Le petit Nicolas

by Maria on April 17, 2007

Imagine my excitement when I turned on TF1 last night to see my two crushes amongst France’s Great Men engaged in intellectual naked mud wrestling together. Patrick Poivre d’Arvor was interviewing Nicolas Sarkozy, and was as benignly indifferent to Sarko’s expressive eyes and small man ego as if he were talking to his puppet on Les Guignols. Sarkozy punctuated his remarks by referring directly to PPDA as “Patrick Poivre d’Arvor”. It was odd, and I’m sure there’s some history behind it. Does anyone know the story?

Through the campaign, Sarkozy has been even more invigorated, more expansive, more himself. He finally wrestled an endorsement out of Chirac a couple of weeks ago, when it was obvious that Super-Menteur was hurting only his own credibility by witholding approval of his prodigal son. Sarkozy is off the leash and thriving on it. A political campaign gives expression to his infamous hyperactivity in a way the mere presidency of France never could. He’s growing into the role, but he’ll never be amiable like Chirac or grand like Mitterrand. Sarkozy is charmingly insecure. He completely spoilt his statesman act last night by pointing out how he rises above the insults of his rival candidates by refusing to address them.

This morning, in a political broadcast, Segolene Royal was looking much less exhausted than she has over the last few weeks. She articulates perfectly the nation’s desire to live out its values of fairness and justice and accommodate the rest of the world purely on France’s terms. If France’s presidency was the figurehead role initially envisaged in its predecessor republics, there would be a place for this sort of thing. Without naming names, she referred to those who are ‘bulimics of power’, implicitly contrasting her own, more measured approach. But while Royal says she’ll steer France away from the ‘neo-liberal’ policies of the last five years, in practice it would mean more of the same when it comes to the economy. Chirac has stayed a steady course purely out of lassitude, Royale would do so out of a popular, Canute-like belief that France can stand alone against ‘de-localisation’ and ECB interest rates.

The dark horse is, of course, Francois Bayrou. Try as I might, I never seem to switch on the telly when he’s talking. I’d love to see PPDA give him a good working over.



Maria 04.17.07 at 10:12 am

Commenting on your own post is a bit like laughing at your own jokes. But anyway, two other points occur to me that I don’t have time to thread into this post.

First, an observation that this morning’s CNN international was stupidly insistent that the key issue in this campaign is immigration. Refracting the campaign through the US lens which sees France’s politics firstly in terms of race and immigration is just silly. As CNN’s own French pundit pointed out, immigration is 7th on a list of issues French voters care about. This election is all about the economy.

Secondly,it’s becoming obvious that the dinosaurs of the French left – Fabius, Jospin and Strauss-Kahn – would rather see Sarkozy in power than Royale, even if a Bayrou pact till the 2nd run-off could put Sarkozy out of the running. Is this cynicism at its extreme, or an extreme version of French idealism?


abb1 04.17.07 at 10:24 am

Maria, could you explain this thing about Jospin rooting for Sarkozy, please.


Z 04.17.07 at 11:23 am

Ségolène’s name is Royal. No final e. From where I stand, it is not obvious that Jospin and al. are clearly against her, but one could perhaps argue that they are not behind her as much as they could.

It is true that immigration is not very high on the citizen’s list, and the CNN framing looks like a copy-cat of the american point of view, but it is also true that Sarkozy did put questionnable issues on the forefront, probably to ensure his share of the Front National electorate.

I’d be curious to hear abb1’s take on the french election seen from Switzerland.


Maria 04.17.07 at 11:34 am

Thanks, z, I even mis-spelt bulimic first time round. I’ll fix the spelling.

As to Jospin rooting for Sarkozy, it’s more that he appears to be holding out against a pact with Bayrou which could rout Sarkozy in the first round.


Maria 04.17.07 at 11:57 am

See today’s FT for a story on pre-1st round pacts:http://www.ft.com/cms/s/40dcefae-ec4d-11db-a12e-000b5df10621.html


abb1 04.17.07 at 12:16 pm

Z, I haven’t heard anyone talking about it here. In contrast with the EU constitution two years ago – that was discussed a lot.

A pact with Bayrou – would this be the Labour/new-Labour and Democrats/DLC sorta thing?


Z 04.17.07 at 1:11 pm

As to Jospin rooting for Sarkozy, it’s more that he appears to be holding out against a pact with Bayrou which could rout Sarkozy in the first round.

If I strive to be as fair as I can to anyone involved, I would say that almost everyone is holding out against this alliance. Royal dismissed it, Bayrou dismissed it, even Strauss-Kahn (the leader of the right wing of the socialist party) thought it was prematured before the second round. One must also say that while some centrists have asked for an abstract alliance, none that I know has proposed a clear definite plan.

The FT article is relatively good, but in my opinion slightly too quick to channel the right-wing point of view. There is no “acrimonious dispute” among the Parti Socialiste on the subject of the pact: everyone rejected it. And it is certainly not true that Sarkozy runs a “streamlined, slick operation”: two days before the pact became an issue between the left and the centre, Brice Hortefeux, one of Sarkozy’s closest ally and one of France’s most rightist politician outside of the far-right parties, proposed a constitutional reform that Sarkozy has long opposed and that has long been asked for by the Front National. The move was seen by many as a gesture towards the far-right, and according to Le Monde, Sarkozy was furious.

I haven’t heard anyone talking about it here

That is still a point of view: nobody cares.


P O'Neill 04.17.07 at 2:48 pm

I’ve wondered about that pronunciation of names thing in another context. When Sarkozy is on with the France 2 anchor David Pujadas, he seems to go out of his way to say the latter’s full name several times. I recall (but can’t name specifics) that other politicians sometimes do it too. I’ve wondered if its some oblique reference to Pierre Poujade, as a put-down of what they view as a pesky question. One of the subtleties lost on us Franglais speakers.


Z 04.17.07 at 3:51 pm

Seems to me that this is peculiar to Sarkozy. At the very least, it is the basis of some imitations of him. I don’t think there is any political meaning.


dearieme 04.17.07 at 5:15 pm

“She articulates perfectly the nation’s desire to live out its values of fairness and justice”. Priceless.


JP 04.17.07 at 7:09 pm

I love PPDA too! He’s a sexy beast.

That is all.


Chris Baldwin 04.17.07 at 8:22 pm

As a member of the Labour Party, I support Royal, as I presume we all do…


Name (required) 04.17.07 at 8:59 pm

Is there any debate in France about the crapness of their 2-stage electoral system? After another four-horse race with consequent random finalists, they might get with the program and introduce Instant Runoff Voting.


nick s 04.17.07 at 11:53 pm

I’m getting as much as my quarter-decent French gives me out of Le Monde and elsewhere’s, though it would be good to know of good reliable sources — French or English — especially ones that will be streaming coverage of the results.

The PS is terrified of another run-off in which it’s a spectator. I wouldn’t be surprised if they created the tale about the secret RG poll that raised the nightmare scenario of a Sarko-LePen second round. If that were to happen, I’m thinking ‘hello Sixth Republic’.

(A piece in the Indy was interesting, citing Normandy farmers who’d benefit most from Royal’s policies if implemented, but who’d never vote for a woman, let along a woman on the left.)

And Sarko does have the little-angry-man thing going, doesn’t he? Has anyone in France made the obvious comparison?


Maria 04.18.07 at 8:03 am

For the obvious comparison, check out last week’s cover of the Economist.


nick s 04.18.07 at 9:11 am

Aha. Interesting to see the ‘Con thinking ‘Napoleonic = good thing’. Even the horse doesn’t look impressed. But I see that Les Guignols did a Sarko-Ségo Snow White earlier this year, which does tickle me.


abb1 04.18.07 at 9:50 am

Apparently the polling now shows Sarkozy/Royal 27-27 in the first round and 50-50 in the second. No big surprises, no nightmare scenarios.


Z 04.18.07 at 10:15 am

Has anyone in France made the obvious comparison?

The thing is, Napoléon is still largely seen as a positive “founder of the state” figure in France. Therefore, no one would dare compare Sarkozy to him, unless in an obvious satirical move.

Speaking of angry man comparisons, Sarkozy was google bombed for a few months so that Sarkozy would redirect to Iznogoud, a famous comics character who is small, very angry and above all consumed by an always frustrated desire to become “caliph in place of the caliph”. I see that a google search on Nicolas Sarkozy still has Iznogoud on the first page.


Disinterested Observer 04.18.07 at 10:32 am

I don’t understand what a Royal-Bayrou pact would really mean. Royal is never going to say before the first round that socialists should vote for Bayrou as a way of stopping Sarkozy. As far as I can see a pact could only involve Bayrou saying that his supporters should vote for Royal in the first and second rounds (presumably he would become Prime Minister as a quid pro quo). But how many of Bayrou’s supporters would do this? There are no preferences to allocate, and I don’t get the impression that people support Bayrou because of some form of party loyalty. The reason why he might win the second round if he gets through is precisely the reason why Chirac got such a large vote in the last Presidential – simply he is not the other candidate. If Royal does not get into the second round, then presumably all her supporters plus those further left would vote for Bayrou rather than Sarkozy. If Sarkozy is knocked out, then all his voters plus Le Pen supporters vote Bayrou rather than Royal.


nick s 04.18.07 at 6:30 pm

dis@19: the nightmare scenario raised by the last week’s reporting of a secret RG poll, whether real or not, was a Sarko-Le Pen second round, with Bayrou and Royal essentially eliminating one another.

Given that possibility, however slight, we’re seeing the attempt to get at least one of the two (i.e. Royal) into the second round.


yabonn 04.18.07 at 9:37 pm

The thing is, Napoléon is still largely seen as a positive “founder of the state” figure in France.

… And seen with indiffrence or some nuance outside of it, except the english speaking world. They just love their boogeyman :)

On the plus side, we’re sure this way the Economist doesn’t run out of witty covers.

The calling by the full name is an annoying media shtick. A mix between ostentatious respect of the interlocutor, flattering, demanding his attention (and the auditor’s attention too as a consequence) on-this-very-point, Patrick Poivre d’Arvor, and again all a kind of other different, disgusting, things.

Sarkozy does it a lot, but I first saw this horror in second grade news-shows on cable tvs, functionning as mutual grooming among tv people. I think the technique could work in english too, try it if you can pass the queasy phase.

I’m not surprised to see some racist french on CNN – the antisemitic french was covered already I suppose. I think I stopped hoping even a semblance of sanity on France coverage at the riots.

I’m beggining to think the black horse has some good chance. Nobody likes Sarkozy except his 27 percents, and Royal campaign has been a clunky mess, trying at moments to out-Poujade Sarkozy’s. The old scrooges at the top of the party won’t help, they apparently think they won’t be harmed by another PS failure.

The system is rather weird, but I could not see much fuss about it last time a poll gave Bayrou winning against both Sego and Sarko in the secound stage.

Comments on this entry are closed.