This blog is hosted on Ideas on EuropeIdeas on Europe Avatar

The UACES Blog

News and comment from UACES events and activities

Latest

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose? The 2019 European election results in France

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose? The 2019 European election results in France

Nick Startin, University of Bath

The 2019 European election campaign in France was framed by the French media as a rerun of the second round of the 2017 presidential elections. The dominant narrative centred on who would be the leading party between President Macron’s Renaissance Movement en Marche and Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (RN) (formerly the Front National). In the end, the RN list led by 23 year-old Jordan Bardella topped the poll with 23.31% of the vote, with the President’s Renaissance list coming a close second.

In truth, the vote for the RN did nothing more than affirm the status quo; the party’s vote share was actually lower than at the previous 2014 European elections. Back then, the FN was also the leading party in France and polled 24.85% of the vote. With 22 MEPS the RN will have two fewer seats in the Strasbourg parliament than the FN did 5 years ago.

The vote indicates that the party’s electoral progress since the 2014 and 2017 contests has not been sufficient to illustrate that Marine Le Pen is capable of winning a potential second-round run off at the next Presidential elections in 2022. Based on the outcome of these elections in France, Marine Le Pen’s request to dissolve the National Assembly will be ignored by the president.

For President Macron, this was the first time that his party had participated in the European elections since founding his République en Marche in 2016. With a vote share of 22.41% and 21 MEPs elected, this was a reasonable outcome for the president. Given the ‘second order’ nature of European elections and the tendency for incumbent governments to take something of a hit in such contests, the result could certainly have been worse for the president and his party.

This is particularly the case considering the backdrop of the social and political unrest engendered by the Gillets Jaunes since November 2017. The president and his advisers will be relieved that the Gillets Jaunes movement was unable to clearly articulate itself at the ballot box with the former FN strategist Floriant Phillipot’s “Ensemble, Patriotes et Gilets Jaunes : pour la France sortons de l’Union européenne” list polling a miserly 0.65% of the vote. This relief will no doubt be shared by Marine Le Pen. Similarly, the Alliance Jaune of Francis Lalanne, which was calling for a Citizens Initiative Referendum, only polled 0.54%.

What has gone largely unnoticed in the immediate aftermath of the elections is the abject failure of the two main parties that have historically dominated the Left-Right politics of the French Fifth Republic (the Gaullists and the Socialists) – their combined vote share was around 15%! The Gaullist Républicain-dominated “Union de la Droite et du Centre” list polled just 8.48%, while the Socialist-dominated “Envie d’Europe écologique et sociale” list fared even worse with just 6.19%.

Given that, in European electoral settings, the Gaullist list polled 27.88% as recently as 2009 and the Socialists polled 28.9% in 2004, this ongoing decline of France’s two major governing parties of the modern era is perhaps the most significant development vis-à-vis the overall result. The rebirth of the Socialist party shows no signs of gathering pace (certainly while Macron remains in the Elysée Palace) and the Gaullist Républicains are still experiencing the fall-out from the Fillon scandal, unable to find a leader to reboot the party after the Sarkozy years.

Nor did the results pan out as hoped for Jean-Luc Mélenchon and his Radical Left France Insoumise. His list led by Manon Aubry (no relation to Martine Aubry, the Socialist Mayor of Lille and daughter of Jacques Delors) polled 6.31% of the vote. This was a slight reduction compared to the 6.91% polled in 2014 by the party in its previous guise (Parti de Gauche). Given the unrest in France, generated by the Gillets Jaunes Movement, and faced with such favourable demand-side conditions, this result will be a disappointment to the party.

While both the Socialist and Radical Left vote declined in France, it was the Greens that profited, finishing third with its Europe Écologie list, led by Yannick Jadot, polling 13.47% of the vote (with 12 seats). This was a notable improvement on the 8.9% scored in 2014 and closer to the Greens’ highest vote in France in 2009, when the list fronted by Daniel Cohn-Bendit polled 16.3%.

A combination of a well-run campaign, the growing salience of climate change as an issue and the weakness of parties on the Left enabled the Greens to position themselves as an emerging player within the French Party system. Notably, the success of Green parties elsewhere in the EU has also strengthened the traction of the French Greens as the second biggest party (behind the German Grunen) in the European Parliament’s Greens/EFA group.

In reality, the European elections in France did not illustrate any measurable shift to a more Eurosceptic or populist discourse in France. The unrest caused by the Gillets Jaunes does not appear to have had any discernible impact on the result either. More than half of registered electors (50.12%) participated, much in line with the 50.91% participation rate across the EU, which was the highest in 20 years. In France this was a noticeable improvement on the 42.43% turnout of 2014.

A clear majority of French citizens who participated voted for parties with a pro-EU disposition. Rival Euroseptic groups on the Right such as Nicolas Dupont-Aignan’s Euroscpetic Gaullist Debout La France and Francois Asselineau’s Ensemble pour le Frexit were unable to gain representation, suffering the same fate as the Gillets Jaunes and Radical Left lists.

What the 2019 European elections in France do confirm is the continued move away from the two main parties (the Gaullists and the Socialists). Furthermore, the result illustrates that Marine Le Pen’s RN remains unable to build on its existing electoral position, although it has seen off alternative Radical Right rivals.

Finally, it is clear that the president’s pro-EU Mouvement en Marche retains a solid rump of support despite the recent social and political unrest in France. Assuming he runs for a second term, this is likely to serve Emmanuel Macron well in his attempt to navigate through to the Second Round of the Presidential elections in 2022 and to win the French Presidency for a second time.


 Please note that this article represents the views of the author(s) and not those of UACES.

Comments and Site Policy

Shortlink for this article: http://bit.ly/2Wcud4J


Nick Startin | @NicholasStartin

Nick Startin is a Senior Lecturer in French and European Politics at the University of Bath. His research focuses on the impact of Euroscepticism on domestic politics. He is a co-editor of the recently published Routledge Handbook of Euroscepticism and is the current Chair of UACES.

COMMENT

Recent Articles

UACES Chair’s Message — May 2019

Published on by | Comments Off on UACES Chair’s Message — May 2019

Nicholas Startin, University of Bath Let me begin by thanking everyone who put their names forward for election to the UACES committee. Their willingness to be involved in the running of the Association is much appreciated. I would like to congratulate Jocelyn Mawdsley from  Newcastle University who will be the Association’s new Treasurer for a […]

NORTIA Student Essay Competition: “50 years of European foreign policy cooperation”

Published on by | Comments Off on NORTIA Student Essay Competition: “50 years of European foreign policy cooperation”

  Are you a Master student researching European foreign policy, European external relations or the EU´s role in the world?  Then we invite you to participate in this NORTIA essay competition We are inviting research essays by Master students, which add to our understanding of 50 years of European foreign policy cooperation: What are the […]

Decentring Europe: Critical Approaches to European Foreign Policy | Event Report

Published on by | Comments Off on Decentring Europe: Critical Approaches to European Foreign Policy | Event Report

Decentring Europe: Critical Approaches to European Foreign Policy Research Seminar University of London Institute in Paris 7 March 2019 Organised by the Centre for European Research (CER), Queen Mary University of London in cooperation with the University of London Institute in Paris. Supported by a UACES Small Event Grant (learn more and apply).  The rationale […]

Reform Implementation during Austerity: Explaining the Greek and Irish Cases | Nüve Yazgan, UACES Scholar 2019

Published on by | Comments Off on Reform Implementation during Austerity: Explaining the Greek and Irish Cases | Nüve Yazgan, UACES Scholar 2019

UACES Scholar 2019, Nüve Yazgan (University of Surrey), spent four weeks in Greece to conduct PhD fieldwork. Here, she reports on her experience.  Outline of the research The UACES bursary enabled me to spend four weeks in Greece to conduct a series of interviews with political actors relevant to my doctoral thesis. The purpose of […]

EU Foreign Policy 10 Years After Lisbon

Published on by | Comments Off on EU Foreign Policy 10 Years After Lisbon

Perspectives on European Foreign Policy in the Context of Current EU-Russia Relations 1 Day Workshop – Friday 11 January 2019 – Leiden University, Netherlands In the kick-off session, three distinguished speakers share their assessment about the state of European foreign policy cooperation. We asked: What are the most pressing challenges facing the EU and its […]

UACES Chair’s Message — February 2019

Published on by | Comments Off on UACES Chair’s Message — February 2019

Nicholas Startin, University of Bath It has been a busy few months for the Association since I wrote my first column as Chair in November. While Brexit developments continue to move along at a snail’s pace, I am pleased to report that UACES remains as busy and as vibrant a community of scholars as ever. […]

The Benefits of Research Cooperation | NORTIA Fellow Dorina Baltag

Published on by | Comments Off on The Benefits of Research Cooperation | NORTIA Fellow Dorina Baltag

Dr. Dorina Baltag visited Brussels School of International Studies (BSIS) at Kent University during her NORTIA Residency in Autumn 2018. She is currently involved in teaching and coordinating courses in the European Studies Programme at Maastricht University. I applied for the NORTIA residency at Kent University (Brussels School of International Studies, BSIS) at the time […]

Brexit and the Voice of the People: But Which People?

Published on by | Comments Off on Brexit and the Voice of the People: But Which People?

Brexit and the Voice of the People: But Which People? Moira Dustin, Nuno Ferreira and Susan Millns (Sussex European Institute at the University of Sussex, Brighton, UK) A thousand different lenses Brexit has been debated and unpicked to exhaustion. Writing in February 2019, Brexit is beginning to feel like a bad soap opera whose scriptwriter […]

Members News | Virtual Learning Environment on the EU

Published on by | Comments Off on Members News | Virtual Learning Environment on the EU

How can a virtual learning environment fill the gap of knowledge on the European Union? UACES member Fabio Masini and Francesco Pigozzo introduce their free online educational platform arising from the AwarEU project.  The Virtual Learning Environment on the EU is the most important output of the Erasmus+ K3 project “European Awareness – AwarEU”, a […]

Meet the members of the Jean Monnet NORTIA Network

Published on by | Comments Off on Meet the members of the Jean Monnet NORTIA Network
nortia network eu foreign affairs

UACES is a member of NORTIA: the Network on Research and Teaching in EU Foreign Affairs. NORTIA is an Erasmus+ network, encompassing ten institutions. NORTIA fosters the debate between academics from different theoretical, methodological and geographical backgrounds through its annual research and teaching workshops, guest lectures, Master Classes, and Online Roundtables. NORTIA deepens the dialogue and interaction between academia and practitioners via carefully designed […]

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • UACES and Ideas on Europe do not take responsibility for opinions expressed in articles on blogs hosted on Ideas on Europe. All opinions are those of the contributing authors.