Thu Oct 13th, 2011 at 07:50:15 AM EST
Tonight, Wednesday 12th October, we have the TV debate between second-round candidates Martine Aubry and François Hollande. The vote is on Sunday, and is impossible to call for the moment. This may well be the decisive moment...
I will attempt to live-blog it, giving a bit of background, and my subjective impressions.
The debate can be followed live here, and it will certainly be available here after the event.
frontpaged - Nomad - bumped by afew
So, what is this French primary?
The original intention was an Italian-style affair, open to everyone on the left.
This is a little bit weird given that France already has a two-round presidential election. But never mind. The idea was quickly abandoned by the Socialist Party, when they worked out that there was no guarantee that a charismatic leftist candidate from outside the PS (cough renegade Mélenchon cough), or from the Greens, would not beat out their rather boring and not-very-motivational candidates.
So, what we get was billed as a way for Socialist voters to choose their candidate. But voting is open to any elector willing to pay 1 euro and sign a pledge of allegiance to "values of the left".
Personally, I was only very mildly interested in the whole affair, until as recently as a couple of weeks ago. After all, I will certainly not vote for the PS candidate in the first round of the presidential election; and I am resigned to voting for them in the second. But then it struck me - and I am not alone, visibly : as a second-round voter, I have the right, and the opportunity, to influence the selection of that candidate : let's go for it!
This phenomenon explains the big surprise of the first round : the unexpected 17% of Arnaud Montebourg. Clearly to the left of the five other candidates, making the right noises about bringing the banksters to heel, relocalising the economy, reforming the republic, and ecology, he pulled in a lot of people who, like me, probably hadn't expected to vote.
He has sent a letter to the second-round candidates, asking them to position themselves with respect to his themes during tonight's debate, after which he will announce his support for one or the other... or neither.
Here's a quick résumé of his letter :
- How do you intend to take back political control of the financial system, which currently submits governments and taxpayers to undue demands? No taxpayers' money to bail them out from their stupidities. Government and consumer representatives on bank boards. Separation of retail banking from the rest. etc.
- European social and ecological protectionism : fair trade.
- Sixth Republic. Reform of the institutions. Power to the Parliament, real independance of justice, referendum to revoke any elected official, open data.
- Aubry is asked what she meant by "gauche molle" (flabby left), [she was clearly talking about Hollande at the time, on Sunday]. She says she was just positioning herself as "gauche forte" (strong left). She gets in a few licks about bringing the banks to heel, etc. Hollande replies that he's not "gauche molle" but he's not "gauche dure" (hard left), either... doesn't want to make unrealistic promises.
- Hollande talks about reducing deficits, but says no constitutional change is necessary. Aubry accuses him of wanting to write the "règle d'or" [teutonic deficit elimination] into the budget.
- Industrial policy : nothing much, no great distinction between the two (no mention of Europrotectionism).
- Fiscal policy : they are singing from the same hymn book, Party policy was set before candidate selection, which is a good plan. And their tax reforms seem good, largely inspired by the excellent Révolution Fiscale people. Restore progressivity of income tax, eliminate the dodges that mean the rich pay less tax, proportionally, than the middle class.
- Aubry talks of separating retail and merchant banks, claims to have invented it. Take control of banks if necessary, but not without compensation at market price. Hollande talks of imminent partial default of Greece, and of banks, notably French, who have gambled and lost, will need funds and won't find them on the market. Government representatives on bank boards with veto rights. Separation of retail banks and speculation. He's coming on hard here.
- Retirement, civil service : no differences between them.
- Education : they're trying to have a fight on this.
- Montebourg! Journalist asks if they agree with his "anti-mondialisation" theme. Aubry says she's been working with the socialist parties of Europe (for 3 years) on fair trade. Gives examples : if China won't let our companies invest in China, we will restrict their investments here. If their environmental standards aren't good enough, we'll tax their goods at import. Aubry claims to have conciliated the "yes" and "no" sides of the Maastricht debate on the left, by this sort of position. Hollande is for an open economy, but he is for reciprocity.
- What to do about Greece? Aubry says : Europe has done too little, too late. And has been too severe : even Lagarde now thinks so! 12% growth lost. The taxpayers will not pay, despite what Sarko says : the banks must pay. Hollande : We must admit that Greece can't pay, partial default, recapitalise banks. Europe must invent a mechanism. Majority decisions. Eurobonds, to invest in the future.
- Are you ready for federal Europe? Relinquish fiscal, economic sovereignty? Aubry talks of her dad's vision, confederal Europe. She's for closer integration of the inner circle : two-speed europe. Hollande : the model of European construction is finished. Repeats the inner circle thing. Will discuss with Merkel : if France must have greater fiscal discipline, Germany must relaunch consumption!
- Turkey : Hollande : to be honest, they aren't coming into Europe any time soon. Still hung up about Cyprus, still aren't treating their minorities right.
- Why do you want to be president? Hollande wants to be the president of justice : too much injustice. Aubry talks of her experience in government (Hollande has none). She talks of how disunited the PS was when she took it over from Hollande (they were consecutively First Secretaries). She's clear, she's constant, she doesn't change positions all the time.
- Right to vote for immigrants in local elections : both are for. But Aubry was for it first (25 years ago).
- Does the President have too much power? Aubry : the post has been misused. She wants a 30% pay cut. Change the constitution : more power to parliament. Independence of justice : cut the umbilical cord. Protect the liberties of the media. Decentralisation. Hollande : president must be exemplary. End of penal impunity. Reform of electoral mode : more diversity in parliament. More power to the unions.
- Aubry : we've got to restore the idea that progress is possible, after five hopeless years. Her first measure : equality of salaries between men and women. Last-minute pitch! Women, vote on Sunday.
- Hollande : I need a big majority on Sunday.
There. The debate is over. I'm not very objective, but here's my impression : on the issues, it's pretty much stalemate. However, Aubry landed some good punches about her vast experience, and her consistency, clarity and firmness (portrait en creux
of the qualities Hollande lacks). I think she's the winner, but what do I know?
[Footnote : this evening, Ségolène Royal gave her support to Hollande. I don't think that endorsement is worth a hill of beans.]