Monday, March 23, 2015

Les Elections Départementales

Here's the map, FN in black (appropriately):

For an interactive version, click here. Now, the geography of départements where the FN finished first is the familiar geography of the FN, with strength in the Nord, northeast, and along the southeastern littoral as well as a strip along the Garonne. But this election, which saw the FN make it to the second round in 1100 cantons, confirms the geographic spread of the party beyond its traditional bastions. Its score is up 10 points since the previous cantonal elections, and this despite a lower-than-predicted abstention rate.

Nevertheless, the FN fell short of its predicted 30%. It may be that the polls are still over-correcting for a supposed "Bradley effect" due to an alleged reluctance of voters to admit that they're voting for a "pariah party." But the FN is no longer a pariah party, so the Bradley effect, if it ever existed, has presumably disappeared. Without knowing more about actual polling methods, it's therefore difficult to say whether the FN really underperformed, although there is no doubt that the party would have trumpeted its "number 1" position if its results had been better.

The real story of this election will be told next week, when we see how many UMP votes transfer to FN candidates in races where the UMP has been eliminated. I suspect the number will be substantial, despite Sarkozy's call for a "ni-ni" position.

The other story of this election is concrete confirmation of the left's fragmentation. There is no consolation in summing up the votes of parties identified as "left-wing," because there is no longer any unity on which the left's presidential candidate can count in 2017. Hollande and Valls have made their choice to go all-in with a "social-liberal" program, which in the best of worlds will lead ultimately to a party realignment. For the time being, however, the French political map has two large continental blocs (UMP, FN), a smaller island-nation across La Manche (the "Blairite" PS), a shrinking center, and an archipelago of islands basking in their own purity (EELV, NPA, etc.). With Sarkozy apparently once again in firm control of the UMP and a base more than unfriendly to Alain Juppé, the political contest will be an ugly rumble between the Sarkozites and the Le Penists to see who will be more successful at appealing to the primal fears and vengefulness of those voters who think that depriving schoolchildren of an alternative to a pork lunch is the best answer to the problems facing the country in the decade ahead.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the FN

Nonna Mayer, who has been studying the FN and its voter base for decades, has all the demographic data at her fingertips:

Nonna Mayer sur l'électorat FN by Mediapart