Thursday, April 26, 2007

Segolene being pushed to the center

An interesting article in the Guardian about how Socialist candidate Segolene Royal is being pushed to the center in the second round of the French election.

Ségolène Royal, the first woman with a chance of leading France, began re-shaping her campaign yesterday as she faced a runoff with the clear favourite in the presidential election, the rightwing former interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy.


With the candidates racing to win over the 7 million people who voted for the centrist third-man François Bayrou, party advisers said Ms Royal would stand no chance of winning if she fought a traditional socialist campaign of "left versus right". Instead she set out to reassure the centre ground she could be all things to all people, to prove, despite her critics, she could reinvent the nation.

The 84% turnout, the highest since 1965, would give any winner a mandate for change in a country plagued by unemployment, debt and social unrest, where voters are keen for renewal. Mr Sarkozy's score of more than 31.18% was the highest for any rightwing politician for three decades. Socialists hailed Ms Royal for her 25.87%, the highest for a leftwing politician since François Mitterrand in 1988. But the total leftwing vote in France was the lowest since 1969. The other six leftist candidates, whose votes are expected to transfer to her camp, polled less than 11%, providing Ms Royal with a very small reservoir to draw on at the May 6 runoff.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the German Green MEP and hero of Paris's student protests in May 1968, said a leftwing campaign would be "hopeless" for Ms Royal. He held crucial talks in the early hours of yesterday morning at the Socialist party headquarters to convince Ms Royal, whose campaign has been a mixture of leftwing economic policy and conservative social values, to move away from the traditional left. He told the Guardian: "If she tries to play it on the traditionally socialist card, she will lose, because France has veered right."

Of course, it's tough to shift to the center after running on a platform that included:
  • Raising the minimum wage to 1,500 euros a month
  • Abolishing a flexible work contract for small companies
  • Offering all young people a 10,000 euro interest-free loan
  • Raising pensions
  • Guaranteeing graduates of France's overcrowded university system employment or further training within six months of graduation
These proposal are all part of an economic plan Royal introduced in part to protect herself against attacks from the left. Let's just say I don't see this thing being very easy to pull off.

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