Friday, April 20, 2007

Le vote utile

Unlike André Glucksmann,  I will not be calling for a vote for Nicolas Sarkozy.  For many reasons,  I think it would be better to vote for Ségolène Royal in the first round of the election in France on Sunday.  Firstly,  because she is a woman,  when many are still saying that a woman cannot be President of the Republic  ("who would look after the children?"). Then,  because I think she would make a good president.

An expression that has been frequently heard over the last few weeks is "le vote utile".  This has been mentioned even by people interviewed on the BBC as "the useful vote" or even "the vote useful".  The normal way of referring to it in English is,  of course,  "the tactical vote".

As Francois Hollande,  first secretary of the PS and Ségolène Royal's "partner",  pointed out a few weeks ago,  there are 3 Trotskyist's among the candidates for the first round.  In total,  there are 7 candidates on what the French call the "gauche de la gauche",  who employ the anti-globalization,  anti-(economic) liberalism,  rhetoric in one form or another.  There was some coverage given,  even in the UK,  to Jean-Marie Le Pen's struggle to obtain the 500 signatures from elected officials necessary to become a candidate.  Quite how the 3 Trotskyist's etc managed to obtain their sponsorship  (parrainage) with apparent ease remains a mystery to me.  (Only José Bové suffered a "cliff-hanger".)  None of these,  of course,  stand any chance.  The most-supported is Olivier Besancenot with around 3 or 4%.  One I heard just after Easter,  Gérard Schivardi,  I thought was a caricature.  But they all receive considerable publicity and the vote for the candidates of these grouplets adds up to about 13%.  (All of the candidates,  who have been given their 20 minutes on the radio,  can be heard again at:  La présidentielle 2007 sur France Inter.)

Given this,  Ms Royal first faces a constant struggle to prove that her socialism is "pure" enough.  Then,  she must convince the broader French public in order to actually become president.  As I think the FT's correspondent pointed out,  many thought that Lionel Jospin in 2002 timed his "swing to the centre" too early.

For example,  when Ségolène Royal made some proposals to address France's appallingly high youth unemployment,  Marie-George Buffet, the Communists' candidate,  replied,  "No to a CPE of the left".  This referred to Dominique de Villepin's ill-fated Contrat Premier Embauche proposal (Financial Times, 7 Apr). Also,  the Parti Socialiste has backed itself into something of a corner with its defence of the 35-hour week.  Sarkozy looks likely to win votes with his simple slogan of  "Travailler plus pour gagner plus" ("Work more to earn more").

The man who eliminated Jospin,  Jean-Marie Le Pen of the Front National,  is thought to have his support mostly under-stated by the opinion polls.  When the last of the candidates had given their interviews Friday morning,  the airwaves were given over to the pundits and pollsters.  One of them (Jean-Marc Lech) pointed out that the support for Sarkozy plus Le Pen had remained constant at around 42,  43% (mp3 download). 

The notion of the vote utile also comes into play with regard to the centrist candidate,  François Bayrou.  Since he is regarded as having a better chance of beating Sarkozy,  many will be tempted to vote for him.  Bayrou is seen as a man of the Right - he opposes the 35-hour week, for example - but without Sarkozy's racist overtones.  Jean-Marie Colombani caused something of a stir with his signed editorial in Le Monde on Thursday  (as I've said before, these are a rarity): 
Le 22 avril 2007 ne peut pas,  ne doit pas ressembler au 21 avril 2002.  [.. L'aspiration à la diversité] doit s'effacer devant un impératif démocratique :  éviter la désillusion et la colère qui naîtraient à nouveau d'un débat faussé, amputé.  Il est important que notre "cher et vieux pays" puisse,  au second tour,  dire clairement où il veut aller [..]
[L]e seul projet qui s'oppose à celui de Nicolas Sarkozy et qui s'appuie sur une force politique capable de gouverner est celui de Ségolène Royal.
  (Impératif démocratique )
Bayrou expressed his fury at this implicit call not to vote for him.  That such a reaction should be produced seems very strange to British ears - a newspaper telling its readers how to vote!

Campaigning ends tonight at midnight.  Results should be available from around 20:00 (CET) Sunday.  There is some concern regarding the web.  The embargo on publishing the outcome applies to bloggers also,  though how this will be enforced outside the country,  especially in francophone countries like Belgium and Switzerland,  is open to doubt.

Ségolène Royal has established a lead of a few points over François Bayrou,  but much still remains to play for.  And,  as I've said,  Le Pen should never be under-estimated.

Donc,  je vous appelle,  mes chers camarades français (et françaises),  à VOTER SÉGOLÈNE!


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