The second round of the regional elections in France

By Marie Dupont

The second round of the French regional elections confirmed the defeat of the right wing parties. Indeed it was a historic scale of defeat. With 35 per cent the right received its lowest share of the vote since 1958. The left received its highest share, 54 per cent, in the same fifty two year period with the sole exception of the presidential elections in 1988. The left won 21 regions and the right only one – Alsace.

But the analysis of the results is more complex than that of a simple shift of votes from right to left. At the presidential elections Sarkozy received 53 per cent so where did all his votes go? In the constituencies where he had achieved a high vote, abstention was high and/or the National Front made a good score. It is also important to note that in 2007, 84 per cent of the population participated in the ballot, that is there was a 16 per cent abstention rate, whereas in these elections the rate of abstention was 54 per cent at the first round and 49 per cent in the second. This shows big disillusion with Sarkozy and particularly his policies. A recent opinion poll found that 71 per cent wanted him to change his policies. But the damage is more serious than that: some traditional strongholds of the right were won by the left, for example in West Paris.

This victory of the left where it presented a united list at the second round of the elections is another very important feature of these elections. Compared with the European elections, the Socialist Party (SP) doubled its score, Europe Ecology, a union of different green parties ranging from the right to the left, lost four per cent, and the Front de Gauche (FdG) increased in numbers and votes. The ‘centrist’ bourgeois party, le MoDem nearly disappeared – which made impossible an alliance so much wanted by the right wing of the SP. But this strategy of allying with a bourgeois party as a pretext for future adaptation to the ruling class agenda seems to be attracting Europe Ecology.

As regards the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA), led by the former Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire (LCR), its very bad result (2.5 per cent) is the price they paid for division and refusing ally with other forces. In one region, le Limousin, where the FdG and the NPA agreed to unite they got 13.1 per cent at the first round and at the second round, when the Socialist Party refused to make a list including the NPA, the common list NPA+FdG got 19.1 per cent – nearly doubling their result from 36,634 to 56,092 votes. This clearly showed how credible a left alternative to social democracy’s capitulation to capital can be if the message is clearly, and in a united way, delivered to the population.

The growth of the extreme right National Front remains a real worry. It won 17 per cent in the second round in the 12 regions where it stood candidates. With the endeavour of one of its leaders, Marine Le Pen, to try to make the party more “acceptable” by including some social demands, it seems to be getting a more stabilized base than before.

As a result of the election a crisis is unfolding in the UMP. Some are criticizing Sarkozy’s authoritarian methods, some wishing to form new parties. The truth is that they don’t have an alternative candidate for the next presidential elections. The criticisms don’t seem to have shifted Sarkozy at all who is continuing with his round of social attacks. Next on his agenda is increasing the legal age of retirement from 60 to 62 and a law banning the burqâ. The question is: will the left be able to use their victory and in a united way mobilise the population against these attacks