Regional Elections Turn Into Shambles

le comptoir au relais
The is the bistro opposite the one with the green
balloons, in the 'Café' column.

Special Feature This Week: Football News

Paris:- Saturday, 21. March 1998:- Last Sunday, voters in France went to the polls, to vote for the Councilors of 22 Regions and 96 Departments. These elections are called 'Les Régionales' and for the Departments, 'Les Cantonales.'

Last week I wrote here that Le Parisien thought its readers didn't know why they were voting or what they were supposed to vote for. After the event, the abstention rate was recorded as 42.5 percent.

A couple of Metropole readers wrote to say they didn't understand it either - and during the week, I found that I too was equally clueless.

Nationally, the coalition of centre-leftist parties won more votes - 41.3 percent - than the centre-right groups of parties - 34.9 percent. The extreme-right National Front party won 15.7 percent, which was one percent more than normal; and easily more than the extreme-left, which got 3.2 percent nationally. In the middle of the left-right scale, miscellaneous 'other' candidates got 5.2 percent.

The results of the elections for the Departments, 'Les Cantonales,' seem to have been of no importance because I can't find anything about them - so we are left with the 'Regionals,' which have assumed an importance I thought they might have - but not for the reasons I thought. [See Sunday Update below:]

These elections are run on a proportional basis, unlike elections for President or for the National Assembly. In the latter case, if three candidates are in the race and after the first balloting, none receives a clear majority, then there is a second round pitting the two top vote getters from the first round. In this way, the winner will have over 50 percent of the ballots when it is all over.

This proportional basis was not clear to me, and I mistakenly assumed there would be run-off races to select majority winners.

Instead, yesterday the second round of the 'Regionals' involved the vote by last Sunday's elected Councilors, for the Presidencies of the Regional Councils.

Now, if you look at the percentage figures above, you will see that Front National support could be crucial to a centre-right candidate for a post as Regional Council President.

Black Friday

Doing their own arithmetic, leader of the opposition, Philippe Séguin, and Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, both made public statements during the week. The statements were essentially warnings to underdog centre-right RPR-UDF Regional Council Presidential candidates, not to make any deals to gain support from the Front National.

When outgoing Regional Council President of the Oise, Jean-François Mancel, RPR, announced acceptance of a 'minimum program' of Front National demands in return for their support, this one-time secretary-general of the RPR and party member of 32 years, was kicked out of the party by Séguin on Wednesday.

After Friday's voting of the Regional Councils, five centre-right candidates had been elected with Front National support.

There would have been six, but Jean-François Humbert, UDF,bookshop rue de l'odeon elected President of the Council of Franche-Comté with the aid of the Front National votes, resigned the post immediately after his election.

This week's theme photos are about the book salon, except for the one about 'fake' spring.

Because of the turmoil, five Regions suspended the voting on Friday and will take it up again on Monday. These included the Ile-de-France and Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur, known as PACA - which is a relative Front National stronghold, as well as being the home base of the leader of the UDF, François Léotard.

After last Sunday's voting, the leftist group of parties had gained absolute or relative majorities in 10 Regions and the centre-right captured the same in seven, and the two factions were tied in four Regions. Compared to the results of 1992, the left had a net gain of eight Regions, a huge advance.

After yesterday's fiasco, the centre-left had gained the Presidency of exactly three Regions and had lost three due to the centre-right-extreme-right pacts. In two other Regions where the left had a majority, the voting was scheduled for Monday.

The Resistance vs Vichy

The RPR, the party of Charles de Gaulle, claims a direct historical and moral link to the war-time Resistance; and has been structured for 22 years as the heritage of Gaullism and liberalism.

As recently as September 1996, Alain Juppé, RPR, characterized the Front National as a group, 'almost viscerally racist, anti-semitic and xenophobe.' Now, says Libération, the house has been opened to the aggressive inheritors of the tradition of Pétain.

Although it is true that the Front National can poll 15 percent in a national election, if disaffected voters had some other choice, the FN would probably get seven percent, or about twice as much as the extreme left.

Recently, the Front National has had a good success with the fiction of an ideological split between its leader Jean-Marie Le Pen and the party's number two, Bruno Mégret. This 'split' was nowhere in evidence during the week.

Given its extreme minority of voters, the blame for its relative success has to be accepted by the parties of the centre. In doing this, they have to face the fact that they have been strategically out-thought by Le Pen and Mégret.

Libération's one word headline today sums it up in no uncertain terms; "Shame!"

Meanwhile, On the Extreme Left

In the Ile-de-France, the 20-year domination by the centre-right RPR party seems to be at an end, with leftist parties having gained a slight lead. With 40 percent for the left, 37 percent forbook salon the right and 17 percent for the extreme-right FN, the Regional Council is going to be difficult to manage.

The French Communist Party's support of the Socialists opened, for the first time, the electoral door for the extreme-left. Arlette Laguiller, leader of the Trotskyist Lutte Ouvrière, and 27 other extreme-left candidates, tripled their 1992 score, to elect three in the Ile-de-France. In total, 19 'LO' candidates were elected nationally.

A non-stop candidate for many years, Arlette Laguiller, who is now retired, paid a visit last Monday to the seat of the Regional Council in Paris. This is located in a building once owned by Roussel-Uclaf. She said her comrade, Jean-Louis Gaillard, also elected, knew the building well as a result of having occupied it during several strikes.

Late Sunday Update

Much to my surprise, I did get it 'right' and there was voting today for the Departments - the 'Cantonales.' There were no new posters put up during the week and there are no political ads on television. What was on, was all about the Friday voting for the Presidents of the Regional Councils.

With nearly 45 percent of the voters avoiding the polling station, at 23:00 leftist parties had picked up 11 Departments, giving them a total of 31, while the right managed to hold 75 Departments. Nine Departments remain undecided at this time.

In the Paris area, two Departments were retained by the left, and one switched from right to left - giving each side three Departments, plus Paris.

Meanwhile, Jean-Marie Le Pen has demanded support from the centre-right parties, for his election as President of the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur Region, known as PACA. In return, he has promised that the Front National will support RPR-UDF candidates who are facing challenges from the left - such as in Paris.

The Week's Other News

Prosecution Demands 20-Year Sentence for Papon

'Guilty,' said attorney general Henri Desclaux, ' But not responsible for the crimes of others.' This was the reasoning behind a less than maximum sentence for a conviction on charges of crimes against humanity.

Characterized as an indispensable cog in the Vichy machine; he was nevertheless, not the 'author' nor the 'instigator.' The sentence asked for was one of armed robbery.

Web Sites With Contents About the Papon Trial:

The Matisson family were the first to launch a civil case against Maurice Papon, in 1981. Jean-Marie Matisson runs the website, and reports from the courtroom. At the website, click on 'Affaire Papon.'

Another website of interest contains daily coverage of the trial by the Bordeaux paper, the Sud Ouest.

The SNCF and RATP Renew Bicycle Service

Starting today, the RATP is again renting bicycles at five locations around Paris. This service will continue until 11. October.

For the occasion of Bicycle-Pedestrian Day in Paris tomorrow, the SNCF will be renting bicycles at the Montparnasse, Lyon and Gare de l'Est stations, and at the Champ de Mars, near the Quai Branly - avenue Suffren corner.

The efforts by these two public transport organizations are a renewal of similar services operated last year.

Alain Delon Retires

The actor who is 62, made this announcement on Thursday, at the end of the evening news on TF1. Starting the comingblossoms sq tino rossi Wednesday, you will be able to see him in a new film, made with Jean-Paul Belmondo, 28 years after the duo appeared in 'Borsalino.'

He said he had always been against doing 'one too many,' but didn't consider the new film, 'Une Chance sur Deux' to be this. He is looking on it as a closing of the circle.

However he is not quite finished with the theatre, as he will be appearing at the end of this year in 'Variations Enigmatiques,' which played at the Théâtre Marigny in the fall of 1996. This year it will be at the Théâtre de Paris.

Mr. Delon's first film role was in 1957 when he played in 'Quand la Femme s'en Mêle,' directed by Yves Allégret. After that he was in movies directed by René Clément, Luchino Visconti, Jacques Deray, Terrence Young, Joesph Losey and Bertrand Blier. The latest film is directed by Patrice Leconte.

SportsNews: Just a Tiny Bit This Week

Wednesday's Le Parisien screams on its front page, 'Révolution au Paris SG.' I looked at this for a long time before it occurred to me that 'Paris SG' is the Parisian football team usually known as plain, old 'PSG.'

Since this team does not win many crucial games, or even unimportant ones - and has been doing this for 845 years - the management, which seems to be a pay-TV company, has decided the team needs a new manager.

I swear, the 'old' management tried to win games by paying huge sums to foreign players. The only result this produced, was the enrichment of these foreign players - none of whom apparentlybouquiniste ever scored a crucial goal, nor many unimportant ones. What they did do, was go back to the successful teams that sold them, bought back for a nickel on the dollar, and resumed scoring goals.

So the pay-TV company has its own manager who is responsible for football, and instead of hiring a top-notch foreign manager, they have decided to shove this one across town and shove the old manager out of town.

There seems to be something about Paris which is unfriendly to football. In a area in which there are from nine to 12 million inhabitants, depending on the time of day, not more than 30,000 of them will go to see their home team play.

Other cities with this wealth of bodies could probably support two or three major teams. One has to ask oneself, if maybe it isn't the fault of the pay-TV company - which first bought the right to broadcast the games and then bought the team.

By charging 145 francs a month the pay-TV Johnnies have raked in a bundle of cash, but maybe they've deprived their team of fans at the same time. Those who can't afford the fees don't watch the games on TV; and they are probably so turned off, they don't go to the stadium either.

I think 'Paris SG' needs some other town for a home, and Paris itself needs another pay-TV company - one that broadcasts home-town football game 'in clear' as a public service for soccer fans.

The World Cup SportsBar Now Open Forever

Real SportsFans gather at the SportsBar seven evenings a week, at the Football Café to discuss the finer points of the game of feet and balls, without getting too 'psychophilo' about it. If the game is shorter than 35 hours, SportsFans go into terminal beer mellow, for which there is no cure needed. Salt peanuts, salt peanuts.

Less uplifting are the 'official' Web sites: represented by the FIFA - which stands for Federation International - and the French Organizing Committee, known to all far and wide as the CFO. I don't what the initials stand for, just like RATP does not sound like métro to me.

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