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***Royal strides ahead? (UPDATE)

by afew Thu Aug 24th, 2006 at 08:50:38 AM EST

This is the end-of-holidays time in France when the political parties start to hold their "summer universities", which basically means a kind of relaxed talk-in at a pleasant seaside spot, during which the participants swan around in summery clothes and show off their tans, before the real political season begins in earnest. The Parti Socialiste kicks off with their "université d'été" in La Rochelle from next Friday.

Ségolène Royal will be meeting her chums in La Rochelle - well, her chums and not-so-chums, the other would-be candidates for next year's presidential election and their supporters being among them - with what looks like a decisive advance in the race towards the primaries in November. Over the last weekend, she spoke at a meeting in Frangy-en-Bresse, Burgundy, where she was invited by Arnaud Montebourg, the leader of the "Sixth Republic" movement, who has rallied to her flag. The point here is that Montebourg and his supporters were for the "non" in the EU Constitution referendum, while Royal was for the "oui" - and the rift in the party base has not yet healed. Before a crowd of several thousand, Royal seemed to get by fairly honourably, while in terms of broader communications, she took another step forward towards the investiture.

***From the front page - whataboutbob

No precise policy statements here, but that would be surprising at this stage. Royal took on a more directly presidential persona, placing herself in the tradition of François Mitterand:

The candidate took for godfather François Mitterand - from whom Lionel Jospin, author of the "right to inventory", had distanced himself. "I claim to belong to the Mitterand lineage and I'm proud of it," Mme Royal announced. "For me, it's a heritage that matters. And so does my way of going back over it and bringing it up to date." Quoting three priciples dear to the socialist former president - "the duty of unity", "courage", "the need for revolutions in the sense of deep changes" - she concluded: "This is my conception of the exercise of political responsibilty and the role of a head of state."La candidate s'est placée sous le parrainage de François Mitterrand - avec lequel Lionel Jospin, auteur du "droit d'inventaire", avait pris quelque distance. "Je revendique cette lignée mitterrandienne et j'en suis fière, a lancé Mme Royal. Pour moi, cet héritage compte. Et aussi ma manière de le revisiter, de l'actualiser." Citant trois principes chers à l'ancien président socialiste - "le devoir d'unité", "le courage", "la nécessité de révolutions au sens de changements profonds" -, elle a conclu : "C'est ainsi que je conçois l'exercice de la responsabilité politique et le rôle d'un chef de l'Etat."
(Le Monde,Ségolène Royal se pose en rassembleuse du PS.

Godfather François ?

So - Mitterand the founder of the present-day PS, the unifier of the movement, the election-winner, the internationally-recognized reference. Royal knows the mileage she's getting, and her claim is well-timed and above all placed, Mitterand's parliamentary electoral base before he was elected president having been, precisely, Burgundy. (Mitterand's quasi-nickname for many years was "le député de la Nièvre", the deputy for the Nièvre, neighbouring département to the one Royal was speaking in). And the local bigwigs got into line to support her: Montebourg, of course, then the regional president, François Patriat (a friend of Mitterand's), and François Rebsamen, mayor of Dijon and N° 2 of the PS after Royal's significant other, François Hollande. (Lot of François's here, but is that surprising in France?)

This call on Mitterand's ghost is important because it underlines Royal's pretention to unite the party and make it a winner again. And it digs a hole under Lionel Jospin, who threw off the Mitterandian mantle, and lost. Meanwhile the two other serious contenders for the investiture, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Jack Lang, were called on today, by none other than François Rebsamen, PS N° 2, to desist in favour of Royal. The call was made with maximum publicity, by an interview in this morning's Le Parisien, followed by a stint on lunchtime TV news.

"They'll be annoyed, but I wonder if these candidatures are of any interest. They're all legitimate, but I don't see what they bring to the table. They can't win," the mayor of Dijon told Le Figaro.«Ils vont se vexer, mais je me demande quel est l'intérêt de ces candidatures. Toutes sont légitimes, mais je ne vois pas ce qu'elles apportent. Elles ne peuvent pas gagner», assure au Figaro le maire de Dijon.
Le Figaro, Le numéro deux du PS réclame un tri entre les candidats.

55-42 !!!

While Royal places herself more and more obviously as a sine qua non for the PS candidature, she is becoming so more and more for public opinion. The Burgundy weekend was preceded by an IFOP poll for the newspaper Ouest-France, which may turn out to be an outlier (in any case is too far from next year's election to offer a serious forecast), but which shows her extremely capable (and the only left candidate capable) of beating Sarkozy in Round Two:

Ségolène Royal	   55%	   Nicolas Sarkozy  42%
Jack Lang	   47%	      "       "     50%
Lionel Jospin	   44%	      "       "     53%
D. Strauss-Kahn    42%	      "       "     55%
François Hollande  41%	      "       "     56%
Laurent Fabius	   38%	      "       "     58%
For those who find her "rightist", look at her lowest scores, 46% among retired people, 50% among shopkeepers and craftsmen, traditionally conservative groups.

While her highest supporters are: 57% men (hmm, wonder why?), and 70% the 18-25 demographic.

The fact is that she's keeping to generalities for now, and we don't know anything concrete about the kind of policies she would implement. Anyway, she would say it was up to the PS to build a platform, and the government to implement it. And her image and reputation are still fairly solid with a good proportion of the left, or she wouldn't be garnering numbers like these.

Update [2006-8-22 2:9:50 by afew]:An online poll run by Le Monde currently shows this:

Would you say the ideas defended by Ségolène Royal are rather on the left or on the right?

Left 39%
Right 17.1%
Neither left nor right 31.1%
Don't know 12.8%

Le Monde is generally considered a centre-left paper. There's a degree of uncertainty here, but less than one in five say her ideas are "on the right".

Rocky Sarko Horror Show

Sarkozy has been pushed out of the limelight this summer by the Lebanon war and Chirac's grandstanding. Chirac and Villepin have gained poll points, Sarkozy has lost. His reaction has been to use his position as Interior Minister to launch muscle ops like the one against the big squat in Cachan, and to use the holiday period to move ahead on the future clear-out of immigrant families without papers. But it seems for the moment (as I thought it might), that he is stuck with his hardline base and can't move back out to the centre. Yet another winning move by Royal.

I deleted my earlier (and less robust) post on this same topic...but here are the comments from there:

Not being familiar with French presidential elections, I don't know when candidates typically launch their campaigns...and doesn't there need to to an SP nomination first? Seems she is trying to get a jump...and the poll results showing her ahead of Sarkozy are interesting...one can only hope at this point...
-by whataboutbob on Mon Aug 21st, 2006 at 01:31:13 PM  

Re: Royal launching campaign (none / 0)
I eagerly and gratefully look forward to anybody who can explain the intricacies of French politics :)
-by Richard Lyon (rllyon@gmail.com) on Mon Aug 21st, 2006 at 04:11:27 PM

Re: Royal launching campaign (none / 0)
Me too...especially with less than a year to go before the next elections in France...
-by whataboutbob on Mon Aug 21st, 2006 at 04:26:28 PM

Re: Royal launching (none / 0)
The article makes it sound like Royal has officially launched her campaign for the Presidency...
I think I'd launch it, too, if my poll numbers were that strong.
-by Drew J Jones

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Mon Aug 21st, 2006 at 12:58:39 PM EST
I read a not very good biography of Mitterand fairly recently. It was the only one I could find in English. He sort of struck me as having some parallels to Bill Clinton, a very slippery politician with a colorful personal life. I never did get a sense of what, if anything he stood for in terms of long term policies.

What does comparing Royal to Mitterand really mean in practical terms? Is she seen as being similarly political flexible.

by Richard Lyon (rllyon@gmail.com) on Mon Aug 21st, 2006 at 01:02:37 PM EST
In practical terms I'm not sure! In terms of political positioning, it means some of the things I suggested above. Mitterand remains fairly popular with probably a majority of the French. And, within the PS, it's a power position that she's very smart to pick up, others having dropped it in the years immediately after Mitterand's death.

To the Clinton comparison, you can add age and elder-statesman standing. Helps to beef up the image of an attractive 52-year-old woman...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Aug 21st, 2006 at 01:15:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In practical terms I suppose it means whatever Royal wants it to mean, as Mitterrand is dead and so cannot contradict her in public.

It would be a lot risquier for someone to declare themselves a continuator of, say, Giscard, as he's still alive and could get into an embarrassing debate with the candicate.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Aug 21st, 2006 at 01:25:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So this is really mostly about reaching back to historical rhetoric? I suppose people in the French center right would try to pick up the laurels of De Gaulle.
by Richard Lyon (rllyon@gmail.com) on Mon Aug 21st, 2006 at 01:29:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The French wight wing parties mostly call themselves Gaulliste, or used to.
The "Gaullists" as a political group used to refer to the Union des Démocrates pour la République.

Since de Gaulle's death, and the break-up of the UDR, the exact meaning of Gaullism is somewhat unclear. In 1980s-1990s usage, "Gaullism" referred to the Rassemblement pour la République (now integrated into the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire), Jacques Chirac's center-right party. Chirac has, in the past, adopted both dirigiste and laissez-faire approaches to economics; he now has a pro-European (pro-European Union) stance after famously denouncing europeanism in the Call of Cochin. For these reasons, some on the right, such as Charles Pasqua, denounce Chirac and his party as not being "true Gaullists".

There are people on the Left who also call themselves Gaullists. Even socialist president François Mitterrand, who denounced de Gaulle's way of ruling as a permanent coup d'état, was very intent on keeping the nuclear deterrent and asserting France's independence.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Aug 21st, 2006 at 01:33:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As Migeru points out, the French right has constantly referred back to De Gaulle, practically ad nauseam. Chirac is the supposed "heir" to the line, and his party, (was the RPR, is now the UMP), is known as the Gaullist party. Not long ago Chirac said he was Gaullist.

There are two other main tendencies on the right: the Le Pen, Vichy extreme-right, haters of De Gaulle since WW2; and the centrists, once led by former president Giscard d'Estaing. This group (the party is called the UDF) is not as influential as it was in Giscard's time, the '70s. It's now led by François Bayrou who is trying to make room for himself (for the presidential) by distancing himself from the "Gaullists", who are in government.

The two great individual figures of the post-WW2 French political scene are undoubtedly De Gaulle and Mitterand. By openly affiliating herself to Mitterand, Royal is making a bold declaration of what she claims is her capacity and stature. Mitterand was neither an ideology nor a policy buff, so it doesn't count on Royal's part as a declaration of intent in either of those fields.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Aug 21st, 2006 at 03:06:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's sorta what I had figured out about French political mythology. Your summary is concise and helpful.

Now if they can just work Clovis and the dove in there somewhere, everybody can go to lunch.

by Richard Lyon (rllyon@gmail.com) on Mon Aug 21st, 2006 at 03:19:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Everybody will go to lunch anyway.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Aug 21st, 2006 at 03:39:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I read a not very good biography of Mitterand fairly recently. It was the only one I could find in English. He sort of struck me as having some parallels to Bill Clinton, a very slippery politician with a colorful personal life.

Nah. Mitterand, aka 'Le Florentin', was more slippery, devious, and cynical than Clinton. Much more. When I saw Mitterand and 'godfather' in the same sentence I was wondering if there wasn't some snarky subtext going on.

by MarekNYC on Mon Aug 21st, 2006 at 03:18:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Slick Willy ain't finished yet.
by Richard Lyon (rllyon@gmail.com) on Mon Aug 21st, 2006 at 03:20:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"snarky subtext"? Me?

The French says "parrainage", which didn't fully authorize me to translate as I did, (could be sponsorship or patronage), but I thought it was close enough for jazz and that Mitterand wouldn't object, even though he's buried not all that far from here.

I still don't know what I finally think of Mitterand. One day it's up, one day it's down. But the same is true of De Gaulle.

Or Clinton, for that matter.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Aug 21st, 2006 at 03:37:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The French says "parrainage", which didn't fully authorize me to translate as I did, (could be sponsorship or patronage), but I thought it was close enough for jazz and that Mitterand wouldn't object, even though he's buried not all that far from here.

As the article quotes her as saying 'je revendique cette lignee mitterandienne' you could also have said 'the candidate framed herself as Mitterand's political heir'. Parrainage also evokes something of a mentor-protegee relationship to my ear, though of course it literally is from the term godfather.

by MarekNYC on Mon Aug 21st, 2006 at 03:44:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Quite right. A snarky subtext must have crept in...

Anyway, it's the journalist's words, not Royal's. She definitely speaks of lineage rather than patronage or godfatherage.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Aug 21st, 2006 at 04:04:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A great diary afew. Thanks for the update and real analysis. This is exactly why I like to come here.
by gradinski chai on Tue Aug 22nd, 2006 at 08:38:19 AM EST
Thanks, garden tea!
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Aug 22nd, 2006 at 10:29:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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