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Monday, 14 May 2012

Political parachuting – a French electoral tradition


The French will get to go the polls yet again – some of them twice -  in little under a month in parliamentary elections which could determine how much of a mandate the newly-elected president François Hollande will realistically have in pursuing his declared policies.

After all let’s not forget just how close the May 6 presidential run-off with Nicolas Sarkozy was: just over 1.1 million votes separated the two men and there were of course over two million blank votes.

Still a win is a win and Sarkozy has had praise heaped upon him for the dignified manner in which he has handled defeat.

Time then for the political parties to “tourner la page” as the French seem so fond of saying, and lock horns for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

France needs a proper opposition able to counterbalance the power of the Socialist party at local, regional, Senate and now presidential levels, runs the thinking behind the strategy of the centre-right Union pour un mouvement populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) party.

It wants to show that the choice of Hollande was the wrong one as his policies “threaten the sovereignty and independence of the country.”

Meanwhile the Socialists want the French to endorse their choice of Hollande with a strong showing for the party in the parliamentary elections.

All well and good – a campaign fought on issues and ideological differences.

Sounds great doesn’t it.

Except that ugly tradition of parachuting candidates into chosen constituencies threatens to make its usual mockery of the political process and take up more than its fair share of media time over the coming weeks.

First up of course there’s  Jean-Luc Mélenchon, fresh from his presidential first-round 11 per cent “triumph” and puffed up ego.

He seems to have conveniently forgotten that he’s an elected member of the European parliament for the southwest of France and has now turned his attention to a seat in the National Assembly.

And it’s not just any seat. It’s one at the other end of the country in Hénin-Beaumont  in the northern département of Pas-de-Calais: one also being contested by the Front National’s Marine Le Pen.

Far Left versus Far Right – a clash of the Titans.

“I’m standing here because there’s a battle of national and international significance,” he announced on Saturday, well aware how the decision will play with Le Pen and the French media.

He’s a wily politician.

But Mélenchon isn’t alone.

The UMP has (at least) two high-ranking members who are being given a helping hand by the party in their future aspirations.

Sarkozy’s prime minister throughout his five years in office, François Fillon reportedly has his eye on a future run for Mayor of Paris. For that of course he needs to have a base in the capital.

Little matter that he already has a parliamentary seat in the western département of Sarthe, one he has held since 1981. In June Fillon will be standing for a sure-thing in the seventh arrondissement in Paris.

And then there’s Henri  Guaino, Sarkozy’s right hand man and advisor at the Elysée for the past five years. He wants to continue his career in parliament and the UMP has decided to allow him to contest another safe seat  in the département of Yvelines just outside of the capital.

Hang about though, there’s a problem as the UMP already has a declared candidate in the form of Olivier Delaporte, a mayor in one of the towns covered by the constituency, and he’s more than miffed at being sidelined.

So much so that Delaporte is threatening to run against Guaino.
Ah yes. parliamentary elections and politics in France – most definitely an honorable affair in which the candidate out to make a political point (Mélenchon) or the one deemed most in need of an easy ride (Guaino) is allowed to do exactly that.

In the case of the latter, Just ask the Socialist party’s former culture minister and Keith Richard look-alike Jack Lang.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ah... but the final vote is in the hands of the local electorate. Up to them to send the parachutees back in space or to the back of beyond even!

Deirdre

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