Turning the tide against le Pen

On Sunday evening, the Front National’s marine blue wave crashed early on the breakers. Despite holding a first round lead in six regions, the party failed to win any contests in the second round run-off.

Instead, the Republicans, formerly the UMP but still led by Nicolas Sarkozy, won in seven regions and the Socialist Party of current president Francois Hollande took control of the remaining five.




Although Marine le Pen has toiled to ‘de-demonise’ the party, the French electorate sent out a firm message that the Front being in power is insupportable.

After le Pen and her niece Marion Marechal-le Pen received over 40% of the vote in the first round, the Socialist Party withdrew their candidates in Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie and Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur.

The pact and the mobilisation of voters against the party killed the le Pen’s hope of victory and control of a region.

As the graphic below shows, the abstention rate is significantly higher in the west where the Front National was not in contention.


L'absention par commune en France métropolitaine
Abstention Rate in Second Round


Le Choc

However, even if the party did not make a breakthrough in the run-off, that 28% of the electorate voted for the party founded by the controversial Jean-Marie le Pen has shocked France.



The land of liberté, egalité, fraternité has become a hotbed for a party that is anti-immigration, anti-Europe and often verging on openly xenophobic.

The Front’s main policy platform for the regionals was immigration and the threat from ISIS, despite the fact that the regional administrations have no control over such matters.

Yet 6.8 million people gave their vote to the Front and with it their trust.


A response to November 13th?

So how can the Front National’s current rise be explained? Wrongly, it has been attributed to the Paris attacks.

The party was already doing well in the polls and in Paris the vote for the Front National is much weaker than in the north and south.

Disenfranchised voters have bought into the party’s rhetoric of competition. For example, that for each immigrant in France, one ‘French’ job is lost.

The perceived threat, the reality does not match the narrative, is a powerful driver for those who feel the elite Parisian politicians have failed them.

By failing to win any regions, the Front remain free to play the blame game and criticise from the sidelines.

The graphics below show the first round vote with the Front National in navy and the rate of unemployment at the end of last year.


First Round Vote by Commun FN – Navy LR – Blue LS – Pink


figure3 - Taux de chômage par zones d’emploi au 4ème trimestre 2014
Unemployment Rate for the 4th Quarter 2014


President Le Pen?

In May 2017, France will have a new president but Marine le Pen will not be taking residence in the Elysée. Voters proved as much on Sunday.

But the results this week left the Socialists and Republicans with a very real warning that now is the time to get their act together.

Both parties completed the familiar routine of recent electoral cycles by rushing to say that they will listen to the message they were sent by voters.

The socialists received just 23% of the vote in the first round and Hollande has been a hugely unpopular president, although his ratings improved after the Paris attacks.

However, the result was not so poor that the party is without hope, particularly if the economic reform being driven by premier Manuel Valls succeeds.


Republican Panic

Since Sunday, Nicolas Sarkozy has sacked the Republican’s vice-president and announced a party conference in February to discuss future strategy.

Along with Alain Juppé and Francois Fillon, Sarkozy will enter a tough battle for the Republican primary.

Already there are fears that the former president will move the party further to the right and confront the Front National head on.

The party that convinces the electorate that they will reduce the 10.6%  unemployment rate will be the best placed to hold the Front at bay and take charge of the presidential race.

If both parties fail, you can be sure that the wave will keep on coming.

  • chrisjones2

    The problem for everyone is that while they were not elected their vote held up

    They were excluded by the establishment parties ganging up to stop them. Thats politics but it gives the NF a strong platform to build from using the sense of exclusion that generates. So what now? Either Sarkosy shifts to the right or Le Pen will capitalise and grow for next time

    Is it just me but does France not look worryingly like Germany of the 1920s or early 30s?

  • Robin Keogh

    It is very scary

  • chrisjones2

    Lordy ….we agree

  • Mer Curial

    Fortunately the French don’t have any natural martial abilities like their Teutonic neighbours…

  • John Collins

    I agree but as Mer Curial says France are not as natural fighters, or as fanatical. as the Germans were. However the Pan Islamic front of Isis, Al Quida and Bukahara, among others, terrify me even more, as they have huge numbers of ignorant, easily motivated, utterly disaffected and religiously fanatical followers.

  • Mer Curial

    Richard Sharpe, Sergeant Harper and a pair of Baker rifles should be enough to deal with the Frenchie threat 😉

  • SeaanUiNeill

    That’s a very broad assessment Mer! Napoleon, Turenne, etc, etc…..

    Any actual Teuton with a sense of history would still be very careful before making that sort of claim. I’d leave that “Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys” trope back with Willie McDougal if I were you. He at least has the honest excuse he’s simply a cartoon character.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    You do realise they are fictional characters, Mer. I once reminded Muir Sutherland at a production meeting for an entirely different series to “Sharpe” that Sharpe’s capture of a Legionary Eagle was in actually the achievement of an Irish Fusileer sergeant, Pat Masterson, who survived serious wounding defending his capture. “By Jaysus boys, I have the Cuckoo” he is reported to have shouted to his company of what was then the old 87th Foot. He reminded me that the characters were fictional, which I’ve never forgotten…..

  • Mer Curial

    Bonaparte was Corsican though. 😉

  • LordSummerisle

    Alas not as celebrated as Charles Ewart. Essentially Richard Sharpe amounts to the James Bond, (yes I know Sharpee was dammed ranker), of the Napoleonic period. Reading any Sharpe novel is reminiscent of the old Commando comic book.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    If he had waited on Corsica until Hood arrived in 1794 and set up the Anglo-Corsican Kingdom he would for a two year period have been a subject within a British dominion (Rhodes, though much later “You have won the lottery of life….”). I’m almost reminded of another exciting counter-factual:


  • Richard Gadsden

    If you don’t recognise the regional map, that’s because they’ve just been changed, with several regions being merged into bigger ones and these are the first elections for the new regions.

    For the new regions, one of the first votes will be to determine which of the former regional capitals will be the capital of the new region – a vote sure to be deeply divisive, and which I’m certain the FN will seek to use in the areas that lose to argue that they are being excluded.

  • Thanks Tank

    If you are working class French they are the only party that will represent you or even engage.

    Blame the main two and their actions over the last 30 years.

  • Croiteir

    You do realise that any war fought exclusively between France and England/Britain was wo by the French