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French voters head to the polls today for the first round of their municipal elections. Every city and town in France votes for its mayor on the same day. The vote is being watched for signs of a backlash against the ruling Parti Socialiste and to see if the far-right Front National lives up to the impossible expectations conjured up by the mass media.

A public opinion poll released this month by TNS-Sofres gives a pretty good idea of the voters’ mood. President François Hollande has a 17% approval rating. His Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault is at 16%.

If years passed were any indication, the PS could expect a shellacking today like the Democrats took in 2010. However, this year doesn't have a precedent.

Hollande’s rival, Jean-François Copé, who leads the UMP also has a 17% approval rating.  The PS and the UMP, the two largest political parties representing the center-left and center-right are also equally detested by the public, according to the latest from TNS-Sofres.

In years passed, the far left and far right could have expected to benefit from the unpopular center politicians.  Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the Parti de Gauche has a 21% approval rating and Marine Le Pen of the Front National has a 27% approval. That’s not enough of a coat tail to give the FN an edge.  It has the highest unfavorable rating (65%) of all the parties.  Striving to get itself listed in as many municipal elections as possible, it had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find candidates to fill the slate.

In the municipal elections, the French show their quirkiness.  Municipalities across the map are governed by 23 different political parties. Although the parties are allowed to pool their efforts and run like-thinking candidates on combined slates, it just doesn't work out that way. By splintering the vote on the left and the right, run-off second round elections become inevitable. Those are scheduled for next Sunday, March 30. The votes gathered by the smaller splinter parties are used as leverage in the run-off. They only deliver their votes to the candidate in the run-off who agrees to advance their agenda when they take office.

The biggest race is, of course, in Paris. This year a woman will be elected mayor for the first time. The PS candidate, Anne Hidalgo, will have no trouble beating the UMP candidate, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, known as NKM. No one can even be bothered pronouncing her name, or typing it, either.  NKM was hand-picked by Nicolas Sarkozy who was planning a come-back until he crashed and burned in a half-dozen scandals that erupted all at once. NKM never got passed the one issue that was debated endlessly: whether or not she could be considered “une bobo,” (bourgeois-bohème).  It would have improved her image, if she was. The high point of her campaign was this picture of a smoggy Paris, taken a week ago, because, you know, air pollution is caused by Socialists.

Smoggy Paris
I’ll go out on a limb and say that the next three biggest cities, Marseille, Lyon, and Toulouse will be taken by the PS, too. The FN certainly won’t take any of the 20 largest cities. Not even close. Of course the mass media will create a huge fuss if it takes some tiny hamlet in Var, a département in the southeast on the Mediterranean coast, or perhaps a small town in the de-industrialized north. It certainly won’t win anything of national importance but that doesn’t get people talking like the idea of fascists taking over France.  As if that would ever happen. It’s more likely in the US.
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Comment Preferences

  •  French politics (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mark Lippman, koNko

    sound much more colorful than US politics. Then again, that is a side benefit of a true multi-party system.

    Best wishes to Anne Hidalgo.

    And God said, "Let there be light"; and with a Big Bang, there was light. And God said "Ow! Ow My eyes!" and in a flash God separated light from darkness. "Whew! Now that's better. Now where was I. Oh yea . . ."

    by Pale Jenova on Sun Mar 23, 2014 at 09:30:26 AM PDT

  •  I don't know much about the French political (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko, Mark Lippman

    system, except what I read in Wikipedia--though this quote cracked me up:

    France has a semi-presidential system of government. This means that the presidential candidate is required to obtain a nationwide majority of non-blank votes at either the first or second round of balloting, which implies that the President is somewhat supported by at least half of the voting population.
    In that respect, the American president is very "French."

    Reminds me of the Weird Al song ("Good Enough For Now"):

    "You're sort of everything I've ever wanted
     You're not perfect, but I love you anyhow
     You're the woman that I've always dreamed of
     Well, not really...but you're good enough for now"

    And God said, "Let there be light"; and with a Big Bang, there was light. And God said "Ow! Ow My eyes!" and in a flash God separated light from darkness. "Whew! Now that's better. Now where was I. Oh yea . . ."

    by Pale Jenova on Sun Mar 23, 2014 at 09:57:41 AM PDT

    •  That does sound funny to American ears but I'm (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BelgianBastard, Pale Jenova

      positive the choice of words refers to something inherent in the multi-party system with two rounds of voting. From grade school everyone is trained in the basic theory of voting.

      In the first round, out of an unlimited number of parties, voters select the best match for their own interests. It doesn't matter if the candidate has no chance of winning. You vote your conscience.

      Usually, the vote is so splintered that no one has a majority. In the second round, the top two candidates compete. Even if your choice was eliminated in the first round, you vote in the second round anyway, by choosing the closest match. You never never never throw your vote away because your first choice is out.

      In the second round, your first choice candidate ideally bargains with one of the top two. If one or the other will adopt his party's agenda, he agrees to an endorsement and delivers his party's votes.

      There is no existence without doubt.

      by Mark Lippman on Sun Mar 23, 2014 at 11:06:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  So, not quite instant runoff voting (0+ / 0-)

        but superior the first past the post system where minor parties become spoilers (and risk getting banned on Kos to boot.)

        And God said, "Let there be light"; and with a Big Bang, there was light. And God said "Ow! Ow My eyes!" and in a flash God separated light from darkness. "Whew! Now that's better. Now where was I. Oh yea . . ."

        by Pale Jenova on Sun Mar 23, 2014 at 08:00:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You don't need to go there because third (0+ / 0-)

          parties in the US are a wasted vote. You don't vote for third parties in the final round. You vote for a candidate who can win. Third parties don't have leverage in the US. What did the people who voted for Jill Stein get in return? Or any of the others for that matter?  Do the two major parties modify their positions to accommodate the third party voters? No,  not at all. It's a wasted vote. All the action is in the two parties. It's a simple easy system. You choose one and go with it.

          There is no existence without doubt.

          by Mark Lippman on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 10:27:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Seems she has an interesting background (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pale Jenova, Mark Lippman, Mr Robert

    Solid Socialist DNA, immigrant from Spain, and from what I learned in the las 5 minutes, a pretty solid record in local politics.

    Wishing her the best.

    To be honest, sometimes I think mayors or governors are in a better position to promote change than national leaders.

    No one is coming to save us, the future is in our hands.

    by koNko on Sun Mar 23, 2014 at 10:08:54 AM PDT

    •  It's a platform that has been used as a (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pale Jenova, koNko

      springboard to national politics. Hidalgo is the exception who gathered support from the whole left including the French Communists, the Greens, and the Socialists.

      The Paris Mayor actually has some power and a budget. The city and surrounding area are being redeveloped to become an integral unit.

      There is no existence without doubt.

      by Mark Lippman on Sun Mar 23, 2014 at 10:47:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What's going on in France... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pale Jenova

    ...that makes everyone's approval ratings so low?

    •  Public participation is more (0+ / 0-)

      intense than the US. The press and media are outspoken and rough on politicians.

      France had 5 years of American-style laissez-faire capitalism under Sarkozy and soundly rejected it in the 2012 election.

      However, the Socialists have continued the same economic policy which is enforced by the European Commission. Austerity for all. Unemployment increased since the PS took over. Hollande gets a lot of the same criticism as Obama does here, but our recovery looks outstanding to them.

      The UMP had to elect a new leader when Sarkozy lost in 2012. A few hundred votes separated the two rivals who accused each other of fraud. Copé prevailed but he led the party too far right

      The FN was considered neo-nazi and outside the mainstream when Marine Le Pen's father headed the party. She cleaned up its image but people know it's just cosmetic.

      Nobody has any solutions or ideas. Only posturing.

      There is no existence without doubt.

      by Mark Lippman on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 10:20:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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