The French legislative elections

If you do not care about French politics or if good electoral maps leave you cold, you may skip this post altogether.

Today France held the fourth vote of its electoral cycle, 4 elections in two months, 4 lost week ends and thus a dismal participation today, at less than 60%.  It was the second round of the parliament election.  I am not surprised by the abstention, it is a consequence of the constitutional referendum of 2000 which shortened the presidential term from 7 to 5 years and "synchronized" presidential and legislative elections.  As such, Parliament is now a "consequence" of the presidential election and as such France has become, artificially, a presidential system with many of its negatives.  But I digress (I did vote NO in the 2000 referendum on that matter, by the way, and I have been proven right with time, just as my NO vote in Venezuela in 1999 has proven to be the right one also).

As expected Hollande will have the sought for majority in Parliament, with the small surprise that he will not need his environmentalist allies, and even less, his cumbersome far left potential allies, former communist, hardly reconstructed in many cases. We cannot even blame the right/far right rivalry for that as it seems that in popular vote the left parties might get 51% after all.  The far right of Marine Le Pen did not do as well as in April but still well enough that it probably caused the direct or indirect loss of at least a couple dozen seats that should have gone to the right which would have robbed the socialist of an outright majority of their own, thus freeing them of alliances to form a government.  The far right relative good score, because of the system, will only translate into three seats out of almost 600. We may be glad of that but it does not bode well for a system where the extreme right and left combined hold more than 20% of the vote but less than 3% of the seats.  Nobody wants them close to power but in a democracy all voices should be heard, no matter how tasteless they are.

The defeated UMP is now entering a difficult time.  Deprived of its leader as Sarkozy has retired right after his electoral defeat, deprived of a clear agenda, with no clear leadership in the future, and the prospect of seeing the Extreme Right depriving it of future victories in local elections, it squarely faces division.  That may not be so bad since until 2000 the right was divided into two large blocks that used the first round as a primary of sorts.  The advantage was the existence of second round "vote reservoir".  Now, whatever the UMP gets in the first round is pretty much it whereas the Socialists can still count of the not insignificant reservoir of the greens and far left.

The disastrous result for the UMP is that this monolithic presumption has over time cost it dearly.  In the last decade the Socialists have steadily gained, with allies or not, a very large majority of elective positions in France. They now control all regions but one, 60% of "d├ępartements", a large majority of the main cities and even the Senate.  Hollande has way more potential power than what Mitterrand had at his height!  Then again there is also Europe and Hollande on this respect has less options, at least on the economic scene, than Mitterrand had, which may explain why it is today easier for angered centrist or rightist to vote socialist to punish their leaders (as yours truly did by voting green today, and winning by the way, as Coronado won the South American district).

I think that if Hollande does not try any folly he should have 10 years ahead.  The way the system works, and the electoral schedule to come, even if the UMP were to renovate its leaders and programs fast, it cannot but chip away at the socialists for the next 2-3 years, thus not having enough of a local base to launch a national campaign 5 years from now, unless some providential leader comes forward fast.  And I see none of that since the UMP is into the hands of a tight group of leaders that will be very hard to renew as they seem allergic to primaries, something for which the Socialists seem to have found a cure and benefit from greatly.

But this review was a mere excuse for the part I really wanted to write about: the electoral maps.  Liberation did carry the day in that its maps were updated faster than anyone else, showing to us that even in a system where all votes are on pieces of paper, they can be counted fast and published fast, much, much faster than what the Venezuelan CNE does with all of its electronic system.  Note: even though there was 573 seats at stake, as far as I know there is less than a dozen protests and recount petitions.

The first map (click to enlarge if you wish) is at closing time.  It includes the results of those seats awarded in the first round because someone went above 50% of the vote already.  Note: Liberation is respectful since it could have included a handful more that were running "unopposed" since even though they did not get 50% in the first round, their opponents did not get enough votes to qualify for the second round.

At closing time, 8 PM French time

One hour later, Liberation had made quite a few updates already as the rural districts which had closed voting at 6Pm by 8 PM were almost done counting and started publishing.  You can already note that 14 million votes have been counted, that the socialist red is growing fast in the South, and that the enlarged maps of Paris is still mostly grey because they voted until 8 PM.  You can also see that all overseas territories have reported since they all finished voting by noon French time.

1 hour after closing time

Liberation advanced quite fast: the 10 PM map had very little grey left as even Paris was sending its first returns, and one hour later the interior ministry numbers confirmed officially that the Socialist party and its closest allies had gained control of parliament.  But I will not put up those maps, preferring to offer Le Monde at midnight, 4 hours after voting ended.  It is more stylish than the the Liberation one, better interactivity also (Liberation is more complete but quite slow).  Le Monde map has the advantage of giving the details for the urban areas and carry simultaneously the parliamentary composition on the right, automated as time rolls.

Le Monde, 4 hours later
From this last map it is clear that the Socialist have an amazing grip on the South and South West of France.  The grip is not as tight in the West, but still impressive, and the UMP and allies survive well only in the East and Provence though dented in Marseilles.  Paris and close suburbs are to the left whereas further away suburbs are for the right.  The only major city that remains blue is Nice, the other ones went left, Bordeaux and Nantes 100%! Note: if you visit that page you can click on the individual parties and see, according to their score, their percentile in EVERY district! This give you a real feel for the relative strength of each party as many results are in fact alliances of sorts.

But my favorite map was the one from Le Point.  Contrary to Le Monde and Liberation it is a weekly and as such are in no hurry to do their map for the second round.  This one will be published tomorrow during the day.  But I am leaving you with the first round vote map of last Sunday because on a cartographic point of view it is exquisite (and interactive too!).  If you like maps be sure to visit Le Point in a couple of days and track down their electoral map which should appear here. Right now they are only publishing results through a table where you must click your "d├ępartement".