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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Ségolène Royal à la reconquête du peuple

by Dominique Bègles

Ségolène Royal Seeks to Win Back the People

Translated Tuesday 9 January 2007, by Laura Wheeler

French Socialist Party. During a brainstorming session on Saturday, Socialist leaders focussed on the need to change their political practices.

The "Ségolène Royal" tsunami swept through Paris on Saturday via La Défense, in western Paris. The Socialist Party (PS) organized a meeting with its mid-level leaders from the various regional sections of the Pqrty, as well as with animators of Ségolène Royal’s “Désirs d’Avenir” (“Hopes for the Future”) website (translator’s note: which includes an interactive blog - http://www.desirsdavenir.org/index.php ).

The very pedagogical goal of this meetin was to ensure that the method is no longer simply a message. Rather, that the dual harnessing of the Socialist party with French society as a whole, as embodied in the Ségolène Royal / François Hollande couple, participate from now on in the interactive socialist panoply, for the duration of the electoral campaign and no doubt beyond that.

« We must keep it fun and joyful »

Speaking in front of some 300 Socialist militants, Ségolène Royal and the first secretary of the Socialist Party (François Hollande) made an effort to put their finger on what’s essential: winning back popular support. To that end, “blathering, meaningless speeches, and re-heated formulas” were banned. A true cultural revolution in the world of politics, where language and the art of oratory so often make up the backbone of political convictions…

“The crucial issue of this campaign is winning back those Frenchmen who are letting slip their attachment to the ’France in progress’ movement. ... If we are able to make this happen, and be credible in our proposals, then people will trust us.” She added, “But we need to keep it joyful and even fun. People are desperately waiting for a change in the way politics is carried out. We mustn’t neglect this process.”

A kit for doing politics

Each attendee received a « kit », with instructions illustrating an appeal to his or her “imagination” and “creativity” in “attracting” fellow citizens who have never participated in political campaigns, to attend meetings: finding nice locations for them, organizing mini-meetings in their neighborhoods, on a particular street, a bistro, an apartment… “And why not a tent, which could be assembled in various working class neighborhoods?”

After an initial period of communication and exchange, a hierarchy of priorities will be set up in February to set the Socialist project to music in a more concrete way. Although some leaders are still having trouble integrating this sort of realpolitik approach, all of them are convinced of the need for re-establishing contact with people who are disillusioned with politics and its broken promises. Those who no longer bother to vote, sometimes not even registering to vote, and who are drawn to populism…

A TNS-SOFRES public opinion survey, published last week, which notes an increase in popularity of the National Front, was at the heart of the debate. For François Hollande, “25% of the population say they no longer rule out voting for Jean-Marie Le Pen, which means that he could potentially achieve a score similar to that in 2002 (16.9% of votes), or even higher, and who knows where that would lead to…”

The Danger of Jean-Marie Le Pen

According to Hollande, "Le Pen will try to hide out, like he does for every election, letting others work for him", quoting Nicolas Sarkozy. He also mentioned François Bayrou, accusing him of talking a “neutral (neither Left nor Right), anti-institutional, anti-media, line, while being invited everywhere.”

To counter this danger, the PS leader believes that Dominique Voynet and Marie-George Buffet need to quickly join the campaign: “We need the culture of the communist voter”, he said. “And when the time comes, if the communists agree, (there will be a place for) Communist ministers in the government.”

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