The Presidential Majority Easily Forges Ahead in the First Round of the French General Elections


Corinne Deloy,  

Fondation Robert Schuman,  

Helen Levy


12 June 2007

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Deloy Corinne

Corinne Deloy

Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).

Robert Schuman Fondation

Fondation Robert Schuman

Levy Helen

Helen Levy

The Presidential Majority Easily Forges Ahead in the First Round of the French...

PDF | 222 koIn English

The Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) made a landslide victory in the general elections in France on 10th June. The UMP with the New Centre won 45.52% of the vote versus 27.67% for the Socialist Party (PS) the main opposition movement and its allies from the Radical Left Party (PRG) and the Republican and Citizens' Movement (MRC). The leftwing forces won 38.98% in all (35.54% without the far left parties), i.e. the second lowest score it has ever recorded (in 1993 the left won 32.46%). The rightwing won 45.42% one of its best scores ever. If the far right is included then their score rises above the 50% mark to lie at 50.22%.

The UMP allied to the New Centre, was created in 2002 and has increased the score it achieved with the Union for French Democracy (UDF) in 2002 by 7.42 points. The Socialist Party has also improved its score by 3.5 points in comparison with the previous elections. However these increases can mostly be explained by the low participation rate recorded during the first round and by the clear decline of the "small" parties.

The Communist Party (PCF) continues its dramatic descent. With 4.62% of the vote the party certainly achieved more than its candidate, Marie-George Buffet, did in the first round of the presidential election on 22nd April last (1.93%) but it won the lowest score in its history. The Greens have also declined in comparison with the first round of the general elections on 9th June 2002: they won 3.52% of the vote i.e. 1.25 points less but also did better than their candidate, Dominique Voynet on 22nd April last (+1.68 points). Finally the Natfar right has collapsed achieving 4.70% of the vote (versus 12.67% in 2002), its worst result since 1986.

The participation rate was the lowest ever recorded under the Vth Republic: 60.44%, i.e. 3.98 points less than during the first round of the general elections in 2002 which held the previous record. The inversion of the electoral calendar turned this election into one of consent, a simple repetition of the presidential election and the lack of stakes at play drove many voters from the ballot box since they believed that the election results had already been settled. The self-absorbed contemplation of its defeat by the left also lent support to the electorate's intuition.

The first round of the general elections confirms Nicolas Sarkozy's victory. During the electoral campaign the President of the Republic asked the French to provide him with a vast majority. They heard his message and chose to confirm the vote taken on 6th May by giving their approval to the UMP candidates. 107 of them were elected in the first round, including 7 ministers in the government led by François Fillon versus 1 for the Socialist Party. The two MPs from the Movement for France (MPF) led by Philippe Villiers, a candidate running in the presidential election on 22nd April (2.23% of the vote) – Joël Sarlot and Véronique Besse – were re-elected in the fourth and fifth constituencies of Vendée.

The French therefore chose to give their new Head of State their vote of confidence – who incidentally had a high profile in the field and in the political arena showing that he wanted to apply his proposals for which he was elected as quickly as possible. By renewing the French right Nicolas Sarkozy has enabled it to win the elections and also to triumph over the far right, which has truly been a thorn in the side of the rightwing for the past twenty years. The electoral hold-up undertaken by the President of the Republic during the presidential election continued in the first round of the general elections with the supporters of Jean-Marie Le Pen mostly choosing to vote for the UMP candidates and even taking refuge in abstention since the failure of their party was guaranteed. Whilst the National Front managed to pull through to the second round of the general elections in 2002 in 37 constituencies only Marine Le Pen will be standing on 17th June next when facing Socialist Albert Facon in the 14th constituency of Pas-de-Calais. It is still too early however to confirm the death of the far right movement.

The Socialist Party struggled to mobilise its electorate. Around 8 million voters opted for leftwing parties on 10th June, i.e. less than half of the voters who chose Ségolène Royal on 6th May last in the second round of the presidential election. But it was difficult for the opposition to mobilise the French who appreciated the way Nicolas Sarkozy opened up his government (the President of the Republic called on several personalities on the left to join his government), which muted the calls to establish a counter balance of power in a democracy. The Socialist Party also suffered from the weakness of its traditional allies notably the Communist Party which will probably not be able to save its parliamentary group in the National Assembly, the lower Chamber in Parliament on 17th June. It is necessary to have a minimum of 20 MPs to form a parliamentary group.

The leftwing forces must imperatively succeed in mobilising the abstainers that certainly hold the key to the second round of the election where it is less a question of winning votes but rather of gaining seats.

As far as the centre is concerned the Democrat Movement (MoDem) led by François Bayrou did not succeed in finding the same impetus that took its leader forwards during the first round of the presidential election (18.57% of the vote) but the method of majority voting together with a low participation rate made the wager an impossible one to win. With a participation rate of 60.44% the party needed to win around 20.5% of the votes cast in order to achieve the 12.5% of registered voters vital to take part in the second round – which few of the Democrat Movement candidates managed to obtain. Paradoxically although the presidential election was marked by the centre bursting into the political arena, the first round of the general elections destroyed this new trend which proved unable to influence the vote. The Democrat Movement leader can still hope however to win back his seat as MP in the second constituency of Pyrénées-Atlantiques on 17th June next.

The New Centre candidates, a party created on 29th May last by some UDF MPs who left François Bayrou to join the presidential majority, which is now chaired by Defence Minister Hervé Morin achieved better results since the UMP did not put forward candidates in the constituencies where they were running.

The first round of the general elections herald the emergence of a bipartite trend in France; a bipolar movement that has been forced to arise due to the method of voting, the introduction of the five year term in office and the inversion of the electoral calendar.

According to a poll by Sofres on the evening of the first round the right were forecast to hold 405 - 445 seats in the National Assembly (between 385 and 425 for the UMP and between 20 and 22 for the New Centre) versus 120 to 160 seats for the left (between 100-140 for the PS, 6-12 for the PCF and three for the Greens). Finally the Democrat Movement was forecast to take between one and four seats.

Although the success achieved by the presidential majority seems to be guaranteed on 17th June the opposition forces might however manage to stave off a landslide victory somewhat if they can mobilise their electorate.

Results of the First Round of the General Elections on 10th June 2007 in France

Participation rate : 60.44 %

Source :National Assembly

The Presidential Majority Easily Forges Ahead in the First Round of the French...

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