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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Les dessous de l’opération alliance du centre

by Rosa Moussaoui

A Look behind the Operation for an Alliance of the Center

Translated Thursday 19 April 2007, by Henry Crapo

Former prime minister Michel Rocard calls on candidate François Bayrou of the Center-Right to form an alliance prior to the first tour of the presidential election. A simple operation or a large-scale political plan?

By choosing a political program truly on the Left, the voters can refuse to participate in a slide to the Right in this country.

François Bayrou must thank Michel Rocard. At a moment when his campaign seemed to be passing through an air pocket just a few days before the first balloting of the election, the call by the former prime minister under President Mitterand for an alliance, even before the first vote, between the Socialist Party (PS) and the center right party (UDF) has put him back in the center of the campaign.

Rocard’s call for an alliance: a simple operation or a large-scale political plan?

After Bernard Kouchner, on Sunday, Claude Allègre responded in turn to the call by the man who, in 1993, promised the "big bang". In the columns of yesterday’s Parisien, the former minister of Education in the Jospin government judged an alliance PS-UDF "entirely conceivable". The only soft pedal: "it is not yet operational", and it is necessary to wait for the second tour "to see if these convergences will take place". Michel Rocard and Bernard Kouchner, in his view, thus driving in the nail, "are only repeating what Dominique Strauss-Kahn has already said: there are no major differences between what Bayrou proposes and what the socialists propose".

Are these isolated positions of former socialist bosses? Not just that. The call by Michel Rocard follows a series of initiatives that have appeared on the surface of this presidential campaign. Daniel Cohn-Bendit of the Green party, already for several months, has been calling for the constitution of a pole around which gather the centrists, socialists and ecologists. In a more obscure manner, anonymous groupings of personages or top socialist officials have frequently adventured into the debate. The first, called "Spartacus" [1], in the form of unqualified support for François Bayrou. The second, baptised "Les Graques" [2], calling for a recomposition of the center on the basis of and "ideological softening" of the PS that would lead it to a greater acceptance of the "market economy". On 13 April, Dominique Strauss-Kahn launched a nebulous call for an "anti-Sarkozy front" between the two tours of the election, and this before the first vote.

Perfectly orchestrated, carried by the media, these initiatives, to which one can add other positions to be taken in coming days, take the form, in these days preceding the election, of a veritable political offensive. If the "third track" offered one after the other by Barre, Veil, Delors, Rocard and Giscard never saw the light of day, its promoters hope today to transform the blurred, undefined landscape of this election into a window of political opportunity through which such a transformation can take form. And to build such a front, to count on the strong current of hostility which has crystallized around the UMP candidate, whose failure is in the process of becoming the major issue in this balloting.

What are the consequences of these calls for a recomposition around the center?

For the present, these calls maintain confusion and give credit to the idea if la vote utile (the useful ballot) in favor of François Bayrou, who repeats over and over that he is the candidate best positioned to beat the candidate of the UMP (Sarkozy). They arrive in aid of a UDF candidate handicapped by the virtual character of the majority of "national unity" upon which he proposes to base his political power in the event he wins the election. Joined by several personages on the Right (François Goulard, Azouz Begag, Corrine Lepage), this initiative manages to render credible the political configuration defended by the leader of the Center Right, which up to then had been viewed as that of a solitary individual. "It is for me a very great hope of gathering forces well beyond the traditional dividing lines", he declared on Sunday in Nantes.

These calls suddenly render fragile the socialist candidate, who tries to draw a distinction, all the while endeavoring not to injure the sensibilities of the UDF voters, upon whose votes she counts in the event she manages to make it into the second tour. "We must respect the voters: leave the voters free, don’t bother them with bargaining and manipulation, back-room deals — we’ll take another look between the two tours", she affirmed, yesterday on RCM-Info. "All these negotiations in advance of the first tour, under the pretext of forming an anti-Sarkozy front, they do not address the problem at hand."

Is it ineluctable, the perspective of such a slide on the political chessboard?

Forces exist, in favor of a pole PS-UDF. They count on the idea according to which the French Left must go the distance in its ideological capitulation which will lead it to melt completely and definitively into the mold of economic requirements dictated by globalization and the iron laws of capitalist economy. Such a configuration will complete the conservative revolution launched in the 1980’s, under the heading of "return to rigor". This perspective, as with the possible recomposition, Italian style, of the French Right under Nicolas Sarkozy, will launch a shift to the right, already visible, on the political and ideological chessboard.

But this scenario meets with a certain resistance. François Hollande and several socialist leaders have excluded any alliance with the Center Right. "François Bayrou, he is on the Right", repeated Laurent Fabius on Canal Plus, deploring the "trouble" created by Michel Rocard’s proposition. Characterizing the action as "intellectual Meccano", the Green party candidate Dominique Voynet says she is convinced that "the Left and the Right, that has a meaning". On the contrary, Olivier Besancenot and Arlette Laguillier seemed, this weekend, to take a turn to the Right, the former demanding a "right to opposition", the latter sending Royal and Sarkozy back to back.

"A Left that looks to the center, that’s no way to beat the right", warned Marie-George Buffet. For the candidate of the popular and anti-liberal left [3], only a "left-wing political program" will permit Ségolène Royal to win against the Right. This is a political program that only a pole of social transformation anchored in a left-wing majority can guarantee. Hence the importance of her score and that of the PCF in the legislative elections. Michel Rocard, correctly deplored, last September at the Summer University of the UDF, the traces left by the influence of the Communist Party, primarily in economic matters. "This mentality has always caused damage in our country", he said with annoyance.

[1Leader of the uprising by Roman slaves in the year -71. Also reference to the Spartacusbund, a group of socialist revolutionaries that separated from the social-democratic movement in 1915, headed by Karl Leibknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, Franz Mehring and Clara Zetkin. Antimilitarist, and at the origins of the German communist party.

[2Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, Roman tribune in the year -133, redistributed public lands, controlled by the rich, to the poor. The movement did not take root, Gracchus was massacred during an uprising provoked by the reactionary patricians.

[3terminology adopted for the presidential election by the PCF candidate

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