Thursday, September 26, 2013

Duflot Attacks Valls on Romani

Manuel Valls is the most popular Socialist minister, more popular by far than either the president or the prime minister. He had harsh words the other day for the Romani--les Roms--living in France: "their way of life is extremely different from ours." Cécile Duflot, minister of housing, refused to let this pass, despite strong support for Valls from a number of Socialist mayors.

This little passe d'armes is more than just another episode in France's contentious relationship with its Romani population. It is a manifestation of a new cleavage in a Left already deeply divided over economic issues, European integration, and environmental concerns. The Romani are but the latest symbol of l'insécurité. Beyond that, as I noted yesterday, Duflot is in the process of reasserting her control over EELV, which lost its leader Pascal Durand yesterday. She is very likely preparing to leave the government (a sinking ship) to return to active political life at the helm of the Greens, a role in which she will be free to criticize the sitting government. This salvo at Valls is a first indication that she will not pull her punches once she leaves office.

Meanwhile, Valls is positioning himself to become the heir apparent to the failed Hollande leadership. He has staked out a distinctive position among the young contenders. His critics may see this position as nothing more than "Sarkozy lite," if not "Le Pen lite," but it's popular not only in the polls but also with Socialists governing at the local level, which is where l'insécurité lives. At the national level, the Socialist Party is now rubble, with Hollande's approval rating running in the low 20s, but at the local and regional level the Socialists remain a force to contend with. And that is where Valls is building his candidacy, while potential rivals like Montebourg court an imaginary constituency.

So what happens when the Front National emerges from next year's municipal elections with, perhaps, more votes than the UMP? Hollande might well turn to Valls as the next prime minister as a way of telling the French "Je vous ai compris."


Anonymous said...

Who is this "Hollande" you keep talking about? There is a president in France?
I've seen this Valls guy, though. He looks like he means business.

Louis said...

Hard to find anything positive or reassuring to say here. We are beyond the borders of reasonable debate, in the free-for-all of frontier politics. I understand Valls' calculations, but this is nauseating. Count me out.

Robert said...

Art, I generally agree with your post,but I'm not sure how the Duflot-Valls dispute represents a "new" cleavage within the left. It seems to me environmentalists have always been more prompt than democratic socialists to defend the rights of ethnic minorities.

Also, the tradition of hard-line social conservatism within the center left seems to me to be pretty old. However, with Manuel Valls, it will be interesting to see whether - and possibly for the first time during the Fifth Republic, a popular center-left minister manages to appropriate some of the "security" issues previously seen as the right's "domaine reserve."

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brent said...

Duflot charges Valls with compromising the pacte républicaine, but I wonder to what degree Valls' remarks are also fundamentally anti-Europe? Will Cecelia Malmstrom let him get away with pejorative racial characterizations of a minority group? Will a Valls-led PS try to run against the EU's migration policies? With the strong showing of AfD last week, the buzz mounting for Le Pen in the EU elections, might the vision of a 'Social Europe' become the preserve of Greens and the alternative Left?

TexExile said...

A telling phrase indeed: "...leave the government ... to return to active political life..."

That speaks volumes about this government, alas.