Apr 052014

The first round of the French local elections created quite a stir, but the second round of the French local elections was not a bad day for the anoraks either. While the initial focus was on the not totally unexpected success of the Front National, most of my correspondents agree that the real news is the annihilation of the governing Parti socialiste. Amongst the many posts, here are the ones I find most interesting:

7481490802 6fd4a85ab5 m marine le pen French Local Elections Round 2 Link RoundupPhoto by Mashthetics cc French Local Elections Round 2 Link Roundup

  1. Over at the LSE blog, Jocelyn Evans and Gilles Ivaldi, the grand seigneurs of Front National blogging, argue just that: The shock of Sunday’s French municipal elections was the Socialist defeat (this is actually reblogged from their own 500signatures site). The Guardian agrees.
  2. For Art Goldhammer, it is the end of municipal socialism.
  3. Part of the fallout was the appointment of Manuel Valls as new French PM. John Gaffney thinks that this was a desperate move that will come back to haunt Hollande.
  4. But Art Goldhammer links to a source claiming that Hollande actually has been wanting Valls to be PM for a long time.
  5. And here is an “interview” on the Monkey Cage – interesting questions/answers on Hollande’s electoral disaster, but in a slightly odd format.
Mar 242014

Predictably, the Front National has done well in yesterday’s local elections in France, and predictably, everyone is very excited about. Much has been said about the FN’s performance, but not yet by everyone. Here is a bunch of useful links to bring your punditry up to scratch.

  1. First, the electoral system for the locals. It is slightly weird (no surprises here). La Jeune Politque has an explainer (not sure how complete it is), and also a map identifying some of the interesting contests. They were also live-blogging the first round of the French locals.
  2. EUobserver has a short summary of the results. The Guardian has some additional coverage.
  3. Writing ahead of the election, James Shields (over the LSE blog) thinks the FN will remain isolated and hampered by the electoral system.
  4. The 500 signatures blog by Messrs. Evans and Ivaldi has forecasts (now backcasts) of the national result as well as background stories on the races in the big three (Paris, Lyon, Marseilles).
  5. Euractiv has another short summary and outlook for the second round.
  6. Art Goldhammer looks at the (slightly) longer game, i.e. the implications for the Hollande adminstration.

Have I missed something important?

Jan 282013

Radical Right buffs out there, have you submitted your paper proposal for Bordeaux yet? As you may or may not know, Liz Carter and I have put together a six-panel-section on the New Right for the 7th ECPR General Conference in September. The deadline is February 1, i.e. in just four days – submit your proposal now if you are interested at all (requires myECPR registration).

Extreme Right and Ethnic Politics in Eastern Europe
Radical politics is an enduring feature of democratic party competition in contemporary democracies across the globe. This panel will seek to advance our understanding of radical right politics by focusing on the relationship between ethnic minorities and radical right parties within the region of Eastern Europe. The panel will bring together a group of scholars from various sub-fields of the discipline to examine the roots and consequences of political polarisation and right wing extremism.
Radical/Extreme Right Party Ideology, Strategy and Organisation
Radical and/or extreme right political parties continue to be the focus of much media attention and academic research. Of course, the success of (some of) these parties in recent elections in large part explains the interest they arouse and the coverage they receive. But if we scratch a little deeper and start asking questions about why parties of this kind continue to post impressive electoral results in many countries, along with the context in which they compete, we must turn to examining the parties themselves. And if we do, we can start to notice changes in ideology, in strategy, and/or in organization, as evidenced, for example, by the French FN’s apparently moderated ideology, or by Marine Le Pen’s strategy to ‘open up’ the French right, or by Geert Wilders’ efforts to build up the PVV organization. Therefore, given their importance, this panel will focus on the parties of the ‘New Right’ themselves, and invites papers that examine extreme/radical right party ideology, strategy, and/or organization. We would like to encourage both conceptual papers and empirical papers that engage in comparative analysis
The Eurozone Crisis and the Radical Right
This panel will consider whether – and if so, in what ways – the onset of the economic and Eurozone crises have enhanced or hindered political opportunities for the radical and extreme right-wing in Europe. This includes: reactions to the bail-outs and European political institutions; the role of Euroscepticism in radical right party campaigns, discourse and electoral outcomes; and the broader response of European electorates to the crisis, and their receptiveness or otherwise to radical right politics. The panel organisers are especially interested in papers that draw on innovative methodological approaches, are anchored in comparative analysis, and that consider both demand- and supply-side factors.
The New Right and the 'Squeezed Middle': Service Sector Vulnerability and Populist Appeal
Many explanations of populist New Right appeal have focused upon the role of economic insecurity as a motivation for supporting parties with exclusionary economic and social policies that target ‘true’ nationals over immigrants and other outgroups. The classic economic argument applied to countries such as France and Belgium finds blue-collar workers, as well as routine non-manual employees, attracted by populist New Right parties’ welfare chauvinism, moving away from the traditional Socialist and Social Democratic parties and class encapsulation. A sector argument finds public-sector employees in protected positions less open to such appeals than private counterparts open to external competition. However, the blue-collar group represents a shrinking proportion of European societies’ workforce and by extension electorate, and thus a decreasingly attractive target pool for entrepreneurial populist parties. Instead, through public-sector downsizing as well as decreased competitiveness, the current economic crisis threatens as much public-sector and service workers, still from routine non-manual but potentially to a growing extent from lower cadre / managerial positions. Whilst educational attainment has previously acted as a block on potential support for ethnocentric and xenophobic parties amongst these groups, the evolution of many of these parties’ positions to campaign more on anti-Islamist rather than traditional racist tenets may mean that these parties can appeal to the now economically vulnerable ‘squeezed middle’ in a way that was untenable in the past. This panel welcomes papers, either case-study or comparative, which look at the empirical manifestations of this dynamic, in particular how support bases for populist New Right parties have changed across time, socially and attitudinally. Papers should ideally use electoral or public opinion survey data, if developing micro-explanations, or census and workforce employment data for meso- and macro-approaches. Papers should not deal exclusively with theoretical or descriptive discussions of party ideology, or political economy explanations of insecurity.
The Populist Voter
Why do people vote for populist parties? The extant literature is inconclusive on why citizens do so. Some scholars argue that people vote for populists because they agree with the ideology of these parties. Other scholars claim that populist voters are mainly driven by political dissatisfaction: they vote for populist parties because they are unhappy with the established political order. Also, it has been argued that voters primarily vote for these parties because of their charismatic leaders. We welcome papers that focus on these or other motivations to vote for populist parties. Moreover, we are also interested in factors that might impact on the populist vote choice, such as party system characteristics, the state of the economy, or socio-demographic variables such as education, income, age, gender and religiosity. We accept qualitative and quantitative papers on right-wing populism, left-wing populism or both.
The Radical Right in the Post-Communist Context: New Perspectives on an Old Phenomenon
The recent electoral performance of radical right parties in Central and Eastern Europe seems to confirm the pervasive appeal of these parties across the whole European space. To a varying extent, radical right parties in post-communist countries resemble a phenomenon sui generis, perhaps due to their historical legacies and/or the idiosyncrasies of their context. Parties such as Ataka in Bulgaria or Jobbik in Hungary list as recent examples of this, yet research says little about the commonalities and differences of these parties vis-à-vis similar parties in Western Europe. In brief, new perspectives are needed to assess this phenomenon in context.

This panel aims to bring together papers on radical right parties in Central and Eastern Europe, their voters, and/or their interaction. Papers that investigate the radical right in the region conceptually, empirically, and/or comparatively are solicited. Prominence will be given to contributions addressing the ideology of these parties; their organisation; their political opportunity structure; and those explaining their electoral performance. Papers employing new data and bridging qualitative and quantitative traditions will be especially welcome, but papers using either qualitative or quantitative methods will certainly be considered.


Oct 292012

Like social networks, multilevel data structures are everywhere once you start thinking about it. People live in neighbourhoods, neighbourhoods are nested in municipalities, which make up provinces – well, you get the picture. Even if we have no substantive interest in their effects, it often makes sense to control for structures in our data to get more realistic standard errors.

Now the good folks over at the European Social Survey have reacted and spent the Descartes Prize money on compiling multilevel information and merging them with their own data. So far, the selection is a little bit disappointing in some respects. Homicide rates, for instance, are reported on the national level only. But there are some pleasant surprises (I guess due to Eurostat, who collect such things): We get unemployment, GDP growth and even student numbers at the NUTS-3 level. Since you asked, NUTS is the Nomenclature of (subnational) Territory, and level 3 is the lowest level for which comparative data are normally published.

Regrettably, the size and number of level 3 units is not necessarily comparable across countries: For Germany, level 3 corresponds to about 400 local government districts, while France is divided into 96 European Departments. But if you need to combine top-notch survey data with small(ish) regional data, it’s a start, and not a bad one.

Jun 112012

Colleague Rainbow Murray is in Paris to do a little bit of observing. Her personal account of the count in one Parisian ward is quite intriguing. I had no idea that each candidate has to provides their own ballot paper. Not a very green thing, it would seem. Art Goldhammer puts Laurent Joffrin’s comment on Mélenchon’s failture/LePen’s success in perspective. ‘We all tend to overinterpret the results of elections’. Can’t argue with that. Meanwhile, Matt Goodwin ponders the question if Marine LePen’s ‘detoxified’ version of her father’s Front National is serving once more the blueprint for the (West) European Extreme Right, with Greece providing the counterpoint.And my own thoughts? Looking back, perhaps the most remarkable fact is how much our collective excitement has waned since the presidential election, although legislative elections really arereally important. Is this just because hundreds of multi-person races can simply not compete with the drama of the shoot-out between Sarkozy and Hollande, or just another piece of evidence of the internet’s detrimental effects on our attention spans? Continue reading »

Jan 172011

If this post’s title does make any sense to you, chances are that you are one of us anoraks who had a brilliant weekend of extreme right spotting. In France, Jean-Marie Le Pen stepped down as leader of the Front National, just under 40 years after he founded the party. He is succeeded by his youngest daughter, who is portrayed as a moderniser (hey, she’s twice divorced) and a moderate (by FN standards). While this story might conjure the image of Prince Charles, Marine’s rise through the Front’s ranks was quick, largely unexpected and a major source of aggravation for Bruno Gollnisch, the controversial academic who became the party’s number two after the old number two, Bruno Mégret, left the party to found the MNR in 1999. If Gollnisch (who was soundly beaten by LePen the younger in the leadership contest) aims to repeat that stunt remains to be seen. I’m sure there is a silly story about men named Bruno who turn out to be the real Princes Charles here (both spent a lot of  time eyeing the leadership and are in their early 60s now ), but more importantly, Marine is going to change le Front, though her father might be tempted to meddle. These right-wingers know a thing or two about family values.

Meanwhile, in Germany the NPD, arguably the most radical amongst the electorally viable right-wing parties in Germany has celebrated its merger with its old rival DVU. The DVU was founded in the early 1970s as a marketing device for right-wing books, journals and paraphernalia and became a party in the 1980s. For nearly 40 years, it was completely dominated by its founder Gerhard Frey, who finally stepped down in 2009, aged 76. While has successor planned for the merger that became effective from January 1, some regional leaders are less than happy and seem willing to either take the issue to the courts over some alleged irregularities, or to set up a new party of their own. Either way, it would seem that the German extreme right remains divided, as it has been since the 1980s.

 Marine anointed, DVU and NPD merged
Aug 012009

These days, a bonanza of political information is freely available on the internet.  Sometimes this information comes in the guise of excel sheets, comma separated data or other formats which are more or less readily machine readable. But more often than not, information is presented as tables designed to be read by humans. This is where the gentle art of screen scraping, web scraping or spidering comes in. In the past, I have used kludgy Perl scripts to get electoral results at the district level off sites maintained by the French ministry of the interior or by universities (very interesting if you do not really speak/read French). A slightly more elegant approach might be to use R’s builtin Perl-like capabilities for doing the job, as demonstrated by Simon Jackman. Finally, Python is gaining ground in the political science community,  which has some very decent libraries for screen/web scraping – see this elaborate post on Drew Conway’s Zero Intelligence Agents blog. But, let’s face it: I am lazy. I want to spend time analysing the data, not scraping them. And so I was very pleased when I came across outwit, a massive plugin for the firefox browser (Linux, Mac and Windows versions available) that acts as a point-and-click scraper.

outwit 1 300x178 Web scraping made easy: outwit

French Départements (from Wikipedia)

Say you need a dataset with the names and Insee numbers for all the French Départements. The (hopefully trustworthy) Wikipedia page has a neat table, complete with information on the Prefecture and many tiny coats of arms which are of absolutely no use at all. We could either key in the relevant data (doable, but a nuisance), or we could try to copy and paste the table into a word processor, hoping that we do not lose accents and other funny characters, and that WinWord or whatever we use converts the HTML table into something that we can edit to extract the information we really need.

Or you we could use outwit. One push of the button loads the page

outwit 22 300x178 Web scraping made easy: outwit

Scraping a table with outwit

into a sub-window, a second push (data->tables) extracts the HTML tables on the page. Now, we can either mark the lines we are interested in by hand (often the quickest option) or use a filter to selfect them. One final click, and they are exported as a CSV file that can be read into R, OpenOffice, or Stata for post processing and analysis.

While I’m all in favour of scriptable and open-source tools like Perl, Python and R, outwit has a lot to go for it if all you need is a quick hack. Outwit also has functions to mass-download files (say PDFs) from a page and give the unique names. If the job is complex, there is even more functionality under the hood, and you can use the point-and-click interface to program you own scraper, though I would tend use a real programming language for these cases. At any rate, outwit is a useful and free tool for the lazy data analyst.

 Web scraping made easy: outwit
Sep 292008

In a recent article in the European Journal of Political Research, Kestilä and Söderlund claim (amongst other things) that in the French regional elections of 2004, turnout and district magnitude have significant negative effects on the extreme right vote whereas the effects of the number of party lists and unemployment are positive and significant. Most interestingly, immigration (which is usually a very good predictor for the radical right vote) had no effect on the success of the Front National. More generally, they argue that a subnational approach can control for a wider range of factors and provide more reliable results than cross-national analyses (now the most common approach to this phenomenon). My colleague Liz Carter and I disagreed and engaged in a massive replication/re-analysis endeavour. The outcome is a critique of the KS model of subnational political opportunity structures in regional elections. In this paper, we dispute Kestilä’s and Söderlund’s claims on theoretical, conceptual and methodological grounds and demonstrate that their findings are spurious. Today, the European Journal has accepted the article for publication (probably in 2009) icon smile Does Immigration help or hurt the Front National in France?

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Mar 192008

If you are interested in subnational politics, France is an interesting case for many reasons. On the one hand, the country is highly centralised and divided into 96 (European) Departements (administrative units) with equal legal rights (though Corsica is a bit of an exception to this). In fact, Departements were created after the revolution in an attempt to replace the provinces of the Ancien Regime with something rational and neat. On the other hand, the Departements are vastly different in terms of their size, population, economic, political and social structure, which gives you a lot of variance that can be modelled. Electoral data is often made available at the level of the Departement (see e.g. the useful book by Caramani for historical results and the CDSP and government websites for recent elections) or can be aggregated to that level since electoral districts are nested in Departements. The French National Insitute for Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) has a wealth of data from the 1999 census and other sources, and even more is available from Eurostat. One thing that is incredibly annoying, however, is that many sources like Caramani, INSEE and the Wikipedia use the traditional French system. This system (which is part of the ISO standard ISO 3166-1) assigns numbers from 1 to 95 that once reflected the alphabetical order of the Departments’ names, though this initial order was a bit scrambled by territorial changes. The most obvious result of these are the odd 2A/2B codes for Corsica (after 1975, see this article on the French Official Geographic Code for the details). Rather unsurprisingly, Eurostat (and a few others) prefer the European NUTS-3 codes, which have a hierarchical structure that consists of a country (FR), region, and subregion (=Departement) code. If you want to merge Departmental data from various sources you obviously have to map one system to the other, which is cumbersome and prone to error. That’s why I wrote a little script in Perl that reads a table of Departmental Codes and creates a do-File for Stata, which does the actual mapping. From within Stata, you can simply type net from http://www.kai-arzheimer.com/stata to get the whole package. It should be fairly easy to adopt this to your own needs – enjoy!

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