A long time ago, in a year already far away, some commenters were mentionning a recent poll showing that SÃ©golÃ¨ne Royal was now leading the race to become the socialist party nominee for the 2007 French presidential election. One salient finding of the poll was that she was supported by a plurality of both French voters (36%) and socialist sympathizers (48%).
At this point, even casual observers of the French political scene would to tempted to ask : just who the hell is this SÃ©golÃ¨ne Royal I have never heard of? Well, I’m glad you asked and I was preparing to bore you with a clumsily written and long-winded summary about the race for the Socialist party nomination and Ms Royal’s short but happy political carreer. But I’ve just found that Doug Ireland has already done it, albeit in a clear way, complete with color pictures, snarky criticism of the French press and the inevitable comparison to Hillary Clinton. So go read him and come back if you really want to know my opinion about SegolÃ¨ne Royal’s chances.
To make a long story short : I just don’t believe that she has any chance of winning the party’s nomination. As Doug mentions, the 130 000 or so card-carrying members of the French socialist party will vote late this year or early next year to decide who will be their candidate in 2007. Such a process is bound to favor party heavyweights (the so-called “Ã©lÃ©phants“, in French political jargon) who have built extensive support networks among local members over popular but organisationnaly weak candidates such as Ms Royal.
This was well demonstrated in the 1995 socialist “primary”, when the leader in the polls, former Culture minister Jack Lang, had to drop out of the race due to a lack of support inside the party. Lionel Jospin, who had been a longtime party chairman (from 1981 to 1988) was eventually chosen as the socialist candidate. I don’t think things have changed since 1995 in this regard. As a fellow French blogger noted a few weeks ago, the buzz about SÃ©golÃ¨ne Royal mirrors that about Wesley Clark in September 2003. In both cases, the prospect of a fight between a batch of unspiring establishment candidates has led the media and the voters to believe that an untested but popular outsider could rescue a party in disarray.
At least SÃ©golÃ¨ne Royal is more politcally experienced than Wesley Clark. On the other hand, she will have a hard time selling her socially conservative ideas to the party grassroots. Maybe she will surprise the skeptics and prove that she can survive the media limelight and a bruising intraparty fight. But, for the moment, I think that this is still a three-way race between Laurent Fabius, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and FranÃ§ois Hollande. And maybe (though I don’t believe it) Lionel Jospin as the “homme providentiel” of the French left if all else fails.
Ok, this where I sign off, my two weeks stint being ‘more than) over. A big thank you to David for his invitation, and to all the Afoe community for its warm welcome and for some productive, if occasionaly heated, discussions. And if you read French, and crave for some half-baked political and economic analysis mainly about France and the U.S., you know you can find me at Ceteris Paribus.