Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Who's the Fairest of Them All?

For a woman whose intellectual and political acumen have often been criticized by other Socialists, Ségolène Royal has emerged from the latest scuffle looking like the only one of the lot with the slightest flair for political tactics. In retrospect, it's hard to see Martine Aubry's announcement of a "pact" among the Big Three as anything other than a gaffe of the first order. And Royal, recognizing her opportunity, pounced. Was there a betrayal involved? It seems unlikely that Aubry would have gone public with her "pact" if she hadn't had some sort of understanding with Royal, but a politician who fails to foresee the possibility of a reversal of alliances, and who doesn't have the wherewithal to sanction such a defection, is ill-advised to lay her head on the chopping block, as Aubry did. And since she, of all people, had every reason to expect that Royal would want vengeance for past wrongs, she was doubly foolish to do so. It's hard to see how she will recover from this, but then it was hard to see how Royal would recover from her loss in 2007 to Sarkozy and then her "loss" of the party leadership to Aubry, so I'm not ruling anything out.

So where does that leave the PS? Not quite leaderless but definitely pactless. There will be a real primary, and that might not be a bad thing, as Bernard Girard suggests. What I surmise, however, is that Dominique Strauss-Kahn may now be more reluctant than ever to enter it. He remembers his last encounter with Royal and his inability to counter her popularity. He recognizes the antipathy that the left wing of the party has toward him and realizes that his position on retirement reform leaves him entirely vulnerable to Hamon, Mélenchon, et cie. Although he might win the battle, I suspect that he has little taste for it. He could continue to temporize, choosing to enter his own stalking horse, Moscovici perhaps, in the hope that the party will in the end be so badly divided that it will appeal to him as a deus ex machina in its hour of need.

But this would be a dangerous strategy. He has basically three options. He could announce soon that he will leave the IMF at a specified date to return to France in order to rally his troops. He could remain silent, leaving his options open but his supporters in a quandary. Or he could announce that he has no interest in the presidency, throwing the race wide open.

I suspect that he will choose silence, the worst of his options, in my opinion. Although I think that DSK might well make a decent president, I also think that he's an inept politician--overly cautious, lacking a common touch, a technocrat by instinct and conviction, and fundamentally uninterested in what it takes to move people either individually or en masse. It's not that he would rather be right than president, but rather that he thinks being right is enough to make him president.

1 comment:

Passerby said...

Art,

I agree on your portrait of DSK. His rationalist technocrat image could be an issue for him to become the presidential candidate for the left. Ironically, I think that this same image could actually be a serious advantage against Sarkozy (who has been constantly criticized since his election for being hyper-active and too quick to speak/act).

As for Royal, I am still debating whether her candidacy is a wise move. Sure she's making a point within her party. However my feeling is that to the general public, her declaration appears as a solo act, made just for the sake of contradiction. A card she has played too often since the last election, with little returns popularity-wise
(Sondage TNS Sofres)

Sidenote: If Royal does gain from this move and manages to become the socialist presidential candidate, I wonder if that wouldn't push Sarkozy to re-run for the office. Something he might not do against DSK.