Monday, April 30, 2007


The two weeks between the first and second rounds of the French presidential elections are traditionally used by each candidate to amplify, explain, and refine her or his electoral platform. This time around however, the third-place candidate managed to hog the limelight, prevent the public from delving deeply into programs, and maintain the focus on personalities rather than issues.

With a tad over 18.5% the first round vote, M François Bayrou apparently felt that the time had come for him to demonstrate his supposed electoral clout. Hence he proposed a 'debate' with M Ségolène Royal, the runner-up to M Nicolas Sarkozy – her co-finalist in the second round at the end of this week. Theoretically, this debate between the second and third votegetters was to explore just which issues they diverge and converged upon, and by how much, and in what detail. Never before in recent French political memory had the runner-up and the runner-up-to-the-runner up come together in public between the two rounds of the presidential election, supposedly to 'help the voters make up their minds' and to 'clarify the issues'.

Last week the voters were thus to be deprived of any detailed discussions relating to M Sarkozy's and Mme Royal's programs, and were rather to be treated to the spectacle of M Bayrou desperately attempting to organize his 'debate'. Mme Royal, of course, was only too happy to acquiesce in M Bayrou's capers, since she needs all the centrist voters she can lay her hands on to overtake M Sarkozy on Election Day. On the day following the first round, the torrents of mud, vituperation, castigation, opprobrium, vilification, exaggeration and insults being poured onto M Sarkozy redoubled almost instantly in intensity; The TSS (Tout Sauf Sarkozy, i.e., Anything But Sarkozy) campaign orchestrated by Mme Royal and the Left quite naturally found a resultant echo with M Bayrou.

As the week wore on, voters were expected to believe that M Sarkozy used 'pressure', 'threats', 'intimidation', and 'aggression' - as well as 'scorn' and 'verbal violence' - on those people and entities likely to host the Bayrou/Royal debate. Notwithstanding denials by all the interested parties (including the media organization Canal+, and a major reporters' union, the Syndicat de la Presse Quotidienne Régionale - SPQR), who announced that they had not been pressured, and still less 'threatened', M Bayrou came up with a comment that will certainly go down in French history, if Amerloque is any judge.

Asked on a Friday morning RTL radio program whether pressure had been brought by M Sarkozy on Canal+ to ‘cancel the debate', M Bayrou in all seriousness came out with:

'I have no proof, but I am certain of it.' (Je n'en ai pas la preuve mais j'en ai la certitude.)

This kind of thinking should go a long way toward separating the French people from its politicians even more, in Amerloque's view. The same sort of reasoning could be – and is – frequently applied by UFO proponents, advocates of the well-known Conspiracy Theory of History, sundry religious fanatics of all stripes, and, more recently, some desperate seekers of weapons of mass destruction. After the failure of the French justice system in the Outreau Affair, during which alleged pedophiles were imprisoned for years before it came out in Appeals Court that a) there was apparently no real proof and b) the principal accusers had simply lied, M Bayrou could certainly have avoided such a disingenuous statement.

The fact that France is currently holding a presidential election, rather than mere legislative elections, seems to have been adroitly swept under the carpet - first by M Bayrou and then by those members of the media and the Establishment which found it politic to do so. At the end of this week the French people will be asked to choose between two deeply differing conceptions for the future of France. They deserve to have their political leaders and media address the numerous serious issues facing the country, not speak of a useless debate, or of alleged deficiencies in a candidate's personality, or of imagined Godfatherlike acts. Educated in the French manner, M Bayrou has probably never heard of the proverb 'every dog has its day', and so was blissfully unaware that this was neither the time nor the place to shift into pitbull mode and attack. His choice of words appears to rankle with many French voters and might even follow him to his grave, if they indeed prove to be career-changing. It was in his own future political interest for M Bayrou to portray himself at this time as a genuine statesman rather than as a parvenu gatecrasher spouting fairytales: he certainly missed the boat - and tarnished his reputation, and thus his honor.

After several days of M Bayrou's monkeyshines, and upon learning of the venue of the upcoming 'debate', between Mme Royal and M Bayou, M Sarkozy stated his opinion. No slouch himself when it comes to turning a neat phrase, he preferred the word 'discussions' and qualified them as 'petty Saturday morning deals in a Paris hotel', (petites combines du samedi matin dans un hôtel parisien). Actually, Amerloque breathed a small sigh of relief, since the hotel in question is, after all, an American hotel: the Westin Paris Hotel. The ill-intentioned might conceivably have made an issue of the American ownership but they didn't. Those familiar with the history of Paris will immediately recognize this hotel - which was once upon a time the majestically named Hotel Intercontinental, built in 1862.

The much ballyhooed 'debate' itself turned out to be rather anticlimactic. In talking heads format, it lasted about two hours. At its conclusion, of course, neither participant rallied to the other's point of view: they simply agreed to disagree on many points in quite a number of areas, while occupying center stage in the media – which, after all, was the point of the exercise.

In Paris proper, it is clear that any pretense to electoral neutrality – and thus to honor, cela va de soi - has been cast aside by Paris City Hall, under the command of the Socialists and their green allies. In its April 29/30 print edition (only !), Le Monde reports that the offices of the education authority (le rectorat) requested last week that the various banners and streamers supporting illegal aliens be removed from the facades of approximately fifty school buildings in Paris, all of which belong to the city. Paris City Hall refused to do so, stating that when the constitutional council inspectors verified the voting stations located inside the buildings, they made 'no comment whatsoever' about the controversial banners on the outside. So the banners are still there, and Paris City Hall has strikingly reconfirmed its politicization of the schools. To put this into an American context: imagine being a Kerry voter and, when going to vote on Election Day, finding one or more huge "Win In Iraq" banners at the polling station – or, being a confirmed Bush voter and seeing "Out Of Iraq” bunting. It's that egregious.

A French institution which has always taken the long view is the Army, while another is the Catholic Church. Republics and Presidents may come, and Republics and Presidents may go, but both the Army and the Church remain, guardians of certain French tradition, pomp, and circumstance. Amerloque was reminded of this when paging through the weekend newspapers:

On the day before the second round of the presidential election, at the Invalides in Paris, a commemorative Mass will be said for Napoleon 1st and the soldiers of the Grande Armée who died for France.

One is forever surrounded by honor - and history - in France.


Text © Copyright 2007 by L'Amerloque
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