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Local Elections - 22 March 2015

French voters went to the polls March 22, 2015 to cast their ballots in local elections. The left-wing Socialist Party (PS) of Valls and President François Hollande were expected to perform poorly in the local elections, but the prime minister said he would "without any doubt" be staying in his job after the vote.

The elections were widely seen as an opportunity for Marine Le Pen and her far-right National Front -- or FN -- to build a base if, as expected, Le Pen ran for president in 2017. Opinion polls indicated Le Pen's FN was running a close race against the ruling Socialists of President Francois Hollande and the conservative UMP led by former President Nicolas Sarkozy. The FN party had been able to capitalize on the politically explosive issues of immigration, the integration of Islam into French society and the party's desire to oust the euro and return to the French franc. Departmental councils are voted on based upon their geographic region, or ‘cantons’. The two-round elections, on March 22 and 29, were for councillors in 2,054 cantons. The original cantons were drawn up in 1790, one year after the French revolution. The cantons were recently re-drawn in accordance with population data released by INSEE (National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies) in December 2013. They were also dramatically reduced in number -- from 4,035 to 2,054. So now, each French department has about 20 cantons.

The ballot was ‘binôme’ – with tandems consisting of two names. Each tandem had a male and female candidate. This new rule to elect both a man and a woman was a push for greater gender equality in the departments. In 2011, less than a quarter of first round candidates were women.

Marine Le Pen’s far-right party was forecast to win as much as 30 percent of ballots. Disagreement over what position to take in relation to the FN was seething within Sarkozy’s camp, with moderates like Juppé and UMP vice-president Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet pleading for a hard-line approach to the anti-immigration, anti-euro camp. Sarkozy adopted a more conciliatory tone, and in the run-up to the departmental elections made declarations meant to appeal to far-right constituents.

Former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing UMP party won the first round of local elections in France on 23 March 2015 , in what could be a first success in his long and likely turbulent campaign to reclaim the presidency in 2017.

Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), in coalition with centrists of the Union of Democrats and Independents (UDI), claimed a resounding victory in departmental polls with 29.4 percent of all votes, according to interior ministry figures. The surging far-right National Front (FN) finished in second place with 25.2 percent of ballots, while the ruling Socialist Party (PS) and its allies came in third with 21.9 support.

Sarkozy’s right-wing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) and centrist allies on 29 March 2015 won control of an overwhelming majority of departments in France, in a major blow to the ruling Socialist Party. The UMP, in coalition with moderates from the Union of Democrats and Independents (UDI), claimed as many as 70 out of a possible 98 departments.

Despite historically high scores at the local level, the far-right National Front failed to win majority control of any departmental councils. France’s CSA polling firm said FN candidates had finished first in at least 43 cantons, the geographical units that make up French departments, but did not have enough councillors to take control of any departments.

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Page last modified: 06-05-2016 19:55:08 ZULU