Strategies: Part Two

The French electoral process is designed to whittle down a field of candidates to two finalists in a second round.  It is therefore odd that the second round campaign is full of speculation about the tactics of unlucky candidates who found themselves knocked out on the night of 23 April.

But speculation about the strategy of various political groupings who fall by the wayside has been rife.  Partly, this is because even rolling news channels can get sick of a diet of just Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, but fundamentally the race for the Legislative elections, where the French will choose new members of the National Assembly on 11 and 18 June (yes, two rounds again), is hoving into view.  Whilst the President presides, his government needs to secure a majority in the National Assembly.  Who wins on 7 May is therefore only one piece of the constitutional puzzle. Continue reading

20%

A candidate for the French presidency should not be able to win with 20% of the vote – the two round system is specifically designed to ensure that 50% plus one vote is the minimum threshold for the winner.  Yet 20% is the magic number this year, for any candidate above that in the first round held this coming Sunday will almost certainly go through to the second round two weeks later.  And if a candidate finds themselves against Marine Le Pen in the second round, they will probably be the next President.

For the last two weeks, four candidates have consistently polled around or above 20%, all of whom are currently within four percentage points of each other – effectively within a broad margin of error.  Who gets through out of the four is anyone’s guess only four days out.  How did we get here? Continue reading

The Death of the Conservative Right

images (2)Since the impressively well-organised demonstrations against equal marriage in Paris November and January last, there has been a worrying radicalisation of the anti-equal marriage movement. Around the opponents of this one issue have has developed a heteroclite range of different right-wing extremist groups who are using the issue both to recruit members and to conduct a wider political attack against the new socialist administration.

The development of these movements has been facilitated by the reticence of those on the right to criticise their behaviour. Both the UMP and the National Front have used these new extremist organisations as their frontline in an aggressive new form of opposition to Francois Hollande and his government. How has an impeccably democratic country come to have an opposition which relies on quasi-paramilitary forces in order to advance its criticisms of the government today? Continue reading

Shame

1850745_3_e4fb_francois-hollande-et-jerome-cahuzac-le-4_a74d414ac4ad8ec942dc00f15809453cIt would appear that shame is an emotion that is not in sufficient quantity in some quarters of French politics.  In a stunning turn of events, the rising star of the Socialist government, Jerome Cahuzac, who resigned from his Budget portfolio last month over allegations that he had hidden money from the tax authorities in a foreign bank account, who had spent months denying the allegations, on radio, television and even in the National Assembly, who had begun libel proceedings against the news organisation that led with the accusations, has now admitted that he has an account with some 600,000 € squirreled away and that he has repeatedly lied to all concerned over its existence.  He has been charged with tax related money laundering and risks prison.

The government is reeling from the betrayal and brazenness of Cahuzac.  What should happen now? 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

A Party in Agony

On Sunday, members of the centre-right UMP party went to the polls to choose their new party leader. The winner would become the unofficial leader of the opposition for the next five years and a front-runner for the 2017 Presidential campaign. Results were expected Sunday night, but despite a victory speech late that night from underdog and current party chief, Jean-François Copé, on Monday morning the results were still too close to call.

On Monday evening the Party machine announced that Copé had won, but by a razor-thin margin of 0.03% (98 votes). But in light of accusations of the stuffing of ballot boxes on both sides, François Fillon’s threat to go to the courts to have the result overturned and the startling admission by the Party itself that its apparently final tally left off three overseas federations, the Party is still in chaos.

Continue reading

The Gingrich Maneuver

Newt Gingrich ran for the Republican Party nomination this election cycle, and, despite being tipped for a brief period, eventually ran out of money and ended his campaign.  Before doing so, however, he had become one of the most effective and powerful voices of criticism against Mitt Romney, the eventual unsuccessful candidate.  Gingrich went on to support Romney (of course) but his advocacy for the Republican ticket was forever tainted by the memories of his previous attacks.

The vote for leader of the French conservative opposition UMP party is due this Sunday, and the two candidates are busy ripping chunks out of each other in a much more personal competition that anyone had anticipated.  The front-runner, François Fillon, is trying hard to stay above the mud slinging (his surrogates are trying less hard…), but underdog Jean-François Copé is adopting the Gingrich Maneuver: attack hard and personal.  But the same fate that belied Mr Gingrich could very well reward Mr Copé for his efforts.  Will Copé really damage the UMP in the way Gingrich bruised the GOP, and will the electoral fate be the same? Continue reading