French elections: A little local difficulty

THE ruling Socialists were braced for bad local-election results. But for President François Hollande’s party the first round on March 23rd was scalding. The governing left took 38% of the vote, far behind the mainstream right on 46%. The Socialists came humiliatingly third in several towns. Numerically, the round was won by the centre-right UMP party. But the symbolic victor was Marine Le Pen’s populist National Front (FN).The Socialists may hang on to some big cities after the second round on March 30th, including Paris. Although their mayoral candidate, Anne Hidalgo, came second to the UMP’s Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, the Socialists have done a deal with the Greens that should secure a narrow majority for the left in the run-off. In other places the Socialists are in an awkward spot, nowhere more so than in Marseille. The left had hoped to win the city, where the ruling UMP has failed to curb a violent organised-crime wave. Yet the Socialist candidate, Patrick Mennucci, came third.This was Mr Hollande’s first mid-term test, and voters made clear their exasperation at his failure to cut unemployment or revive growth, and at his government’s ineptness. Despite efforts to make this an election about local matters, those who voted took their discontent with him to the ballot box. Many preferred to stay away altogether, especially among under-25s who had backed Mr Hollande…

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