Friday, April 28, 2017

Sans Commentaire: Jalkh Resigns From FN Presidency

Editorial du « Monde ». Ce n’est pas une péripétie. Ce n’est pas insignifiant. Ce n’est pas un « détail », est-on tenté de dire. Le président par intérim du Front national (FN), Jean-François Jalkh, a été contraint, vendredi 28 avril, à démissionner. Nommé il y a quelques jours à la tête du FN par Mme Marine Le Pen qui, par ce geste, entendait séduire au-delà de son électorat habituel, M. Jalkh s’est vu reprocher un passé « négationniste ». Le chef d’une formation dont la candidate, Mme Le Pen, guigne la plus haute fonction élective en France doutait de la réalité des chambres à gaz durant la deuxième guerre mondiale.

The Second-Round Campaign

Dear Readers,
You may find me surprisingly silent, just as everyone else has become vociferous. I confess that I'm tired. I've been traveling around the country giving lectures on the election. I spoke for two hours last night to interested Harvard students and will spend another two hours at Boston College today. Then it's off to Columbia in New York and from there on to Houston. So I'm talked out.

I'm also surprised. I had thought that the first round would lead to a clarification of the case for "steady as she goes." Instead, it has turned into a sort of zombie war, in which the undead hulks of the losing candidates stalk about feeding on poor Emmanuel Macron. For die-hard Mélenchoniens he has become the dread symbol of all they detest, the hypercapitalist neoliberal Euro/technocrat indifferent to the fate of the workers of the world, the very face of greed, the fattest of fat cats, the two-faced banker, nay, the two-faced investment banker, or better yet, the lying Rothschild banker who pretends to be neither right nor left, or both right and left, or both socialist and not-socialist--in short, a monster. For die-hard Hamonistes he is the usurper, the traitor to the party who stole its birthright, displaced its president, rejected its primary, and yet in the end a raflé la mise. And for die-hard Fillonistes, he is nothing but a Bolshevik in a suit.

Forgotten in all this bitterness over the victory of the wrong man is the real enemy, the Le Pen clan, which is eagerly wooing the Macron-rejectionists of all stripes by painting Marine as the fulfillment of their every fantasy and wish. Macron will close your plants; Marine will join you at the factory gate for a selfie party, and if snapshots of your unemployed self with the aggressively smiling blonde don't put food on the table, she'll promise to nationalize your industry, just as the left used to do back when there were real socialists running the show rather than forts en thème who married their French teachers. Macron will sell you out by governing with the likes of Xavier Bertrand; Marine will defend the working class by elevating fine, upstanding citizens like Jean-François Jalkh. Macron will besmirch the purity of La Grande Nation by permitting discussion of the darker aspects of the French past in public schools; Marine will scour away all the tarnish. Macron will surrender to the Germans and dissolve France in the acid of Europe; Marine will preserve la bonne vieille France in aspic, serve only le jambon de Bayonne in every school cafeteria of France and Navarre, and thereby drive out the foreigners who don't deserve to be called French merely by grace of le droit du sol.

The campaign itself has degenerated into a war of televised set-pieces. Macron meets with union reps; Marine outflanks him among the rank-and-file; Macron counters with his own jaw-jutting confrontation in the parking lot, reminiscent of Sarkozy's famous colloquy with the worker mounted on a crane: "Tu veux me parler, déscends de là si t'es un homme." Marine goes to sea with les marins-pêcheurs and plays with un poulpe. Macron meanwhile plays soccer in Sarcelles with la jeunesse des banlieues. 

Eventually there will be a debate. Macron will defend globalization with arguments; Marine will tear it down with anecdotes. And then France will vote. Macron will be elected by a landslide. Make no mistake. Do not be distracted by the endless men in the street assiduously uncovered by the TV journalists, who naturally have no difficulty finding vendors in open-air markets or housewives on streetcorners prepared to declare, for the edification of all, "Ben, oui, je vote Front National pour la première fois, et pourquoi pas, on a tout essayé et la France va toujours mal." He will win nevertheless. And then the troubles will begin all over again. For those who see this election as a choice between continuity and change are in one sense right: France is traversing a storm, but those who think that the way out is to steer the ship onto the rocks (Change!) are wrong, while those who think that a safe harbor can still be reached if the necessary course corrections are undertaken in time (More of the same!) are right.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Le Non-Consigne de Mélenchon, The Virtue of Xavier Bertrand

Jean-Luc Mélenchon has announced that he will give no consigne de vote for the second round and will not say how he will vote personally. He has "consulted democratically" with the 450,000 adherents of La France Insoumise, offering them 3 choices: 1) abstain, 2) cast a blank ballot, 3) vote Macron (voting Le Pen is not an option, although polls show that around 18% of his supporters intend to do just that:

Mélenchon's "democratic" discretion contrasts sharply with his attitude in 2002, when he called unambiguously and unreservedly on the "peuple de gauche" to vote for Chirac in the second round against J.-M. Le Pen. What has changed? The Front National? I think not (see previous post). "Neoliberalism?" Really? Is Macron a greater threat to Mélenchon's values and principles than Chirac was?

No. What has changed is Mélenchon. His common sense has been vanquished by his ego. Even "ni-ni" Sarkozy has announced that he will vote for Macron. Mélenchon thus replaces him as the most insufferable prima donna in French politics. Compare his dishonorable intransigence with Xavier Bertrand's admirable statement on France2 last night: "I am not 'throwing myself in the arms of Macron,'" he said, contrasting his position with the words of Georges Fenech. "I disagree with Macron about many things, but when it comes to opposing Le Pen, I cannot remain indifferent."

This has been a dispiriting campaign, but the last few days have cast a revealing light on any number of political personalities.

The FN's Interim President

As everyone knows, Marine Le Pen began her second-round campaign with a stunt, dramatically stepping down temporarily from the presidency of the Front National. (She followed up with a second stunt, trying to steal Macron's thunder by appearing at the Whirlpool plant in Amiens, but he countered effectively by bravely confronting the hostile crowd there in the wake of her visit.) To replace her she named Jean-François Jalkh, a low-profile FN VP who turns out to have quite a history:

Le 19 mai 2015, Jean-François Jalkh est mis en examen pour « escroqueries, abus de confiance et acceptation par un parti politique d'un financement provenant d'une personne morale ». Il est poursuivi en tant que secrétaire général de Jeanne, un micro-parti, dirigé par des personnalités proches de Marine Le Pen, qui fait lui-même l’objet d’une mise en examen en tant que personne morale. Il est le premier haut cadre du FN à être inquiété dans cette affaire14. Les juges ordonnent, en octobre 2016 son renvoi devant le tribunal correctionnel15,16.
Il est également cité dans l'affaire de la politique d'embauche des assistants parlementaires de Jean-Marie Le Pen. Ce dernier, alors eurodéputé, aurait employé Jean-François Jalkh sans pour autant pouvoir prouver un quelconque travail d'assistance. Le Parlement européen réclame à Le Pen le remboursement des 320 000 € pour emploi fictif.
He may also be a Holocaust denier.

En 2000, il déclare, d'après des propos rapportés cinq ans plus tard dans Le Temps des savoirs, qu'il distingue parmi les négationnistes et les révisionnistes, d'une part les « gens détestables », et d'autre part « [un] négationniste ou [un] révisionniste sérieux » comme Robert Faurisson, évoquant « le sérieux et la rigueur [...] de l'argumentation » ; dans une phrase dont on ne sait si elle reflète sa pensée ou résume celle d’un autre, il conclut « sur l’utilisation d’un gaz, par exemple, qu’on appelle le Zykon B [sic], moi je considère que d’un point de vue technique, il est impossible […] je dis bien impossible de l’utiliser dans des […] exterminations de masse » — dans le même temps, Jean-François Jalkh rejette l'étiquette de négationniste pour lui-même6,20. Il dément avoir tenu ces propos lorsqu'ils sont relayés par Laurent de Boissieu à l'occasion de son accession à la présidence du FN par intérim21 ; David Rachline indique quant à lui que Jean-François Jalkh « a déposé une plainte parce que cette affaire est montée de toutes pièces »6. La chercheuse Magali Boumaza, qui a recueilli ses propos, confirme ses écrits et affirme en détenir la preuve6,22. Pour sa défense, Jean-François Jalkh met en avant sa proximité dans les années 1980 avec le secrétaire général du parti de l’époque, Jean-Pierre Stirbois, accusé au sein de l’extrême droite d’être un « agent sioniste »22.

Legislative Elections

The rules are complicated. Triangulaires, quadrangulaires--such things can happen depending on the turnout and the division of votes in the first round. Le Monde sums up the rules here. And try this interactive tool.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

My Hot Take on the Election



Macron 23, Le Pen 21, JLM/Fillon 19. Best possible outcome from my point of view. Now a complicated game begins to determine the complexion of the Macron government. Vive la France, vive la République!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Arun's Summary

Arun Kapil gives us a terrific roundup of how things stand on the eve of the contest.