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“I cannot prevent the French from being French.” - Charles de Gaulle
 
A microcosm of left success – the mayoral race for Lyon
By Jocelyn Evans
28 February 2014 | Candidates | 1827 words
The city of Lyon represents a hub of economic innovation and hi-tech industry, making it the second richest city in France, after Paris. It is also a diverse city, with 14% of its population born outside France. Politically, the preponderance of an educated liberal workforce has kept Lyon very much a city of the left in recent years, with the Socialist Party controlling the town hall since 2001 under the tutelage of Gérard Collomb, standing this time for a third term of office.

Even before the Socialist domination, the city was controlled principally by the more liberal UDF, first Francisque Collomb (no relation) and then Raymond Barre. The only interruption was six years of RPR rule, led by Michel Noir, before his fall from grace in one of the high-profile corruption trials to taint the right in the Rhône.

As one of the three multi-district cities, together with Paris and Marseille, Lyon’s nine arrondissements leave no doubt as to the city’s political colour.

Arrondissements won by the left and the right in 2001 and 2008



Of the seven left-leaning arrondissements, six are currently controlled by mayors elected under the Socialist banner in 2008, together with the EELV mayor Alain Giordano in the 9th arrondissement. The remaining two arrondissements, 2 and 6, have been under the tutelage not of the main UMP opposition, but the centrist Union des démocrates et indépendants (UDI). This centrism characterises the profile of the 2014 municipal lists as well. Of the nine lists in Collomb’s ‘Evidemment Lyon’ campaign, only five are headed by Socialists, with for example Thomas Rudigoz, affiliated to the MODEM, leading the Collomb list against the UMP challenger Michel Havard, and other high-ranked places are occupied by former members of the centre right, for example Fouziya Bouzerda who left the UDI group in the town hall for a place on Collomb’s list in the 3rd arrondissement.

Historically, Lyon has fomented a distinct brand of left-wing thought distinct from the Parisian centre, from Mutualism to Saint-Simonism. Lyon’s specificity continues through Collomb the governing majority Senator distancing his city executive from rue Solférino much earlier than his counterparts Hidalgo and Mennucci in Paris and Marseille. As in 2008, the PS symbol will not appear on his ‘Evidemment Lyon’ campaign. “Le collombisme n’est pas soluble dans le hollandisme.” He has also been vocal in his scepticism, if not hostility, towards many of the government’s flagship policies, including tax rises, same-sex marriage and business tax relief.

Main frontrunners in the Lyon municipals

From left: Gérard Collomb (PS), Michel Havard (UMP-UDI), Etienne Tête (EELV), Aline Guitard (FG-GRAM), Christophe Boudot (FN)



Collomb also currently enjoys 6th position in the highest number of offices held – nine in total. His days as ultra-cumulard are numbered, however – should he win re-election as mayor, he will need in due course to stand down as Senator under the recent law preventing politicians from holding national and local executive positions simultaneously. As one of the less ‘present’ Senators in the Palais de Luxembourg, his focus is evidently on his mayoral seat, and with good reason – he will still have the possibility of taking on the new role of president of the Lyon métropole, a new regional body appearing in January 2015, and fusing the previous Grand Lyon and Conseil général du Rhône. For a mayor looking to place his stamp on the region, broader control of the first administrative métropôle in France is the logical end-point of a vision for Lyon and the Rhône as one of Europe’s hubs.

The Socialists do not have everything their own way. In the 1st arrondissement, Nathalie Perrin-Gilbert, the mayor elected on the PS list in 2001 and 2008,took a leave of absence from the party (subsequently acknowledged by the party as expulsion, to allow her ‘freedom of expression’, and is standing on a joint Front de Gauche list, led by Communist Aline Guitard. Her recent, and only temporary, arrest for occupying an old school building in protest at the city’s building policy and the plight of the homeless has gained publicity for a leftist dissident from Collomb’s centrist focus, but whether this radicalisation alienates the electoral centre-ground remains to be seen. The 8% support she has garnered in the polls is a minority of her former boss’ score, and indeed accounts entirely for his drop between September of last year and the most recent poll, from 42% percent to 36%. The remaining two points come from the EELV, whose candidate Etienne Tête has dropped below the crucial first-round bar of 10%.

In polls of first-round vote intention, these intra-block shifts account for most of the movement. Michel Havard (UMP-UDI) has remained around the 30% mark for the past six months, and the FN candidate Christophe Boudot, has recently moved from 11% to 12.5%. Havard’s candidacy has not been a smooth one. A one-term deputy for the centre of Lyon during the Sarkozy administration, defeating and then defeated by Thierry Braillard, of the left radicals, Havard was not the UMP politburo’s favoured candidate. Throughout the primaries, party central effectively sponsored judge, deputy and former President of the parliamentary study group on Cults, Georges Fenech, encouraging other first-round candidates to endorse him in the run-off with Havard. Notables such as Nora Berra who looked set to support Havard were convinced to back his rival. Even Michel Noir called for UMP members to support Fenech. Local party members nonetheless backed their former deputy convincingly – yet another instance of local politics simply not reflecting the national structure.

Despite still not having reached an agreement with the centrist alliance, led by Christophe Geourjon, by December 2013, Havard’s Génération Lyon list now includes centrist UDI candidates, taking one-third of the 73 slots and heading two of the lists, in the safe 2nd arrondissement and the long-shot 7th. Havard’s former opponent Fenech is backing the mayoral candidate, Denis Broliquier, in the 2nd arrondissement, indicating a level of unity in the UMP after the power-struggle with Paris. Indeed, Havard’s campaign emphasises his strategy of winning the position of mayor of Lyon, rather than simply casting himself as Collomb’s usurper. Ironically, a relatively young candidate looking to unseat the old guard is relying on a raft of local notables, against an incumbent slate dotted with young turks.

The FN is also presenting a younger face in Christophe Boudot, in stark contrast to his 73-year old predecessor in 2008, who managed only 4.15% of the vote. Somewhat ambitiously, the FN is looking for 20% of the vote this year, and certainly the opportunity to put itself forward in a record number of triangulaires. The FN sees possible support in a city which saw many demonstrations against same-sex marriage. Moreover, an Ifop poll suggesting the question of Roma is one of the most important to Lyonnais indicates political capital for the far right to exploit. In 2012, Marine Le Pen cleared the 10% threshold in the peripheral 7th, 8th and 9th arrondissements – all three predominantly left-leaning areas, and the most deprived areas of the city. A good result for the FN would be an increased presence on the city council, beyond the single seat in the 8th arrondissement. The scope for game-changing through its nuisance power to the right seems limited; a mayoral victory in any arrondissement is out of the question.

The table below summarises the likely scenario for distribution of the 73 municipal council seats in March, based upon current opinion polling.

Predicted number of municipal councillors

 

 

Estimated second-round vote

Projected seats

Arrondissement

Seats

Left

Right

FN

Bonus seats (PLM)

Left

Right

FN

1

4

70.54

29.46

0.00

2

3

1

0

2

5

41.05

58.95

0.00

3

1

4

0

3

12

51.63

35.00

13.37

6

9

2

1

4

5

60.00

40.00

0.00

3

4

1

0

5

8

51.29

48.71

0.00

4

6

2

0

6

9

36.14

63.86

0.00

5

1

8

0

7

9

58.62

27.86

13.52

5

7

1

1

8

12

55.65

26.35

18.00

6

9

2

1

9

9

57.33

28.87

13.79

5

7

1

1

LYON

73

 

 

 

39

47

22

4



There is little in the likely seat allocations to give succour to a UMP wishing to capitalise on Socialist discontent. Two arrondissements fall easily to them, but these are nos. 2 and 6, which are already theirs. All seven remaining arrondissements fall to the Socialists, or accurately, ‘remain with’. Two arrondissements are close races – nos. 3 and 5 – should the FN not make it to the second round. Yet, even if the UMP to monopolise the Right, and the Socialists underperform compared with the opinion polls, the loss of these two arrondissements, whilst a significant shift in the political structure of the city, stamping a ‘blue bird’ along the East-West axis, would still not shift the balance of power: reallocate the bonus seats to the UMP, and the Left still wins 37 municipal councillors – the minimum majority. Even relying upon a benevolent FN in the council chamber – something Havard would prefer not to consider as a possibility – would not put the UMP in power. Lastly, although embarassing to the PS, not even Nathalie Perrin-Gilbert’s departure to the radical left is likely to disrupt Socialist dominance, given the massive majority they enjoy in this arrondissement.

Local success has been key. Although far from immune from the economic woes that have swept the rest of France, Lyon position in the vanguard of hi-tech development crucial to IT and infrastructure not just in France is a strength that has been supported and nurtured by the city’s political leaders, and therefore it is perhaps unsurprising that these look set to enjoy an equivalent buoyancy whilst their national counterparts struggle. But it is also what Collomb’s opponents are looking to exploit as a weakness, either directly or indirectly. Even for potential allies such as the EELV – separate first-round lists notwithstanding – the grand projets, including under-city transport tunnels, suburban tramways, a further extension to the Lyon metro (although Havard has an extension in mind, although cheaper), and most notoriously the stadium for Olympique lyonnais are often unaffordable vanity projects which divert much needed financial support from more mundane areas of council work. Similarly, for the strange bedfellows of Christophe Boudot and Nathalie Perrin-Gilbert, the vaunting of successful European and outward facing flagship projects simply masks the failure of the council in matters of social housing and, at least for the FN candidate, the livelihoods of many local traders and businesses against Collomb’s favouring huge commercial property development and Part-Dieu, the second largest business district after Paris’ La Défense.

Perhaps his opponents’ condemnation of his presidential style of executive domination and grand projets – ‘la folie des grandeurs’— will only come from his ambition to control the new métropôle de Lyon. Whilst his left coalition may remain dominant in Lyon itself, the other cities around Lyon are not as assured – Vienne is currently held by the UMP, as is Villefranche-sur-Saône. St Etienne has a recent history of Right-wing incumbency, until Socialist victory in 2008. Collomb cannot expect the same level of deference, even from his own party, where “personne n’ose le contredire, as Denis Broliquier surmises. A right-wing ‘blue zone’ in cantons to the North-West of Lyon may have been limited by the formation of the métropôle, but this political hue, together with the FN’s increasing popularity in these peri-urban areas, threatens to keep Collomb’s oligarchy behind the city walls.

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Welcome to '500Signatures', for analysis and commentary on French politics and elections

This blog is produced by Jocelyn Evans (University of Leeds) and Gilles Ivaldi (University of Nice)

 
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since 10 January 2012

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Jocelyn Evans [@JocelynAJEvans] is Professor of Politics at the University of Leeds

Gilles Ivaldi is a CNRS researcher in political science based at the University of Nice

 
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CATEGORY
 
DATA

- Forecasting the FN vote in Second-Order elections (updated 12 May 2014)

- Forecasting the FN vote in Second-Order elections (Jan. 2014)

- Polling scores by polling type (CATI v CAWI) (updated 20 April 2012)

- Estimating Marine Le Pen's vote in the 2012 presidentials: an experiment (November 2011)

- Data for the 2011 expert forecast survey (in CSV file)

 

 


 
Last modified on Monday 25 April 2016
Copyright Gilles Ivaldi - @2012-2014