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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Candidature miracle ou de trop ?

by Pierre Laurent

French Presidential Elections: José Bové - One Candidacy Too Many or a Miracle Candidate?

Translated Saturday 3 February 2007, by Hervé Fuyet

The late entry of José Bové in the French presidential-election campaign raises more questions than it answers. It raises the question of the purpose of such a move.

According to the enthusiastic Laurent Joffrin, chief editor of the French daily, Libération , "The Left of the Left shows its true colours again. This is good news!". Joffrin, clearly worried by the recent downturn of Segolene Royal’s Socialist Party campaign that he had helped to launch, is clearly aiming to create "reserves of votes" for her during the second round of the presidential elections.

But is the news really so good?

José Bové quit the anti-neoliberal collective mobilization last November. Now, 10 weeks before the vote, he is adding his candidacy to the already declared candidacies of the Left. During the last few weeks, to counter the critics of those accusing him of adding a useless and divisive candidacy, he tried to justify his "come-back" by blaming equally the so-called "apparatchiks" of the trotskyist Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) and of the French Communist Party (PCF), without bothering about any reality-check.

Olivier Besancenot, the LCR candidate, had been opposed from the start to the anti-neoliberal collective mobilization. He did not sign any of the texts in their programme: he doesn’t believe it is possible to generate, in 2007, a majority for a genuine change to the left. Marie-George Buffet, on the other hand, participated actively to the unitary process of the collective mobilization until the end and continues to promote, as their candidate, their approach based on a dynamic of unity.

The "apparatchik" argument is openly provocative, and it is a key element in recurring ambiguity in José Bové’s discourse, long on "anti-party" rethoric. In a February 1st interview with the French daily Le Parisien, Bové stated again that he is putting his money on "a collective dynamic process that is independent of all political parties".

This debate is indeed widespread in the anti-neoliberal movement. The members of the collective mobilization took a position on that question last Fall when the proposition was made to reject automatically any candidacy coming from a political party. The vast majority of the movement of collectives rejected this proposition, regardless of their political persuasion.

The recent success of the campaign for the "NO" vote in the French referendum on the proposed European Constitution, where leading personalities and leaders of political parties were on an equal footing, without any element of exclusion, gave real credit to such an approach.

Last Fall, the way of choosing the candidates was another contentious question. The majority of the collectives participating in the mobilization rejected the "one-person, one vote" procedure proposed by José Bové. This, it was thought, was too similar to the Internet vote of the Socialist party for their candidate, and was also too prone to favour a campaign focusing on the "personality" of thje candidates. A criticism that some continue to make of the candidacy of the anti-globalization militant ,José Bové, well-known for his approach attracting the maximum of media attention.

Today, confronted with the growing danger of confusion and of a dispersion of the votes on the Left among too many candidates (especially considering that their programmes originate from the same sources), the voters will have to determine the seriousness of the various candidates of the Left, the utility of their programmes, considering the real urgency of major political changes in France, and the guarantees of political stability being given by the various candidates.

Clearly, the main question is: Who is in a better position to stop Sarkozy and to strenghthen the Left in 2007? To answer this, we need to look beyond the (mythical in the case of France) two-party system, and build solidly and durably a transformed Left.

It is not enough to shake the coconut tree if everything just continues as usual after the first electoral round of the presidential election!

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