Kais Saied’s French recipe is outdated

French editors lack colorful expressions to describe the results of the legislative elections on June 10 and 19, 2022: slap in the face, earthquake, disaster… For the first time since 1988, a newly re-elected president fails to secure an absolute majority in the National Assembly (House of Representatives) . The situation is very embarrassing for the executive branch because it comes less than two months after the renewal of Emmanuel Macron. Therefore, the latter will find it very difficult to implement his electoral program and will have to constantly negotiate with the political groups that presented themselves against him.

This rare situation, and above all unprecedented in its scale, calls into question the familiar wish that the French voting system should ensure governmental stability. While Kais Saied will propose the election of deputies by single- and two-round ballot in the legislative elections in December 2022, we propose to analyze them based on the French experience.

First poll after last

This method of appointing deputies was reintroduced in France with the Fifth Republic (the system in place since 1958) after it was the main method of voting in the Third Republic (1871-1940). The aim of this restoration was to avoid the instability of the Fourth Republic (1947-1958). Indeed, in twelve years, representatives elected by proportional representation have come to power 24 governments, the shortest of which was only two days!

The principle of the first-and-won voting system consists of dividing the country into legislative electoral districts of an average of 120,000 inhabitants in the French capital. It should be noted that French people living abroad have been able to vote in legislative elections since 2012 and have 11 electoral districts depending on their place of residence. The candidate who obtains 50% of the votes cast and collects on his behalf more than 25% of the registered voters is elected in the first round. As abstentions have been increasing for years, this scenario is becoming increasingly rare. If no candidate wins the election, a second ballot is taken. Any contestant with more than 12.5% ​​of registered subscribers can qualify, otherwise 1st and 2nd places. The winner of the second round is the candidate who comes first, even if he does not have an absolute majority of the votes.

A useful vote is one of the consequences

By holding the elections in two rounds, the elections strengthen caucuses by encouraging excluded candidates to decide who will remain. This has led to the development of backlashes such as beneficial voting, which generally benefits the major political parties. If this method of voting makes it possible in general to exclude independents and small political parties, it does not systematically give a stable majority. This argument, often put forward by proponents of this classification method, is in fact related to the political context.

From its reintroduction in 1958 until the mid-1970s, the French political scene was dominated by the Right in general and the Gaullist party in particular. We had to wait for the emergence of the Socialist Party in 1971 and its agreement with the French Communist Party to witness some form of left-right dualism. From that moment on, the elections led to a succession of contradictions between the progressive camp and the conservative camp. This situation has less to do with the nature of voting than with political formation.

When the left came to power, it opted for proportional representation with district lists in the 1986 legislative elections. Although the Socialist Party came out on top, the right-wing coalition (RPR + UDF) succeeded in forming the government. But the biggest surprise of these elections was undoubtedly the entry into force of the National Front with 36 deputies. A consensus was then found between the left and the right to return to a first-round two-round system, with the presumed goal of limiting the election of far-right deputies as much as possible. To do this, react Republican Checkpoint For a long time. In the case of a trio (3 candidates making it to the second round) that includes an FN candidate, the least positioned right or left competitor must withdraw. In the event of a duel with a rival from the far right, the instructions to vote for the alleged Republican candidate. This strategy has paid off and the elected officials of the far right have almost disappeared from the sphere of blood. But the demonization of the National Front, which turned into the National Rally, gradually broke the glass ceiling preventing the party from obtaining deputies. Thus, without changing the voting system, the National Front party dramatically entered the National Assembly with 89 deputies, two and a half times the record set in 1986. Here again, if the method of appointing parliamentarians affected the National Assembly as a result, the political power relations are At least just as important.

distortion of electoral weight

Another effect of the FPTP system is to distort electoral weight in favor of the first-come-first-served party. In the second round of the 2017 legislative elections, the right-wing UMP won 49.66% of the vote and won 345 seats. The Socialist Party, which came in second with 49.06%, had only 227 deputies. Several factors may explain this disparity. Division into small electoral districts dictates a good distribution of land to win the largest number of elections. Moreover, the proximity between the presidential and legislative elections – a few weeks – gives a definite advantage to the candidates who support the new president of the republic. In 2022, the tripartite political division (three blocs: the far right, the right and the left) certainly weakened the reality of the majority, but without disappearing it, supporters of the Macron still have the largest parliamentary group in the Assembly.

Finally, the outcome of the election, regardless of the method of voting adopted, does not necessarily affect what happens next. During the 2014 Tunisian legislative elections, if the two-round majority voting system had been implemented, Nidaa Tounes would have been very likely to win an absolute majority for the ARP party. In fact, the “useful vote” against Ennahda greatly benefited the movement created by Beji Caid Essebsi. But the party, which rested on a very weak ideological base, ended up splitting into several competing entities. An element completely independent of any electoral law. Returning to the French example, the 1958 legislative elections gave the parliamentary right an overwhelming majority of 402 deputies out of a total of 579. This did not prevent this same majority from voting, in 1962, on a motion to censure the government of Georges Pompidou.

All of these elements tend to show that if the choice of voting method can influence the electoral landscape of a country, it cannot be separated from the balance of power between the existing political entities. Supporters of the first post-election must take into account several other elements, starting with the emergence of real parties built on a clearly defined electoral bid.

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