Metropolitan Triumph for the Left

Election Results by Region. Map courtesy of

As the final results of Sunday’s election have been confirmed by the Ministry of the Interior, analysts have been interested in comparing the general transition of both major metropoles and less populated regions of France towards the left with their previous voting records. As seen in the map above, traditional strong-holds of the right like the Alsace-Lorraine region near the German border and the wealthy south-eastern coast remained in favor of President Nicolas Sarkozy, a member of the Union pour un Movement Populaire (UMP). However in many cities, including Paris, Sarkozy’s 2007 popularity did not secure him victory again in 2012.

Paris, despite its cosmopolitan population and high concentration of youth was, until the last decade, a territory of the right. While still fiercely divided between its wealthy west and the working-class east, 2012 marks the first time of the 5th Republic that a candidate of the left has obtained an outright majority (55.6%) in the city.

In Lyon, the vote reflected an almost perfect inversion of the 2007 result, with Hollande receiving 53.12% to Sarkozy’s 46.88%, where five years earlier Sarkozy received 53.08% to Ségolène Royal’s 46.92% (Parti Socialiste). In Marseilles, while earning a majority of less than 1 percent on his opposition, Hollande gained 6 percentage points on his former domestic partner’s results. This is a major shift given the political history of Marseilles which has consistently voted in favor of the right.

In cities like Bordeaux, where the left gained their first victory in 2007, the left’s success only became further entrenched in this election, with increases of between 5 and 9 percentage points from Royal’s results.

Thus the question which has emerged from these electoral observations is why with such metropolitan popularity, François Hollande won the national election by such a relatively small margin (51.6%/48.4%)?

In regions and cities where Sarkozy claimed victory, he won by overwhelming majorities. In many of the less populated towns and cities which leaned to the left, the races were extremely close between the two candidates. In considering the results of this year’s election, the red wave across the map is less of an indication of a national political realignment than a transition by the center and moderates towards Hollande after a campaign where the UMP, a traditionally center-right party, took on much of the rhetoric of the extreme in pursuit of the far right constituents of Marine Le Pen’s Front National.

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