Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Presidential problems – France and Romania

At one end of Europe, the invective is beginning to rise again in the French elections, as today is the day third-placed centrist Francois Bayrou is expected to announce who – if anyone – he’s going to throw his support behind.

Bayrou’s party may largely consist of people who have drifted to the centre from the right, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he (or they) will lump in with Sarkozy – because the frontrunner from the first round is doing anything but embrace Bayrou’s multi-partisan spirit of co-operation, his team telling the Financial Times that he’s thinking of splitting his own party in two to capitalise as much as possible on the two factions – Gaullists/rightwingers and centrists. Last night, Sarkozy even attacked the very basis of Bayrou’s inclusive approach to French politics, announcing in a speech that

“I will not seek to build artificial coalitions… I will not negotiate any compromise that would run contrary to my convictions and the commitments I have taken and for which 11m French had confidence in me in the first round.”

Me Sarkozy! Me strong leader! Sarkozy CRUSH! (etc.)

Royal, meanwhile has taken a very different approach – softly, softly, touchy-feely, calling for an open and formal alliance to build a strong “Stop Sarko” cross-party group.

But despite this, the “kingmaker” title bestowed on Bayrou by some pundits after Sunday’s first round results came through is looking increasingly increasingly unlikely to be born out by events.

Sarkozy’s all but publicly telling the centrist that he can go screw himself shows there is much doubt as to whether Bayrou really did achieve something new but, more importantly, the right-winger also has a point about the coalition that Bayrou had managed to build – it WAS artificial, inasmuch as it was based around the vague hope that party politics could be jettisoned for a change, and it centred almost entirely on the figurehead leader that had formed it. Now that the figurehead no longer has a chance of getting elected, the most likely outcome is that Bayrou’s coalition will splinter, and that he will have little control over how his erstwhile supporters vote next.

The French elections are, in other words, still all up in the air. Although judging from Sarkozy’ recent rhetoric, the best bet for Royal is to allow him to dominate the airwaves with his self-important rhetoric, and hope that the French public get utterly sick of his overinflated ego by the time of the next vote in a week and a half… (See also OpenDemocracy, the Washington Post, the Economist and Charles Bremner on the struggle to win over Bayrou’s supporters.)

Then, over on the other side of the continent, Romania has opted for a nation-wide referendum to decide whether to chuck out their president, following his recent suspension for violating the constitution. (*cough* Tony Blair *cough* Jacques Chirac *cough* pretty much any political leader you don’t like who’s done some dodgy stuff *cough*) Kosmopolit has a handy roundup of what’s going on and reactions – note particularly Jon Worth on the place (or lack thereof) of the EU in this rapidly escalating little domestic crisis.

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