Sunday, November 23, 2008

Is There a Way Out?

Is there a way out of the Socialist Party's impasse? A recount won't do it: the tally will be too close, the suspicions of fraud too great, to legitimate the outcome. There is no neutral body capable of fairly assessing the rival claims. Recourse to the courts will further damage the party's reputation. And no matter who "won," the even split would delegitimate her leadership.

A revote might produce a somewhat more decisive outcome, but clearly the message of the vote is that the party cannot unite when the only real issue is defined as it is now: whether or not to put Ségolène Royal before the public as the leader and probable candidate of the party.

To my mind, therefore, there is only one way out that will not split the party irrevocably: choose someone else. Both candidates could agree on a compromise choice, perhaps with an agreement to hold another special congress in a year to reconsider and to choose not only a permanent leader but a presidential candidate. In the meantime, the compromise choice as leader would commit him or herself to a process of internal reform acceptable to both candidates.

Who could the third party be? Hamon might seem to be a logical choice, but he clearly endorsed Aubry in the final round, so he probably wouldn't be acceptable to Royal. The only prominent leader I can think of who did not publicly choose sides in the end is Moscovici. He backed Delanoë in the first round but gave no consigne de vote in the second. He has been courted by both sides. Perhaps they can agree to let him have the helm for a year.

Short of such an agreement, I think the party will collapse.

Crisis, Smoking Ban, or Cultural Change?

French cafés are closing in record numbers. This Times article proposes two culprits: the economic crisis and the smoking ban, along with a third and more ominous one:

“The way of life has changed,” he said. “The French are no longer eating and drinking like the French. They are eating and drinking like the Anglo-Saxons,” the British and the Americans. “They eat less and spend less time at it,” Mr. Picolet said.

Horribile dictu!