An American observer comments on French politics.
I'm not sure what is so admirable about Pigenel's tissue of sophistries. In my reading he 1) summons up all the inflammatory connotations for the word 'pacte' his normalien virtuosity can discover (e.g. 'pact with the devil'); 2) takes note of Aubry's disavowal of the term but insists that in so doing she confers greater importance and visibility on the word (i.e. 'no' means 'yes' and so does 'yes'); and then 3) takes DSK's off-handed use of the word, in the course of a charged interview on a quite different topic, as definitive proof that it is the mot juste. In my view--and I have no dog in this fight--Pigenel's post, far from brilliant analysis, reads like political hack-work by an apparatchik in Hollande's campaign.
I hold no brief for either DSK or Aubry but I simply do not understand the impropriety involved in these negotiations between the leaders of different factions of the PS, even if they took place as M. Pigenel claims. As I read his analysis, DSK wanted to shore up his support in certain wings of the party. He also wanted to remove one or more potential opponents. And, allegedly, there was some discussion of what positions and so forth Aubry, Fabius and those in their cliques might expect in a DSK administration. All of this seems like perfectly normal and proper political maneuvering. It is hardly the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. What’s the big deal?(And, as something of a beginner in the study of French politics, I admit that I may not see all of the implications or know of the limits of propriety that the French consider as applying in such matters and so this is genuine and not merely rhetorical question).
Who said it was illegitimate? Pigenel doesn't. The fact is that the parties to the pact were awfully coy about it, as if they thought there was something that could not quite be openly avowed, even though, as Pigenel shows, they did allude to it from time to time. I know that in my travels in French political circles, various people who claimed to be in the know were talking about a pact several years ago, but the terms were not constant: sometimes DSK was the candidate, sometimes not. Sometimes Royal was included, sometimes not. And exactly what was promised by and to whom has never been made explicit by any of the signatories. If a presidential candidate has made pledges to others before the election, it's certainly fair to ask what those pledges were (or might remain). The candidate may well refuse to answer, but then the refusal is a datum that might be of interest to prospective voters.
It seemed a bit accusatory to me but I may not have fully understood the point Pigenel was making or perhaps read too much into it. I do, however, take your point that the coyness of the parties created at least an impression that they themselves believed they had acted improperly. Still, I am not sure that there was any real obligation on the part of Aubry, DSK and whoever else might have been involved to provide any details beyond the bare fact that there was a general understanding. (Something which it seems was done here). Naturally, if one is, for example, a supporter of Aubry one hopes that she has made a good deal which will advance the political objectives of her wing of the party and not simply her own future. But I’m not sure how much of the horse-trading they should have to disclose in advance and how much is just the supporter’s own lookout. (And I agree that if a candidate won't give details of the deals he or she has made, that's fair game for opponents and voters. No argument there).And, I have to admit that I have some friends in England who are LibDems who would be very strongly in your corner on this because they are certain that their leaders totally sold them out in the interest of the leaders personal advancement.
I think the big deal is that Aubry repeatedly said there was no such thing as a pact with DSK. Everyone understood the pact to mean she'd keep the party for him and he'd run for president, and she'd get the 1er ministre position. I remember clearly how when she was on Canal Plus this very month, during the same interview she claimed she had the same reservations about DSK as many women (a statement that probably explains DSK's) she claimed that it was pure invention.In addition, Hollande supporters have been saying that she was "a candidate by default", that she didn't want to run and had been "forced" by circumstances - and one shouldn't run if it's "out of obligation" and "without preparation". With a good performance during the debate, she had partly erased that impression. DSk's statement confirmed the pact, hence that Aubry hadn't prepared and had been pushed into it when he had to leave the race. It's been pretty devastating for her image as a presidential candidate. Hollande's supporters are already hoping for a 1-round election.
I wasn't in Marrakech so I don't know for sure if there was a pact, an exchange of blood or what. I would not even have been adverse to it (like, in, for once they agree not to be counterproductive and to not infight?). What is completely obvious is that if you are planning to ask the party membership (and more) for their view through primaries and, simultaneously, 2, 3, 4 people agree together on some secret thing, it starts to look awfully like you were planning to game the system from day one. Ach, démocratie formelle!As for Pigenel, I tend to agree with Brent, even though I am probably going to support Hollande.
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