort by a nascent “republican front” organized by others to drive left bloc and disaffected centrists to the polls to stop Sarkozy from featuring in a second round. Reaching out to the left and Greens with an olive branch would certainly cement the deal.

And if such a front can be brought into being, Juppé would probably do very little campaigning himself. He would have excellent surrogates available to reach out to the constituent parts of his « republican front ». If there’s any speechifying to be done it will probably be done by the likes of Bayrou and Mélenchon and they are better speakers even than Sarkozy or MLP.

Similarly, if Sarkozy can be defeated in the primary, I believe that a similar «republican front» would be more than enough to get the job done if Juppé renounces austerity. Probably not as big a victory as Chirac’s but I believe that if Juppé can reach the second round, he can win—all of the points mentioned by you and Cincinna notwithstanding.

If Sarko is in the second round, I think you won't be the only one to stay home on election day. Have smaller horns and a smaller tail probably won't be enough to bring out disaffected left and centrists, especially after what Sarkozy said and did last night.

Also, for what it is worth, I also wish that the left and the Greens had agreed upon a joint list earlier but there’s a huge distance between them and what is basically a center-right PS. Nevertheless, I just read that that, as expected, there has been an agreement reached to merge the lists of the PS, EELV and FdG for Ile-de-France. Valls seems also to be calling for a united front against the FN but it’s unclear from the headline whether he’s saying to vote for the UMP or MoDem candidate if that’s who is in the second round or if he’s just calling for a similar merger of the left’s lists throughout France. But it is a start nonetheless.

Alexandra Marshall said...

Every leftie bobo I know in Paris who would never normally consider anything that stank of the UMP is placing a lot of hope in Juppé, a boring, old, yes, indicted criminal, whose past attempts at reform brought enormous amounts of people out in the street. This happened during the young adulthood of many of my friends, the time when tribal leanings really cement. The fact that even a single one of them, much less all of them, could eve have a positive word to say about Juppé tells me that, as Mitch says, this goes far beyond him. France is not Paris, but that is an incredibly rare phenomenon in increasingly more polarized times.

Leo said...

While the prospect of the FN running 3 or 4 regions is quite depressing, I would not read too much in the current election.

Regional share with European elections a "risk free" status that fosters a protest vote. The regions' tax raising power is negligible and their remit is quite marginal. Most people don't know the name of their region's president or even of the local councillor. It is thus interesting to compare the results of the 2015 Regional and 2014 European.

Here are the comparative figures as published by the Ministry of the Interior. (The party groupings are the ministry's and they make sense, except maybe for Debout La France which is bundled with Center-Right)
Also the 2014 figures don't add up to 100, the ministry claims it is due to rounding errors, which makes no sense.

2014 European 2015 Regional 1st round

Left 36,8% 38,1%

Center & Right 36,7% 34.0%

Far Right 24.9% 27.9%

So, indeed a clear FN progression but no tsunami as headlines tend to present it. And, as noted by many, the loser is Sarkozy.

What is even more interesting is that the Union de la Gauche pur sucre progressed from 14% to 23% with the whittling down of the Far Left and the Greens.

So Hollande's prospect don't look that dire for the next big one. I believe he can make it to the second round if Sarkozy is selected by LR and if the rest of the Left don't field a myriad of candidates as they did with Jospin.

As for Juppé, I share with a few here the belief he has a fighting chance to be selected if the primary is a transparent exercise. And if he ends up against MLP after the first round, I see no scenario where he can lose.

And by the way, American readers, Juppé does indeed carry a few "casseroles" but the French populace don't view him as a convicted felon or a criminal but, as fit for the former Fille Ainé de l'Eglise, as a repented sinner who had his time in the wilderness.

Mitch Guthman said...

@ Alexandria,

I think your assessment is correct. Juppé is worthless as a candidate and as a politician. He exemplifies the out of touch technocrat that Art wrote about the other day. It has been a blessing for France that Juppé has been as ineffectual at campaigning as he has been incompetent as a policy maker.

On the other hand, Juppé doesn't have horns and a tail. Marine Le Pen does. I think you're right that the unacceptability of Le Pen will be enough to make even the bobo left pull the lever for him, provided that someone more capable than Juppé organizes his campaign.

@ Leo,

People have been arguing throughout the rise of Marine Le Pen that votes for the FN in different elections were nothing more than protest votes intended as a wake up call. Perhaps so but if one continues to ignore the wake up call it eventually turns into your death knell.

For what it’s worth, I have been writing essentially the same polemic after each victory of the FN explaining how the euro, the politics of austerity and the problems of the technocratic political class contributed to the rise of the FN and why MLP can win. I suspect people here are as tired of reading rehashings of my same polemic as I am of writing them, so I thought I would outsource today’s installment of "Why Marine Le Pen can win" to people who are much better writers and thinkers than me.

brent said...

If the polls are right (and I realize they might not be in this volatile situation), it seems at least possible that the Socialists, buttressed in the second round by their far-left critics just like in the old days, may win most of the regional councils while artfully pushing aside the Le Pens in their two strongholds. So while they don't know how to govern, maybe the Solferiniens still know how to play the game. If only the presidential could be a triangulaire ...

ghengis blond said...

if the Shia hurt Daesh, Turkey slows border traffic in return for anti-Kurdish assurances, and the ECB keeps its nerve, ya'll should win another few years of routine dysfunction

VoxEU ran a bit about how loony parties usually fade within 10 years of a financial crisis. that made me feel ok

Cincinna said...

Although Marine le Pen is a very serious political force, never be underestimated, the latest,,and probably final polls in Friday's Le Figaro show a serious slowdown in the progress of les frontistes.
Not particularly good news for the FN in round 2.
~ In NPCP Xavier Bertand wins with 53% MLP at 47%
PACA~ 51% Estrosi (LR) Baby le Pen 49%
IMO the real danger is in the future, when JMLP passes from the political scene, TV, radio, and Twitter. Baby le Pen is far more intelligent than MLP or her father.
In an exchange, available on video, she shredded Alain Juppé to smithereens, and had him looking distraught, confused, and constantly searching through his notes.

Robert said...

Forgive me, but hasn't JMLP passed from the political scene already?

Cincinna said...

JMLP may not be running for office himself, but tag teaming with MLP, doing their good cop, bad cop shtick, he is still ever present.
He is constantly giving interviews and has become addicted to Twitter.
Sunday's final vote will give us the answer.
As to Sarkozy's ni-ni position, it is, IMO, the right and only possible political move. Certainly in the long term.

Mitch Guthman said...


I don't see how speaking the language of extreme right, promoting the FN as a normal political party and working tirelessly to get MLP into the second round is good for anyone except Sarkozy in 2017. It certainly isn't good for France and Europe. \par\par And I suspect we may be nearing the point where it will stop being good for Sarkozy, too. His ni-ni strategy is so transparently cynical that voters may be unwilling to reward him for simultaneously promoting the rise of MLP and then demanding the support of a Republican Front as the defender of republican values against MLP like the boy condemned for killing his parents who pleads for mercy because he is an orphan. }