Thursday, June 14, 2007

Interview on the French election (Jeff Weintraub)

(9 Jun) I know it's a long time now since this interview, but I just wanted to make a couple of comments.

On the uneven pattern of migration from Eastern Europe, it's relatively simple really. Only the UK and Ireland allowed unlimited access when Poland and the rest joined the EU in 2004. France, Germany etc. imposed restrictions. Even the British government, though, thought it necessary to impose limits when Rumania and Bulgaria joined at the beginning of 2007.

Spain's immigration "problem", I thought, comes more from the South: all those people from Africa trying to reach Europe via the Canaries.

Italy's policy has certainly been unwelcoming, especially under Berlusconi, but it's worth reading an article from the FT Magazine a couple of years ago that I posted about previously
Because of its geographic position and long coastline — more than 7,000 kilometres — Italy has now become the first country of arrival for more asylum seekers and migrants than any of its EU partners. A few go overland from the former Yugoslavia, but most arrive by sea...
I also don't altogether agree with your analysis that Sarkozy has received a clear mandate, unlike Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher in 1983 and Blair in 1997 got more than 40% but less than 45% of the popular vote, which gave them overwhelming majorities in Parliament.

Sarkozy got 31% of the vote in the first round of the Presidential election (in Britain, of course, there is only one round). Opinion polls now suggest that, with 41% of the vote, the UMP could get as many as 420 out of 577 deputies in the National Assembly (Le Monde, 8 Jun; FT, 9 Jun). So, it appears that having two rounds as against one does not make that much difference. But a two-round system is intrinsically fairer - a transferable vote would be fairer still - and I think it would have reduced Thatcher's majority in 1983.

Maybe the difference in France 2007 is that, in spite of Francois Bayrou's strong showing in the Presidentielle, the centre is weaker, being now split between the old UDF and Bayrou's new party, the Mouvement Democrate (MoDem). (Also, if I understand correctly, for the legislature, the second round is not between the top 2 candidates, but between all those scoring more than 12.5%  in the first round.

Update (11 Jun). Listen to this in English, while it's still available: analysis from Alasdair Sandford, one of the BBC's correspondents in Paris (Friday 8 Jun). He concludes that, just as the supporters of the far-left parties switched their support to Mitterand in 1981, so they did to Ségolène Royal, but they are now fewer in number.
 
On the other hand, Bertrand Le Gendre in Le Monde, 4/5 Jun, argues that the Parti socialiste has come out of the Presidential election stronger, in spite of appearances: its left-wing is shattered, its rival parties on the Left are weakened. They are thus confirmed as the only credible opposition to the Right in a bipartisme (two-party system).

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