Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The "Quick Halal" Affair

Oy vay iz mir. Now we've got a new national identity issue: can Quick serve only halal hamburgers? Which tenet of secular republicanism does this violate? And how did the Caisse des Dépôts and Marine Le Pen get mixed up in the affair? Read it and weep.

Sarkozy in Haiti

President Sarkozy is in Haiti for a few hours today, where he will receive the thanks of Haitians for French aid since the crisis. But here's an interesting statistic for Sarko to ponder during his visit: it has been estimated that with Haiti's current stock of trucks and heavy equipment, it will take three years just to remove the rubble from Port-au-Prince, let alone start rebuilding the country.

Catastrophes don't get any worse than this, short of nuclear war.

New Toy, New Political Landscape?

Eloi Laurent calls my attention to a new gadget: a TNS/SOFRES site that allows you to track the popularity of various political figures over time. Although all polls have their defects, tracking polls at least apply a consistent method over time, so that changes presumably have some significance. In this connection, it is interesting to note that although Sarkozy's popularity has declined dramatically since his election (as is the case with nearly all presidents), so has the popularity of his two principal opponents, Ségolène Royal and François Bayrou, whose decline has tracked his. Furthermore, although DSK is frequently cited as the most popular politician in France these days, his rating has held fairly steady since his IMF appointment. Le Pen is under 10 percent. Besancenot, still near 40%, is declining.

Cécile Duflot, a rising star, is unfortunately not tracked. Daniel Cohn-Bendit, her senior partner in Europe Ecologie, is rising slightly. The regionals could make EE the third political force in France, replacing the FN, which would certainly be a healthy development. Would this constitute a transformation of the French political landscape? What does EE represent? Most important, perhaps, it brings de la chair fraîche to the political scene, as Duflot disarmingly put it in a recent Rendez-vous des Politiques on France Culture. She is a not only a new face but has an energetic and winning personality. Cohn-Bendit is hardly new blood, nor is Eva Joly, the third member of the EE troika, but the two together represent two faces of a more positive populism than that associated with the FN or the far left: Joly stands for justice against corruption and Cohn-Bendit for franc-parler, pragmatist problem-solving, and a European approach. EE thus stands to profit from both anti-Sarkozysme and a general ras-le-bol on the left.

Bayrou, on the other hand, appears to have botched his opportunity. In a recent appearance on another RDV des Politiques, he seemed to me surprisingly maladroit for a politician who has been active on the national scene for so long. He appears to want to project gravitas, but his efforts to rise to lofty heights merely make him seem out of touch.

And Ségolène? How do we explain her decline? There are so many factors, but I would single out her failure to constitute a solid équipe since her loss. Many former advisors have turned away, and she seems to be surrounded now by a very young and unseasoned group. Rather than develop a solid program, she has tried to cultivate the media, but the media are now more bent on mocking her weaknesses than on highlighting her novelty.

Meanwhile, DSK bides his time in Washington. Even if EE does well in the regionals, it is hard to see it playing a significant role in the presidential elections, but any candidate of the left will have to figure out how to approach this new party's base, which holds the key to a winning coalition.