Banding together to fight off the National Front was not always successful
Like the rest of the Var, the Gulf of Saint Tropez moved a bit more to the right in the latest municipal elections. While most mayors were re-elected, Cogolin is one of three towns in the Var to have handed over the mayor’s office to the far right National Front for the next six years.
The elections at the end of March were an opportunity for the major political parties to test the waters and get a better feel for which way the wind is blowing. And clearly, it’s blowing towards the right.
While the mainstream conservative right wing UMP party dominated the elections in the Côte d’Azur, the National Front (NF) managed to get record numbers with nearly a fifth of the overall votes in the Alpes Maritimes and the Var, while the Socialist party reached new lows in the traditionally right wing region.
The Gulf of Saint Tropez is quite representative of the region, with mostly mainstream right wing candidates. The area is also home to one of the Var’s three National Front-led cities, while only one left wing candidate ran in the Gulf, dropping out after the first round.
Right wing Mayor Jean-Pierre Tuveri was re-elected to lead the seaside resort with comfortable margins at 47.19% in the second round, coming out far ahead of his opponents: UMP candidate Jean-Michel Couve (29.16%) and Alain Spada (23.65%), also from the right. Both challengers were former Saint Tropez mayors, with Couve having served from 1983 to 1989, when he was beaten by Spada. In 1993, Couve was able to claim back his title and remained in the mayor’s office until Tuveri took over in the 2008 elections.
The first round was quite crowded, with two candidates – Veranne Guérin and Michel Mede, both right wing – earning 12.7% and 13.25% of the votes, respectively.
Following this exclusively right wing mayoral race, both Spada and Couve renounced their seats in the municipal council, while Guérin and Mede returned as opposition leaders – as was the case during Tuveri’s previous term.
While the Gulf area as a whole recorded abstention numbers below the national average of 39%, the eponymous city took the cake with only a 24.7% abstention.
The second largest of the Var’s National Front-led cities was also the one with the most diverse political landscape. Unlike Saint Tropez, Cogolin’s four competitors came from across the spectrum.
In the first round, NF challenger Marc-Etienne Lansade garnered a massive 39% of the votes, far ahead of exiting right wing mayor Jacques Senequier (26.7%). Meanwhile, left wing Francis Jose-Maria (19.2%) managed to stay ahead of UMP candidate Alain Ciarimboli (15%).
While all four candidates won enough votes to advance to the second round, Jose-Maria and Ciarimboli both decided to drop out, supporting Senequier in the hope of beating the NF – a move that is called the ‘Republican Front’ and involves all non-NF parties banding together against their common ‘enemy’. It is interesting to note that this didn’t happen in Fréjus however, where two mainstream right wing candidates continued to run, dividing the voters and allowing the NF’s David Rachline to win.
But even in Cogolin, where there was a Republican Front backing Senequier, Lansade still managed to get elected as mayor in the second round with 53% of the votes.
UMP mayor of Grimaud, Alain Benetto, was re-elected with 53.9% of votes in the second round, beating right wing challenger Christian Moutte.
Another candidate from the right, Michel Bauc, won 15.5% in the first round but dropped out for the second, with most of his votes going to Moutte who got 35.8% in the first and 46.16% in the second round.
The election was also quickly settled in the Gulf’s smallest town. Two-thirds of Gassin’s voting population went to the ballot boxes to choose between Anne-Marie Waniart (right) and Damien Rey-Brot, of the centre right UDI party.
Waniart won with an 11% margin, which exiting mayor Yvon Zerbone took as a compliment as she was his right-hand woman (he supported her candidacy). Waniart told Var Matin, “We’re proud of our track record together and we’re proposing […] many projects to improve quality of life in the commune.”
However, Yvon Zerbone was given a 9.58 out of 20 grade by website L’Internaute, which ranked all of France’s mayors in the 2008-2014 term based on 48 criteria such as the commune’s debt or its public services. Gassin’s exiting mayor came in last in the Gulf.
Sainte Maxime Mayor Vincent Morisse (right) crushed his two challengers Bernard Rolland and Thierry Gobino, getting re-elected in the first round with 56.36% of the votes and eliminating the need for a second round.
As a result, former mayor Bernard Rolland, who served from 2006 to 2008, renounced his seat in the municipal council to focus on his family, Var Matin reported.
Overall, the fact that no candidates from other parties participated in the election meant that all communes saw typical right wing in-fighting. But when faced with the possibility of a National Front mayor, all parties in Cogolin did indeed band together, albeit unsuccessfully.