Sunday, December 10, 2006

French Presidential Politics

France elects a new President this spring and since I am no expert on their politics, Wikipedia’s French Political Parties cheat sheet is a handy dandy aid to trying to understand the players wanting to lead the country. Ségolène Royal is the Socialist Party candidate who will face the person selected by the Union for a Popular Movement (UPM) Party of current President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.

Defence Minister confirms she will challenge Sarkozy: French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie has confirmed she plans to seek the nomination of the ruling UMP party to run in next year's presidential election, challenging party frontrunner Nicolas Sarkozy. … The declaration, … pits her against Sarkozy, the tough talking interior minister and UMP party chief, who confirmed last month he would seek the nomination at a special party meeting on January 14.

Despite the late challenge, Nicolas Sarkozy, UMP Party President and the Minister of the Interior, is expected to be the center-right challenger to the socialists. Sarkozy will probably take French foreign policy in a different direction than Chirac. Familiarity occasionally breeds contempt and the two old men really don’t like each other.

The Middle East Plagued by Confusion and Opportunism: The Left in France - as well as many prominent Gaullist figures - fear that if Sarkozy is elected president he will move France into the U.S.-Israeli camp and abandon Chirac's policy of non-alignment, which has sometimes been tinged with mild pro-Arab sentiments. Although they are both in the same right-wing camp, Chirac and Sarkozy make no secret of their mutual antipathy. It is even said in French political circles that Chirac would rather vote for Ségolène than see Sarkozy succeed him.

The issue of how France should deal with Islam appears to underlie all political debate about immigration and assimilation, Israel and Lebanon, Iran and the bomb, and admitting Turkey into the European Union. The foreign policy direction France should take is such a deciding issue that the neophyte socialist candidate feels compelled to visit the Middle East for first hand experience. By most accounts it is political amateur hour in every respect, including a meeting in which she politely listens to a Hizbullah Minister compare southern Lebanon to Nazi occupied France.

The Very French Rise of Ségolène Royal: Royal willingly met with a Hizbullah MP at an official dinner in Lebanon while his Party of Allah was laying siege to the Siniora government, listened politely while he lambasted the Zionist entity and the demented Americans. She thanked him for the frank expression of his opinions, said she agreed with much of what he said, especially concerning the United States, and begged to remind him that a state is not an entity.

Segolene Royal, Israel, and a Policy of Oblivion: “I was going to the complicated East with simple ideas”. The lesson learned by Charles de Gaulle was not remembered by Segolene Royal. The Socialist candidate came to the region without any ideas, forgetting that Hizbollah is off limits. It was involved in the Drakkar attack, killing 58 French soldiers in Beirut in 1983, after the attack that took the lives of 241 American marines.

The French people will have a meaningful choice to make about their future and there is little doubt that a large portion of our Democratic Party solidly support the socialists.

Howard Dean Joins European Socialists at Annual Meeting: France's socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal, right, shakes hands with Howard Dean, chairman of the United States Democratic Committee, during the Party of European Socialists congress in Porto, northern Portugal Thursday, Dec. 7, 2006.

Being socialists, I’m sure there is serious non-judgmental listening to every point of view before reaching the consensus to reject dismantling our welfare states. The early French polls have the race neck and neck so world events these next four months may determine which consensus wins the power.