Three weeks ago, I predicted that the conflict over gay marriage, which played out in France last year, might save the ruling Socialist Party from humiliation—at least in Paris—in the two rounds of municipal elections that concluded yesterday. As expected, the Socialists and their allies took a major thumping. Yesterday’s second round saw the opposition UMP and its allies take control of dozens of cities that had been ruled by the left, many for decades. In an ocean of bad news for President François Hollande, keeping Paris City Hall in the hands of the Socialist Party was a rare island of relief, one that can be tied to Hollande’s reluctant decision to follow through on his party’s longstanding promise to enact marriage equality.
In past elections, the presence of the far-right National Front in the second round of voting had siphoned off votes from the “respectable right,” allowing the Socialist Party to retain a relative majority and the bonus seats that come with it in many cities. This time, the unpopularity of the left was such that even in the presence of the National Front, Socialists and their allies lost big. The National Front gained control of a dozen cities, allowing the more than 1,200 of its members elected to municipal councils to gain valuable experience for future elections and credibility as managers of municipalities. (more…)
On March 23, French voters will head to the polls for municipal elections, and gay issues will likely play a key role. In fact, the conflict over gay marriage, which dominated French domestic politics in 2013, may well save President François Hollande’s Socialist Party from electoral embarrassment … at least in Paris.
Since 2001, Paris has had an openly gay mayor, the Socialist Party’s Bertrand Delanoë. At the time of his election, Delanoë was not a star, but, rather, a hard-working political insider who had come out as gay only in 1998. Delanoë’s administration has been relatively LGBTQ-friendly, but not excessively so. It has given financial support to an expanded LGBTQ community center, but it refused requests for municipal funding for a national LGBTQ archive. Municipal support for the 2018 Gay Games bid was outstanding, but the first Paris bid for the 2010 Gay Games received much more discreet backing, with little public engagement from the mayor, who at the time was bidding for the 2012 Olympics.