No need to guess what’s got the headlines. Mediapart published what purports to be a document demonstrating that (as has been repeatedly rumoured) Libya offered Nicolas Sarkozy a substantial sum of money (€50 million) for his 2007 campaign. The finances of Sarkozy and the broader French right are a deep dark subject, as the continuing Karachi affair makes clear – the treasurer of the 1995 Balladur campaign just described how they concealed large donations in used banknotes. Of course, the campaign manager was none other than Nicolas Sarkozy. Quite a few of the same personalities involved also turn up in the note. It’s not clear, even if the document is genuine, if the money was ever paid out, and its addressee denies ever receiving it. Meanwhile, the arms dealer Ziad Takieddine, who shows up in the whole range of scandals, says he was refused entry to France in the hope of preventing him from producing the document.
However, so far the response from the Sarkozy camp has just been to complain that it’s “undignified” and to point out that the legal maximum campaign spending is €22 million. Obviously you’d have to be naive to think that this somehow excludes finding something else to do with the spare money.
Obviously, the frantic last chance that the interval between the two rounds provides brings everyone with a grudge boiling up to the surface. Dominique Strauss-Kahn re-appeared, with what claims to be an interview with him appearing in the Guardian (rather-too-helpfully translated here) and causing Nicolas Sarkozy to start talking about him a lot. Weirdly, DSK then walked it back, denying that the piece was an interview. Perhaps it helped to move some books. The founder of Rue89 publishes an open letter calling on him to shut up.
Sarko, meanwhile, claims that he’s hoping for a unprecedented mobilisation of the electorate, although the 80% turnout in the first round didn’t seem to help his cause much. Both candidates finish their formal campaigns with a rally today, before the TV debate on Wednesday night.
In terms of actual content, the debate between the rounds has been marked by both candidates denying they were trying to suck up to the FN while also doing so. Rue89 takes a left-wing view of the FN electorate. Sarkozy announces he wants “a presumption of self defence” for the police, in a transparent sop to the FN, while also denying that he would ever form a coalition with them, although also basking in FN rhetoric. He also did a bit of culture war. There are limits to this: Sarko’s enemies in his own party, including two former prime ministers, are angry about the pandering.
Pandering is bipartisan, of course: Hollande has discovered a desire to have an annual parliamentary debate on an immigration quota, as well as doing a bit of security politics about policemen and cannabis. The PS has been measuring the dosage carefully, though – Ségoléne Royal was sent out to remind the public that the party wants foreigners to have the vote, at least in local elections, as a form of republican integration. However, this promise goes back as far as Mitterand’s 1981 campaign and has yet to be implemented.
Hollande is also trying to score off the European Union, or rather, off the ECB and Angela Merkel. In an interview this weekend, she suggested that she might be willing to support a “growth agenda”, perhaps making use of the EIB, but also said nobody was going to re-open the stability pact. Hollande took the credit and remarked that things had moved and were going to move further.
Le Pen and Mélénchon, meanwhile, are looking ahead to the parliamentary elections in June. Interestingly, the deal setting up the Front de Gauche gave the Communists the majority of parliamentary candidates in exchange for letting JLM run for president, but the man himself is bored with being an MEP and feels the need for a bigger megaphone in French politics. A big deal for both will be whether they can get an agreement with the bigger party on their side of politics to cooperate in three-way marginal seats. This is crucial for the smaller parties, as you need to get 12.5% of the vote in round one to be on the ballot in round two. The UMP and the PS are both playing hard to get.
Out with the PS in La Courneuve, where the local secretary reminds us that Barack Obama didn’t invent canvassing.
Apparently, Nigel Farage has been suggesting that Marine Le Pen dump the FN and create something like UKIP. All I can say to that is that perhaps he could give advice when he gets one in five Britons to vote for him as prime minister.