Thursday

20th Feb 2020

France swings to right in local election, heavy defeat for left

  • Francois Hollande - The next test for France's political landscape will be regional elections in December (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

France swung to the right after the second round of the local elections Sunday (29 March) handing a major victory to the opposition UMP and its allies, while the far-right won no departments but secured the most councillors ever.

According to the preliminary results of the elections, seen as a litmus test for the 2017 presidential elections, the centre-right went from controlling 41 departments before the elections to 65 afterwards.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

The left was on course to lose around half of its 61 departments.

The results represent a political bodyblow to the governing Socialists of President Francois Hollande, while former president Nicolas Sarkozy, who wants to become president again in 2017, is set to present his UMP party as the only one that can contain the far-right.

French Prime Minister Manual Valls said "the French have declared... their anger at a daily life that is too difficult," while adding that he would work harder to boost the economy and focus on "jobs, jobs, jobs".

He called the significant gains in seats for the National Front "a sign of a lasting upheaval of our political landscape and we will all need to draw lessons from it".

Sarkozy said "the French people have massively rejected the policies of Francois Hollande and his government" and added "The time for change is now".

While the National Front did worse than had been predicted by the polls, its leader Marine Le Pen painted the large gains in councillor seats, to 62 seats up from one currently, as a step along the way to greater power.

Councillors - there are 4, 108 of them - have limited powers over issues such as schools and roads.

"This will be the base for the great victories of tomorrow," said Le Pen. “The goal is near, reaching power and applying our ideas to redress France.”

Le Pen's party - which wants a referendum on EU membership - won the EU elections in France last May, representing a major shock for France's mainstream political parties as well as the country's EU partners.

Her party has seen its political fortunes rise as France's economy stagnates and unemployment has been at a record high.

Hollande, for his part, has been under pressure to undertake structural reforms to boost the economy and bring the country's budget deficit to below the three percent of GDP required by EU rules.

His poll ratings, consistently low in recent years, were boosted after the Islamic extremist attacks in Paris in January, but the effect was short-lived.

Sunday's vote represented the fourth electoral defeat for the Socialists since he came to power in 2012.

The next test for France’s political landscape will be regional elections in December.

France wins two-year reprieve on deficit

EU finance ministers Tuesday agreed to give France an extra two years to bring its deficit within EU limits but the leniency has sparked criticism, meanwhile others are calling for similar flexbility.

EU leaders face major clash on rule of law budget link

One major issue dividing member states in the ongoing budget negotiations is inserting a direct link between EU subsidies and the rule of law. While the biggest battle will be over figures, the rule of law conditionality also creates tension.

Analysis

Is Belgium heading for new elections?

Belgian coalition talks have hit a wall nine months after elections, posing the possibility of a new vote, which risks making the country even harder to govern.

Central Europe mayors join in direct EU funds plea

They call themselves the "Pact of Free Cities". The mayors of Budapest, Bratislava, Prague and Warsaw want EU funds to bypass their governments, in order to fight climate change and populism.

News in Brief

  1. EU unveils white paper on AI and data strategy
  2. Dutch court rules against Russia in €46bn Yukos case
  3. Britain to bar 'Polish plumber-type' migrants
  4. Greece seeks EU help to get back classical statues from UK
  5. HSBC to cut 35,000 jobs worldwide
  6. Regions chief appeals against cutting EU cohesion funds
  7. Verhofstadt criticises UK Brexit negotiator
  8. Turkish court acquits Gezi park activists

Five new post-Brexit MEPs to watch

Five MEPs to keep an eye on from the 27 new members who are joining the European Parliament this week, following the UK's departure from the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Latest News

  1. EU leaders face major clash on rule of law budget link
  2. North Macedonia warns EU on 'dirtiest ever' election
  3. Western 'endarkenment' and the voodoo politics of Europe
  4. Warning of agricultural 'digital arms race' in EU
  5. Cayman Islands put on tax-haven blacklist after Brexit
  6. Boris' Brexit bluff? - UK will resist alignment to the end
  7. US still open to Kosovo-Serbia land swap
  8. EU countries enter final phase of budget talks

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us