Nationwide local elections on Sunday in France saw a green wave flush through Marseille, Lyon, Strasbourg and Bordeaux, while socialist courts re-elected Paris, Nantes, Lille and Rennes. The results blow new hope to the left on the national stage after a long spell in the French political herring.
Suddenly, the left in France may dream again. After winning the day in most major French cities on Sunday in deviant elections long delayed by the coronavirus outbreak, the left was able to forget, at least for one election night, its historic losses in 2017.
That spring, centrist newcomer Emmanuel Macron – who had served as an Élysée palace adviser to the socialist incumbent François Hollande and then as his finance minister – ended his meteoric rise to the presidency. But socialist candidate Benoît Hamon, allied with the green party Europe Ecology-Les Verts (EELV), crashed out of the first round of the presidential election on anonymous 6.36 percent of the votes in a thunderous defeat for the left’s mainstream. The Socialist Party lost a monumental 250 seats in the subsequent legislative investigations, while the EELV was swept completely out of the National Assembly of the Lower House.
But the Greens had some envy of rivals on Sunday night. While the EELV had run only one major city in France, Grenoble, after the last local election in 2014, the party chalked up one city hall after another in that election: Lyon, Strasbourg, Bordeaux (a conservative bastion for 73 years), Tours, Annecy, Besançon, Poitiers and, in anticipation of a vote by the newly elected municipal council on Friday, may even be Marseille.
Never had France’s Greens felt such success at the municipal ballot. One year after their strong appearance in the European elections in 2019 – a night when a green wave swept across the European Union – the ecologists’ new ground in the left nucleus is now well established.
The glittering performances of the EELV candidates are all the more spectacular in that they were largely non-household names and that they usually won against alliances between the conservative Les Républicains and Macron’s party La République en Marche.
Few, even among EELV brass, would have bet that Pierre Hurmic won Bordeaux against such an alliance and cast a long-standing ally with the conservative former prime minister Alain Juppé, who ruled the city for 22 years.
Even in Strasbourg, the Greens could legitimately be saved for the centrist-conservative alliance to be better off by the first round they had already built in March, especially after failing to seal an alliance with the socialists locally. But EELV’s Jeanne Barseghian crushed the competition and won the Eastern French city for the Greens by eight points.
“What won was a desire for concrete ecology, in action, that proposes solutions for commuting, housing, food, how to rebuild local economies,” said green member Yannick Jadot, who led the EELV list in last year’s European elections, at TF1 on Sunday.
Commonality over differences
But in addition to the so-called green wave on Sunday evening, a closer look at the ecology candidates’ gains shows that they were made possible by alliances with the Socialist Party, far left La France Insoumise, the French Communist Party and ex-Socialist Hamons Génération.’s party.
Alone, EELV was vulnerable to defeat, as in Lille, where green candidate Stéphane Baly missed with a handful of votes to win City Hall away from socialist heavyweight Martine Aubry.
Let’s continue to cultivate what we have in common, more than dogmatic differences, between now and 2022, says EELV Party leader Julien Bayou. The green leader probably had in mind the case of EELV candidate Michèle Rubirola in Marseille. She was initially suspended from the party for refusing her logic to go it alone, before eliciting support after topping the first vote in March on the strength of the left alliances.
The Socialist Party also had a very good night. Anne Hidalgo won re-election in Paris, while socialist judges also ruled in cities such as Nantes, Rennes, Dijon and Le Mans, and the party won City Hall away from an ex-socialist in Montpellier.
“You have chosen hope, you have chosen a rally, you have chosen a breathtaking Paris, a united city where no one is left,” said Anne Hidalgo after being re-elected as mayor of Paris pic.twitter.com/GzL7h6Tsd6
– AXADLE English (@ France24_en) June 28, 2020
The results on Sunday nights also confirm the Socialist Party leader, Olivier Faure, who, since taking the helm in 2018, has championed the leftist composition. With two years to go before the next presidential election, Faure clearly hopes that these local elections will mark a turning point for left-wing wealth.
“Huge momentum is building all over France,” Faure explained. “All leftists and ecologists are making huge victories. That is what is happening. We have something that is growing in this country, a social-ecological block, which we must now consolidate.”
Green less successful outside urban areas
Leaders of the various left-wing political forces in the country made similar remarks on Sunday evening, each utilizing part of the limelight.
“A democratic fresh air for climate and social justice issues is possible with ecologists and leftists,” Génération.’s spokesman Benjamin Lucas said on Twitter. “Let’s be equal to the task, let’s prepare to gather for change in 2022,” he tweeted.
“This is a turning point for more social justice and more ecology,” Communist Party chief Fabien Roussel said, even as the party lost Saint-Denis, a traditional communist bastion north of Paris, to a socialist. “Despite record keeping, the signal sent to the president and his government is clear: the French do not want their politics, neither in their cities nor in the country.”
Socialist Party spokesman Pierre Jouvet called it “the first big victory for the left in eight years” since Hollande won the presidency in 2012. “The question is not whether the Greens or the Socialists won. We showed that when we come together, we can get hope. must be the first step in the reconstruction of a leftist who can win in 2022, “added Jouvet.
However, the Left would be wise not to base a potential national political dynamic on local election results. A recent Ifop-Fiducial survey test ahead of the 2022 presidential election resulted in EELV’s Jadot scoring only eight percent in the first round. And as Émeric Bréhier, the director of the Jean-Jaurès Foundation Observatory of Political Life, told AFP, the green performance is “much less good outside or in areas surrounding big cities”.
This article has been adapted from the original in French.