Tuesday, 20 June 2017

French legislative elections round 2: A bolt from the Macron

The second round of the French parliamentary election (see this post for analysis of round 1: https://greensocialistalan.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/french-legislative-elections-round-1-en.html  ) resulted in a wide victory for President Emmanuel Macron's En Marche movement, who in alliance with the Democratic Movement (France's equivalent of the Liberal Democrats) won a total of 350 circonscriptions (308 for En Marche, 42 for the MoDems) giving them a majority of 123. This can be described as a bolt from the Macron since En Marche did not exist in 2012, the last time France had elections, and the MoDems were only a small party.

Meanwhile, the dominant social-democratic party, Parti Socialiste, was not wiped out as some were expecting, but they and their allies came a poor third with 45 seats nonetheless, compared to the 331 they won in 2012. They retained relatively few seats in mainland France (their overseas deputies were luckier). It is worth noting that only a minority of PS candidates made it through to the second round, giving them limited opportunities to mitigate their losses from round 1. This is shown by the fact their second round vote share was not much lower than their first round vote share.

The tide of Macronism swept away even Les Republicanes, since Macron's promise of economic reforms (although not on the scale Francois Fillon wanted) were able to win so many moderate conservatives over, whether LR candidates had made it through or not. LR and its allies lost 40% of their deputies, the same proportion it had lost after the fall of Nicolas Sarkozy, but this time they were in opposition against PS in their worst years in history, exacerbating their heavy losses. One of their most notable high-profile losses was that of Nathalie Kosciuzko-Moriet, aka NKM.

France Insoumisse, the banner under which the hardline socialist Front Gauche (FG), managed to make important gains, including the election of Jean-Luc Melenchon himself after failing to win a parliamentary seat in 2012 and finishing fourth in the recent Presidential election, but their seat total of 17 is one behind their 2007 result of 18, which was acquired at a time of PS trouble but in 2007 the PS did not suffer the losses it has this year. Part of the reason FI did not live up to expectations was that the older and more established French Communist Party (PCF) made no alliance with FG unlike in 2012 (and in fact some of their candidates included FG dissidents), although some of their candidates were not opposed by FG. PCF is likely to ally with FI in the new parliament in practice, however, given the protests that have already occurred over Macron's proposed socio-economic reforms.

Despite Marine Le Pen's strong performance as Presidential candidate by Front National standards, Front National only won 8 deputies in the Assembly as moderate voters scrabbled to stop them building a significant long-term base. However, they still came through in a few northern circonscriptions, if narrowly in most cases; nevertheless this represents yet another significant defeat for nationalist populism in Europe, which is likely to be repeated later this year in Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic. It is sadly the French Green movements who lost out most in this election amongst smaller parties; only one EELV deputy, Eric Alauzet, was re-elected and several independent ecologists switched to Macron's side, even though M. Macron's reforms will likely be environmentally detrimental. Their 4.3% vote share is also the worst since 2002. Had the EELV not allied with PS or withdrawn in favour of PS in the Presidential election, it would have had a much stronger chance of retaining a group in the Assembly. A lack of proportional representation in French elections also constricts them just as in the UK; a two-round system is almost as bad as first past the post when it comes to ensuring fair results, and also encourages greater enforcement of tactical voting-useful against FN, problematic otherwise. Regional parties of various types won 5 seats between them, although only on overseas territories of France and not on mainland France (sometimes called Metropolitan France). The only others successfully elected to this assembly were M'Jid El Guerrab (representing overseas French voters), Nicolas Dupont-Aignan of France Arise in Esonne's 8th circonscription, ex-FN politician and Mayor of Orange Jacques Bompard in Vaucluse's 4th circonscription, Jean Lassalle, the only Independent to run for President of France this year, in Pyrenees-Atlantiques' 4th circonscription, Christian Hutin of the Citizens and Republic Movement (MRC) in Nord 13, and Jimmy Pahun, an Independent, in Morbain's 2nd, and Sonia Krimi in Manche's 4th. (NB: 'miscellaneous right' and 'miscellaneous left' are not included in the latter total)

So what next, you ask? With such a secure majority, it is certain that Macron's reforms will come to pass, but what effect will they have? Whether Macron's movement can last is also an important point, since En Marche mainly gained prominence through M. Macron himself, like similar new centrist movements in Eastern Europe which are often led by prominent businesspeople without a particularly strong ideology.

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