Will the “Mélenchon effect” happen again and have an influence on the legislative elections in the Lyon suburbs? “I’m going to give my vote to someone, in the logic of the presidential election,” says Rodrigue Barde, 36, leaving the early morning of the polling station installed in the canteen of the Louis-Pergaud school, in the district Minguettes, in Vénissieux. The bus driver does not hide his preference for Jean-Luc Mélenchon. His vote in the legislative elections is directly linked to the breakthrough of the leader of La France insoumise (LFI) in working-class neighborhoods.

In this 14th district of the Rhône, few voters met on the morning of Sunday June 12 retained the names of the eleven candidates for the seat of deputy. The choices are often guided by the main currents of the presidential election. Like that of Isabelle Sébastien, 77, who has never missed an election in forty-seven years of civic life. “When you see what happens in countries where free elections don’t exist, we don’t have the right not to vote,” says the former school kitchen worker, originally from Martinique.

Further, in the office of the Léo-Lagrange school, Djamila Abderrahmane, 48, has also made her choice “in the presidential suite”. But her neighbors decided not to come and vote this time, unlike the first round which placed Jean-Luc Mélenchon at the head of the presidential ballot, with the spectacular score of 48.79% of the votes, in Vénissieux, against 17.97% to Emmanuel Macron. At noon, the participation rate in the legislative elections was limited to 11.80% in Vénissieux, as in Vaulx-en-Velin, where the rate fell by one point compared to 2017 at the same time (12.97%). Participation is more strongly in decline in the districts farthest from the city centers. In Lyon, the participation rate rose to 20.89%. If the trend is confirmed at the end of the day, the decline in the vote in working-class neighborhoods could compromise the “Mélenchon effect”.

The spectacular scores of LFI in the presidential election

On April 10, 2022, the candidacy of the leader of LFI undoubtedly mobilized the electorate in the outlying districts of the second metropolis of France. Consistently improving on his 2017 score, Mr. Mélenchon came out on top in the first round of presidential voting in most major cities east of the capital of Gaul, well ahead of Emmanuel Macron. With spectacular scores in Vaulx-en-Velin (54.94% against 17.28% for Mr. Macron), Givors (44.89% against 20.13% for Marine Le Pen, and 16.23% for Mr. macron). More reduced, the advance of Jean-Luc Mélenchon was nevertheless affirmed in Saint-Priest, Rillieux-la-Pape or Bron, cities led by mayors Les Républicains (LR).

This breakthrough of the LFI candidate in the Lyon suburbs was accompanied by a drop in abstention in several localities on the outskirts. In the town of Vénissieux, for example, abstention dropped by more than two points between the first round of the 2017 presidential election (33.40% abstention) and that of 2022 (31.50%). The trend was also observed in Vaulx-en-Velin, a municipality which posted record abstentions in previous elections. In the last presidential election, the fall in participation was halted in the outlying districts of Lyon. And the mobilization of the electorate rather benefited Jean-Luc Mélenchon, in a fairly pronounced useful voting mechanism. Yannick Jadot’s score painfully reached 5.96% in April 2022, for the whole of the metropolis of Lyon, where an environmentalist executive was however mainly elected in the previous local elections of 2018.

The level of participation could therefore provide an indicator of whether or not the Mélenchon effect has been replicated for the benefit of the candidates now invested by the New People’s Ecological and Social Union (Nupes). Knowing that the abstention rates in legislative elections are much higher than in presidential elections. In the first round of the 2017 legislative elections, they exceeded 50% in the four constituencies of the eastern suburbs of Lyon, with a record of 63.83% in the 14th constituency, including the city of Vénissieux, and 59.82% in the 7th constituency, including Vaulx-en-Velin.

Tensions that could be measured at the ballot box

On this condition of mobilizing the electorate, the dynamic would be favorable to the candidates of the Nupes in the constituencies of the suburbs. The addition of all the left-wing votes recorded during the first round of the presidential election reaches, on paper, more than 43% in the constituency of Vaulx-en-Velin, and more than 45% in that of Vénissieux. Of the fourteen constituencies of the Rhône, six are led by LFI candidates, four by ecologists, two by socialists, and two by communists. The big question concerns the weight of the other candidates on the left, known as “dissidents”. Especially in suburban constituencies.

In the 7th constituency of Vaulx-en-Velin, the candidacy of Stéphane Gomez (Socialist Party) is encouraged by the mayor, Hélène Geoffroy, a figure in the challenge to the agreement signed by the party leadership, and supported by the Radical Party left (PRG). In Vénissieux, the elected Communists, including the PCF mayor, Michèle Picard, were very hostile to the initial candidacy of Taha Bouhafs (LFI), before the latter threw in the towel, following accusations of sexual harassment.

The local applications of the Nupes agreement have caused tensions that could be measured at the ballot box. The most emblematic case being that of Villeurbanne, where Gabriel Amard wears the colors of Nupes. The designation of the son-in-law of Jean-Luc Mélenchon in this socialist bastion triggered a campaign of denigration of the former mayor (PS) Jean-Paul Bret, active support of Katia Buisson, candidate of the PRG. In Villeurbanne, at noon, the turnout was 17.66%, compared to 20.31% in the first round of the 2017 legislative elections.