There Goes the Neighborhood

Bar du Marché - Buci
The Bar au Marché at Buci always gets the afternoon sun.

And Nastiness in Mantes-la-Jolie

by Ric Erickson

Issue 2.22:- Metropole Paris - Monday, 2. June 1997:- Last night thousands of enthusiastic supporters were gathered in front of the Socialist Party headquarters on the left bank in Saint-Germain, to celebrate the victory of their party and its leader.

This is a reflection that democracy works, this spontaneous enthusiasm on a Sunday night, in the streets of one of the world's capitals.

In some other part of France, perhaps also in Paris, another political leader was publicly proposing that since the results of the balloting didn't please him, it was time to rethink and 'readjust' the mechanisms of the French Republic.

With memories of another election in another country 67 years ago, much press attention has been focused on the man who is unhappy with democracy; much more so than was focused on Adolf Hitler in 1933.

All the same, the press isn't particularly careful to report exactly what this unhappy man says. Like many French speakers, he says many things somewhat ambiguously; he uses a shorthand of code-phrases the bateaux-mouches to say things normal democratic politicians not only don't say, but don't even think privately.

The 'bateaux-mouches' at pont de l'Alma look like Roman galleys.

The unanswered question is how many people in France, or in Europe for that matter, are tuned into the real meaning of the 'code-phrases,' and how many are merely responding to what they imagine the man is saying? It is impossible to tell. An indication will be given later today when voting figures are more complete, and the Front National's score is totalled.

No dictator can prosper and survive without followers, just as no mafia figure can command respect without gunmen for backup. By these I do not mean ordinary citizens; I mean the dictator's trusted advisors, financiers and guys willing to do the rough stuff.

Jean-Marie Le Pen is a very glossy character with his natty suits, glass eye and fake teeth, and lately he has been saying that democracy doesn't work in France because all the other political leaders are corrupt - 'on the take.'

I have no doubt he believes what he is saying. I assume also that he includes himself as a political leader, and includes himself as one of those 'on the take,' because characters like him will do it, especially if he believes everybody else is doing it - and, that's a rationalization for you.

Actually, the Nazis had no morals, so rationalizations by them were redundant, as I have a feeling is the case for citizen Le Pen.

Where does Jean-Marie Le Pen get his money from? Who finances his fairly lush life-style and his political party? Of the 15 percent who voted for the Front National in the first round of the French elections, I am willing to assume eight percent are hard-core Front National 'believers' and will willingly toss some coins into the hat for the 'cause.'

Between these donations and what it actually costs to run the Front National on a France-wide basis, especially during a national election, I think there is a black hole. Who is filling it up?

Since judicial prosecutors are sniffing around all politicians and their parties these days, looking for dirty money, I hope they haven't somehow overlooked Monsieur Le Pen.

A Particularly Nasty Incident

Jean-Marie Le Pen's daughter, Marie-Caroline, picked up the best score in the first round of the elections last week in Mantes-la-Jolie in Yvelines, near Paris. Out of the usual field of about a dozen candidates, she managed to get more votes than the out-going Pierre Bédier of the RPR and the socialist candidate, Annette Peulvast.

Last Friday, her dad went out there to give his daughter a hand, even though she was doing well - leading, in fact - in the polls.

He arrived at 10:30 and as he stepped out of his big car he was met by about 20 demonstrators who were hollering, "Le Pen Assassin." Surrounded by his bodyguards, Le Pen tried to charge through the demonstrators to get to his supporters waiting beyond them.

It was a brawl and at the centre of it was the socialist candidate, Annette Peulvast, wearing a tricolor scarf. She said Le Pen forced his way to her, crying, "I'm fed up with you!" Peulvast was hit and Le Pen grabbed at her, trying to snatch the scarf away.

This was all captured by television cameras. Le Pen's bodyguards look and dress like very big secretservice agents and he travels with about 20 of them.

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