After the Interview

Last night, the hysterically hyped interview with President Hollande aired on national television.  It was followed by an evening of commentary and debate.  Whilst Hollande had not made a major television appearance since his press conference of 13 November 2012, which was largely hailed as successful, he has not been absent from the media.  Some outlets recalled that he has made five major appearances now since his election in May 2012.  Add to that numerous speeches  visits and quick answers to journalists, he has scarcely been absent from the evening news.

Yet the grandiose and revered role of the French head of state, both monarch and head of the executive, means that only the most stunning intervention by the head of state will meet the expectations of the press and the people, and last night, by most accounts, the President failed to make a mark. Continue reading


Abstaining for the Future

4843652Both Nathalie Koscuisko-Morizet and Bruno Le Maire abstained in the recent vote for the Equal Marriage Bill before the French National Assembly.  Both explained their reasons as being less about equal rights for gay couples (which both profess to support) but more about issues to do with children’s rights and the issue of the use of the word “marriage”.  Both of course are vulnerable to arguments that children’s rights are traditionally only separated from parents’ rights in the case of dangerous parents (ergo, a gay parent is a dangerous parent…) and the “separate but equal” status for gay couples is simply offensive.

But both profess to be the modern, progressive wing of the UMP conservative right.  They have joined forces before, claiming that the confrontation between François Fillon and Jean-François Copé in the battle for the leadership of the UMP would be destructive.  They were of course right.

But the war on the right shows no signs of subsiding.  Given this backdrop of bitter infighting, what are their chances of breaking through and forming the new opposition to the Socialist government? Continue reading

The Battle for Africa

Sarkozy meets Bongo

Sarkozy meets Bongo

The scars of Francafrique are evident for all to see.  Perhaps the greatest irony of Francois Mitterrand’s fourteen years in power was the fact that, despite railing against its evils in opposition, he didn’t dismantle a post-colonial system whereby political control was exercised thanks to arms deals, political influence and blatant corruption – all, supposedly, in the national interest.

Those scars continued to show during the five year term of President Nicolas Sarkozy, who, whilst decrying the apologetic stance of the France of the past, still stood by questionable dictators on the continent.

Yet the progress made by Africa, despite the retrograde European policies in their regard, towards democracy is considerable.  The question of the role that European powers, and in particular the former colonial powers, can play in harnessing that progress, is at the forefront of the current conflict in Mali.  What can France contribute to the struggle for democracy and self-determination in Africa and what does its current intervention in Mali tell us about President Hollande’s attitude towards Europe’s neighbour? Continue reading