Friday, March 2, 2012

Hollande Holds Lead, Sarkozy Booed in Bayonne

The latest IFOP poll has Hollande slightly widening his first-round lead. Meanwhile, the president, on a visit to Bayonne, was jeered by a large crowd. Instead of keeping the hostile crowd at bay, as was standard practice earlier in his presidency (a prefect was removed from his post for letting an anti-Sarko crowd get too close), this time orders were apparently given to allow the jeering spectators to gather at the point where the president was to alight from his car. The cameras duly recorded the booing, and the president promptly blamed Hollande.

Was this scenario deliberately mounted? One can speculate that Sarkozy now feels that his only hope is to present himself as the bulwark between the status quo and the chaos of the unknown. You may not like what you have now, the unstated theme goes, but who will stop these hooligans if the Socialists get in? The president, showing himself calm, unruffled, and, in a word, "presidential" in the face of a raucous and disrespectful crowd, thus opens a new front in the image wars: Hollande may be portraying himself as the "normal" president, but behind him is the specter of la chienlit, to borrow de Gaulle's phrase for the May '68ers.

All's fair in love, war, and political campaigns.


Robert said...

Presidential? Well, Libe and ITele (granted, you need to consider the sources) have also portrayed the Bayonne incident as the latest episode of a horrific week for Sarkozy: He got his facts wrong on Edith Bouvier; he got snippy with a farming couple just a few hours before the Bayonne incidents; his transport minister couldn't tell the price of a Metro ticket; we got Gueant's customary Connerie of the Week. And did Hollande really announce he would get rid of all high-ranking officials who don't support his policies, as Sarko alleges? A pretty serious charge unless you can back it up.

Anonymous said...

The fat lady is warming up...


Anonymous said...

How do you say "landslide" in French?
(Serious question. I assume it's not glissement de terrain and the only other term I have is "triomphe" which does not seem the same.)

Arthur Goldhammer said...

lame de fond, raz de marée, victoire écrasante

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much Art. I like "lame de fond"!!! It makes me think of one of the "games" in Total Wipeout.
(which, BTW, exists in France as... a children's program, on Gulli.)
Tonight's debate on iTélé was "Sarkozy peut-il rebondir" and even the Figaro columnist admitted it had been an awful week for Sarkozy - he didn't think it was over yet, unlike an implied common opinion. A journalist even started thus his question to Sarkozy in Brussels: "Since this might be your last Press Conference here"...
An example of the current "conventional wisdom" that Sarkozy's toast:
The fact over 2/3 French people support Hollande's idea of the 75% marginal tax rate for the 0,1%, including a popular soccer player and quite a few athletes who say they're willing to pay that tax if someone wants to pay them this much ;-) , probably further lowers Sarkozy's chances because the measure really caught on.
If you have 15mn, I recommend watching the first 8-10mn of yesterday's C dans l'air then the last 5-10mn (with the viewers' questions), it's really educational wrt the disconnect between economists and the general (highly educated) French population.

Cincinna said...

According FR2, TV5 and France 24, the demonstration was planned and coordinated by the PS and Basque separatist movements.
Hollande is having a difficult time explaining getting in bed with the separatist anti-French radical thugs.
All's fair in love, war, and politics, but this is shortsighted and stupid. In hooking up with terrorist thugs for a photo-op, there is no long term gain.

Mitch Guthman said...

Personally, I’d rather know whether the French have a saying similar to our “don’t count your chickens until they have hatched” My feeling is that Sarkozy and his gang haven't yet begun to fight and they are the kind of people who fight very dirty and take no prisoners. It is not yet time for Mademoiselle Trierweiler to start selecting new drapes for the Élysée Palace.

I would strongly advise Hollande to have ever-present in his thoughts the words of that great American philosopher, Yogi Berra: “It isn’t over until it’s over”

DavidinParis said...

The future ain't what it used to be.


Neither Hollande nor Sarkozy make me optimistic.

Anonymous said...

Cincinna: According to F2, iTélé, BFM, and TF1, Nicolas Sarkozy had been told NOT to go to Petit Bayonne; although I do not understand the exact semantics, the news called the Basque protesters "territorialistes" which I assume is vastly different from "séparatistes" and thus not terrorists. Also Sud Ouest had a little sarcastic sentence by a "separatist" supporter along the lines that if it'd been ETA, it wouldn't have been papers in the air and boos. Based on the images you refer to, it's clear the protest was coordinated by the "territorialists" and the PS had joined in. It's unclear whether those were individuals or not but there were no PS officials, the news showed one angry old guy and a couple kids who seemed to be having a ball. Finally, on a personal note, I don't think one can conflate booing and terrorism.

Robert said...

@Mitch: Even if Sarko and his people haven't yet begun to fight, they have to be careful about throwing too many more zingers that just don't stick (i.e. Gueant or the education speech) or making more bourdes that put them firmly in the lightweight/loser camp. Until now and on the basis of the aforementioned, they've been most adept at shooting themselves in the foot. In politics as elsewhere, ridicule is very difficult to surmount.

FrédéricLN said...

Sarkozy vs. the chaos of the unknown: indeed, it's the (…well anticipated) scenario.

Not that Holland would be portrayed as chaotic or unknown: he is just described as weak and unable to protect France from the gigantic threats just behind the wall: Europe-wide bankruptcy, hallal food in schools restaurants, and the like.

One thing that makes Sarkozy's scenario plausible, is that Hollande's agenda actually increases spending and non-European foreigners' rights: 'il n'y a plus qu'un pas", that's only a small step, in Sarkozy's or Guéant's tales, a small step away from opening La France's doors to the chaotic evil.

The trick would work perfectly right if Sarkozy hadn't already used it, many times between 2006 and now, and the folk in the street may know how thin and imaginary Sarkozy's protection against evil is.

FrédéricLN said...

"Europe-wide bankruptcy, hallal food in schools restaurants" and oops, I forgot terrorism, that Mr Sarkozy positively quoted.

"Qui veut noyer son chien l'accuse de la rage".

Anonymous said...

I, too, would be very dubious about predicting election results 50 days before the date, but at this point everyone sees Sarkozy as "the loser".
Hollande is very shrewd. For example, everyone's been talking about his "75%" proposal, and 2/3 French people support it. This created a brouhaha that totally voided Sarkozy's speech on education; when it was discussed, people responded poorly (unsurprisingly in my opinion: making fewer teachers stay longer on campus doesn't make for a better student:faculty ratio, which is currently one of the worst in Europe and a worry in many families.)
Worse for Sarkozy, this announcement had his minions rallying to the call of "talent will leave us, this is a folly", etc - and for a man who is trying to be "the people's candidate" in order to make people forget he was branded "president des riches", it sent the wrong message. But more importantly, the "75%" hid a key change that would not be symbolic and affect many people: a new tax bracket would be created for those earning $200,000 or more.

So, on the one hand Sarkozy and his people campaign very poorly and on the other hand Hollande is doing a good, if understated, job.

Right now Le Pen only has 452 sponsors and Sarkozy (and Hollande) are said to be pressuring mayors not to sponsor her, so that's an unknown quantity in the election. Sarkozy may be campaigning on the far-right because he feels Le Pen won't be a candidate and he'll "fish" her voters this way. It's a calculation, I suppose, but I wouldn't say "all's fair" for that one because suppressing an opponent to better steal their votes doesn't seem very democratic to me.

But that's the only surprise factor I can see. I can't imagine Hollande becoming suddenly inept and Sarkozy's words sound hollow.

Little signs:
UMP officials have begun making side comments if not overtures toward people on the left, from PS officials to journalists (Libération etc), passing little tidbits of info which they seem to think will ingratiate them with the future new power.
Today in Bordeaux it seems (if memory serves) that Sarkozy managed to attract fewer people than Mélenchon did (and he's a marginal candidate with no hope of reaching the 2nd round - his supporters shout from the rooftops that he's broken the 10% "symbolic threshold" and I'm not even sure he has.)
As for opinions within the UMP, here's for a sense of their desperation

Mitch Guthman said...

@ Robert and Myos,

I tend to agree with you both on the merits. I especially agree with everything Myos has said on the merits of the election to date. Sarkozy is obviously floundering and his efforts to ignite an American-style culture war seem to be sputtering. He’s trying a lot of different things and clearly nothing he’s doing is finding any traction. It actually does look (remotely) possible that he won’t make the second round----if if Le Pen doesn't get enough mayors and Sarkozy gets the blame, the backlash from the FN voters will sink him for sure.

And I agree that Hollande has been improving somewhat as a candidate. I particularly agree with the analysis of Myos in this area. Hollande gave two good, very well received speeches and his efforts in London seem to be paying off both with French voters in the UK and also at home. His policy proposals seem to be well thought out, not particularly radical and he has shown himself willing to stand and fight for the policies he advocates. This is all very much for the good.

And the pathetic effort of Sarkozy to win sympathy by complaining that Hollande is saying mean things about him just seems ludicrous coming from Mr. "casse-toi pauv' con" himself.

Nevertheless, I just have a vague feeling of unease that I can’t shake no matter how good the news. Too many people on the right have too much at stake to just let the presidency go without a fight. In my mind, the is not the moment to take anything for granted. That’s my only point.