How strange… never in recent history has a French presidential election attracted such intense interest, but so many journalists, especially high class, chic, reputably reputable journalists, while covering the campaign as never before claim it is ‘not really interesting,’ ‘frankly a disappointment,’ ‘candidates look alike,’ ‘result unlikely to make any big difference’… and anyway the French are hopeless. How very strange.
Being too busy following the campaign myself, I didn’t have time to keep up with reporting in the foreign media, but dozens of articles came my way by chance. With rare exceptions the reports were flat, stale, noncommittal, cold, and impersonal. No depth, no discernment, just an assortment of bits of information from this or that sources tossed up like confetti to land where they may.
Am I wrong in finding this campaign in France fascinating and momentously decisive? Here in the free world of Pajamas Media where nothing prevents me from speaking my mind and heart, I can admit that I think the results of the first round of this presidential campaign will usher in a period of profound change in France and in Europe. That’s why I think it is important to state my predictions and explain my reasoning. Exactly the kind of thing that journalists don’t do. Commenting from the heights of their superior observation point, they describe the early stages of the race with sharp details and strong definition but as the candidates approach the finish line, those “objective” observers slowly lower their binoculars and then their eyelids, and stand at attention like good soldiers, waiting for the results. Immediately afterward they rush in to reap the rewards of their insightful silence. All of their capacity to predict the results is mobilized…the morning after. Using this method things do, in fact, turn out exactly as they had expected.
I want my predictions to stand naked from this moment until the final gong. PJ will post the first official estimates at approximately 8:10 PM Paris time on the 22nd of April. Some bloggers are promising to jump the gun and publish the figures around 6 PM, but I will play by the rules. I’m an immigrant, it’s not for me to change the electoral system by civil disobedience and I can’t change it by voting.
Horoscopes bore me. I don’t like fortune tellers. I’m not interested in fatalistic predictions of the future. The future is what we make of it, not what can be seen in a crystal ball. But the French polls-there have been over 200 this time around-are irresistible. You can’t help thinking you know how it’s going to turn out…more or less. On the other hand you can’t help remembering how often the polls have been wrong. And yet the temptation to trust them is so strong, it’s better to give in than to resist. Knowing that the pollsters cook their raw data, each one according to his own secret recipe, the honest citizen may also concoct his own cuisine.
Here are my dishes and here is how I concocted them:
The candidates will effectively weigh in, as repeatedly predicted, in this order: Nicolas Sarkozy (UMP), S√©gol√®ne Royal (Socialist), Fran√ßois Bayrou (UDF), Jean-Marie Le Pen (Front National). The “small candidates” -Philippe de Villiers and Fr√©d√©ric Nihous on the Right, Olivier Besancenot, Jos√© Bov√©, Marie-George Buffet, Arlette Laguiller, G√©rard Schivardi Dominique Voynet on the Far Left will all be confined to the bull pen with low scores, 1 – 2 %, except for Besancenot who will probably reap 5%.
There will be no big surprises for Le Pen or Bayrou. Sarkozy’s lead over Royal should be in the upper rather than lower range …perhaps 5 points.
Now for my reasoning. The main motivation for these predictions is my desire to see France pull itself up by its elegant bootstraps and dance into a new phase of its history. Because I cannot cure myself of optimism, I try to use it for the general welfare. The thought that French voters could cut through the ironclad media bias and the thick carpet of jihad hatred of Nicolas Sarkozy and choose the only candidate who could possibly govern the country, fills me with happiness. France is too beautiful to go down the tubes. Talk about ecology and diversity, how could anyone who cares about our world take pleasure in the ultimate ruin of France or all of Western Europe for that matter?
Neither S√©gol√®ne Royal nor Fran√ßois Bayrou could fit into a president’s shoes. Don’t worry, they make models for women too. It’s nothing to do with gender. Both of them have fine qualities that will become visible again once their inflated ambitions are properly disappointed. For those of us who left the Left and can no longer abide its perversions, Royal may have the merit of offering the French Socialist party a charming burial. Bayrou is the worst kind of megalomaniac, the kind who says, ‘I’m just your regular guy, the others are politicians; I’m neither Left nor Right, the others are party hacks; they’re slick, I’m for real.’
I’ve given my opinion. What counts is their opinion. Royal knows she won’t be president, Bayrou knows he won’t make it to the second round. Both of them are whistling in the dark. Their attacks against Sarkozy have become bitter and relentless. Bayrou has slipped down (in the polls, that is) to the 19% he announced for the end of February, that would be his kickoff point into the second round. One polling agency was so impressed, they did a second round estimation, showing Bayrou winning over Sarkozy. Maybe so, but you have to get to the second round, and even if there is a surprise and he does make it, I still think he’ll lose. He consistently hinges his star to the wrong wagon. Early on he was boasting that he could have the Socialist Dominique Strauss-Kahn as Prime Minister; Strauss-Kahn renewed his fidelity to Royal. He said Europeans want Centrist coalition governments, giving Romano Prodi as his model. Prodi’s government stumbled and almost fell. And his color? Orange? Orange like the Ukranian Yushchenko, who survived dioxin poisoning but is collapsing politically.
Former Socialist PM Michel Rocard stabbed S√©gol√®ne Royal in the back last week by advising her to form an alliance with Bayrou then and there. It was the only real misogynist blow of the campaign. She resisted courageously, but it was a low blow and it hurt, because it clearly demonstrated that an experienced old pol’ knew she didn’t have a chance of reaching the finish line on her own legs.
Nicolas Sarkozy has the stature, he has the political heft, he behaves like a professional, he has thought out his program in length and depth, he is surrounded by a plethora of experienced effective politicians, some of whom are truly excellent. He has shown his mettle by wresting Chirac’s formidable party machine away from the Big Boss and harnessing its energies for his own radically different program.
Contrary to what many foreign journalists have written, Sarkozy is perhaps the only candidate who is running on a platform instead of a personality cult. His commitment to results is sincere and if he fails to produce, which is quite possible, he will still deserve credit for his courage and straight talk. He is the candidate who has most clearly defined France’s problems and most convincingly pointed to the right path out of the sand trap where this country has been stuck for three-decades. Of all the twelve candidates, many of whom are irresponsible charlatans, Sarkozy is the only one who has been smeared, spattered, and verbally slashed.
That’s why I think Sarkozy will win. Targeted by an underhanded mass media demolition campaign and a forthright banlieue blackmail blitz, he still comes out the winner in every single poll. This must be a mark of citizen determination.
It is fascinating to observe the candidates as the presidential race builds momentum. Though they are in reality engaged in fierce competition, the arc of the campaign progresses towards a crescendo of admiration. They don’t confront each other. Journalists never really confront them with tough or even clever questions. Whatever criticism might be aimed at them, it comes from a distance. The close contact is with supporters, as they go from rally to rally, gathering steam, filling the house, becoming more and more oratorical, stimulating ever greater enthusiasm. Hardly a realistic preparation for the tough job they are vying for! The small candidates attract one or two thousand, the front runners attract ten to fifteen thousand, the fans wave flags and banners, wear supporter’s t-shirts, sing and shout, hug and kiss their champion as he makes his way through a tight-packed crowd and finally reaches the podium. What an ego trip! Whistle stopping for weeks on end is tough in some ways, but living like a high-class rock star is obviously exhilarating.
I haven’t attended the rallies. I watch excerpts on television. I have attended two Sarkozy press conferences and a day-long conference on Defense organized by his party. Sarkozy does his homework. He can think on his feet. He speaks with respect of his opponents. He doesn’t need to trash them in order to hike himself up to a better position. Sarkozy is truly dedicated, he is sincerely eager to take on a supremely difficult job. He is the only one of the twelve candidates who could even begin to handle it. And, yes, it is fascinating to stand on the edge of that leap into the future and ask yourself which way the citizens of a country are going to go.
The polls make you think you have a good idea which way they’ll jump.
And the polls might be wrong.
People who want to be president are bigger than life and at the same time detached from everyday reality. Unless you get really close to them, your evaluations are quite artificial, and if you do get close to such intense power, it’s hard to remain objective. Using skills developed over decades of experience as a novelist I’ve tried to go beyond journalistic commonplaces and reach to the depths of the candidates. Have I succeeded or simply invented?
The campaign for the first round ends at midnight tonight. No further appearances, polls, canvassing, or media coverage are permitted. A day and a half of religious silence to allow voters to make their final decision without pressure. The last few rallies reached fever pitch. The candidates performed like Baptist preachers. Their near hysterical supporters were not much different from football fans. It’s nothing to smirk at. Their optimism is no less worthy than mine. Democracy is wonderful. People can be partisan with all their might, pin their hopes on one man or woman, hope and believe way beyond what could ever be satisfied, and still accept the verdict when the votes are counted.
The unknown factor in this election is not so much the name of the winner-it’s almost a foregone conclusion-but the reaction of the losers, not the losing candidates, the losing partisans. The irrational hatred that has been stirred up against Nicolas Sarkozy feeds an undemocratic current that will, I think, inevitably be expressed in violence.
The 2005 punk jihad riots started in Clichy-sous-Bois. For the purposes of the campaign, all the left wing candidates plus Le Pen fawned over the banlieue as if it were the heart and soul of the R√©publique, the swing vote, the touchstone, the good luck charm. S√©gol√®ne Royal outdid them all with her dhimmitude allegiance ceremony at Clichy-sous-Bois at the end of February. For months, the ‘hood has been dolled up in the media, its rioters turned voters displayed in a pink light like produce in the market. Now, on the eve of voting day, this piece of news dropped in our laps:
[Le Figaro 20 April] The atmosphere is tense in Clichy-sous-bois. Tempers are hot, several journalists and cameramen have been molested, beaten, robbed. And a forty-four year old Pakistani Arshad Mohammad was killed on the 31st of March in front of one of the housing projects. He was accosted by a bunch of youths of African origin who asked him to hand over his pack of cigarettes and cell phone. They threw him to the ground and beat him to death with wood planks while the rest of the gang looked on.
To be continued…
French election results / Part 2: hindsight coming up on April 22nd…