Doze Turns To Daze

photo: cafe le buci

More happy voters rewarding themselves for doing
their civic duty.

Shocko Horror Election Show

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Tuesday, 23. April 2002:- It is a good thing I got too sleepy to write about the weather yesterday. If I had, I would have repeated the predictions for beautiful weather, sunny, over 20 degrees, from today to Thursday.

Seeing the weather forecast last night made me cautious though, because the skies beyond Thursday were blank. That was a bad sign, a sign that 'beautiful' weather predictions don't have much shelf-life. And what lies beyond Thursday could actually creep-back to Wednesday.

By being a day late I don't have to revise the forecast. It is now downwards. I now have 'beyond Thursday,' and it is not pretty. Expect a five-degree temperature dump for Friday, down to the mid-teens, accompanied with murky skies for the coming weekend.

If it turns out better than this, pretend I said so and give credit where it's due. If you don't want to do this, see this week's photos - of last weekend - and pretend that they'll come again when you happen to be here.

Shocko Horror Election Show

This was Sunday night's TV fare, which featured the surprise results of the first-round presidential electionphoto: cafe deux magots on Sunday. Yesterday the papers were full of horror, shock, and rejection of the unexpected results - that showed Jacques Chirac in the lead to succeed himself, facing a 'come-from-nowhere' ultra right-wing Jean-Marie Le Pen.

By this morning the first answers to the question 'why?' have begun to appear in the press. A hint of what is to come was on last night's TV-news.

Saint-Germain in the grip of a sunny Sunday.

But first, the past needs a closer look. While late polling results showed a significant rise in the intention to vote for the National Front leader - it seems as if nobody, me included, bothered to go out to the 'province' and find out what the ordinary folks are thinking about.

Last night's TV-news showed a clip of a village to the northeast of Paris where Le Pen's score was about 35 percent. Eager reporters talked to the inhabitants on Monday and none would say who they voted for.

One can assume that if they have been reached by any polling organization before the election, they would have been equally mum.

So the questions were rephrased. 'What was bothering them?' The few who would talk said, 'immigration' and 'security.'

The word 'immigration' in France does not mean thousands of 'boat-people' landing on French beaches daily. It means people who do not look like a stereotype of somebody French. In other words, 'immigration' is word implying fear of strangers. The people who talked to the TV reporters could not point out any strangers in their village, other than the TV people.

The word 'security' in France really means a fear of 'insecurity,' of the sort to be found in the vertical slums looming outside most of the larger towns in France. These can be 'insecure' because there is nothing much for youth to do in them.

The village visited by the TV reporters had no slums around it or in it, and its mayor said it was a pretty quiet place. It looked like dogs would be perfectly safe dozing in the noonday streets.

In any case, even though these two keywords are favorites of Le Pen's, he did not harp on them during the election campaign. People remembered - long memories! - that these have been his constant themes for the past 46 years.

Le Pen Causes Insecurity

The first effect of Jean-Marie Le Pen's score on Sunday came that night when spontaneous anti-Le Pen demonstrators filled up République and Bastille, and the Boulevard Beaumarchais that joins the two places. Other gatherings occurred in many major French cities and there were no major incidents.

The anti-Le Pen demonstrations, mostly by youths, continued around France on Monday. At Bastillephoto: 2 fiat 500s of the week & one mini last night, a gathering of more than 10,000 - this time accompanied by CRS riot police - degenerated into street fights, with bottles being thrown at the police and the police responding with tear gas. A dozen were arrested.

Two Fiat 500s braket a Mini, for a major triple 'First of the Week.'

Outside of Paris, it has been estimated that 100,000 took part in demonstrations yesterday. In Tours, there were 12,000 in the streets, and José Bové urged them to be there daily.

While the first street demos caught the police by surprise, they are now prepared for them. Perversely, it is these political displays that will attract 'les casseurs,' who will show up merely to break things. The police will make no distinctions for those caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

An 'Interesting' May Day In View

This year's traditional May Day parade by students and workers is likely to be hugely amplified by political events, coming as it does only five days before the second round of the presidential election, on Sunday, 5. May.

Jean-Marie Le Pen has also called for his party's faithful to take part in the Front National's traditional May Day parade in Paris, from the statute of Jeanne d'Arc at the Place des Pyramides on the Rue de Rivoli, to the Opéra.

Jospin Quits

This has been explained as the reaction of an honest man to a severe political 'slap in the face,' for which he has decided to take personal responsibility.

Ordinary voters, not just PS supporters, see it differently. They think he is wrong not to fight back. There are many who feel abandoned, left with only the choice of voting for the right in order to prevent the election the extreme-right.

A final note - out of 28,502,455 votes cast on Sunday, Jean-Marie Le Pen only attracted 194,558 votes more than Lionel Jospin.

'Café Life'

Lit. Life In the Bouquet, II

The romantic 'Lit. Life' continued in the Bouquet last week with the reappearance of Elizabeth Wassell and John Montague to sign Dimitri's copies of their books. This could have been quite interesting if it hadn't been 'shout night' again in the café.

As far as I can tell 'shout nights' are unplanned occasions. Normally there is a fair crowd in the café in the evenings, but occasionally more arrive than usual for their final going-home beverages, and the animation becomes so vibrant that it becomes an impromptu party.

Having serious lit. discussions under these circumstances is almost impossible without doing them in a shout. I find this hard on the nerves, or hard on the hearing, or just plain hard.

In contrast, the many other cafés in the Rue Daguerre are quietly reasonable, and mostly pretty boring. The worst of all are the ones where everybody is supposed to be self-conscious.

Informal Survey

While big news organizations can put platoons of reporters into the field to get the measure ofphoto: car free expressway, right bank, sunday the public's pulse, this magazine has no such resources.

All the same, I felt it was my duty yesterday to gather public opinion about Sunday's election result. The first I asked, one of my neighbors, said he had voted for Arlette Laguiller because she fought the good fight and deserve a reward for running for president five times.


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