By Martin Smith and Tash Shifrin | 22 March 2015
Welcome to our election liveblog. The fascist Front National party is seeking to make gains and take control of département councils in Frnce’s local elections – the first round of voting is today. Results are now starting to come in.
Sunday 29 March update: After all the first round votes were counted, the FN had secured eight councillors, in four “pairs”, for the constituencies of Vic-sur-Aisne, Eurville-Bienville, Le Pontet and Fréjus.
11.30pm ROUND UP The fascist Front National has failed to top the polls in the first round of the département elections in France. But it looks to have marginally increased its vote from the European elections, with around 25-26% this time.
The fascists have six councillors elected outright, with more than 50% of the vote in local cantons. The centre right coalition has 98 pairs (196 councillors), while the centre left has 50 councillors, with six for “others”. The FN had just two seats at this level of government after the second round of canton elections in 2011. Although the electoral system has changed since then, the party is already well ahead, with the second round of voting still to come.
The FN is set to gain several more seats across the country in next week’s second round run-offs. In Vaucluse, a département where it would like to take control, for example, its candidates are through to the second round in all 17 cantons – and in first place in 11.
Share of the vote
The FN has not topped the poll as it did in last year’s Euro elections. Instead, the centre right alliance led by the conservative UMP has come first in national share of the vote, with around 36%.
Parti Socialiste prime minister Manuel Valls was accused of trying to hide his party’s low vote – a punishment from the voters after years of austerity – by declaring a combined vote of a “left bloc” against a mainstream “right bloc”. This method puts the left on around 35%.
But Valls ignored the fact that candidates from parties such as the leftwing Front de Gauche stood against the PS and its centre-left allies. The real vote of the PS and its allies is much lower.
An analysis from Le Figaro shows how different methodologies have produced different “results” for the parties and blocs – the diagrams show the problem even if you don’t speak French.
It is not clear at the time of writing whether the FN has come second in national share of the vote, beating the PS and its electoral allies, or not. But the fascist party has performed strongly, even if it has not increased its vote on the scale it aimed for. The bad news for antifascists in France and across Europe is that the FN will go into the second round with confidence.
We will have a further update tomorrow.
11.10 Vaucluse A horrendous election in the town of Orange, a fascist stronghold since the 1980s. There the FN has come first with 31.61%… beating rivals from the fascist Ligue de Sud splinter party led by former FN big shot Jacques Bompard, on 26.98%. It seems pretty clear a fascist will win the second round.
Bouches de Rhône The FN has come first in Vitrolles, with 36.5%, ahead of the centre right on 30.85% and 23.04% for the centre left.
10.55pm Aubervilliers in the Seine-Saint-Denis département offers a bit of respite for the left. There, the Communist Party has come first, ahead of a Green-PS alliance.
10.25pm Bouche de Rhône there will be a two-way fight in the second round in Arles between the Communist Party (36.13%) and the FN (35.5%).
In the FN target département of Haute-Marne, the fascists are in first place in Bologne with 34.95%, ahead of the UMP on 34.84% and the PS on 30.21%.
10.15pm ELECTED SO FAR The centre right coalition has 98 pairs of councillors elected in the first round, while the centre left has 50 pairs, with six for the fascist FN and six “others”.
With around 85% of votes counted so far, the FN’s score nationally is 25.8% of the vote, according to the interior ministry. This is around the same as the party took in the European polls and substantially short of the 30% it was aiming for. The FN has failed to take first place. But the party is consolidating its gains – there is no room for complacency.
Second round contests that are clear so far: in 748 cantons of 40 départements – there will be 258 run-offs between the centre left and centre right, 231 contests involving a two-way fight with the FN and 128 three-way contests, according to Le Monde.
9.50pm Hérault. In the Séte canton there is going to be a second round run-off between the fascist FN and the leftwing Front de Gauche. The results of the first round are: FN 31.57%, Front de Gauche 25.37%. The centre right failed to qualify for the second round. It’s an area that the FN aims to do well in. Good luck to the FdG next Sunday.
9.45pm Vaucluse This was one of the FN’s key targets where it wants to control the département council. And the news from there is bad for antifascists: the FN is through to the second round in all 17 cantons and is in first place in 11 of these.
9.30pm terminology: Last week, Marine Le Pen failed in her bid to sue a comedian who called her a “fascist” in a 2012 magazine column. The court decided that Nicolas Bedos was quite within his rights to refer to Le Pen not just as a “fascist” but a “fascist bastard”.
9.20pm the FN: still anti-Semitic. Marine Le Pen claims that the Front National is no longer anti-Semitic. But singer Xavier Sainty, a candidate for Front National and standing in the central Allier département, stated on social media: “My musical career is being blocked by Jews.”
Grim news from Amiens, in the Somme département. The FN has beaten the leftwing Front de Gauche in a straight two-way contest in the town’s No1 canton.
9.10pm – candidates. The FN is casting its net wide across France – it’s trying to form an unprecedented “Front Local” of activists and voters across the country, fielding 7,648 candidates – more than any other party. It will seek to tap into this network again for the 2017 presidential elections.
ELECTED SO FAR Pairs of candidates (one man, one woman) are standing in this election and need to gain more than 50% to be elected in the first round. All other seats will be decided in the second round next Sunday.
So far, the centre right has 170 pairs elected outright, with 44 for the centre left. The FN fascists have six so far, but it won just two councillors in the 2011 canton elections. Although the electoral system and boundaries have changed since then, this already shows the gains the FN is making.
9pm Former UMP president Nicolas Sarkozy, who like Le Pen is eyeing the 2017 presidential race for a comeback, told supporters to abstain in the second round if a UMP candidate wasn’t running.
Réunion – this Indian Ocean island was seized by French colonialists and is now considered an overseas département of France. In the canton that is unpleasantly named Possession, voters have shown what they think of Austerity France by putting the Communist Party in first place with 27.59%, ahead of the centre-left on 24.19%. The UMP trailed in on 9.8%, with another centre left group polling 4.65%. No result for the FN here, oddly enough.
8.40pm Lozère Congratulations to the leftwing Front de Gauche in the town of Chirac in Lozère, where it has beaten the fascists into last place. Centre-left candidates came first, with 35.18%, ahead of the centre-right on 32.48%. The FdG took 16.61%, beating the FN on 15.74%. Good.
Turnout for Sunday’s elections is thought to be higher than four years ago – official figures put it at 43% three hours before the polls closed at 8 pm local time (7pm GMT). This was more than six percentage points higher than at the same point in the 2011 elections.
8.35pm On a bad night for his party, the PS prime minister Manuel Valls consoles himself – but possibly not the rest of us – by noting that the FN had scored less that some had predicted and the results showed it was not the strongest force in French politics.
Hollande and Valls’ austerity poilitics have ensured their party is not the strongest force in French politics either…
Fascist leader Le Pen hit back by calling on Valls to resign. She is celebrating a “massive vote” for her party, after achieving a higher vote than in the European Parliament elections.
8.30pm some maps for you The first shows the strongest areas for the FN in the European Parliament elections last year.
And here’s a map showing the fascists’ strongholds going back to the 1980s. The Ligue du Sud is a splinter from the FN and shares its foul politics.
8.25pm Lot – in this département in the south west of France, three cantons have elected FN representatives in the first round, according to Le Monde. The cantons are Causse et Bouriane, Puy-l’Evêque are Causses et Valées. This sort of result is very worrying – it shows the FN expanding outside its heartlands. Each of those first round elections means the fascists took more than 50% of the canton vote. CORRECTION: Le Monde says there was “a bug in our flow of results” and in fact no one has been elected for the FN in Lot. That’s a relief – especiallty if you live in Lot.
8.20pm Aisne – in the twon of Vic-sur-Aisne, in one of the FN’s target départments, the fascists have been elected in the first round. Unconfirmed figure is 55% of the vote there.
8.15pm national picture Paris Match has published a new estimate by Ifop pollsters. This puts the centre right coalition led by the UMP on 29.7%, followed by the FN on 26.4%. The PS has 20.9%.
This puts the FN firmly in second place – a blow to its ambitions and below its opinion polling level before the election. That’s what passes for good news in these grim elections. But the fascists’ figure is still higher than its vote in the European elections.
8.10pm Indre-et-Loire the FN has narrowly beaten the PS to first place in the Langeais canton. This département is outside the FN’s usual areas of strength. A bad sign.
7.50pm Pas de Calais – this is Marine Le Pen’s home ground. In Carvin, the FN is well in front on 41.7%, ahead of the PS on 33.71%.
Vaucluse – the FN narrowly fails to get elected in the first round in Carpentras, but is in the lead with 47%, ahead of the PS and allies on 33.76% and the UMP with 16%. The town has the oldest Jewish cemetery still in use in Europe – one that was attacked and desecrated by fascists in 1990, in an incident that shocked France.
7.45pm Moselle The FN are ahead in Phalsbourg canton, with 33.76 ahead of the centre-right alliance on 24.66%.
In the Haut-Rhin département, there is a battle raging in Mulhouse. The town’s second canton has the FN in the lead over the centre-rright, while the centre right has knocked it into second place in the third canton.
7.40pm – second-round pacts… or not. Speaking for the conservative UMP, Nicolas Sarkozy has ruled out support for the PS against the FN in the second round. Sarko will support neither the FN nor the PS he says. In contrast, the PS prime minister Manuel Valls urged a vote for the UMP to stop the FN if necessary in the second round.
7.35pm Béziers – in the Hérault département, where the FN is making a serious push, the FN is in a solid first place on 44%, ahead of the PS on 25 %. This is another town where the FN has the mayor. It is consolidating its base.
A quick note on Fréjus, where the FN has taken the canton seats: in 2009 the FN controlled councils in Fréjus (and in Toulon) attempted to ban performances by hip hop artists. That’s fascism in action…
7.25pm – some early estimates. The pollsters have released early estimates of today’s vote, presumably based on exit polling, that show the FN’s total vote down on the figure from Thursday’s opinion polls – but still at a horrendously high level for a fascist party.
Ipsos puts the FN on 23% while Ifop has it on 26.3% – both down on Thursday’s Ifop poll where the party had a projected 30%. If this is borne out by actual results, FN will be behind the centre-right nationally. There is an outside chance the PS might also beat the FN, but that is slim…
7.20pm Var The FN have at least one gain in Var now, elected in Fréjus with 52% of the vote in the first round. The party won the town hall mayor’s seat there last year.
7.15pm Nord – this is one of the FN’s key targets, and provisional results (minus the city of Lille) have the fascists narrowly in the lead with 34.49% against 34.05% for the centre-right UMP-UDI and a miserable 17.08% for the PS.
6.30pm An opinion poll by Ifop published on Thursday put the FN fascists narrowly first with 30% of the vote, just ahead of the alliance between the centrist UDI and conservative UMP on 29%. Holland’s PS was trailing on 20%. The leftwing Front de Gauche coalition stood at 6%.
Marine Le Pen will want the FN to come in first overall in today’s elections, to give the fascists a boost ahead of the second round next Sunday.
Pairs of candidates – see below – who get more than 50% of the vote in their canton, and more than 25% of registered voters, will win straight out. Where there is no winner, those whose votes amount to at least 12.5% of the registered voters can go through to the second round.
5.15pm: target seats The FN will be looking to take the département councils in Var and Vaucluse in the Mediterranean south of France, and Pas de Calais and Aisne in the far north. Of these areas, Var is currently held by the centre-right and the other three councils by the centre-left.
These regions were the FN’s strongholds in the European elections – areas of high unemployment, in two strips in the industrial north and Mediterranean south of France – as they were in the local elections. The fascists’ 14 town hall mayors give them an additional permanent base in their target départements.
The FN is also set to make a strong push in the Oise, Somme and Nord départments in the north, along with Gards and Hérault in the south, where they will take on the Parti Socialiste. They also threaten to do well in the northeastern départements of Marne, Haute Marne, Meuse and Moselle, where they are challenging the centre right.
5pm – polls closing in France now: The bad news is that today’s election is set to see Marine Le Pen and the fascist Front National make substantial gains.
These are the first elections for the councils at département level since a major boundaries shake-up and a new polling system that means voters will be asked to vote on “pairs” of one man and one woman candidate in each of around 2,000 cantons – the subdivisions of France’s 101 départments. The département councils have responsibility for social welfare benefits, school buildings and roads.
After the last cantonal elections in 2011, the FN had just two councillors and no councils, with a third fascist elected on a different ticket. The FN took 15.06% of the vote in the first round of polling last time, picking up its seats after gaining 11.57% of the vote in the second round.
The parliamentary left – primarily the centre left Parti Socialiste came out on top in the elections as a whole, with a substantial majority over the mainstream right centred on the conservative UMP.
But this time the landscape has changed. Le Pen is polling at around 30% in the polls, having taken 25% in last year’s European elections – you can follow the FN’s electoral rise over the past few years in our posts here.
Just as it did last year, the party is picking up votes from people bitterly disillusioned with the Parti Socialiste and president Francois Hollande, who has refused to defend working class living standards and instead has carried out austerity measures.
The FN feeds on that bitterness and steers it in a racist direction by blaming immigrants, Muslims and other ethnic minority groups for all the problems of French society. The fascists are able to attract poorer, younger voters in this way.
The FN will also try to capitalise on the Charlie Hebdo / Paris attacks to promote their brand of Islamophobia.