6455 villages, towns and cities across France are voting in the second round of the local elections today. However far fewer people are involved today compared with the first round last week, because in the three quarters of French towns, cities and villages, one list won outright last Sunday, with over 50% of the vote. And in those municipalities, local politics is not stuck in the political no man’s land between first and second round – the work has begun. Continue reading
All politics is local. Except of course when it isn’t. The dichotomy present within any local election is usually between the side that has an interest in ensuring that local issues are to the fore, when the other side that wants instead to play on national issues. The positions are not usually uniform across the country; strategy will vary from town to town, even if it chaffes against the national strategy imposed by political barons in Paris. In mainland France, the absence of any large regional parties exacerbates this phenomenon.
I have great sympathy for the argument that local politics should be about local issues. Watch a local council meeting in operation and you will see how often it is about pragmatic and practical decision making, rather than politics. However, I’m not as naive to think that I should dictate to voters why they should vote for one particular list or another, particularly when the list bears the name of a national party. As a reminder, the French local elections are on a list basis, broadly along party lines, but with a great deal of coalition building to put those lists together, particularly in smaller towns.
It is as result of this limited nationalisation of the campaign that the Socialists are likely to do fairly badly in the forthcoming local elections on 23 and 30 March. The nuance highlights that the Socialists are starting from a political high-water mark: they control the largest number of local councils in the country than they have ever had with about two thirds of towns with over 10,000 people. What has gone up must therefore come down. The question will be to what degree. Continue reading