France: Multiple Voter Punishments


“It’s necessary to campaign on my record,” Nicolas Sarkozy had told UMP leaders in the regional elections, before prudently beating a retreat when polls revealed the darkening sky for the party.  Despite the same old cliché repeated by UMP spokespeople according to the dictate of the Élysée, the fact remains that voters clearly rejected and punished the Right in the latest national elections during his term.  The Right under the banner of the president’s party lagged behind the Socialist Party (PS), receiving about 27%.  Voter punishment is not only unmistakable in the votes cast but also in the increase in abstentions, reaching 53.5%.  Much of the right-wing electorate, including those from the working-class milieux, to whom Nicolas Sarkozy had dangled the prospects of better days, boycotted the elections.  They have yet to rally to the Left, which does not present a sufficiently solid alternative in their eyes, but they no longer support the Élysée.

Again, the head of state sees his boasts sharply contradicted.  He used to take credit for having gotten the country interested in politics again because of high participation in 2007.  Au contraire, it is to be feared that the seller of illusions may have widened the gap between citizens and the government again.  That more than half of voters chose not to vote testifies to a veritable crisis of confidence in democracy.  But how could it be otherwise when even before the elections François Fillon and Nicolas Sarkozy proclaimed their intention not to respect the will of voters and to push through their counter-reforms?  This very weak participation, an indictment of the Right, also challenges the Left.  The game has not really started yet: workers do not have enough confidence in its projects to trust the Left; it is not the display of ambition that motivates the public to give it the keys to the government.

If the Socialist Party obtained good results, bringing it into a position to threaten the UMP, it must still reckon with other forces of the Left to prevail in most if not all regions.  Moreover, their voters mustn’t come to a hasty conclusion that their party has already won, failing to vote on 21 March.  But it is a task of much greater magnitude that is now demanded of the Left.  In this context, the results obtained by the Left Front (FDG) reflect the search for a combative opposition that contests the capitalist choice.  The FDG lists sometimes attained double digits as in Limousin, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Corsica, and Auvergne.  The Left Front results moreover give testimony to the unity which has been its asset; sorely missing from that unity is Olivier Besancenot’s New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA), which was coldly sent back near the 2% threshold.  Europe Écologie remains at a high level albeit falling short of its ambitions.  If MoDem and its operation to inject a right-wing current into the heart of the Left didn’t fly, the National Front remains, alas, at a level too high.  It must be said that Éric Besson and the nauseating debate on national identity have helped it rebound.  It will be able to maintain its force in several regions.  The president, therefore, cannot even boast of having reduced the Far Right to the bare minimum.  Reason demands that it be defeated next Sunday in all regions.  The punishment of Nicolas Sarkozy is not only clear in the votes cast but also in the increased abstention.

The original article “Sanctions multiples” was published as editorial on the Web site of l’Humanité on 14 March 2010.  Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi (@yoshiefuruhashi | yoshie.furuhashi [at]

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