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Monday, April 23, 2007

A Real Choice This Time

The first round results of the French presidential election were as follows:

Nicolas Sarkozy (centre-right) - 31.1%
Ségolène Royal (socialist) - 25.8%
François Bayrou (centrist) - 18.6%
Jean-Marie Le Pen (far right) - 10.5%

which means that Sarkozy and Ségolène (as the French refer to them, in their quaint sexist manner) will face eachother in the run off on 6th May, just three days after we face the electorate in local government elections in England, local government and Scottish Parliamentary elections in Scotland, and National Assembly elections in Wales.

So at least there will be a proper hard left vs centre-right contest in the second round, unlike the travesty last time of a run-off between Le Pen and Chirac. The far right result is down considerably from the last election, which has to be good news. Brits could learn something from the 84.5% turnout too. Clearly the French think there is something worth voting for, whereas in Britain many voters are of the opinion that there is nothing worth choosing between the three major parties. We did a good job there, didn't we, seizing the middle ground!

So who are these two candidates and what do they represent?

Former Minister of the Interior "Sarko" was, like me, born into a family of Protestant landowning small-holders descended from a minor aristocratic family long since fallen on harder times.

Like Tony Blair, Sarkozy is generally recognized by the right and left as a highly skilled politician and a striking orator noted for his charisma, political innovation and willingness to "make a dramatic break" from "politics as usual". He is in effect the leader of France's "New UMP".

The area where his "break with tradition" is most notable is in realigning French politics with "the old enemy" America.
Say "Oui" to reform of La France

With me in power, you'll have support from two Tony BlairsThe "new politic" is especially in matters of economic reform and defence - areas where French politics has been traditionally thoroughly inward-looking. Does he begin to remind you of anyone yet? Yes - on almost all issues Nicholas Sarkozy's politics are those of New Labour and The Great Leader.

Had he been leader of the Gaullists in 1997 rather than Philippe Séguin, the party would probably have triumphed at the polls. It was a story rather like Labour's tragic defeat under Neil Kinnock, acted out five years later. Sarkozy is very fond of honours, himself being a Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur, the highest order of the French Republic. No doubt if he were elected President, Sarko would be looking to draw up a long list of more minor honours to present to those who had helped to fund his party's victory. So, nothing different there, then.

Nor in his policy of addressing issues of race and immigration. Sarkozy likes to talk tough, proposing to deal firmly with council estate delinquents and calling for tighter criteria for immigration, control processes similar to UK ASBOs and harsher penalties for street crime. But he's no Le Pen. So, nothing different there then, either.

He has frequently been accused of failing to respect the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary, by trying to apply pressure in certain cases. I can't imagine what similarity there could be with Tony Blair on that one!

And on the economic front he has consistently supported privatisation of state-controlled enterprises, simplification of the tax system, denying social security to unemployed workers who refuse work offered to them and reduction of the budget deficit. So, clearly someone who would get along very well with Gordon Brown.
Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime

In fact the only significant difference between Sarkozy and us that I can detect is that he believes that paedophilia is a genetic disease, whereas some stranger members of my Council team believe that a statue should be erected to commemorate Hackney's most notorious paedophile Mark Trotter, who himself believed Tony Blair was a disease that should be prevented from standing for Queensbridge in the era of John McCafferty's Council leadership.

Marie-Ségolène Royal, on the other hand, is a very different kettle of poissons. Not much political resemblance to New Labour to be found in this woman, her family and supporters. Royal comes from a French petit bourgeois family of conservative disciplinarians, her parents having being a soldier and a civic administrator.

Just off to see my life-style guruHer father believed that girls were meant for obedience and breeding, not education and was quoted as having said of his eight offspring: "I have five children and three girls."

Her background includes strong extreme right-wing elements, including her brother Gérard who was involved in the planting of the bomb that sank the Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior, in New Zealand in 1985, killing photographer Fernando Pereira.

Her cousin Anne-Christine has been a candidate of Le Pen's Front National party in Limoges.

Despite being a fellow Catholic, she does not share Tony Blair's view of the importance of a strong, happy married family as the cornerstone of a healthy society. She successfully sued her own father for failure to pay alimony to her mother and prevented some of her own siblings from attending their own father's funeral. She herself has four children but never married, preferring a civil partnership, or pacte civil de solidarité as it is known in France.

Despite her strong right-wing family background, Royal is standing for President on a traditional left-wing platform. Her programme is based on increased government spending, to such an extent that her own senior advisor Eric Besson resigned over the estimated €35 billion programme budget. He was reported as saying that Royal was "motivated only by her own glory" and was "unfit to govern".

One area where Royal spookily resembles Tony Blair is in her choice of partner. Her spokesman Arnaud Montebourg once quipped on a TV show: " Ségolène Royal has only one flaw - her partner". I wonder where I've heard something like that before?

On foreign policy her position is far more chauvinistic, insular and ignorant than that of her rival Sarkozy. She has refused to openly support Turkish membership of the EU and she failed to react when during a meeting a Hezbollah leader he likened Israel's behaviour in Palestine to Nazi occupation of France during WWII. And she was widely reported as being "impressed" at how speedy the Chinese legal system was, until someone reminded her that the China orders 10,000 executions per year and all defence lawyers in China must be authorised by the Communist Party.
The French view of Ségolène Royal

My ego is this size and growing by the dayShe also wants to renegotiate France's membership of the EU and has been known to express opinions not a million kilometres away from those of UKIP.

And she is no friend of the US, having called the Iraq war "a catastrophe".

On economic matters, she is standing on a traditional Socialist platform, pledging to raise the minimum wage by nearly 20% and offering to create 500,000 subsidised youth jobs. There is very little in Royal's economic policies which would appeal to Gordon Brown's prudent disposition.

In short, Ségolène Royal is a strange concoction of ultra-right authoritarian, high-spending Old Labour socialist and chauvinistic French nationalist. So, no doubt who I'm supporting for French President. I can leave the Nicolas Sarkozy campaign sticker on my PC at work for a bit longer.

1 comment:

Myrtle Twingie said...

How come Lennox Lewis is supporting the Conservative candidate? I don't understand.