Kestilä and Söderlund (2007) examine the impact of subnational political opportunity structures on the success of the radical right and argue that such an approach can control for a wider range of factors and provide more reliable results than cross-national analyses. The present article disputes this claim on theoretical, conceptual and methodological grounds and demonstrates that their empirical findings are spurious.
It is well known that citizens tend to blame the government for economic hardship, and that they see legislative elections as
an opportunity to “throw the rascals out”. However, while this mechanism has been thoroughly explored as a basis for election
forecasting in the US and many Western European countries, research carried out on the semi-presidential case of France has
only developed more recently. We employ a constrained model predicting votes for principal party groupings, rather than relying
upon simple incumbent/opposition vote prediction. Building upon work by Auberger and Jerome and Jerome-Speziari, we adopt
a time-series approach, using data from 1981 forwards to look for evidence of variation at the departmental level in support
for party groups and economic indicators such as unemployment and GDP. We then assess the model’s efﬁcacy in retrodicting ﬁrst-round legislative election results in France.