Monday, April 23, 2007 at 11:17 AM
They are: Nicolas (Sarko) Sarkozy - the “center-right” candidate of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) [a.k.a. the Conservative Party] that outgoing President Jacques Chirac built – who won 31% of yesterday’s vote (far short of the 50% needed for a first-round knockout) and Segolene (Sego) Royal – the “left” candidate of the Socialist Party (PS) – who won 26%.
Of course, no regular reader of this weblog will be surprised by my fervent wish to see Royal, a former environment minister, elected president of France. After all, based on her ideology and a comparative analysis of their policies, I clearly have more common cause with Royal than with Sarkozy.
(Although, ironically enough, I sympathize with Sarkozy’s pledge to “rupture” France from its encrusted habits (especially of doling out unsustainable welfare benefits and indulging a 35-hour work week) which make the French too complacent as well as devoid of the entrepreneurial vigor that is necessary to survive and compete economically in the 21st Century. Alas, most Frenchmen regard this vow as a symptom of the American-style impudence and recklessness that afflict Sarkozy. In fact, Sarkozy displays a Blairite affinity for America that any self-respecting Frenchman must find particularly galling. And this, more than anything else, is why a majority of them will vote for Royal in the runoff. )
I would like Royal to win also because she would immediately become the most appealing, dynamic and influential member of my “woman-power” club of female heads of state – with all due respect to sehr geehrte Frau Merkel, the first female Chancellor of Germany.
Never mind Royal’s reputation for being almost as gaffe-prone as U.S. President George W. Bush. For example, on one occasion, she expressed solidarity with (terrorist group) Hezbollah’s struggle against Israel, which won her the mortal enmity of all Israelis; and on another, she expressed solidarity with (Francophone) Quebecers’ fight for “sovereignty and liberty” from Canada, which won her the mortal enmity of most Canadians.
(For the record, I firmly believe that the best hope for mankind is for more women like Royal to be elected to my international women’s club. But this does not include women like Hillary Clinton – who compromises her political principles to further her imperial ambitions as readily as her husband comprises his marital vows to feed his pedestrian lust. Indeed, it is noteworthy that Hillary did little to endear herself to her purported soulmates on the French left when – to burnish her “centrist” bona fides – she refused to meet Royal a few months ago, which forced Royal to cancel her highly-touted solidarity tour of the U.S.)
By contrast, Sarkozy left an indelible impression when (as interior minister) he reacted more like a fascist than a potential leader of the French Republic - by declaring “war without mercy” against Muslim youths after they rioted all over France in late-2005 to vent long-simmering political and economic grievances. Indeed, as if to make plain his disdain for these disaffected and disenfranchised kids, the vast majority of whom are French citizens, he dismissed them as “rabble and scum”.
Therefore, Sarkozy hardly seems the best candidate to help assimilate legal and illegal immigrants into French society, which is one of the more pressing challenges the next president will face.
Meanwhile, unlike the keen interest most Europeans show in U.S. presidential elections (some of them even organized a letter-writing campaign in a vain and misguided attempt to defeat Bush), most Americans couldn’t care less who is elected president of France or any of other European country for that matter. And fair enough. After all, regardless of who is elected, there will be no substantive change in Franco-American relations as a result.
Not that any change is necessary. Because, despite the rantings of arrogant Frenchmen who suffer congenital envy of America’s super-power status, and of stupid Americans who think all Frenchmen are effete surrender monkeys, bilateral relations between these mutually-begrudging nations remain as firm and reliable as ever (on everything from sharing intelligence in the “war on terror” to pursuing joint-venture space explorations).
In fact, even though Bush’s war in Iraq became a cause celebre for French and American zealots to hurl jingoistic invectives at each other, Franco-American relations were, substantively, at a lower point during the last years of the Clinton Administration, when French luxury goods figured prominently on a hit-list for retaliatory tariffs to combat the “EU’s 10-year, arbitrary and scientifically unjustified ban on U.S. beef”.
That said, it behooves reflexively anti-French Americans to concede and appreciate that notwithstanding their know-it-all attitude, the French were right in their stern, persistent and “friendly” admonitions about the American-led invasion of Iraq!
Moreover, if Americans were serious about their participatory democracy they would follow French fashion by holding national elections on weekends instead of on weekdays, when few people can be bothered, and even fewer can afford, to take time off from work to vote.
NOTE: The Nigerians voted too…
Nigerians tried to make history of their own on Saturday by voting in a presidential election that would have seen one civilian president transfer power to another in an orderly democratic process for the first time in post-colonial Nigeria. (Instead of losing it to a wannabe despot in a bloody military coup – as had become customary.) Of course, we’d have to overlook the fact the outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo did all he could to “elongate his rule” – as I lamented in this article<
/a> last May.
Unfortunately, international and local election observers have already joined the two main opposition candidates, Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku Abubakar, in decrying the results, which declared the candidate of Obasanjo’s ruling party – Umaru Yar’Adua – the winner, as so marred by the pandemic African maladies of prohibitive violence, bureaucratic incompetence and unabashed fraud that they’re “calling for the cancellation of the entire exercise”.
Only in Africa folks…only in Africa!
Merkel’s woman power outlast Schröder
Michelle Bachelet breaks glass ceiling in Latin America
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf becomes Africa’s first female president
BBC Q&A: French presidential vote