French elections: Hollande calls for calm
by Nidra Poller
11 AM in Paris 8 May 2007
[Le Monde 8 May 2007] Socialist Party chief Fran√ßois Hollande appealed to anti-Sarkozy demonstrators yesterday [Tuesday May 7th], asking them to refrain from all violence and reminding them that he had made the same recommendation on Election night. In an interview on RTL, Hollande declared that the ballot box [e.g. in the coming legislative elections] is only acceptable place to express disappointment and anger. Hollande added a curious twist to his message: this violence is “playing into the hands of those who want to impose more order, more toughness.” And reminded whoever might be listening that “we need more dialogue and respect than violence.”
With such twisted reasoning, it is no surprise that disappointment and anger were expressed with renewed violence in many French cities last night . Smashers attacked shop windows, garbage cans, and policemen with equal fury; the battles went on for hours, over a hundred angry disappointed voters were arrested. Perhaps Hollande’s message was too subtle? If the forces of law and order want this violence so that they can be more ruthlessly brutal, can you blame the sweet, tender, wholesome, gentle anti-Sarkos from obliging?
N.B. the euphemism “youths” can cover a whole range of identities. It is a mistake to think that it is being used at the moment to hide the “Muslim” nature of the riots. This time around the far Left, anarchist, nihilist elements are in the forefront, gathering support from the banlieue contingent and misguided S√©gol√®ne groupies, many of whom are in fact youths.
French elections: Clash of Civilizations
by Nidra Poller
Midnight in Paris May 7 2007
There is such an abundance of information and commentary in the media today, you could gather it all up and read for days on end…but more news is being created every hour. Inside stories are coming out, particularly from the Socialist party. S√©gol√®ne Royal cried when she realized, a few days ago, that she had lost the race. Fran√ßois Hollande is desperately trying to hold the party together for the legislative elections, but cracks and fissures are appearing on all levels. One might suppose that Dominique Strauss-Kahn is arguing for the long-delayed modernization coupled with reasonable expectations for the next electoral challenge. Other factions will insist on riding the eternal-smile strategy all the way to another crushing defeat.
Breaking news. My upstairs neighbor gave birth this week. The cries of the newborn baby float like cupids above my computer. F√©licitations, madame.
N.B. the name I couldn’t find last night is Rebsamen, one of Royal’s campaign directors, who wouldn’t own up to the truth about his candidate’s undemocratic anti-Sarko maneuvers in the last day of the campaign. One more element of last night’s report should be clarified: there was so much coming and going in that posh corner of the 7th arrondissement last night, that I got lost in the shuffle. Here’s the layout: S√©gol√®ne Royal went back and forth between three locations-her own campaign headquarters on boulevard St. Germain, la Maison de l’Am√©rique Latine, on the same boulevard, and Socialist Party headquarters on rue Solferino.
While a healthy majority of French citizens is contemplating a new era, a small but very nasty minority is determined to apply its final solution to the democratic process. The incidents last night in the downtown areas of major French cities were extremely ugly. One of the most shocking attacks took place in Lyon (as reported in Le Monde and on TF1): as soon as Sarkozy’s victory was announced, a large group of Socialist sympathizers went directly from party headquarters to the banks of the Rhone where UMP supporters were celebrating their victory on a p√©niche. The assailants pelted them with heavy objects, grabbed one person, beat him up, and threw him in the river, and pursued their evil deeds until the police arrived. Other battles were fought in the beautiful Place Bellecour at the center of the city, where thugs fought the police and did as much damage as possible to shop windows, caf√© tables, urban fixtures. The UMP victory celebration in Nantes had to be cancelled because of rioting by disappointed leftists.
Le Monde’s correspondents filed richly detailed blow by blow accounts of the incidents in various cities. Though the journalists vividly reported the evil deeds of rioters, they managed to place the blame on the police. The violence began when the police shot tear gas canisters at youths with scarves over their faces who had smashed shop windows, overturned cars, hurled paving stones at the policemen… A rioter, or perhaps simply a bystander who had witnessed events at la Bastille last night, complained: we came there to express our anger at Sarko’s victory…we weren’t doing anything wrong…but there were policemen all over the place…
The disappointed “voters” left graffiti on the base of the beautiful G√©nie de la Bastille statue (freely translated): Sarko fils de Macro (Sarko son of a pimp); Sarko on arrive (Sarko we’re comin’ t’getche); No pasaran; la nature n’a fait ni ma√Ætre ni esclaves (nature did not create masters or slaves). They slopped the walls of a newspaper kiosque with: R√©sistance, Fuck Sarko, Sarko Facho le peuple aura ta peau (Sarko Fascist the people will take you out).
9:45 PM. Sirens again. We’re probably heading for a repeat of last night’s incidents.
The updated figures are as follows: 730 cars torched, 592 arrests, 78 policemen injured.
The press (and the bomb-throwing separatists?) was expecting the president-elect in Corsica. He is on a brief two or three day vacation in Malta with his wife and recomposed family.
The anti-Sarko cyber-sleazers sent around messages claiming that Sarkozy’s Hungarian father was a dissolute aristocrat who fled Hungary in 1948 because his family had collaborated with the Nazis. In fact the noble title was bestowed on the family in 1628, to honor an ancestor who had fought bravely against the Turks. Here’s one more statistic to fill out the picture: 57 members of the Mallah family were exterminated by the Nazis; some were deported from Salonika, some from France where they had immigrated. Sarkozy’s grandparents, Benedict and Ad√®le Mallah, and their two children went into hiding during the Occupation. Though Ad√®le was Catholic and Benedict had converted to Catholicism, they knew they would be hunted down as Jews. The president-elect stated, in the first part of his acceptance speech: “I love France as I would love a cherished person who gave me everything. Now it is my turn to give my all for France.”
Roger Simon rightfully observed that no candidate in a democratic election in recent (or longstanding) memory had ever tried to defeat a rival by claiming that he was a danger to the nation, and his election would create irreparable domestic strife. Several readers posted seemingly contradictory examples. If my memory is correct, all of the dire threats cited concerned threats from beyond the nation’s frontiers. The difference is crucial.
S√©gol√®ne Royal, surfing on cesspools of Jew-hating propaganda against her opponent, laundered the arguments and made them part of her campaign wardrobe. No day goes by without publication of a thoughtful op-ed condemning these practices. Yet some of her supporters are already dressing in the same disgraceful garb for the legislative campaign.
Though one or two of the Socialist representatives invited to participate in Election night broadcasts mumbled vague assurances that protest by disappointed Royal fans should remain within the limits of the law, they hastily added that it was only natural for them to be enormously and publicly disappointed. To my knowledge no close or distant associate of the Socialist candidate or any of her far left fellows has come out forcefully to call for an end to this violence. Not in my name? Hmph! That’s only good for trashing Bush.
The retrograde Trotskyites, Revolutionary Communists, and heartbroken S√©gol√©nistes, with help from the usual suspects–the boys in the ‘hood, the smashers, la racaille-who scribble Sarko Facho on the fa√ßade of a newsstand are walking in the path of the brownshirts. A cameraman was hit in the face with a paving stone at the Bastille last night. A TF1 cameraman was seriously roughed up by Socialist Party guards earlier in the evening, while Royal was giving her victory-in-defeat speech, with that great big smile that puzzled some, grated on the nerves of others, and warmed the hearts of her fervent supporters, zapping between tears and shouts of adoration.
It was widely claimed that Nicolas Sarkozy had an iron grip on the media during the campaign. For some strange reason, there is a bit of fresh air wafting in through open windows since he was elected. Journalists are actually asking genuine questions, speaking frankly, putting two and two together. A France 3 newscaster asked Laurent Fabius if he was shocked by Royal’s incongruous smile. Other Socialist leaders were questioned about the defeated candidate’s role in the imminent legislative elections; will she be pushed to the sidelines, will someone else develop strategy? Fran√ßois Bayrou’s nakedness was exposed on prime time news, his lonely headquarters displayed as a question mark: how in the world will he come up with over 500 candidates by mid-June? And, strangest of all, reporters haven’t found the time to visit ACLEFEU militants and ask them what they think about all of this and what they plan to do.
Did I write it, or just turn it around in my mind? I think I wrote it: Le Pen is nothing to worry about anymore, the guy to watch now is Olivier Besancenot of the Ligue Communiste R√©volutionnaire. His baby face masks deep-seated anger against society; his masked minions are expressing that anger with fire and hard objects. They are an explosive element of the green, brown, red coalition.
Some Socialist leaders are convinced that the party must modernize by inching toward the center. Others are equally certain that the party must secure its bases by tenderly embracing the far Left. It is impossible to do both, and neither will work. But democracy requires healthy opposition. Instead of issuing warnings against the dangers of absolute UMP power, the left should tear down its rotten structures and build afresh.
It seems like trouble is brewing tonight at Place de la R√©publique. That was the site of the first in an endless series of “pro-Palestinian” and “anti-war” marches was held in October 2000. Demonstrators shouted “Death to the Jews.” In the intervening years, French opinion-makers have insisted that the clash of civilizations is a nasty American idea to be avoided at all costs. But French voters have chosen massively, decisively, enthusiastically to face up to that battle and they are determined to win.
“…My thoughts go to all the French people who did not vote for me. I want to tell them that beyond the political combat, beyond the differences of opinion, there is only one France. I want to tell them that I will be the president of all the people of France, I will speak for each and every one of them. I want to tell them that tonight is not the victory of one France against another. There is one single victory tonight: the victory of democracy, of the values that unite us, the ideal that brings us together…. The French people have spoken. They have chosen to break with the ideas, habits, and behavior of the past. I will rehabilitate work, authority, ethics, and respect. I will restore the honor of the nation and national identity. …” [excerpt from Nicolas Sarkozy’s acceptance speech]
Some are moved by these heartwarming words, some shrug their shoulders and smirk. The truth and sincerity of these words will be tested by concrete realities in the coming months and years.
Sirens still wailing as I sign off.
“Together all becomes possible.”
French elections: caf√© & stats
by Nidra Poller
11:30 AM in Paris May 7 2007
Ici Paris. Caf√© & stats on the menu. Servez-vous.
Final score : Nicolas Sarkozy 53.06%, S√©gol√®ne Royal 46.94%
(highest score for a right wing candidate since 1965)
First round voters for Bayrou transfer: Sarkozy 40%, Royal 40%, blank or abstention: 20%
Estimated crowd at Place de la Concorde : 30 000
Cars burned in France last night : 367
Troublemakers arrested: 266
Policemen injured: 30
N.B. contrary to what I reported last night, Fran√ßois Bayrou did mention S√©gol√®ne Royal in his speech. After warning Nicolas Sarkozy of the dangers of absolute power (hmmm) he expressed his empathy with disappointed Royalists, tasting the bitterness of defeat.
“Victory is only beautiful if it is generous.” Sarkozy is elected et que la f√™te commence
by Nidra Poller
2 AM in Paris May 7, 2007
Mes amis c’est tellement fran√ßais, je ne vous dis pas! It’s their way of doing it and at a time like this, a time of joy and celebration, this immigrant can only watch from a distance and say chapeau! TV coverage ended at 11:30 as president-elect Sarkozy left his 10,000 fans at Place de la Concorde.
The final score, subject to slight modifications tomorrow, stands at: Nicolas Sarkozy 52.7%, S√©gol√®ne Royal, and 47.3%. In case you didn’t notice, my prediction (55.5% for Sarkozy) was over the top. I’m glad I wrote it instead of playing safe and keeping it to myself. Because it shows that intuition is valid only to a point… in this case I was carried away by my desire to counter the anti-Sarko hate campaign. In the real world, this 52.7% victory, with an 85.5% participation, is a clear mandate.
Watching election night on TV, one had the impression that at least half the voters were out in the streets tonight. Crowds, crowds, and more crowds. Gathered in front of the Salle Gaveau for Sarkozy, in front of PS headquarters on rue Solferino for Royal; gathered in the streets as the candidates passed from one key point to another, clumped in front of Fouquet’s where Sarkozy met with intimates after giving his acceptance speech, and massed around the Place de la Concorde. It couldn’t happen in America, could it? Things would be more orderly, security would be far greater. Watching Royal or Sarkozy winding their way through compact crowds, with moderately sized bodyguards doing their best to open a narrow path, you realize that French people still think the world is safe, the streets are safe.
As I am reporting on the glorious celebration, something else is going on practically under my nose. Sounds of ugly anger. Police cars. Gendarmes on foot. Troublemakers running into quiet side streets. Guttural shouts. A loud thud as a disappointed “citizen” kicks a garbage can nearly to death. Sirens.
Incidents are being reported around the Bastille in Paris, in Lyon, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Lille, Nantes…so far. The banlieues are quiet, the trouble is downtown. Disappointed anarchists and militants of Besancenot’s Ligue Communiste R√©volutionnaire are reportedly involved. The night is young.
And that’s what’s so frightening. The French talent for glory, while in the nation’s guts dark forces are churning. Which will prevail?
S√©gol√®ne had announced that she would speak at approximately 8:03. Rather sassy, when you think of it. She knew she had lost. One of her close aides, Julien Dray, explained during the evening’s panel discussions, that the polls were oppressive. In fact, he said the polls had been used to influence the vote rather than simply report on intentions. She knew she had lost, and she chose to speak first? Cameras focused on her. Her fans cheered wildly. She waited, making no sign to quiet them. The cameras and mikes waited. She smiled. They adored her. She smiled. They acclaimed her. Suddenly she walked away from the podium. Journalists in the TV studios turned to her people…can you explain what’s happening? Didn’t she say she was going to speak?
This went on for about five minutes. She came back to the podium and gave a sort of victory speech. ‘You’re great, I’m great, we made a fantastic campaign, we’ll stay together and go on together and triumph together.’
About a half hour later, Nicolas Sarkozy made a moving speech to supporters gathered at Salle Gaveau. His vocabulary was elevated, his spirit was noble, his scope was vast, his tone was sincere, his appeal was generous. (Excerpts of the speech will be included in tomorrow’s report.) He expressed, once more, his gratitude to France “that has given me everything,” and pledged to return in kind. He expressed his respect for S√©gol√®ne Royal and asked his supporters to honor those “who did not vote for me.” This elicited applause and bravos. He promised to help “those who have been hurt and broken.” He reached out to “our European partners,” and asked them to be more attentive to the demands of citizens. He declared his loyal friendship for the United States, adding that friends can speak frankly to each other, and urging Americans to join the battle against global warming. You notice? He didn’t ask us to pull out of Iraq! He expressed his hopes for harmonious relations with Mediterranean nations that can foster peace and civilized values. He promised he would be the president of all of France.
Drop to Fran√ßois Hollande in the TF1 studios, pissing vinegar. No, monsieur Hollande was not impressed. He took out S√©gol√®ne’s crumpled campaign arguments and wiped his brow. Sarkozy was part and parcel of the previous government, nothing new can be expected, S√©gol√®ne was magnificent, she was pugnacious, she opened a new page in politics. Watch out for us, we’re going to win the legislative elections next month.
This was the theme of almost every Socialist who intervened this evening. The UMP presidential victory combined with a UMP legislative victory would be a dangerous concentration of power in one set of hands. This must not be allowed to happen.
Jack Lang said we must have a Socialist legislature to protect the population. Poivre d’Arvor announced results of the first poll, predicting a healthy UMP majority there too. How could it be otherwise? Voters turning out in unprecedented numbers, giving one candidate a wide majority, are not going to turn around and vote in a legislature that will tie him hand and foot for five years and put their hopes and his promises to death. Former PM Alain Jupp√© observed, “If madame Royal had been elected I don’t think monsieur Lang would have called for a UMP legislature to limit her powers.”
Socialist Dominique Strauss-Kahn was the golden exception. He said we lost three presidential elections in a row and the reason is clear-we have not reformed our party. We’ve wasted the five years since Jospin’s defeat. We can’t win unless we modernize…like Socialist parties in other countries. Strauss-Kahn was the only good loser. The others replayed old battles with the same crooked strategy, the same stingy arguments, the same disdain for voters. That’s one of the things the Socialists have to reform. They keep talking about what the people want, and of course the people can only want them. They don’t count voters as people!
Communist ex-candidate Marie-George Buffet declared that the election of Nicolas Sarkozy is a catastrophe. Olivier Besancenot promised that his battalions would put up a relentless fight. No one asked him to tell them to stop fighting the police at the Bastille. Fran√ßois Bayrou congratulated Nicolas Sarkozy, said nothing about S√©gol√®ne Royal, promised miracles for the legislative election. The fiery Green, No√´l Mam√®re, hissed like a snake, insulted Sarkozy and his representatives, confirmed his alley cat reputation.
At 11 PM, president-elect Sarkozy left Fouquet’s and headed for Place de la Concorde. He was joined by his wife Cecilia. Security was tighter, though private motorcycles still nudged their way in among the media cycles. They were all stopped at the entrance to the Tuileries, and Sarkozy’s car passed through the gardens in a small motorcade. Filmed from the air they looked like beetles creeping along the sandy paths.
Only close friends, associates, and family were allowed into the area Nicolas Sarkozy crossed as he reached the podium from a side entrance. Cecilia was by his side, dressed in white slacks and a grey top, looking by turns nervous and happy. The president elect gave a brief, generous, joyful speech. Again he expressed respect for his defeated rival and those who voted for her. “Victory is only beautiful if it is generous.”
Now the presidential party is celebrating in a trendy nightclub under the splendid Pont Alexandre. Champagne for everyone else but don’t forget, the new French president does not drink.
And the battle of the Bastille is still raging. A steady stream of police cars and ambulances streak out in all directions. The media, which have so often and so irresponsibly encouraged these street revolutions over the past seven years, seem to be sincerely shocked. Several times in the course of the evening journalists asked Socialist and far left spokespersons if they intended to ask their disappointed voters to refrain from violence.
David Pujadas of France 2 nailed a close Royal aide, asking him if his camp still maintains, as stated in the closing days of the campaign, that Nicolas Sarkozy is a danger for the nation. The gentleman tried to sneak out with a fib, pretending that she had said Sarkozy’s program was a danger. “It wasn’t a personal attack,” he said, lying outright. And convincing no one. The question hangs in the air.
Sirens are wailing. La f√™te est belle.
French elections: May 6, the last mile
by Nidra Poller
6:30 PM in Paris May 6, 2007
More than thirty cars were burned in Paris last night. The attacks took place simultaneously in the 3rd, 9th, 10th, 13th and 18th arrondissements. At least sixty cars were torched in the north east section of Paris after the 1st round on April 22nd. The culprits, who were arrested and sentenced, came from the far Left. Police are keeping an eye on the anarchists. Countless polling places opened late this morning because their doors had been sealed shut with glue. This did not prevent a huge turnout, expected to break all records since the inception of the 5th Republic.
1,200 journalists with the UMP at the Salle Gaveau, 1,200 with the Socialists rue Solferino. The first unofficial results are circulating but PJ will respect the rule and not make the announcement before 8 PM.
Callers on the extremist-Muslim M√©diterran√©e FM talk show fretted today about loss of interest in the banlieue. One caller said he’d seen a report on an Arab TV station… the boys in the ‘hood said they’d lost interest in voting. However, this evening France Info reports 65% participation in Seine St. Denis, 9 points above the first round.
The Panth√®res Roses don’t give a hoot for Post no Bills. They slathered walls with last minute warnings against Sarkozy: ‘He’ll take away our freedoms, sell out our public services, snatch away our social security, deprive us of equal rights, chase down immigrants, Ca va pas la t√™te! Let’s vote against Sarkozy.’
Side by side with these slapdash black and white messages we see big full-color tear jerkers. Is this the France you love? With pictures of illegals who’ve been deported. Their names, their decent faces, their ordeals.
Observations at one polling place: 14 voters entered in the space of 5 minutes. A father and his just-voting-age son. Couples with children. Old people. One well-known writer. A nearby park is filled to overflowing with yuppies and bobos you never see on Sunday; they didn’t go to their country homes this weekend.
Strong smell of gasoline along the curb in front of a polling place. No sign of torched cars, but it must be what’s left of an attempted car burning. Sand has been poured over the gasoline, leaving large patches exposed to the sparks or parked cars pulling in and out.
Tiny stickit warning on a public building: Do you want a president who will set France on fire as he did once before? Signed, citizen initiative. (Citizen should know that you are not allowed to post messages without including an address, meaning a responsible source.) Someone penciled in an answer. OUI.
Dozens of vehicles filled with CRS and gendarmes in riot gear waiting around place de la Bastille where the Socialists will hold their victory or defeat party. The UMP victory party will take place at Place de la Concorde.
Snatch of conversation captured in flight. A fiftyish well-dressed woman speaking to a couple, same age same class: “If people don’t understand after five years of Right-wing government…really…they’re asleep!
But madame, did you see them? They could not be more wide awake!
In a bit more than an hour and twenty minutes, you will know how close I came to guessing right.
Sunday morning in Paris May 6 2007
Voters in the Americas have already gone to the polls. It looks like the record-breaking 85% turnout of the first round will be followed by an even more record-breaking final round. Whatever their choice, voters are highly motivated. But a vote isn’t like a hug; lukewarm, passionate, disillusioned, or determined it still weighs the same. One vote, one vote.
Fran√ßois Bayrou voted early this morning in Pau. Asked by reporters if it’s true that he didn’t vote for Nicolas Sarkozy he smiled wryly. Big deal!
Bernard Tapie–self-made businessman, former minister “of the City” under Mitterand, former deputy, former Eurodeputy, fined and imprisoned pour irregularities as former owner of the Olympique Marseille soccer team, actor, singer, and member of the Parti Radical de Gauche-has thrown his whole hearted support to Nicolas Sarkozy. He taxes S√©gol√®ne Royal with incompetence, confusion, and manipulative histrionics. Tapie says that the outburst of righteous indignation during the May 2nd debate was planned and rehearsed. Originally intended for the issue of illegals, namely the Chinese grandfather allegedly arrested in front of the school when he came to pick up his grandchildren, it was transferred for some unexplained reason to the issue of integration of handicapped children in public schools.
Here’s a telling comment from a reader of the International Herald Tribune (May 3rd)
“As a female former socialist activist, I am profoundly shocked by the ascent of S√©gol√®ne Royal to the position of challenger for French Presidency. She is and has always been inadequate and incompetent, and should never have been chosen to represent the left in this election. She’s an “usurpateur” who used almost exclusively her “feminitude” (femaleness) and looks, to lure young inexperienced voters to choose her. Most prominent socialist leaders, such as Dominique Strauss Kahn or Martine Aubry, a hundredth time more competent than her, have been set aside by her awsome lust for power, In last night debate, she proved her inadequacy, her terrible temper, her lack of knowledge and program, her inconsistency, and an overpowering disdain for her opponent, who remained calm and composed at all times. I am a woman, a mother, and I will choose to vote for M Sarkozy, because he is the only guarantee of a future for France and our children.”
French elections: the debate in retrospect, the final round in perspective
by Nidra Poller
10 PM in Paris May 5 2007
While even-handed journalists worldwide tend to report the Sarkozy – Royal debate as a draw, two public opinion surveys rate Sarkozy over Royal by 53% 31% or 40% to 29%, and a small minority declaring it a draw. A record-breaking 20,000,000 people followed the debate on the three major TV channels, and countless others tuned in on cable channels, websites, or radio. The plumber who came to repair our water-heater the morning after the debate gave a clear win for Sarkozy in the debate and is hoping for an unequivocal victory Sunday night. He needs a strong lead, said the hard-working young man, so he can do what has to be done.
Two days after the debate, Sarkozy’s lead in the polls went up a few points, standing at 54.5% to Royal’s 45.5. The chances of an upset are nil. Royal’s second round strategy has failed miserably. My predictions are as follows: Sarkozy will definitely not fall short of 54.5% but might go as high as 55.5%. Royal’s defeat will precipitate a schism in the Socialist party, that will separate Royal -politically– from party chief Hollande, the father of her four children. Their romantic separation, which is one of those open secrets of French intrigue, may well become explicit. Fran√ßois Bayrou will be disavowed by the UDF party apparatus, and will fail in his attempt to create a new Centrist party, le Mouvement D√©mocrate, in time to compete seriously in the June legislative elections.
S√©gol√®ne Royal is a caricature of the semi-liberated woman who plays on her feminine charm to obtain advantages and asserts her feminist freedom to hide her incompetence. Sarkozy’s strong lead in a record-breaking first round turnout left Royal with almost no room to maneuver. What did she do? She grabbed at Fran√ßois Bayrou like a vote-starved creature the very next day, panting for him and his votes, too excited to see that he was playing her for a fool. Bayrou piggy-backed on her hunger to keep his face on the front pages for an entire week, culminating in a silly mini-debate that Royal’s advisors apparently took as a sign of affectionate hope. If they had looked more closely they would have seen the disdain in Bayrou’s eyes, his cold-hearted composure, his cruel pleasure at observing Royal go through her song and dance. She wasted one out of the two short weeks, and got nothing for it. Still desperately trying to get a hug from Bayrou, she also blew kisses to the extreme Left, discovered admirable qualities in every last anti-capitalist who had a few million voters to lead to her corral, charged the anti-globalization outlaw Jos√© Bov√© with a mission, adopted a slogan from the kewpie doll postman Besancenot… Then she played her last two cards–a free May Day concert at Charlety Stadium and the May 2nd debate.
The free concert was great. A huge audience chock full of diversity, a splendid array of stars in showbiz and sports with a smattering of intellectuals. Good musicians playing for 40,000 fans white hot with enthusiasm, no notable incidents (unless they’ve been covered up). She reveled in the admiration, belted out a semi-religious totally populist “Je vous salue…je vous salue…peuple de France…peuple de France. ¬ª And pranced into the debate the next day, strong with echoes of the roaring crowd.
The candidate and her party can congratulate themselves from here to tomorrow, the truth is she blundered through the last challenge in a super tough job interview for a high-level executive position and flunked out. She did not show her mettle, she exposed her weaknesses. And she’s asking voters to have the “audacity” to choose her because she’s a woman?
Royal is always accusing the world of questioning her competence because she is a woman. What’s to question? She gets extra points for being a woman. But she comes across as a parody of the chattering female who can’t rise above petty details to get the big picture. Moderators Arlette Chabot and Patrick Poivre d’Arvor kicked off the debate with a question on institutional reform. Since Royal became politically infatuated with Bayrou, she has been promising to scrap the current 5th Republic and go on to the 6th…a cumbersome constitutional process that would effectively delay action on urgent issues.
Apparently Royal had decided to come in punching. She sidestepped the question, narrowed her eyes to laser beams, and asked Sarkozy how he could aspire to be president when a policewoman was raped in Bobigny last week as she left the police station after working the night shift. Sarkozy and the moderators politely invited Royal to address the question of institutional reform. No way. S√©gol√®ne Royal promised that if she were elected, all policewomen would be escorted home. Sarkozy remarked, with a touch of humor, that we would need one police force to protect the population, and another to protect the police.
And so it went. Whatever the question, whatever the issue, Royal responded with lofty assurances about how she would set everything right by bringing the interested parties together, avoiding conflict, and leading the nation down the gagnant gagnant path by the sheer force of her will. She treated demands for precision as insults, and took every opportunity to make sharp jabs at Sarkozy, accused of everything that had been done or undone since 2002.
One telling exchange has been studiously avoided by the media. Debating various possibilities of increasing social security revenue without over taxing business or labor, Sarkozy asked Royal if she intended to create a new CSG. The CSG or contribution sociale g√©n√©ralis√©e is a Socialist invention that was supposed to eliminate the SS deficit by having everyone chip in for a small sum over and above every other kind of tax paid on anything and everything; in two years the books would be balanced and the CSG would disappear. That was fifteen years ago. The CSG, the social security deficit and the bookkeeping headache increase yearly.
Sarkozy asked Madame Royal if she intended to create a new CSG as proposed by [Socialist party chief] Fran√ßois Hollande.
Madame Royal froze into a block of icy stone and replied: “You can debate with Fran√ßois Hollande any time you wish.”
“So you do not intend to create a new CSG?”
“That is correct.”
Having disposed of Fran√ßois Grin n’bearit with a fly swatter, she took to Sarkozy with an anti-aircraft battery. The issue was integration of handicapped children into the school system. Sarkozy promised to put teeth in a law that grants this right without truly enabling it. Royal went ballistic. Accused him of attaining the “height of political immorality.” Claimed that his government had dismantled the Handischool program she herself had initiated. Nothing could contain her righteous indignation. She gunned him down, cut him to pieces, burned him and strung him up. How dare he play with the distress of the handicapped?
Her performance was so good, it convinced a mass of viewers who found her lacking in almost every other sphere. The next day, the fact-checkers gave us the figures. The number of handicapped children integrated into the school system has almost doubled, from 89,000 in 2002 to 160,000 in 2007.
What if the figure were lower or should be higher? Would that be grounds for a virulent attack on an opponent who promises to take measures so that all handicapped children could go to school under favorable conditions?
A final word on the debate. French students are held to rigorous standards of composition and argumentation. If S√©gol√®ne Royal’s reasoning were judged by the criteria that prevail in the baccalaur√©at exam, she would fail. And she would be eliminated in the first round of any respectable high school debating contest. Her inability to reply to a direct question, her incapacity to organize her thoughts, her aimless wandering off the path and into a forest of anecdotal details has been a constant throughout the campaign.
After her debate strategy bombed, Royal still had a choice to lose the presidential race with dignity…or go down scratching and clawing.
Everyone has heard about the tous sauf Sarkozy (anyone but Sarkozy) but how many people have seen the full continuum from gutter anti-Semitism to Royal’s last salvo? A tous sauf Sarkozy website featured a photoshopped image of a snarling Sarkozy set in the heart of a Jewish star with points to Tel Aviv and Washington. A coalition of the far left, far right, Islamists, racaille, and assorted anarchists has been pumping gutter quality “anti-Sarko” messages into cybersphere. This sleaze, stripped of a few lurid details, leaped quickly into the mainstream and circulated wildly, infecting people who should normally be resistant. Fans of the latter day Jean d’Arc worked it to the hilt, as if they knew it was her only winning argument. The boys in the ‘hood grunting anti-Sarko monosyllables were a staple of news reports during the campaign. Their words were a gold standard, they were the equivalent of Jean-Paul Sartre in the 60s.
And, irony of ironies, the savage violence churning in that sector of society was also thrown in Sarkozy’s face. Hey, I thought you were the Super Cop! So how come there’s all this crime in the streets? When the punk jihadis tore up a section of the Gare du Nord, it was Sarkozy’s fault. (Angelo Hoeket, the turnstile-jumper whose arrest triggered the revolt has just been sentenced to six months in jail. )
This despicable Jew-hatred, cop-hatred, destructive hatred of France and the French, this pox on the life of society, including the lives of law-abiding citizens of the same ethnic background as the troublemakers, has functioned as a back office engine to propel Royal’s campaign. Her raison d’√™tre pr√©sidente is that French people will do anything to prevent Sarkozy from winning. The argument might have had some theoretical validity before first-round voting. Now that Sarkozy has won over 31% of that vote in a record-breaking 85% turnout, it is definitely counterproductive.
Interviewed on RTL (Radio t√©l√©vision luxembourgeoise) on the last day of the campaign Royal launched into a vicious attack against Sarkozy. If he is elected, she said, it will trigger violence and brutality; everyone knows it but no one wants to admit it. He has provoked the “quartiers populaires” [bad neighborhoods], he encourages the ugly side of human beings, he’s a neocon, Bush is his role model.
Several particularly serious anti-Semitic incidents have been reported in the past few weeks. A 22 year old student whose mother is Jewish and father is Antillais was accosted by two Beurs [French of Arab-Muslim origin] on a metro parking lot in Marseille. Thinking she was Muslim, because of her ethnic appearance, they asked her why she was wearing that diabolical sign around her neck. It was the Hebrew word “hai” meaning life. When she explained that she is Jewish, they manhandled her, threatened her with a knife, cut open her t-shirt, marked a swastiska between her breasts, cut off her hair and, for good measure, stole her cell phone. Elsewhere, a driver deliberately tried to run over a Jewish teenager. In Villeurbanne, a suburb of Lyon, a Jewish man wearing a kippa was stabbed in the back.
Fofana, leader of the Gang of Barbarians that held a young Jewish man, Ilan Halimi, hostage for three weeks and tortured him to death, sent anti-Semitic letters to the Halimi family’s lawyer, Ma√Ætre Szpiner, and his associate. (Ma√Ætre Szpiner, Jacques Chirac’s personal lawyer, represented the rector of the Paris mosque in the lawsuit against Charlie Hebdo). Kemi Saba, leader of the Ka Tribe that marched into the rue des Rosiers in the old Jewish quarter of Paris last year, was tried this week in Chartres for anti-Semitic insults and death threats against policemen who tried to prevent him from holding an unauthorized rally. Forty of his goons were in court, boisterous and defiant. He mumbled threats and insults against the lawyer of one of the plaintiffs.
As S√©gol√®ne Royal is wont to say, “tout se tient,” it all holds together. Attacks against Jews, policemen, public buildings, private property, election posters, and the soon-to-be president. It all holds together: demonization of a political leader who promises to protect the population from predators, demonization of an American president who goes to war against global jihad, and glorification of thugs, terrorists, shahids, and tyrants.
In one of the most important elections in decades, voters have sent a clear message. They want decisive forthright political action to deal with the ills that are choking French society. If the anti-Sarko forces are contemplating guerilla warfare they should think twice. The strategy didn’t work for S√©gol√®ne Royal and it would be a mistake to think that French citizens are going to let the street steal their victory.
N.B. in response to a readers comment on the previous report: The unemployment rate in Germany is 9.5 and falling; the error is mine. Nicolas Sarkozy cited healthy economic growth in Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Spain, and Sweden. He did not mention unemployment rates. He did promise to reduce the French rate to 5% by the end of his 5-year term.