Paul Vergès, the strongman founder and leader of the Réunion island’s Communist Party, the doyen of the French senate and an anti-colonial firebrand who was a significant figure of the international communist movement, has died at the age of 91. Less known on mainland France than his late brother, the controversial lawyer and provocateur Jacques, Paul Vergès became regarded as an untouchable political figurehead on the French Indian Ocean island where he had successively occupied almost every political mandate during a 70-year career. Julien Sartre sketches the sometimes dark story of what historian Frédérick Genevée called “a monument of complexity” who was driven by anti-colonialism rather than social struggle.
French voters have inflicted a major defeat on the ruling Socialist Party and its allies in Sunday's local elections. The Left lost control of 25 of the départements or counties that it held before the election, leaving it in the majority in just 34. In contrast, the alliance between the right-wing UMP - headed by Nicolas Sarkozy - and the centrists UDI is now in control of 66 département councils in a dramatic shift of power in French local politics. The far-right Front National, meanwhile, failed in its bid to win control in a council for the first time in its history though it did see around 60 councillors elected. The outcome is widely seen as a major slap in the face delivered by voters to President François Hollande's government. The Right won power both in the president's political stronghold and that of the prime minister Manuel Valls. Conceding the serious setback for the socialists, Valls also highlighted the performance of Marine Le Pen's party as a “defeat for all Republicans”. But he has vowed to stay on as head of government and - to the dismay of some on the Left - made clear that its current policies would continue.