Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Royal Flush

We have been spending a lot of time on American politics, and rightly so. However, I am now watching French Politics. They are setting up for an election in April 2007 and I suspect it is going to be very exciting.

The big news is that Ségolène Royal took 61% of the Socialist party vote (in an election with an 82% participation rate including 70,000 new party members) last week and will become the first woman to run for the French Presidency. The Economist calls this a landmark in French politics because Royal did not come from the party elite. She did not “work her way up”. Instead, she took advantage of the new “party primary” system used by the party and created a base of support by playing the image game. She purposely distanced herself from Paris despite being an alumna of ENA and having served as an advisor of Mitterrand. An ENA mate as quoted in the Economist says of her, “Everybody thinks she is nice and not clever. But the truth is she is very clever and absolutely not nice.””

Her nemesis, Interior minister Nicholas Sarkozy, ran for the center-right UMP. He has been something of a revolution in his own right. He never attended ENA and is the son of Hungarian immigrants. He enjoys mass appeal among the French, but has seen his star fade a bit due to his handling of the riots last spring. He is a straight talker who appeals to middle class voters.

Then there is Le Pen. NPR reported last week that he may enjoy a boost in the next elections. Apparently, the French have forgotten what happened the last time they lodged protest votes. Le Pen made it to the final round of voting, which forced voters to go for Chirac. Chirac won basically because he was, quite literally, the lesser of two evils. He has proven to be, at best, a “caretaker” president and at worst, a scandal plagued lame duck, a lame duck is who considering another run.

One thing the so called “War on Terror” has managed to accomplish is to feed anti-immigrant (i.e. anti Arab, Muslim) sentiments in France and elsewhere. The riots didn’t help and the French have never been shy about their feelings for North African/Arab/Turkish/Muslim mmigrants. Le Pen’s far right, super-Catholic, super-nationalist, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, rhetoric is appealing to the 18% of voters who say they will support him in April. These are the same 18% who haven't benefited from globalization and who want to retreat into yesterday.

So why should Americans care about French elections? Well on the surface, they don't seem to matter much to use. However if either Royal or Sarkozy win, expect to hear the audible groan in Washington. Neither is likely to “cooperate” quietly with the U.S. And there are some big reasons for the U.S. and Europe to work together: Instability in the Middle East (potential civil war in Lebanon, Iraq, and the Occupied Territories), Afghanistan, North Korea, Darfour, Turkey-EU talks, China, Iran, Koyoto, etc. These are the issues of the next 20 years. And no single country will be able to address them alone. We will need a multilateralist approach. So we should care about our allies’ elections.

Here is an interesting scenario. Imagine the G7 summit in say 2009. Merkel of Germany, Royal of France, and Clinton of the U.S. The faces of politics are changing boys. Watch out!


Anonymous said...

It would be fascinating if both Germany and France had women as leaders. Especially with such different political bents. It is a sure sign that the 21st century will look very different from the 20th century.

Although I wonder about whether the world still demands too high a price from women in positions of power. Merkel has no children. Is Segolene the same? Is it still the expectation that a person who wishes to rise to great power must either have children raised by a housewife, a nanny, or have none at all? 

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure a Segolene vs Sarkozy election is so bad for the US. From what I hear the alternative to Sakozy from the center right is De Villepen who is a more traditional Gaullist/Nationalist. Being mildly anti-American (just enough to be a pain in the ass) is a ceterpiece of Gaullist foreign policy. To the extent that Sarkozy is a maverick, he may come off that.

Interesting that Segolene is being billed as coming from outside the elite. Her resume sounds pretty standard to me (ENA grad, former advisor to Mitterand etc).  

// posted by RBR

Anonymous said...

I believe Segolene Royal has four grown kids.

-Seventh Sister  

// posted by Anonymous

Anonymous said...

RRoyal does have 4 children and is living with her long term male partner under a civil contract. Yes, she is an insider. But that is the point. French politics is looking more like American politics. The primaries were open, like in the U.S. and the candidates created an image for themselves and then sold it. She is different in that she didn't necessarily tow the party line nor did she play the party game in the traditional way. But she is very clever. Her father was also an insider.

In reality, Sarkozy is really the outsider, and very different in that yes, he is a maverick. Straight talk express French style.

The last time the French had a women in a high office was Edith Cresson who served as Prime Minister under Mitterrand, and like most PMs in France, didn't last long. She was burned in effigy in the Middle East.

// posted by USwest

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the straight talk express...I loved it when Jon Stewart confronted John McCain about his new found appreciation for the Christian right (he gave a speach at Bob Jones "University"). Stewart asked McCain, "When did the Straight Talk Express take a detour into Bull Shit Town?"

Gee if the Middle Eastern mobs burned a French woman PM in effigy what would they do if Sarkozy got elected President? His comments during the Pugeot Flambee Fest of 2005 were rather controversial. 

// posted by RBR

Anonymous said...

Yes. I am not sure what she did to get that effigy burning.But her reputation for firing off her mouth was legand. She served a little less than a year. Check this  out. Apparently, she was more of a problem than even I had realized.

I like the "Pugeot Flambee". That's a good one. 

// posted by UNWest