The program here is arranged by the progressive center-left think-tank etc “Arenagruppen” and we are 25 Swedes traveling together. Yesterday we had a great program and met with the following people: Eric Aeschimann (journalist at Libération, the newspaper founded by Sartre); Thierry Dedieu from the trade union Cfdt (Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail, a Christian, progressive trade union); Élisabeth Guigou (legend in the Socialist Party, Wikipedia here).
Some reflections after these talks:
The election: Even if the polls still say Sarko/Ségo to the second round, things are still up in the air. We have four rather strong candidates, and Eric Aeschimann provoked us by saying that Royal and Le Pen will end up in the second round. Needless to say, he was pushing his point the way only a French journalist can do, but he seriously meant that both Sarkozy and Bayrou are grossly overestimated in the polls. Four new polls yesterday; check’em out here.
The Parti Socialiste: All three speakers agreed that Royal’s campaign “Desirs d’avenir” has been an interesting novelty, but the verdict is still out whether this will lead to a stronger socialist party (and a more organized, bottom-up, less white male left in France). If Royal wins, her idea to create a broad platform with a lot of interaction parallel to the PS will be one of the reasons explaining her victory.
The candidates: This election is very much about candidates and their character, and not about parties. It is clear that there is a large “anti-Sarkozy” vote out there; people want change, and Élisabeth Guigou explained that there was always an anti-Sarkozy sentiment at all the election rallies she has been to. All speakers agreed that France has gotten used to a very rough, right-wing political climate, where people like Sarlozy and the real Sarkozy, Le Pen, can get so many votes. The big task for the left is to turn this disappointment into a positive vote for the future (i.e. Royal must really show how she will improve France, and cannot only rely on people being scared of Sarkozy). Hopefully, all the new registered voters in the suburbs should help the left, but some of these votes will go to Le Pen as well.
I am off to more seminars now, more later.
[Photo of me and Élisabeth Guigou by Fredrik Sjöberg]