Saturday, June 12, 2004

What is at Stake for France

(A translation of a Le Monde editorial from June 12, 2004)

Although the June 13th elections are called “European,” you don’t have to be a scholar to know that these elections implicate considerable national interests. This is true for each of the 25 counties of the European Union, including the ten new members who will elect, for the first time, their representatives to the strange Parliament that migrates each month from Brussels to Strasbourg.

The first question is how the main parties in contention with one another will perform. According to the latest polls, the Socialist Party should come in first, with around 26% of the vote. This should be a dozen points more than the UMP. The President’s party will reap the fruits of its labors during this election. Its most significant failure—and a blow to Jacque Chirac’s ambitions—will be its inability to unite conservatives.

In the wake of a dull campaign that sought to avoid friction between the pro-Europeans and the nationalists, the UMP runs the risk of finding itself torn apart by warring factions on the Right. The UDF of François Bavrou, as Europhile as ever, shows, each day, its capacity to endure, and it attracts a significant swathe of moderate voters. For its part, the Movement for France, led by Philippe de Villiers, will rake in the votes of Euroskeptics who feel an affinity for this great attacker of Brussels and for his efforts to bridge the divide between the Right and the Far Right.

The protest vote against the veteran politicians—which a majority of the French wish—will, paradoxically, have few real consequences. In spite of two consecutive defeats in regional and European elections, Mr. Chirac will keep Jean-Pierre Raffarin at Matignon. The political situation will remain the same for now. Mr. Chirac can take advantage of the fact that the next elections will not likely take place until 2007. However certain voters might consider Mr. Chirac’s actions to be an effort to sweep a failure under the rug. And the lack of impact of these elections will likely provide yet one more justification for some not to vote.

This lack of hope, of a clear and inspiring plan, of ambitions and dynamism, is leading more and more voters to stay at home. The lack of interest is growing out of control: two-thirds of the French are not interested in this election. The growing distance between the Brussels’ decision-makers and the electorate in addition to the tendency of our leaders to place blame for any ill on Brussels are partially responsible for the French electorate’s indifference.

Nor is the Left immune from criticism. The Socialist Party has succeeded in organizing itself, but, instead of airing its members’ differences of opinion on Europe as it has done in the past, it has (although with good reason) emphasized the priority to be given to European social policies. Between the sound bites of possible presidential candidates and the calculated appearances of Lionel Jospin, the Socialist Party is up to its old tricks and warring ambitions which, in turn, merely contribute to this political crisis.

2 comments:

  1. "the Socialist Party should come in first, with around 26% of the vote. This should be a dozen points more than the UMP ,...,two-thirds of the French are not interested in this election ,... , The protest vote against the veteran (incumbent) politicians...(Ce vote-sanction contre les sortants )... This lack of hope, of a clear and inspiring plan, of ambitions and dynamism "[Remark : According to Le Monde ,if Mr Blair lost his elections , it's because he is pro-war in Iraq . If Mr Chirac lost his elections , it's not because he is anti-war actions in Iraq ( everyone knowns M. Chirac likes Saddam to stay in power ), the french love M. Chirac for that , but they hate him for jobless , pension , heath ,... So these problems are really not the matter for the british but the french .So I conclude the british are idealist , the french are down-to-earth? ]

    "two-thirds of the French are not interested in this election " Right ! I'm among them .But I d'ont agree with "This lack ...dynamism"Today I stay home ,I don't go to polls . I don't cast ballot for European Parliament , but I do something european . Yes ! I will watch the matchs of the European Soccer Championships .
    Like majority of the french ( or the german , the britain ,...) ,I don't take european election for serious ,but unlike them I don't use the vote to express my frustration against something or someone else by voting for the extremists . So the emergence of all kinds of the extreme parties ( demagogic , populist , racist , stalinist ,...) in each EU election .
    I don't really have choice either , despite the fact that there are 28 parties which compete for european seats in Ile de France. Two main parties: UMP ( party of Chirac) and PS ( liberal party ),the rest talk about ecologie , minority , esperanto ( we must learn it !?) ,poletarian dictature , communist revolution ,anti-semite ,..., there is also ex-convict . Maybe UMP is conservatif but it is afraid of implementing its platforme . But all of them (28) are anti-american more or less .
    As an european , I want the real choice , I want to vote for Mr Berlusconi or Mr Blair or the party of Mr Asnar,... ,if I don't like french politicians , after all they are europeans like me . BTW I'm not convinced of the EU Parlement utility .
    The soccer match begins soon , I stop here.

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  2. Anonymous3:55 PM

    Is it a mere figment of my imagination or has it been proved that the French are the European champions in not abiding by the rules and decisions made in Brussels! They seem pretty well to keep to their own agenda and preserve their narrow national interest whenever the opportunity arises.

    Casting a vote for any French candidate in this context would appear as a waste of time to me.

    I can also imagine that other European citizens, and especially those coming from countries fed up with being bullied by Chirac and the rest of them, might refuse to go and cast a vote on the assumption that building a Europe where some countries are more equal than others, or if you prefer where some countries do as they please, makes no point whatsoever.

    The coroner

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