Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Radicals Join the Center

French political nomenclature can be baffling to outsiders. The Socialists aren't socialist, and the Radicals aren't radical. Underscoring the second point, le Parti radical today voted to consummate its divorce from the UMP and join what used to be known as 'la Confédération des centres, et nommée désormais par le PR "Alliance républicaine, écologique et sociale".' For those who remember the good old days, when the Right was divided between Giscard's UDF and Chirac's RPR, the new configuration will seem familiar. Borloo, the leader of the non-radical Radicals, sees himself in the mold of the UDF and is threatening to make a run for the presidency, which would greatly complicate life for Sarkozy (not to mention Bayrou, who used to think of this particular tract of political real estate as his). Of course he can always trade in his threat for a firm promise of high office later on. But the tone of Hervé Morin's new book suggests that the divorce may have been more bitten than we knew and that some centrists have had it with Sarkozy. "Republican, ecological, and social" is not so much a party name as a tous azimuts appeal for alliances. It will be interesting where, if anywhere, this goes.

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