Tidal Wave Fails to Devastate Rue de Solférino

Well, we shall wait to see the pundits explain exactly why the planned “vague bleue” for Nicolas Sarkozy failed to wipe out all traces of socialism in France as predicted. Leszek Kolakowski once described his Theory of the Infinite Cornucopia, which states that there exists an Infinite Cornucopia of reasons that can be invoked after the fact for whichever event actually happens. No doubt the cornucopia will be emptied and licked clean.

Le Monde reports – the PS has actually gained seats from last time, and the doomsodden predictions are exploded. Current forecasts put the UMP on 311-320 seats as against 359 in 2002, the PS on 210-212 compared with 149 last time out, the Communists on 17-18 (still in with a chance of saving their status as a parliamentary group), the Greens clinging on to four seats, the Nouveau Centre (the pro-Sarkozy UDFers) with 20 seats, and Francois Bayrou’s Mouvement Democrate with four seats. Le Pen gets zilch. Philippe de Villiers’ barking-right MPF gets anywhere between 2 and 6 seats.

It’s the leadership that suffered, though. Alain Juppé, the ex-prime minister and ex-con who was tapped to run a new, giant ministry of transport, infrastructure, energy and the environment, lost his seat in Bordeaux to the Socialist mayor. Arno Klarsfeld, one of the Right’s intellectuals, also got the order of the boot. Essentially everywhere, the MoDem voters swung to the Left.

So did François Hollande, although personally rather than politically. It emerged today that his partner, Ségoléne Royal, has thrown the First Secretary out of their home. Le Figaro found this such shattering news that they ran it on the front page lead, as a tiny news-in-brief ticker mentioned the insignificant detail that, well, the left got a majority of votes cast.

Laurent Fabius and Jean-Claude Cambadélis, who both rushed to the cameras with prepared doomsaying about how the PS must be “refounded” (translation = must be led by me), may be feeling a little stranded by the wave’s failure to arrive.

What now, then?

So, the French Socialists have made their decision. The questions are, then, what the ones who made the wrong decision will do, and how the Right reacts. Everyone within the PS is already being very responsible and congratulating each other – DSK says the party is already united, and that he is at the new leader’s disposition, and even Laurent Fabius is making conciliatory noises, although he does want a “sign of her anchorage in the Left”. (Does that mean a cabinet post, or am I too cynical? With Fabius it’s hard to be.)

The realities are clear. For prestige reasons everyone will stand in the first round, which means that there is a wealth of options for disgruntled socialists. Traditionally, these votes will troop back to the PS in the run-off, but this is of course only of interest if they get into the run-off. As there is likely to be a strong extreme-left challenge, the ffirst priority for Royal is to mobilise the base in order to deliver the 25 per cent plus of the vote needed to reach the run-off.

The Communists and the extreme-left have been struggling to find common ground ever since what they perceive to be their triumphs over the European Constitution and the CPE. This week saw their third “national antiliberal meeting”. As is traditional, they agree on very little, and the Communists naturally believe they ought to be in charge. The Trotskyists, naturally enough, suspect that the Communists are trying to nick their votes through something like the classic united front strategy. Their long-standing candidate, Marie-George Buffet, was recently re-elected by a genuinely communist 96 per cent, and is now banging the drum for “orphan socialists” to join her collectif antilibérale. Meant are the supporters of Laurent Fabius, some 18 per cent of the membership. José Bové, meanwhile, who until a while ago was touted as a far-left unity candidate, accused Royal of Blairism, which we’ve said before is bound to be the meaningless word of the campaign.
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Serbia: Elections at last

So Serbia has finally called for elections.

I admit that I was wrong about this government’s tenacity. I predicted back in July that the government would collapse in October. Not so. It has staggered on, month after month… gasping, retching, coughing blood, but somehow refusing to die. It bought a few weeks by holding a referendum on a new Constitution, which was pretty useless but got voted in anyway. Then G17 — the liberal technocrat Europhile party, the smallest member of the ruling coalition — gave the government a few weeks more by the Kafkaesque maneuver of having all its ministers resign, but not actually leave office until the government accepted their resignations. Which took nearly two months.

But anyway, elections are coming, and a date has been set: January 21, 2007.

So what does it all mean?
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Where Will It Lead Us From Here?

The German election campaign is cranking up to as close to a throbbing wave of intensity as you are likely to find in modern Germany. Very soon, Chancellor Gerhard Schr�der is going to take on the CDU’s Angela Merkel in a televised debate. Merkel has always had to do it tough in the CDU, as I’ve remarked on before, because she isn’t really the kind of person who fits the traditional shape of the post-war German conservative movement. Last time around, she was party leader but was ditched as Spitzenkandidat (a German term which compromises between a quasi-US presidential candidacy and the reality of a Westminster-style constitution) in favour of the hard-right Bavarian, Edmund Stoiber. This time, though, the polls are running heavily in her favour, after she spent the intervening period selectively eliminating the men (and they were) who did her in the first time around.

This is where it gets interesting. Last week, she was moved to give a speech in which she said a very remarkable thing. Apparently, Germany needs to retrieve the spirit of the Gr�nderzeit. This word is usually translated into English as the Founders’ Generation, which doesn’t sound terribly interesting or controversial. The point is, though, which generation, and what did they found? When you speak of the Gr�nderzeit in Germany, or Austria, you mean the 1870s and the foundation of united Germany. For some reason the Austrians use it too, perhaps stretching the definition to include the 1867 Austro-Hungarian Compromise or Ausgleich. It’s not an especially controversial word, but then, that is in part because it’s most often used to describe architecture.

Outside Germany, though, you might be forgiven for thinking this pretty eyebrow-raising. In the Anglosphere, it is fairly conventional wisdom to hold that the Wilhelmine empire was a fatal aberration in Germany’s historic development, the point at which the Germans swung off the Whiggish tracks into the future onto that infamous Sonderweg that in the end led to world war, Weimar, Hitler, more war, Auschwitz, and partition. And that foundation, after all, took place by means of conquering northern France. The proclamation of the empire took place at Versailles.

(So far, so clich�d.)

The Left would never in a million years have said such a thing. Gr�nderzeit? The time of Bismarck’s Antisocialist Laws? The foundation of the three-class voting system? Surely the injustices that began the SPD’s historic struggle. Why she did, though, is part of a very important point about identity, history and German politics.
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Elections in Albania (I)

So Albania is having a general election. The voters will go to the polls on July 4, in a little over three weeks.

The Albanian electoral system is rather interesting IMO. The Parliament has 140 members. 100 members are elected in “zones”, one-member districts with a first-past-the-post system, rather like Britain. But 40 members are elected at large, using party lists. All the parties that get more than 2.5% of the vote will divide these 40 seats among them, proportionately.

I don’t know anyone else who uses this mixed system, though I’m sure it can’t be unique to Albania.
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