Monday, April 23, 2012

France: a more undecided result than what many may think.

And by writing the title I do not mean to say that Sarkozy has a chance to win the second round two weeks from today, but that the margin of victory for Hollande is far from certain and the result of the legislative elections in late May are quite up in the air, with a possible socialist landslide that will be absolutely meaningless.  In short, today's vote is far, very far, from yielding a government that will be able to tackle some of the badly needed reforms for France's welfare state to survive in some recognizable form.

And of course this post is also a wonderful excuse to look at the fabulous electoral maps that only the French seem able to do, and Liberation best of all for the past couple of decades.

The first map we are looking at is the general result  for France, AND its overseas territories.  At this point, barely 8 hours after polls have closed, the only ones missing are the embassies (the grey dot in the bottom).  For the record France still uses paper ballots and yet within an hour of polls closing the results were clear and everyone had acknowledged them.  Though in all fairness, before the Paris metro area results percolated.  Since then, the initial hysteria of Le Pen at 20% and Hollande beating Sarkozy by 4 points have receded.  Le Pen is at midnight still at a scary 18 points and Sarkozy is losing now by "only" 1.5 point. And Melenchon is less ridiculous than 4 hours ago.

What is interesting in this map is the extraordinary regionalization of the vote, to an extent that I do not recall having seen in a Presidential election.  Except for two exceptions, the South and South West are solidly for the Socialists, who have also transformed Brittany in the West in their bastion, Brittany who was very Catholic voted right wing solidly until the 80ies.  The right has switched from its Western bastions into a crescent swath that is only punctured 4 times (the North is socialist ancestral grounds).

The second map below is basically the same but I wanted to show how smooth Liberation is.  I click on the Gironde department, the largest of France and the one perhaps most representative of the new economy: tourism, trade, gourmet food.  Not to mention of Bordeaux, a resurrected splendid city now a World Heritage.  In Gironde, Le Pen is down and Hollande is up and the prosperity and renewal do not seem to have helped Sarkozy at all.  But pale pink Gironde has quite a story, and when you double click you get the results for ALL municipal districts.  ALL, barely a few hours after the vote.  And results, not trends as the Venezuelan CNE left us in the 2007 referendum to this date.

The map below is the blow up of Gironde.  I clicked on the biggest district, Bordeaux, which are thus the numbers you read.

And there you can see that solid pink Gironde is quite regionally divided too.  All the tourist and resort areas, and the agricultural areas to the East are mostly Sarkozy.  Industrial and commercial Garonne valley with Bordeaux are more solidly pink.  But the extreme right of Le Pen draws a strange border area crescent in black, even disputing control of the major Bordeaux vineyards of Medoc to the Socialists!  Though in educated and cosmopolitan Bordeaux Le Pen is further down.  My best guess for that black crescent is an anti European feel more and more found in French traditional agricultural regions.

And perhaps more than any other map this one symbolizes the problems of the traditional Gaullist democratic right, the one that created the welfare state in the 60ies and 70ies (it was NOT the socialists who created the French welfare state even though they did plant the idea in the 30ies).  The Socialists are not strong, they are beholden to the former communists under Melenchon to ensure a ruling majority.  The problem is that the right keeps weakening and that now the Front National is getting its historical best score ever with 18%. I have a nagging feel that Marine Le Pen will play the Hollande card.  Indeed, a Hollande government dependent on the tax and spend Melenchon people will likely fail and the Front National in perhaps less than 5 years form now will have a shot at beating the traditional right.  Its real goal, if you ask me.

What does this all mean?

Well, Hollande is about to win but what may turn out to be a useless victory.  It is quite possible that Melenchon and Le Pen are going to gamble it all in the parliamentary elections of late May and as such we will get a hung parliament.  Right now Melenchon has announced he will support Hollande without conditions.  But if Hollande wins, on the very next morning Melenchon will send his bill demanding at least a couple of dozen safe seats for his people and thus denying the Socialists a possible outright majority.  They will be subjected to the constant blackmailing to what are, after all, former communists, barely unreconstructed, dreaming of 6th republic à la Chavez.

If the UMP of Sarkozy (who has promised to retire from politics on the spot if he is not reelected) does a deal with the FN, it is doomed.  And it is even more doomed if it refuses a deal with the FN, risking in this case to lose as much as half of its current seats.  The Socialists are certain to use the double standard that they are allowed to negotiate with former communists but the UMP is not allowed any deal with the FN.  This hypocrite electoral calculation from their part, instead of considering what should be done, namely a grand coalition between Socialists and UMP for a couple of years to take the painful measures by consensus, will only be paid by all of us later, including the socialists.

But let's not get ahead of us, we still need to do that second round and pragmatically the best hop is for Sarkozy to lose by no more than a couple of points.  Any margin as the ones predicted tonight of at least 6 points is sure to send Melenchon and Marine into a feeding frenzy the day after.


  1. Interesting stuff...but poor les French.
    Radicalisation is taking hold of them.

    Daniel, do you perhaps know Marie-Claude Specel Chirinos? That was an old UCV-professor and I saw her on the news...she said she was voting for a Trotskist...for Goodness sake! What a dinosaur!

    France would be worse off would it not be for its edge on resources in its former African colonies...and that not precisely via very social methods. So: paradoxically, those commies can still afford to get some decent welfare state in spite of working so little more and more thanks to old Africa and the like and less to real French production.

    Un país de tal dimensión no puede vivir solo de turismo y exportación de queso.

    1. Johnny Walking3:25 AM

      Turismo y exportación de queso? Are you serious? Why would you want to portray the world's fifth largest and Europe's second largest economy by nominal GDP as a banana country?

    2. I am not saying that but then you need to learn how to read.
      I repeat: "France would be worse off would it not be for its edge on resources in its former African colonies"
      It is still one of the leading economies, but its competitiveness is under strain because others are picking up and developing. You can't go on like they are doing with 35-hour working weeks plus so many welfare items just like that. Brazil and India will overtake France in less than 10 years. Renault is still doing some wonderful things. Will Total and GDF Suez keep up their grip on certain countries once the Chinese keep on conquering terrain? Will the French economy keep its strength once African countries deliver more of their raw materials to China and, later on, Brazil?
      I don't know. Do you?

  2. Anonymous10:59 AM

    Mr. Kepler, your statements are offensive, unfair, and dowwnright incorrect. I suppose you are writing in "leitmotif"? Just joking around?
    Seriously, your estimation and evaluation of France is way to low and references to continued "colonialism" are wrong. I know Africa has become one of your pet topics these days buy again I say you are wrong even about Africa.
    As to "radicalization"- that is a very hot word and opens a big can of worms...I would say your intentions for the use of that word are again -wrong.

  3. I love your electoral posts Daniel. I sincerely think you are the best electoral analyst.

    You mention that ML may play the Hollande card...but I don't think her voters will follow. I see very difficulty for a FN voter to strategically vote for Hollande. Can you explain?

    1. She does that through abstention. She has already said that she will not endorse anyone. Depending on her tone for the next two weeks she can make sure that half her voters stay home. Caput Sarkozy...

    2. John Charles2:38 AM

      Are you saying that French citizens, at least those that voted for Le Pen, doesn't have their own mind thus they are likely to be controlled as sheep?

  4. Just as I predicted, the French election didn't help the Euro, the Dollar index shot up, pushing down US equities and commodities. Sideways trading for the next two weeks until S. finally wins by a hairline difference. Are the socialists in France talking about changing course and monetizing the debt (as in the US) with quantitative easing? Or is the market simply reacting to the perceived intentions of the socialists?

  5. a possible socialist landslide that will be absolutely meaningless.

    Not to the markets.
    "U.S. stocks followed European markets lower as weak euro-zone economic data and increasing political uncertainty in France and Holland unnerved investors." -- WSJ, April 23, 2012

  6. Dr. Faustus5:52 PM

    "...a possible socialist landslide that will be absolutely meaningless."

    Absolutely correct.

    There is no more money left in the coffers,...none. All over Europe the various governments are facing their own fiscal nightmare. Greece was the worst example to be sure. But even the big economies like France and Spain are in trouble. For decades the politicians in many European countries have promised everything to everyone. "Vote for me and I will give you : _______(fill in the blank)" Now the money's run out. All of the debts have come due. It's pure insanity. Despite what the French socialists say, there's simply no way they can fulfill their 'new' promises to their electorate. The French Treasury is near bankrupt, in most other European countries as well. There is very little they can do to change the economics. The very last recourse is to inflate the currency. That may indeed be coming.

  7. LT and syd

    Indeed. The problem for Hollande is that in the next two weeks he is going to have como out with his real intentions. And if markets are already punishing him.........

    Last night talk shows were hysterical in saying that neither side had a serious proposal. The insults between socialists and UMP were "nutridos". And it was interesting for me to observe that the socialists were almost sorry they won. they would not say it of course but as far as a TV screen allows I had the impression that their sub-conscious was saying "shit, we won!".

    1. 1979 Boat People6:03 PM

      "Shit, we won!".

      Indeed. Well said Daniel.

  8. Then you are saying the socialists are too scared to rock the boat? In that case, they can always blame the Germans for their inaction and play up the identity politics part of the equation to stay in power. Look at this:
    1. Paris seeks to become Islamic finance hub in Europe
    2. Fed up French Muslims mobilize to punish Sarkozy: Report
    in the light of this:
    3. France 2012: Anti-Politics in the Streets in Paris
    (AGI) Paris — On the day of pre-elections silence, on the eve of presidential elections, youth go down in the streets in Paris.In the heart of Paris an anti-politics demonstration was set up by a crowd made up mostly of young people who walked across the city heralding, “They do not represent us!”, referring to the ten official candidates running to lead the Elysee.
    who might those young people be? any tips?

    1. The "occupy whatever" crowds. In Spanish "rebelde sin causa".

    2. Anonymous9:54 PM

      In English "Rebel without a clue"

    this is an important article for this post, I think

  10. Just as I thought, Hollande's promise to give to foreigner residents the right to vote in local French elections:
    Droit de vote des étrangers : Hollande persiste et signe
    see what I mean?

  11. Anonymous2:38 AM

    Quote of the day:(copied from Babalu)
    Nicolas Sarkozy said-
    "All my life I have battled against the political theories of the National Front, and I am not going to begin taking lessons from Mr. Hollande, who finds it acceptable to work with and expects to govern with Mr. Melenchon who has declared that Cuba is a democracy and that Fidel Castro is a democrat..."


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