Municipal Elections: Three Weeks to Go

Photo: Quinn Dombrowski for flickr

Photo: Flickr.com/Quinn Dombrowski

LILLE. – After last week’s article on the basics of the municipal and inter-municipal elections, La Jeune Politique looks at the issues in France’s main cities.

In the municipal elections at the end of the month, the Parti Socialiste (PS) and the Union Pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) will be the main parties vying for France’s major cities, in addition to the Front National (FN), the far-right party that could possibly win the two-round election in some cities.

LEFT-WING STRONGHOLDS

The PS won most of the main cities (over 100,000 inhabitants) in the last two elections (2001 and 2008) and thus is entering this year’s municipal elections with an advantage, but also with more to lose.

Lille, the former industrial center of the North and a city with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, has elected Socialist mayors since 1955. Martine Aubry, who took over as mayor in 2001, is likely to win the election and her third term.

Several other PS mayors who are likely to win are Louis Fousseret (seeking a third term in Besançon), Yvon Robert (seeking a second term in Rouen), and Bernard Combes in Tulles-where President François Hollande was mayor.

In Nantes – Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault’s former city – Johanna Roland, 34, will face a challenge, particularly if the opposition manages to gather the support of those who are opposed to Ayrault’s airport project in Notre-Dame-des Landes, which Roland supports.

RIGHT-WING STRONGHOLDS

The right wing is usually stronger in rural areas and they are likely to re-enforce their positions in these territories this year because these regions also tend to be extremely critical of Hollande’s policies. But the right wing does face two main challenges this year: the increasing popularity of the left wing in cities and of the FN in some rural areas and in the South East, like the city of Toulon.

The French Riviera has witnessed the historic success of the UMP. In Nice, Christian Estrosi is looking to win his re-election easily, although the FN does appeal to some of the electorate.

In Aix-en-Provence and Cannes, the UMP incumbents, Maryse Joissains-Masini and Bernard Brochant, will run against multiple lists from right-wing candidates. These “dissident” lists often occur when a candidate who has not obtained official support of the party creates another list and runs against their own party in the election.  Despite this dissention on the right wing, the left still has no chance for success in these cities.

The UMP will likely maintain its control over its cities to the West and the East of Paris: Jean-François Copé in Meaux, Jean-Christophe Fromantin in Nicolas Sarkozy’s former city Neuilly sur Seine or Patrick Balkany in Levallois Perret.

TOO CLOSE TO CALL

Lyon, the third largest city in France, always elects moderate candidates. Succeeding the former center-right Prime Minister Raymond Barre, the socialist Gérard Collomb is looking to win a third election and become the first President of the new metropolis in 2016, a new position that he helped set up. His opponent Michel Havard, winner of the UMP primary (in Lyon), will face a tough challenge, although his victory would be nationally significant.

Toulouse, the main city Southwestern France and an electoral paradox, votes in a large majority for the PS in all the elections. But there is an exception: Toulouse has elected right-wing mayors from 1971 to 2008, when PS Pierre Cohen managed to steal the city from UMP Jean-Luc Moudenc for a mere 1,200 votes. Both men will face each other again this year, and even though polls give Cohen ahead for re-election, this will be a close race.

Marseille, France’s second largest city, has been governed by UMP Jean-Claude Gaudin since 1995. Looking to pursue a fourth and final term, Gaudin faces strong competition from Patrick Mennucci, who won the PS primary by a small margin. He also faces competition from the poverty and violence that affect the northern parts of the city, one of its greatest challenges. On the opposite side, Mennucci has managed to ally with his former primary rival Samia Ghali who is extremely popular in the northern quarters.

CAN THE FRONT NATIONAL SUCCEED?

The Front National (FN), Marine Le Pen’s party, is the strongest in the unemployment-riddled North and East regions of the country as well as in the Southeast, which has received the most immigrants from the Maghreb. Although the FN is weak in large cities, they are very likely to score a few wins in suburban middle-sized towns like Hénin-Beaumont or Orange.

However, the FN is put at a disadvantage by the two-round election process. Without allies, the FN usually loses to the candidate from a traditional party (UMP or PS) in the second round. This time, the unspoken “pact” against the FN is not as certain as it used to be. The UMP’s systematic opposition to the PS and the PS’ criticisms of the UMP’s “radicalism” could make room for the FN to win a number of elections across the country.

Among the serious chances for the FN, many are in the South East. In Perpignan, Brignoles, Carpentras, Cavaillon, Fréjus, the extreme-right-wing party is almost favored to win. But the best chance for the party is still in the North, in Hénin-Beaumont, where Steeve Briois is the candidate.

The first round of the election will be a useful gauge of the FN’s popularity.

Next week, La Jeune Politique will look at the municipal election in Paris.

Hugo Argenton is LJP’s French columnist. He lives in Lille, France. The opinions expressed in this editorial are his own and are not indicative of LJP’s views.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Municipal Elections: three weeks to go. In the municipal elections at the end of the month, the Parti Socialiste (PS) and the Union Pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) will be the main parties vying for France’s major cities, in addition to the Front National (FN), the far-right party that could possibly win the two-round election in some cities. […]

  2. […] An analysis on the municipal election in Paris. Information on the French municipal system. An explanation of the important strongholds and contested elections throughout France. Want to see how it all plays out? Follow our live coverage of the elections on the 23rd and […]

  3. […] An analysis on the municipal elections in Paris. Information on the French municipal system. An explanation of the important strongholds and contested elections throughout France. […]

  4. […] An explanation of the important strongholds and contested elections throughout France. […]

  5. […] For more information:An analysis on the municipal elections in Paris. Information on the French municipal system. An explanation of the important strongholds and contested elections throughout France. […]

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