The Big Tossup

photo, seine quai, bridge, sunday parisians Where we were yesterday, beside the Seine.

Betting Is Still Wide Open

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 16. April:–  After all these years the election campaign to choose France's next president began a week ago Monday. That's right – after years' of political activity until it came out of our eye sockets, the official campaign will last only three weeks. Three more weeks – now two, or is it one? – of polls, more endless weeks of rallies, meetings, tent parties, glad–handing, the criss–crossing of France both profound and provincial, as well as all near and distant offshore territories.

The first visible aspect of the official campaign was the posting of the official posters. Each party – ooops, sorry – I mean each candidate is allowed an equal space on bulletin boards erected by cities, towns, burgs, and itty–bitty villages – most likely at far more than 100,000 locations.

All twelve candidates get equal treatment, and the posters they print have to be the same size. In theory they are. They are also posted in alphabetical order in their numbered spots. Number one in Paris is François Bayrou and number one in downtown Tahiti is François Bayrou, and Dominique Voynet brings up the rear in both places.

Still to come are their TV ads. Each candidate has had an official film crew shoot their spot. They can choose to stand in front of a cow or a chicken or on their doorstep or in the deepest wilds – if close to Paris! – and say whatever they feel like saying in their allotted–but–equal time. Then, starting sooner than we would hope these micro–dramas are presented on all TV channels – or maybe just the major ones. All 12 every night!

photo, election posters, bayrou, besancenot, bove

Meanwhile the TV channels are being extra civic this time around – also following the equal–time rule. France–2 TV news started with Dominique Voynet and is working forward in the alphabet night by night, with a little interview by their news people. Or maybe they are not because we had the Trotskyist postman from Neuilly, Olivier Bresancenot, when we should have had Schivardi, another raving lefty. Olivier's slogan is "100% gauche!" And with this he is rising in the polls, a tiny bit. <:p>

Also the same night, heard on the TV–news – 37 percent of the French getting polled are saying they haven't made up their minds yet. Olivier said they were all going to vote for him, or the left – 6 candidates in all – or maybe only for Ségolène Royal.

There's tons more but I am sure this is a big enough portion for now.

The photos are of the posters that were put up early last Monday. I shot most of them on Tuesday. The dumb jerks that deface them didn't bother Arlette Laguiller – most likely being unaware that this is the 7th or 8th time she's run for president. Only the 6th time?

photo, election posters, buffet, laguillier, le pen

I missed number one François Bayrou on the first shoot and picked him up off a sauvage posting a day later. Then I had to carefully count my fingers to realize I'd missed Philippe de Villiers, possibly because he is sort of irritating. I swear that omitting him wasn't deliberate or conscious. He should be at number 11. He is right–wingnut pretty far out there, in Le Pen's neck of the woods. He is only polling about 1 percent. Le Pen has about 15 percent, in fourth place after the leaders, Bayrou, Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy is still leading but a lot of people answering those polls are fibbing.

Officially, there are no attack ads. Not on radio, not on TV. Newspaper ads are so expensive that only well–heeled parties will have them – so they won't be wasted on trash. Yeah, so the campaign is official. How long has it been going on now? Yeah, since 2002 and the big screw–up that saw Jean–Marie Le Pen weasel into 2nd place, to get in the final run off against Jacques Chirac.

photo, election posters, nihous, royal, sarkozy

I will say one good thing about old Jacques. During his term he reduced the presidential mandate from seven to five years. So we've only had five years of campaign instead of seven. What should have been a small mercy has, of course, been marred by Sarkozy campaigning for years. He started it even before we finished with 2002.

My impression has been that the 12 candidates are all working pretty hard with their campaigning. Newspapers, radio and television have been following the whole circus, and TV seems to be bending over to present every candidate fairly. Of course what they say may be total nonsense but they are not being hindered from saying it. Potential voters are turning out to rallies and meetingsen masse and there is a lot of flag–waving.

For a while it looked like all the flags being waved might be tricolors, but our friends the Reds still have those bright red flags with the yellow hammer and sickle, and they've been showing them. Or maybe I'm confusing them with the CGT's strike flags – the dockers were acting up in Marseille for a couple of weeks – not unloading tankers. We almost ran out of gas over that one.

As it now stands there are three right–wing candidates who are ahead in the polls. These are Sarkozy, Bayrou and Le Pen. On the left Madame Royal is leading and she has maintained her second place, right on Sarkozy's heels. A Socialist elephant recently suggested that Royal and Bayrou could constitute a coalition of the centre. Everybody said, "Poo poo."

photo, election posters, schivardi, de villiers, voynet

It is certainly true that if the moderate right wants to vote moderately, they have Bayrou. He could take enough votes away from Sarkozy – certainly enough so that there won't be any first–round outright victory. But with 12 candidates nobody expects that anyway.

So, as we prepare ourselves for an exciting day next Sunday evening, we are asking each other who is going to be left after 10 candidates are eliminated. Then those eliminated, some of them, may indicate to their supporters – wink, wink – that the least bad choice is – is – ah, but that would be giving away the surprise.

This is France after all. Its exceptions don't exclude surprises.

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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