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Cablegate: France's Municipal Elections in the Lyon Consular District

VZCZCXYZ0002
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHFR #0550/01 0811750
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211750Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 2366

UNCLAS PARIS 000550

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/WE; INR

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV FR
SUBJECT: FRANCE'S MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS IN THE LYON CONSULAR DISTRICT
- SOCIALISTS MAINTAIN CONTROL OF BIG CITIES


NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION

REF: Embassy Paris SIPRnet Paris Points for March 18 and previous

Summary
-------

1. (SBU) In the March 9 and 16 municipal elections (ref), the left
maintained control of the major cities in the Lyon consular
district: Lyon, Dijon, Grenoble, and Clermont Ferrand. The winning
incumbents in these cities are business-friendly moderates who
retained public support because of their reputations as good
municipal managers. Lyon Socialist incumbent Mayor Gerard Collomb
declared victory after the first round, with 53 percent of the vote.
No mayor in Lyon has ever won in the first round. Dijon Socialist
Mayor Francois Rebsamen (PS) was reelected with 56 percent of the
votes in the first round, in a city that traditionally opted for the
right. In one of the most closely watched elections in the
Rhone-Alpes Region, in the city of St. Etienne, Socialist Party
candidate Maurice Vincent defeated UMP Mayor Michel Thiolliere,
despite Thiolliere's having been named a finalist in the "World
Mayor" contest of 2006. Overall, these municipal elections have
been a referendum on the effectiveness of incumbent mayors.
However, disenchantment with the national government affected the
outcome of some races, possibly boosting the margin of victory for
the Socialists in the larger cities. End summary.

Lyon - Two business friendly moderates
--------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Lyon Socialist Mayor Gerard Collomb declared victory after
the first round, with 53 percent of the vote. Although observers
expected a Collomb victory, the the extent of support for him
surprised the pundits. No mayor in Lyon has ever won in the first
round. Collomb's list won 7 districts out of 9, with the two more
well-healed second and sixth districts opting for the lists from the
right by 58 percent and 53 percent respectively. Collomb was also
elected to preside over the representative association of the
greater Lyon Metropolitan area, a conglomeration 57 cities that has
a greater budget and resources than the city of Lyon itself.

4. (U) Lyon's shift to the left was decisive. Support for the right
decreased by about 20 percent since the last municipal election.
Collomb headed the list in the ninth district, winning 63 percent of
the vote in the first round. Union for Popular Movement (UMP)
candidate and former Justice Minister and Transportation Minister
Dominique Perben, however, lost by a significant margin in the first
round in the third district where he headed the list. His
competitor, Socialist District Mayor Thierry Philip, won 53 percent
of the vote, against 30 percent for Perben. In the fifth district,
Rhone Department UMP Secretary General Michael Havard lost
decisively, winning only 43 percent of the votes in the first round,
against 53 percent for Socialist incumbent Alexandrine Pesson.
Perben has ceded the role of head of the opposition in Lyon's
Municipal Council to Havard.

5. (SBU) Both Collomb and his UMP challenger Perben are business
friendly centrists. This similarity was Perben's main problem in
challenging Collomb: he failed to differentiate himself
sufficiently. Collomb became mayor in 2001, when Union for French
Democracy (UDF) incumbent and former Prime Minister Raymond Barre
decided not to run. Collomb has been active in devising and funding
community organizations and has implemented programs such as a
successful scheme to rent bicycles as a way of cutting down inner
city traffic (such bicycle rental systems have since been adopted in
Paris and Marseille). Perben charged that Collomb pinched most of
these ideas from Barre and has lacked vision in several other
projects, such as in the construction of a new downtown area where
Lyon's two rivers merge. Whether true or not, Collomb has
successfully implemented his ideas, and Perben's charges did not
resonate with voters.

Cantonal Election Results in Lyon's Rhone Department
--------------------------------------------- --------

6 (U) The right was able to maintain its control of the Departmental
Council of the Rhone Department, which surrounds Lyon. Of the 54
cantonal representatives on the council, 22 are from the Socialist
and Green parties (up from 20), 13 are from the Union for Popular
Movement (UMP) party (up from 11), and three remain from the
Communist Party; 16 are from the - now dissolved -- Union for French
Democracy (UDF) and its allied center-right Radical Party (down from
20).

Other Areas in the Lyon Consular District - Incumbents Stay Put
--------------------------------------------- ----------

7. (U) The Socialists, however, made gains in control over the
Departmental Councils in the other departments in the region.
Before the election, the right held the majority in 10 of the 16

Departmental Councils in the three regions of the Consular District
(Auvergne, Rhone Alps and Burgundy). However, two of the
Departmental Councils shifted to the left, with the Communist Party
gaining control of the Allier Department in Auvergne and the
Socialists winning the Ain Department in Rhone-Alpes.

8. In one of the most closely watched municipal elections in the
Rhone-Alpes Region, Socialist Party candidate Maurice Vincent
defeated St. Etienne UMP Mayor Michel Thiolliere, despite his being
named a finalist in the "World Mayor" contest of 2006. Most pundits
blame competition from Tholliere's former assistant and candidate of
the Democratic Movment (MoDem) party Gilles Artigues for
Thiolliere's very narrow loss. The left made inroads into some
other smaller towns in the region. For instance, in right-leaning
Valence, Socialist competitor Alain Maurice defeated UMP candidate
Patrick Labaune. The UMP controls city hall, although Labaune was
not the sitting Mayor. The left, however, maintained control of the
larger cities including Grenoble, Clermont-Ferrand, and
Villeurbanne. This trend confirmed the first round results, in
which the Socialists maintained control of Lyon, Dijon and Chambery
and won control of Chalon-sur-Satne. The sole city that bucked the
trend was Puy-en-Velay in which Government Spokesman and UMP
candidate Laurent Wauquiez (56.5 percent of the votes) successfully
challenged incumbent Socialist Mayor Arlette Arnaud-Landau (40.34
percent). Wauquiez, who was serving as government spokesperson in
the government of Prime Minister Francois Fillon, was named to the
post of State Secretary for Employment on March 18 immediately
following the election.

STAPLETON

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