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Hollande pays price for austerity in French municipal elections

Hollande tricolouredIt was a disastrous weekend for François Hollande and the French Socialist party (PS) as the mainstream right party, the Gaullist/neoliberal Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), claimed victory and Marine Le Pen’s far-right Front Nationale (FN) also made significant gains. Leaders of the PS left faction, Maintenant la gauche, Senator Marie- Noëlle Lienemann and MP Jerome Guedj, are reported in Le Monde as attacking Hollande for going back on many of the progressive pledges he made  during his election campaign:

The Government cannot remain deaf to the message of the voters. Nothing would be worse than to underestimate the extent of the defeat. Nothing could be more dangerous than to err in analyzing the causes. The problem is not ‘methodological’, it is political. The central issue is a rejection of austerity. This is not about sending Left signals to our electorate, we must change course.”

Lienemann and Guedj went on to urge Hollande to change course, to loosen his commitment to economically lethal EU budgetary constraints, scrap his now overtly pro-business agenda and forge a new government majority involving all the forces of the left.

The result was also described as “a disaster” by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, co-chair and former presidential candidate of the Parti de Gauche whose advice to the PS was as follows:

There is an urgent need to learn the lessons. They must turn the page on austerity and switch to stimulus activity, turn the page on their preferred alliance with the MEDEF (the main employers’ organisation) and share the wealth.”

The only bright spot for the Socialist Party was that Anne Hidalgo held on to Paris to become the capital’s first female mayor. However, major cities won from PS by UMP appear to include Toulouse, Quimper, Limoges, Pau, Saint-Etienne, Reims, and Roubaix. Le Pen’s FN won several small towns plus the 7th arrondissement of Marseilles (which has a population of 150,000) though it failed to win Avignon as it had hoped. Although the French media has given much attention in recent days to the advance of Le Pen, it derived much benefit from the low poll and its support of 7% in this election, according to pollsters, does not justify Le Pen’s claim on TF 1, a private television channel that:

This is the end of the two party nature of politics in France.”

Right-wing newspaper, Le Figaro, described this claim as “ridiculous” since the FN did no better than it did in 1995 – a view also endorsed by Jean-Luc Mélenchon who described it as “a propaganda construct” and attacked media bias towards the FN which he described as “the media party”. In the second round, the FN also went on to lose three mayoralties on this occasion, including those held by two of its vice-presidents, Florian Philippot in Forbach (Moselle) and Louis Aliot in Perpignan.

The Parti de Gauche (PG) of Jean-Luc Mélenchon did not do well in this election, though Le Figaro argued that it did as well as Le Pen’s FN, having exceeded 10% (the threshold for proceeding to the 2nd round) in 308 cities against 316 for the FN. This was because of the unraveling, at least for this election, of its alliance with the French Communist Party (PCF).

The PCF, rather than agreeing at a national level to continue the Front de Gauche alliance with PG, chose instead, in many places, to ally with the Socialist Party, arguing that this was preferable in order to prevent a right-wing victory, or that it was necessary to protect those Communists who were trying to retain their elected positions. The PCF was, prior to this, the third party in France in terms of elected officials, which is important not only politically but also financially. Until these elections, it held 761 mayoralties, including 78 of more than 10,000 inhabitants.

So in Paris for example, the PCF voted 57% to 43% to ally with the PS, and form a coalition which has, in the event, given the PS its only bright spot in this election. In the event, PG won 5% of the vote across the 20 wards of central Paris, with a high point of 10.4% in the working-class 20th. PS won 33.6%, the mainstream right-wing list won 34.8% and the Greens 8.4%.

In a few places the PCF opted to maintain its alliance with PG, but in a number of places where they did not, the PG formed an alliance with Europe Écologie – Les Verts (EELV), the Greens, which Mélenchon claims enabled them to do better than previously in many cities. In some cases, PG ran with other smaller laft groups such as Ensemble or “Together” and the far left New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) and/or local independents.

Only time will tell how much all this will have  soured the relationship between PCF and PG. Oner factor, not yet clear, will be the extent to which PCF failed to hang on to its elected positions in spite of (or perhaps because of) its alliance with PS. This will be clearer when the full results are available.




  1. David Ellis says:

    It is the French working class, French women and French minority communities that will pay the price not Hollande. His job was to wrap capitalist austerity in the language of social democracy to sell it to the masses and prevent resistance. Job done.

  2. swatantra says:

    More likely … ‘pays the price for incompetance’.
    A lesson there for Labour:All the greatest ideas and policies in the world aren’t going to amount to a hill of beans if the team were useless in putting them into legislation.

  3. David Ellis says:

    When you vote for a socialist government you should be voting for a massive redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor. For the physical dispropriation of the property of the billionaires and the corporations. For class struggle to a definitive conclusion. If not it makes no difference what you vote for.

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