Mayotte, which lies in the Indian Ocean between Madagascar and the East African coast, only became a full-fledged French département (or county) in 2011. The new status means it is now governed by the rules and practices of metropolitan France, including the compulsory and exclusive use of French in schools in a two-island nation where all local people speak regional languages as their mother tongue. Mayotte is also having to endure the uneasy transition from custom and tradition-based law to French common law. Meanwhile the high pay of civil servants posted from France is blamed for the rising cost of living in a society that is blighted by poverty, and where “condescending” expatriates and the middle classes live in protected areas removed from the grim reality of life for most ordinary people. “Some Whites rule here like in colonial times,” says one state employee. Olivia Müller reports on Mayotte's struggle to reconcile its very real needs with its new status as an integral part of France.
It was a bad night for France's ruling Socialist Party and a very good night for the opposition alliance of the right-wing UMP and the centrist UDI. The Right and its allies won control of 25 département or county councils from the Left in Sunday's local elections and will now control 66 councils. A clear victory for sure - but who should take the credit? One of the key factors in the Right's win was its alliance with France's centrist parties, a strategy advocated in particular by former prime minister and current mayor of Bordeaux Alain Juppé. In any case, the Right had already done well in the local and European elections in 2014, well before Nicolas Sarkozy's comeback as president of the UMP. But as Ellen Salvi reports, none of this has stopped the former president and his supporters from claiming that he is the man who has transformed the Right's electoral fortunes.
Despite a low-key start to the campaign to elect councils for France's départements or counties later this month, new rules for these elections do herald genuine changes in French local politics. For the first time there will be strict male-female parity among those elected, the new councillors will be noticeably younger and the age-old tradition of combining both a local and a parliamentary post is starting to fade. But as Mathieu Magnaudeix reports, this welcome progress risks being largely undermined by the fact that the départements themselves, which date from the time of the French Revolution, are increasingly being marginalised by the ascendancy of regions and metropolitan areas. Indeed, voters will go to the polls not even knowing what powers the councillors they elect will have in the future.
An abstention rate of more than 55% and significant gains by the far-right Front National party were the key results of the first round of local elections held across France at the weekend. But while it was a severe defeat for President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP party, the left-wing opposition parties also had little to rejoice over. Stéphane Alliès and Lénaig Bredoux report.