Archive for May, 2012

French Presidential Elections v.2


Must get this done quickly as I am about to leave home for two weeks. I have to get the tomatoes, beans, lettuce in, the grass cut, see a couple of people, make a few phone calls and pack. Some of you could do all this “catching up” and “getting ahead” in one day, not me. Things take longer. I don’t try to move very fast, and if I did, it would not work out that well.

So Second Round, two possibilities. The result was altogether predictable, although “margin of error” in the polls was explained many times. Le Pen’s National Front vote, the “Bleue Marine” got the biggest headlines. She got +3 % or so more than some of the polls predicted. Melanchon got three or four points fewer than he might have. Bayrou (soft boring centre) got less than he hoped, but about what was predicted. People go on about Le Pen and her “best ever result” for her Daddy’s party. She actually got one percent more than her daddy got in 2002. I say she is no big deal. But it is more interesting to see what the 45% did, the ones who did not vote for either Sarko or Hollande. So for me the interesting question is where did Melanchon “lose votes” when the polls said he should maybe beat the NF. I have no answer, nor do the local partisans when I asked Margin of error seems a lame rsponse. Melanchon was meant to get maybe 15% in the polls and only actually got 11%. What was clear is that “the extremes” got some serious attention. But the second round is always a more or less familiar “race” in Rich Democracies. One bad guy and one who is worse. You pick your not so bad guy and vote for him or abstain. Not really very interesting. Especially since everyone seems to say Hollande will win, and have said that for months. A surprise? I doubt it.

On Sunday, the day before I leave home for my trip, we will vote. Unless something happens, the French will “vote the rascals out”. This, of course, is a frequent choice when things are not going well anywhere. They vote for Hollande, for example, because he is not “the other guy” and we think he could not be as bad. I strongly feel that I am much like “the French People” in that regard. I expect there to be a dip in Hollande’s vote closer to the time, but basically it looks like 55-45. Or 53-47. Or 52-48.

The complex results of the first round were quite fun to look at in Bedarieux. I know there are places more important, but for me the results of Bédarieux have more meaning. In the Gazette of Montpellier, they compared the “villes” of Hérault, our department. I don’t know the criteria for a “ville” in this data display, but I know that Clermont L’Hérault, Lodève and Bédarieux are about the same size, 7,000 plus or minus 500. Bedarieux is bigger than at least seven of the 21 towns/cities listed. Places like Agde, Ganges, Mèze, Sète, Beziers, and of course massive Montpellier, are also considered villes. I find this could be an intriguing detailed discussion, as “ville” is a word in French which could be either a town or a city in English. There are also “grands villes”, unmistakably “big cities”. Montpellier is the only proper big city in the list of 21 in Hérault.

What distinguished Bedarieux voting results from run of the mill, more or less average ones? We ranked first in the percentage voting for the following choices. Abstention. Arthaud (the old fashioned left communist or something). Cheminade (the slightly odd left guy with no party). Melanchon (the Front de Gauche who did really well, “left united”). We also won the contest for FEWEST Sarkozy voters. We were fourth for Hollande (next President, banal Socialist) and Joly (Green-Eco), third for the Trotskyist Poutou, and second LEAST le Pen voters. I don’t really count the Le Pen voters, as in our part of the world, they are common, means nothing much. Except they are well annoyed with the current lot and the other potential winners. There are many people who vote for the National Front for reasons far more diverse than the standard leftist line which emphasises fear, fascism, racism, xenophobia and nationalism. But nevertheless, we are the lowest, even if we are backwoods.

One striking fact was the tendency for local voters to abstain at a rate quite a bit higher than most towns. Only six of the 21 towns in Hérault had more than 20% who abstained, we had 26%. The French love their elections and vote at a much higher rate than English or American people. Therefore (although many other explanations could exist) such a high percentage of abstentions (national rate was 20%) means we have a few more people who have pretty much given up on orthodox elections/voting, although their reasons could be quite complex. A serious chunk of people just stopped bothering.

Normally, the French are still quite keen to vote. Due to their system, they get a chance to vote for someone they might actually like in the first round, so they love it. But much hand wringing amongst people of a critical leftish persuasion when they get the same old choices in the end. Nearly ALL of them will vote for Hollande, and grimace a lot. Like nearly everywhere in a typical “democracy”. I still remember how some Euro-leftists were genuinely excited when Mitterand won. And how some good pals of mine in the USA were excited when Clinton won. Same for Blair. In the end, no radical proposals, so real impetus for serious change came from these elected guys. The pressure, the real politics, was always from the grass roots movements, what are now called “civil society”, unless I am out of date with terminology.

I also noted the large number of people who expressed something vaguely resembling an urge to be part of the (losing) leftist/green/alternative. Roughly, that means to keep social support institutions which have little to do with profit in the public sphere, hire a decent number of teachers, keep hospitals going for all, not invade too many places … the usual slightly soft, kind, co-operative view that society must look after all people, cripples, old, sick, abnormal, young and middle aged. No matter what. That’s the point of a society. It looks after its people. I think Melanchon best represented that during this election, although the Greens, and even some of the Trots are more or less attached to that line of thinking. Whatever kind of vote those soft caring people made, we had a greater proportion of them than anywhere in Hérault, 27.24 percent. So if you add the abstainers to the lefty soft green types, you get a comfortable majority of local voters who more or less don’t like Hollande, Sarkozy, Bayrou or Le Pen, the mainstream.

So I thought to myself, while elections don’t change much, they do change something and something is reflected in the results. While the left softies are sometimes quite authoritarian and not very different (I have been to many meetings and know many of them), they are still, essentially, left softies. We can do things together in a particular locality. Although it would have been fun (as Melanchon wanted) to be here when they discussed the next Constitution, the one that MUST come after the de Gaulle Dictatorship Constitution. What a gas the debates in cafes would be. But for me the results reflect that I live in a place where, if I want to, if I could, there are many people with whom something lefty softish can be organised. That’s a good tendency.

Not that many people are excited about Round Two. It would be a deeply surprising result if Sarkozy won again. It turns out that the Big Debate was not that great. Those who know say the results will not be changed, neither guy made big mistakes. I tried watching it, but got bored and changed channels several times. They are two very aggressive, nasty little power grabbing men. Sarkozy is a nasty piece of work anyway, and Hollande had to be equally nasty, so no one would think he was a kind of blancmange, a milk toast, fat little school boy guy. You can imagine the interruptions, calls of liar and stuff like that. Tedious.

One can understand the attraction of elections. During the lead-up to the big show, where the two big fellows go head to head, it was incredible. I can just see them walking down a dusty Wild Western main street. Or having a duel with pistols. They simply represent a world of politics that would like to see die before I do, but most likely I will die first. I will write something again when it is over. Or maybe not.