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Thursday, 27 February 2014

Noyon - Not such brotherly love in the French local elections

The local elections (yes, sorry about this, but...) are just under one month away.

And while the attention - well that of the national media at least - might be focused on the battles in France's big cities such as Paris, Marseille and Lyon, there are also some pretty interesting things (honestly guv) going on elsewhere.

Take, for example, what has all the potential to turn into a family feud (actually, it already has) in the northern town of Noyon.

The current mayor - the Socialist party's Patrick Deguise - is seeking re-election. No surprise there perhaps as French politicians at a local level seem to love staying in office for as long as possible.

Besides, Deguise has only had one six-year term in office in Noyon.

But, in an act of very unbrotherly love, the main opposition centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) has found the ideal candidate to oppose Deguise - and quite possibly, in the process, confuse voters.

His older brother, Gérard.

Deguise versus Deguise with the far-right Front National's Michel Guiniot thrown in for good measure to the siblings' strife.

Patrick Deguise (left) and Gérard Deguise (montage of screenshots from Courrier picard interviews, September 2013)

And there's clearly little love lost between the two brothers.

Back in the last local elections (2008) the 66-year-old Deguise (Gérard) was third on the UMP's list for Noyon, a town in which he had been an elected councillor for almost two decades.

But along came 58-year-old Patrick, who had been mayor of a neighbouring village of Pont-l'Evêque, to win a traditionally centre-right town hall and simultaneously earn the wrath of his brother who seemed convinced his own "notoriety" had helped his younger brother woo "confused" voters.

'When you slog your guts out for a town for 19 years and then your brother comes along and effectively 'fires' you, it's impossible to take it well," said Deguise (Gérard).

"We used to be a very united family with definite values, but obviously the job of mayor of Pont-l'Evêque (population 803) wasn't enough for him," he added.

Determined to teach his younger brother a lesson, Gérard has decided to stand not just as a councillor, but also as mayor this time around.

It's a decision which doesn't actually amuse Patrick but rather shows that, as far as he's concerned, his brother has "an inflated ego".

"Gérard is in denial," he said. "He embodies the past and it's now too late for him."

Family get togethers must be somewhat less than fun.

Mind you, it could have been worse.

There was a rumour (unfounded apparently) at one point that another brother, 57-year-old Alain, who used to be a member of the UMP but is now a supporter of (gaullist and souverainist) Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, was thinking about putting together a list.

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