Friday, May 11, 2007

Ségolène vs Sarkozy, week 2

The Times has been unremittingly hostile to Ségolène Royal (this, of course, is part of the Murdoch press, that I mentioned in a previous post). For example, 'Ségolène Royal [..] has proved an erratic lightweight, an incoherent debater and an old-fashioned leftwinger with little understanding of how clichéd and dogmatic socialism has failed the country in the past.' ('Chance for France', 16 April)

Criticism has been made of  Ségolène's foreign policy "gaffes". The most notable of these was concerning Iran.  The criticism was first made by her opponents for the Socialist Party candidacy, then enthusiastically taken up by the British Press, not only in The Times,  but also by Denis MacShane in The Observer (29 April).
Ségolène Royal,  in her call the Monday after the first vote for discussions with François Bayrou,  said she was looking to create a broad-based coalition,  from far-left to centre,  to defeat Nicolas Sarkozy,  similar to the one in Italy Romano Prodi assembled to defeat Berlusconi.  The discussions,  which both sides insisted be open and televised,  eventually took place on the Saturday (28 Apr).  Bayrou,  like the Socialists,  has warned of the dangers of electing Sarkozy,  comparing him to Berlusconi.  I don't quite see it myself.  It is one thing to say that Sarkozy has the support of Berlusconi;  it does not follow that he is like him in controlling,  or wanting to control,  large parts of the media.

On Blair's support for Sarkozy,  Denis MacShane,  former Europe Minister in the Blair government,  provides a further indication:  'She spoilt Merkel's plans on Europe by insisting on impossible demands to rewrite the defunct constitution to placate protectionists in the isolationist left in France. [..]  Royal was invited to London to meet Blair and Brown but refused to come.'  See also Martin Kettle  in The Guardian (29 April).  Kettle says that it is clear Blair favours Sarkozy, but he continues: "I made a point of asking several MPs the Ségo-Sarko question. [..] Only the Conservatives have no mixed feelings; they are all for Sarkozy. Among Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs the reaction is far more conflicted. In many cases they answered that the heart said Ségo but the head said Sarko. A Labour cabinet minister was one of the few unambiguous Royal backers. ... Gordon Brown is ambiguous on this question too. [..] Brown is comfortable with Sarkozy's deregulatory economic instincts and with his openness to America. And yet Brown hesitates. When Sarkozy launched his election campaign in London, Blair met him while Brown made his excuses. Brown has put out feelers towards the Royal camp too, which Blair has not."

On Wednesday (2 May) the two candidates engaged in 2 hours 39 minutes of televised debate (Extracts in Le Monde;   in English from the BBC;  others are my own transcription).

On Turkey, Ségolène said that she was in favour of a pause, but that France has given its word (donner sa parole) and must keep it. Sarkozy said flatly that Turkey cannot be part of the European Union because it is not part of Europe:  it is in Asia Minor.  But,  Ségolène said,  we should not slam the door in its face. ...  (23h06)

Ségolène was happy enough with her so-called "gaffe" on Iran that she repeated it in the televised debate.  'I would go beyond [Sarkozy's position]",  she said.  "We must be very firm with them." (23h10)

In her closing remarks,  Ségolène chose to evoke the example of another female leader:  'I know that for some of you, it will not be obvious to say that a woman can hold the highest responsibilities.  Others are doing it on this planet.  There's Angela Merkel [in Germany].' (23h40)

In a highly revealing passage,  Sarkozy set out his vision on the economy:  'If employment is taxed too highly,  employment will go.  If capital is taxed too highly,  capital will go.  If there is no more capital, no more work, there is no growth. [..] We cannot impose higher taxes than those that are paid in other countries.' (22h17)

Sarkozy wants to get rid of inheritance tax (droits de succession). Again,  I find it almost incredible that this has not received more attention (outside France, that is).  He also wants to maintain the cap on the maximum amount of tax an individual has to pay (22h17, 22h30).

Bernard Sananès commented:  "Elle est quand même très loin d'un discours socialiste traditionnel qui serait anti-entreprise."  (21h58) I noted myself a couple of phrases: 'Je suis pour l'entreprise ... je suis d'accord [avec Sarkozy] sur les droits et les devoirs.'

In an article in Le Monde the following morning, Sananès summed up,  'Elle a montré que même si elle ne gagne pas dimanche elle peut être le chef de l'opposition...' ('Ségolène Royal a créé la surprise')

On Thursday morning (3 May),  Ségolène Royal was on France Inter.  Asked a question about Sarkozy being a fascist,  she replied along the lines of,  'Well,  he is supported by Berlusconi and Aznar,  who both supported the war in Iraq.  I am supported by Prodi and Zapatero.'

She sought to make as broad an appeal as possible:  'I believe the presidential election is a direct contact between a personality and the French people.  I am now above the political parties.  I want to address myself to each person (chacun et chacune)...' Later:  'I am no longer the candidate of the Socialist Party.  I am above and beyond the parties,  in direct connection with the country:  that is the very meaning of the presidential election (...en liaison direct avec le pays: c'est le sens meme de l'election presidentielle).'

Furthermore,  she said,  she had taken up François Bayrou's proposal,  that any growth above 2.5% should be used to repay debt.  (That might seem a fairly theoretical possibility.  Cf. the debate, at 21h32)

Bernard Guetta,  the station's commentator on international affairs,  asks a question about the difficulty of trying to renegotiate on the European constitution,  especially on the basis of incorporating social protections  ('Ne serait-il pas hasardeux de vouloir renegocier un traite constitutionnel europeen,  d'obtenir l'accord de nos partenaires  europeens,  en particulier sur ce protocole social additionnel que vous souhaitez ajouter au projet constitutionnel?')  Ségolène says that she thinks the "social protocol" is a good thing,  but will involve discussions and negotiations with each country... Guetta interjects at this point,  'Even with Great Britain?' Ségolène: 'I think we will start with the Euro zone,  perhaps.  Then we will pull the others along  (entraîner les autres),  I hope.'


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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6:21 pm, May 12, 2007  

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