Archive for the 'politics' Category

2012, déjà trop tard pour Sarkozy et Bayrou sur la toile ?

Comme le remarque Nicolas Voisin en suivant les mouvements de troupes au Parti Radical de J-L Borloo, il s’emblerait que la place laissée vacante par Jacques Chirac á peine attribuée, la prochaine échéance présidentielle suscite déjá bien des convoitises et surtout des stratégies politiques de longue haleine. Pourtant le très apprécié ministre d’Etat n’est pas le seul dans les starting blocks puisque, á un autre niveau, un petit malin attentif a déjà acheté le nom de domaine Sarkozy2012.fr. Il s’agirait de Christian Perbet, dirigeant d’une agence de communication en Haute-Loire, TNT. Apparemment il s’agit de quelqu’un d’influent, au moins dans les médias traditionnels, puisque si les blogs le méconnaissent notoirement, l’Express lui consacre tout de même un bref papier ici. Je ne sais pas si ce monsieur est un sarkophile inconditionnel, un espiègle opposant ou bien, plus prosaïquement, un homme d’affaire pragmatique qui aura flairé la bonne affaire mais gageons que du côté de la rue de la Boëtie, on devra débourser quelques menus euros pour éviter tout malentendu dans 5 ans. Tout ca me semble bien peu prévoyant de la part de notre président et de son illustre équipe internet (Loïc Le Meur notamment). Pourtant il n’est pas le seul dans cette situation, puisque tel semble être le sort de Bayrou2012.fr qui appartient quant á elle a un illustre inconnu. A ce jour au moins.

Malheureusement, les propriétaire des déclinaisons pour Royal, DSK restent inconnus. Quant à Fabius… avis aux amateurs. ;-)

Danish elections : The empire strikes back

While France is one more time the hostage of strikes which reasons I can’t possibly manage to clarify to my foreign friends, Denmark’s parliamentary elections have just taken place yesterday following a record short campaign for French or US standards: a month !

As expected the current prime minister has saved his job and will start his 3d mandate. The exceptional economic situation experienced by the country during the last 5 years has been central in convincing the voters to re-appoint his liberal-conservative (V+C) coalition. This despite the sharp critics around the very Atlantist foreign policy pursued, the increasingly suspicious asylum and immigration policy influenced by the far-right Party of Danish People (Dansk Folkeparti – DF) and its populist leader: Pia Kjærsgaard or the concern around the state of the public health system, which does not live up to the Welfare State’s standards of a Nordic social democracy.

Paradoxically, while the decision made by Anders Fogh to organize the elections so early ambitioned to lower the influence of the DF over political agenda, the opposite has happened, as indicated by the large smile on Pia’s face all the evening (*sigh*)

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The rise in the polls of a newly formed party, Ny Alliance (Y), an “elitist and Creative Class, bourgeois-humanist” party according to the center right Berlingske daily, whose popular (but superficial the critics would add) leader Naser Khader had ambition to replace DF in a governmental coalition and beyond to undermine the “block politics”, has failed to materialized. This is partly due to a range of blatant tactical mistakes during the campaign and a lack of depth in their program. Ny Alliance reached 10% in the polls a few weeks ago and scored a pathetic 2,8% at the end of the day . Consequently, DF have reinforced their relative influence (+1 mandate at 25 while the Venstre lost 6 at 46) and could actually requests one or several minister portfolios. No need to say that Pia Kjærsgaard is less than willing to open her arms to Y whose 5 mandates aren’t even needed to ensure a majority at the single-chamber parliament.

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It seems to me that A. Fogh’s Venstre (and C) group, building up on their documented experience and results, has been able to convince the population that they still are the best, most professional and skillful team available as well as the most trustworthy one to run the economy and ensure continuous economic development . This was remarkably illustrated by the slogan chosen for their communication: “Vi kan gøre det endnu bedre”(aka. We can make it EVEN better) . At first , I found it unambitious, “petit-bourgeois” but after discussing with friends I think it was rooted in a profound understanding of people’s psychology and expectations regarding the relations of politics with their lives.

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p.s: Bref message á l’attention du journal Le Monde qui se distingue encore par son incurie journalistique : Anders Fogh vient bien entendu d’être reconduit pour la seconde fois, et non pas la 3eme, au poste de 1er ministre comme l’annonce la “correspondance” (sic) . Il fut en effet d’abord élu en 2001, puis reélu en 2005 et donc en 2007.

Companies vote too in Denmark

I am just coming across a quite interesting, bold and original case of on-line corporate communication. This for 2 reasons: the way I heard about that campaign and its actual content.

I found out about it through a Facebook group recently joined by a friend of mine which triggered a notification on my news feed. While parliament elections are planned for next weekend in Denmark, the group claims (in danish) that “I don’t care who is candidate, I am voting for saxo bank”. Saxo Bank is a Denmark-based fast growing on-line bank specialized in trading and investment for both private and corporate clients.

The group links to a specific page on Saxo Bank’s website where one discovers a direct message from the 2 co-CEOs to the voters arguing for lower marginal income tax in Denmark. The argument builds on the current shortage of qualified workers (a burning issue for many employers in the country) and concludes in a Lafferian fashion that the current marginal tax results in… lower overall tax income for the state and lower welfare level. The claim is supported by various studies from danish and international organizations like the OECD and the Danish Minister of Economy (for the serious part) and a small animated movie (for the fun part). But the website goes even further as, even though it does not support any specific candidate or party, it enjoin people to take action by providing a map of all voting regions with, for each of them, the list of all candidates supporting a tax reform for lower income tax. This includes candidate from the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party and the newly formed Center-Right Alliance.

This website seems to be part of a broader lobbying campaign orchestrated by Saxo as I was just reading an article on daily newspaper Berlingske reporting on a Saxo survey that shows how Denmark misses millions of DDK in tax (7,58 dkk = 1€) for every single worker choosing to live abroad.

Obviously both threads aim at convincing the voters that high income tax = lower welfare (an important benefit for most voters in DK, even economically conservative ones). Even though the argumentation is fundamentally biaised for me (the figures put forth never balance the influx of of immigrants coming to DK whose mobility contribute to tax revenues), I find it interesting to see a company publicly taking a clear position and willing to get involved into political debate through direct communication to the voters rather than resorting to behind-the-scene lobbying or dubious friendships between politicians and business leaders (ask Sarkozy for details…). As far as I can remember, I have never seen a major company that is not a press company getting so much involved and taking a clear stance through the voice of its management team. (Patagonia did it during the 2004 US presidential elections but the public exposure in the national context aren’t comparable and there was no such tool developed to evangelize the publics and media)

Moreover the role that social platforms such as facebook can already play in promoting (or criticizing) such initiative will definitely make them a center of attention, not only to marketeer and advertisers but to political candidates. Thus, depending on their preferences, Danish voters can already be “facebook-friends” (sic) with economically liberal prime-minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen (2,613 friends) or Social-democrat opponent, Helle Thorning-Schimdt. (2,583 friends).

A button away from the CL’s final on the remote control

While the eyes of Europe have turned to Athens for the evening in order to follow the final of the UEFA Champion’s League opposing Liverpool FC to AC Milan, a button away on my remote control is CNN broadcasting images of yet another terrorist bomb attack in Lebanon. This time in East Beirut. Hundred of demonstrators, curious and passer-bys are gathered there, making calls on their mobile phones, taking pictures with their digital cameras or yelling in front of the cameras. In a few days, more than 60 people have died in northern Lebanon, a mark never reached there since the end of the civil war in 1990.

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image: Steve Bell for The Guardian

A week ago, a close half lebanese half danish friend of mine left Copenhagen to visit her family there for a few weeks. She left the notoriously insouciance of safe and quiet Denmark for a place which makes the media highlights for its recent upsurge of violence. Ever since, I have kept an eye on the news preoccupied by the growing instability and the possible consequences for her, her family and friends.

After all, and as we all witnessed last year, civilians are always the first victims of such fightings between regular army and extremist groups. Unfortunately, listening to a refugee from the Nahr Al-Bared camp, quoted in the NYT it won’t be different this time: “The army and Fatah al Islam would fire on each other, but the bombs and bullets landed on us. We were waiting for death.”

Yesterday, because an explosion occurred in Beirut, I sent her an SMS asking how things were. Beyond the relief of getting an instant reassuring reply, the end of her message got me pondering for a while: “I wish I could see an end to all this mess“.

But could that be more than a wish ?

Pessimistic, I wonder how it could when for a year at least we have let the precarious but real political equilibrium found by this country and its diverse ethnic and religious groups fall into a rather bleak future. This country which could have been a reason for hoping, an example for the entire region, has come to symbolize many of its dead-ends.

However inextricable the situation may seem, I hope that this time western governments won’t merely wave press releases stating how much they/we “regret” the way events unfold.

During all his campaign, Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s new president has loudly voiced his ambition to base his policy international affairs primarily on moral principles. The recruitment of M. Kouchner, founder of Doctors without Borders and long-standing advocate of humanitarian intervention – a man less than accustomed to diplomatic faltering – for the job of Foreign Affairs minister has confirmed Sarkozy’s willingness to move away from too often accepted cynicism like Chirac’s unbalanced approach toward Putin’s Russia ; Putin whom Sarkozy openly and forcefully criticized for his orchestration of military repression in Chechnya. So today, let us hope that the intentions claimed will also lead to a clear involvement, along with the US, the EU and the international community at large, in Lebanon.

Yes, let us hope that unlike last year, when Isreal-lead war seriously shook-up the Lebanese social fabric, this time a quick and unequivocal commitment of the international community prevents the collapse which some already tragically foresee, like these 2 journalists who blog from Beirut: “We are heading straight to a civil war”, they write.

Now the game is over, Milan has won, cameras are on Berlusconi who stands by Platini and hundred of millions are religiously watching the show. Let us not prevent Berlusconi from covering up civilians’ voices in Lebanese begging us for help.

“Plus de flexibilité, plus de liberté”

Hier avait lieu le traditionnel rasssemblement du 1er mai de la gauche danoise à Fælledparken, dans le quartier d’Østerbro, oú je vis. L’événement qui est aussi le prétexte á un grand happening festif arrosé à la Tuborg n’a pas forcément la même connotation strictement politique qu’en France. Il suffit d’observer les hordes de collégiens alcoolisés venus profiter du soleil et d’une journée chaumée pour s’en convaincre.

Il n’empêche. Comme la tradition le veut, le président des socio-démocrates (en l’occurrence, la présidente), Helle Thorning-Schmidt s’est adressée au public présent. Je n’y étais pas mais ses propos ont été retransmis le soir dans le journal TV de DR1, (disponible ici, pour les danophones) m’ont singulièrement surpris.

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En effet, alors qu’au même moment, depuis Charléty, Ségolène Royal, qui affirme régulièrement vouloir s’inspirer du modèle de la sociale-démocratie scandinave pour réformer l’Etat providence, affirmait avoir entendu les craintes et aspirations de la gauche anti-libérale et altermondialiste, les déclarations de Helle Thorning-Schmidt me sont apparues singulièrement en décalage avec la ligne dominante au PS et même l’état de l’opinion francaise. Mais peut-être ceci tient-il davantage de la manière de poser le débat.
Quoiqu’il en soit, H.Thorning-Schmidt a en effet proposé de libéraliser le temps de travail des fonctionnaires afin de leur permettre de travailler plus que les 37 hebdommadaires réglementaires et d’accumuler les heures afin de se ménager des périodes de repos tout au long de leur vie active (éducation complémentaire, maternité/paternité, etc). D’aucuns y verront probablement un moyen “de travailler plus, pour gagner plus”.

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Helle Thorning-Schmidt a résumé la philosophie d’une telle revendication ainsi : “Plus de flexibilité, plus de liberté pour les salariés de la fonction publique”.

Je me demande bien quelle eût été la réaction des militants, sympathisants et cadres du PS et de ses alliés si Séguolène Royal leur avait vendu, elle aussi, cette fameuse flexibilité…

In defense of Bronisław Geremek

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The Polish Member of the European Parliament, Bronislav Geremek, historical figure of Solidarnosc, key player of the democratic transition in Poland and former advisor of Lech Walesa, is now facing the consequences of a so-called “lustration” law promulgated by Poland far-right government: M. Geremek risks being stripped off from his MEP mandate because he refuses, on moral grounds, to submit a law that requires polish journalists, academics and elected MPs to sign a declaration stating that they have never collaborated with the security services . This controversial law has been forcefully criticized by members of the European Parliament whom have compared it to a “witch-hunt” inspired by “stalinist methods”.
Unfortunately, to date, scant public attention has been brought upon M. Geremek situation and, beyond, upon the illegitimacy of such a law in respect to basic democratic principles supposedly protected within the E.U.

Yesterday, M. Geremek’s cause may have been given the opportunity the reach broader public attention thanks to former French presidential candidate F. Bayrou who took advantage of a press conference to voice both his concern and support.
Yet, a quick look at GoogleNews in Spain, Germany, the UK or (slightly better) France this morning suggests few journalists have taken up the news. I believe they would be very well inspired to do so asap…

Here is the summary of yesterday’s European Parliament discussion on the Geremek case. And here is a TV news report by France 24, the only one I found to date.

update : This afteroon, Le Monde published a column by B. Gremek explaining why he refuses to accept what he caompares to a “ministery of truth” and a “police of memory”. The text is available here (in French)

update bis : The magazine Le Nouvel Observateur initiated this afternoon a petition for Geremek. It has already been endorsed by Robert Badinter, Elizabeth Badinter, Michel Rocard and Milan Kundera. You can sign it there.

Les chiffres paradoxaux de l’institut CSA

Hier, Laurent, sur Embruns, mettait l’accent sur les étranges prévisions de l’institut CSA publiées le 20/04, et qui, pour la première fois, donnaient Le Pen (16,5%) devant Bayrou (16%).

J’avais, comme lui, relevé l’étrangeté des prévisions qui ne correspondaient pas à la tendance indiquée par tous les autres instituts (Bayrou comme 3e homme, voir ici). Que ces estimations sortent à quelques heures de l’interdiction des sondages, avec l’effet – ou les effets – qu’une telle annonce pouvait potentiellement avoir sur les électeurs et notamment sur les indécis, ne faisait que rajouter à ma circonspection.

Les résultats définitifs d’hier soir, plaçant Bayrou très largement devant Le Pen, ne l’ont pas atténuée.
Mais il me semble qu’il y a peut-être plus étonnant encore. En effet, dans ce même sondage du 20/04, le CSA teste un 2ème tour Sarkozy VS Royal et communique une estimation à 50%-50%, (ici, voir bas de page). Pour la 1ère fois depuis le 21/03 (sondage CSA également), Royal ferait ainsi jeu égal avec Sarkozy. Un score plus flatteur, voire beaucoup plus flatteur, pour la candidate socialiste, que celui de tous les autres sondages publiés et réalisés sur la même période (voir ici) anticipent.
Pourtant le 23/04, un autre sondage en provenance du CSA – réalisé le 22/04 après 20h – donne, cette fois-ci, pour le 2ème tour, Sarkozy à 53,5% contre Royal à 46.5%. Des chiffres sensiblement différents de ceux du 20/04 et qui sont bien davantage en phase avec les estimations de la majorité des autres instituts qui donnent Sarkozy vainqueur, avec une marge plus ou moins confortable.

Que s’est-il donc passé dans la tête des sondés entre le 20/04 et le 22/04, alors que la campagne officielle est interrompue, qui a poussé le CSA a changé de manière aussi rapide et aussi sensible ses chiffres sur le 2d tour ?

Une explication plausible m’a d’abord paru être le discours de Ségolène Royal, presque unanimement décrit comme d’une médiocrité rarement (jamais?) atteinte dans l’histoire de la présidentielle. Pourtant est-ce suffisant pour perdre 3,5 points d’intentions de vote ? Surtout, le sondage a certes été réalisé après 20h, mais Ségolène Royal n’a pas pris la parole avant 21h30, heure à laquelle, une bonne partie des 1005 personnes nécessaires à la réalisation du sondage en question avaient probablement déjá répondu.

Sans vouloir tirer de conclusions hâtives, ni pointer du doigt, je trouve ces écarts assez, hmm, surprenants. Ceci d’autant plus qu’ils contrastent avec l’accuité générale des sondeurs qui ont finement observé les mouvements de l’opinion, comme le remarque Jean-Michel Apathie.

Alors comme Laurent le suggère, la moindre des choses est peut-être de garder cet épisode en tête la prochaine fois qu’on nous présentera un sondage made by CSA.

Est-ce suffisant ? That is the question…
p.s : en parlant de chiffres, je ne suis pas encore parvenu á mettre la main sur les résultats du vote des Francais du Danemark. Le ministère des Affaires Etrangères ne communique que les résultats globaux sur son site. Quoiqu’il en soit, le modèle danois ayant été relativement présent dans la campagne, (pour une fois que ce qui se fait á l’étranger ne sert pas de repoussoir…) je suis assez curieux de voir comment ceux qui le pratiquent au quotidien ont voté. Je me renseigne demain, c’est promis.


Let this diversity of opinions be propounded to, and laid before him; he will himself choose, if he be able; if not, he will remain in doubt. "Che non men che saver, dubbiar m' aggrata." ["I love to doubt, as well as to know."-- Dante, Inferno, xi. 93] for, if he embraces the opinions of Xenophon and Plato, by his own reason, they will no more be theirs, but become his own. Who follows another, follows nothing, finds nothing, nay, is inquisitive after nothing. "Non sumus sub rege; sibi quisque se vindicet." ["We are under no king; let each vindicate himself." --Seneca, Ep.,33]"
Montaigne - Essais I, XXVI, Of The Education of Children
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