M. Sarkó is Back
The seductive power over the French electorate of the UMP leader, M. Sarkó, seems to experience an inexorable comeback. This is what the results of the French departmental elections suggest. The victory he obtained in the elections of March 29th represents a clear endorsement in view of the Presidential elections of 2017. But this is not the only lesson that these elections teach: on the one side they highlighted the unquestionable defeat of the Socialists, as it was also pointed out by their Prime Minister Manuel Valls, and on the other side these elections have also reaffirmed the importance of Marine Le Pen in the current French political scenario.
Nicolas Sarkozy came back to politics last November under the skepticism of most of commentators. In the second round of the elections, the center-right party previously lead by him won 67 of the 100 departments in which the French territory is divided. This result contributes to strengthen his leadership within the party (before the Party Presidential elections that will be held next year) and to unify the UMP, which seemed to be very fragmented and doubtful about his ability of winning again.
The French electorate has rewarded the political decision of the UMP to run together with other two moderate parties, without addressing its political capital towards a coalition with the extreme right party lead by Marine Le Pen. The role of the Front National seems to be consolidated, in light of the elections’ results. Mme Le Pen does not appear to be suitable for a governmental role, according to what voters suggested in these elections, and she was probably penalized by her choice to refuse to moderate her aggressive political proposals and tones. However, the Front National party won 62 councilors countrywide, which is the best result in its history in departmental elections, although it is unlikely to win the control of a department.
The Defeat of François Hollande
President François Hollande’s party has been clearly defeated. Obviously he was penalized by the bad conditions of the French economy (unemployment is rising and the European policies do not seem to stimulate growth, at least at the moment), as well as the will to run alone, without converging towards a coalition with the Green party. The path towards the approval of the fundamental reforms on a national level is slow and full of obstacles, since the President has to face the dissent of the leftist part of his party, which refuses policy measures aimed at liberalizing the economy. Nevertheless, the recent terrorist attacks in Paris seem to have contributed to push up the consensus around the current President, even if problems of support still persist. The Socialist party took control of 34 departments, losing control on some historical strongholds and this result is even more disappointing if the 50% abstention rate is taken into account. The victory of the UMP and the encouraging results of the FN, as well as data on abstention, represent a huge challenge for the Socialist Party.
Towards Elections 2017
M. Sarkó sees his candidacy to French Presidency strengthened after these elections, Mme Le Pen can be satisfied of the results obtained by her party, which confirms its central role in the current political debate, whereas the Socialists will have to face hard times in the near future. M. Hollande will have to unify his party around unpopular reforms and hope that economic recovery will finally come. The results of French elections also represent a further political signal that a nervous electorate is sending to the European institutions. The Juncker plan of investments will probably be insufficient to stimulate the economic recovery and it will be difficult for the Socialist party to implement unpopular reforms, without generating further discontent within the electorate.