France concluded its runoff regional elections yesterday. The results show that strategy and tactical voting carried the day for the traditional powers. The right wing challengers lost all.
See the Associated Press’s breaking news, ‘French far right collapses in regional runoff elections‘
How can a party – Front National (FN) – that took the lead in the first-round elections get zero in the aftermath of the second round? If France had a first-past-the-post system like Malaysia, the FN would already be ruling the country after winning Round One on Dec 6.
But because France does not practise one-off voting, the FN’s front-runner position in six out of the country’s 13 voting regions – see map below – failed to translate into real power when it came to the crunch.
As France adopts proportional representation which makes its election system of lists rather ‘complicated’ (no winning on simple majority), opponents of FN were able to combine forces in Round Two on Dec 13 to block the FN’s advance.
Candidates from President Hollande’s party strategically withdrew in some areas to ensure straight fights against FN. Now that’s tactics.
The big three
France’s main parties:
- Front National led by Marine Le Pen
- Les Républicain led by ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy
- Socialist Party led by president François Hollande
How they fared in Round One (Dec 6)
- Front National — 27.7 percent
- Les Républicain — 26.7 percent
- Socialist Party — 23.1 percent
How the French system works, as explained by Politico:
- If no party gets 50 percent of the vote in the first round, a second round is held.
- Any party that took more than 10 percent in the first round may enter round two.
- Any party that got at least 5 percent of the vote in the first round can choose to merge their list with that of another party.
- The winning list automatically gets allocated a bonus of 25 percent of the seats.
- The other seats are distributed proportionally between all remaining lists that achieved more than 5 percent of the vote.
Source: ‘Everything you need to know about the elections in France‘ (Politico, 12 Dec 2015)
How FN’s Marine Le Pen lost yesterday
Le Pen is described by the pundits as “far right”. She contested in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region in the north and won 40.6 percent of the popular vote last week (Round One).
Nord-Pas-de-Calais is described by Politico as “an industrial area that was historically a stronghold of the Communist and Socialist parties”. In short, a far-right leader has today become most popular in a traditional communist/socialist region.
Strategy and tactics
Marine Le Pen maintained more or less the same level of support in yesterday’s run-off, getting 42.8 percent of the vote.
Nonetheless the FN chief’s 43 percent support is not enough to push her across the finishing line ahead of her rival.
Le Pen’s opponent Xavier Bertrand this time (Dec 13) collected a vastly improved 57.2 percent of the vote. Bertrand only garnered 25 percent in Round One on Dec 6.
On the other hand, although holding steady, Le Pen’s performance in Round Two increased just slightly over two percent from her performance in Round One.
Compare this with Bertrand’s stunning increase of 32 percent, on the back of combined support between Hollande’s socialist and Sarkozy’s centrist electorates.
Overcoming voter apathy and abstention
Another factor that changed was the voter turnout.
Nationwide, the first round saw a low turnout of 43 percent while the second round saw more Frenchmen coming out to vote at 59 percent.
Voters terrified at the prospect of the FN – which is constantly demonized by the media – coming to power in France were galvanized to turn out yesterday.
A lesson from history
In Germany’s July 1932 elections, the DAP (Deutsche Arbeiter Partei or German Workers Party, better known as Nazi) only won 33 percent of the vote. But that was still more than any other party and through a series of Machiavellian backroom manoeuvres, Hilter became chancellor in January 1933.
Some takeaways from the FN’s defeat for Umno
Front National is the single most popular party in France but it did not succeed in obtaining power.
Compare Malaysia. Umno is the the single most popular party but BN did not win the popular vote in the last general election.
It’s all about strategy and tactics
As another example, take the Republicans in the USA. They have the majority support from the majority race (white). But their candidate in 2012, Mitt Romney, lost to a black Democrat Obama when running for the Oval Office.
A factor was voter turnout. ‘Blacks outvoted whites in 2012, the first time on record’ (CNN, 9 May 2013).
In the Malaysian context, it is the Cina giler taksub phenomenon where the Chinese expats/workers even returned from overseas and from Singapore on polling day to answer the DAP’s “ini kali lah”, “wu xue wu, huan cheng fu” clarion call.
93% blacks supported Obama
Another factor in the American Democrats’ strategy was the black unity. A total of 93 percent black voters supported Obama. (Much like the 95 percent Chinese and DAP.)
Obama also received almost three-quarters support from the other minorities (Asians 73%, Hispanic 71%). These are Census Bureau stats.
While Obama had 93 percent of the black votes, Romney only won 59 percent of the white votes. The whites were split with 39 percent supporting Obama. The majority race failed to put their white man in the White House.
You can see the parallels in Malaysia and the trouble ahead for Umno.
In a nutshell
Front National, the single most popular party in France, flopped because its opponents worked together tactically.
Mitt Romney, the Republican who got the single most biggest chunk of votes (white), lost his bid for the presidency because his opponent got almost all the black votes and three-quarters of the other ethnic and minority causes votes while the white votes were split.
Umno has got the brute strength of race majority but risks succumbing to the DAP’s slick strategy.
At present, apart from the 95 percent Chinese support, the DAP evangelistas are similarly monopolizing Christian support in the peninsula and inciting native Christians in Sabah and Sarawak.
Is Malaysia a racially tolerant country?
Not quite — see data map below.
Umno is invariably accused of playing the race card. While it may be so, the party’s politicking is merely reflecting the reality on the ground.
The map shows survey results to the question whether the poll respondent is willing to have a person of another race as his neighbour.
Malaysia did not fare well in the global study.
Click to enlarge