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French Election: Day-After Updates from PJM Paris Editor Nidra Poller
April 23, 2007 6:30 AM
THE LATEST FROM POLLER: “France 3, the state-owned regional TV channel is notoriously anti-Sarkozy. The personnel issued a gripes communiqué against him a few weeks ago. They claim he said they’d all be fired after he’s elected. Shocking, n’est-ce pas? Unless you know how they got appointed and/or hired in the first place.”
PJM Paris editor Nidra Poller writes on the media hangover after yesterday’s presidential election. Read it all at the jump.
French elections: prime time
France 3, the state-owned regional TV channel is notoriously anti-Sarkozy. The personnel issued a gripes communiqué against him a few weeks ago. They claim he said they’d all be fired after he’s elected. Shocking, n’est-ce pas? Unless you know how they got appointed and/or hired in the first place. Let’s not get tangled in their quarrel, we have more serious issues to treat this evening. But I would like to mention this mind boggling fact: France 3 delivered a prime time newscast 24 hours after the first round of the elections and focused on Royal, Bayrou, the Communist Buffet and a few others in her league…and left out Nicolas Sarkozy, the front runner and favorite for the final round. Excuse me if I belabor the point, but I think this must be a first in media history. The news department of a state-owned channel in a democratic country in which journalists are strictly forbidden from expressing their personal political opinions can cover the elections without mentioning the winner…except for spotlighting a virulent anti-Sarkozy voter here or there. They did have a long report from Clichy-sous-Bois. It might not surprise you to learn that Royal came in far ahead of Sarkozy there. The chief of ACLEFEU spoke his piece. The journalist mentioned the Social Contract, as if it were written by ten philosophers and a dozen economists. And the chief added—Ségolène Royal signed it, SARKOZY DIDN’T. The mike went on to various banlieue youths who said they had taken pains to vote AGAINST SARKOZY (in case you didn’t know).
On my way to buy the newspaper I ran into a neighbor. We did a bit of electoral chatting. Her opinions were highly sophisticated, based on a wide variety of observations over a long period of time, some of them at quite close quarters. She had a few harsh words for all three of the frontrunners, and a sigh of relief to see the Front National kicked in the pants. Nothing fanatic in her evaluations, no virulent anti- or pro- anyone. We sort of pingponged. Salutary intellectual exercise. I slammed Royal for waiting until 1 AM to greet her fans in Paris. My neighbor bounced back: “Well, I didn’t appreciate Sarkozy’s drive through town after his speech…with two blondes sitting next to him..”
Former education minister François Fillon, an important member of Sarkozy’s team—everyone thinks he’ll be PM—soothed my soul this evening: he explained that François Bayrou is not the kingpin. As befits an educator, he calmly explained to the France 2 journalist that Bayrou doesn’t own his voters, Sarkozy can reach out to them directly without transiting by Bayrou. Monsieur Bayrou is also free. However, he can’t be anti-Sarkozy for the presidential election and expect indulgence for his candidates in the June legislative elections; they will have to compete against UMP candidates. There’s the rub. All the rest is literature.
The next phase of the campaign is going to be exquisite. Demonizing Sarkozy didn’t work on the first round, and it will be useless in the final round. But it will not disappear.
Many thanks to the reader who corrected me on Niort.
The French elections: Media hangover
One thing is sure, we didn’t elect new media last night. I’ve been zapping radio stations for hours, and what do I hear? Sore losers. The Zimbabwe boys and girls are still in our face, even though the equal time law expired last night. You remember that for the last two weeks, no one in the media was allowed to speak about the coming elections without giving equal time to all twelve candidates. Well ten of them are out of the race but you wouldn’t know it to hear them and their diehard fans and their media cronies. I guess it’s unfair of me to call them the Zimbabwe kids. That poor beleaguered country doesn’t need to be dragged down by the comparison. I could have said “Mugabe wannabes,” but I said Zimbabwe and it sticks.
Here we are in a glorious moment for democracy. Eighty-five percent turnout! And what do the media hacks give us? Static. Far Left candidates, I mean really far far Left, off the wall and over the top, who earned 1 percent of the first round vote get fifteen, twenty, forty minutes of air time to brag about being the best and the finest. Unfortunately voters were misled. If only they had not been tortured and brainwashed they would have given 51% of the vote to the Communist Marie-George Buffet, or any one of her anti-capitalist cronies. Never mind that the various blends of Trotskyism, Communism, and anti-globalizationism couldn’t agree on a unified candidature, never mind that they hate each other’s guts and each one was determined to destroy our economy and reduce us to wretched slavery in his own personal way, even if you lump them together they don’t amount to more than 13% of the total… And since you can’t lump them together, its 13% worth of nothing.
Let’s say these last ditch salt mine taskmasters are invited in an open-minded spirit of “let’s hear from everyone.” OK, but let’s challenge their suppositions! Is there not one journalist in the entire French media who could ask Arlette Laguiller whether she prefers the Cuban or the North Korean economic model? Well, let’s forget about them. I don’t have to give equal time to the anti-democratic lunatic fringe. My model is “We the people…” Theirs is “Me the people…” Basta.
You know what happens to people who drive down the middle of the road…against the traffic? Bayrou’s campaign manager Marielle de Sarnez was bubbly as champagne this morning. Her candidate won! He transformed the French political landscape. He sliced the Gordian knot that bound Right to Left and Left to Right in eternal alternation. She giggled and grinned, you could hear it over the radio. It was almost indecent. You had the impression that the journalist who was interviewing her was running his fingers up and down her back, sensually. He fed her ego and she danced. Oh yes my darling, François Bayrou is the swinger in this election. And the journalist gives her a little kiss on the cheek and asks which way will he swing, my dear? Oh ha ha, she flutters a Spanish fan in front of her teasing eyes, we’ll let you know in a few days.
Isn’t there a certain logical confusion here? If a political party has 18% of a parliament, yes, that’s a swing vote. Bayrou doesn’t have 18% of anything but the votes of free citizens. Even if he told them which way to swing, there’s no guarantee they’d listen. Does he think Ségolène Royal is going to name him Prime Minister? In which case he’ll say go Left young men and women? Nicolas Sarkozy is waiting with wide open arms for his voters, but not for him. Or at least that’s what I suppose. Could Bayrou slip back into the Right wing he came from? Sure. But it would lose him the Left wing votes he’d stolen from madame Royal.
Who stole my Front National? Back in the Eighties, Socialists were mobilizing, organizing, campaigning, op-eding, leafleting, and everything but praying to get rid of the Front National, this blight on our nation. While François Mitterand apparently—the evidence is convincing—built up the FN to trip up the Right, the rank and file Left and its furthest extremes were trying to wipe out those horrid fascists. There was talk of banning the party as anti-Democratic. And if they caught a politician on the “parliamentarian” Right making a deal with the FN, there was hell to pay. Meanwhile the reigning Left was a coalition with a strong Communist component.
Now and then someone would step into the ring and promise to beat the FN to a pulp. It never worked. The scores rose at every election, culminating in 2002 when Jean-Marie Le Pen made it to the second round. Once more the professional demonstrators mobilized massively. Fascism over my dead body! They whipped up a hysteria that gave Jacques Chirac an 80% Banana Republic victory that time around. Today the FN is boiled down to a meager 10% (all figures approximate this morning) and to hear our media moan over it, you’d think the République had lost one of its eyes! The FN is KO. Ah! It must be the fault of Nicolas Sarkozy.
More about this later today.
PS: It took 3 hours of radio zapping to hear someone mention that Ségolène Royal finally got to Socialist party headquarters to greet her fans at 1 AM. Picture her president. The G-8 is meeting. But she’s not there. They start without her, her aides say she’s on her way. And that’s one day and one night, and she’s still not there. The second day François Hollande says she’s definitely on her way. And that’s the second day and the second night and still no French présidente. The heads of state are seated at the closing banquet. She sends a message. “Je suis une femme libre.”
PPS: Storm warnings from the Spanish secret services: al Qaeda plans to strike Spain and France before the 2nd round. My advice is, don’t do it, jihadis. Not only will it not influence the election results, at least not in the direction you apparently desire. It will radically change French attitudes to everything you do and stand for. This is no time to steal France’s democracy! Mark my words.
The French elections: Sunday Noon Fever
Round about midnight in Paris April 22-23, 2007
by Nidra Poller
France 2, the last of the three major TV channels to conclude tonight’s election coverage just went off the air and Ségolène Royal, heretofore known as “Je suis une femme libre” has still not come to Paris. Meaning?
There’s something wrong with her 25% score tonight. Can’t she show her face? She made her declaration, dressed in white against a white background, in Melle, a small town where she has a country home. I’m too tired for fact checking at this late hour but I assume it’s the place where she established residence so that she could be “présidente” (it’s not exactly a governor) of the Poitou-Charentes region.
Small town folks jeered at the camera during the stand-ups. A crowd of loyal small town folks cheered her formal declaration. Various members of her party who participated in the TV debates this evening announced that she would be driven to Nyors right after the speech, and would fly from there to Paris in a small private plane.
Her supporters were waiting in front of party headquarters in Paris on Rue Solferino. As the evening wore on, the crowd dwindled. At last count there were five to six hundred revelers. About six party officials finally took to the stage to fill the breech.
Party chief François Hollande, who lost his voice after shouting at whoever spoke for Nicolas Sarkozy on whatever panel over the past few hours, managed to promise in a croaky whisper that Royal was really truly on her way.
France 2 newscaster Lise Ducet, who had been kept on hold during the campaign (I don’t know who she’s married to or living with but it must be someone whose closely involved in the election.) was back tonight (does that mean her significant whatever is on the far Left and, consequently, eliminated?). I guess she lost her “I must be objective” reflexes, because she said that Hollande was keeping the crowd warm as they waited for his wife. Wife! Not companion. “Epouse,” which you could translate spouse but is a quite formal high class way of saying wife. Common people say “ma femme.”
The last part of the program was a medley of the evening’s high spots. Excerpts of this and that, bopping from one candidate to another. We saw Nicolas Sarkozy in shirt sleeves riding along the river in a sleek black car. The car slowed as a TV motorcycle journalist pulled up. Sarkozy made a brief statement. Next scene, a journalist gets the attention of Ségolène Royal as she comes out of the country house, dressed in white on white (she’d added a lightweight white ¾ length duster to her white jacket over a white dress). He asks her if she’d like to make a statement. She scowls, says “Oh no, I’m going to make a statement later,” turns on her heels, and jumps into the car. Or did she say “I already made a statement a little while ago?” One way or the other, it was “Don’t bug me, mister.”
What’s bugging her? It’s simple. Nicolas Sarkozy 30%, Ségolène Royal 25% …and how is she ever going to beat him in the final round? All the far left whackos threw their support in her favor tonight. Lovely, no? No. Because with support like that, you’d rather have a headache. They are going to bug her from morning to night. She’s not anti-capitalist enough. She’s not hardcore ecologist enough. She doesn’t want to tar and feather big businessmen after confiscating their evil gains. She’s not sweet enough to the youths of the banlieue. She’s not mean enough to junior executives. She won’t reduce the 35-hour work week to 32 hours. The way they talk about her, you’d rather be trashed by someone like me. One after the other, they sneered and declared that they’re not crazy about her and don’t like her program but there’s one thing they have in common with her, they want to beat Sarkozy.
So how about getting some help from François Bayrou? There must be quite a few juicy votes to munch in his 19% picnic basket! Fine. Except that when you reach down (or up, it’s not a value judgment here) to get the Far Left votes, you tip the basket and the Centrist votes go scattering. So you reach down (or over) to gather up the Centrist votes and the Far Left goes ballistic. What about us, the Trotskyists? Did you forget our 2%?
So that’s her problem and I don’t think there’s any way she can turn the tables between now and the 6th of May.
A few days ago, a journalist asked François Bayrou what he intended to do if he didn’t make it to the second round. He said he was going to win, he would be president, it was a sure thing. “French voters are going to give us one of those surprises that are their specialty.”
Now he’s claiming that he transformed the landscape, a new political configuration is born, from this day forward no one will be able to go left or right without passing through the center. In other words, he’s trapped. He can’t tell his voters to go for Royal or for Sarkozy or for no one. If he had his choice he’d tell them to vote for him on the 2nd round, even if he’s not on the ballot (they don’t have write-ins), he’d tell them to secede, and create a rump France, with Bayrou as president. And PM, and all the rest. Because he never did find anyone to go with him in this adventure. I’m afraid that Bayrou will whither on the stalk.
The Front National is flat on its face. It’s a long story, I can’t go into it now. But the Front National has a solid core of about 5% of the electorate. François Mitterand puffed the FN up to 20% thinking it was a good way to destroy the Right. In fact, it destroyed Lionel Jospin in 2002. Despite desperate efforts to woo the banlieue vote, Le Pen lost a good part of his ill-gotten voters accumulated over the past 20 years. The new extremist danger will come from Besancenot.
Overall impression of the evening’s debates: the left wing candidates with feeble scores were all poor losers. Strange. The only way to get elected in a democratic country is to have people vote for you. And when they don’t vote for you, it must be because they decided freely to vote for someone else. Not for the Communists, the revolutionaries, the left of the Left. Somehow the vote doesn’t really represent their real true force in the political scheme. For some reason the stupid ignorant voters they love so much didn’t make the right choice. The voters are such idiots, that they gave a majority to Nicolas Sarkozy when everyone knows he shouldn’t be president. When all those poor downtrodden unemployed worn to the bone threadbare victims of vicious capitalism vote for Sarkozy, or even for Royal, it means that they really wanted to vote Communist but….
The night is strangely quiet. No revelers and no sirens. An ugly shout now and then. Facho. Sarko. But no sounds of mass revolt on this side of town.
Wouldn’t it be beautiful if my predictions of violent backlash don’t come true?
Election Fever is Busting Out All Over
Reporting the French elections : Sunday Noon
3:15 PM in Paris April 22, 2007
I’ve never seen anything like it since I came to live in Paris in 1972. Election excitement is busting out all over. Every snippet of conversation that wafts my way as I walk around on this glorious hot-as-summer day in April is about the election.
Today is the last day of a two-week spring holiday for schoolchildren. Families usually stay on vacation until the very last minute. Well, in the neighborhood I am covering, they all came home to vote. And, this being France, when friends get together to watch the election night programs, they have a feast. Long lines in all the shops, people buying food for the party.
The level of voter participation was estimated at 35% at noon. There is every expectation of an exceptionally strong turnout. For the first time French citizens in the Americas were able to vote with the same level of suspense as their compatriots here in France, because they cast their ballots yesterday instead of “tonight” French time, when the results are already announced. Their results will of course be held secret until this evening. Voter turnout in the Americas was exceptionally high.
Today’s noon interview: Waiting in line at the charcuterie I hear the person next to me speaking on his cell phone. “…to watch Ségolène Royal lose.” I ask him if there is a special menu for the occasion. And we embark on a most enlightening conversation. When I tell him that I am covering the elections for Pajamas Media, he switches to English. Very fluent English (you’ll see later why I mention this).
His predictions are just about the same as mine: Sarkozy will win by about 5 points over Royal. Bayrou will stagnate at around 18 or 19%. Politically Le Pen’s finished — old hat; he’ll probably level out at 12% or 13%. My informer says that Ségolène Royal did not understand what it means to be president. “President,” etymologically, means to be seated in front of…in other words, to lead. She went through her phony exercise of “participatory democracy,” listening to people’s gripes, and churning them into a so-called political program. She didn’t understand that many people in her own party are fed up. The French are fed up. Out in the banlieue, people on welfare are earning more than hard-working salaried people. That doesn’t mean that Sarkozy is perfect. But you vote against the disastrous candidate, and take the best you can get. The old guard of the Socialist party is going to make her pay for this defeat! The hard left wing, led by [former PM] Fabius, will take over. Of course there will be a violent reaction to Sarkozy’s victory. It will begin tonight.
The gentleman is a 44 year-old professor of law at the Assas branch of the Sorbonne. And he learned English five months ago…under hypnosis.
Radio J [a Jewish station] reported early this afternoon on a serious fight between Maghrebis and Jews in Belleville today. Further details in a few minutes.
Yesterday I had one of those touchstone conversations with a French friend. Aghast at the Virginia Tech massacre, she gave me the same lesson I had been hearing day in and day out in the French media: gun control! Why don’t you Americans impose gun control? Can’t you understand? The reference of choice here is Michael Moore. And everyone believes it’s easier to buy a gun in the US than to buy a baguette on Sunday morning in Paris. My friend said they should have metal detectors at the entrance to the campus. I explained that there is no wall around an American campus. I explained that our Constitution was made to last, we don’t revise it every other year like the French. I explained why I can’t listen to these automatic pop-up French lessons that cover everything from a marital spat to car bombs in Iraq. It’s always the same lesson: do like us, don’t do anything, don’t move…and don’t shoot.
These conversations can only go so far. Either the friendship ends, or the friend backs out. We left it at that and then went together to the Paris City Hall to visit an exhibition —organized by the Filles et Fils des Juifs Déportés (Sons and daughters of deported Jews)—dedicated to the 11,400 French Jewish children deported to the Nazi death camps. The dark flashing eyes of those children, the exuberant life that blossoms in their beings, the intelligence, tenderness, charm and youthful awkwardness captured in photos haunts us forever. The babies! The mothers plucked out of the hospital with their babes in arms. The children separated from their parents in the French concentration camps, deported separately, thrown into the ovens by the hundreds. Familiar faces and names…our families, our distant cousins, our landsmen.
On the way home I passed a local school. Official posters of all twelve candidates are displayed on zigzag row of panels on the sidewalk. No sooner are they put up than some are defaced. Posters of Left and far Left candidates are almost always untouched. The others are slashed, tagged, covered with insults. The vandals unwittingly reflect on their chosen candidates!
On this panel, Nicolas Sarkozy was reworked as Hitler—the thick lock of hair across the forehead, the little moustache. The authors of the profanation signed their work with a big printed sticker. They call themselves ARTRESISTANCE.
My blood boiled. What punks! What slime! So they think that’s the Résistance—a thick black magic marker and a pinhead brain? They think that’s a Nazi? Nicolas Sarkozy? And what do they think about the faces of the children whose lives were slashed, broken, and burned?
My friend went on to another rendez-vous and I continued the conversation alone in my white hot mind.
My friend, I was in the United States when our cousins were exterminated. And we had the same Constitution then as now, the same right to bear arms. Well, my friend, no one shot up the schools in those days. But here, in this country, tens thousands of Jews were taken to slaughter. Try to understand why we defend the right to bear arms. Most of us don’t exercise it. But it’s an eloquent statement. Don’t mess with me. And French people should not be aiming easy lessons at us today. They should be asking what they are going to do about the violence looming on the horizon here and now.
Report on the incident at Belleville, as described by the Uncle of the Jewish boys. Saturday evening two religious Jewish girls came out of the synagogue after the end of Sabbath service. A group of Maghrebis accosted them. A young Jewish man, Didier, intervened to protect them. The Maghrebis turned and attacked him.
Today Didier went back with his brother, found the assailants, attempted to settle their differences peacefully. The Maghrebis immediately started beating the Jewish boys. Their uncle called the police repeatedly. It took them 10 minutes to come. The uncle regrets: I’m 66, I couldn’t intervene. The aggressors ran away. The police took the Jewish boys into custody. They didn’t try to find the Maghrebis, says the uncle, because they don’t want to set foot in that part of the neighborhood. A little later, a new wave of assailants, at least 50, appeared.
At the moment there is a standoff. The uncle says he is afraid of what will happen this evening.
He is not the only one.
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