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''Too Easy To Quit''

photo: cafe au petit suisse

Sunbeam café last Wednesday.

Juppé to Ease Out Slowly

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Tuesday, 10. February 2004:– Radio France–Info remains 'on strike,' along with all other Radio France services. This has been going on for a really long time now, but the alternate programming isn't so bad unless you – miss the 'news.'

From yesterday – 'France–TV is not on strike, so there is weather news here. There isn't really much to say about it because there is some kind of high–pressure system that in theory is supposed to give us some very bright days.'

So much for yesterday's version. Today, to the complete surprise of the forecasters, there has been a sudden invasion of clouds from the north and northwest that has overturned their bright predictions for the week.

What was haze and morning fog yesterday now has become generalized cloudy skies. For Wednesday I have noted 'clouds' for the morning and 'more clouds' for the afternoon. Temperatures which will have dipped to four degrees overnight, will rise to 10 on account of the cloud cover.

The outlook for Thursday is semi–cloudy, with a high of eight degrees. On Friday it should be – might be – less cloudy, and the temperature should be nine degrees.

The way this was written 24 hours ago there was all sorts of tricky stuff about 'hinges' in the Alps and a 'swinging door' like a windshield wiper, shifting from Brittany up to northwestern France. Alas, none of this is in the cards.

'Pretty decent weather' for February is no longer expected this week.

Café Life

From Behind:– Last week Wednesday was the day to be out in the sunshine, and all 'Café Life' happened on Saturday. By the time this was written up, it was too late to delve into the murk surrounding the following complex item. To refresh your memory, 'part 1' appears in last week's 'Café Metropole' column.

Convicted, Juppé Stays On

After saying he would quit public life if convicted on corruption charges, Alain Juppé was found guilty by a court in Nanterre on Friday, 6. February. After the verdict, the defendant told news organizations that he was going to think over his situation. He said his decision about the future would be revealed on Tuesday.

So political France had to wait four days to find out if Mr Juppé would honor his word. He chose Tuesday's TF1's national TV–news audience to reveal that he'd changed his mind.

There was a certain comedy about this, because rival France–2 TV –news decided onphoto: resto la sieste its own, and announced as 'news' in the same time –slot, that Mr Juppé would in fact resign from his political posts – as Mayor of Bordeaux, deputy in the National Assembly, and head of the majority UMP party.

Ready for sleepy food in Montparnasse?

Thus, France–2 TV–news had the disagreeable task of opening its Wednesday broadcast with an apology to newsfans for the previous evening's misinformation. This was characterized as an 'error of interpretation.' Their 'news' on Tuesday was seen and heard by five million viewers, while 13 million heard and watched the 'true' story on TF1.

On Wednesday, deputy Alain Juppé was in the Assembly National, where he took part in the debate about a new law forbidding the display of religious signs in France's public schools.

According to reports, Alain juppé changed his mind about retiring because it would be 'too easy.' In reality, he was under irresistible pressure from the Président's office in the Elysée Palace, cohorts in the UMP party and various other political supporters.

All three groups see Mr Juppé as a credible successor to Président Jacques Chirac, and one who will be willing to give Mr Chirac a pardon, if he does not run for a third term as president.

What's wrong with this, is supposing that Mr Juppé will be exonerated by a successful appeal. If he is not, then he will be barred from holding public office for 10 years – leaving Mr Chirac without a successor, and the UMP party without a favorite candidate.

A CSA poll conducted for Le Parisien on 4. and 5. February showed that the French are evenly divided over the question of whether Mr Juppé should continue his political activities while awaiting the results of his appeal. Forty–seven percent were in favor of continuing, and 46 percent were against it.

Asked if political–financial 'affairs' would influence their vote in the upcoming regionalphoto: signs, hotel des academies elections, 49 percent of those polled said they would, while 45 percent said they would not.

Finally, in the same poll, right–wing sympathizers chose Nicolas Sarkozy to succeed Alain Juppé for president of the UMP party at its congress next November. Friends of the UMP party gave Mr Sarkozy an even bigger majority, against a list of five other UMP rivals.

Ready to sleep it off here?

Partly to this end, the UMP held a party congress at Paris–Expo on Sunday. Before the conviction, Alain Juppé was programmed to leave the leadership of the UMP party when his term expires in November, but his appearance at the congress excited a lot of hysterical emotions from the 15,000 party faithful, as well as 10–minute ovations.

Mr Juppé called on the party faithful for unity, to avoid weakening the circle of support around the président. This was a reference to the well–known ambitions of the Minister of the Interior, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Mr Sarkozy was present at the congress, with the intention of not saying anything to disturb anyone, but found himself to be outnumbered in a sea of Juppé sympathizers.

But at the moment, even if nobody is openly saying that the UMP is going to have a difficult time finding a suitable successor as a candidate for président, this is exactly the problem facing the président's party.

The Appeal

If Alain Juppé received a harsher sentence than asked for by prosecutors, it was mostly because of his inflexible defense consisting of a wholesale denial of the charges.

This was not wise because it was 'no secret' that his closest aides in the RPR offices were on the payroll of the Ville de Paris, and they admitted as much in court.

For the appeal, which will held be in Versailles before the end of the year, his lawyers say he has two options. One is do what he's already done – deny everything. The other is to admit that the system of the 'fake' employees' existed.

If he takes the second option he runs the risk of having appeared to lie to the court during the original trial. This will not amuse a court of appeals. All the same, for the moment, Mr Juppé remains represented by the same legal counsellors, with the same two options.

The Candidate?

The present Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy may turn out to be the UMP party's sole viable choice as candidate for president of France when Jacques Chirac's second term ends in 2007. Polls say people like 'law and order.'

However, he has three major strikes against him. He has never been mayor of Paris, he is not tall, andphoto: shop, cordonnerie he is too openly ambitious for his own good.

In fact, with Alain Juppé on a short road to political oblivion, the UMP party has no truly outstanding personnage capable of filling Jacques Chirac's large shoes.

Former presidential candidate, Prime Minister and Socialist, Lionel Jospin, is still taking a break from politics – but he was never mayor of Paris either.

This leaves the present mayor, Bertrand Delanoë. Although he has not been mayor of Paris for a full term yet, he has been a Socialist party stalwart for a long time. The timing might be a bit sooner than he expected, but with a right–wing vacuum looming, Mr Delanoë is beginning to look like he might be running, instead of walking, towards the Elysée Palace.

Headline of the Week "Où en est Le Pen?" – Le Parisien, Monday, 9. February. On the run–up to regional elections in March, pollsters give 16 percent to Le Pen's extreme–right party, slightly more than at the same time in 1998.


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