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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Parcours d’un homme au coeur du dispositif chiraco-giscardien

by Sébastien Crépel

Bayrou’s Journey to the Heart of the Chirac-d’Estaing Machine

Translated Wednesday 11 April 2007, by Anna Carella

He has occupied every post on the political right. Today, his rebellious tone helps him hold his own when faced with a UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) converted to his same Euro-liberalism.

Francois Bayrou is the archetypal man of the same ‘system’ that he is denouncing; even more so of the UMP-ex-RPR-UDF majority that governed France for nearly 20 years starting in 1974, for which he was local counselor, deputy, and minister. Originally a protégé of Jean Lecanuet, the current president of the UDF moved up the ladder of Giscard d’Estaing’s party, becoming a delegate between 1989 and 1991. This was during the reign of the ‘Renovation Men,’ a new generation of right-wingers who rallied the Christian-Democrats, ultra-liberals, and the browbeating cast-offs of the pro-Europe camp to their side.

Radically hostile to the right-left alliance sought by Prime Minister Michel Rocard, Bayrou entered the government of Édouard Balladur when his party allied itself with big business in 1993. He was in charge of national education and took part in the launching of the CIP (‘Contrat d’insertion professionnelle,’ a short-term employment contract for those under 26 with a salary fixed at 80% of minimum wage), which brought thousands of French youths onto the streets in protest. In 1994, Bayrou became a very unpopular minister following his eagerness to amend the Falloux educational law to the exclusive benefit of private schools, for which he hoped to increase government spending. One million public-school demonstrators, and harsh criticism labeling the amendments anti-Constitutional forced him to finally yield. In 1995, he gave his support to Édouard Balladur (RPR) for the presidential elections. But as a man who has occupied all possible government jobs since its position on the right, Bayrou necessarily hit the jackpot under President Jacques Chirac as part of the austere Juppé government which disputed (already) the policy of social security. The left finally managed to dislodge him from power in 1997. In the meantime, however, he introduced reforms of the university system which left all its major problems intact.

In 2002, Bayrou’s party had been taken over by UMP, which proceeded to lay off a number of personnel and elected officials. He nonetheless managed a ministerial post in Raffarin’s government (a liberal ex-Democracy and Madelin’s party, himself ex-UDF) for Gilles de Robien. In faithful support of this rightist government, he and his faction voted in favor of the proposed budgets, the law to get rid of the 35-hour work week, pensions, and for repressive security measures similar to those of Sarkozy. Francois Bayrou began adopting a critical and even rebellious discourse distinct from the right, but without offering any corresponding action or proposals. The reason for this tactic: the need to ensure his existence vis-à-vis a UMP which intended to occupy the entire spectrum of the right, and which has converted to Euro-liberalism, formerly the mark of d’Estaing’s party. Essentially, Francois Bayrou’s rhetoric has recycled all the liberal dogmas: budgetary austerity taken to the extreme (constitutional prohibition of a budget deficit: an intolerable objective that can only destroy public services), decreased employer responsibility, rehabilitation of d’Estaing’s European Constitution for which he was unsurprisingly a very keen supporter. One can imagine that his ideal “left-right” government would be the European Commission itself, made up of personalities of various positions on the political spectrum but linked by ultra-liberalism… Even his project to create a Democratic Party after the election testifies to an ambition, similar to that of Nicolas Sarkozy, to Americanize politics.

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