Saturday, March 10, 2012

The History of the Hallal Controversy

Romain Pigenel retraces the history of the hallal controversy. What emerges from his account is a picture of a candidate who is improvising his strategy from one moment to the next. Sarkozy first raised the hallal issue in connection with the proposal to grant immigrants the right to vote in local elections. Marine Le Pen raised the ante by alleging that all meat slaughtered in Ile-de-France was hallal. That was on Feb. 18. Three days later, Sarkozy tried to cut the controversy short. But polling evidently showed that this was an issue with legs, so Sarkozy shifted his stance, proposing a "right to know" how one's meat had been slaughtered. Then Fillon got into the act. But others in the UMP, from NKM to Raffarin, seemed to distance themselves from the new issue. As Pigenel comments,
Que les ténors de l’UMP, enfin, ont intégré qu’ils allaient perdre et qu’ils jouent déjà le coup d’après, en cherchant à prendre leur distance avec le radeau de la Méduse sarkoziste, et à se démarquer les uns des autres. Du coup, leur prophétie risque bien d’être auto-réalisatrice, tant ils brouillent et rendent inaudible la parole présidentielle.
Indeed, I spoke with a UMP politician this week, who, though he continues to campaign actively for the president, thinks that he will lose. When pessimism takes hold within a party, members start making their own calculations, and what was uniform support becomes à la carte support: we'll back you on issues we think will do us good in the long run, but we won't follow your tactical zigzags on issues with which we don't want to be associated in the future. Hallal meat seems to be one of these. The disciplined UMP of 2007 has thus degenerated into a party in which every man and woman is out for him or herself.

Rama Yade Abandons Sarkozy

Rama Yade, who had already joined Borloo's abortive splinter party, will not join Sarkozy at Villepinte, even though Borloo apparently will. In 2007, Yade was a spokesperson for the campaign and a symbol of "ouverture," but she has been alienated by the droitisation of the UMP:
"En 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy dictait le tempo, imposait les débats. Aujourd'hui, nous avons le sentiment, nous, les républicains, d'avoir le pistolet du FN sur la tempe." Les propos sur les civilisations ou sur la nature national-socialiste du FN, tenus par Claude Guéant, ne sont pas passés.
The intellectuals who contributed to the 2007 campaign also seem to be deserting the sinking ship.

Franco-German Differences

From the Times:
Ms. Lagarde, 56, and Ms. Merkel, 57, appear to be opposites, the glamorous, Chanel-clad French extrovert and the grounded German introvert, recently spotted doing her own grocery shopping in the same suit jacket she had worn to sign the new European fiscal pact in Brussels earlier that day.
Try to imagine Sarkozy doing his own grocery shopping. But the more important Franco-German difference is not Chanel vs. whatever Frau Merkel wears, nor is it the difference between Lagarde and Merkel over the size of the emergency backstop for the euro (Lagarde is right). It is rather the difference between the French and German governments about the need to promote growth and how it should be done (Lagarde and the IMF are closer to France, I believe). For tactical reasons, Sarkozy has soft-pedaled his differences with Merkel on this score, but they exist. Remember this when Sarkozy attacks, as he surely will, Hollande's call for a "renegotiation" of the euro agreement. Sarkozy has painted this position as irresponsible, as he must, but he, like Hollande, cannot leave Germany's beggar-thy-neighbor inclinations unchallenged.

The Eurozone needs stimulus, rebalancing, and structural reform, and Germany is one of the few countries that can afford to spend in the current situation. The announcement by Volkswagen of a substantial bonus (up to €7 500) for workers in its various divisions is a promising sign. One wonders if the German government played a role in VW's decision to distribute its record profits and boost the spending power of its workers. In any case, it's good news for Europe, and one would hope to see more of the same out of Germany. On her next shopping trip, in addition to groceries, Frau Merkel should buy Greek olive oil, Italian shoes, and French pharmaceuticals.

Mélenchon Shuns Quatremer

The leader of the Front de Gauche, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, seized the opportunity when Marine Le Pen refused to debate with him. He demonstrated both impressive debating skills and an instinct for the jugular in capitalizing on Le Pen's refusal to debate with an opponent she detested. But now we learn that Mélenchon himself feels that he can pick and choose his debate opponents. Invited to appear on Salut les Terriens!, he refused to go on the show if the journalist Jean Quatremer was included in the panel as scheduled. It seems that there is an old bone of contention between the two, having to do with Quatremer's criticism of the position of the Front de Gauche toward Belarussian dictator Alexander Lukashenko.

I don't know what Quatremer said or what Mélenchon's position on Lukashenko is. An open debate might have clarified the matter for me and others in the dark about this, but Mélenchon, who is given to occasional outbursts against members of the press he does not like, preferred to avoid the confrontation.

UPDATE: More details here.