Monday, August 21, 2006


Even though the French are more reluctant to take on neologism than the Americans, they have come with a new word in the political sphere - Segomania which defines quite well the excitement about Ségolène Royal, the first French female socialist to (probably) run for the highest post in the country - the presidency.

The French want some change for sure and so far, it seemed that only Nicholas Sarkozy might be able to give it to them. But at the same time, the French do not necessarily want a "conservative revolution" either. Sarkozy is probably too laissez-faire for them. Sarko (as he is often called) might be a good choice for improved Franco-American relationships but that might just be too much of a liability for him. His controversial rhetoric might also sound too harsh for a majority of people.
Ms Royal, on the other hand, might be more suited to sell what she calls for "a new form of socialist politics, founded on individual responsibility and state protections."
The Independent is right: her popularity is in part due to her being a woman and "speaking in a language shorn of most of the usual political cliches", which has "allowed her to emerge as a "new face", without seeming to threaten abrupt departure from the past."
And indeed;
She has become the first mainstream politician in France to generate popular fervour since the successful presidential campaign of her mentor, François Mitterrand, 25 years ago.
But her problem may be precisely to maintain her popularity in the months ahead. After all the presidential elections only takes place in May. As Jospin found out, no one is above a mistake or two that could jeopardize their chances. Her immediate challenge is to stay up in the polls until the Socialist party votes for their candidate for president in November. There is a lot of opposition whithin the party, mostly from the old guard. There have been talks of bringing Jospin back from the graveyard but that is unlikely to work. Besides, remarks "who is going to keep the kids" by the old-guard (cf. Laurent Fabius) are bound to backfire and make her even more popular.

As left-leaning French daily Libération noted:
"She is not in a bad position" to be chosen as Socialist presidential candidate, but "nothing is more difficult than transforming popularity into votes,"
Her more long-term challenge, however may be to keep the fine line between a Blairesque or Clintonian philosophy (when she asks the Letf to "reappropriate" individual responsibility as a left-wing value") and a more traditional socialist rejection of "the "precariousness" of employment, brought by new technologies and globalisation."
What bothers me the most, however, is the hype made about her, which the term Segomania reflects too well. At times, it looks rather like a popularity contest à la French Idol than a political campaign but maybe that's just the way things ought to be in our day and age. In the end, and at this point, I would choose Royal over Sarkozy for sure.


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