Dewey Defeats Truman!

I’ve had the opportunity to do some democracy lately, for the French 2024 European Parliament elections, the French 2024 legislative elections and the British 2024 General Election. I didn’t actually participate in the British election, despite the legal right, for a few reasons:

  • Needing to re-register to vote every few years, which I apparently failed to do in time
  • Needing to apply for a postal vote every time
  • Relying on wishes and prayers that the postal vote arrives in time to make use of it, which it has failed to do so in the past
  • Having enough time to actually return the postal vote for it to be counted. Do you know what it costs to ship a ballot for next-day international delivery? Lots. I had to do that when voting in 2019
  • Ultimately, it doesn’t make a difference – I won’t be properly represented by the MP for Banbury when I live 3500 miles away

So… I didn’t vote in the British elections. I’ll come back to the results, but the elections I did vote in are the French ones.

France, for all its issues, gets one thing right in a way I’m not aware of any other countries really getting – the concept of representative democracy for a diaspora. France’s 577-seat parliament includes 11 seats for citizens living abroad, rather than those voters needing to vote as if they live in a specific town in France. For example, a French citizen living in neighbouring Belgium doesn’t need to return to France to vote – they vote for the 4th constituency for French residents overseas (which also includes Luxembourg and the Netherlands). Their representative addresses their needs not as distant hypothetical residents of a town they once lived in within mainland France, but as current residents of a specified geographic area, with specialised needs differing from those of citizens within French borders.

So, with those rights as a French citizen, I participated in the EU elections in early June, by showing up to a French international school in Cambridge MA and casting my ballot.

Voting at the International School of Boston

This is a multi-stage process:

  • At the door, someone checks your ID and directs you to the correct line. Lines are separated by surname alphabetically to parallelise the process. There were only two lines in Cambridge for the EU election, whereas the one time I voted in London there were dozens of lines. In the legislative elections this year, there were three.
  • Next, at the head of your line, your ID is re-checked and you receive your little envelope.
  • At the next table, you take at least two of the little pieces of paper with candidate names on them. You can’t only take one, because then you would be telling the election workers who you’re voting for, which is forbidden – taking at least two enforces ambiguity.
  • Proceed to the voting booth, where you stuff one piece of paper into the envelope and drop the spares in the trash.
  • On to the final table. Your ID is re-checked again and compared against the big book o’ voters. The guardian of the book declares “can vote”, the guardian of the ballot box unseals the flap, and you drop in your envelope – then they reseal the box whilst declaring “has voted”. You sign the big book, take your ID, and leave.

And so, the day after the EU elections, the French president called for an immediate dissolution of parliament and re-election of representatives three weeks later. The fascist party Rassemblement National (previously the National Front) did so well in the election, he opted to call an immediate election to deny them any real campaigning time vs the originally scheduled election date three years into the future. After the first round of results, it seemed he had really missed the mark – the fascists did VERY well.

Map of first-round French legislative elections.
RN (fascists) 297
NFP (leftists) 159
Ensemble (centrists) 70
LR (center-right) 20
Others 31
First round of results in French 2024 legislative elections, brown is the fascist party, yellow for centrists, pinks for leftists and blue for center-right. Stolen from lemonde.fr

Grim reading for those who don’t believe in fascism. However, France runs a multi-stage process – if someone gets 50% of the vote with 50% of the turnout, then they just win outright – otherwise anyone who scored at least 12.5% gets a re-vote a week later. For the second voting round, the majority of third-place candidates withdrew from the race in the hope of bolstering their not-Nazi competition. Dozens of centrists withdrawing to boost their leftist competition, and vice versa. And… it actually worked! To my absolute astonishment, the expected Fascist majority in France failed to happen after the second round.

Map of first-round French legislative elections.
NFP (leftists) 182
Ensemble (centrists) 168
RN (fascists) 143
LR (center-right) 45
Others 39
Second round of results in French 2024 legislative elections, brown is the fascist party, yellow for centrists, pinks for leftists and blue for center-right. Stolen from lemonde.fr

It remains to be seen what happens to Macron’s presidency now that his centrists have failed to capture anything resembling control, but for now, the rise of fascism in France is on hold. A collective sigh of relief all round – though of course, the danger is ever-present, and the work needed never stops.

And with that, back to the UK.

There were three things expected before the UK general election:

  1. Defeat of the incumbent Conservative party
  2. A landslide victory of the Labour party
  3. A major presence in the political scene by the newly rebranded Reform UK fascist party

The results… were only partially true.

Map of UK general elections.
Labour (center-left) 412
Conservatives (center-right) 121
Liberal Democrats (center) 72
Reform UK (fascists) 5
Greens (left) 4
Others 36
UK 2024 general election results. Red is Labour, dark blue is Conservative, orangey is Liberal Democrat, sky blue is Reform UK, lighter yellow is Scottish National Party. Stolen from bbc.co.uk

Reform UK did less than half the exit poll numbers, with only 5 successes. The SNP collapsed – likely tied to major party scandals recently. The Greens had their best results ever, with four – almost as many as the fascists, though don’t expect to see the media consider anyone other than Reform candidates worthy of airtime. And the big surprise from my perspective, the record successes of the Lib Dems. The electorate punished them hard for the 2010 Cameron-Clegg coalition, bringing them from 57 seats down to 8 at the following election – and here we are in 2024 with 72.

Whilst it remains to be seen what the new Prime Minister does with his record success and power in parliament, I think it’s safe to say that even moreso than in France, the global rise of fascism is delayed. Time to extrapolate globally?

My Hobby: Extrapolating
Graph with "Number of husbands" on one axis, and time offset from yesterday on the other axis, showing a linear correlation of one husband per day. Man with pointer tells bride "As you can see, by late next month you'll have over four dozen husbands. Better get a bulk rate on wedding cake."
XKCD comic 605, stolen from xkcd.com

Almost certainly.

What does any of this mean for the actual individual on the street? That remains to be seen. The RN are still a powerful electoral force in France, and we need to see to what extent Macron decides to play nice with the new Leftist majority (if indeed he decides to stick around). A whole lot of the Leftist parties’ manifesto was “erase Macron’s horrible agenda” so they may struggle to find common ground.

As for the UK, we need to see how Keir Starmer acts now he’s in pretty much absolute control of the country – Starmer is very much on the right hand side of the Labour party, and has voiced support for plenty of Conservative policies on topics like immigration. Will he pander to the right, despite the right getting destroyed electorally? Will he pander to the TERFs within his party? Hard to say, but regardless things are likely to be less bad in aggregate than with another five years of Conservative rule.

One Response to “Dewey Defeats Truman!”

  1. a very enjoyable read.

    XXX

    Dougal

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