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Thu Nov 16th, 2006 at 10:41:43 AM EST
Update [2006-11-16 17:35:13 by afew]:11.40 pm CET: Looks like a clear first-round win for Ségolène Royal with 55%-60%. See new thread on top of front page
THIS EVENING : ELECTION RESULTS LIVE BLOGGING !
By Jerome a Paris and afew.
Today 218,771 card-carrying members of the French Socialist Party (PS) will vote in their local party headquarters, in the first round of their presidential primary. The three candidates are Laurent Fabius, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and Ségolène Royal. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, a second round will take place in a week's time (23 November).
The official campaign was organized around six debates, some public, some within the party behind (supposedly) closed doors. Fairly dull, apparently, in terms of policy discussion. There was some heat given off at one debate where Royal was whistled and booed, and DSK's campaign was accused of stage-managing that. The DSK campaign was again accused when a video from an internal PS discussion from last January was "leaked", showing Royal discussing the possibility of making teachers work a 35-hour week of actual presence at school, a guaranteed bad move within the PS. Royal has also protested about "macho attitudes".
Laurent Fabius, who was prime minister under Mitterrand in 1984-86 (at age 34) has long been seen as one of the biggest "elephants" (as the senior leaders of the socialist party are called), and felt that this was his turn to run. Duting the 90s, he was tainted for a long time by the contaminated blood scandal (hemophiles who received HIV-infested blood due to improper procedures at the national blood transfusion center when he was prime minister) but was fully cleared in 1999. He used to be associated more with the centrist (social-liberal, or social democrat) wing of the party, but since he chose to back the "non" vote during the EU constitution referendum last year, he has reinvented himself as an unapologetic lefty. This is generally not deemed very credible, but his strong support within the PS apparatus gives him the hope of finishing second and forcing Ségolène to dispute a second round. He is generally seen as the most brilliant of the three.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn has long been in charge of economic issues in the PS, and was finance minister in 1997-2001, where he was seen by both business and pundits as doing an excellent job. He is thus seen as the most centrist of the candidates, as well as the most technocratic. He has run on an explicitly social-democratic platform, although he has not shied away from calling for the renationalisation of EDF, the power utility. He is generally popular, but his support inside the party is unknown. He may be handicapped by the resentment of Lionel Jospin, the former prime minister, who was hoping to run in this primary, but needed Strauss-Kahn to get out of the way to give him a chance to appear desired and inevitable. As Jospin still has strong support within the party apparatus, manoeuvers to deny him some votes are not impossible.
Ségolène Royal has traditionally been more on the left of the party, but has surprised a number of people by more conservative positions on some issues, like her idea to set up military camps for young delinquants, or her repeated reference to "l'ordre juste" (fair order). After holding several junior positions in leftwing cabinets, mostly on social policy remits (family affairs, education), she came to prominence in 2004 by beating prime minister Raffarin in the Poitou-Charentes regional elections and becoming the only female president of a regional council. The picture of her beaming smile on that election day was widely distributed. Since then, she has run a relentless media campaign to stay in the news, appear new and fresh and become inevitable and, despite many warnings (or wishes) that she would crash, she has not, and has demonstrated both a fierce determination to get her way, as well as a reasonable grasp of "serious" policy issues.
|THE PRIMARY AND THE CHANCES|
It's the first time a primary has been organized in this way by any French party. (Note that it's not an American-style primary, only party members can vote). Here's what Libération says about it:
|The procedure was risky but has functioned correctly. To such a degree that it has given a completely out-of-date look to the UMP's plebiscite system, or the more confusing one of the radical left. <...> Without holding big primaries in the American or Italian manner, <...> the PS chose this procedure in early January. And launched, at the same time, a vast membership campaign the success of which [70,000 new members -- afew] upset the internal applecart.||
||Risquée, la procédure d'investiture a correctement fonctionné. Au point de ringardiser le mode plébiscitaire de désignation de l'UMP, ou celui, plus confus, de la gauche radicale. <...> Faute de grandes primaires, à la manière américaine ou italienne (quatre millions d'électeurs de gauche pour la désignation de Romano Prodi), le PS a choisi cette procédure inédite début janvier. Et lancé au même moment une vaste campagne d'adhésions dont le succès a bouleversé la donne interne.|
|Vote forecasts within the party are much less certain than in the past. Lately, the experts were giving Royal elected in the first round, but narrowly, Fabius in second place and DSK last. A quite different result from the opinion polls among voters sympathetic to the PS, and not paid-up members. In those polls, Ségolène is at around 60%, (down), DSK is a good second [up at 28% -- afew], and Fabius stuck at 10%.||
||Les pointages des prévisions de vote sont moins assurés que par le passé. Ces derniers jours, les experts donnaient Ségolène Royal élue de justesse au premier tour, Laurent Fabius en seconde position et Dominique Strauss-Kahn en dernière place. Un résultat bien différent de ceux des sondages. Ceux-ci ont mesuré la popularité des trois candidats parmi les électeurs proches du PS et non chez les adhérents à jour de leur cotisation. Dans les sondages, Ségolène est autour de 60 % (en baisse), DSK en bon deuxième (en hausse) et Fabius scotché vers 10%.|
So the forecasts within the party apparatus give a much closer result than the opinion polls.
Does it matter? It would no doubt be better for the PS to come up with a clear first-round winner. Prolonging the combat is likely to produce more division. An only-just winner will find it harder to unite the party behind them. Someone who appears to understand this perfectly is Nicolas Sarkozy :
|"If it's Ségolène Royal, it's all profit for me," said Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday [to journalists with him for his trip to Algiers] <...> "She's been protecting me for months, because the "anyone but Ségolène" phenomenon obstructs the "anyone but Sarkozy" phenomenon. <...> she is "completely out of touch with her electorate and she'll have great difficulty uniting the votes of the left <...> I think she'll show her true nature, which is someone who is short-tempered, harsh, and, when things don't go the way she wants, becomes tense."
On the other hand, if the PS candidate were Laurent Fabius, "we'd have a violent campaign, because he's a violent man <...> The risk for me would be much greater than with a quiet campaign."
||"Si c'est Ségolène Royal, c'est tout bénéfice", a jugé Nicolas Sarkozy, lundi <...> "Elle me protège depuis plusieurs mois, car le phénomène 'tout sauf Ségolène' empêche le phénomène 'tout sauf Sarkozy' <...> elle est "en total décalage avec son électorat et elle aura beaucoup de mal à assurer un rassemblement des voix à gauche <...> Je pense qu'elle montrera sa vraie nature, qui est quelqu'un d'irascible, dur et, quand ça ne va pas, qui se crispe."|
A contrario, si le candidat du Parti socialiste était Laurent Fabius, "on aurait une campagne violente, parce que c'est un homme violent <...> Le risque pour moi <...> est beaucoup plus grand qu'avec une campagne apaisée."
Why journalists drink up these briefings is beyond me. It's the famous "access" thing. Sarkozy, during a trip abroad, has a friendly chat with them and feeds them a bunch of crap -- that they print. The evident truth (hugely backed by the polls beyond all error margin) is that Fabius is the weakest opponent for Sarkozy, and Royal the strongest. But if the PS primaries are prolonged and there is more in-fighting, if Royal emerges weakened as a candidate by party disunity, why, who stands to gain?
Of course, Fabius called on PS members "not to vote the way Sarkozy wants". Did that mean: What Sarkozy wants is no Ségolène? Well, quite possibly it just meant Vote Fabius... Duh...