Results of second round of French municipal elections in selected cities. Image credit: Visactu.
Under the shadow of coronavirus, the French people people have elected their mayors and local councilors for the next six years. Well, some of them did, as a vast wave of apathy swept the nation, leading to a turnout of just 44.7% (19 points lower than in 2014). Perhaps the COVID innovation of mass house arrests has turned the whole nation into homebodies.
Green candidates, often in alliance with the Pinks (Socialists), have seized control of twenty cities, including Bordeaux, Lyon, and Strasbourg. The media is trying to spin this as some kind of national mandate. Le Monde claims President Emmanuel Macron must “green” his policies as a result, but that seems like a great overstatement.
The victories of the bobo-green left are certainly a significant indicator. But really it only concerns a couple million urbanites. What is more striking for me is the complete fragmentation of the political landscape. The incumbent mayors who were reelected to office typically did so by distancing themselves from their national party.
This was the case of the mayoress of Paris, the archetypal wine-bar feminist Anne Hidalgo, who handily won reelection in the face two equally female rivals (Macron’s health minister Agnès Buzyn – the subject of many anti-Semitic criticisms – and former conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy’s former justice minister, Rachida Dati). Hidalgo is notionally affiliated with the Socialist Party, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from her campaign.
Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) made one great gain: her partner Louis Aliot has been elected mayor of the southeastern city (120,000 inhabitants) of Perpigan. This is the first time the RN will be managing such a large city. His campaign rarely used Marine’s image or the RN’s famous flame-logo, preferring to cite the backing of non-RN hard-conservative politicians like Robert Ménard (who in some respects is more radical than Marine, as he supports collecting ethnic statistics for instance).
Aliot proclaimed of his election: “It’s the proof that there is no longer a glass ceiling for the National Rally. This so-called ‘republican front’ has fallen tonight in Perpignan and could fall elsewhere in the future.”
The RN may have kept a half-dozen mayorships across the country, but it largely failed to make inroads otherwise. That’s out of 30,143 municipalities in France. Otherwise, the RN’s share of local councilors has collapsed from 1438 in 2014 to 840 today.
Significantly, women have made some progress in these elections. Women have gone from making up 16% of mayors in 2014 to 19.3% in 2020. The smalnness of this increase is essentially due to people reelecting their mayors in the countryside. By contrast, women now lead exactly half of France’s 10 largest cities. This is representative of real power dynamics and of the feminization of elite institutions in general. Already, any overrepresentation of men in any prestigious institutions is automatically assumed to be morally condemnable and needing of rectification. The pink fog continues to descend upon the West.
The biggest news is perhaps the collapse of Macron’s party at local level, failing to conquer or keep a single large city. Le Monde deemed this “a genuine Berezina” for the president.
All this suggests French citizens’ disconnect from politics in general. Elections are held with yawn-inducing frequency in France. Citizens are expected to be informed and care enough to regularly vote in municipal, county (départemental), regional, national (parliamentary and presidential), and European elections. What’s the point of voting for so many offices, especially when these lack visibility or discernible power?
The ruling political parties, which used to be quite well-organized and implanted across the country, are being reduced to personalistic and one-off phenomena, to brands. Macron jury-rigged a party in 2017, appointing many incompetents in the process, but has no local presence. Neither does Marine Le Pen.
National elections remain the most important, but there is a real challenge when the national elections do not actually correspond to a country’s underlying power dynamics (witness the failure of Trumpism in the United States, undermined by an erratic president, the systematic opposition of vast swathes of officialdom at all levels, and the failure to organize the Republican Party into a coherent populist machine).
Overt politics is being reduced to empty fad after empty fad. We have a plethora of talkative candidates with ever-more indistinguishable messages, with unclear responsibilities or mandates, most remarkable for their cosmetic differences.
French elites are quite aware of how alienated the French people are from “their” democracy. As a remedy, people are trying direct democracy. A “climate convention” of citizens was recently organized – theoretically chosen according to lot in true Athenian fashion. In fact, the convention was presided by politicians and think-tankers close to the Greens and the Socialist Party, and the “ordinary citizens” were vetted by the organizers, skewing the convention’s results to the left. Still, Macron is now being pressured to follow their lead.
This initiative led the conservative pundit Éric Zemmour to make the following suggestion on live television: “I propose a citizens’ convention on immigration and demography. I am even prepared to preside it! With a referendum at the end!” A fine idea. As we know, are liberal-globalists oh so love democracy, but for some reason do not like the idea of citizens coming together to decide on this most fundamental question of national destiny.