Thursday, March 22, 2012

Woman Claims to Have Complained of Killer to Police on Several Occasions

Story here.

Second-Round Polling

Despite my previous comments about the first round, Hollande remains comfortably ahead in the second round. And the second round is the only one that counts. Furthermore, Sarkozy's negatives remain extraordinarily high for this late in the campaign.

BVA Poll

Yet another poll, this one from BVA: Hollande leads Sarkozy by 1.5% even though Mélenchon is given 14% in this one!! The difference between this and the CSA poll cited earlier is that Bayrou seems to be declining. So does this mean that Hollande's "blancmange" campaign (as I called it earlier) may be reassuring Bayrou voters that it's safe to cross over to the left? If so, then Hollande's calculations are correct and my criticisms are misplaced. It's not out of the question. But, as I say, let's not overinterpret any single poll. There are still 5 weeks to go.

Bad Speeches

Gérard Courtois agrees with me about Mélenchon's Bastille speech, which he judges to have been frankly bad:
Une fois n'est pas coutume, pourtant : devant les dizaines de milliers de ses partisans rassemblés, ce dimanche 18 mars, place de la Bastille à Paris, Jean-Luc Mélenchon a fait un mauvais discours. Trop gaullien dans le ton, trop mécanique sur le fond, trop court pour être pédagogue, trop solennel pour être mordant. Comme si le moment singulier et la symbolique du lieu l'avaient par trop surplombé. Comme si le succès même de ce rassemblement l'impressionnait, lui qui entend n'avoir peur de rien, y compris de ses propres rêves.
And yet, and yet .... it seems to have succeeded, to judge by the latest poll (see below). Mélenchon is at 13%, far higher than anyone thought he could go. To be sure, he has succeeded by absorbing all of the non-Socialist left: he has wiped out the NPA, reduced EELV to 2% (abetted by an incredibly weak and inept Green candidate, Eva Joly), and incorporated the Communist rump. Can he go higher still? We will see.

And this morning on Facebook I was invited by Arnaud Montebourg, of all people, to read François Hollande's speech about Europe. So I did. Here is the key paragraph:
J’assume des règles. Je revendique la responsabilité. Je reconnais l’obligation du sérieux. Et c’est pourquoi, si les Français m’en donnent mandat, au lendemain de l’élection présidentielle, j’inscrirai dans une loi de programmation budgétaire pour cinq ans le cadre de responsabilité de nos finances publiques conduisant à un équilibre de nos comptes en 2017. Cette maîtrise se fera graduellement, méthodiquement, durablement. Et elle se fera dans la justice, car il n’est pas possible de demander quelque effort que ce soit à nos compatriotes s’il n’y a pas un partage, un partage juste du sacrifice à faire, et notamment du côté des plus favorisés.
Note the prominence of the words "rules" and "responsibility" and "seriousness" (an "obligation," no less--I guess Hollande doesn't catch Paul Krugman's irony about Very Serious People). It's true that this paragraph is preceded by some lip service to a "social democratic union" to take back Europe from the "conservatives," and it's true that it's followed with some blather about financing stimulus via the European Investment Bank, issuing eurobonds (backed by what? and by whom?), taxing financial transactions (Champions of the Tobin Tax, Unite! You have nothing to lose but your blinders!), loosening up structural funds, creating a "European energy community," etc. etc. And this blancmange is typical of the entire Hollande campaign. Another incredibly bad--in the sense of empty--speech.

So, you have two very bad speeches, in my view, and voters have the choice of slipping back and forth between these two vases communicantes. Hollande fails to speak to the structural crisis of the EU, so voters flee to Mélenchon. Mélenchon then gives them the Paris Commune and Louise Michel. But as far as I know, Louise Michel had very little to say about central banks, the austerity consensus, or the problem of igniting growth in a monetary union without a central fiscal authority. Mélenchon has filled that perennial diva role in the Opera of the Left--La Pasionaria--about as well as anyone can in this day and age. Et après? While Hollande, intent on proving what a "normal" president he will be, has forgotten that the presidency of the Fifth Republic was expressly created to be filled by a man of "abnormal" proportions.

Meanwhile, Sarkozy, capitalizing on his "abnormal" ability to monopolize the media in a time of (real or artificial) emergency, is deftly capitalizing on the new threat: domestic terrorism. What a depressing spectacle.

Air Wars

Eloi Laurent and Jacques Le Cacheux see the threatened retaliation against the imposition of a carbon tax on airlines flying into Europe as a move in a commercial war in which shameless exaggeration is a weapon of choice.

Sarkozy Cracks Down on "Indoctrination"

Sarkozy strikes while the iron is hot. As predicted, he recognizes the incontrovertible advantage of being to act on the domestic terrorism front while his adversaries can only stand by and gawk:

Toulouse : Sarkozy annonce de nouvelles mesures pénales contre "l'endoctrinement"

Le président français Nicolas Sarkozy a annoncé jeudi qu'il voulait prendre des mesures pénales pour lutter contre "l'endoctrinement" à des idéologies extrémistes, sur Internet, lors de voyages ou dans le milieu carcéral. Ces annonces interviennent juste après l'opération du RAID contre Mohamed Merah à Toulouse.

Sarkozy +2, Mélenchon at 13!

The latest CSA poll (dated March 22) shows Sarkozy at 30%, 2 points ahead of Hollande. Le Pen at 13.5 slightly leads Bayrou and Mélenchon, tied at 13. Mélenchon 13%! And look at the dynamic. He's the one with the momentum, while Le Pen is down sharply and Bayrou has flatlined.

I don't know whether this polling was done after the slaughter in Toulouse or not. And I hesitate to overinterpret the results of any poll. But I think that this one confirms a trend that has been noticeable for a while now. Hollande's campaign is not cutting it. His strategy--to lie low and say as little as possible, counting on anti-Sarkozy sentiment to put him over--wasn't working before Toulouse and is even less likely to work now. Meanwhile, voters on the right who had deserted Sarkozy have been reminded that while Marine Le Pen's rhetoric may be music to their ears, there are reasons to want to hold actual power, and Sarkozy is the only candidate on the right with a chance of doing that. So if their reaction to Toulouse is one of anger and wanting to strike back (at somebody, anybody), as was the case in the US after 9/11, then they had better vote for Sarkozy. So they are deserting Le Pen and falling back into line.

Meanwhile, on the left, the Mélenchon phenomenon is confirmed. The coverage of the Bastille event gave him a big boost, but even more than that, Hollande's failure to propose, oppose, or impose while the frontrunner has led growing numbers of voters on the left to think that they must register a protest--now or never--in order to light a fire under their feckless candidate. Of course the second-round remains crucial, but the second-round dynamic may have shifted as well since Toulouse. Some of Bayrou's voters have no doubt swung back toward the right, worrying that Hollande is too weak to deal with either domestic terrorism or a reinvigorated extreme left, trade unions, etc. Like it or not, the events in Toulouse work in favor of an executive capable of projecting firmness and strength--and this is not Hollande's long suit.

Portrait of Mohammed Merah

Here. Well done. Much remains to be learned about his international movements and possible connections to various Islamist groups, however, as this article suggests.

The Killer Is Dead

Story here.