INTERVIEW. Political scientist Pascal Perrineau analyzes for “Le Point” the first round of the legislative elections. Against prevailing opinions. I subscribe for 1€ the 1st month
He has long been one of our best specialists in electoral sociology. Political scientist Pascal Perrineau, who was the emblematic boss of Cevipof, the center for the study of political life at Sciences Po, also a specialist in the far right in France, author of a Que sais-je?, on Populism (PUF), dissects and analyzes for Le Point the results of the first round of the legislative elections. The push of the Nupes, the presidential majority in difficulty, the good performance of the National Rally and the resistance of the Republicans? Deciphering against the current.
Le Point: How would you describe this first round of legislative elections?
Pascal Perrineau: This is not a presidential victory amplification ballot. These legislative elections are rectification elections: barely elected, the presidential majority is rectified by the voters.
Were you surprised by these results?
Strictly speaking, no. Polling institutes, whether at the level of participation or the balance of political forces, had announced what happened. We could have expected this splitting of the political landscape into three roughly equal poles: a majority pole made up of the presidential coalition Together at around 26%, a left pole at the same level and a right pole of the right which makes 23 to 24% if we aggregate the results of the RN to the sovereignists. There are therefore three poles of equal strength. And also a moderate right pole, but weaker, at 13-14%. We therefore have a fragmented political landscape with no possible agreement between two of these four forces. We'll see what happens if Together only achieves a relative majority. If so, the presidential party will need continued support. Where will he get it? By individual poaching or more institutionalized? We will see if the various left manage to form a group. Or if an opening is still possible towards LRs and centrists, as happened with Michel Rocard in 1988 with the entry into government of right-wing figures such as Jean-Marie Rausch and Jean-Pierre Soisson.
The president will have to bend to a culture of parliamentary compromise, which is not his favorite sport.
Don't you think Ensemble can have an absolute majority?
This is not the most likely scenario. Above all, I see the seeds of a problem of cohabitation within this presidential coalition. Many have already started thinking about post-Macron. The president will have to bend to a culture of parliamentary compromise, which is not his favorite sport, to say the least.
Republicans can serve as a back-up force?
LR is doing pretty well after the failed presidential election. It makes resistance, resilience. He will be able to regain political positions through a pivotal role. To build a majority, the macronists will need them. During the first five-year term, the LR group voted a lot of majority texts. So we must not insult the future.
Will the National Council for Refoundation created by Emmanuel Macron be used to circumvent parliamentary debates to speed up reforms?
It's just a communication tool. Participatory democracy is not the forte of the Head of State.
Do you see any new factors that explain the record abstention in this first round of legislative?
We find very classic causes: the abstention of young people (more than 70%), the popular strata who vote less than the upper strata… All this is known. What is newer is the behavior of the political class that generated abstention: there was no campaign. The second somewhat new factor is the development of negative politics. Voting no longer has a positive dimension. People are tired of ballot boxes being used as vents for negative passions, so they don't go to polling stations anymore. Citizens expect good reasons to vote around government projects rooted in clear alliances. The Nupes project is a union program around the slogan “We shave gratis”. The Ensemble project is unclear. And that of the RN is unrealistic on several points. The serious problem is that a culture of abstention has been allowed to take hold in France.
As for abstention in the legislative elections, we can speak of the French exception. We are at the bottom of the ranking between Bulgaria and Lithuania!
These abstention rates are also found among our European neighbors…
Among our Swiss friends, it's true, abstention is high at votes, linked to a phenomenon of attrition: citizens are very frequently consulted. But, in general, in Europe, for the legislative elections, the participation rates are high because we are in parliamentary democracies and it is the legislative elections that distribute power. This is the case in Germany, where these votes determine the coalition that will govern. In Great Britain, Italy and Spain too and of course in the democracies of Northern Europe. On abstention from the legislative elections, we can speak of a French exception. We are at the bottom of the ranking between Bulgaria and Lithuania! Since the inversion of the electoral calendar, by Lionel Jospin in 2001, the legislative elections have become secondary elections.
Has there been a surge in left?
Compared to 2017, there is a slight surge of around three points. Historical score, as some claim? Well then ! I recall that it happened to the left under the Fifth Republic to exceed 40% of votes in the legislative elections (54% in 1981, 47% in 1997, 50% in 2012…). The Nupes score is down compared to the total votes of the candidates of the political parties that make it up for the presidential election (31%). The “Nupes dynamic” is fake news. The only political movement that experienced real momentum during this first round was the National Rally.
To what do you attribute this dynamic, you who have worked for years on the far right?
The RN has become a party that is beginning to have local roots. We see it in the Pyrénées-Orientales around Louis Aliot or in the northeast quarter of the country. The second element is that the RN is increasingly the electoral expression of social and territorial fractures. From Yonne to Doubs, via eastern Lorraine, the Ardennes, returning to Pas-de-Calais, Aisne, Haute-Marne, the regions that give the most votes to RN candidates are all suffering. deindustrialization, an erosion of public services, and conceal real pockets of poverty, as is the case in the Aisne which offers the most votes to Le Pen.
On the macronist side, what is your reading of the ballot?
There is no collapse, but very noticeable erosion (-6 to 7 points). The presidential majority gathered with the MoDem in the 2017 legislative elections more than 32% of the votes. There is the wear and tear of power, of course, but this decline is also indicative of the failure of macronie to take root. Most of its deputies have remained elected above ground, it is in their DNA. And the candidates did not benefit from a Macron effect after his presidential victory. They were not carried by a wave of popularity of the executive, since Macron peaks at 40%, that Élisabeth Borne is the most unpopular Prime Minister of the Fifth Republic at the start of the mandate.
Who can benefit from vote reserves for the second round?
This should rather benefit the central block. La Nupes has already filled up its voices. It was a gathering of the left that took place before the first round, which was not the case in the rich hours of the unions of the left, where the candidates presented themselves in dispersed order in the first round and regrouped in the second. Then, the candidates of the Nupes are essentially rebels, therefore the representatives of a very radical left which frightens many voters.
The Insoumis were 17 in number in the previous Assembly and they were already making a lot of noise. If they multiply their number, are there risks of blocking parliamentary work?
For that, they would have to benefit with their allies from a relative majority, and they won't get it. These are people who don't have a lot of parliamentary culture, and they don't want to. They have been trained in agit-prop in the street or on social networks, but they do not master the tools of parliamentary procedure. They are going to create a turbulent climate in the Assembly, that is their style. But, as there will be no conductor since Jean-Luc Mélenchon will not sit, the risk of parliamentary guerrilla warfare is less. They will be able to multiply the amendments, but, if they do not have a majority to support this, this work of obstruction will be useless.