France has now had a full day since learning the results of Sunday’s first round of the French parliamentary elections (France votes again in the second round this coming Sunday), and there’s really not much surprise in the aggregate result.
Much as predicted: the Parti socialiste of newly inaugurated François Hollande narrowly led the first round with 29% to just 27% for the somewhat demoralized and rudderless Union pour un mouvement populaire.
It seems likely that Hollande and his allies will control a parliamentary majority following Sunday’s second round (although it’s not certain) — the Parti socialiste is projected to win 270 to 300 seats to just 210 to 240 seats for the UMP. In the best case scenario, the Parti socialiste and its allies would like to win 289 seats outright this Sunday. If they wins less than 289 seats, however, they will be able to rely first on France’s Green Party, Europe Écologie – Les Verts, with which the Parti socialiste has an electoral alliance (projected to win 8 to 14 seats, largely because of the alliance) and then, if necessary, with the support of the Front de gauche (projected to win 14 to 20 seats), a group of communists and other radical leftists under the leadership of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Hollande would prefer to avoid the latter, as many potential Front de guache deputies are members of France’s communist party who would attempt to pull Hollande’s agenda further leftward.
Taken together, the broad vote on the left was just under 47%. That includes the EELV, which won about 5.5% last Sunday and the Front de gauche, which won about 7%. By contrast, in 1997, the last time the left won parliamentary elections — and overwhelmingly at that, the Parti socialiste itself won just 23.5% and the broad left vote in the first round was just 46%. A total of 25 leftist deputies were elected outright last Sunday, including 22 deputies for the Parti socialiste, such as prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (Loire-Atlantic 3) and foreign minister Laurent Fabius (Seine-Maritime 4).
A candidate must win over 50% (with at least 25% support of all registered voters in the district) in order to win in the first round; otherwise, each candidate that commands at least 12.5% support of all registered voters (or the top two candidates, alternatively) in the first round will advance to the second round on May 17.
All things considered, the UMP’s result was far from catastrophic — it polled just 2% behind the Parti socialiste and won nine seats outright last Sunday. Jean-François Copé, the leader of the UMP and François Fillon, the former prime minister, will be easily reelected. It appears that the UMP will neither overtake the left with a surprise surge next Sunday nor will it be obliterated, as the center-right looks ahead to the leadership fight between Copé and Fillon (and perhaps others) later this year.
Broadly speaking, however, it was a bad election for many of the smaller parties, whicih saw their vote decrease from their respective support in the first round of the presidential election:
- The Front de gauche won 7%, less than the 11% Mélenchon won in his presidential campaign.
- The centrist Mouvement démocrate (MoDem) won just 1.76%, even less than François Bayrou’s anemic 9% in the presidential race.
- Despite a strong finish in her own constituency, Marine Le Pen will be disappointed in the Front national‘s 13.6% result, which is less than the Front‘s historic 15% in the 1997 elections and much less than Le Pen’s 18% support in the presidential race.
Le Pen, who was running in one of the most intense showdowns in the country, Hénin-Beaumont (Pas-de-Calais 11), against Mélenchon himself, won a very strong 42.36%, to 23.50% for Parti socialiste candidate Philippe Kemel and just 21.48% for Mélenchon, who has now since withdrawn in favor of Kemel (the MoDem-UMP candidate Jean Urbaniak won a very poor 7.92%). Mélenchon’s polling had been trending poorly against Kemel for some time. It is likely that Kemel benefitted from a general trend of pro-Hollande goodwill and from the fact that, unlike Mélenchon or Le Pen, Kemel actually comes from the region. The result will certainly make Mélenchon’s strategy of a high-profile challenge to Le Pen seem misguided (although polls show that either Kemel and Mélenchon both would have been slight favorites on Sunday, when Le Pen will be the slight underdog).
Bayrou, who has held his seat (Pyrénées-Atlantiques 2) since 1988, often with the support of the UMP in past elections, performed very weakly, losing the first round to Parti socialiste candidate Nathalie Chabanne. Chabanne won 34.9% to just 23.63% for Bayrou, who will now face a traingulaire runoff with Eric Saubatte of the UMP, who won 21.72%, and is not expected to withdraw from the race in favor of Bayrou, in retribution for Bayrou’s endorsement of Hollande in the presidential runoff against Nicolas Sarkozy.
The most dramatic result, however, turned out to be the seat contested by Ségolène Royal (Charente-Maritime 17). There, the 2007 Parti socaliste presidential candidate and Hollande’s former partner, with whom the president had four children over a 30-year relationship, won just 32.03% to 28.91% for a renegade, local socialist candidate, Olivier Falorni. Sally Chadjaa, the UMP candidate, won 19.47%. The traingulaire promises to be even nastier this week, as Falorni refuses to step down in favor of Royal — earlier today, Hollande’s current partner Valérie Trierweiler has apparently tweeted her support for Falorni.