France: Politicans scrabble for a seat in the lower house
Let the legislative battle begin
The presidential race may only have just finished but France is already gearing up for its next round of elections and the fate of François Hollande’s credibility rests on the Socialists’ ability to win the majority of seats in the National Assembly. If their promises of “change” and “reform” are to be kept, the entire left wing has some serious campaigning to do in the next few weeks as the right surges back from defeat.
With the heat from the presidential election dying down, politicians around the country are now preparing to enter the political melee themselves, fighting for the top position in their constituency and earning a spot in the Fifth Republic’s 14th National Assembly.
Candidates have less than four weeks to band together their followers before the first leg of elections takes place on 10th June. In a slightly different format to last month’s presidential battle, anyone running in the legislative election who receives more than 12.5 per cent of public support will be automatically entered into the second round which will decide the new parliamentary lineup on 17th June.
There are some 577 seats up for grabs but the competition is certainly tight. More than 6,500 candidates have put themselves forward for a parliamentary role and in some cases, communities will have over ten applicants to choose from. Parties will be hoping to encourage some people to participate in the vote – in 2007, an alarming 40 per cent of French citizens abstained.
European leaders fear that unless Hollande’s Socialist party manages to secure the majority of seats in the National Assembly, France will fall into a political gridlock, with opposing parties halting and obstructing Holland’s desired reforms.
One of the most highly contested constituencies in France is the northern mining town of Henin Beaumont. The area is National Front leader Marine Le Pen’s stomping ground and support for her is high – the FN claimed 35 per cent of the presidential votes in the first round this year. Controversially, Left Front main man Jean-Luc Melenchon is also running for election in Henin Beaumont. This juxtaposition of far left and far right parties has been symptomatic of 2012 French politics, and even the polls are unsure which way it could go.
The right wing is completely divided but the left are showing signs of possible collaboration and have begun to strike deals with neighbouring parties. Echoing the UK political “co-habitation” structure, a number of left wing runners are joining forces and forming semi-coalitions.
Sarkozy’s old party, the UMP, has refused pointblank to cooperate with the National Front but the Socialists have been more tactical. Henin Beaumont’s socialist candidate Philippe Kermel has reportedly struck a deal with Melenchon: the candidate with the lower score in the first round will stand down and allow the other to fight for a left wing seat alone. This strategy is an attempt to woo voters towards the left – at any end of the left wing spectrum.
Female and slightly unconventional politicians are having a stronger impact than ever before. In 2007, just 30 per cent of candidates were women yet this time around, more than 40 per cent of hopefuls are female. A number of unusual characters have also made their way onto the 2012 ballot papers. Former weatherman Patrice Drevet will battle porn star Celine Bara for a seat in the Ariege constituency in the Pyrenees, while the competition’s youngest contender,18-year-old Alexis Atlani, is trying his hand at persuading Sarkozy’s old political backyard of Hautes de Seine.