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Politics

by Christophe Deroubaix

The 6 Lessons of the 6th of May

Translated Thursday 10 May 2012, by Henry Crapo and reviewed by Bill Scoble

Rejection of Sarkozysm, failure of the swerve to the right by the UMP [1], its sanction by voters of all social categories, the mobilization of the "people of the left", the strength of the urban vote, and a little story from Marseille: what we learn from the second round of the presidential election.

1. The Referendum on Sarkozysm.

As usual, the second round saw an increase in participation, accompanied this time by ... a decrease in valid votes for candidates: 500,000 more voters, but a million fewer votes to be counted, since there was a record number of votes nul or blanc [2], more than 2 million of these.

With 18 million votes, François Hollande won 2.3 million votes over and above the total for the set of candidates on the left in the first round. Nicolas Sarkozy gained a paltry 50,000 votes over the total of votes for the right and extreme right on 22 April. It is clear that the flux is, as we see it, more complex than this reasoning with a big marker and big blocks of votes. Note that the out-going president, now gone, lost 2 million votes with respect to the 2007 election.

This had already been written and predicted. Reality has confirmed it. This presidential election really became a game of "make or break" against Nicolas Sarkozy and his politics. The personality of the outgoing president surely played a role in the rejection of which he is the target, but certain commentators have the tendency to blame the defeat to a sort of incompatibility of mood between the French people and the person who was supposed to preside over their destiny these past five years. On Sunday the electors judged both the politics and the character, the latter seeming to incarnate, in flesh and blood, the former. The soirée at Fouquet’s [3] acquired its full meaning only with the adoption of the fiscal shield [4] ... Half (between 48% and 55% according to the polling institutions) of those voting for François Hollande had thus as primary motivation a vote "against" Nicolas Sarkozy.

If further proof is needed that the rejection is not a question of the personl agitations by the former minister of the interior, you can find them in Meaux, the city of Jean-François Copé, "won" by Hollande (54%, compared with 52.5% for Sarkozy in 2007).

2. The Double Sanction of the Right in the Vote FN.

We already noted, right after the first round, how the vote in favor of Marine Le Pen was made up, for the most part, of voters sanctioning the right, half of the voters of the Front national wishing to express their opposition to the head of state. That first punishment was repeated on Sunday, because the transfer of votes from the far right toward the right were insufficient to permit the right to win the election; only half of the supporters of Marine Le Pen slipped a vote for Sarkozy into the ballot box (compared with 70% in 2007, after the "siphoning" of the first round), while a third of these voters preferred to abstain or vote blanc, and about one-sixth of them turned to the Socialist party candidate.

It is common to speak of those "disillusioned by Sarkozysm". In a study "The Point of Rupture. Study of the Sources of Votes for the Front national in Popular Milieux" produced by the Fondation Jean-Jaurès, Alain Mergier and Jérôme Fourquet insist on the sentiment of "treachery" felt, and the concomitant receptivity to the discourse of Marine Le Pen.

The maps of votes for Sarkozy and Le Pen in the first round coincide, attesting to the existence of channels of communication. The swerve to the far right by the out-going president amplified the "legitimacy" of the competition entered into by these two political formations, in a context of fusion of ideological bases. Nicolas Sarkozy broke the dikes, even around the basic electors of the right, who now find themselves drowning in extremist theses. Thus, henceforth, these two electoral groups (from 54% to 70% of the UMP, according to the polling institutes, and from 68% to 77% of the Front national) manifest, in unison, their desire to see the two formations reach agreement for a concrete electoral collaboration. If such a collaboration be achieved, the alliance will be based on a real social and ideological foundation ...

3. The "People of the Left" Made Possible the Victory of Hollande.

The exit polls leave no doubt: the electors on the left were mobilized on the 6th of May, and few were lacking in support for the sole candidate who would permit, on the second round, to chase Sarkozy from power. From 70% to 80% of those voting for Jean-Luc Mélenchon put a ballot in the urn for Hollande, meaning, if we rely on measures obtained by two polling institutes, 2.8 to 3.2 million votes. When we recall that the difference between the two finalists was a bit more than a million votes, it remains to conclude that the leaders of the Front de gauche and the candidate himself were right no to finesse, beginning with the evening of the first round. The higher the Front de gauche was placed by voters on 22 April, the higher the left advanced in the second round: 65% in Vierzon, 67% in Port-au-Bouc, 72% in Bagnolet, 74% in Ivry-sur-Seine, 76% in Gennevilliers, 78% in Saint-Denis ...

François Hollande’s team, which expected an influx of voters from the Bayrou [5] camp, uninhibited by the choice of their candidate, must today observe that only a quarter of them voted for Hollande. About 40% chose Nicolas Sarkozy and 30% made no choice at all (abstention, blank, or null).

The score of François Hollande, which appears more complicated than would have been supposed, given the polls of the previous week, is explained by the strong mobilization, notably at the last minute, in an anti-left movement: half of the voters of Nicolas Sarkozy wanted above all to avoid the election of the Socialist Party candidate, putting aside any desire to keep their champion in the Elysée Palace. One can imagine that the use, ad nauseum, of the proposition by the candidate of the left, to accord the right to vote in local elections to foreigners resident in France, must have worked to some degree.

4. Hollande, the President Hoped For by All The French ... Except the Seniors and Artisans.

In 2007, the massive vote of older citizens (63%) opened the doors of the Elysée to Nicolas Sarkozy, who was lagging behind Ségolène Royal in all the other age brackets, and in all the categories of social position. The candidate of the UMP had clearly made progress in the popular and intermediate milieux...
This year, the "senior" vote (about 60%) avoided what would have been the most stinging defeat for an out-going president in the history of the 5th Republic. Of course the section of voters of "more than 60 years of age" does not constitute a sociological category in and of itself, but we can well observe that it represents an electoral category with significant differences. Only the artisans and small-businessmen joined the seniors in their untiring support for Nicolas Sarkozy.

For the rest, François Hollande has a majority everywhere. He won the support of workers (58%), of wage-earners (57%), of the intermediate professions (61%), of those who earn less than 1200€ (59%) and even of managers and liberal professions (51%). It is not a question of minimizing the attraction of the Front national for a subset of the popular milieux, but the analysis of these figures does permit us to deny any massive shift of these populations to the "dark side", that lazy analysis of which one can guess the motivation. 66% of those voting "Non" on the Treaty for the European Constitution in 2005 voted for Hollande.

5. The Large Cities, Strategic Bases for the Left.

Such a domination of one "camp" in urban region is a phenomenon unique in the history of French politics, at least in recent times. A high level of vote for Hollande and a penetration by a vote for Mélenchon, in the large cities, was already evident in the first round. The second round places the left at an historically high level. François Hollande obtained 54% in cities of 20,000 to 100,000 inhabitants and 57% in communities of more than 100,000 inhabitants. If one concentrates further on the top 30 most populated cities in France (8.5 million people in all), what do we find? Nicolas Sarkozy had a majority in only three of these, all in the Province-Alpes-Côtes-d’Azur region: the fifth largest, Nice (60%), the 15th, Toulon (58%), the 22nd, Aix-en-Province (53%). In the 27 cities having chosen the left, it is the margin of victory by François Hollande that is striking: 19 of these cities gave him more than 55% of the votes, of which 11 (Toulouse, Nantes, Montpellier, Lille, Rennes, Grenoble, Saint-Denis de la Réunion, Le Mans, Brest, Limoges and Clermont-Ferrand) gave him more than 60% .. Need we recall that in the course of history the cities have always been the hearth of invention of the future?

6. What Will Tomorrow Bring? The Laboratory of Marseille.

Clearly, the simple observation made above of the massive vote of cities for the left will not fail to find its utility in order to re-launch the burlesque-theatrical debate using the term "bobo-populo". The left has nothing to gain from this binary association that not only the FN and the UMP, but even some of its own thinkers and representatives, try to impose on it. We must, first of all, put an end to this intimidation via the term "bobo", a category displaced from its original definition. One finds that the inventor of the term was a right-wing commentator at the New York Times, David Brooks. Early in the decade, beginning in the year 2000, he wished to portray the emergence, according to him, of a new upper class. Bohemian, because they adopted the heritage of the 1960’s. Bourgeois, by their revenues, their way of life and their embrace of Reagan economics. Today, by malicious extension, "bobo" has come to mean any wage-earner with modest means who chooses to live down-town and vote on the left.

Why, and how, should one reply to the challenge of a report by a left-wing think tank to choose between one or the other? Place this theoretical challenge for the left in a practical theater: Marseille. A rapid scan of the results leads us to observe, simply, that the left comes in ahead in the second round of a presidential election for the first time since 1981, but with a small lead (50.87%). At the same time, a casual glance at the electoral map leads us to the conclusion that the split between north and south remains more present than ever (this is, by the way, a reality). On the whole, not much new under the Mediterranean sun.

But much deeper changes are at work. The 1st arrondissement, around the Canebière, is now the most firmly anchored to the left of the entire city (68% in the first round, 72% for Hollande in the second round). Just next door, the 5th arrondissement, in the heart of the circumscription of the UMP Renaud Muselier, tipped to the left, 55% for Hollande as compared with 52.25% for Sarkozy in 2007. In these two cases, a new population of young salaried workers settled in (those of age 18-39 represent between 37 and 39% of the population, compared with 28% for the rest of the city). In these two cases, the Front de gauche made a spectacular penetration (21.9% and 16.5%), while the Socialist Party reproduced its results for 2007. The same scenario, stability for the PS, remarkable penetration by the Front de gauche, was repeated in the northern district, in the suburbs (the most impoverished of France), within the territory of the city. Antoine, officer in a downtown publicity company, and Nassera, part-time worker in business and mother of family living in a poor public housing development — these are the two archetypes of voters of the Front de gauche in Marseille.

Down-town, "suburb", but not just that. Marseille offers a whole "panoply". The "residential" type of the "fine neighborhoods" who maintained their support for Nicolas Sarkozy (62% in the 8th arrondissement the fief of the deputy/mayor Gaudin. The "peri-urban" type with its residences that pop up like mushrooms on the green fringe to the north-east and east of the city, housing couples, both partners earning wages, intermediate professions and managers for the most part, less inclined to vote on the right than in the "real" peri-urban districts. A form of "rurality", to wind up the enumeration, with its celebrated village hubs (former villages on the periphery of Marseille, swallowed up by the industrialization and urbanization at the end of the 19th century), which survive almost as enclaves in the city, veritable nests for votes for the FN. In brief, all the actors of French society find their place in this last great popular city in France, of which the sociologist André Donzel never ceases to remind us, that in its 2600 years, it has above all "a sense of the city" (the "polis", in Greek). A lovely program for France!


For further information on this subject, see our compilation of articles translated this past year on the politics of the economic crisis in Europe, and on the campaign of the Front de gauche.

[1Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, the outgoing president’s party

[2invalid, or blank

[3the rich restaurant, filled with his rich associates, in which Sarkozy celebrated his victory in 2007.

[4which capped total taxation at 50%

[5"centrist"


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