There will be a before and after this 2020 vintage of the municipal. This poll organized under exceptional conditions due to the health crisis will leave traces on local democracy, already worked for years by institutional changes and the evolution of the relationship of citizens to politics. From the evening of the first round, a figure summarized the situation: 55.34% abstention. More than one in two voters did not come on March 15 to elect their future mayor.
→ ANALYSIS. Municipal 2020: green wave and abstentionist tidal wave
In the second round, participation could drop further. The Interior Ministry reports a midday turnout of 15.29%, three points below what it was at the same time on March 15 (18.38%).
→ LIVE. 2020 municipal results, analyzes, reactions… Follow the second round
The impact of the health crisis and the first containment announcements on March 14 (notably with the closure of restaurants), on the eve of the election, is beyond doubt. Abstention was then clearly higher in the main region affected by the epidemic, the Great East, where it reached almost 74% in Mulhouse and even crossed the 80% mark in ten cities! But this democratic accident comes against a backdrop of a constantly declining participation.
→ FIND at 8 p.m. the results of the second round of the 2020 municipal elections, city by city
“Even if the municipal elections remain with the presidential elections where the French vote the most”, recalls Frédéric Dabi, Deputy Director General of Ifop. Thus, the abstention rate went from 21.6% in the first round of municipal elections in 1983 to 30.6% in 1995 then to 36.4% in the last municipal elections in 2014.
64% abstention in cities of 100,000 inhabitants
Opinion polls regularly show that mayors are the public officials to whom the French trust the most. Nevertheless, the democratic crisis did not spare the local executives. However, the situation is not the same depending on whether it is a village or a metropolis. A detailed analysis of the results of the first round indicates that this abstention is proportional to the size of the cities.
Thus, on March 15, it was 36% in municipalities with less than 1,000 inhabitants, it crossed the 60% mark for those with 20,000 to 30,000 inhabitants and peaked at 64% in the large agglomerations of more than 100,000 inhabitants. This difference in participation according to the size of the cities is a specificity of the municipal ballot. “The difference in participation between small and large cities was for example only 5 points in the last legislative elections”, underlines Frédéric Dabi.
For many specialists, the reasons for this disaffection are to be sought in particular with regard to the institutional developments of recent decades. The development of groupings of municipalities has helped transform the function of the local elected representative. “He appears less as the representative of a population than as an actor of public policies”, sums up political scientist Rémy Le Saout.
Proximity and attachment to the mayor remain strong, however, in the villages. In spite of the surveys which regularly alert on the blues of the local elected officials, they are numerous each time to represent themselves before the voters. “This idea of the vocations crisis is more a story than a reality”, puts the political scientist into perspective.
The question of the legitimacy of elected officials
Democratic unrest concerns more the larger cities. According to Rémy le Saout, it is at the level of cities of 5,000 to 8,000 inhabitants that the rupture occurs and that the effect of technocracy is felt on the relationship between the elected official and his constituents. “Many mayors have made good use of the tool represented by intermunicipal organizations. It is a real political lever that allows skills to be raised, but it is also very time-consuming. “ While for several decades, the state services, like the treasuries, have withdrawn from the field, the intermunicipalities have taken over, transforming their elected representatives into real professionals of politics.
→ THE FACTS. Municipal 2020: a second round marked by the abstention and the shadow of the Covid-19
In this context, where the institutional link seems inexorably to fade between the inhabitants of the cities and their representatives, this spoiled edition of the municipalities falls very badly. Some mayors were re-elected in the first round but with an extremely weak base of votes. This is the case for example of the Minister of Public Accounts Gérald Darmanin, who wins hands down in his northern stronghold of Tourcoing with more than 60% of the votes. But the participation having been only 25%, the mayor was in fact chosen only by 15% of the registered members. Others are even less well elected like the mayor of Annemasse elected by 13% of the voters of his commune of Haute-Savoie.
This unprecedented situation inevitably raises the question of the legitimacy of elected officials. In its opinion delivered on June 17, the Constitutional Council recalled that with regard to the constitution, the principle of “sincerity” of the ballot was not appreciated according to a normative threshold of participation. However, he recalled that in the event of an appeal, it would be up to the administrative judge to assess on a case-by-case basis. “Whether the level of abstention may or may not have affected (…) the fairness of the ballot”.
Without going as far as contentious ground, the contestation of mayors risks being stirred up by a paradox that political scientist Luc Rouban emphasizes. The movement of yellow vests and the large number of citizen lists during this election are indicative of a form of “ reconquest of the local by the citizens “. However, the high abstention linked to the epidemic has reinforced the outgoing bonus, which is a classic of the municipal election: “Fear provokes a conservative reflex. As we saw in the first round, 50% of the outgoing mayors LR and 41% of the PS were re-elected. There is therefore a risk of tension between this return of the notables and this request for citizen expression. “
A reappropriation of the town by the inhabitants
To bridge the gap which tends to widen between the political institutions and the inhabitants, much has been attempted in recent years in terms of consultations or even participatory budgets. But for Luc Rouban, the impact of these tools, which are often a gadget, is marginal. However, he insisted on a new act of decentralization which would simplify the administrative yoke.
Rémy Le Saout also observes the emergence of new forms of mobilization on the fringes of traditional forms of politics. “Mayors who dedicate themselves to their city often feel sorry for saying that people no longer want to get involved. But it is futile to want to change them. The challenge today, to reweave the social bond, would be to really listen to people. Otherwise it gives anger like at the time of the yellow vests. ” Other forms of commitment are invented, which advocate a re-appropriation of the commune by the inhabitants, as we see by multiple initiatives such as shared gardens. Elected officials to know how to support these new sociabilities.
Luc Rouban insists for his part on what the epidemic episode but also the environmental crisis cause. “The urban productivist model has taken a hit. I believe that the time of entrepreneurs mayors, that of builders of industrial zones, is over, The mayor of tomorrow will be that of good living ”, predicts the political scientist.