Sunday, May 06, 2007

zee French, zey are voting (bis)

[NB: "Bis" means "again."]

It's Sunday, and the French vote for their the new président(e) de la République today.

Things are not looking good for socialist candidate Ségolène Royal. She already trails conservative candidate Nicolas Sarkozy in the polls, especially after the debate (which was largely scored in Sarko's favor). And now, a Drudge link takes us to an article claiming that French women are rejecting Royal.

In a desperate attempt to woo undecided voters, Royal was reduced to emphasising the novelty of having a woman in the Elysée Palace who was more than just a first lady.

“I know there are those who thought – and who still think – is it really reasonable to choose a woman?” she said in her final campaign rally in the northern city of Lille on Thursday night. “Is France going to dare? I want to say: dare. Dare! You won’t regret it.”

Some called it a gamble, worrying that Royal’s use of her gender might transform her into a divisive “symbol of sexist revenge”, as Sylviane Agacinski, the author and psychologist, put it.

There was not much danger of that, however. It emerged that Royal was being let down at the ballot box not by centrists, Socialists or any other political bloc but by the one sector of the electorate that might have been expected to rally to her cause in droves: women.

She may have been misled by an Elle magazine opinion poll in January that suggested France was a haven of sisterly solidarity and put her comfortably ahead among women. This seemed to vindicate her approach of appealing for votes not as a woman but as the best-qualified candidate to replace President Jacques Chirac.

Read zee rest on your own.

I'm pretty sure Sarko is going to nab the presidency. I do think, though, that Royal serves as a good foil for Sarko; my feeling is that, just as the US is at its healthiest when government exhibits dynamic tension-- something it hasn't had during the years of all-GOP domination-- France could benefit from the same. While Royal's ideas are socialist enough to make my eyes bleed, she is a devout defender of children and the downtrodden. At the very least, she can serve as a contrepoids to the conservative agenda, which might otherwise slide Le Pen-ward.

As I noted before, the election of Sarkozy doesn't automatically spell relief for France. The current conservative government seems largely comfortable with a socialist, big-government paradigm: unions remain powerful, les trente-cinq heures (the 35-hour work week) are still in place... it will take a herculean effort to dismantle the dysfunctions, and I somehow doubt that Sarko will manage even a tenth of what needs to be done.


1 comment:

Jason said...

Royal's repeated warnings this week that a Sarkozy victory will mean civil violence doesn't strike me as presidential at all, either. As we can see from Taiwan, those kinds of grave warnings from soon-to-be losers tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies.