A new party system in the making? The 2017 French presidential election

Abstract

The 2017 presidential election represents a turning point in French electoral politics. It was marked by the poor performance of the main governing parties’ candidates and the victory of political newcomer Emmanuel Macron. More surprisingly, four candidates with clearly distinct policy lines were neck and neck in the first round. This article sheds light on this outcome and assesses its consequences for the French party system. We sketch alternative scenarios regarding the format and content of the emerging party system. Using geometrical analyses on data from the French Election Study 2017 (Gougou and Sauger 2017), we show that the current political space is structured by two main conflict dimensions: the first and dominating dimension sets an anti-immigration/authoritarian pole against a pro-immigration/libertarian pole; the second pits an ecologist/interventionist pole against a productivist/neoliberal pole.

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Fig. 1

Source: Constitutional Council. Note: Socialist candidate François Mitterrand was endorsed by the Communist Party in 1965 and 1974

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Fig. 3

Notes

  1. 1.

    Recent work has demonstrated that French mainstream parties have been eager to take up issues associated with niche parties (Meguid 2008; Brouard et al. 2012; Persico 2015), which is what Sarkozy successfully did with immigration in 2007 (Sauger 2007; Spoon 2008). Yet, the 2017 election shows that mainstream parties will stop taking up those issues if niche parties no longer politicize them.

  2. 2.

    Let us not forget that the early days of the Fifth Republic proved how a new president with a new party could radically transform the political space.

  3. 3.

    We performed a specific multiple correspondence analysis (using Spad). This technique allows us to record non-responses as ‘passive modalities’: individuals with missing answers remain in the analysis, but missing values are ignored when determining distances between individuals (Le Roux and Rouanet 2004).

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Correspondence to Florent Gougou.

Appendix

Appendix

See Tables 4 and 5.

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Gougou, F., Persico, S. A new party system in the making? The 2017 French presidential election. Fr Polit 15, 303–321 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41253-017-0044-7

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Keywords

  • French elections
  • Presidential election
  • Party system
  • Tripolarity
  • Cleavages