Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 08:43:13 AM EST
Environmentalist Nicolas Hulot
having (predictably) pulled out of the race, there was no "civil society" candidate left in the running for the first round of the French presidential election. Hulot's departure left an opening that the anti-globalisation figurehead José Bové filled this morning by announcing his candidature.
Bové's candidature sets the cat among the pigeons on the left. He's not strictly an environmental candidate (though the environment and particularly agriculture figure high on his list of preoccupations). More broadly, he's an anti-liberal (economic sense) who hopes to federate a whole slew of un-organized non-party lefties. He's not ATTAC, but he could well be supported by ATTAC. His views are more global than those of any other candidate on the left (on the right, natch -- whatever pro-capitalist global ideas they may have, they keep quiet about anyway).
The non-PS left never got together a single candidature (as I predicted), partly because they couldn't all agree that the candidate should be Bové, partly because the un-organized left was really too unorganized and strung out in "networks" that showed how weak networks can be without a minimum of well-conceived formal construction and communication. So we have Arlette Laguiller for Lutte Ouvrière (firm declaration from the start, LO is a sect that would never have joined the others anyway), Olivier Besancenot for the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire, Marie-George Buffet for the Parti Communiste Français, and Dominique Voynet for les Verts (insofar as they're non-PS, which is debateable...). And now José Bové for the "anti-liberals".
Bové says he hopes to bring in voters who would otherwise abstain, and he may well be right about that. He is clear about calling his voters to support Royal in the second round of the election, which the Trots (LO, LCR) can be counted on to fudge. Where opinions differ, is on his effect on the first round. How much will he weaken the Trots and Communists? How much les Verts? How much, if at all, Ségolène Royal?
Polls for the moment award him anywhere from 1% to 3%. Besancenot is credited with 3.5%, Buffet 3.5%, Laguiller 2.5%, and Dominique Voynet just manages to reach 2%, in the poll that gives Bové 1%. There are plenty of Greens that like Bové, and Green voters may well leave Voynet for a candidate with more fighting spirit. Laguiller is unlikely to lose support, but Besancenot may well lose quite a lot. The LCR remains divided between those who wanted the apparatus candidate (Besancenot) and those who wanted a "single candidature". Same thing with the PCF. There are party figures in both cases who will stand up for Bové. So it's not just a case of Bové peeling off votes, it's a case of splitting parties. Only the sect LO is likely to come through unscathed.
And Royal? Royal's candidature is going through a very bad patch. After making the early running, she, her campaign, and the Parti Socialiste seemed totally unprepared for the real fighting that would come when Sarkozy became officially candidate. He remains head of his party, the UMP, he remains Number Two of the government and Minister of the Interior, controlling the police and the organisation of elections, and he is paying no political price for this because he sewed up the media long ago, and the media are not saying this accumulation of power in the hands of a candidate is inappropriate and undemocratic, they are saying: "Oh, look, Ségolène Royal said something silly! Again..." [subtext: woman, almost blonde].
Sarkozy's power to run his campaign like this was well-known in advance, yet the Socialists seem to have been taken by surprise, still wasting energy on internal conflict when they needed to stand firm. Result, polls show Royal dropping to under 30% in Round One, and losing clearly in Round Two.
Will Bové help or hinder? In my view, it's the Socialists and Royal that have to get their act together. That will be decisive. Bové will not. Personally, I have a great deal of sympathy for what he has to say, and look forward to the pugnacity he'll bring to the campaign.
If his candidature goes through... The rules say you must have 500 signatures from elected officials (at least mayors) for your candidature to be accepted. Bové is not sure to get them. He has currently gathered in 200, according to Libération. Arlette Laguiller will have her 500 as usual, and the PCF will easily rustle up 500 for Buffet, but Besancenot seems to be stuck at round the 400 mark. There may be surprises to come yet...