Tuesday, May 08, 2007

More on French election results: towards a new parliament

Since it is too upsetting to discuss Chavez continued vulgarity I am indulging in one more French post before I face Venezuela again. After all, as the election results decant and as the electoral maps come out, there is interesting material to discuss on how a true democracy functions, not the farce here in the bolibanana republic.

That is where great maps as the French love to make come in hand. Today I have taken two maps from Le Figaro, since it is the first one to come out on the web with nifty maps (Le Monde's maps are coming out also but are more technical and only interest French people).

The first map is the result of Sunday. It is almost the same as the map I showed from Liberation two weeks ago except that Segolene Royal did pick up something like a half dozen more "departements". Which is something to be expected.

The first thing to note is a rather clear division of France. The right is concentrated on major urban areas, and borders. The areas more exposed to global markets and foreign ideas and also immigration, legal or not. Thus the socialist vote appears a much more conservative vote in the proper sense of the word: a vote of people a little bit scared of the bright new world ahead of them, a vote of people more worried about protecting foie gras tradition and welfare state than dealing with immigration and economic growth problems.

And you also have at the bottom a nifty map of all French overseas possessions which are considered as French as Paris, believe it or not :) the Caribbean and Indian Ocean went for Segolene but Nicolas won in the Pacific and South America.

But there is also something that must be noted: the map does not reflect if a blue "department" is 60% for Nicolas or only a bare 51% (and vice versa for the red ones). With the legislative elections coming next June it might be useful to look at the 2002 parliament results, and Le Figaro publishes it again.

What we find in this map is that the geographical repartition of socialists and right wing votes has not changed much. In fact a close study (of which I will spare the reader) makes me suspect that the socialists are much weaker than what I was expecting them to be. This is due to several basic factors:

Sarkozy has won reasonably big, more due to the high participation than his actual score. His 53% score is good by French standards, but added to an 85% voter turnout it is close a real mandate. That is, the French right has all what it takes to win a majority in the June legislative election but is is not assured of a locked comfortable majority.

Such a locked majority was in doubt two weeks ago when Bayrou came out with an 18% share that was basically trashing the above map where his allies are in deep blue (Sarkozy's UMP is in lighter blue). But the wishy washy management of Bayrou in the last two weeks and the fast defection of most of his allies to the UMP side indicates that maybe after all the Bayrou vote might not change anything. If the UMP manages its campaign well there is no reason why it would not retain its majority even if it loses a couple of dozen seats. The paradox here is that the new reduced majority will in fact be stronger in resolve and convictions than the one issued from the 2002 vote. And thus a smaller majority might be able to do the profound changes that Chirac balked at in 2002!

The socialists have the traditional loser problem: lack of motivation of their disappointed voters and thus no matter what a rather lackluster perspective. But the paradox that emerges today is that to retain the few seats the socialists have, they will require an active Bayrou support. Thus the aggiornamento of the Socialist Party is knocking at the door sooner than expected. If they do not reach a deal with Bayrou fast they might be at risk to lose several of the pink seats in that map, and many of the red dots from a communist party near collapse. Though arguably those red dots could become pink dots. In other words, the socialist party is faced between becoming quickly a social democratic party by setting an alliance with Bayrou or remaining the core of a left government relying for a majority on very weakened greens and communists and sabotaging Radical left such as the one from Besancenot who everyday looks more like the anarchist left French tradition. If they chose the last option, they could risk losing ground overall. Will Royal impose the renovation or will the apparatchiks impose the "only left" grouping?

A sense of perspective

Some comments rather of topic to conclude.

In the comments I have read all sorts of things. But also in the US media I have read that Sarkozy could become an ally of Bush. Most of these comments are wrong. Sarkozy is neither Bush nor Pelosi. By US standards Sarkozy would probably fit quite nicely in the moderate wing of the Democratic party, closer to folks like Clinton (Bill). It is very dangerous to try to draw any parallel between France and the US such as some try to do between Hillary and Segolene or Sarkozy and Giulani. In fact Hillary might be smack in between Segolene and Nicolas, and Giulani quite to the right of Nicolas.....

There is really no lesson for Hillary in Royal's defeat and no lesson either for Giulani in Sarkozy's victory.

Foreign Policy?

Finally a little word on future possible French foreign policy.

A French president will always be independent in foreign affairs, and any possible sympathy of Sarkozy for the US is only that, a sympathy for the US, not for Bush or any of his possible successors. Certainly Sarkozy would be more likely to help the US out of Iraq than Royal would, but do not expect any military help in Iraq unless under a UN umbrella.

The relationships between the US and France WILL improve under Sarkozy. But then again they were never really that bad (Chirac spoke English and loved the US). Except for freakish Vichy France, the two countries have always been allies, never at war. People tend to forget that when they are involved into their Iraq personal cause.

-The end-

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