French politics

The “Che’s” shadow

“Che” is back. Saturday evening, Jean-Pierre Chevènement – former Lionel Jospin’s minister of interior – officially announced his candidacy for the presidential election, to move the lines.

A candidacy which has welcomed ironically by the majority and with major interrogations, not to say major concerns in the opposition, in the Parti socialiste mainly. Indeed, everyone remembers Jean-Pierre Chèvenement got 5.3% of the polls in 2002 what was enough to handicap Lionel Jospin and prevent him to access to the run-off. Thus, some people dread he gets good results in the incoming campaign, such results which probably may have an impact on the François Hollande’s strategy or even on the Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s one, the main leader of Front de Gauche (the radical left), just after the first round and the strategy of the French left for the final.

“Che” – the Chevènement’s nickname, directly referring to Ernesto “Che” Guevara – is the itching powder of the French socialists. If in 2002 his candidacy was relevant, it was due to his strong opposition, as minister of interior, to the Processus de Matignon, a constitutional and legal reform planning to give more autonomy of Corsica. Two years ago, he decided to resign and quit the government, as sign of protestation to stand for as candidate defending the values of the French Republic, beyond the traditional and classical opposition left vs. right. The objective was explicit: gathering the disappointed supporters of Chirac and Jospin with his candidacy.

Nonetheless, a lot of people are wondering if a new candidacy of Chevènement is clearly relevant. In 2006, the Mouvement Républicain et Citoyen (republican and nationalist left) wished to stand for the 2007 election. Finally, he gave up his candidacy and decided to support Ségolène Royal, the socialist candidate. In counterpart, the chevènementistes got some important electoral agreements in the framework of the legislatives.

It is needed to say that “Che” is still the best showcase for a party which can’t exist without him. As an activist reminded me a lot of times when I lived at Warsaw, it is dealt with the MRC only when Chevènement represents it. That’s why the former minister never left the presidency of the movement really, although he was replaced by a local representative but totally unknown.

It’s undoubtedly by necessity and by strategy the MRC decided to stand for the presidential election via Jean-Pierre Chèvenement. A necessity to exist and to show it exists and a strategy vis-à-vis the Parti socialiste in the framework of the incoming legislatives. In other words, we can consider the candidacy of Che as a shadow on the incoming electoral struggle.

Nonetheless, there is no guarantee this strategy works. If the Chevènement’s participation is normal and legitimistic, it may be useless for the debate. As Fabien Cazenave, a French blogger, explained very well in the Nouvel Observateur, his ideas are represented by a part of the left and a part of the right both. Regarding the importance of the State as strategic actor in economics, Chevènement is rather close to the Front de Gauche leader. Nevertheless, regarding Europe, he shares the same of conception than the right-nationalist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, a conception based on a con-federal Europe without Commission and European Parliament and with a clear domination of the Nation-States as motor of the European integration. To sum up, a candidacy for nothing (maybe!) looking for a last-ditch stand for the old Lion rather.