Provence & Côte d’Azur: The left looses big in municipal elections, while the National Front rises to power in some cities
With the rise of the far right in France and Europe in recent years, there’s been a lot of tension building up to this year’s municipal elections. While three far right Front National (FN) mayors have taken seat in the Var, the numbers tell a much more complex story about local politics. Let’s have a look.
The first round on 23rd March saw mayors of major cities re-elected nearly unopposed, such as Louis Nègre in Cagnes, Jean Leonetti in Antibes, Michèle Tabarot, in the Alpes Maritimes, Hubert Falco in Toulon and Georges Ginesta in the Var, all from the conservative right wing UMP party.
The left wing also kept hold of two of their strongholds in the Alpes Maritimes, specifically Valbonne, where Socialist Mayor Marc Daunis won by over 10 points and Contes, where far left Mayor Francis Tujague from the Front de Gauche party was nearly 50 points ahead of his closest competitor. Both left wing mayors have been in place since 1996.
In the second round, on 30th March, few were surprised to see Nice’s Mayor Christian Estrosi (UMP) re-elected with more than double the votes of his closest competitor (FN candidate Marie-Christine Arnautu). Sitting mayors in Grasse and Menton also came through with comfortable margins.
In Cannes, while Mayor Bernard Brochand, a 75-year-old UMP politician, decided not to run for re-election, his successor David Lisnard, also UMP, swept the second round with 59% of the votes.
In the Alpes Maritimes, long standing mayors in Saint Laurent du Var, Vallauris and Sospel, all right wing, were ousted by fellow rightwing challengers.
In the Var, Bandol Mayor Christian Palix (various right) went head-to-head with Jean-Paul Joseph (right wing coalition) and lost by over 10 points despite leading by 10 points in the first round.
In a tight race, left wing mayor of Le Pradet, Bernard Pezery, lost to right wing Hervé Stassinos, 48% to 44%, after being neck and neck in the first round.
The FN takes hold of three cities
The biggest news in the week end, however, was the far right National Front (Front National, FN) party securing the mayoral office in three cities in the Var, as well as seats in the municipal council in 31 other communes.
In Fréjus, despite having been found guilty of corruption and being refused the UMP nomination, Mayor Elie Brun insisted on running for re-election (see our story: Beach scandal lands Fréjus mayor in hot water). He and his right wing opponent Philippe Mougin split the mainstream right wing vote, allowing FN candidate David Rachline to take office with 46% of the votes.
In Cogolin, right wing Mayor Jacques Senequier was also ousted by an FN challenger, March-Etienne Lansade, while left wing mayor of Le Luc, André Raufast, garnered only 40 votes in the second round, or 0.87%, while FN candidate Philippe De La Grange won with 42% of the votes, closely followed by right wing Dominique Lain at 41%.
In Le Muy, despite unambiguously labeling his team as ‘Extreme Right’, Franck Ambrosino garnered 32% of the votes, but didn’t come close to ousting Mayor Liliane Boyer who was re-elected with a comfortable margin.
One recurring theme in many mayoral races this year was the division in the main right wing and left wing parties (see our story: Shake up among main party ranks), with sometimes up to three candidates under the same party label in a single city. This allowed a united FN to sweep a lot of seats, like in Fréjus.
Fall of the left
Overall, despite the record numbers of the National Front, the mainstream right wing dominated the elections. The biggest looser was the Socialist Party (PS) and the left in general, who lost most of their seats, with their overall votes dwarfed by the FN.
Perhaps the most significant loss was in Nice where previously unknown FN candidate Marie-Christine Arnautu came in second, 3% ahead of long running socialist candidate Patrick Allemand.
Nationally, the PS performed so poorly that Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault tendered his resignation on the evening of Monday 31st March, following the second round of the elections.