The Campaign Posters

Campaign posters outside a city hall in France.

Into - Yawn - the Final Stretch

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Sunday, 19. May 1997:- Last Wednesday, I chanced to read the International Herald Tribune. It said what everybody knows by now: the current election in France appears to be meaningless. The electorate is bored stiff.

This catches me out. I made a mistake. I thought the election was going to be about something. France and its preparation for the European Union is not an election topic. France and the 21st century is not a topic. None of France's other little problems are topics.

The conservatives are saying, 'Re-elect us and we promise more of the same.' Hohum. Why have the election at all then?

The socialist challengers are saying, 'Elect us and we'll create 700,000 jobs; half of them in the civil service.' If this is so easy, why don't they A2-TV d'Ormesson offer to create three million jobs, with half of them in the civil service? Why be so piddly when it is only extra zeros? Giving a number at all, just presents a target to be shot at later.

Olivier d'Ormesson, speaking for the CNIP.

French Euro-skeptics need reassurance. Somebody needs to say, 'We can do it, and when we do, it'll be good for everybody.'

The French who are indifferent to the whole Euro idea, would probably like some reassurance that France is going to crawl out of its economic doldrums - someday soon.

The rest of the French, who are either indifferent or hostile to any idea not born in the 15th century, probably think the election is a waste of time - but since it seems to be turning out such a blah, are content because the likely score - 'match nul' - is the favorite.

Unless there is some blockbuster of an unexpected nature before voting day, the polling will only result in a few seats getting shifted about, and then we can safely resume our irregular progress at quarter-speed into the future.

It will also mean that serious decisions that need to be made will be proclaimed by decree, by ordonnance, by diktat; by the president, by the cabinet, by prefects, by mayors and by occasional majority votes by the national assembly and the senate.

Those elected in next Sunday's balloting will be expected to serve five-year terms, which is the normal lifespan of the legislature in France. President Jacques Chirac's mandate also runs until 2002.

This is what the current elections seem to be offering - basically 'more of the same.' New things, like Internet connections in the schools - are for 'someday.'

Is this the French commitment to a vision of the future?

It looks like the past to me.

No Publicity Binge for French Campaign

Every time there is an election in France, from some secret storeroom, these panels are produced and they are propped up in front of city halls or outside schools. All the panels are identical; grey, uniform size, and used, because they are re-used for every election.

Upon these panels, political parties are allowed to affix their posters. The posters are not allowed to be larger than the panel, but I think it is the only restriction. For the current election, I have not yet seen a set of panels with a poster on every one. This is partly because, as many panels have to be putUDF/RPR candidate Couderec up as there are candidates - and in some districts there are a lot of them.

Anne-Marie Couderec, speaking for the UDF/RPR.

On state television, after the main 20:00 news, airtime is made available for the publicity spots of the various parties. These are strict 'talking-head' affairs - no graphics, no animations; they are what used to be called in the newspaper business, 'tombstones.'

Over all this hive of activity, there is an election commission watching to make sure that no party exceeds its legal limit - of poster space, or airtime.

If France 2 TV-news interviews Lionel Jospin of the PS for five minutes on one broadcast, they have to give an exactly equal amount of time to, say, Alain Juppé of the RPR.

But it also means that Arlette Laguiller gets her five minutes too. She leads the 'Lutte Ouvrière' party and its 320-odd candidates.

If you have been worried that the French Communist Party has let 'social progress' fall by the wayside in these post-Berlin Wall times, then you'll be happy to know that 'Lutte Ouvrière' is considerably to the left of the present communists.

A2-TV: Arlette Laguiller
An example of a typical 'talking-heads' political TV-spot,
featuring Arlette Laguiller, for Lutte Ouvrière.

Madame Laguiller has been at this for 25 years now, and is not letting up the pressure. Her party's posters are all over Paris, easily outnumbering those of the Front National - another big 'poster' party.

I do not know if the newspapers have to give 'equal coverage' to the different parties and individual candidates in news columns. And I don't feel like counting a week's worth of pages to find out.

One thing is clear, the political parties do not seem to buy any advertising space, even though the papers do seem to put considerable resources into reporting about the campaign.

Headline of the Week

"The Voters are Still Waiting" - Le Parisien, Saturday, 18. May.

Charge of the Week

The two students who plastered Jacques Delors in the kisser with a cream-pie on 29. April, have been in court listening to a prosecutor demanding a penalty of 80 hours of community service plus a fine. Mr. Delors pressed no charges against the two.

And Bombardment

The Minister of the Interior of the present government, Jean-Louis Debré, was campaigning of behalf of majority candidates at Saint-Etienne when some union members wanted to know about the election promise of a former minister of the interior; to give a local factory an order for 20,000 pistols, an order that never materialized.

The minister could not answer this question and as he was walking away, the excited unionists bought all the over-ripe strawberries they could find and pelted the minister and his entourage with them. The politicians escaped by streetcar.

The minister of the interior is the boss of public safety, and this means he is the ultimate administrator of the courts, police, prisons and enforcement of laws in general. To put it bluntly, no one who holds this position wins popularity contests.

Yet, according to Le Parisien, Mr. Debré is bravely slogging along through thick and thin - because, in France, when a minister is walking around the streets begging for votes - he is fair game for anybody with a beef - and a lot of French are not at all shy.

TV Appearance of the Week

In an otherwise lackluster campaign, the left is lucky to have two major speakers, Lionel Jospin and Martine Aubry. As in the presidential elections two years ago, Mr. Jospin seems to pick up speed and articulation as the campaign continues. Martine Aubry on the other hand, starts strong and keeps on this way. This was demonstrated in TV appearances by both this week.

Last Poll Results Before Election

In France, new polling results are not allowed to be published during the last week of an election campaign, so with the voting eight days off, today's numbers are the last we'll have before TV-news Poster for Reds starts making forecasts after the polling stations close next Sunday, 25. May.

Most active poster plasterers in Paris: the left.

The outgoing conservative majority is credited with 38.5 percent of the intention to vote. The opposition Socialists and their Communist Party Allies together are polling about one percent less, while the ultra-right Front National is being credited with 14 percent. Greens are Ecolos are expected to get seven percent of the vote.

While the left and right are close in the polls, the right is expected to gain a majority of about 50 seats in the National Assembly. This could be upset by the 25 to 38 percent of voters who will not tell pollsters their intentions or have not made up their minds yet - and these numbers are not reflected in the above polling scores.

5 Days Left Until Election Day

See next week's Metropole for first-round voting results.


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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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