Monday, 12 June 2017

French legislative elections round 1: En Marche Est Triumphante

The weekend after our snap general election, France held the first round of its own legislative elections, although these were timed to happen now anyway. The two-round system applies to parliamentary elections in France just as it does to Presidential elections, although since there is no proportional element it is nearly as difficult for smaller parties to enter the legislature as it is in Britain, and the tactical voting element is often even stronger (especially against the extremist and racist Front National).

The dramatic rise of En Marche!, President Emmanuel Macron's centrist and reformist movement, and the collapse of the most dominant force on the French left, Parti Socialiste, are undoubtedly the key stories of the premier de tour de elections legislatives de France. En Marche has only elected two representatives so far in round one alone, but they lead in the vast majority of French circonscriptions (constituencies for the Assembly of the Republic) and are set to win a landslide majority in round two of the French legislative elections next week, despite having only achieved 28.21% in round one (tactical voting will see many of them through). The Parti Socialiste meanwhile has seen an extraordinary collapse, in wake of the ineptitude of previous President Francois Hollande and a pressing need for economic reforms in France. They finished fifth in the popular vote with 7.44% and their general secretary, Jean-Christpohe Cambadelis, was defeated in the 16th circonscription of Paris, and he even finished fourth behind En Marche, Les Republicanes and the French Green Party Europe Ecologie Les Verts. PS only led in 7 constituencies and in not many more will they qualify for the second round, meaning that losses of at least 300 seats are certain for PS. On EELV's side, their former leader, Cecile Duflot, finished third in Paris' 6th circonscription and was eliminated as a result, and in only one constituency, Doubs' 2nd ('Besancon East'), did they lead on the first round, although Eric Alauzet will likely have an easy win in round 2; very few other EELV candidates qualify for round two. The backlash against EELV happened because of their previous governmental collusion with PS, to the point where their Presidential candidate withdrew to support Benoit Hamon (who has also been defeated in these elections) and many moderate EELV voters (and in fact, middle of the road voters from all French walks of life to varying degrees) were turned on by En Marche, and lost by EELV anyway as a result of said association with PS.

Front National, meanwhile, despite the relatively strong performance of Marine Le Pen in the Presidential run-off against M. Macron (easily beating her father's performance against Jacques Chirac in 2002), could only finish third with 13.02%, and due to the heavy tactical voting practised against FN the number of FN deputies will not exceed single figures once the second round ends. The run of crucial defeats against the 'populist and racist right' is set to continue in Europe and this election is continuing the trend; none of the FN candidates who qualified for round 2 are certain to win next week, even in north-eastern France which contains their strongest base. Even though the hardline socialist La France Insoumisse (FI) movement only finished fourth, this will be enough for them to become a significant opponent to Macron's tenure in the legislature and Jean-Luc Melenchon will almost certainly be elected in Bouche de Rhone's 4th circonscription, which can be summarised as 'Marseille Central'. The Communists finished seventh but because of their bedrock support in certain communes, they will still be represented assuming PS voters turn against En Marche (and many will not); after all, M. Macron's reforms will prove to be highly controversial even if they achieve a few positive things for the French economy and French society in general.

2017 will prove to be a historic year for France in many ways-but what will be achieved in the long term?

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