France: in the wake of the “green wave” of last Sunday

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On Sunday, June 28, voters across France went to the polls to decide on the municipal governments of 4,820 municipalities, including all of the country’s largest cities.

Tomorrow is without you Macron! [Paola Breizh via Flickr]

The vote took place a record 100 days after the first round of elections, in which around 35,000 municipalities voted in the biggest municipal elections in the EU. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing a delay in the second round – leaving municipal governments without a first-round winner in a strange void at a critical time – all eyes were on these results and what they would predict for the future of French politics.

If you saw only one title on Sunday’s results, it probably hints at a “green wave” that crossed France. In fact, the main candidates associated with EELV-Les Verts have defeated the right-holders in Strasbourg, the capital of the EU, the third city of Lyon, the second city of Marseille and the important port city of Bordeaux, owned by the right for over 70 years. .

Looking below, we see that these victories have been supported by very different political constellations. Despite some bodies dominated by the Greens, most were much broader coalitions that included substantial support from socialists and communists, while in Marseille, the extent Marseillais Spring also includes France Insoumise and citizen movements, and is chaired by Michèle Rubirola, who was initially suspended by EELV-The Greens for asking to run for such a broad coalition (which her party eventually joined).

Pink and green victories

In addition to these various victories tinged with green, the socialist candidates prevailed in the traditional bastions of Lille, Nantes, Dijon and more particularly Paris, where the mayor in office Anne Hidalgo, supported by the Greens and the Communists, won nearly 50% of the votes. in a three-way race. Indeed, many of these “red”, or perhaps “pink” victories also include shades of green in their palate. For the Socialists, the elections served as a necessary yard for a party that had been bleeding voters since the disastrous presidency of François Hollande.

The second point to remember from this election is its low turnout. France is proud of its strong municipal participation, but on Sunday, nearly 60% of the 16.5 million eligible voters stayed away from the elections, in what the leader of France Insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, described as a “civic strike” in his speech on election night. .

Although the current pandemic has certainly played a role (with 43% of respondents citing fear of COVID-19 as the main reason for their abstention), it is clear that many French voters are either exhausted, disillusioned or furious at the political state in their country. Many people who have made their voices heard in recent times, for example during the Yellow Vests uprisings or other social movements, were clearly not satisfied with the options offered.

Moving to the far right, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) strategy, as has been clear for some time, consisted of strengthening its hold in a few key cities, opting for depth rather than extent . RN succeeded in capturing the southern city of Perpignan, but recorded no surprise victories. If they are able to gradually expand this strategy towards a Perpignanisation France – to quote journalist Cole Stangler – remains unclear, but the initial responses to the election do not seem to indicate any clarification from the party star.

The biggest loser of the night was without a doubt President Emmanuel Macron. President humbled by failed effort to win Paris – with his first candidate resigning in a sext scandal and his second leaving his post as Minister of Health at the start of COVID-19 so as not to be elected even as a councilor municipal – while his République en Marche party failed to win a single city of more than 100,000 inhabitants. His only possible victory to claim was that of the current Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who won his former stronghold of the Republican Party, the port city of Le Havre. But even this modest victory is a source of confusion, since it is constitutionally prohibited for Philippe to become Prime Minister and mayor at the same time.

Macron will rely on his supernatural self-confidence in the coming period to push beyond the outcome, but he must no doubt be concerned, particularly about the possibility that he has lost some of his urban electorate to the Greens, a turn planned by Pauline. Graulle since December last year.

The future of EELV-Les Verts?

The composition and ideology of these green voters – and the political orientation of their newly elected leaders – is the most debated issue in the aftermath of the elections. EELV-The Greens is a relatively hollow party, with few activists and little infrastructure, and its voter base ranges from amateurs of liberal bourgeois organic food to young passionate activists motivated by their conviction that we have 12 years to stop the total climate disaster.

Some commentators have suggested that EELV-The Greens is destined to become the next Republic on the March, straddling popular discontent and attractive marketing towards a form of governance neither to the right nor to the left that will ultimately only strengthen the status quo. Others argue that the broader coalitions behind this “green wave” will provide a social democratic backbone for the project and could provide the plan to form a renewed left front before the presidential and legislative elections of 2022.

In his remarks on Sunday evening, the leader of France Insoumise, Mélenchon, did not seem too enthusiastic about the latter possibility, and he was certainly the maker of kings and the negotiator of national left unity projects in recent times . However, he too must move away from the elections humiliated by the reminder that his own project is far from being hegemonic, even on the left.

As always, clarity will result from the struggle – between the two wings of EELV-The Greens, between the Greens and their coalition partners of different shades of red, and between these cities apparently now on the left and the neoliberal duality on the right which always controls speech at the national level.

What is already clear is that there is now a political space to lead this fight, which has escaped the electoral left in the broad sense since 2017 and which represents an opportunity not to be missed. •

This article was first published on Rosa Luxemburg Foundation website.

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