Small but Significant Victory for French Socialists

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Clinging to Swiss border, the Doubs departmental by-election was the first electoral test in the France of the post-Charlie Hebdo era

The result was tight but 6 months ago, it would be hard to predict any Socialist candidate winning a by-election in France, so far had the popularity of the ruling party fallen.

As it happened, it was a close-run thing that went down to the wire, but the victory is all the sweeter for the Socialists by beating the Front National candidate by a margin of 51.43% (for the Socialist Frédéric Barbier) against 48.57% (for FN candidate Sophie Montel).

In the two-round French voting system (all other candidates save 2 are eliminated in the first round), there was a marked increase in the voter turnout (from 40% to 50%) – something which helped the result swing the way of the Parti Socialiste and win the day by a margin of 863 votes.

The French have it good but there is a strange tendency in the country to constantly complain about their lot. The awful events in Paris last month have served to galvanise the people of France and seem to have made them realise that what they have is something worth defending and worth having after all.

The popularity of both the government and the walking PR-disaster that is President Hollande has increased, while that of Nicolas Sarkozy has plummeted. The latter must have thought that he had timed his comeback to perfection, but his cheekiness and blind ambition were laid bare for all French eyes when, during the huge day of protest that followed the Charlie Hebdo massacre, he wormed his way up from the second row of dignitaries into the front row (see this article).

For the PS, the increase in voter participation and the final result represent a small but highly significant victory. It’s also perhaps a sign that the French electorate are putting their faith in the democratic process and not reaching for the reactionary shotgun of the National Front.

The victorious candidate Frédéric Barbier was careful not to show any signs of triumphalism in his post-election utterances: “I’m not rejoicing, I’m not rolling out the banner… I owe this victory to the strength of the Republic.”

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