Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ségo Backs Off

When Ségolène Royal visited Harvard last winter, a dinner was held in her honor. After dinner, she answered questions. I was the first to speak. I began by noting that she had said in a session with undergraduates that her plan at that time was to try to organize a broad-based coalition of the Left ("Besancenot to Bayrou" was the way she put it!) in which the Socialists would join with other parties in a national primary to choose and then unite behind a presidential candidate. I noted that unity was such a good idea that it had spawned a dozen or so rivals all promising to deliver it by taking control of the PS, and then I asked how she planned to get rid of them. Laughter in the audience. A smile from Ségolène. And then her answer, or, rather, her evasion: "I will present my ideas to les militants, and they will decide."

It seems that not enough of them have decided in her favor, so that she is backing off her insistence that the party must unify early behind a presidential candidate and then proceed to designate a candidate of the left via a national primary. Her failure to persuade enough of les militants seems to be responsible for this change of tactic. What remains of the national primary idea in her new strategic vision is unclear at this point. She does not seem to be able to command the party's internal mechanisms, but in the meantime her strength in the population at large is also declining, to judge by recent polls. If she can't impose herself internally and can't impose herself externally, her moment will have passed. It may well have passed already.


Anonymous said...

Funny, how people & journalists react to her yesterday's speech.

She didn't back off.
She is simply maximizing her chance to be well above all others by having a large number of allies, la Ligne Claire, Julien Dray perhaps Pierre Moscovici, etc...
Before writing "she can't impose herself internally", we will all have to wait the vote of "les militants".
And frankly, it is pretty well engaged up to know, despite the bad press coverage.

Anonymous said...

What I heard is "I will name someone else to represent me if I am not #1 November 6".
Which is a rallying cry for her supporters to make her #1 not November 20 but November 6 (thus making the prolonged race a bit shorter than expected).
And if she isn't? Well, she removed an obstacle for many who hesitated joining her side. So, if she's not #1, she can still gel a bunch of candicacies and lock the vote, making sure the party machine answers to someone who supports her ideas.
And an example of confidence, not weakness. Her statement kind of implies she's close enough to #1 already, doesn't it?

Unknown said...

I'm sorry, but I'm having a hard time following your logic. What exactly is Mme Royal's "side" without Mme Royal? How do her ideas differ from the others? If she can't prevail, who will be her "representative?" And which party members, unwilling to accept Royal as party leader, would want her designated representative, protégé, and--to use the language of the Ancien Régime--"créature" in her place? It makes no sense to me. What you get with Royal is a charismatic leader with proven appeal, up to a point, outside the party. But you get no distinctive policy mix or set of ideas. Either you want the personality or you don't. If you don't, if the party doesn't, then she has no claim to lead it, whether personally or through a representative.

Anonymous said...

Charismatic? OK. Proven appeal? Well, OK again, but not enough -- not enough to beat Sarkozy, the most polarizing candidate in a long time. Not even enough it turns out to emerge as party leader. Richard Nixon's temporary departure from the scene after losing in CA is what came to mind as I heard her "magnanimous" offer to step aside. The parallel is admittedly tortured, but it came to mind anyway because she, like Nixon, seems driven by cold ambition and is more divisive than charismatic. Who else could give Martine Aubry a political future?

Unknown said...

Yes, I agree. I meant my remarks to be critical of Royal. Her appeal is insufficient, and her personal charisma can do nothing if she steps aside.

Anonymous said...

I do follow the logic.
However, things are more complex than "Either you want the personality or you don't."
First of all, she did not say "I will not lead the Party". She will present her ideas for the Party and for the Nation. "Les militants" will vote and their vote will or will not be an endorsment, a personal one.
Up to know she was accused by Delanoë and Aubry of being the cause of the division of the Party because she declared her will to lead the Party.
By telling that she is in favor of party unity over personal competition, Royal shows that both Delanoë and Aubry have the very same ambitions. And shows the people that she is making the most to avoid fighting and division.
At the same time, she opens the door to allies that spend their time claiming that they did not want a Presidential candidate as a Party leader, in order to position themselves as leaders. Now, they have to save face before joining :
Dray, Moscovici, Collomb, etc...

Then the situation is also that nobody knows exactly what the results of the internal election will be.
My personal opinion is that she, Royal, is going to be well above the others. She will be then in a position to claim the leadership.

Other people, even her supports might think that Royal, Aubry & Delanoë results will be to close to call (25% for each, lets say). Then they will be forced to form alliances
Royal's move shows that she is willing to accept such a situation and have another person to lead the party that would be acceptable for her.

In both situations, we will need "Les Militants" to vote first.
my 2 cents :-)

MYOS said...

For reference, two articles about what's going on.
And don't worry: Nobody quite understands what's going on.
Anyway, this week's Nouvel Obs is entirely dedicated to "Le Ps est-il nul", which I'd like to translate as "does the PS suck" although I know there are better translations.

Mediapart has a good article on this very topic:

Since I was covering La Rochelle, I can tell you without a shred of doubt that Royal is far from "out".

MYOS said...

I'd originally decided to comment on your note related to Krugman and the French Health Care system :)
but I can't resist this "brève" entitled "le frigo de sego".
This very morning I heard a hilarious 1mn sound collage by Caroline Cartier on France Inter with the same title. If you've got a minute, it's definitively worth your time.
POdcast available for a week, I believe