By the executive committee of the New Anti-Capitalist Party
March 14, 2010 -- Paris -- Two major lessons emerge from the first round of the regional elections.
The magnitude of abstention by millions of youth, workers and the unemployed, who mostly wished to register their rejection of the political parties that have alternated in power and that are responsible for aggravating their conditions of life.
The vigor of the rejection of the right and President Nicholas Sarkozy's government -- accomplices of big investors and the richest classes, who have made the majority of the population pay the cost of the crisis and who are destroying public services and social gains -- fuelled the upsurge of the Socialist Party (PS) and Europe Écologie [Greens].
This rejection of the right allowed the PS and its allies, which have been governing 20 regions since 2004, not to be punished for their record.
Moreover, the campaign for the just completed first round was vitiated by the wave of disturbing racism from which the National Front (FN) greatly benefitted.
We thank the women and men who voted for the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) lists or the unity lists in which the NPA participated. Overall, our electoral results* are disappointing even though the results of some of our lists seem to be promising. We will analyse these facts and their causes in greater detail in coming days.
For next Sunday (March 21), we call on the voters to confirm and amplify the results of the first round by inflicting the greatest possible defeat on the lists supported by Sarkozy and [his right-wing Union for a Popular Movement] UMP. Punishing the right is an absolute necessity, even though we think that the left-wing majorities to come will be no better defence against the politics of Sarkozy than they have been for the last several years. However, punishing the right in the elections will not be enough to block its politics.
Just like what's happening in Greece, under a socialist government, it is likely to get worse in coming weeks. Pay for their crisis? No way! Like the front of youth, workers, the unemployed and the retired in Greece, we must prepare for the third round, which is social!
The 23rd of March has to become the first stage of convergence of struggles for pensions, wages and the prohibition of layoffs. And it's around these demands we wish to build the broadest unity against the right, the bosses and the bankers.
[The original statement "Déclaration du NPA au soir du premier tour des régionales" was published on the NPA web site on 14 March 2010. Translation by MRZine's Yoshie Furuhashi.]
French regional elections see centre weaken
By Jim Jepps
March 15, 2010 -- The Daily (Maybe) -- On March 14, the French regional elections saw the ruling right wing UMP take a beating and the Socialist Party (PS) extend its already extensive reach across French regional governments. The elections shine a light on exactly how unpopular Sarkozy’s government has become.
The right were determined to make this election about national identity and Islam, and the vote was conducted in the context of proposed laws to ban the burka. While playing the race card backfired for Sarkozy the dangerous game that the right were playing stoked the fascist vote and saw the National Front (FN) resurrected, gaining 12%*.
The FN's campaign focused on the "danger" that Islam poses to France and, as Sarkozy has just found out, if you encourage people to be racists they will vote for the down-the-line racists.
The results had added significance for the FN as long-time leader Jean-Marie Le Pen is 81 and is expected to step down from the party's leadership soon. The regional elections were an opportunity for potential leaders to jockey for position and Le Pen's daughter, Marine, who is already an MEP, has emerged as the likely successor.
The election's Islamophobic rhetoric spilled over into direct action with dozens of pig-masked protesters raiding a restaurant last week for the "offense" of selling halal burgers. Commenting on Sarkozy’s tactics Greens leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit pointed to the FN rise and said, "Bravo Mr. Sarkozy, here's the result."
However the story was not one sided and the French left, which has not always been strong on these issues, were able to confront these racist ideas with mixed success. The New Anti-Capitalist Party ran a hijab-wearing candidate to national uproar and most parties of the left refused to compromise with the anti-Islam mood.
The Greens (Europe Écologie) ran a very clear anti-racist campaign and saw their vote skyrocket, leaving them as the nation's third party. It's clear that while French society is seeing a rise in racism, there is a powerful countertrend of anti-racism.
Martine Aubry, leader of the victorious Socialist Party, stressed that “the French sent a clear and strong message. They today expressed their refusal to see a divided France”. That may be overstating the case, but certainly Sarkozy’s poor performance is a real victory for the left.
The rise of Greens was not wholly unexpected -- as the Greens first won third place last year at the European elections -- but its impressive result of 13%*, including more than 20% in Paris, is a massive leap forward from the last regional elections six years ago in 2004 where the Greens polled just 2%*.
When the second round of voting takes place next Sunday, March 21, this puts the left in a formidable position because the Greens explicitly position themselves as a party of the left and take part in Socialist Party-led coalitions. Negotiations have already begun between the PS and the Greens for joint lists in the second round elections which will see unprecedented Green representation. This means that while the left won 20 of the 22 French regions last time they are in position to extend that already impressive hold on regional government.
However, one of the headlines of the election is the record low turnout, with over half the electorate refusing to cast their vote. A closer look at the Socialist Party support sees that it has had a successful night because its vote collapsed less spectacularly than Sarkozy’s vote rather than because of some revival in its fortunes.
The Socialist Party has been riven with splits and rows over the last few years that saw some leading members leave the party. Likewise Sarkozy's leadership has been consistently rocked by internal rows and disaffection –- including court cases and high profile walkouts. However, unlike the PS, Sarkozy has no potential coalition partners on the right with the FN adamant that it will not lend him support in the second round.
With the centre parties losing ground and the good results for the Greens and the FN it's clear that French society is becoming increasingly polarised, a pattern we've seen recently in a number of elections in Europe.
However, the parties of the far left, which stood on a number of unity tickets, did not significantly benefit from the collapse of the centre. The left vote was, as usual, split –- but this time between left unity coalitions. The New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA), whose most recognisable figure Olivier Besancenot was the highest-polling far left candidate at the last presidential election, polled a disappointing 2%*.
Much of the press attention was focused on the fact that one NPA region selected a young female activist who wears the hijab. The party’s leadership were supportive of their candidate but there is no doubt that this was a controversial decision both inside and outside of the party.
The NPA were outshone by the “Face of the Left” (Front de gauche), a coalition between disaffected Socialist Party members, Communists and some smaller parties. It polled a more respectable 6.2%*, however both parties will no doubt be disappointed with the results.
What all this means for French politics is clear -– that the future is unclear. With racism on the rise and the FN renewal of fortunes, the threat of the far right is still very much present. However the right-wing government is unloved and faces opposition both at the ballot box and in the streets.
It's quite possible that this period could see the Socialist Party put its troubles behind it and go on to win the presidency at the next election, but nothing is certain both because of threats to their right and to their left.
Although those coalitions to the Socialist Party's left did not perform very well at this election, their vote did not collapse either and they may still be able to capitalise on the problems of the centre. Certainly the extraordinary rise of the Greens' vote shows that French voters are willing to look to alternatives and to oppose the growing tide of racism.
French elections – first thoughts
By Liam Mac Uaid
March 15, 2010 -- Mac Uaid -- French Sarkozy took a well heralded pummelling in the first round of the French regional elections and some of the lessons from France are likely to apply in the upcoming British polls.
A few things leap out from the raw figures. The first is that lots of people decided not to vote.
According to one poll cited in Libération 53.5% of voters abstained. The New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA), which scored a modest 2%, suggests reasonably enough that it was young people, workers and the unemployed who stayed at home.
The second is the strength of the far right. The Front National won 11.7%* of the vote dispelling any fantasy that it's a spent force. The racist and Islamophobic undercurrent which ran throughout the pre-election period must have benefited Le Pen. On the other side of the coin, Europe Ecologie (EE) won 13.3%* making it the third-largest force after the UMP and the Socialist Party (PS).
The combined results of the anti-Sarkozy forces PS (30%*), EE (13%*), Front de gauche (6.2%*) and the NPA and LO’s combined 3.3%* tally up to a serious rejection of Sarkozy's project. However, the third lesson, which we can take from the NPA's relatively weak performance, is that offered a choice between an explicitly capitalist party and even a neoliberalised social-democratic party working-class voters will, in the first instance, return to social democracy rather than taking the more radical new option.
As Greece shows, having a social-democratic government offers very little protection at all when the International Monetary Fund and the European Union start demanding pension cuts, wage reductions and job losses. A lot of PS voters are heading for a hangover. The question then becomes one of offering a political expression for their inevitable disillusionment when the PS comes into office.
[Liam Mac Uaid is an editor of the British socialist newspaper, Socialist Resistance.]
Morning Star: Dissatisfied French voters deal slap to Sarkozy
With more than 96 per cent of votes counted, the opposition centre-left Socialist Party was frontrunner with around 30 per cent* of the vote.
Mr Sarkozy's Gaullist Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) was in second place with around 27 per cent*, while Europe Ecologie garnered 12.5 per cent* of the vote.
The far-right National Front took 11.5 per cent*.
The Left Front, which unites the French Communist Party, the Left Party and smaller groupings, won about six per cent*.
Together, candidates from the Socialist Party, Europe Ecology and the Left Front were just shy of 50 per cent* of the vote.
Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry described the result as "encouraging."
In casting their ballots, the French "wanted most of all to express their wish for a more just and stronger France", Ms Aubry said.
The Socialists, who already control 20 of the 22 regions of mainland France, have begun horse-trading with the Greens and the left in a bid to present unified slates of candidates in this Sunday's decisive second round.
The centre-left Socialists and their allies are now on track to score a grand slam on March 21 by winning every one of metropolitan France's 22 regions.
Though the campaign had focused on regional concerns such as roads and local jobs, the vote was seen by many as a referendum on Mr Sarkozy's sweeping pro-business reforms.
Voter turnout was at a record low of about 48 per cent, 10 points lower than in the last regional election six years ago.
Prime Minister Francois Fillon of the UMP insisted that the high abstention rate "does not permit us to draw any conclusions of national relevance" and stressed that "nothing has been decided for the second round".
But political analyst Roland Cayrol said: "The French people want to punish the governing powers. Members of the governing right attribute this score to the abstentions but, in reality, the success of the left is indisputable.".
Second round to the Socialist Party and allies
March 22, 2010 -- Le Monde reports: "The Left obtained 59% of the votes in six metropolitan regions where it dueled with the Right, according to TNS-Sofres/Logica. In 12 regions where there were triangle races joined by the National Front, the Socialist Party and its allies scored 49%, against 33.5% for the Right and 17.5% for the National Front" ("La gauche confirme son succès, l'Alsace reste à droite," 21 March 2010). The Right held on to Alsace and captured Réunion. The abstention rate is estimated to be between 49% and 49.5% this time, slightly lower than in the first round (53.6%), but much higher than in the second round of the 2004 regional elections (34.32%).