Mar. 20th, 2010

Though in this case, 'fort' doesn't refer to the the French adjective so much as it's about 'holding down the'. If anything, the right's options are less limited than they were in 2004, but also more unlikely, with some chance to come out on top in a few different régions. A low first-round turnout is usually followed by a large second round, so it can be hard to really gauge the results. On the other hand, I do want to make a few predictions.

Alsace — likely keep.
Alsace hasn't been immune to the leftist strength of the last two cycles, but that doesn't mean the left will get there. By and far the crustiest of the French regions, it's been under a rightist presidency since the founding of the Fifth Republic. Then again, so had Haute-Normandie in 2004, so anything's possible.

In fact, the left start out ±46,000 votes ahead of their first round position, the main right ±44,000 behind, and indeed, if you count the PS and EÉ together, they're only 1,960 votes in the hole. Considering that they usually receive the bigger second round bounce (and indeed did so in 2004), it looks comparatively better for them at first blush. On the other hand, those ±44,000 rightist votes didn't swing left — they're in the minor extreme right party Alsace d'Abord, and are highly likely to come home in round 2. And the leftist coalition can't count on the crossover votes of Antoine Waechter's Independent Ecologist Movement this time, since they're already in the EÉ, or on many of the extreme left's votes. Only 43.36% of Alsatians turned up to vote in the first round, too, and in a place as conservative as the Alsace, you have to assume the silent majority tilts towards the blue. With the PS breathing down their beloved UMP's neck, they might be inspired to show up on Sunday.

On the other hand, this is the best result of the left here in a generation, and being within striking distance could draw weaker leftist and centrist supporters just to give the right a bloody nose. This would depend largely on the response of those ±23,000 centrist MoDem voters who stranded short of the 5% mark.

Guyane — lean gain.
Guyane, home of the European space program, oodles and oodles of rainforest and the lowest population of any of the regions, unexpectedly veered right in the first round results, with the PSG list of current president Gabriel Serville coming in a distant third. The Presidential Majority has ±12,200 votes to the second-place Walwari-MDES with ±6,900. Christiane Taubira is quite busy marshalling the PSG and EÉ lists (and even a dissent leftist list) under a single banner. The biggest factors here are turnout — 44.44% in a region where your vote has a lot of comparative weight — against the collapse of the regionalist PSG, which can't be expected to repeat its vote-doubling leap in 2004's second round. Even though Taubira's math is good, its sudden popularity loss might drag down her entire left unity list.

La Réunion — tossup.
Another Outremer, but a much more populous one, where the sitting president's Communist Party of Réunion has suffered some decline as well. It's tried to stave this off by means of an alliance with the EÉ and MoDem, but the Presidential Majority is only ±9,000 votes behind, and there are a metric ton of dissident rightist lists that will close the gap in round two. I actually had this listed as 'likely gain' until I came across the news item that dissident conservative and ex-convict André Thien-Ah-Koon will be forming a unity list with that Communist-led alliance. He has a very strong local power base that's based more on personal popularity than on ideology, so he'll probably deliver most of those ±13,000 votes. Still, there's a lot of dissident right.

Corsica — lean loss.
Shamed by their utter disarray in the 2004 regionals, the Corsican left resolved to present a single bloc in the future. So it stands to reason that four different leftist lists showed up for round one. Thankfully, they all made the 5% cut, and are finalizing a predictably fractious unity list process that should leave them in the driver's seat. Still, the right's vote loss went almost integrally to regionalist parties, who could outperform the left if they could set aside their ideological differences. They won't, so there might be a significant blue bump there. Still, when conservative newspaper Le Figaro describes the Corsican left as 'menacing', it's wise to take them seriously. And like Alsace, la Corse has been solidly in conservative hands since the start of the Fifth Republic.

Rhône-Alpes — likely loss.
What gives? The Presidential Majority is only ±17,000 votes ahead of the PS, and both Philippe Meirieu of the surging EÉ and Élisa Martin of the Left Front have signaled their desire for a unity list. This should be a done deal.

The issue here is Jean-Jack Queyranne, current PS regional president and probably the weakest in France today. When polled, only 20% of the region know who he is, and 28% surmises the regional council is currently being run by the Presidential Majority. When faced with Meirieu's results just after the first round, there were reports of Queyranne physically avoiding the rest of the leftists, and it's hard to negotiate unity if one of the partners doesn't show up. I haven't heard anything more, though, so I'm hoping Queyranne has come to his senses. Otherwise, it's possible that bleed away from the PS to the LF or EÉ combined with National Front's Bruno Gollnisch hemorrhaging support (like he always does in the second round) will result in an upset Presidential Majority victory.

I'd qualify the rest of the regions as 'safe PS', but you never know, of course. (I definitely don't know in Languedoc-Roussillon, but I suspect dissident Georges Frêche and his ramshackle collection of minor parties will carry the day for the left.) If you'd like to take a look at the numbers for yourself, you can find them on Wikipedia, but be aware that the labels and attributions aren't correct.

And then, we're just awaiting the results of round two, which happens tomorrow.


Julianna Lacroix

July 2010

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