While the vast majority of the foreign press has focused on the unexpected failure of Marine Le Pen’s right-wing Front National to take control of at least two of France’s thirteen regional councils, thanks to informal agreements between the country’s mainstream parties and a complex electoral system which favours establishment groupings (though FN still managed to increase its vote and treble its number of elected councillors), few have noticed a quiet revolution taking place elsewhere within the ambit of the République française.
The Mediterranean island of Corsica, a territory with a far greater degree of self-government than is the norm in “metropolitan France”, has experienced a significant shift to parties representing various strands of Corsican autonomous sentiment, from cautious regionalists to progressive nationalists. Though their combined support was slightly down when compared to the previous elections in 2010, the creation of a joint “list” between the majority U Partitu di a Nazione Corsa and the minority Corsica Libera yielded the new alliance, Pè a Corsica or “For Corsica”, just over 35% in the decisive second round of voting. This was enough to give them nearly half the seats in the Assemblea di Corsica or Corsican Assembly. From the Guardian newspaper:
“Corsican nationalists have won a historic and unexpected victory in France’s regional elections, gaining two seats short of an outright majority on the island.
The Pè a Corsica (For Corsica) list won more than 35% of the votes in the second round of polls on Sunday, giving it 24 of the 51 seats in the local authority council.
Nationalists, who joined forces with those seeking independence from French control for the run-off vote, are now the Mediterranean island’s main political force.
In what was the only four-way battle in the French regional elections, Gilles Simeoni, who is also the mayor of Bastia, the island’s second city, won 35.34% of the vote, well ahead of the leftwing alliance led by Paul Giacobbi, who polled 28.49%, and the centre-right candidate who obtained just over 27%.
Corsica’s increasingly powerful nationalist and independence movements are opposed to France’s cultural and political dominance over the island, which it annexed in 1768. Nearly two and a half centuries have not strengthened the bond between the island and Paris.
There are at least two branches of nationalism on Corsica: nationalists who seek reform aimed at promoting Corsican identity, and hardline independence seekers who want the island to break free of France.
The nationalists will have two years to prove themselves in power. Local authority reorganisation means Corsicans will be called on to vote again in two years.”
If I get a chance I will look at the results in Brittany later, though given the lack of an autonomous political movement in the country I suspect the turn-out there will match that of the 2010 election when the nationalist and regionalist candidates took less than 5% of the vote.