French Election Results and Analysis: WHY SARKOZY IS DANGEROUS
French Election Results and Analysis: WHY SARKOZY IS DANGEROUS
Here, direct from France 2 TV News (broadcast live in the States via TV 5, the international francophone channel) are the UPDATED exit poll projections from today's first round of France's two-stage presidential election:
NICOLAS SARKOZY -- UMP (conservative) 30.4%
SEGOLENE ROYAL -- Socialist Party 25%
FRANCOIS BAYROU -- UDF (centrist) 18.8%
JEAN-MARIE LE PEN -- Front National (neo-fascist) 11.1%
This means that the Socialist Royal will be in the run-off in two weeks against the right-winger Sarkozy. The results also reveal a stinging rebuke for the Socialists' habitual allies in government -- the Communist Party, whose candidate, Marie-Georges Buffet, got only 1.8%, and the Greens, whose candidate, Dominique Voynet, got just 1.5%. Independent left-of-the-left candidate JosÃ© BovÃ© -- the antiglobalization, farmers' union, and environmental leader --also did badly with just 1.3%, while the young candidate of the largest Trotskyist party, the Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire's Olivier Besancenot, broke away from the left-of-the-left pack with 4.3% (triple the score of Trotskyist Arlette Laguiller of Lutte Ouvriere, who had only 1.4%). It is evident from these results that left voters' fear of a repeat of the 2002 first round of presidential voting, in which the neo-fascist Le Pen displaced the Socialist candidate for a place in the runoff against Jacques Chirac, operated to the detriment of the smaller left parties, whose combined score is much less than half of what they got five years ago (the exception is the LCR's Besancenot, the popular 33-year-old postal carrier, who is getting a vote nearly identical to his 2002 score). (Note: the above results are almost identical to real vote totals released by the Interior Ministry with 63% of polling places reporting.)
And the same exit poll by Ipsos for France 2 showed that, in the runoff, Sarkozy will beat Royal by 54% to 46% (while the number of undecideds for the runoff, said the poll's director, is rather small.)
ANALYSIS: "I'm glad this campaign is over -- j'en ai marre! (I'm fed up)," my friend Claude Angeli, editor of Le Canard EnchainÃ©, told me from Paris at the end of the week. And he had reason to be disgusted, for the uninspiring presidential campaign had, in the last number of weeks, veered off into base appeals to racialism, nationalism, and discredited genetic theories.
In his final rally of the campaign, the neo-fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen complained that the other candidates were "stealing his ideas." There was more than a grain of truth to Le Pen's claim. When the hard-right conservative candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, a few weeks ago proclaimed that, if elected, he would create a new Ministry of Immigration and National Identity, it was a blatant appeal to Le Pen's electorate. By amalgamating "French identity" and "Immigration," Sarkozy was implying that immigrants were somehow devoid of the qualities that make them good French citizens -- and this conflation was immediately denounced by all the anti-racist organizations and by Francois Bayrou, the so-called centrist candidate (who, it should not be forgotten, has a long history of participating in conservative governments under Jacques Chirac.)
But it took Socialist Segolene Royal days to react to Sarkozy's immigrant-baiting proposal -- and even then she did so only in rather mild terms. Moreover, after reading polls that said the French approved Sarko's Immigration-Identity Ministry by 55%, Royal then blatantly played the nationalist card, by saying in a major campaign speech that every French household had the duty to have a French national flag, and to display it on national holidays.
Not only that, Royal began to urge her rallies to sing La Marseillaise, declaring that France's national anthem was "neither xenophobic nor bloodthirsty." Now, most of the French left has long shunned La Marseillaise precisely for those reasons -- like its famous chorus, "Marchons, marchons! Qu'un sang impur abreuve nos sillons!" (Translation: Let us march, let us march, May impure blood soak the furrows of our fields.) Groans of protest and ridicule came from much of the left, including Royal's own Socialist Party, at her nationalist tap-dance and her obviously false declarations defending the outdated, racist, and sanguinary lyrics of La Marseillaise.
Another controversy that raged for a week occurred shortly before the election when the magazine Philosophie asked the best-selling philosopher Michel Onfray to interview Sarkozy. And, in the course of the interview, Sarko expressed the view that one was born a pedophile or suicidal (a genetic theory traceable to the works of Alain de Benoist, the philosopher of a Nordic Aryan revival who was the intellectual fountainhead of the dissolved extreme-right grouplet Orient, and whose racialist works are favored by Europe's neo-fascist movements.) Again, it was Bayrou, not Royal, who first rushed to denounce Sarko's declarations as a return to "eugenics" and the discredited theories of the Nazi past. By the time Royal did speak out against Sarko's declaration, even France's senior Catholic, Cardinal Vingt-Trois of Paris, had already excoriated Sarkozy's declaration. (Michel Onfray, on his "presidential blog" for the newsweekly Nouvel Observateur, traced an acid portrait of his interview with Sarkozy that is a must-read.)
It is obvious from Le Pen's relatively low score today -- he was doing better, between 13-15%, in the last pre-election opinion polls -- that he was not able to repeat his 2002 success in large measure because Sarkozy had stolen much of his electorate with thinly-veiled appeals to racism and nationalism. In addition, Le Pen, at 79, confined his campaigning in the last five weeks almost entirely to press conferences in his party headquarters, eschewing rallies and visits to the French provinces (leaving those handshaking tours to his daughter and apparent successor as Front National leader, Marine Le Pen.) Also, Le Pen had tried to moderate his image this year by toning down his anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic language and using images of dark-skinned supporters of the Front National in his advertising, in the hope of increasing his vote. Obviously, this did not work.
The impressive score of centrist Francois Bayrou -- who tripled the vote he got in 2002 and became the "Third Man" (as the French press called him) in the race, is a sign of real danger for Royal. The fact that Royal -- a self-proclaimed fervent admirer of Tony Blair and his so-called "Third Way" -- campaigned on family values, a tough line on law-and-order (like proposing all juvenile delinquents be turned over to the military for "re-education") and executed a nationalist tap-dance at the end of her campaign helped drive many left voters to Bayrou (as pre-election polls had indicated), who in addition was seen as having a better chance than Royal of beating Sarkozy in a runoff by a goodly number of them (which is what nearly every poll in the last two months had shown). Can Royal recover those defectors to Bayrou, or will they stay home?
Moreover, the feeble score of the left-of-the-left parties -- and especially of the two parties who have been the Socialists' traditional allies in government, the Communists and the Greens -- means that there is a smaller pool of left voters for the Socialists to draw on than in previous presidential runoffs. And the Socialist Royal's accumulation of votes today is nearly identical with that which the Socialist Lionel Jospin received in the last presidential election, in which he was defeated. The Communists, who have an aging electorate -- and who, in the last municipal elections, lost most of the city halls in working class towns and cities that had been their fiefdoms for decades -- are now on life support, and have little influence left. The Greens, who have been riven with internal squabbles and unable to produce any leaders with wide appeal, clearly made a mistake by nominating this year the former Minister of Environment in the Socialist-led Jospin government, Dominque Voynet (whose tenure as a Minister was severely judged by many environmentalists.) It appears that only a backroom deal with the Socialists for parliamentary seats in the legislative elections later this year can conserve the Greens as a player on the national political scene -- but the incentive for the Socialists to give them many seats is sharply reduced by Voynet's extraordinarily feeble showing today...As the election soirÃ©e wore on, the Trotskyist candidates Besancenot of the Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire and Laguiller of Lutte Ouvriere both called for a vote for Royal in the runoff, as did the Green's Voynet.
Sarkozy, in his election victory speech to supporters tonight, clearly had his eye on the runoff in two weeks. Having made significant inroads on the Front National's vote today, he felt he needed to portray himself as more moderate and compassionate, and tonight reeled off a list of the categories who "deserved all the love, respect, and dignity possible: the poor, the handicapped, the aged, the workers, the salaried, those left on the side of the road, who are under the pressure of economic insecurity," etc. etc, and he appealed for a France in which "diversity" is "hailed as a plus, not a negative."
But for those who read last week's explosive issue of the influential and iconoclastic centrist newsweekly Marianne, the real Sarkozy is to be feared. Under the direction of its creator, Jean-Francois Kahn -- a formidable polemicist (he's a sort of French Lewis Lapham) and a prolific author who's been a well-known fixture on the French media scene for decades -- Marianne last week delivered a dossier on Sarkozy last week that portrayed him on the cover as Napoleon Bonaparte. The Marianne Sarko dossier sold out its first printing of 300,000 almost as soon as it hit the stands, and so another 60,000 copies of the mag were reprinted and rushed to the kiosques.
And what did Marianne (whose journalists voted narrowly to endorse the centrist Bayrou over the Socialist Royal) say about Sarko? It assembled a series of anecdotes (some previously known, others recounted -- anonymously -- by leaders of Sarkozy's own party and business leaders) which portrayed Sarkozy as a self-absorbed, mercurial assassin who treats all criticism as "a declaration of war." Sarko explodes with anger at his critics, screaming, "I'll fuck 'em all, I'll fuck 'em!" or "I'll cut their balls off!" or "I'll have their skin," and he puts his yelled threats into practice (this is particularly true of critical journalists -- Sarko is very, very palsy with the French media barons who control 90% of the print and broadcast outlets, and has the scalps of several offending editors and journalists, both print and broadcast, on his belt.) Of his fellow conservative, the current Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, the mag quoted Sarko as saying, "I'll make sure he ends up hanging from a butcher's hook!"
The magazine portrayed Sarko -- one of the few French politicians to have supported the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq -- as a cruel martinet whose self-absorption is so severe that it makes him "crazy," adding that "the nature of his folly is of the kind that, in the past, has served as fuel for the ambitions of many apprentice dictators." "This craziness does not erase Sarkozy's talents, his intelligence, his intuition, or his energy," Marianne wrote, but the magazine then quoted a member of parliament from Sarkozy's conservative UMP party as saying, "It is said that Sarkozy is a narcissist, an egotist -- the words are too weak. I've never encountered anyone with such a capacity to spontaneously erase from his surroundings everything that is not a reflection of himself. He's sort of a blind man regarding the exterior world who can only look at his interior world. He looks at himself, in fact he looks at himself constantly, but he can't look at anything else."
This self-absorption, the magazine related, means that Sarkozy is ethically blind, and recounted both his use of fiscal blackmail to attain his political goals and his association with a band of greedy political crooks in his home fiefdom of the Hauts-de-Seine region to maintain his control of its politics. And the magazine went on to list his numerous violations of civil liberties in his two terms as Interior Minister in charge of the police.
Marianne is not the only one to have recently dissected Sarkozy's performance as "France's first cop." A well-known judge, Serge Portelli -- vice-president of the Paris courts and the author of many works on the French justice system who has frequently appeared on television as a expert on that system -- wrote a book on Sarko's two Interior Ministry tenures cleverly entitled "Ruptures" (Sarko's campaign has been based on what he calls a "rupture" with politics-as-usual, the French mixed economy, and the welfare state.) The book was supposed to have been published a couple of weeks before the election but, as a number of news media reported, pressure from Sarkozy caused the publisher to cancel publication plans for it, too late for Judge Portelli to find another publisher. But the book was quickly made available online by the Syndicat de la Magistrature, the Judges Association (so, if you read French, you can read the judge's eye-opening book by clicking here.) It is a rather frightening portrait of a liberticide who brooks no limits on his ruthless methods and is devoid of any humanism -- the same portrait sketched by Marianne.
Serious European newspapers who have watched Sarkozy up close are similarly severe in their judgments about him. For the SÃ¼ddeutsche Zeitung, Sarko is "a macho without scruples who plays on the fear of the people." For the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Sarkozy is "the most ambitious and pitiless politician in Europe who has no real convictions, but who chooses to align himself with the worst whims of the electorate." The Spanish daily El Pais sees in Sarko "the regenerators of the Spanish right of the end of the 19th century." And the Italian press frequently compares Sarkozy to Gianfranco Fini, the former Berlusconi vice-premier who is the leader of the so-called "post-fascist" Alleanza Nationale (the party Fini, a former fascist youth leader, built on the ruins of the neo-fascist, Mussolini-worshipping Italian Social Movement).
Judge Portelli's censored book also underscores why Marianne concluded its dossier by saying that Sarkozy "represents a formidable danger for the conception we have of democracy and of this Republic." The magazine wasn't wrong.
P.S. It is rather revealing that, in a recent survey by a French literary magazine to find out what the presidential candidates were reading, Sarkozy said he was in love with Curzio Malaparte's Kaputt -- Malaparte, who had participated in Mussolini's March on Rome and was for years a member of the Fascist Party, wrote Kaputt as a novelistic paean to the Nazi Wehrmacht's combat on the Russian Front, and the book is full of very bloody descriptions of massacres and includes a hate-filled scene in which homosexual prisoners on a train are giving birth to dolls!
FOR MORE BACKGROUND INFORMATION, see my earlier reports on France's presidential election:
March 10, "Can Bayrou Beat Segolene Royal?"
February 22, "Segolene Royal in Free-Fall"
February 9, "France: Bad News for the Left"
February 1, "Jose Bove Complicates the Contest"
Doug Ireland, a longtime radical journalist and media critic, runs the blog DIRELAND, where this article appeared April 22, 2007.