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Villepin was smearing Sarkozy. Le Monde says it has proof.

by Jerome a Paris Wed May 3rd, 2006 at 10:36:18 AM EST

Le Monde blows open Villepin's defense, in recent days, that he has been slandered by accusations (first aired in Le Monde last Friday) of political manipulation against his rival on the right, Nicolas Sarkozy.

By publishing in full Général Rondot's testimony and publishing large extracts of his notes, they further weaken Villepin's defenses. (Rondot was tasked by Villepin to investigate the Clearstream affair, and, it appears, to assess Sarkozy's involvement/vulnerability).

Reuter has a quick summary of the lastest, including Villepin's angry reaction.


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Wow. I mentioned in the Breakfast Thread this morning that it was not unthinkable that Sarkozy was behind the Rondot revelations -- which was entirely possible -- but this massive confirmation seems aimed at bringing Villepin down, and even Chirac with him. (And I don't think Sarkozy really wants that to happen).

I haven't had time to read all of Rondot's testimony, but what I skimmed through is fascinating. (Reads like the Dreyfus Affair minus the anti-semitism, or like a Patrick Modiano novel ;)) Rondot was in fact a special ops counsellor with the Ministry of Defence. He'd worked for Chirac and Villepin on another affair before Clearstream. The idea that the Clearstream file was being driven from high above is at least suggested. And Le Monde says this:

Prise dans leur intégralité, les déclarations du général - prononcées sous serment - mettent aussi en exergue l'importance des "instructions du président de la République", qui seules pouvaient justifier qu'un agent directement subordonné à la ministre de la défense puisse ainsi mener une enquête parallèle

Taken overall, the general (Rondot)'s statements -- given under oath -- underline the importance of the "instructions of the President of the Republic", which alone could permit an agent directly under the orders of the Minister of Defence to carry out a parallel investigation in this way...

This is now aiming higher than Villepin, imho. Possibly fireworks on the way...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed May 3rd, 2006 at 11:37:09 AM EST
If it is true that Villepin called Sarkozy "the political ante" (L'enjeu politique), he's toast.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 3rd, 2006 at 11:38:47 AM EST
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I haven't been able to read today's Canard Enchainé, which must have juicy bits on the backroom story. Its front page, visible here suggests that there is an "armed truce" between Villepin and Sarkozy.

In earlier editions last month, it was reporting Sarkozy's glee at having hard info to bring down at least Villepin, and "Chirac's entourage".

This is certainly not over...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed May 3rd, 2006 at 11:42:05 AM EST
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I may be wrong, but now I can't help but feel this is going further than anything Sarkozy could feel gleeful about.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed May 3rd, 2006 at 12:00:19 PM EST
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We can only hope. Is this a scandal that could take out all the hopefuls from the right wing?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed May 3rd, 2006 at 12:12:15 PM EST
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Sarkozy looks like the sacrificial lamb in this, but he, Chirac, and Villepin are from the same party. If it blows up, a significant chunk of voter support might move elsewhere.

Unfortunately, "elsewhere" would probably include Le Pen along with the centre-right and the left...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed May 3rd, 2006 at 12:44:39 PM EST
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That's what it sounds like form what I can read of the front page of le Canard - he's increasingly worried that the fallout will include him, and he may need to help Villepin.

But the relationship is so noxious that the longer it goes, the likelier they are to both be damaged goods.

Or Villepin is utterly destroyed, Sarkozy is called as PM, and Chirac (plus the job) destroys him there.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed May 3rd, 2006 at 12:52:49 PM EST
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Well, I've already professed ny love for M. Villepin, so I won't bore you with more of that.

But what exactly is the response among the French?  I hear (well, accd. to the media here) that there is a lot of apathy re: electoral politics  anyway.  Do people really care about this?

And if so, is this good for Ségolène Royal?

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Wed May 3rd, 2006 at 12:29:33 PM EST
Do people really care about this?

It's not really "out there" enough yet for everyone to care, but it looks at this stage as if it might have the makings. Villepin is very rocky with 20% approval ratings. If his job is on the line, and Chirac is dragged in the mud, people will necessarily take notice.

is this good for Ségolène Royal?

She's a "clean" candidate, no murky past, an upright and honest image. She's currently polling better than Sarkozy for both rounds of a presidential election if held tomorrow. Her rival getting dragged through a bitter and muddy brawl can only help her chances, even if he looks like a victim.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed May 3rd, 2006 at 12:53:05 PM EST
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It looks terrible to everybody, but mostly for the right.
Le Pen is certianly the biggest winner, but it does help the Socialists.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed May 3rd, 2006 at 12:54:52 PM EST
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An opinion poll this morning (Thursday) gives a more detailed answer to poemless's first question.

A CSA poll for Le Parisien says:

  • 43% consider the Clearstream scandal is serious
  • 20% not serious
  • 37% don't know

So, roughly two out of three French have an opinion on Clearstream, and, of these, roughly two out of three take it seriously. The number without an opinion is high.

This was a telephone poll taken yesterday, but it's unlikely (imo) that the pollees were aware of the latest developments at time of polling. The media are talking about these, and one would expect the high number of don't knows to go down. (Unless Chirac and Villepin strike a deal with Sarkozy to stop the blood-letting).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 4th, 2006 at 02:46:55 AM EST
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My concern is that Sarkozy's public image could somehow be boosted from all of this, if he plays the victim card? Jerome, any ideas on this?

Mikhail from SF
by Tsarrio (dj_tsar@yahoo.com) on Wed May 3rd, 2006 at 12:40:35 PM EST
And I've asked this a number of times elsewhere but haven't gotten an answer - but why did the left get wiped out in 2002 in the French Parliamentary elections? I understand the whole LePen in the 2nd round thing in the Presidential, but what was the reason for the left's collapse in the Parliament? Are the two somehow linked? My understanding was that the 97 to 02 Socialist-led Parliament was seen as relatively successful.
by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Wed May 3rd, 2006 at 06:13:58 PM EST
Possible reasons just off the top of my head:

  1. French people may have decided to vote for a parliament in line with the president, since the presidential election occurred before the parliamentary one.

  2. The left had been governing for the previous 5 years (out of 7 in Chirac's presidency, in a "cohabitation" arrangement, meaning the president did not have a majority in parliament and hence had to name a prime minister from the opposition, who then named an opposition government and had control of parliament), so people may have just wanted a change?

I frankly don't know though, and since I wasn't in France at the time and didn't vote for either election, to me 2002 is just a bad dream I never woke up from.
by Alex in Toulouse on Wed May 3rd, 2006 at 06:23:40 PM EST
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Not at all off-topic -- because the answer is really in turnout. The PS was totally demoralized Jospin's 3rd place and in the weeks and months that followed, the PS base (which is only about 18-20% to begin with, and which had turned out in low numbers on April 22) lost interest in the legislative elections. This is entirely anecdotal but I know a lot of PS or other center-left parties supporters who, like Alex above, didn't vote on April 22 and then did vote for Chirac (ie, against LePen) only to then decide to stay home in June.

This is important for the 2007 election because it will be decided in large part by turnout -- which side (presuming its Sarko vs Sego in the 2nd round) can pick up more support from within his or her own "political family" (ie, non-UMP on right, non-PS on left). WHats impressive about Sego right now is that while she's running, thematically, to the center of the left (emphasizing family values, respect for the state and at least making noises about 3rd way economics), she is showing strong support from "DDS" voters who are likely to vote Green, Besancenot, PCF or not vote in the 1st round.

Sarko of course is basing his entire campaign on picking up Villiers and even LePen 1st-round voters in the 2nd round.

So if the Clearstream scandal continues to blow up, as now appears likely, and takes out Villepin and demoralizes or disgusts the harder right of the electorate, it will certainly hurt Sarkozy in the 2nd round (and the right in the legislatives that will follow).

This could of course help LePen but I wonder if it will help Bayrou, who for years has tried to position himself as a "moral" candidate and man of conscience on the right.

by desmoulins (gsb6@lycos.com) on Wed May 3rd, 2006 at 06:38:30 PM EST
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I think Bayrou would be one of the beneficiaries, taking up some of Villepin's electorate. But Royal too seems capable of drawing votes from the centre-right.

Logically, (if it all really blows up), Sarkozy has to go scuttling back to the centre to avoid the two above-mentioned making hay there. That wasn't planned until much later -- at the moment he's in full extreme-right mode. As these latest leaks were published yesterday, he was defending in the Assembly his new hard-line immigration law. Coming back to the centre will make him do the splits. So, though he's saying he wants the investigation on who was behind the Clearstream smear to go through to its conclusion, I expect he'd like it to be a whitewash allowing Villepin and Chirac to limp on to the bitter end.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 4th, 2006 at 01:23:50 AM EST
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Turnout is everything. The difference between the 2000 and 2004 elections in Spain was 3 million PSOE voters (out of 30M eligible voters) who stayed at home in 2000.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 4th, 2006 at 06:41:38 AM EST
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