Analysis A new Corsica is added to the list of Macron’s remaining challenges


Eduardo Inclán is a History professor by Toulouse II-Le Mirail Unversity 

Last Sundays 3rd and 10th of December, for the first time in history, took place an election in the Mediterranean island of Corsica for the election of the new Collectivity of Corsica, a management entity which gathers the Assembly of Corsica, the Executive Council and the competences and budget management of the two former Departmental Councils in which the island was divided until now. A total of 63 members were elected for the new composition of the Assembly, from which they will be elected in the first round the president and the 10 members of the Executive Council which will manage the institution. All this made that these were not normal regional elections, but a founding decisive moment for the next years of the future of the island and its relationship with the rest of the Metropolitan France.

This new Collectivity, which will have an annual budget of a little more of one thousand million of euros for an island of 325.000 inhabitants and something more than 8.700 square kilometers, will assume most of the competences in territorial management and environment, transport, infrastructure, economic development, urbanism, education, culture and sport. The new Assembly does not hold legislative powers, but it does hold control of action and of the budget managed by the Executive, and always developing and applying the laws approved by the Government of France and the National Assembly.

Nevertheless, it is true that the result of the election has surprised because of the great levels of abstention for a decisive regional election (a 47% in both rounds, despite of the calls to mobilize French republicans), as for the force of the victory of the Corsican nationalist. The nationalist platform Pè a Corsica (For Córcega), born by the fusion of the parties Femu a Corsica (nationalists) and Corsica Libera (near independentists), who governs the region since December 2015, has obtained a great majority. In the first round, the 45,36%, and the 56,46% in the second, for a total of 41 seats in the new Assembly; that is, 17 more acts that in the former one (from a total of 63 seats). This result breaks the electoral ceiling of this platform (they obtained 35,3% of the votes in 2015) and confirms the President Gilles Simeoni as the leader of pacifist nationalism. Its goal is to obtain a new singular political Statute for the Mediterranean island but maintaining in its programs the co-officiality of the Corsican language, something that directly crashes with the French Constitution of 1957.

The rests of the former moderate regionalist parties, punished by several corruption scandals connected to the process against the mafia of a decade ago in the island, which at the beginning of the campaign seemed to be propitiatory victims for its electoral disappearing, have surprised when presenting new candidates without a judicial past and regrouping in a new platform denominated A Strada per l’Avvene (A path of the future). This formation has become the second electoral regional force, obtaining a 15% of votes in the first round and a 18,3% in the second one, and 10 seats in the Assembly. Its leader, Jean Martin Mondoloni, is a politician open to seek agreements with the Government of Paris to consolidate the island institutions, but without looking for new institutional frameworks.

The republican forces have been the most damaged in this Corsican electoral cycle. But not all of them have left so adversely affect. The right of Les Republicains, the party governing France until 2012 and the institutions of the island until 2015, now allied with a local party, the Bonapartist Central Committee, has been placed in the third position with only 6 seats and a 12,77% of the votes in the first round and a 12,57% last Sunday, which means a loss of 5 seats and see themselves set aside to a refounding of its message consisted on maintaining the ties of Corsica with the rest of France.

The party of the central Government, la Republique en Marche, has long disappointed in its first participation in a regional election since its foundation. Even though the liberals enter in the Assembly of the island, they have obtained hardly 6 seats, with a 11,2% of the votes in the first round and a 12,67% in the second one, which places them as forth political force. The media impact of occupying the great central institutions and the good results of President Macron in the island in the presidential elections of last May make that this result is seen as insufficient for reviewing the nationalist drift of the Corsican politics since 2014. And it is previsible that the tension in the political negotiation between París and Ajaccio will rise gradually once there are drafts for the new political status of this Collectivity, and the limited political weight as local party will weaken this local flank of the LREM.

Nevertheless, the worst part for the Corsican elections has been taken by the republican left and the extreme right. Both the members of the France Insumise as the National Front of Marine Le Pen were eliminated in the first round, since they did not reach the necessary 10% of votes (LFI obtained the 5,68% and the FN a scarce 3.28% of the votes), and they are now extraparlamentary forces in the island. The case of the socialist of the PSF is even worst, since their internal crisis in France has meant that they were not able of presenting a list to the elections, which shows its breakdown since the electoral defeat of last May.

For their part, the supporters of the independence movement have also been placed outside of the Assembly, since they were victims of the strategy of uniting votes to the candidature of Gilles Simeoni. Its party, Rinnovu (Renovation), has been placed outside of the distribution of seats since they obtained a 6.69% in the first round and did not know how to achieve an agreement to fuse with the winning candidature.

The Corsican political situation is now in the hands of the nationalists, both the radicals and the moderates; even though also the Elyse and Macron will need to direct the works so to start a new regional power structure, since the 1st of January 2018, will not mean a bigger break between the Corsican society and the rest of metropolitan France. It is a difficult challenge, since the moderation is being questioned by the extremist since the first minute, both in París and in Ajaccio, but Simeoni and her right hand, Jean Guy Talamoni, seem to have refused the ways of political and institutional break with Paris to start this Corsican institution. Nevertheless, the issue of the officiality of the Corsican language—something claimed by the Corsican government but that would need a constitutional reform which President Macron and its party totally refuse—can break these moderate ways of dialogue in the next months or years.

The past 12th December, the Ministry of the Interior name as his representative for the beginning of the negotiations with the government of the island the vice minister Jacqueline Gourault, an experienced woman in regional politics coming from the moderate right. Corsica is a new challenge for the French political system, which soon will face the independence referendum in New Caledonia. We will be awaiting the reformists winds coming from France and its regions in 2018.

Translated by María Maseda

#France #Elecciones #nacionalism #Corsica