The past two decades have witnessed growing political disaffection and a widening mass/elite disjuncture in France, reflected in opinion polls, rising abstentionism, electoral volatility and fragmentation, with sustained voting against incumbent governments. Though the electoral system has preserved the duopoly of the mainstream coalitions, they have suffered loss of public confidence and swings in electoral support. Stable parliamentary majorities conceal a political landscape of assorted anti-system parties and growing support for far right and far left. The picture is paradoxical: the French express alienation from political parties yet relate positively to their political institutions; they berate national politicians but retain strong bonds with those elected locally; they appear increasingly disengaged from politics yet forms of ‘direct democracy’ are finding new vigour. While the electoral, attitudinal and systemic factors reviewed here may not signal a crisis of democracy, they point to serious problems of political representation in contemporary France.
Bibliographical noteWinner of the American Political Science Association’s Stanley Hoffmann Award (2007-09) for the best article on French politics from 223 articles in 112 journals across 22 countries.
- political representation
- mass/elite disjuncture
- electoral volatility