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Nov 02 2008

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Next French president to be a communist?

Campaign poster, early 2007

Campaign poster, early 2007

(Phrase of the week: avoir le vent en poupe = to be on the road to success; literally ‘to have the wind in the stern’)

Could the next FRENCH PRESIDENT be a communist? This might not be as far-fetched as it sounds, according to a report I’ve just read in Le Monde, headlined (and please correct me if my translation is wrong!): Olivier Besancenot has won credibility among left-wing sympathizers. More on this below. First some background…

As many will recall, in the French presidential elections of early 2007, Besancenot was the candidate for the LCR, the Revolutionary Communist League. A university graduate who works as a mail delivery man, in his election posters he looked about sixteen, although he’s in his early thirties (I wasn’t the only one to think he looked young; later I read another Le Monde article which described him as having a ‘chubby Tintin face’). Under this face on his election poster was the slogan, ‘Our lives are worth more than their profits’.

In the first round of the election in April 2007, Besancenot came fifth. As everyone probably now knows, Sarkozy had garnered over 31% of the votes, Royal nearly 26%, and Bayrou came third with 18%. That horrible old Le Pen only just made it into double figures, and although Besancenot came fifth (out of twelve), he was way behind with only 4% of the vote. As a candidate needs to obtain over 50% of the vote to become president, there had to be a second round of voting a few weeks later (all the posters except for Sarkozy’s and Royal’s now disappeared from public view, the posters of the losing ten candidates mysteriously vanishing from the streetscape, along with their faces from the television and newspapers).

Although he’d only obtained 4% of the vote in April, by the end of the 2007 Besancenot was hard on the heels of Segolene Royal, according to the polls. If the election had been held in November, it was claimed, he would have gained 7% of the vote, but 12% among those aged between 25 and 30. Le Monde articles breathlessly described his many appearances–attending meetings with factory workers, participating in demonstrations, being interviewed on television, or featuring in the free Metro newspaper 20 Minutes.

Now, in the 31 October article from Le Monde, a new survey of over 1000 people showed that 13% would have voted for the ‘revolutionary postman’, had the elections been held in September 2008, and irrespective of the Social Party’s candidate. This and other information showing how the young leader is gaining electoral weight will be revealed in a new book L’effet Besancenot, by Denis Pingaud, the director of the opinion poll institute, and to appear on the 6 November. According to Pingaud’s survey, 69% of left-wingers have a good view of the LCR leader, to whom he seems ‘sympathetic’ (86%), ‘close to the people’ (83%) ‘courageous’ (83%), and ‘honest’ (77%). The explanation of this empathy is that for a great majority of left-wingers, the postman ‘expresses himself in simple words’, is ‘interesting’ and ‘convincing’. As the title of another report suggests: the anticapitalist left is on the road to success (la gauche anticapitaliste a le vent en poupe).

Permanent link to this article: http://www.escapetoparis.com/2008/11/next_french_president_communist/

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