UMPs Decide UMP Is Best

photo: brasserie zever, alesia

Grey winter near sundown, but the café is closer.

Comeback for Bertrand Delanoë

Paris:- Tuesday, 19. November 2002:- Last spring when Jacques Chirac was re-elected Président of France, there was an effort among moderate right-wing parties to abandon their favorite initials, and run as members of a unique 'UMP' party.

Since the Socialists, Le Verts and the Communists had no candidate in the election's final round and didn't want to vote for Jean-Marie Le Pen, they acted like good republicans and voted for Jacques too.

At the time it seemed like a name like 'UMP' was a temporary device, a sort of holding company for Gaullists, other UDF centrists and DLs, or Diverse Liberals.

Over the weekend all of these have gotten together for a big pow-wow, and to reject alternative names like 'Maison Bleu,' 'Le Forum,' or 'L'Union Populaire.' Led by Alain Juppé, they embraced 'UMP,' which stands for the 'Union Pour la Majorité Présidentielle,' or 'Union Pour la Majorité de Progrès' or 'Union Pour un Mouvement Populaire.'

When all of the names were tossed in the hat, 'Union Pour la Majorité Présidentielle' outscored all others. But when it was narrowed down to 'Union Pour un Mouvement Populaire' and 'L'Union Populaire,' the first got a clear majority.

Thus, the right-leaning stalwarts who voted for the 'UMP' last spring and spent the weekend out at Le Bourget as Gaullists - ex-RPRs - UDF centrists, and DLs, emerged as proud 'UMPs' - which is for 'Union Pour un Mouvement Populaire.' Be sure to try and remember this.

But, as I've never tired of hinting, the intitials UMP don't exactly inspire poetic flights - so Alain Juppé has already shortened the party's nickname to 'L'Union.'

He can do this because the same crowd that voted for the name, voted for him to be the new party's president. This should have put all the other union party presidents out of business, but the UDF's François Bayrou declined to become an 'UMP.'

The card carrying members of the combined parties number 164,500 according to figures supplied by the party. At Le Bourget Mr. Juppé was elected with a majority of 79.42 percent, orphoto: cinema mistral by 37,822 votes. His predecessor, president of the RPR, Michèle Alliot-Marie, won the post in 1999 with 57,166 RPR members voting.

The hyperactive Minister of the Interior, Nicolas Sarkozy, said he voted for Mr. Juppé but declined to say whether he would run for president of the party in 2004. But if you ask Nicolas Sarkozy if he will be running for Président of France in 2007, he will say nothing but his eyes will glitter.

Cinémas are other well-heated winter attractions.

The one distress signal in this heaving sea of well-dressed joy is out in the neighboring department of Yvelines. Christian Blanc, one-time president of Air France, is getting ready to run in a by-election as a candidate of François Bayrou's UDF party.

As early as next month the UMP will have its first 'union' test when it runs Le Chesnay mayor Philippe Brillaut against the less than union- minded UDF candidate.

I presume that Jacques Chirac is blessing if not actively presiding over all of this 'union' even if it effectively dissolves the RPR with which he has spent most of his political life.

As for the united UMP being the plumed war-horse that Alain Juppé is going to ride on into the Elysée Palace in 2007 - as far as I know he is doing a better job of being mayor of Bordeaux than he did as Prime Minister when he had his shot at it.

Mayor Begins Run for Président

I have accidently written so much about the emergence of the right-wing UMP, that there is hardly space here to mention that Paris' Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoë reappeared in public a week ago, on Monday, 11. November, at the Remembrance Day ceremony.

Since then, although taking it easy - as he says - on account of recovering from getting stabbed in early October during the 'Nuit Blanche,' Mr. Delanoë has managed without difficulty to be seen and heard on TV, read about in the papers, and appear here and there nearly daily - plus run a regular city council meeting.

The Socialists are still licking their post-election wounds and quietly fighting behind their pink curtains. They are making noises about making a leftist coalition with Les Verts and the Communists - who have just lost their leader, Robert Hue. But they are keeping it as quiet as possible.

This is perfect for Bertrand Delanoë. Former Paris mayor Jacques Chirac is having a second term in the Elysée Palace - proving that the French have no particular animosity against Paris mayors, right - or left.

Light Pollution

Just when we were getting used to info panels all over the city giving us minute-by-minute updates on the quality of the air, along come the astronomers to tell us there is night-time light pollution.

'We can't see the stars,' they say. There is even a group called the 'Association Nationale Pour la Protection du Ciel Nocturne,' or ANPCN for moon, from bedroom window

There is a remedy short of turning off nighttime street lighting, and Paris is a leader in this area. When it lets out contracts for street lighting, it stipulates that the light must be directed at the ground and not the sky.

Apparently some Paris suburbs are not so fussy, and even leave their churches blasted by floodlights all night long, while the Tour Eiffel's lights go out at 01:00.

If it is a planet, the moon is the only one I can see from my bedroom.

Even so, astronomers say all one can see from Paris are planets and some brighter stars. For me, since leaving the apartment in the bottom of the canyon, seeing the moon occasionally now is a big treat. I don't think it is a planet exactly, but I'm not an astronomer.

Collect Nothing - Go Straight To Jail

Tonight's TV-news has announced that the court deciding the appeal of José Bové's sentence for taking part in the destruction of a field of transgenic corn, has decided he should be locked up for 14 months.

On hearing this, France's most famous farmer said no courts since the time of Vichy in World War II had treated union members so harshly.

Mr. Bové has previously served time in jail for his participation in the 'deconstruction' of a McDonalds unit being constructed in central France. He got through this stint okay, but was reported to have told friends he wasn't looking forward with any relish to going back to the slammer.

While prisons in France range from the modern to the mediaeval, most of them are overpopulated. Nevertheless, prisoners like Mr. Bové are usually treated to special facilities, reserved for non-violent 'big hats' and other luminaries.

Who's Who On Strike this Week?

This afternoon radio FIP said that while it - Radio-France - was no longer on strike, the TV channels France-2 and France-3 are. But I had forgotten this at 20:00 when I turned on the TV to see the evening news - partially, because of the lack of an antenna - and there it was, with the news guy I don't like.

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