Once Again, from a Distance: Martinique and the French Presidential Elections of 2007 (1)
Miles, William, French Politics, Culture and Society
In May 2007, Martinique did not follow the test of France in endorsing Nicolas Sarkozy in his bid to become president. Along with the other overseas French states Guadeloupe and Reunion (but not Guyane), Martinique supported rather the Socialist candidate Segolene Royal. Martinique thereby distanced itself from the rest of the Republique--as it had done in 1995--by backing a left-wing presidential candidate rather than the ultimately victorious right-wing one. 2007 represents the converse of 1981, when Martinique voted for the rightist candidate but France as a whole elected a leftist (Francois Mitterrand). Over time, being at electoral odds with the nation as a whole has become less troubling for Martinicans: independence, which most islanders oppose, is no longer seen at stake in presidential outcomes. On the other hand, Martinicans have become progressively resigned to their peripheral status within French presidential politics.
Keywords: Martinique, French elections, French presidency, postcolonialism, DOM (French overseas states)
Who won the 2007 French presidential elections? For sure, with 53 percent of the vote, Nicolas Sarkozy decisively took over the reigns of the Fifth Republic from Jacques Chirac, his allied nemesis of the Union for a Popular Majority (UMP). But from the perspective of the overseas territories, a mirror image of the vote emerged: from the Antilles to the Indian Ocean, Socialist candidate Segolene Royal convincingly trumped Sarkozy with an overall score of nearly 56 percent.
Does this mean that a leftist population of overseas France is fundamentally marginalized from the more Gaullist (if not Gallic) body politic? Do the electoral outcomes overseas herald a more formal separation from metropolitan France? Did candidate Sarkozy's campaign remarks about inner city or immigrant "scum" (racaille) who have to be "industrially cleansed" (Karcher) indelibly alienate France's overseas citizens of color?
The political and electoral reality of overseas France is much more complex, nuanced, and paradoxical than the above questions suggest. In fact, there is no single "overseas population" to speak of: each of the nine overseas departements and territoires has its own unique ethno-historical background, political culture, and resulting electoral dynamics. In this article I shall concentrate on one of these paradoxical polities: the West Indian island of Martinique. This focus does not imply that electoral outcomes in Martinique typify that of overseas France as a whole. For all its particularities, the Martinican case does, however, highlight the systematic ambivalence that characterizes the relationship between French overseas departments and the French democratic republic in a postcolonial era.
Diversity in the DOMs (2)
Table 1 illustrates the range of support for the two run-off candidates in the second round of the 2007 French presidential elections. The Indian Ocean island of Reunion outdistanced every other overseas constituency in supporting the Socialist candidate, with nearly 64 percent of its vote. If 60 percent may be used as a threshold for "landslide," then Madame Royal smashed Sarkozy not only in the Indian Ocean but also in the off-shore African territory of Mayotte, the off-shore Canadian islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, and--as we develop at greater length below--the French West Indian island of Martinique.
On the other side of the overseas French electoral ledger, UMP candidate Sarkozy received a solid majority in both the South Pacific territory of New Caledonia as well as the Caribbean (albeit mainland South American) state of French Guiana.
In between the examples of overwhelmingly pro-"Sego" and pro-"Sarko" overseas constituencies were the islands of Guadeloupe, Wallis and Futuna, and French Polynesia that were very evenly split with barely two percentage points separating the candidates of the Right and Left. …