23 April 2012

Hollande's in the lead, but...

Not to focus on the negative, but IMO the bad news (and biggest surprise) yesterday was the high score of the right-wing Front National candidate in the first round of the French presidential election. Marine Le Pen, successor to her father as head of the FN, pulled in 18% of the vote. That's a higher score than her father ever won. There's a history of people refusing to tell poll-takers that they intend to vote for the far right. They then do it anyway.

The good news, I guess, is the turnout. Slightly more than 80% of the registered voters in France actually voted. They voted in spite of the fact that election day fell right in the middle of spring school vacations, when many people are away from home. Predictions had been that turnout would be much lower.

For the incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy, the picture looks better than it did a couple of days ago — in a way. If you add up his votes — 27% — and Le Pen's 18%, you get close to the 50% he would need to win a second term in office. His problem, however, is that he can't move too far to the right in an effort to attract the FN vote without risking alienation of the moderate base that is an important part of his party. Besides, Le Pen has never had much good to say about Sarkozy.

In fact, this is the first time that an incumbent president has not won the largest share of the vote in a first-round election. The Socialist Party candidate, François Hollande, got 28% to Sarkozy's 27%, and he is still out-polling the incumbent for the second round of voting, with a 54-to-46 percent advantage. Of course, the voting is still two weeks away...

The centrist candidate, François Bayrou, got just under 10% of the first-round vote this year, after getting twice that in 2007. Who his voters turn to will be an important factor on May 6.

Here's a map showing the French départements and who won the most votes
in each one — red = Hollande, blue = Sarkozy, and black = Le Pen.

Some commentators are saying that the results of the first round constitute a double slap in the face for Sarkozy. Not only did the Socialist candidate get more votes than he did, but the Front National candidate did much better than expected. Sarkozy's effort to get people to vote for him rather than for Le Pen wasn't very effective. In fact, he may have actually helped Le Pen do better.

For the Socialists, just getting through the first round is an important step. They did well in the last election, in 2007, but not quite well enough to win the presidency. Their candidate, Ségolène Royal, got into the second round and actually won 48% of the final vote to Sarkozy's 52%.

In the 2002 election, however, the Socialist Party candidate, Lionel Jospin, was edged out by the FN's Jean-Marie Le Pen, setting up an all-right-wing run-off with incumbent Jacques Chirac. Chirac won a second term as president with more than 80% of the vote. The only Socialist president of France since the 1960s has been François Mitterrand, who served for 14 years (1981-95).

What does the Front National want for France? I'm no expert, but one thing Marine Le Pen says is that France needs to leave the euro zone and go back to using the French franc. She also wants to clamp down on immigration and beef up law-and-order forces. Her party is would try to isolate France and protect it from globalization. Could France go it alone in today's world? Probably not.

Locally, Saint-Aignan and the village we live in gave Sarkozy the most votes, followed closely by Le Pen and Hollande. But on the other side of the river, many of the villages near us went for Le Pen. Blois and its suburbs gave the Socialist Hollande more than 30% of the vote.

But overall in our département, the famously rural Loir-et-Cher, Sarkozy got 28%, Holland got 25%, and Le Pen got 21%. Hollande did slightly better in neighboring, less-rural Indre-et-Loire, centered on the city of Tours, and Le Pen did worse there. Interestingly, Hollande out-polled Sarkozy in the even more rural Indre département just to our south.


  1. Do you and Ken have a right to vote too? You live year long in Saint-Aignan anyway.

  2. All of Europe's right wingers pander to the masses by saying we go back to our own national currency, close up borders and go it alone.

    In times of a modern "Voelkerwanderung" from the east to "our" west that's to be expected.
    Austria's far right, a close associate of Le Pen, has an almost identical platform. Polls show them at 25 to 28%. In Austria. A happy and content country!

    It's good as sound bites when running for office, but in the end, a breakup will not happen.

    Sarkozy, with a little luck and of course some hard core pandering, may get back in after all.

  3. I could look it up and probably will, but which department did Le Pen receive a majority in? More importantly, what was the major factor?

  4. Thank you for a great analysis.

  5. 80% is amazing! Now you will have a short wait for the rest of the story unlike the US which has months to see what will happen.

  6. I do not think there should be anything to worry concerning Le Pen. If you look at the 2002 situation, she did not do better than the "extreme" "right" at that time (her father and Bruno Mégret totalized 19,2% in the first round back then). In 2002, Chirac did not reach 20%, and Jospin did 16%. Sarkozy and Hollande did much better than that. Medias are only building up on the Le Pen case, because they do believe the polls they publish... BTW, I think people keeping their Le Pen vote secret only explains half the problem of the polls inaccuracy (you could correct that, statistically. Why don't they do it?). How could they be so wrong to bring up Mélenchon or Bayrou as a "third man"? I personally believe the pollsters do that intentionally.

    I belong to the 20% that did not vote, because I think none of the French politicians is up to the job. In the second round, we've now got two guys who think government control and socialism are going to solve France debt problem. Hard times are yet to come for France, but if Hollande gets elected, we won't have to wait that long.

  7. Andrew

    The answer is "le Gard" {I believe (30)} where Marine Le Pen won


    The nappies (NAP -Neuilly, Auteuil and Passy) voted NS in the Paris area.

  8. Yes, le Gard (30) is the département where Le Pen won.

    So Jan, you are a conspiracy theorist. Great.

    H. Peter, you call that luck? What kind, bad?

  9. Peter, we can't vote because we are residents but not citizens.

  10. Bonjour Cousine,

    You are perfectly right about le Gard.

    According to the map for Paris, it seems to me that in addition to the 16th arrondissement [Auteuil and Passy] two or four more [17, 15 and possibly 8, and 7] voted for Sarko.

    What do you mean by NS? The only thing I could come up with is Notre-Seigneur, but I don’t think it’s what you meant. LOL-MDR

  11. Bonjour Cousin

    Vous avez raison ; a part le 16, on a le 15,7,6,1 et 8 qui ont voté en majorité pour NS ( Nicholas Sarkozy).

    Sorry I should have said "voted for NS" - my mistake.

  12. Luck may have been the wrong word choice.
    ESL, a valid, long standing excuse....

  13. Be careful, because nobody got a majority anywhere. We're talking about pluralities — the highest vote count, but less than 50% — everywhere for every candidate.

  14. Well, with a few exceptions...

  15. @Ken

    No, I am no conspiracy lunatic (e.g., when the average French thinks 911 was an internal job, I do not). I just think they've got the statistical tools to correct the possible errors, they should have learned from the past. Either they are idiots, or they do it on purpose. Now, I may be wrong. But always having the same pattern again and again is kind of frustrating, and I wonder how can one be surprized.
    Alone the "bon sens" should tell you, that reasons why Le Pen gets so many votes aren't gone, quite the contrary in fact. Given that, her "dédiabolisation" job and her improved access to medias, why should she have scored less than her party did before?

    Polls were wrong, and it is no surprise (watching that from abroad, I wondered why the communist Mélenchon should surge that much). That is what I meant. Now, if you think the pollsters in France do their job in a completely unbiased way, I think you are being naive (no offense meant). I of course cannot generalize from http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Giacometti , but does that make all the people mentioned conspiracy theorists?

    Thanks for reading.


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