Tripartitism and more women: France, politics do change ” “

Unprecedented aspects in the outcomes of the departmental elections. The interesting innovation of "double candidacies"

On the past two Sundays the French population went to the polls to elect the provincial councils (departments): at least a part of them, since Paris’ citizens didn’t vote. In fact, Paris is at the same time a municipality and a department. In fact, the Town Council has the same responsibilities of a department. The same applies for Lyon: as of January 1st 2015 the city and the municipalities surrounding it represent a metropolis, a new French form of administration, the first of this kind. The media often overlook this important feature. The definitive results of the vote of March 29 prompt five considerations. First: the surveys that for weeks had announced a victory of the Front National were wrong, as usual. The opinion polls’ forecasts in France were wrong, as happened in Israel a short time before. It’s a matter of understanding why, despite a repetition of mistakes, election after election; all media outlets consider these surveys so important, viewed as mirroring real facts. It’s a big problem for democracy, and at the same time it’s reassuring: it confirms that the game is never closed in advance. Second consideration: France has become a three-party country. Under the Fifth Republic, for the first time three parties prevailed, each of which correspond to a third of all voters: 36% for the right, 28% for the Socialist Party, 25% for the extreme right. The consequence of this unprecedented situation is that often all three “aspire” to a second ballot, or maybe two of these: right and extreme right, thereby forcing the “Republican” party (UMP and PS), eliminated in the second ballot, to make a choice. UMP has taken the official stand of “ni, ni”, i.e, the refusal to choose between socialist-republicans and extremists, while the Socialist party has always called on the constituency to cast a Republican vote. But in general, the republican Union has worked rather well: the Front National gained very few seats and it doesn’t have the majority in any of the departments. Third. The FN dominated the election campaign. Prime Minister Manuel Valls has bravely denounced the reality of this party, the threat it constitutes for institutions, for Europe, for economic balance, for the security of the Country. He refused to try to convince voters of the Front National to cast a vote for the Socialist Party. On the contrary, he tried to bring the FN to face its own responsibilities. Instead, the “moderate” right is increasingly geared towards the extreme right, and many of its leaders at local level seek to recover the support of FN electorate. Centre-wing parties are practically out of the picture, almost absorbed by Sarkozy’s UMP. There is almost a “droitisation” of the right. Fourth consideration. All media outlets underlined the defeat of the left. It’s self-evident: the right wins in 67 departments, the left in 34. The latter lost 28 that the left handed over to the right, and recovered one only. But this observation should be put in context. The right recovered several departments that in the past, and for a long time, were administered by the right. In reality, this election confirms a French tradition that is repeated one election after the other, namely that the opposition always wins intermediate elections. When the right had central power, the left used to win, even with flying colours. For example, on the occasion of the last regional elections of 2010, when Sarkozy was the President of the Republic, the left had won all the regions except for one, Alsace. Fifth. This electoral round brings about an important renewal of political leadership with the emergence of a new generation of young politicians, and more women. In fact, the Electoral Law imposed double candidacies. Accordingly, in every electoral council there were two candidates: a man and a woman. As a consequence, whichever the political majority, the same number of men and women marks the composition of the departmental assembly. Thus it appears that the departmental elections will change the French political landscape. But it is necessary to carry out a cautious analysis. Not all of France went to the polls, and in the areas where the vote was cast, less than 50% of voters exercised their right to vote. Perhaps the most significant change with long-term consequences is the feminization of the local political staff.

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