Archive for the ‘France: 2012 elections’ Category

renaud dely la droite brune

Je viens de lire cet excellent livre sur l’évolution de la droite parlementaire—précisément, l’UMP—ces dix dernières années, c’est-à-dire, sous l’ère Sarkozy (Sarko étant devenu le chef de file de l’UMP pendant le deuxième mandat de Chirac). L’auteur Renaud Dély, Directeur de la rédaction du Nouvel Observateur—et l’un des meilleurs journalistes de la politique française—, livre un réquisitoire dévastateur contre le sarkozysme et son projet—largement réussi—de “décomplexer” la droite en la rapprochant idéologiquement et politiquement du Front national. Dély, l’auteur de l’une des meilleures enquêtes sur le FN, sait de quoi il parle. Il consacre un chapitre entier sur Patrick Buisson, le Raspoutine maléfique et ultradroitier de Sarkozy (et de Jean-François Copé aujourd-hui), et sur le FN sous Marine Le Pen. Un livre à lire absolument.

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Députés de la diversité, i.e. deputies of non-European immigrant origin. I wrote on Sunday night that the first Maghrebi/Muslim deputy since 1962 (Algeria’s independence) had just been elected to the National Assembly. In classroom lectures over the years on immigration and Islam in France, I have rhetorically asked my students how many of the 577 deputies in the National Assembly are Muslims—who account for some 7% of the population (and of which Maghrebis are some four-fifths)—, to which I then give the answer: zero. As it happens, there is now not just one but as many as six, and all from the PS. I cited Malek Boutih, the former head of SOS Racisme, born in France to Algerian parents, who was elected from the Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois constituency in the Essonne (in the southern banlieues of Paris, previously represented by his erstwhile SOS Racisme mentor, Julian Dray). Boutih has had an increasingly high “diversity” profile in the PS over the past decade and this wasn’t his first attempt at elective office. The other newly elected diversity deputies are Razzy Hammadi, a former head of the PS youth wing (MJS), of Algerian and Tunisian origin, and who defeated the longtime Communist deputy Jean-Pierre Brard in Montreuil (in the neuf-trois); Kheira Bouziane, born in Algeria before independence, who was elected in one of the Dijon constituencies; Chaynesse Khirouni, born in post-independence Algeria and who arrived in France at age 20, elected in Nancy; Kader Arif, born in Algeria, a fils de harki, elected in the Haute-Garonne (though as he is in the government—as minister délégué of war veterans—, he will be ceding his seat to his suppléant); and Seybah Dagoma, born to immigrant parents from Chad and elected in Paris (3e-10e arr.).

To these one may add Pouria Amirshahi, born in Iran in the 1970s and whose parents fled the Shah’s regime, elected in the overseas constituency for North and West Africa; and Eduardo Rihan Cypel, born and raised in Brazil to age ten, elected in the Torcy constituency of the Seine-et-Marne. Some news articles have added George Pau-Lengevin (reelected in Paris 20e arr. and currently in the government), Hélène Geoffroy (elected in Vaulx-en-Velin), and Corinne Narassigiun (elected in the overseas USA-Canada constituency) as diversity deputies, but they all hail from overseas departments (Guadeloupe for the first two, Reunion the latter), so as native-born French citizens they don’t count.

A couple of remarks. These newly elected deputies were elected in single-member constituencies, not on a list in a proportional representation system (which is the norm in Europe, and that makes minority representation in legislative assemblies much easier to assure). Though they were slated by the PS and which financed their campaigns, they had to wage them on their own. Also, with the exception of Hammadi’s in Montreuil, none of these constituencies have large concentrations of immigrant communities from the Maghreb or sub-Saharan Africa. The kind of gerrymandering that happens in the US—to create majority Black or Latino constituencies—is not only legally impossible and politically inconceivable in France but would be difficult to pull off, as areas with concentrations of “diversity” populations contain large numbers of non-citizens, who would thus not be able to vote.

On the above Muslim deputies, I have no idea if any actually practice the religion (I would rather doubt it for most). As it is a near taboo in France for a politician to publicly discuss his or her religious faith (if s/he has one), one is not likely to find out. As for them being identity Muslims—of saying they are Muslim if the question is put to them—I am simply assuming this. So unless and until any of the Maghreb-origin deputies publicly declare themselves not to be Muslim, I will declare that they are.

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It was a grand slam for the Socialist party. A smashing victory for François Hollande and Jean-Marc Ayrault (and for PS première secrétaire Martine Aubry too). The PS won an absolute majority on its own, for the time since the vague rose of 1981. And it was a particularly severe defeat for the UMP. The écolos will have enough deputies to form a parliamentary group but the Front de Gauche will not. Nor will the Nouveau Centre. And the MoDem will have all of two deputies, meaning that the independent center is all but gone. Valérie Trierweiler’s tweet had no effect whatever. I heard no mention of it at all this evening. Every minister in the government won, some by margins wider than in their wildest pre-election dreams. Philippe Kemel squeaked by Marine Le Pen in Hénin-Beaumont 50.1-49.9%. Marine LP was thisclose to doing something only two FN candidates in history have ever done in a legislative election, which is to win a head-to-head race (and not in a triangulaire). Two FN candidates were elected: frontiste Johnny-come-lately Gilbert Collard in the Gard and university undergraduate Marion Maréchal-Le Pen in Carpentras, to which one may add Jacques Bompard—ex-frontiste but more facho than these two—in Orange. The Republic will survive this modest return of the extreme right in the Palais Bourbon. Claude Guéant was repudiated in Boulogne-Billancourt (yay!) and Nadine Morano lost in the Meurthe-et-Moselle. Both were high-profile symbols of Sarkozy’s droitisation strategy. Eric Raoult was also beaten in Le Raincy–Montfermeil and Michèle Alliot-Marie in Biarritz–Saint-Jean-de-Luz. But Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, one of Marine Le Pen’s candidats à abattre, narrowly won reelection in Longjumeau. I’m glad. I am also very glad that Jack Lang fell flat on his face in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges. Patrick Devedjian in Antony and Xavier Bertrand in Saint-Quentin both won by a hair. Malek Boutih of ex-SOS Racisme fame was elected in the Essonne (Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois). For the first time since 1962 the National Assembly will have a deputy of Maghrebi origin and Muslim identity (Kader Arif was also elected in the Haute-Garonne but, as a member of the government, he will be ceding his seat to his suppléant). This heavily symbolic—and way overdue—event has been mentioned nowhere and by no one so far as I have seen. I’ll come back to it later.

François Bayrou lost in Pau, which was expected. This is too bad. Socialists are not rejoicing. Hopefully Hollande will do something concrete to belatedly recognize Bayrou’s endorsement in the 2nd round of the presidential election. As for Ségolène Royal in La Rochelle, she of course lost to Olivier Falorni and badly: 63-37. This is worse than a loss. It is a terrible humiliation for her. But to suffer a repudiation on this scale confirms that her parachutage was one huge mistake. She totally blew it. She cannot blame the fiasco on the “treason” of Falorni or UMP voters. She needs to look in the mirror and do some soul searching. Her concession speech, delivered before 8 PM, was bitter and angry. She was not graceful in defeat. Whatever sympathy I may have had for her was lost. The Rue de Solférino—and with Martine Aubry leading the charge—is also reacting badly and with vindictive words for Falorni. They need to get over it. And they no doubt will.

Before I forget, there was this result: PS-EELV candidate Corinne Narassiguin beat the UMP’s former attack dog Frédéric Lefebvre in the USA-Canada circonscription. C’est très bien !

Oh yes, the abstention rate was high, around 44%.

So now election season is over (ouf!) and it’s time for Hollande to tell us what he really plans to do about the economy, euro, etc, etc. No excuses now, as the Socialists have it all. Hopefully they will make good use of their majority and also enjoy it while it lasts, ’cause they’re not likely to repeat the exploit in five years time.

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National elections are happening in three countries tomorrow: Greece, Egypt, and France. The last one is the least significant. The results in Greece and Egypt will be of momentous importance, not only for those countries but for their regions and the world. In France, the outcome of the second round of the legislative elections is not likely to even be noticed beyond the borders of the Hexagon, let alone have an impact. But it is still interesting for those of us who live in France or have an interest in the country. At this point the outcome is a near foregone conclusion, which is that the left will have a majority (see final poll above). The question is what majority, if the PS will have it on its own (most probable), with the écolos (possible), or will depend on the Front de Gauche (improbable). It should be noted that the four previous legislative elections that followed the presidential had unanticipated outcomes: in 2007, in the wake of Sarkozy’s victory, the left performed far better than expected, gaining seats and with the UMP sustaining unexpected losses; in 2002, the UMP won a landslide in seats and that had not been predicted in the pre-election polling; in 1988, following Mitterrand’s triumphal reelection, the PS fell short of an outright majority, leaving it dependent on the goodwill of the Communist party (a Socialist adversary at the time); in 1981, the Socialist landslide that followed Mitterrand’s victory was larger than anyone could have expected (the PS won 37% of the vote in the first round, up from 22% in the 1978 legislative election). So if history is a guide, perhaps there will be a surprise tomorrow.

The race that will be watched the most closely is, of course, Ségolène Royal vs. Olivier Falorni in the Charente-Maritime 1st constituency, which Ségo looked set to lose but where Trierweilergate may have shaken things up. The post tweet polls have given Valérie Trierweiler the thumbs way down for what she did and my own (statistically unrepresentative) personal poll is upholding this: I have personally heard nothing but severe criticism of VT, and particularly from women. So maybe this will translate into a sympathy vote for Mme Royal by the Rochelais (and particularly Rochelaise voters, left and UMP alike). On verra. As for an eventual impact of the affair nationally, I can’t see it. No movement away from the Socialists has turned up in the final polls and there is no a priori reason why voters in, say, the Meurthe-et-Moselle or Indre-et-Loire should flip their votes or stay home on account of VT’s tweet. It makes no sense. The comments threads on Arthur Goldhammer’s French Politics blog have been inundated on this issue over the past few days, with the general consensus among the commenters—some of whom are very well-informed on French party politics—that this is a “huge” affair, indeed a game changer for Hollande’s presidency. On va un peu vite en besogne, je crois. This affair will only have legs if VT continues to tweet, insists on maintaining her journalistic career, and otherwise behaves in a manner that most Frenchmen and women—and on both sides of the political spectrum—deem to be incompatible with her status as première dame (which she is, whether she likes it or not). If any of this happens, then it will definitely create problems for Hollande, mais on n’en est pas là.

Other races that will be watched: the eight candidates on Marine Le Pen’s enemies list, whom she wants to scuttle, notably Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, Jack Lang, and Xavier Bertrand. In some of these races, Marine is, in effect, calling on FN voters to vote PS against the UMP. We’ll see how much influence MLP has with her electorate, if FN voters will follow the party’s consignes. It would be too bad if NKM were defeated and on account of MLP,  as she—and more than just about anyone in the UMP leadership (maybe Alain Juppé excepted)—has taken an uncompromising position against the FN. As for Lang, the eternal parachuté, I wouldn’t mind a whit if he were sent packing by the électeurs in the Vosges 2nd. His search for a safe constituency in which to parachute himself—after declining to submit his candidacy for reelection to a vote of the Socialist militants in the Pas-de-Calais 6th (Boulogne-sur-Mer), where he had been deputy for ten years (and where he parachuted himself after being repudiated by the voters in Blois)—was just a little unseemly. Time to retire, Monsieur Lang. The FN races themselves will also be closely watched, notably Marine LP in the Pas-de-Calais 11th, Gilbert Collard in the Gard 2nd—where he has a good chance of winning—, and the 21 year-old Marion Maréchal-Le Pen—petite fille of Jean-Marie and nièce of Marine—in the Vaucluse 3rd (who also has a good chance). François Bayrou looks to be toast in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques 2nd. That’s too bad. The fate of UMP ex-ministers Nadine Morano and Claude Guéant will be awaited—and oh how lovely it would be if the latter were to bite the dust—, as will that of current ministers who looked to be in tough races (Aurélie Filippetti, Stéphane Le Foll et al) but are en ballotage favorable—Marie-Arlette Carlotti, who’s in a tight race in the Bouches-du-Rhône 5th (Marseille), being the one exception here. RDV demain soir.

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FWIW, as Europe teeters at the edge of the precipice and the Egyptian transition is thrown into chaos, IFOP-Paris Match has a new poll out of the popularity of the top 50 political personalities in France (several of whom, as ministers in the new government, appear in the ranking for the first time). One notes from the table below that almost all the politicians who were in April’s ranking have improved their standing (with the notable exceptions of François Bayrou and Jean-Luc Mélenchon; the former taking a hit within his own camp for his endorsement of Hollande, the latter no doubt for his escapade in Hénin-Beaumont). But the rank order as presented here is misleading and on at least two accounts. First, the low percentage of good opinions of most in the bottom third does not in fact signify unpopularity but rather lack of notoriety—four of them I had never heard of myself before their appointment to the government—, as the negative opinions of them are far lower than the positive (for the poll’s details go here). The highest number by far for most of these is “don’t know” (ne la connaît pas suffisamment).

The second problem with the ranking is at the top. It is normal that François Hollande, who took office three weeks ago, would have strong positives. But Bertrand Delanoë as no. 1 and Jack Lang in third? I’m sorry but it is simply not possible that Delanoë—who is not well-known outside the Ile-de-France—is the most popular political personality in this country. And Lang, who is no longer a major figure in the PS and hasn’t done anything noteworthy in years, cannot be the third. As most French polling institutes break down the numbers by intensity of feeling, what we see here with these two is that upwards of 90% of those in their plus columns have a merely “good” (bonne) opinion of them rather than an “excellent” (excellente) one. In effect, this means that a sizeable number of respondents, when asked for their opinion on Delanoë, Lang, etc, say something on the order of “hmm, yeah, he’s okay”… The pollster thus checks “good” and moves on to the next. So the positives of these two personalities, as of others, do not mean much in and of themselves.

What is more interesting is the numbers at the extremes, of the personalities for whom respondents say they have an “excellent” or a “very bad” (très mauvaise) opinion, i.e., who are genuinely appreciated—and therefore have (or could have) a strong national political base—or intensely loathed by a portion of the electorate. A rank order of the top 10 personalities according to their percentage of “excellent” opinions in the poll thus yields the following:

1. François Hollande – 22%
2. Christine Lagarde – 15
3. François Fillion – 15
4. Nicolas Sarkozy – 15
5. Jean-Marc Ayrault – 12
6. Alain Juppé – 12
7. Martine Aubry – 11
8. Jean-Luc Mélenchon – 11
9. Marine Le Pen – 11
10. Bertrand Delanoë – 10

As stated above, Hollande’s high number here is normal, at least at this early stage (we’ll see where it’s at this fall, after bad economic news has been announced, electoral promises have been reneged on, etc). Sarkozy’s number is his highest since 2007, indicating a reservoir of good will toward him on the right (and where his hard-right campaign rhetoric paid dividends). Fillon’s will impress those in the UMP that he is Sarko’s logical successor as chef de file of the right. Christine Lagarde’s popularity would make her a strong candidate for prime minister if the right were in power (and she were available). As for Delanoë’s, this has to come mainly from Paris and environs—where is he very popular—plus gays of all political stripes across the Hexagon.

As for the top 10 most despised politicians, who have the highest number of “very bad” opinions, voilà:

1. Jean-Marie Le Pen – 45%
2. Marine Le Pen – 26
3. Nicolas Sarkozy – 25
4. Jean-François Copé – 24
5. Claude Guéant – 21
6. Jean-Luc Mélenchon – 21
7. Ségolène Royal – 18
8. Martine Aubry – 18
9. Laurent Fabius – 15
10. Valérie Pécresse – 14

No surprise here for the Le Pens or Mélenchon. Or for Sarkozy, whose strong negatives have not dropped below the mid-20s since his days at the Place Beauvau. Copé’s number confirms him to be a Sarko bis for the left, but also beyond. The UMP will be taking a big risk if it anoints him leader over Fillon. The antipathy toward Guéant is, of course, richly deserved. Mme Royal has had high strong negatives since the 2007 campaign (and partly explains her current problems in La Rochelle). Martine Aubry came to be strongly disliked on the right during her time as minister of social affairs in the Jospin government and the RTT law that carries her name. Laurent Fabius has never been able to overcome the hit in public opinion he sustained over his implication in the sang contaminé affair. The bad numbers for Pécresse—who is in fact tied for 10th place with Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet—likely come disproportionately from the educational establishment, where there was strong resistance to her reforms. As for NKM, her strong unpopularity most certainly comes mainly from within the right, and particularly the hard/extreme-right.

There are six other personalities with “very bad” opinions of 10% or over. Which all goes to show that French voters like to hate their politicians more than they love them. The French are not alone on this, that’s for sure.

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In case anyone didn’t see it, the New York Times had a lengthy piece a couple of days ago on the election campaign in the French community in NYC, which has the largest concentration of voters in the new USA-Canada constituency for French citizens abroad. In creating the eleven new constituencies for les Français à l’étranger—and which were subtracted from the number in metropolitan France—, the previous government was certainly counting on them being easy wins for the UMP, as French abroad tend to lean right, and particularly in the US. But lo and behold, the first round results were favorable to the Socialists across the board and who are well-positioned to win most of them in round two (for the results, see the post on Victoria Ferauge’s blog). I was particularly pleased to see the UMP’s USA-Canada candidate, Frédéric Lefebvre—the UMP’s attack dog spokesman in the 2007-10 period—, come in a distant second. The PS-EELV candidate there, Corinne Narassiguin—who hails from Réunion—, looks pretty good. She’s holding an online debate tonight (from a bar on the Lower East Side), which should be of interest to French voters outre-Atlantique.

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[update below]

I reported last night that Ségolène Royal is in a tight run-off in the Charente-Maritime 1st constituency (La Rochelle), where she leads the second place candidate, Olivier Falorni, by a mere three points (32-29). It’s apparently more than tight, as there is a real possibly that she will lose next Sunday to Falorni. But here’s the thing: Falorni is also a Socialist, or at least he was, until his expulsion from the party for running against Ségo. As it happens, there were two local Socialist women who were in the running last year for the party’s candidacy in the Charente-Martime 1st, Falorni—who was head of the PS departmental federation—being the suppléant (alternate) of one. But as Mme Royal—the president of the Poitou-Charentes regional council—decided she wanted to return to the national assembly—and become its president no less—the Rue de Solférino decided to hand her the safe Charente-Maritime 1st on a silver platter and without a vote of the local PS membership. In effect, Mme Royal was parachuted into La Rochelle by the national PS, muscling aside the local candidates in the process. The Rochelais Socialists were furious at the peremptory decision handed down on high from Paris—they were really beside themselves (see here)—but the declared local candidates dutifully acquiesced.

Not Falorni, though, who, in an “esprit de résistance [qui] a toujours soufflé sur La Rochelle,” decided to run for the seat anyway, Ségolène or no (and with one of the erstwhile local candidates as his suppléante). And he looks to have done very well in view of his competitor’s stature. But though it’s now a duel between two Socialists (one an unwilling ex)—and Falorni, who happens to be close to François Hollande, is running as the candidate of the “majorité présidentielle”—, the national PS—led by Martine Aubry, Harlem Désir, and Bruno Le Roux—is demanding this morning that Falorni withdraw from the race, thereby leaving Royal unopposed in the second round (see here). Aubry said this morning on France Inter that it is “unthinkable” that a candidate of the left be elected thanks to voters of the right (as Falorni, if he is to overtake Royal, will need the votes of the eliminated UMP candidate). Falorni has naturally refused, saying on Europe 1 this morning that what the national PS wants is a single candidate à la soviétique and that this is 21st century France, not the Soviet Union (see above hyperlink). I find the Rue de Solférino’s position—and particularly Aubry’s argumentation—incredible. As if, among the citizenry, there are “good” voters and not good ones, that a popular, free and fair vote can in itself be tainted. The national PS fears being disavowed by uppity provincials. I thought the PS had moved beyond this sort of Jacobinism. Evidently not. If Mme Royal takes 50.1% of the vote or more next Sunday, that will be fine—democracy is democracy and I wouldn’t mind seeing her at le perchoir—, but my sympathies here are with the Girondins…

UPDATE: Renaud Dély, a journalist for whom I have a high regard, has a column in Le Nouvel Obs defending Ségolène Royal and her candidacy in La Rochelle. (June 11)

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It’s a very good result for the Socialists. François Hollande will sleep well tonight (it’s still night here). The total left vote is at 46-47%, with the PS and allies at 35, EELV at 5, and the Front de Gauche at 6 or 7. As the above projection shows, the PS and its allies have a very good chance of winning an outright majority next Sunday. If they fall short, they’ll have the écolos. There looks to be almost no chance that the government will have to depend on the FG, which may not even have enough deputies to constitute a formal parliamentary group. Jean-Luc Mélenchon bit the dust in the Pas-de-Calais 11th, finishing in third place. He’s out. Excellent news. Par contre, Marine Le Pen received some 42%. The PS candidate should win but it will be a race. The six or so government ministers who looked to be in difficulty—e.g. Aurélie Filippetti, Stéphane Le Foll—are en ballotage favorable, so should win next Sunday. François Bayrou is en ballotage défavorable, so it looks like he may lose. Ségolène Royal, who wants to be president of the National Assembly, is in a tight run-off against a dissident Socialist candidate. One race that has not been paid attention to (as no one cares) is Jack Lang’s parachutage in the Vosges 2nd. He’s en ballotage, with the eliminated FN candidate’s voters holding the balance. Here’s hoping they throw it to the UMP guy and send Lang into definitive political retirement.

Though it’s a good night for the PS, it’s not a bad one for the UMP, which, with its allies (Nouveau Centre, Radicaux valoisiens, etc), won some 35% of the vote. Because of the high abstention rate (42%) it will not have to face as many triangulaires with the FN as feared. The UMP will be hoping that some of its voters who stayed home will turn out next Sunday and reinforce its position vis-à-vis the Socialists. Possible but not likely. More later.

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Tomorrow is the first round of the French legislative elections, which probably few outside France are aware of. One can hardly blame the clueless foreigners, as quite a few Frenchmen and women seem to have forgotten about the election as well. Since 2002, when the presidential and legislative elections coincidentally happened in quick succession—on account of Chirac’s dissolution of the National Assembly in 1997—and advent of the quinquennat (five-year presidential term), this has become the new norm in French politics. Presidential elections happen every five years and with the legislative elections that ensue five weeks later being a mere formality, with the electorate giving the newly (re)elected president’s party an outright or working majority. This is what is supposed to happen in any case, and which is what has indeed happened on the four previous occasions when there were back-to-back presidential and legislative elections. So the legislatives are somewhat of an afterthought after the presidential; and as politicians are all campaigned-out and the voters have had quite enough of electioneering, the level of interest is not as high as it should normally be for a national scrutin of this importance.

But this year’s legislative election has been particularly dull and with a notable lack of interest on the part of the public. Debate on the issues has been strenuously avoided, despite the manifold crises afflicting the country and continent. The euro may be collapsing—and, if this comes to pass, will bring about rather serious problems for the French economy—but, for the new government (PS and allies), this is no time to be discussing the matter, as voters might get upset, wonder what the new president and his prime minister intend to do about it, and perhaps decide not to vote for the government’s party (or not to vote at all). So don’t distract the voters by talking about the issues. I’m not reproaching the government and its party here, just saying that that’s the way it is. Their behavior is entirely rational. As for the new opposition (UMP), they’re in a bind, as they want to argue that people should give them the majority, but they know that a cohabitation at the very beginning of a new president’s term would be both unprecedented and prejudicial for political stability—the political climate would become quite nasty—, and they have always opposed the notion of cohabitation on principle in any case. And, moreover, if the current opposition were to become the majority in a sudden cohabitation, it would surely lose out to the president in the war for public opinion, leading to certain electoral setbacks down the road.

So it’s more than likely that the left will have a majority in the new assembly. All the polls are predicting this and few observers really think the right has a chance of winning. The question is if the PS (with its PRG allies) will gain an outright majority of 289 seats on its own, if it will fall short of a majority but with the écolos (EELV) holding the balance of power—which would be fine except that there will inevitably be friction on the issue of nuclear power—, or if the PS-PRG-EELV will together fall short of 289 seats and be dependent on the good will of the Front de Gauche (mainly PCF) to pass legislation. This last prospect would not be good at all, as there are major, insurmountable political differences between the PS and FG, and particularly with Jean-Luc Mélenchon and his Parti de Gauche (the junior partner in the FG). The PCF will object to the government’s policies but won’t create serious problems, as its main interest is maintaining its parliamentary delegation—for which it will eternally need the PS’s good will—and in not alienating Hollande & Co going into the 2014 municipal elections (as the PCF also needs the PS to keep its several dozen town halls). The real problem with be Mélenchon, who would like nothing more than to emmerder the Socialists at every opportunity.

This is why the particular result everyone will be waiting for tomorrow is from the 11th constituency in the Pas-de-Calais (Hénin-Beaumont), where Mélenchon decided last month to parachute himself, so he could square off against Marine Le Pen—who has built her political base there—and vanquish her in round two on June 17th (a likely outcome given that the constituency votes left). But the Socialists are pissed at Mélenchon muscling aside their candidate, Philippe Kemel, who would likely beat Marine in a second round head-to-head, and despite the local corruption scandals in which the local Socialists up there are implicated. The first poll out of the 11th had Marine in first (which is expected), JLM a strong second, and Kemel a distant third. But the final poll has Kemel overtaking JLM for second. If JLM finishes second but Kemel still qualifies for round two, will he stay in out of spite—thereby throwing the election to Marine—, or withdraw, allowing JLM to be the sole left candidate, thereby going on to win and then become a pain in the ass in the National Assembly for PM Ayrault and his government, and, as the slayer of Marine, crowning him as the uncontested leader of the (anti-PS) gauche de la gauche? (in legislative elections any candidate who receives 12.5% or more of the registered voters in the constituency can move on to the second round; so if the participation rate is sufficiently high, any candidate in the high teens or more percentage-wise can qualify, setting up the prospect of triangulaires). If JLM finishes in third place he’s toast. Not only in Hénin-Beaumont but nationally. His political balloon will entirely deflate. Hollande, Ayrault & Co are certainly hoping for this. Me too. Inshallah.

The Marine-Mélenchon food fight in the Pas-de-Calais 11th has been exceptionally nasty by French standards, BTW. A political campaign à l’américaine, with low blow personal attacks, trash talking, dirty tricks, and you name it. I have already written about the FN’s faux tract there. The FN’s latest faux tract is below. Ambiance.

Apart from this particular race the main things that will be watched for tomorrow are the participation rate—which will determine the number of triangulaires involving FN candidates (the more, the better for the left)—and the overall stock of left votes, which will determine the projection of seats for the second round. More on this tomorrow night.

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In France. (Lecteurs francophones peuvent procéder directement au test ici). For those who don’t know French—and even for those do—this is a multiple choice questionnaire developed six or seven years ago by former students at Sciences Po, to determine where one is situated on the French political spectrum. There are questions on twelve key issues, with some of the choices complex and only slight nuances of difference between them, so as to identify precisely which political party or current within a party—of a list of some 25—most closely articulates one’s views (and with a runner-up). So the algorithm is sophisticated. N.B. It does not speak to how one may actually vote, just which parties one is politically closest to. The test’s satisfaction level has been very high (see ‘Les taux de satisfaction’ tab), particularly for those supporting the major parties of government (it’s the lowest for those shown to be closest to the Front National, no doubt because many who turn out to be frontistes don’t want to admit it to themselves, or don’t otherwise identify with the FN and its leadership; which indicates that a certain number of mainstream right voters—mainly UMP—are in fact programmatically closest to the FN). When I first took the test, in 2006, it accurately stated my partisan preferences and likewise with friends to whom I sent the link. That same year I told the students (mainly French) in one of my Master’s level classes about the Politest and gave the link. The following week several of them said that they had taken it, along with family and friends, and found it to be dead on accurate. So it’s a pretty good test.

I’ve translated the questions into English for non-Francophones (a detailed explanation of what led me to do this follows at the end). To open the test, click here.  At the bottom, click on ‘Faire le test’. Check one response for each question.

TAXES (1 /12)

1.  There should be a tax cut for everyone when government has the means to do so and a tax increase for everyone when this is necessary.

2.  There should be an across-the-board tax cut to enable business and individuals to invest more money in the economy and in order to create more jobs.

3.  There should be a tax cut for lower-income persons and a tax increase for the rich or on business, in the interest of social solidarity and to finance public services.


1.  Globalization should be regulated.  International institutions (or even national governments) should impose rules to better protect the rights of working people, the environment, and sensitive sectors of the economies of each country (for example, agriculture or culture).

2.  All customs barriers should be abolished, as well as subsidies and national regulations (more…)

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[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below]

Called contrôle au faciès in French, i.e. police identity checks based on how one looks, a.k.a. ethnic/racial profiling. This has long been a practice of the French police. It is inscribed in its DNA. One sees it on the streets and metro/train stations of France almost every day. And if one is dark-skinned or looks even vaguely non-white, it is often experienced every day, even several times a day (I have personally experienced it four times, though not in some twenty years). Demands to produce ID by cops—and there are always several of them, as the police in France travel in packs—are never accompanied with a justification. They are not motivated by a suspicion that one may have committed a crime, or that one may be a particular person the police are looking for, or may even be an illegal alien. One is controlled, as it were, for no other reason than one is black or looks Maghrebi. That’s it. It’s a reflex, just something the French police do because that’s what they’ve always done. It’s part of the culture of French policing. And when it happens, one is well-advised not to ask why one is being controlled, as one risks being arrested for outrage à agent public—of behaving disrespectfully toward a person invested with public authority, a misdemeanor (délit) in the Code Pénal—, prosecuted, fined, and possibly sentenced to up to six months in prison.

The contrôle au faciès—the practice of which is, in fact, illegal, on paper at least (but try proving it)—is, not surprisingly, bitterly resented by France’s Maghrebi and African/Antillean-origin population, and particularly by the younger generation. It is the principal factor in the execrable relations between those populations and the police—and that is often played out in rioting—, and is one of the factors in the more general alienation felt by so many toward the institutions of the French state. The French police are hated by a part of the citizenry in a way one does not see elsewhere. On this score, France is one of the very few democratic states where the police systematically demand IDs of people who are simply minding their own business. E.g. I read last year (I don’t have the source handy) that during a Franco-German police exchange program, German police agents visiting France were astonished to observe their French counterparts carrying out ID checks on the street, as it would never occur to a German cop to ask for someone’s ID unless an actual offense had been committed. For this reason, among others, I have long insisted that the French police are the worst in the Western world.

But, lo and behold, change may be on the way. PM Jean-Marc Ayrault announced yesterday that the government, following through on a pledge made by François Hollande during the campaign, was preparing a decree that would require the police to issue a receipt (récépisée) to any person subjected to an ID check, specifying the reasons for the check, and with the cop’s name. Excellent initiative! The police unions are all up in arms at the prospect, protesting that it will complicate their work—though such a law has existed in the UK since 1984, where it doesn’t seem to pose a problem for the police—and is totally unnecessary in any case, as they are absolutely not racist (my, who would ever think such a thing!). And not surprisingly, the police are being backed by the right on this (e.g. on BFM last night, Le Figaro editorialist Yves Thréard—quel réac—was denouncing the government’s plan). Let’s hope Ayrault and Manuel Valls hold firm and don’t cave in to the police syndicats. Affaire à suivre.

For more on this subject, see the report by Human Rights Watch from last January, “The Root of Humiliation”: Abusive Identity Checks in France (pour la traduction française du rapport, voir ici). Also see the June 2009 report by the Open Society Justice Initiative, Profiling Minorities: A Study of Stop-and-Search Practices in Paris (également traduit en français).

UPDATE: Arthur Goldhammer has linked to this post on his French Politics blog and which has engendered several substantive comments. I am taking the liberty of copying-and-pasting one of them, signed by Philippe, as I identify entirely with what he has written

The contrôle d’identité is as French as le gigot d’agneau . Growing up in Paris I witnessed hundreds of occasions where contingents of flics, stationed in some strategic corridor at Gare Montparnasse or Gare du Nord would arbitrarily stop anyone deemed suspicious. In 15 years in New York I’ve never seen a single instance of someone being stopped and asked to produce leurs papiers. I’m aware of the stop and frisk controversy but it is controversial and quite exceptional compared to what occurs on French streets (not that it shouldn’t be stopped).

Actually, the behavior of the French police and the docility of the French public is a continuous source of amazement and (mild) outrage for me and as an amateur photographer I try to document it whenever possible. This leads to uncomfortable situations.

On my last visit to France in December I saw two police officers run out of a parked car and arbitrarily pounce on an unsuspecting Scandinavian tourist who happened to be loitering on the sidewalk. They brutally pushed him against a wall and demanded that he produce ID. Note that this person had done nothing. They let him go after the check. I took a photo – you can see it here.

It is not illegal to photograph the police but one of the officers nonetheless took issue with what I was doing. You can see her hand in the photo – trying to block me from taking the shot. I told her had the right photograph. She demanded that I leave and I asked: under what ordinance or law ? She threatened to arrest me. At that point a friend pulled me away. This was quite shocking to me -she actually put her hand on the camera. I take dozens of shots of police every year in NY (and throughout the world) without incident (and I have the photos to back this up). In France however, any attempt to photograph the police invariably leads to “qu’est ce que vous faites ?” or “non, c’est interdit” or “dégagez” or “circulez” or, my favorite, because of what it reveals about the relationship of the French with authority and official statuses : “Vous êtes journaliste ?” This was the first time however that an officer acted out physically against me.

I want to add two related anecdotes of my own, both of which occurred at my RER station, in a banlieue close to the city. In the first, from two or three years ago, I entered the hall of the station during PM rush hour—so there were a lot people—and saw a dozen or so cops, who were not there because anything in particular had happened but just to control IDs of persons they felt like controlling. An utterly banal, typical scene in France. There was a loud dispute going on between a couple of the cops and a person they were controlling, a middle-aged black man, normally dressed, and who, given the way he was speaking French, was manifestly not an undocumented immigrant from Mali, the Congo, or wherever. Nor had he hopped the turnstile—a venerable French sport—, as he was not being issued a ticket. The man was visibly very angry that he was being controlled—manifestly for the misdemeanor of being black—and was demanding to know why. I stopped to watch the scene but within a minute one of the loitering cops came over to me, glared, and ordered me to “circulez” (to move on). I wanted to tell him that I was a citizen minding his own business, that this was a public place—is there any place more public than a train station at rush hour?—, and that I had every right to stand there, but quickly thought better of it, as I would have very likely been arrested illico and charged with outrage. Welcome to France.

Second anecdote, from a few months ago. Entering the station in the morning, there were several cops who had a young black male against the wall past the turnstiles (which he had probably hopped). A man was filming the spectacle with his mobile phone. When the cops—who were RATP police, not Police Nationale—saw him they ordered him to stop. He refused, saying he had every right to do it and was going to post it on the Internet. He then headed up the escalator to the platform and with the half-dozen cops pursing him. At the top of the escalator they demanded that he turn over the phone or else they would call the regular police. They were very agitated, clearly more concerned about having been filmed while they were doing their job than in continuing to do their job (as they no doubt left behind the young man they were controlling and enabled others to hop the turnstile in their absence). As the train arrived and I had to get to work, I didn’t see the denouement. Another banal, typical day in the life of the French police and its interface with the citizenry.

One comment on what Philippe said about New York: He has no doubt not personally witnessed any stop-and-frisks by the NYPD, as these mainly happen in minority-dominated parts of town, not on the streets or subway stations of Manhattan, Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, etc.

2nd UPDATE: Art Goldhammer has a follow-up post on my above update and with some very good comments of his own, including this

But there is a difference between the behavior of the police in the US and the police in France. The French police seem to make a point of conducting checks in very public places: in railroad and Metro stations, on busy streets, etc. And often they go out of their way to make it clear that there is no particular reason for the check. It has always seemed to me that there was a reason for this publicity: the police wanted their action to be visible, they intended to assert that, even if they might not have the right to do what they were doing, they had the authority, since no one would or could stop them.

Art nails it here. The police do their controls in very public places precisely because they want to be seen doing it and not only to assert their authority. I am reminded here of an article I read in Le Monde or Libé in 1994 or ’95—Charles Pasqua was interior minister at the time—, when there was a fear of terrorism from Algeria spilling into France (and which did happen). The police were carrying out ID controls on Maghrebis on a massive scale, not only on the streets and metro stations but also stopping cars driven by Maghrebi lookers. The main reason for this mass contrôle au faciès, as the article quoted someone in the know as saying—I have the article filed away somewhere, so I could eventually verify—, was less to nab suspected terrorists than to reassure the population. In other words, the police controlled the Arabs because they assumed, probably correctly, that regular French folks wanted to see them doing so, to know that the police were doing their job, as it were. And that the Français moyens would wholeheartedly approve of the police action here. As they did, e.g., on the sinister evening of October 17, 1961, when Parisian passers-by applauded the police as they clubbed and brutalized Algerian men, women, and children peacefully marching. When it comes to the French police and persons hailing from French colonies, past and present, there is a history…

A (rhetorical) question: do French voters or politicians—or the police themselves—comprehend what a huge waste of time and resources the identity control operations represent? That having dozens of police agents controlling IDs for no good purpose—and diverting them away from catching criminals—is not an optimal use of the taxpayer’s euro?

BTW, I found what Claude Guéant said in the Le Monde article Art linked to absolutely breathtaking. This is a big difference between the right and the left. And is yet one more reminder of why I am on the latter and can never be on the former.

3rd UPDATE: The Open Society Justice Initiative has a report out in French, dated September 2013, L’égalité trahie: l’impact des contrôles au faciès en France. A search of Open Society’s website yields links to numerous commentaries on the issue.

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The brilliant Front National militants of Hénin-Beaumont. Jean-Luc Mélenchon referred to them as “four alcoholics and ten degenerates” a couple of weeks ago, and which I posted on, wondering if JLM hadn’t committed a faute politique in dissing his opponents in the upcoming election in such terms. Now I wonder if he wasn’t too mild in his denigrations. Marianne reports that frontistes in Hénin-Beaumont have been distributing the above faux tract to voters in the Pas-de-Calais’ 11th constituency over the past three days, to frighten them away from Mélenchon and into the arms of Marine Le Pen (for those who don’t know French, JLM is quoted as having said at his big Marseille rally last month that “There is no future for France without the Arabs and Berbers of the Maghreb”).

Now here’s the thing. Anyone who has studied Arabic for even part of a semester will be doubled over in laughter at the rendering of the language at the bottom of the FN’s fake tract. As Marianne notes, it is written here from left to right, when Arabic is naturally written the other way; but one further notes that the letters all stand alone—which I doubt has ever occurred in the history of the Arabic language—, making it doubly hilarious. I can’t even imagine how the frontistes managed to pull off this double feat—unless it was a piège—as in writing Arabic on a keyboard one has to make a special effort to type the letters so they stand singly, not to mention the wrong way. Mélenchon written in Arabic should normally appear as ميلينشون and not as ن و ش ن ي ل ي م … Seriously, it takes some doing to come up with this one.

So it looks like JLM is not dealing here with quatre alcooliques et dix dégénérés but simply quatorze cons

ADDENDUM: Or maybe they’re quatorze rigolos, who had just seen the hit comedy ‘Le Prénom’ (see following post) and were inspired by the Patrick Bruel character’s refrain in the film: “C’était une blague !” 😀

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Thomas Legrand had a good editorial on France Inter this morning on the Battle Royale that’s shaping up in the UMP between Jean-François Copé and François Fillon. If Copé—a Sarkozy without the charm or common touch—becomes the UMP standard-bearer for 2017 I cannot imagine for a nanosecond that he would have any chance of winning. L’avenir le dira.

Ce matin, vous allez essayer de nous intéresser à la guerre des chefs à l’UMP !

 Je crains que ce soit au-dessus de mes moyens en réalité, je m’étais dit « n’entrons pas dans les querelles de personnes, derrière la concurrence Copé/Fillon il doit bien y avoir des débats d’idées à souligner »… Après tout, les deux hommes ont une histoire, des opinions : François Fillon vient du gaullisme social, c’est un ancien séguiniste, un modéré de l’ouest rural qui a changé. Il est devenu sarkozyste, puis apôtre incompris de la rigueur, parisien, futur élu du quartier le plus riche de France. Pendant la campagne de 2012, il avait l’air de goûter modérément les débats sécuritaires et identitaires suscités par le Président. Jean-François Copé, élu d’une banlieue populaire, a fait un vrai travail idéologique avec son association Génération France, il a notamment des idées sur l’école, la laïcité. Il est plutôt libéral en matière économique… Pendant la campagne on l’a découvert combatif, parfois acrimonieux, assez droitier. La question est donc de savoir sur quelles bases les militants de l’UMP auront-ils à choisir quand viendra l’heure du vote pour le prochain président de leur mouvement ? Un vote qui doit intervenir à l’automne. Pour l’instant on ne voit pas bien les contours du débat à venir tant le sarkozysme a laissé la droite essoufflée, hébétée par son dynamisme imprévisible…qui se disait invincible et qui disparu d’un coup !

Il y a pourtant des débats idéologiques qui traversent l’UMP ?

Ils n’apparaissent pas, ils ne sont pas clairs, et pourtant, je me suis donné du mal ! J’ai passé des coups de fils à mes contacts habituels à l’UMP, anciens ministres, conseillers politiques, j’ai discuté avec des adhérents sur un marché, la routine quoi. Eh bien c’est raté ! Mes interlocuteurs m’ont tous répondu avec un ton désolé que non, ce qui se profilait à l’UMP pour le remplacement de Nicolas Sarkozy n’avait rien à voir avec l’idéologie. « Les militants veulent un chef, avec comme idée principale, plus de sécurité et moins d’impôts. Point barre. Ça sera une bataille de personnes ! Faudra s’y faire » m’expliquait un cadre du parti ! Un ancien ministre, plutôt jeune, me confiait que dans ses réunions d’appartements, pour les législatives, ses électeurs potentiels l’écoutent poliment expliquer que ce serait une folie de sortir de l’Euro, que l’immigration zéro n’est pas une solution. A la fin de la conversation, les sympathisants lui répondent invariablement : « vous avez peut-être raison mais quand est-ce qu’on s’allie avec le Front National ? » La base de l’UMP n’a pas les préventions du sommet contre le parti de Marine Le Pen. Si l’UMP voulait débattre honnêtement de ce qui préoccupe vraiment son électorat et ses militants, il faudrait qu’elle débatte de ses relations avec le FN. Deux lignes s’affronteraient alors, l’une pour, l’autre contre. Ce débat est impensable parce qu’il se terminerait par l’éclatement du mouvement. Pour l’éviter et donc sauver l’UMP il faut un chef, un vrai qui s’impose, lui et ses idées, en bloc ! On a tord de chercher des débats et des clivages intellectuels… Ce sera bien une guerre des chefs, et de style. Copé en chef de guerre UMP, canonnier inlassable contre la gauche et les médias. Fillon en homme d’Etat rassembleur, non pas de l’UMP mais de toute la droite et du centre. Deux stratégies, deux représentations de l’autorité en compétition pour obtenir un brevet de leader naturel. L’atavisme bonapartiste de la droite française est toujours une réalité.

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Ali Magoudi, the well-known psychoanalyst and author, was interviewed in Mediapart last week on Nicolas Sarkozy. He asserted, among other things, that Sarkozy left an “intellectual disaster” for the French right. Magoudi nails it, absolutely and totally. Here’s the main body of the interview.

MEDIAPART. Le président Sarkozy vous est-il apparu enfin à sa place au moment d’en être chassé ?

ALI MAGOUDI. Même pas ! Écoutez son discours à la Mutualité, le dimanche 6 mai au soir : ce n’est pas le propos d’un président, mais d’un candidat. Il est face à une foule UMP et c’est en tant que perdant qu’il demande à ses supporters de ne pas huer le président élu Hollande. Il n’est président, subrepticement, qu’au moment où il remercie les Français de l’avoir élu, cinq années auparavant…

Il va jusqu’à proclamer, en s’adressant au seul parterre de droite – alors qu’il se sait regardé en direct par le pays tout entier : « Vous êtes la France éternelle. » Mais qu’étaient alors les autres : des métèques ?! Ce discours est invraisemblable : il est dans le déni de la France ayant voté contre lui. Jamais il ne s’inscrit dans une filiation présidentielle pour passer le relais à un successeur. Il s’avère, fondamentalement, un chef de bande, qui ne fut, cinq ans durant, qu’un candidat à sa réélection.

Tout de même, deux jours plus tard, le 8 mai, à l’Arc de triomphe…

Il n’a fait que proposer à Hollande ce qui lui avait été offert par Chirac en 2007. Il avait alors refusé, pour filer sur le bateau de Bolloré ! Où est l’innovation prodigieuse chantée dans les médias ? D’autant qu’à l’Étoile, les militants UMP avaient été rameutés pour faire la claque à Sarkozy et, au besoin, siffler Hollande…

Qu’est-ce qui caractérise Nicolas Sarkozy ?

L’impossibilité d’occuper une place tierce symbolique. Et cela fait de lui un duelliste permanent. Il a voulu d’emblée se cogner Hollande : « Il est nul ! » fit-il fuiter via Le Monde. Il en avait été ainsi pendant l’entier quinquennat – il s’était trouvé un « pauvre con », avant de se dénicher un président de la banque centrale européenne, ou un Kadhafi. Il lui faut quelqu’un devant lequel il dégaine à tout bout de champ…

Il est toujours resté le champion d’une petite moitié de la France, protégé par des mesures de sécurité faramineuses, accueilli par des salles bourrées de militants acquis à sa cause…

Dans son incapacité à reconnaître tout espace symbolique, il a passé son quinquennat à descendre en flammes les corps intermédiaires. Il a même osé dire que toute la presse était contre lui, alors que les journaux et les sites répondant à cette description se comptent sur les doigts d’une seule main : Mediapart, Marianne, L’Humanité, Libération et Le Nouvel Observateur – avec un moment de flottement pour ce dernier titre, au début du quinquennat…

Où situer Nicolas Sarkozy ?

Dans l’instant. C’est la seule temporalité qu’il connaisse. Son quinquennat, comme sa campagne, furent une suite d’événements, de fuites en avant ; d’annonces quotidiennes qui n’engagent à rien et finissent – amnésie médiatique aidant – oubliées dès qu’énoncées. Hollande, a contrario, martelait qu’il avait soixante mesures : on ne savait pas lesquelles, mais on savait qu’il en avait soixante…

Sarkozy, surtout, ne croit pas à ce qu’il dit : la parole n’est que pure tactique. Il s’est persuadé qu’utiliser toute la rhétorique, tout le vocabulaire, toute la langue du Front national, n’aurait pas d’incidence sur la réalité : je fais les poches des Le Pen, je chipe leurs mots, donc j’aurai leur électorat. Tout le lexique y est passé. Les slogans les plus abjects de la fin des années 1980 (« La France, aime-la ou quitte-la ») sont devenus la ritournelle de l’UMP au printemps 2012.

Résultat : il nous faudra une décennie pour nous débarrasser des deux semaines de la campagne électorale de Sarkozy sur les étrangers, sur les frontières, sur la viande halal. Il a fait sauter tous les verrous ! Il soutient qu’il n’y a pas de tabous : mais si, il y a des tabous, sinon chacun tue son voisin quand bon lui semble…

La peur du lendemain pèse désormais sur les individus, mais aussi sur la droite, qui va être réorganisée autour de ces fantasmes agités. L’étranger devient comme un objet de rejet national, de déchet, d’expulsion. Un tel remue-ménage m’apparaît, au fond, comme une autorisation à commettre le meurtre de l’autre. Quand le président de la République se lâche ainsi, il légitime la part d’ombre qui tenaille chacun dans un coin de sa tête…

Le futur ne serait-il pour lui qu’un gigantesque « après moi le déluge » ?

Il n’y a même pas d’« après moi ». Il n’y a que l’instant. S’il réfléchissait à l’“après”, peut-être son “maintenant” n’aurait-il pas été celui qu’il nous a infligé…

Que traduit son “présentisme” ?

Quelque chose de très narcissique, de très lié au miroir. Dans son obsession du duel, nous retrouvons le stade du miroir : ce moment où l’enfant ramasse ses morceaux grâce à l’image qui lui est renvoyée. Cette « assomption jubilatoire » (Lacan) pose problème quand elle est déployée dans le champ social, alors que la parole ne vient pas médiatiser ce rapport à l’autre des premières identifications. Voilà pour la théorie. Or si vous prenez le paradigme du duel, vous êtes prédictif à 95 % du comportement de Nicolas Sarkozy comme homme politique.

Mais son narcissisme l’empêchait de produire du politique. Il versait dans le petit sensationnel intime (« Carla et moi, c’est du sérieux »)…

Examinez sa manière de désirer Cécilia au moment même où il la marie à Jacques Martin : il est maire de Neuilly, ceint de l’écharpe tricolore, officier d’état civil. Et il se montre incapable de s’en tenir à cette place symbolique, hors commerce sexuel par excellence : cet homme a toujours cherché les places symboliques, en vue de les vider de leur substance symbolique ! Pour les subvertir. Cela s’appelle la perversion…

D’où son badinage lors de la remise du prix Charlemagne à Angela Merkel, dont il taquine le mari : « La presse parle beaucoup de notre couple »

Oui, les exemples abondent. Dans un autre ordre d’idée, souvenez-vous de cette audience au Vatican, où, se sachant pourtant filmé – la communication ne lui est pas étrangère –, il reçoit et envoie des SMS. Lui qui se dit catholique, il casse alors allègrement le cadre symbolique auquel il est supposé être soumis…

Laisse-t-il un champ de ruines ?

En habile dialecticien, il a picoré des références dans tous les champs pour bricoler ses discours, mais il laisse effectivement un désastre intellectuel et doctrinal pour la droite, en l’ayant convertie à la seule poursuite du Front national, en toute divagation : on a pu entendre à la fois qu’il fallait expulser les Roms et qu’il ne fallait pas avoir peur des étrangers. En comparaison, François Hollande propose des repères cohérents : Jules Ferry, Marie Curie.

Nicolas Sarkozy se défie de la cohésion…

Il est dans le dialogue direct avec tout un chacun non médiatisé par un tiers : c’est du populisme. Il suffit de savoir dire les mots qu’il faut pour se faire entendre, donc élire.

François Hollande sera son antithèse : lui sait ce qu’est la force d’un collectif (contrairement à Ségolène Royal qui avait fait campagne contre l’appareil du PS). Lui sait ne pas sortir des bornes du champ dont il se réclame. Il sait ce qu’est une autorité symbolique et il se placera sous une telle tutelle. François Hollande est banalement névrosé. Ça va nous changer. Nous allons respirer, dans la mesure où, précédemment, chacun d’entre nous était sommé de rétablir l’activité symbolique que Sarkozy détruisait. Nous avons eu un quinquennat éreintant !

Before the 2007 presidential election Magoudi wrote, under a nom de plume, an imaginary pre-electoral psychoanalysis of Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal, Comment choisir son président ? I didn’t know about the book at the time. If the analysis was anything like the above, I regret not having read it.

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[update below]

Arthur Goldhammer has a post linking to an article in Le Monde about Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s upcoming bataille homérique against Marine Le Pen in the 11th constituency of the Pas-de-Calais (Hénin-Beaumont), quoting JLM trash-talking the local FN there but which could also be interpreted as dissing the local population as whole. Art correctly observes that this is

Mélenchon in a nutshell: the grand gestures to humanity–fraternity and sharing–on the one hand, the contemptuous dismissal of his opponents on the other. And the particular choice of words, “four alcoholics and ten degenerates,” is especially unfortunate in light of the incident in a soccer stadium a while back, when a banner was unfurled that read “Pédophiles, chômeurs, consanguins : bienvenue chez les Ch’tis.” Linking “degeneracy” with this region of northern France is really not something that a politician who wants to combat the prejudices that are the stock-in-trade of the FN should be doing.

I am hardly surprised by JLM here, whose persona—political and otherwise—I have dissertated on at length on this blog. Mélenchon is one of those leftists who loves the people in the abstract but hates them in the concrete (alternatively, he loves the people; it’s individuals he can’t stand). When he first announced his intention to run in Hénin-Beaumont against Marine LP, I said that in a head-to-head 2nd round square off, JLM would win, as the constituency votes decisively for the left. But JLM first has to get past the Socialist candidate, which is no sure thing, and despite the discredit of the local PS there. He could bite the dust in the 1st round. But even if he does make it to round two, I am now not 100% certain that he will prevail against MLP. The FN has been working Hénin-Beaumont for years, as it did in Dreux in the 1980s and Vitrolles in the ’90s. The frontistes have deep roots there and Marine is well-known locally. JLM is not personally known by the Héninois—and who may not appreciate his last minute parachuting—and his local PCF allies are not strong. And he likely won’t be getting much help from the local Socialists. So I don’t know. I also wonder if Socialists at the national level won’t be discreetly pleased to see JLM get his comeuppance, even against Marine. It would be a sacrée humiliation for him, that’s for sure. As for moi, well…

UPDATE: An IFOP-Fiducial-JDD poll just out on the Hénin-Beaumont race has Mélenchon finishing a strong second in round one—well ahead of the Socialist—and decisively beating Marine LP in round two, 55-45. (May 20)

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I’ve been having a spirited exchange today with my blogging confrère Arthur Goldhammer over the Ayrault 1 government (see previous post), that Art is not overly impressed with but I think is not bad. Not to flog the dead horse or anything but I want to come back to part of a bit I quoted by Art that’s been bugging me

[Hollande’s] idea of politics as fine-tuning, careful calibration, and sage counterbalancing is, I submit, what kept the Socialist Party out of power at the national level from 1995 to 2012.

I submitted, pour ma part, that Art was erring in his assessment. Elaborating on my critique, I want to contest the underlying notion here—which is, in fact, widespread—that the Socialists were a bunch of losers during this 17 year period, and that party premier secrétaire François Hollande was the loser-in-chief. I heard this for years. The problem is, it wasn’t true. Let’s look at the results of the elections during this period for the PS and the mainstream right:

1995 Presidential – Jospin first in 1st round, respectably loses 2nd
1995 Municipal – PS makes gains, RPR loses ground
1997 Legislative – Brilliant victory of the PS-led gauche plurielle
1998 Regional – Gauche plurielle makes substantial gains (cf. 1992)
1999 European – PS and Verts do well, RPR-DL is humiliated
2001 Municipal – Right makes gains, PS cedes terrain but wins Paris and Lyon
2002 Presidential – Le 21 avril de funeste mémoire
2002 Legislative – Big victory for the UMP, PS plunges
2004 Regional – PS triumphs, UMP trounced
2004 European – Big PS victory, big UMP defeat
2007 Presidential – Sarkozy handily beats Royal
2007 Legislative – UMP loses ground, PS makes unexpected gains
2008 Municipal – PS whacks UMP
2009 European – PS does poorly (left voters defecting to Europe Ecologie)
2010 Regional – PS annihilates UMP

What this shows us is that the Socialists in fact had a mostly successful electoral track record during these years. The PS chalked up many victories, and notably under Hollande’s leadership. And one may even relativize some of the losses. E.g. the 1995 presidential election, following on the heels of the PS’s most disastrous defeats since the 1960s: the 1992 regionals, 1993 legislatives, and 1994 European. After Jacques Delors’ announcement that he would not run in the ’95 presidential, the PS candidate was expected not even to make round two. It was all Balladur and Chirac that winter, with Jospin not taken seriously. His first place finish in that one was a real surprise and his 47.4% loss in round two was considered eminently respectable in view of the humiliations of the previous three years. The 2002 shocker of Jospin’s elimination I have written about at length. It was an accident. It shouldn’t have happened. Jospin indeed did poorly in the 1st round but so did Chirac, and if Jospin had made it to round two the outcome would have been very close—probably a cliffhanger—, with Jospin possibly winning. Had that happened, the outcome of the subsequent legislatives would have been quite different. Even with Jospin’s stunning elimination, had he not precipitously resigned the evening of April 21st—had he stayed on as PM until the legislatives in June—, the outcome of those legislatives would have been altered. The UMP may well have won them but most certainly with a narrower majority. Jospin’s sudden throwing in the towel allowed Chirac to appoint a government of the right and then go into the June elections that year with a head of steam following his 82% plebiscite against Le Pen. As for the 2007 presidential, Sarkozy was going to win that one no matter what. He was a dynamic candidate, had a rock solid base in his party, led a good campaign, and that was that. But the Socialists still made unexpected gains in the legislatives that followed.

So that’s the record. The Socialists did not do shabbily at all during its years in opposition. And the one election hors présidentielle where they bit the dust was in 2009—and with the écolos benefiting, not the UMP—, after Martine Aubry took the helm from Hollande…

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[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below]

Here’s my quick reaction to Jean-Marc Ayrault’s first government, which was named yesterday evening (there will be a second Ayrault government after the June legislative elections if the left wins a majority; if not, then there will be a government led by someone else, mais on n’en est pas là). I watched the announcement on TV with a few friends and we were generally impressed, as there is perfect gender parity and more “diversity” ministers than one would have expected. Some of the choices are interesting.

First, PM Jean-Marc Ayrault himself. He was the front-runner since the evening of May 6th and an all but foregone conclusion since the weekend. As he was the head of the Socialist delegation in the National Assembly since 1997—and the minority leader in the Assembly over the past decade—he’s been a well-known personality for anyone who closely follows politics here, though has not aroused strong feelings one way or another. He’s a generally colorless figure, whom one neither likes nor dislikes (quite unlike most other leading Socialists, who tend to provoke sympathy or antipathy). But he’s solid, has been popular within the party, and as mayor of Nantes—France’s sixth largest city—since 1989, he has lengthy executive experience. He’s close to Hollande and a German speaker—he was a secondary school teacher of German before becoming a full-time politico—, both of which are pluses. The sentiment among my friends yesterday evening was that the Hollande-Ayrault tandem is “reassuring.” So good choice.

Foreign Affairs – Laurent Fabius: I thought Hollande didn’t need to appoint Fabius to anything, as he doesn’t owe him and Fabius is hardly indispensable at this point in history. But he’s still an éléphant and with a sizeable coterie in the party. So maybe better to have him inside the tent pissing out (which he won’t do) than outside pissing in (which he could do). And he’s a link to the Mitterrand era, for which many Socialist voters are nostalgic. The Quai d’Orsay is safe for him, as there won’t be any problems or disagreements over policy (and his 2005 non won’t matter—it’s ancient history—, as the MAE is normally not the main man dealing with Europe). Fabius is also well-known in the world and speaks fluent English (he taught a mini course over several years running in the last decade at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy). He’ll be high-profile abroad in the role. So I suppose it’s a good choice. Don’t know why it was made first in the protocol rank, though (I have yet to read the analyses).

Education – Vincent Peillon: A logical choice and that was expected. He was a high school philosophy professor and comes from an academic family. Education is his thing. As he’s been a top-tier figure in the party over the past decade, there was little doubt he would be in the government.

Justice – Christiane Taubira (PRG): A high-profile “diversity” appointment (she’s black, from French Guiana). I thought she would be named to something but not Garde des Sceaux, as she has no background in the law (though this has historically not been a prerequisite for the job; she has a doctorate in economics and agronomy). She’s best known for sponsoring the 2001 memorial law designating the slave trade as a crime against humanity. Also for being the PRG’s spoiler candidate in the 2002 presidential election (if she hadn’t been in the race her 2% would have almost all gone to Jospin, though no one holds this against her today).

Economy/Finance/Foreign Trade – Pierre Moscovici: It was clear Mosco was going to get a major ministry, though I thought this one would go to Michel Sapin or maybe Pascal Lamy. He’s an énarquestrauss-kahnien until last May, knows the dossier, and has been major figure in the party since the ’90s, so why not?

Social Affairs/Health – Marisol Touraine: This was expected. Logical. She’s been up-and-coming in the party since the ’90s. (She’s the daughter of the sociologist Alain Touraine, if one didn’t know).

Egalité des territoires/Housing  – Cécile Duflot (EELV): It was obvious she was going to be named to some ecology-type ministry. I think Cécile Duflot is great. She’s smart as a whip and fast as a rocket when debating or interviewed on TV/radio. She’s easily been Les Verts’ most dynamic leader since the party’s inception. Good to have her in the government.

Interior – Manuel Valls: Not surprising. He was either going to get Matignon or Beauvau. I have contradictory feelings about Valls. I like his relative centrism and breaking with PS dogma on the economy but like rather less his somewhat less-than-left stance on immigration-related issues (and which will be his charge at Interior). I suppose this will give him cred with voters on the right—with whom he is popular—and he will definitely be a huge improvement over Claude Guéant and Brice Hortefeux, not the slightest doubt about that. And he is a naturalized Frenchman himself (from Spain), so has some sensitivity on immigration-related matters. The extent to which he breaks with his immediate predecessors in several key areas will be watched closely (by me at least), notably the police and the politique du chiffre, deportations of sans-papiers (particularly those with family ties in France), and naturalization/citizenship requests (the rejection rate having skyrocketed over the past five years, an outrage that I will come back to later).

Ecology/Energy/Sustainable Development – Nicole Bricq: Don’t know her. She’s not a public figure in the PS. I would have thought this would go to an écolo (the ecology part of the dossier at least). Curious.

Redressement productif – Arnaud Montebourg: The ministry of “productive recovery.” Whatever that may mean. There has never been a ministry of this designation so far as I know. If it’s a way for Montebourg to try putting some of his flaky démondialisation ideas into action—to put his money where his mouth is—then it may be interesting. If it’s mainly to give him a platform to run his mouth, then it will be less interesting. Wait and see.

Labor/Employment/Social Dialogue – Michel Sapin: Good. He’s close to Hollande, smart, solid, énarque, knows his dossiers.

Defense – Jean-Yves Le Drian: Not a surprise. He’s close to Hollande, not a top-tier figure in the party, not too well known outside Brittany, but has become one of the PS’s leading defense specialists.

Culture/Communication – Aurélie Filippetti: She was an obvious candidate for a ministerial post. This one makes sense, as she was in charge of culture during the campaign. She’s become high-profile in the party over the past decade. She’s of working class Italian immigrant origin, BTW.

Higher education/Research – Geneviève Fioraso: Never heard of her. Have no idea why she was picked and for such a high profile ministry. She must be an inside operator, or some insider’s candidate.

Womens’ rights/Government spokeswoman – Najat Vallaud-Belkacem: Great. I’ve been predicting a national destiny for her for the past three years. So nice to see an attractive thirtysomething beurette in such a high-profile position. She’ll be on TV a lot. The FN in Lyon, where she’s a vice mayor, has been making a stink about her being a Moroccan dual national. She told the FN in so many words to f— off. Good for her.

Agriculture – Stéphane Le Foll: One of Hollande’s right hand men. A behind the scenes operator, not well-known to the public. I saw him for the first time in a reportage last week. He gave a good impression.

Reform of the State/Decentralization/Civil Service – Marylise Lebranchu: A veteran of Jospin’s Gauche plurielle (was Garde des Sceaux, entre autres). Close to Martine Aubry.

Outre-Mer (overseas departments/territories) – Victorin Lurel: From Guadeloupe. I participated in a speaking event with him five years ago (the monthly dîner-débat of the Paris chapter of Democrats Abroad), so can say we’ve met. He’s smart and well-spoken. I was favorably impressed.

Sports/Youth/Popular education/Associational life – Valérie Fourneyron: Don’t know much about her, except that she’s close to Martine Aubry.

Now for the ministres délégués (second rank ministers, working under a full minister):

Budget – Jérôme Cahuzac: Don’t know much about him, except that this was his file in Hollande’s campaign.

Educational success – George Pau-Langevin: She’s from Guadeloupe (yes, she’s a she) but whose political base is Paris’s 20th arrondissement. She’s been involved in anti-racist associations and with immigrant issues over the years.

Relations with parliament – Alain Vidalies: Don’t know him.

Justice – Delphine Batho: Close to Ségolène Royal. One of the up-and-coming Gen X women in the party. Was a youthful activist in the student movement and SOS-Racisme. She’ll be under Christiane Taubira but not clear in what capacity (as her delegation doesn’t carry a specific dossier).

Ville (Urban affairs) – François Lamy: He’s close to Martine Aubry and has a high-ranking position in the party, though is not known to the larger public (i.e. he doesn’t go on TV).

European Affairs – Bernard Cazeneuve: Don’t know him. He’s a fabusien, which explains the appointment (as he’ll be working under his mentor at the Quai d’Orsay). I would have thought this post would be higher in the protocol rank and with a higher profile appointee. Maybe it signifies that germanophone Ayrault will be playing a leading role himself in European affairs.

Elderly/Dependency – Michèle Delaunay: Don’t know her. She’s a medical doctor (cancer specialist) by profession.

Artisanat/Commerce/Tourism – Sylvia Pinel (PRG): Don’t know her. She’s in her mid-30s. Will be working under Arnaud Montebourg.

Economie sociale et solidaire – Benoît Hamon: I’m surprised to see Hamon—one of the main men on the PS left over the past few years—so low down the list, and only as a délégué. He’ll be under ex-strauss-kahnien Moscovici, on the other side of the PS ideological spectrum. We’ll see what his lefty-sounding dossier will involve.

Family – Dominique Bertinotti: She’s a professor of history at the University of Paris VII. That’s as much as I know about her.

Handicapped persons – Marie-Arlette Carlotti: Never heard of her.

Development – Pascal Canfin (EELV): Another écolo. He was a journalist for several years at the excellent monthly magazine Alternatives Economiques, which is the best lefty publication on the economy (for non-economists) that one will find anywhere (there is no equivalent in the US or UK). So for this alone, thumbs up to the appointment.

Overseas French/Francophonie – Yamina Benguigui (no party): What an interesting and unexpected appointment. She’s a well-known filmmaker of Algerian origin—married to a Jew, also of Algerian origin, thus her last name—, mainly of documentaries on Maghrebi/immigration themes, including the excellent three-hour ‘Mémoires d’immigrés‘ (1997) and ‘Le Plafond de verre‘ (2005), on discrimination against second-generation immigrants. Her major feature-length film was the very good 2001 ‘Inch’Allah dimanche‘.

Transportation/Maritime economy – Frédéric Cuviller: Don’t know a thing about him. He’ll be under Nicole Bricq. Usually this dossier is ranked higher.

Small and medium enterprises/Innovation – Fleur Pellerin: A Gen Xer, graduate of ESSEC and ENA. She was born in South Korea and adopted as a baby by a French family.

War veterans – Kader Arif: I started to hear about him in the ’90s. He was close to Lionel Jospin. Born in Algeria, left in ’62 at age three. Is a fils de harki, which will give him cred in this post.

There are no Front de Gauche ministers, as Mélenchon and his PCF allies announced that they would not participate in the government. I was hoping for at least one symbolic centrist appointment but guess that was not in the cards. Martine Aubry made it clear that for her it was Matignon or nothing, so she got nothing. And she’s being petty and vindictive as a result (see here), confirming that Hollande did well not to name her PM. The sooner she leaves the First Secretary post, the better. Grosso modo I give this government a grade of B, maybe a B+ for parity and diversity. Pour la suite, on verra.

UPDATE: Mediapart has a lengthy dossier on the new government (behind the subscriber wall, unfortunately), with informative biographies of all the ministers and explanations of the significance of their appointments. I learned things about a number of the personalities, e.g. Geneviève Fioraso, who is a recognized specialist in the area of nanotechnologies and has participated in high tech start-ups (she sounds quite dynamic), and Dominique Bertinotti, who is mayor of Paris’s 4th arrondissement—which includes the heavily gay Marais—and is an outspoken supporter of legalizing gay marriage. After reading the dossier I will give the government an unambiguous grade of B+.

2nd UPDATE: Libé has analyses of the new government by political scientists Rémi Lefebvre and Yves Surel (here and here). Among the observations: most of the ministers have a specialized knowledge of their dossiers, the Socialists according high importance to technical expertise and hard work in the constitution of their teams; the government was clearly constituted to last beyond the legislative elections, as a signal to the electorate of Hollande-Ayrault’s priorities but also that the PS expects to win in June; Laurent Fabius is n° 1 in the protocol order on account of him being a former prime minister.

3rd UPDATE: Art Goldhammer, after having read the above Mediapart dossier, disagrees with my B+ grade (here), asserting that he would sooner give Ayrault 1 a B–, as the government “fails to articulate a clear position on the major issue of the day, which is the ‘euro crisis'”… I find Art to be a particularly severe grader. First, a government is made up of a whole range of ministerial posts that are not directly concerned with finance or European affairs. No matter how preoccupying the current situation in Greece and its possible short-term consequences for the EU and France, PM Ayrault still has to name ministers of education, culture, justice, etc. And as to “how to enhance the competitiveness of French firms,” well, I think it does matter that a dynamic nanotechnologist who has launched start-up firms has been named to higher education and research (domains in France that have not been closely associated with the competitive sector of the economy but need to be). (As for gay marriage, questions de société are still out there and cannot be ignored; if they are, then vocal constituencies in the government’s electoral base will remind it). Second, the government—and with Hollande in the lead here—will be taking positions on all aspects of the euro crisis in short order. Geez, it hasn’t even been 24 hours—and today’s a public holiday to boot (Ascension)—and Ayrault 1 is already getting dumped on for all the things it hasn’t done. One expects this from Jean-François Copé & Co but one would hope that observers outre-Atlantique (and outre-Manche, outre-Rhin, etc) would cut Hollande and Ayrault a little slack, at least until next week. Third, Art sniffs that the government represents “a meticulous distribution of rewards among competing currents with no attempt to make a judgment about the ultimate purpose of the power that is so carefully subdivided… [and that t]his idea of politics as fine-tuning, careful calibration, and sage counterbalancing is, I submit, what kept the Socialist Party out of power at the national level from 1995 to 2012.” To this, I say GMAB and poppycock. Tell me a single government in a mature democracy—or even immature one—that does not involve delicate balancing among factions and competing currents? A government that does not do this—i.e. that is headed by political boneheads—gets into trouble with its own base from the get go. Not to calibrate and counterbalance is generally not a smart thing to do, particularly when a party has to wage another national election campaign right away. As for why the PS was out of power over the years, the reasons had little to do with Hollande-like synthesizing and fine-tuning. Fourth, if Art and others are not impressed with the composition of this government, what is their alternative? What is their ideal cabinet? Let’s play Fantasy Government here. And please be specific with names and portfolios. Chiche !

(photo credit: AFP/Pascal Rossignol)

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He really is. After the details of Hollande’s personal wealth were published in the Journal Officiel last week, I received emails from a couple of friends marveling at what an unluxurious life the new president has led. His standard of living has been quite modest for a man of his current stature, more so than his predecessors in the Elysée (and certainly more than his counterparts in the White House in the course of history, save maybe Harry Truman). But if one gets one’s information from right-wing Anglophone web sites, one would have no idea. E.g. a flaky right-winger outre-Atlantique forwarded me a piece yesterday from the hard right London tabloid Daily Mail on the subject of Hollande’s patrimony, adding his own comment—”You have to love the hypocrisy”—for good measure. The title of the Mail piece:

New French president Francois Hollande, who claims to ‘dislike the rich’, has THREE homes on French Riviera

Ooh la la! Three homes on…the FRENCH RIVIERA!! Monsieur Hollande no doubt hangs with Prince Albert and the Emir of Dubai… Now, to Anglo-Saxons the Côte d’Azur—as we call the Riviera over here—conjures up the leisure class, folks in Occupy Wall Street’s upper 1%. There are, of course, plenty of these types down there, but also a lot more who are not this. Kind of like the coast of south Florida, which can mean Boca Raton but also Fort Lauderdale. In and of itself, owning property on the Côte d’Azur doesn’t signify anything in particular. The property owner may be filthy rich, or merely middle/upper-middle class.

Voilà the Mail’s opening salvo

France’s new Socialist president owns three holiday homes in the glamorous Riviera resort of Cannes, it emerged today.

It “emerged”… As if Hollande’s “holiday homes”—of which only one is, in fact—had been a closely held secret. But Hollande detailed his patrimony to L’Express back in February (here) and has never been tight-lipped about it, so what was published in the JO last week contained no significant new information.

The Mail continues

The 57-year-old who ‘dislikes the rich’ and wants to revolutionise his country with high taxes and an onslaught against bankers is in fact hugely wealthy himself…To the undoubted embarrassment to the most left-wing leader in Europe and a man who styles himself as ‘Mr Normal’, [his assets] are valued at almost £1million.

Hollande “hugely wealthy,” with total assets of the equivalent of some $1.6 million… In French we have an expression to describe what the Mail’s idiot journalist has written here: il se fout de la gueule du monde (rough translation here). As the Mail’s brilliant scribe knows well, one million quid is chump change for the majority of those who live in the vicinity of his office in London W8. In fact, I am 99% certain that the total household assets of my flaky right-wing correspondent equals or exceeds this amount, and I doubt he considers himself to be “hugely wealthy”…

The Mail then drops this bombshell

Among other assets are three current accounts in French banks – two with global giant Societe Generale and one with the Postal Bank – and a life insurance policy.

Wow, GLOBAL GIANT Société Générale! I guess that really does mean President Hollande is rich. Just like me having an account in the global giant Bank of America must mean that I’m rich… (though if one saw my current balance one would readily understand that I am very, very far from being rich). Maybe I’ll go out and ask the clients at the local branches of SG in my middle-class quartier—there are three within a ten-minute walking radius—if they’re rich. As for the “Postal Bank”, i.e. La Poste—the post office—, the kinds of people who have accounts there are the exact opposite of rich. La Poste is where one opens an account if one does not make enough money to meet the conditions for an account at a regular bank. Accounts at La Poste are for le petit peuple… Why Hollande would even have an account there is the question that should be asked.

The Mail continues, informing the reader that

…it is the fabulous property portfolio which is causing the greatest stir among millions of ordinary French people who voted for Holland over the conservative Nicolas Sarkozy last Sunday.

A “[great] stir among millions of ordinary French people”… The Mail reporter made this up. He invented it. There has been no stir whatever. None at all. Hollande’s patrimony is not a story here. I repeat: not a story. But then, what else to expect from a scurrilous Brit rag but to make stuff up? (on the trashiness of the British press, see my post on the subject from last July).

The Mail then examines Hollande’s “fabulous property portfolio”

…the spacious Paris apartment he shares with his lover Valerie Trierweiler

François and Valérie’s “spacious” apartment is located at 8 rue Cauchy in the 15th arrondissement, near the Parc André Citroën, a perfectly fine area but not one of the tonier parts of town. The building is modern and nondescript (above photo), as is the quartier (here). The apartment is a two-bedroom of around 100 m² (1075 ft²), which F & V rent(ed) for €3000 a month (including monthly assessments and parking space). As F & V were living together, one may assume they split the rent. If one thinks this to be fabulous, luxurious, and/or upscale, then one has a different definition of these adjectives than do I (and no doubt the majority of the readers of this blog).

Continuing the examination of the fabulous portfolio

Hollande owns a palatial villa in Mougins, the prestigious hill-top Cannes suburb where the artist Pablo Picasso used to live. It is valued by the Official Journal at €800,000 (£642,000), and is just a short drive from Hollande’s two flats in the Cannes. They are each priced at €230,000 (£185,000) and €140,000 (£112,000).

Hollande’s “palatial villa” in Mougins is 130 m² (1400 ft²). It has a swimming pool and a big yard. Sounds nice. But we have friends—medical doctor and dance-school teacher—who own a house down that way that’s even bigger (and they have a pool too). La belle affaire. I have many friends stateside who own homes in choice locations that would make Hollande’s look modest. Hollande bought the house with Ségolène Royal in 1986—when they were thirtysomething civil servants and up-and-coming politicos—for 800,000 FF (€120,000). A good investment given the skyrocketing property values there over the subsequent 25 years. When the two broke up five years ago, François got the Mougins house (and Ségolène the flat in Boulogne-Billancourt). As for the two flats in Cannes—which are 54 and 80 m² (580 and 860 ft²)—Hollande owns 70 and 30% of them respectively in a Société Civile Immobilière (SCI) arrangement, a French real estate facility that allows several parties to jointly own property as shareholders. Hollande’s father lives in one of the flats and his brother in the other, so these are not, strictly speaking, “holiday homes” (here).

Then there were Hollande’s digs in Tulle, prefecture of the Corrèze, where he spent a few days a week over the past 15 years, since it became his political base: a 15 m² (160 ft²) bedroom in the local Socialist party office. And his salary: €100,000 a year gross. Also: Hollande owns no stocks or SICAVs; which is to say, France’s new president does not have a stock portfolio. And he apparently does not own a car either. Just a three wheel scooter (a Piaggio).

So is François Hollande “hugely wealthy”? I report, you decide.

Speaking for myself, he sounds less normal than abnormal. No car??

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or, rather, the government of François Hollande’s prime minister, who will be named next Tuesday when the new Président de la République takes office, and with the composition of his or her government being announced on Wednesday. Everyone and his great aunt—including my blogging confrère Arthur Goldhammer here—is speculating on who will be named to what post. Handicapping des uns et des autres is fun—I’ve been doing it myself—, a harmless pastime for political junkies, but is ultimately a waste of time, as the predictions are invariably not borne out. Or, rather, there are always surprises. E.g. Jospin’s gauche plurielle government in 1997, which unexpectedly excluded the Mitterrand era éléphants (Laurent Fabius, Jack Lang et al) in favor of quadras and other former junior ministers (e.g. Martine Aubry, DSK, Elisabeth Guigou; warhorse Jean-Pierre Chevènement being named in his capacity as head of the MDC, one of the constituents of the gauche plurielle). Chirac’s appointment of the second couteau Jean-Pierre Raffarin as PM following his reelection in 2002 was also not expected. Likewise with Dominique de Villepin’s appointment in ’05, as with the composition of his government (e.g. was there anyone—a single person—who predicted that Philippe Douste-Blazy would be named MAE?). In 2007 it was a pretty safe bet that Sarkozy would name François Fillon to Matignon but Rachida Dati as Garde des Sceaux and Bernard Kouchner MAE? These were total surprises. It will no doubt be likewise next week.

E.g. Jean-Marc Ayrault and Manuel Valls are considered front-runners for Matignon, with Michel Sapin a possibility but Martine Aubry pretty much out of it (she and Hollande don’t get along personally, the risk of her overshadowing him would be considerable, as would the risk of a clash over policy, and she dissed him during his campaign rally in Lille last month). But if one follows past history as narrated in this Le Monde article, on “how a president chooses his prime minister,” then Aubry or Valls would be logical choices but Ayrault and Sapin not. Valls has a number of political pluses but a significant liability, which is his personality: he’s hot-tempered and authoritarian in his dealings with others. And then there’s Uber-éléphant Laurent Fabius, who just about everyone is calling the front-runner for the Quai d’Orsay. Perhaps but I can’t see it. Fabius is a near dinosaur at this point, Hollande doesn’t owe him a thing, and Fabius brings nothing in particular himself (and he did not shine in his TV face-à-face with Sarkozy on March 6th). There are all sorts of worthy candidates out there for MAE (Pierre Moscovici being the most logical). So long as a fabusien or two are appointed to the government Fabius himself can be ignored—and kept in reserve for a possible appointment in a mid-term remaniement, as happens with éléphants and other barons left out the first time around. As for parité and finding qualified women, there are plenty. Art Goldhammer named several, though it would be surprising if Ségolène Royal were one of them, as she has made it clear that she wants the perchoir at the A.N. after the legislatives. In any case, the new government will likely be limited to 15 or so ministers, with the secrétaires d’Etats named after June 17th. RDV le mardi et mercredi prochains.

(Scanned article above: from Le Canard Enchaîné, 9 May 2012, p.1)

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I somehow missed this one—there wasn’t much mention of it, or maybe it just passed under my radar screen—but a poll on the “sociology of the 2nd round” conducted on May 6th by OpinionWay-Fiducial for Le Figaro and released the next day showed that 93% of French Muslims voted for François Hollande on Sunday (see the article here and the full poll report here). The poll used the CAWI survey technique and had a sample of 9,582. It doesn’t give the percentage of those polled who identified as Muslims but it was likely on the order of 4 or 5% max (4% of Frenchmen have identified as Muslims in polls taken over the past few years, though if non-citizens are included the veritable figure is probably closer to 7%). Maghrebis/Muslims have traditionally voted for the left but not in their near totality as was the case on Sunday. There was clearly a vote de sanction against Sarkozy for his anti-Islam/anti-immigrant discourse. If Sarko had maintained his rhetoric on Islam and the republic such as it was earlier in the last decade, which I’ve written about on this blog, and not lurched to the frontiste hard right, he could have won over a significant minority of Muslim voters, particularly as Muslims are socially conservative and have no love for the Socialists, the PS having never gone out of its way to cultivate them. Insofar as Sarkozy’s anti-Islam demagoguery did not win over more FN voters than the candidate of the right has historically received in the second round of presidential elections—the transfer of Le Pen votes to Sarkozy was around the same as in 2007, and to Chirac in 1995—these lost Muslim votes, as it were, may have even cost Sarkozy the election. Not smart.

The OpinionWay poll also gave a breakdown of Catholic voters (practicing and non-practicing) and Protestants but not Jews, probably because their numbers are too small (I’ve written about the “Jewish vote” here). Sarkozy most certainly won a comfortable majority, though I doubt it was as high as the 93% from French voters in Israel (see preceding post). With Sarko gone, a certain number of those Jews will likely gravitate back to the Socialists. On verra.

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