French politics

Duel inside the Centre

Last Thursday, François Bayrou, current centrist MP and Mouvement démocrate (Modem, Democratic Movement) President announced his candidacy for the presidential race. Last Sunday, Hervé Morin, the former minister of Defence and Nouveau Centre (New Centre) leader did the same thing.

Two candidacies which were expected since a moment and which surprise nobody. Indeed, the one as the other was more or less explicit in their intentions and their will to defend the centrist values and ideas during the campaign, just to say there is still a centrist movement in France.

The Bayrou and Morin’s candidacies provoke little enthusiasm and much scepticism, as far as the second is concerned, mainly. In fact, most friends of the former minister consider he is making a mistake, ruling for an election where he gets just 1% of votes so far according to the current opinion polls. This explains the recent declarations of Jean-Christophe Lagarde, current MP and mayor of Drancy (suburb of Paris) but also New Centre vice-president who is very ironical on his leader’s candidacy announcement. Furthermore, let’s notice the discretion of Jean-François Sauvadet and Maurice Leroy, New Centre members but also members of the current Fillon government as ministers!

François Bayrou is experiencing the same situation. Indeed, the one who got 18.3% of the votes in 2007 lost a great deal of supporters, probably very disappointed by the Modem and the “ni droite, ni gauche” (“neither right nor left”) strategy implemented by its leader. Initially designed as an instrument to conquest the power, the Democratic Movement seems to be old-fashioned and without any supports which may be very problematic for Bayrou who is going to run alone.

The Bayrou and Morin’s candidacy re-launches the duel between the two leaders inside the centrist movement in the context of strong rivalry. In fact, there exists a real ego opposition behind these two candidacies, the one considering having been betrayed by the other. The one as the other thinks to embody the humanist values better and the one as the other thinks to embody this famous third way that France is still waiting for years.

But the one as the other forgets they are more and less discredited and they are more or less discredited the Centre instead of making it a real political force. Thus, if François Bayrou weakened Modem with his “ni droite, ni gauche” strategy, Hervé Morin revived the Union pour la Démocratie française (UDF, Union for the French democracy) Giscard version creating a movement which rules and still rules France with the UMP, although it strongly criticizes the outgoing French president to be in posture.

To sum up, two centrist candidacies which are rather an expression of personal ambitions than a real will to propose a new direction for France. Once again, the Centre is divided between a strategy of independence and a strategy of alliances with the traditional right mainly. It is not certain the presence of Bayrou and Morin will be enough to assure the centrist family political existence. Moreover, a very disappointing result might mean the political death of two candidates who have much more to lose than win, eventually.