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By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

The story of the 2012 French presidential election is quite  interesting. Right-wing incumbent Nicholas Sarkozy entered the election  deeply unpopular. Opinion polls consistently showed him losing by around  20%.

France’s presidential system has two rounds. In the first round,  everybody can be a candidate. The top two winners of the first round  move to a second round run-off.

As election day approached, Sarkozy’s deficit continually shrunk.   Opinion polls just before the first round showed Sarkozy losing by low  double-digits. As the campaign for the second round began, they showed  him behind by high single-digits.

Sarkozy ended up losing by 3.2%. That’s a pretty steep drop-off from the polls that showed him behind by 20%.

More below.

To be fair, Sarkozy’s opponent François Hollande isn’t the best  politician. But the fact that Hollande barely defeated one of the most  unpopular presidents in the history of France's Fifth Republic says something about France.

Indeed, the right has dominated the left throughout the history of French presidential elections:

Photobucket

As this chart shows, the French right has won seven presidential  elections; the French left has won just three. The right’s greatest  election victory occurred in 1958, when French war hero Charles de  Gaulle defeated hapless Communist candidate Georges Marrane with 79% of  the vote.

The left’s greatest victory occurred in 1988, when incumbent François  Mitterrand took 54% of the vote over Jacques Chirac. A French left-wing  presidential candidate has yet to win by double-digits; the right has  done this multiple times.

In addition, there are two instances when the French left failed to  make it into the second round. This happened in 1969 and 2002, which are  colored darker blue above (the margin in these years indicates the  first round). In both instances the second round ended up being between  two right-wing candidates. So far a French presidential election has  never featured two left-wing candidates in the second round.

Here’s a table of the elections:


French Presidential Elections Results: Second Round
Year Left Right Margin of Victory for the Left
1958 13.0% 78.5% -65.5%
1965 44.8% 55.2% -10.4%
1969 0.0% 100.0% -100.0%
1974 49.2% 50.8% -1.6%
1981 51.8% 48.2% 3.6%
1988 54.0% 46.0% 8.0%
1995 47.4% 52.6% -5.2%
2002 0.0% 100.0% -100.0%
2007 46.9% 53.1% -6.2%
2012 51.6% 48.4% 3.2%
France has generally had a reputation of being a very liberal place,  and this analysis might seem surprising from that perspective.

To be fair, the French right is very different from the American  right. France’s right-wing is probably to the left of America’s  Democratic Party (at least on economic issues). France’s left used to be  the Communist Party; today it is the Socialist Party. Both parties  would never win a presidential election in the United States.

Finally, and ironically, as I write these words the French socialists  have just won an absolute majority in Parliament. France’s socialists  today hold more of the levers of power than they have ever held in the  history of the French Fifth Republic. But historically, it has been the  right and not the left in power in France.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Yes, but doesn't Merkle run France now? (0+ / 0-)

    Or is it Brussels.  I get them confused.

    It's difficult to be happy knowing so many suffer. We must unite.

    by War on Error on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 03:32:58 PM PDT

  •  Edward Bernays and his profiteering ilk (0+ / 0-)

    has come to represent the right and also represent the manipulation of what benefits the right as in more $$$$$$$$$.

    Eliminate the Edward Bernays types and it will eliminate the belief that more for the few is better than more or less for the masses.

    Victims of bigotry are the poorest, least influential members of society.......never the wealthiest, most educated, most overrepresented in high levels, and most influential. Bigotry hurts the least influential. To claim or say otherwise is absurd.

    by dailykozzer on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 03:59:12 PM PDT

  •  quote (5+ / 0-)
    France has generally had a reputation of being a very liberal place,  and this analysis might seem surprising from that perspective.
    France is not very liberal.  It has a lot of right wing and left wing people, socialists, communists, greens, nationalists and conservatives, but few liberals.

    Lewis & Clark Law class of 2015

    by James Allen on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 04:40:55 PM PDT

    •  American definition vs. Euro definition (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ArkDem14, Tiger in BlueDenver

      To a European, "liberal" means something more like libertarian.

      To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

      by Visceral on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 05:05:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's not right (0+ / 0-)

        and I heard Mitterand once described as a someone who seduced the French left into liberalism.

        The bitter truth of deep inequality has been disguised by an era of cheap imported goods and the anyone-can-make-it celebrity myth - Polly Toynbee

        by fladem on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 11:27:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  When absolutely having to be succinct (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gabjoh

          I've lately settled on this rough explanation: to Europeans, "liberal" means pro-market and secular .. but think Mayor Bloomberg rather than the US Libertarian Party.

          •  From what I've kind've of gathered (0+ / 0-)

            that's a good analogy.

          •  true (0+ / 0-)

            for a European "liberal" means free market, free trade, means no regulation of the economic life, and also no labor policies. Bloomberg is a right example about what a European see as "liberal".

            In Europe, habitually "liberal"means moderate right, but right. Many times the liberals are inside the rightist party of every country in coalition with the conservatives. It is rare to see Liberal parties going alone. The United Kingdom is a rare exception. And in these cases it is very habitual to see liberal parties doing coalition with the conservatives for majorities (the UK again as example).

            •  Ah (0+ / 0-)

              So in Europe (as well as in Japan and Australia), "liberal" is still used in its classical context.

              "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." -Theodore Seuss Geisel

              by KingofSpades on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 02:25:59 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  The story of Mitterand (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bumiputera, gabjoh

    is the story of left leaning politicians all over the World over the last 30 years.  He entered with great promise, and over the course of his term moved steadily right.  I once I had a long conversation with a good friend in Paris comparing Clinton, Mitterand and Blair.  Clinton came into office and got killed on HCR and Mitterand took office and immediately faced a capital strike.  Blair's New Labour was arguably built on the lessons of both (Mitterand was actually more supportive of Nato and the Western Alliance than the French right at the time, and endorsed the right leaning Kohl in a German Election in the early 90's).

    Hollande has already had his wings cliprf by the Germans, and I doubt he can deliver on much.

    I have trouble thinking of a poltiicial elected by leading the left who didn't cave (Lulu maybe, but he is a free trader...)

    The bitter truth of deep inequality has been disguised by an era of cheap imported goods and the anyone-can-make-it celebrity myth - Polly Toynbee

    by fladem on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 11:26:56 PM PDT

    •  I have few illusions .. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gabjoh

      .. about Hollande becoming some kind of transformative President. He campaigned, to French standards, as a fairly cautious, moderate socialist, and the nature of constraints imposed by the EU and capital markets is such that he won't be able to do anything all too drastic.

      Nevertheless, the bit about him already caving and having his wings clipped by the Germans seems a tad unfair. Partly because he campaigned as a moderate of sorts in the first place (even though he was pulled left a bit by Melenchon); this was no 1981. And partly because the big Eurosummit the other day (or rather: night), if anything, was widely described as the Germans caving in to demands from France, Spain and Italy for less strict austerity.

  •  Post DeGaulle, it has been more even. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nimh

    DeGaulle was an absolute hero for the French after the war, first for his declaration of resistance from London after the fall of France, and secondly for his disobedience to Eisenhower by diverting his Free French troops to liberate Paris, despite orders to by pass Paris.

    His reign continued until the uprising of Mai 68, where a new generation, who had been born after the war decided to fight back against the plutocracy that had governed France for 20 post war years.

    Frances two stage elections means that if one side of the spectrum is fractured, primarily the socialists, communists (PCF) and MRG on the left, while the other side is more united, it is possible for two candidates of the same wing to advance to the second tour, as happened in the case of Chirac vs LePen.

    However, after the 69 election, the power of the communists started to wane, and the left tended to solidify around the socialist candidate (PS). As your graphic shows, since 1969, the results are pretty much split.

    In 1981, I was in France for the election of Mitterand, and the celebrations in the street were unavailable. It helped that Mitterand was a former Resistant, which pulled in some of the older middle of the road voters.

  •  Surely the polls that give +20% to Hollande were (0+ / 0-)

    were polls for the first round of the elections.

    I never think Hollande would win the election by that margin.

    For the European lefts it is not easy to win the elections by high margins. But still it is not rare to see victories of the left.

     

  •  This is a great diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KingofSpades

    The only thing I would quibble with is your description of pre-election polling. There's no doubt that Hollande's run-off lead in the polls decreased over time, and quite sharply near the end. I think you overstate it a little bit, though, when you write:

    Right-wing incumbent Nicholas Sarkozy entered the election  deeply unpopular. Opinion polls consistently showed [Sarkozy] losing by around  20%. [..]

    As election day approached, Sarkozy’s deficit continually shrunk. Opinion polls just before the first round showed Sarkozy losing by low double-digits. As the campaign for the second round began, they showed him behind by high single-digits.

    FYI, I'm looking at this post, which has charts showing the development of polls up til April 30 (a week before the second round elections), and the full table on Wikipedia with all the polling results.

    It doesn't look like Hollande had an aggregate 20-point lead anymore since November 2011. This year, only CSA seems to ever had any polls out with a 20-point lead, and those were way at the beginning of the year. By the time the campaign officially started in late March, a remarkable consensus among pollsters had Hollande at an 8-point lead.

    The polls just before the first round (April 22) showed a lead of around 10% (the last polls of the eight pollsters showed an average 10.5% lead), so that's very low double digits. Up til a week before the second round, his lead was still up around 8 points, but then there was a big tightening in the last week. The last polls out had Hollande ahead by 5, and in the end of course it was just 3.3%.

    Anyway, you laid out the pattern quite nicely, just a slight overstatement really.

  •  I think le gauche en France deserves more credit (0+ / 0-)

    They have managed to cobble together a genuine gauche mandate for economic and social reform by taking both houses of the French legislature as well as the presidency for the first time in the history of the 5th Republic.

    "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." -Theodore Seuss Geisel

    by KingofSpades on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 02:31:00 AM PDT

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