‘Hollande will destroy the French economy in two days’

That blunt messaging is one of the reasons why Nicolas Sarkozy still has a shot to win reelection.

He also claimed that, if elected, Parti socialiste candidate François Hollande would turn France into another Greece.

All of this would be fabulously amazing positioning for a president whose record on balancing the budget is not stellar — public debt has gone up under his watch.  It’s more amazing when you consider that only in December, Sarkozy presided over France losing its ‘AAA’ credit rating from a major ratings agency.

Last week, Sarkozy pounced on the news that the French deficit for 2011, projected to be 5.7%, was, in fact, only 5.2% — never letting horrible be the enemy of terrible.

Even as unemployment hovers around 10%, last week’s GDP report also showed that France grew at a near-recessionary 0.2% pace in the final quarter of 2011.  Nonetheless, Sarkozy managed to turn even that into an opportunity to attack his opponent:

“The Socialists said France was in recession, as if they actually enjoyed it every time there was bad news for France,” Sarkozy told Europe 1 radio, announcing the 2011 deficit figure.

You cannot imagine Dominique Strauss-Kahn, for example, letting Sarkozy push him around like this.

Continue reading ‘Hollande will destroy the French economy in two days’

La revanche de Ségolène

The revenge of Ségolène indeed.

Ségolène Royal, the 2007 presidential candidate of the Parti socialiste, joined François Hollande, the 2012 presidential candidate of the Parti socialiste at a campaign event in Nannes Wednesday night to rally left-leaning voters in France at a time when apathy — and a fierce radical left presidential challenge from Jean-Luc Mélenchon — threatens to erode Hollande’s first-round lead in the presidential race. 

Normally, it’s not incredibly advisable for a candidate, skirting along the cusp of victory, to invite last cycle’s loser to headline one of the largest pivotal rallies of the campaign — it’s sort of like Jimmy Carter inviting George McGovern to campaign for him in the 1976 U.S. general election.

But there, of course, is something fascinating and perhaps a little cathartic in watching the two — intraparty rivals, partners for over three decades and parents of four children — unite in such a public manner.  Although their political differences aren’t nearly so wide as some in the PS, no other moment could symbolize the party’s unity in the 2012 election.

It is rumored that, should Hollande win in May and should the PS win legislative elections in June, Hollande will appoint Royal as President of the National Assembly.

Among especially those with the weakest political voices in the suburbs, Royal retains an aura of excitement that the more plodding Hollande can never match — she has been campaigning for Hollande especially hard in Marseille, for example.  While the glamour has faded from Royal, who once looked to become France’s first female president — she finished embarrassingly low in the 2011 primary for the PS presidential nomination — there’s a glint yet of the magic and excitement that her 2007 candidacy once promised.

As Le Monde notes:

Et même s’il sort gagnant, il devra lutter contre cette suspicion de ne l’avoir été que par la virulence de l’anti-sarkozysme. Pour toutes ces raisons, il a besoin de retrouver un peu de la ferveur de 2007. [And even if Hollande wins, he will struggle against the suspicion of not really having won, but rather than the result of the virulence of anti-Sarkozyism. For all these reasons, he needs to regain some of the fervor of 2007.]

On the other hand, Hollande had better hope that the appearance with Royal — who lost the second round of the 2007 race to Nicolas Sarkozy by six points — does not make French voters see him as just the next in a long line of sacrificial lambs on the left in the past two decades to have watched nearly “certain” presidential campaigns end in disaster.

Wildrose continues to stoke prairie wildfire

A new poll out in Alberta shows Wildrose taking a 43% lead to the Progressive Conservative’s 30%, with less than three weeks to go until the provincial assembly election — a stronger result even than polls earlier this week that showed Wildrose taking a narrow lead over the PCs, who have governed Alberta since 1971. 

The poll shows Wildrose nearly even with the PCs in the capital city of Edmonton, but with nearly a 20-point lead in Calgary and nearly a 20-point lead everywhere else.  The New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party continue to battle for third place in the low teens (NDP at 12%, Grits at 11%).

Don Baird at the Calgary Herald frames the campaign in stark dynamics, contrasting the tightly controlled Wildrose campaign to the more freewheeling PC campaign, but also in their ideological roots:

Ideologically, the two parties are now so widely separated they can’t possible reunite for many years.

[Premier] Alison Redford has whittled her PCs down to their origins as traditional Peter Lougheed progressives, firm believers in the state’s power to shape  economics and behaviour.

Danielle Smith’s Wildrosers are latter-day Preston Manning Reformers, suspicious even of the governments they run themselves, but trusting of individuals.

That characterization is definitely not a good sign for the long-governing PCs in what constitutes the most conservative province in Canada — the tea-party-like Wildrose has been able to claim a mantle of the “true” conservative party with its emphasis on budget-cutting and smaller government.

The PCs are starting to respond with vigour, emphasizing Wednesday that Wildrose would endanger ‘conscience rights’ by allowing officials to refuse health care or other governmental services on the basis of personal opposition to same-sex marriages, contraception or abortion.

Baird — if you are reading just one person on Albertan politics, by the way, it should be him — agrees that the PC campaign has no choice but to launch a “bogeywoman” attack on Wildrose and on the prospect of Smith as Alberta’s premier:

The stakes aren’t just power. They’re history, too. Redford is on the brink  of becoming the last Alberta PC premier, forever filed with Kim Campbell as a female leader who suffered for the sins of men before her.

Anybody who thinks the PCs will just accept this fate is deluded. Their real campaign begins now. It will bring 20 days of bogeywoman politics aimed at [Smith].

A commie in wolf’s clothing?

It has not been the best week for newly elected Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying, who’s already garnered loud criticism for appearing too close to Beijing — and he was the “popular” candidate!

Protesters gathered earlier this week in Hong Kong after Leung visited — on just the day after his election as chief executive — Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong:

“Beijing blatantly interfered in our election,” said retiree Lam Sum-shing, 69, who was wearing a green army uniform and a mask with Leung’s photo. “I’m wearing this to show he will be a yes man for Beijing. He was not chosen by the seven million Hong Kong people, he was chosen by 689 pro-Beijing elitists.”

Given that Hong Kong residents fiercely guard their autonomy under the “one China, two systems” rubric whereby prior freedoms under British colonial rule — press freedom, economic liberalization, rights to assembly — are meant to continue for at least 50 years in the special administrative region, this was perhaps not Leung’s smartest move — especially given the rumors during the election campaign that Leung was a secret member of the Chinese Communist Party.

China’s leadership has promised full elections among the Hong Kong populace in the next election in 2017. Continue reading A commie in wolf’s clothing?

N’Dour, Kane headline new Senegalese cabinet

Newly elected Senegalese president Macky Sall has named his cabinet.

The headline appointment is popular singer Youssou N’Dour, who was one of the most vocal opponents of former president Abdoulaye Wade — when Sall emerged as the sole challenger to Wade in the second round of the presidential election, N’Dour and the entire spectrum of Wade opposition enthusiastically supported Sall.  N’Dour had attempted to run for president in the March vote, but was disqualified prior to the election. He will serve as minister of culture and tourism.

The cabinet contains just 25 appointees, down from the 40 in Wade’s prior cabinet.

Abdoul Mbaye — a former banker and technocrat with no party affiliation — will serve as Sall’s first prime minister.

Amadou Kane, a former banker with Senegal’s branch of BNP Paribas, previously head of the International Bank for Trade and Industry of Senegal and a former official with the West African Development Bank, will serve as finance minister.

Sall ally Alioune Badara Cissé will be the new foreign minister.

London mayoral race heats up

The Guardian has a thoughtful piece on whether London mayor Boris Johnson and former London mayor Ken Livingstone hate each other, two days after Johnson called Livingstone a “fucking liar” on a radio program.

Both candidates, however, are perhaps most well known for their tense relationships with their own party comrades.

The Tory Johnson (above, left), delightfully off-message for most of his political career, has had a bit of a rough relationship with his old classmate David Cameron.

Livingstone (above, right) was such a rebel when he was mayor of London that Tony Blair actually kicked him out of the Labour Party.

The two squared off in a television debate Tuesday in advance of the May 3 vote.

London’s mayoral election will be just its fourth ever — Livingstone won the first two in 2000 and 2004, and Boris won the 2008 election against Livingstone.