Wednesday, April 09, 2014

They're Back.......

Perhaps you were wondering about the recent local elections here in France and the slight? reshuffling of the deck of cards of the present Socialist government? Things have changed and as far as Francois Hollande's administration goes, perhaps it is for the better. We have a new Prime Minister, Manuel Valls. I had fairly high expectations for the Hollande government. I liked his choice for PM, Jean-Marc Ayrault because he was plain speaking and not afraid to be controversial. I supported him on most issues, but his environmental stance was more than a little shady. His support for an incredibly unpopular and ultimately unnecessary airport which enraged ecologists here stank of patronage and corruption. The ability to outrage and speak plainly seemed to disappear. The Prime Minister is the coordinator of the governments public image and policy and his seeming amateur ineptness in even delivering a simple unified message on any issue managed to enrage even his staunchest supporters. Still, Hollande stood by him, but Hollande was no better. He became the epitome of the label Monsieur Flamby (Flamby being the brand name of an insipid instant pudding like dessert that all French kids are born with an innate hatred for,) with his lame speeches and inability to make the decisions that would ignite his supporters. His popularity was  in a tailspin. His public image was briefly resurrected when he left his partner, the very unpopular journalist Valerie Trierwieler when his affair with actress Julie Gayet was revealed. But again, it underlined his inability to directly confront difficult personal decisions. He took up with Valerie when his ex partner and mother of his children, Segolene Royal was nominated over him for the 2006 presidential race against Nicolas Sarkozy. Segolene could have won, but she was sabotaged by her own party. She fought against Valerie and Francois for years and ins spite of the back stabbing, remains as one of the most poised and intelligent left leaders in France and retained the presidency of the Poitou/Charente region. Valerie was seen as a demanding domineering bitch and he kept her in her own office for at least a year after his affair with Gaynet started. Still, the image of Francois roaring about Paris after hours on a motorcycle to screw his girlfriend gave is image a slight boost. The model of Motor Cycle helmet he wore enjoyed a sales boost, but then again, it might have had something to do with Daft Punk. Still, Hollande assembled an interesting government. He made his rival, Manuel Valls, Minister of the Interior. Valls is relatively young and extremely dynamic and forceful. He soon became the most popular figure in the government, if not in all of the French politics.  Hollande and Ayrault appointed Christiane Taubira as Minister of Justice. A highly controversial choice because she had been the leader and presidential candidate of her own far left party. An un married mother who rose from poverty in French Guiana to become a professor of agricultural economics, then the representative of French Guiana in the Assembly National. In effect, she is the most powerful female political figure in France. Together in an unlikely alliance with Valls, they are the most popular figures in French politics. She is well liked by most and the target of racism from the extreme right. She still rides her bike to and from work every day in Paris. Hollandes government was saddled with the disaster of the French economy after Sarkozy, who had formed an alliance with the far right Front National in an attempt to usurp their rising influence to the advantage of his UMP centrist right party. That is what helped elect Hollande. Sarkozy had brought France to the edge of the Fascist abyss and used racism and nationalism as a manipulative tool. Hollande had the good will of the nation, but had to deal with the economy and the rise of the far right as they fought the progressive social initiatives of enhanced abortion rights for women and homosexual marriage. Taubira was the champion of both of these issues. They enacted many reforms and effectively banned fracking and gmo agricultural, but Hollande seemed to be a more and more distant and disengaged figure and rarely gave interviews or made effective speeches. He gained weight. Ayrault seemed incapable of any
This was the racist poster used for the anti abortion/ anti
gay marriage rallies in Paris earlier this year.  They had
their rally. It turned very ugly and it had quite the opposite effect
of what the organizers envisioned.
unified response on any issue. This was a perfect storm as we went into the regional elections in March.
The Front National, under Marine LePen went on a militant charm offensive. She was on TV nonstop and they recruited young candidates and pushed them into races in towns all over France. It didn't matter if they were unqualified idiots, or as really happened, in rest homes as figure heads It didn't matter that they had no real platform other than they were different. They were able to bank on the rising dissatisfaction with both mainstream parties and in the ensuing election, they made unprecedented gains in the traditionally right wing South East and the economically devastated North East. So, now they are the official 3rd Party of France. A Party that is run like a military organization and was up to a short time ago associated with the WW2 Vichy collaboration with the Germans. Already in some of the larger towns they have gained control of, The FN has closed down human rights offices and started racist policies against Islamic kids in schools. When discussing this last week with a good friend, He made the statement, "The Front National didn't get a big enough win!" I agree. Why? Because the French public has to have there faces rubbed into this nasty shit.  Luckily, here in this part of France we have remained steadfast on the progressive left. The Ecologists made major gains. Paris has a very cool Socialist woman Mayor, Anne Hidalgo. Manuel Valls is the new
Manuel Valls and his musician wife, Anne Gavoin
Prime Minister and after his vote of confidence yesterday and very powerful speech, in which he outlined a progressive energy policy for the future, more popular than ever. His wife, Anne Gravoin is a musician and plays in Johnny Hallidays Band. They have been featured on all the covers of the major magazines here as the new glamorous power couple. In a recent poll in a woman's magazine, Valls was named the man most French women would want to have a torrid affair with. Suck on that Sarkozy. Interestingly enough, both Valls and Hidalgo are naturalized French citizens, born in Spain...The biggest irony in all of this is that Segolene Royal is the new Minister of the Environment. A position she is eminently qualified for  as she was Minister of The Environment under Mitterand years ago. In yesterdays news, all of the ministers showed up in their big prestige cars, except for Sego, who showed up in her trademark French made totally eco little black electric car and Christiane Taubira?
She rode up on her bike! She is still Minister of Justicein spite of the manufactured controversies and the racist hate!  We are at a cross road here in France. Sarkozy sinks deeper and deeper into the legal abyss of scandals that will ensure that he never can come back even though his supporters dream for some kind of miracle. His wife, the ex courtesan/model Italian Princess Carla Bruni's musical career is floundering. She's kind of pissed with Nicolas because when she gives a concert, more people show up to see him. His party, The UMP is desperately trying to play the Far Right alliance card with the FN and we are stuck with waiting for the FN to fuck up bad enough for the idiots who elected them run them out of town again like they did in the 1980's. In the 1980's and early 90's, the FN managed to gain a foothold in the South East. It was the same situation, exploiting economic insecurity, nationalism and stoking racist sentiment. In short order, they proved they were not able to govern and went down in a flurry of corruption scandals and the party splintered into a few little feuding fiefdoms. Unfortunately, The FN and the UMP have learned much from the tactics of the Tea Party and the American Conservative GOP and their use of media. We don't have a Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly yet, but there are few wannabees in the wings rehearsing.

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