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Wednesday, 8 January 2014

PR blunders and political infighting threaten Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet's Paris mayor bid

Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet's (NKM) campaign to become the next mayor of Paris (that's the whole of the city as opposed to the 20 individual arrondissements that also have their own elected mayors and administrations  - it's what you call efficient use of public funds) has taken some unusual twists and turns in recent months.

There has been a combination of what surely must be PR blunders and the political infighting that has, in recent years, become a trademark of the centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) to which NKM belongs.

First up those PR - er - gaffes. Or at least peculiar choices.

There she was in late November (just a month after her "carrot rage" outburst - see here to find out what THAT was all about), arguably one of the brightest politicians of her generation, fooling absolutely nobody as she waxed lyrical about the merits of the Paris métro!

"For me, the métro is place of charm, both anonymous and familiar," she said in an interview with Elle magazine.

"I often take lines 8 and 13 and I sometimes have the most amazing encounters. I'm not trying to idealise the subway. It is sometimes painful, but there are moments of grace."

Say what?

Charm?

Grace?

Try telling that to those who use it on a regular basis.

Clearly NKM seldom takes the ruddy thing during rush hour - as many were more than willing to point out.

Oh well. Each to their own.

Just before Christmas, NKM decided to let her hair down (metaphorically speaking as she has already done it literally) by sharing a ciggie with what appeared to be a group of homeless men.

It didn't really matter that they were reportedly workers from Poland with whom she also exchanged a few words in Polish.

Unluckily for NKM, she was caught on camera, the photo was published in VSD and Twitter had a field day poking fun at her and the "apparent attempt to rub shoulders with the homeless".

NKM has a quick ciggie (source Twitter)



Voters, opponents and the media await with impatience NKM's potential PR slip ups between now and the local elections in March.

But, when all is said and done, issues of perceived image pale in comparison with the dangers of the political challenge she faces from those...within her own party - where else?

This is the UMP after all, and true to form it's proving to be as unified as ever...and that means virtual disarray reminiscent of the 2012 leadership fiasco between François Fillon and Jean-François Copé.

At the heart of NKM's problems is her attempt to stamp her authority on sections of the party in Paris that quite simply refuse to accept her way of doing things or that she's the boss.

The particular case of the candidate for mayor of the fifth arrondissement has taken on proportions which prove that at a local level the UMP is as capable of disunity as it is nationally.

More importantly though, it also poses a real threat to NKM being elected.

The current mayor of the fifth arrondissement is Jean Tiberi - a man with the most colourful of political pasts even by French standards - and one of NKM's fiercest critics.

It's Tiberi's second spell in the post.

Jean Tiberi (screenshot Europe 1)

He held it from 1983 until 1995 when he ran for the job NKM is currently campaigning for.

Yes, that's right. He was mayor of Paris - the whole shebang - for six years.

In 1995, he succeeded Jacques Chirac, and he held the post until 2001 when he lost to
Bertrand Delanoë, mainly because he couldn't work out his differences with the late Philippe Séguin thereby splitting the centre-right vote...sound familiar?

So it was back to the fifth arrondissement where he has been ever since, running his own personal fiefdom.

Along the way of course, he and his wife, Xavière, have ridden out several scandals together, including one for corruption allegations as well as accusations of vote rigging.

Heck, he has even been fined, had a suspended 10 month sentence handed down and been prevented from running from political office again.

But that hasn't stopped him from appealing and holding down several jobs at the same time including that as  a member of the national assembly for over 40 years until he stood down in the 2012 elections.

He had been hoping the Tiberi dynasty in the fifth arrondissement would be continued by his son, Dominique.

But NKM stepped in, parachuting Florence Berthout, an old friend of her choosing as the official candidate, and leaving Tiberi - father and son - gobsmacked.

"She's just doing anything she likes," said Tiberi senior.

"My candidature is a legitimate one," said Tiberi junior.

Enter stage left...er, no...better make that right - French businessman Charles Beigbeder, the so-called "blue eyed boy" of the Parisian right and brother of the writer, director and literary critic Frédéric - although that has absolutely nothing to do with his political ambitions.

 Charles Beigbeder (screenshot BFM TV)

Beigbeder wanted to be the candidate on the list for an arrondissement of his choosing and one in which he would most likely be elected.

But NKM had other ideas, plumping for someone else instead and insisting Beigbeder stand in an arrondissement of HER choosing.

Yes this all gets a bit of a numbers game and even a reasonable grasp of the ins and outs of (local) Paris politics makes the internal manœuverings hard to understand.

The long and the short of it is though that Beigbeder has promised to launch his own alternative UMP dissident list of candidates, insisting that "It's not an anti-NKM campaign but one destined to beat the Socialist party's Anne Hildalgo."

No that doesn't really make sense, but it's what Beigbeder maintains potentially splitting the centre-right vote will do.

Ah politics and elections. That's really what it's all about isn't it?

Pass the gin!

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