Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Propositions for Sale

François Mitterrand
 Today the Socialist Party are officially publishing their programme of 30 propositions for the presidential election in 2012.  Ever since Mitterrand put forward “110 Propositions for France” in 1981, French political parties don’t publish manifestoes containing policies; they make propositions which are more specific than manifesto policy statements. The media are then left to pull together the main themes and select four or five of the most salient propositions. The rest get swept under the carpet, at least temporarily. You could be forgiven for thinking that this means that, when they get elected, the politicians’ room for manoeuvre is limited, but this is France.  If something proves to be unpopular it is rapidly dropped and disappears without trace! In serious cases the unfortunate minister who made the formal proposal is buried with it.

It’s very easy to be cynical about politics, but it’s clear that certain French politicians are so arrogant that they think that the public is stupid and won’t be able to see straight through their political schemes and ploys, even one so blatant as “Le Debat sur la Laïcité”.

The UMP is also publishing today its 26 propositions for a debate concerning a change in the law of 1905 about “laïcité”.  Since 1905 it has been a principle of the Republic that religion and the state should be kept separate. This translates into banning any expression of religion in schools or public organisations but also guarantees the rights of individuals to practice their religion without hindrance.

The debate about laïcité is a political gambit to attempt to attract potential National Front voters back to the UMP. The logic starts from the assumption that French people are all racist and will agree with propositions which restrict the rights of muslims to freely exercise their religion in the manner that they choose. The UMP also hopes to move the agenda away from the economy, and the gradual reduction in the standard of living of the average French person, as inflation causes prices to rise faster than salaries, and growth is always lower than predicted.

Jean-François Copé
 I have to say that not all of the UMP agrees with this attempt to move the party to the right. François Fillon has refused to take part in “Le Debat sur la Laïcité”,  which is strongly supported by Jean-François Copé, the General Secretary, and behind him in the shadows, Nicholas Sarkozy.

Jean- Louis Borloo
I am filled with contempt for the organizers of this blatant attempt to appeal to the racist instincts and fears of the electorate. It will almost certainly backfire to the benefit of the National Front, just like Eric Besson's debate on National Identity did. It allows the National Front to set the agenda and leaves the UMP running behind them. It stigmatizes French muslims and furthermore it opens up the centre to be occupied by other groups or individuals like Jean-Louis Borloo. If these gain sufficient momentum they could marginalize the UMP and split the centre-right vote allowing Marine Le Pen to profit the most.  She is a disturbingly capable politician, less provocative, with more credibility than her father and with more appeal to female voters. If Nicholas Sarkozy is the UMP's presidential candidate then the risk of marginalizing the UMP is even higher.

It really would be better for France if the presidential election in 2012 was between François Fillon and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who both seem to be reasonable and decent people and who would both make good Presidents.


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