Friday, June 09, 2006

French politics - The "Royal" Road to Success... for now.

It is always interesting to read about French politics in a British magazine. The Economist may be a bit too "free-market" for my taste, but it is nonetheless an excellent magazine with brilliant analyses.

This week, that had a fair article on Segolene Royal, France's rising star on the left. Basically, Mrs Royal has been in the news because she's been the most popular would-be-candidate for next year's presidential electiosn in Frnace, thus mirroring Nicolas Sarkozy on the right. Lately she's also made some controversial statements on juvenile delinquents, (causing a stir within her own party and attacking Nicolas Sarkozy on his own turf) or when she praised Tony Blair (who is seen by most French socialist as a traitor to the Labour ideology). Then she criticized the 35-hour workweek - an icon of Socialist politics - for "benefiting managers with extra days off while workers have had to work on Saturdays".

Ideological incoherence? Well, here's The Economist's theory:
Coherence matters less than distinctiveness. In this, she resembles Nicolas Sarkozy, the leading right-wing contender, who has built his image as a straight-talking, combative risk-taker.
Boy are they right! It is easy to scorn her views and see them as a sell out to populism. But I can't help finding that her strategy of "brand differentiation", as they call it, is a good thing in the end. No only does it resonate with the electorate who are getting tired of the stale grey political class but it also break the usual ideological rhetoric of the French left. And that's refreshing indeed.
Her problem is that the Socialist party grandees will probably do everything they can to prevent her form winning the run-off for the party's nomination. So her use of poll ratings to conquer the party - where she lacks a base - makes a lot of sense.

Unfortunately for her, as The Economist reminds us, polls have constantly been wrong so far ahead of presidential elections.

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