The French Realignment

Twenty years ago, in the first round of the 2002 presidential election, this commune in northern France, south of the city of Lille, gave 25 percent of its vote to socialist candidate Lionel Jospin. Far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen came in second, with 16 percent. That year, France was shocked when Le Pen made the second round against incumbent Jacques Chirac of the center-right Rally for the Republic (later rebranded to the Republicans, and now entirely irrelevant in French politics), and the Left rallied to Chirac’s cause to prevent Le Pen from coming to power. Nationwide, Chirac received 82 percent of the vote to Le Pen’s 18 percent, and Bruay-la-Buissière followed suit, giving Chirac 79 percent to Le Pen’s 21 percent. In 2012, Jean-Marie Le Pen’s daughter Marine lost Bruay-la-Buissière in the first round to socialist François Hollande, taking 27 percent to Hollande’s 35 percent. Hollande trounced center-right incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy in the second round in the commune, 66–34, far ahead of his nationwide total of 51.6 percent that allowed him to beat the incumbent.


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