Keep Us Strong WikiLeaks logo

Currently released so far... 4489 / 251,287

Articles

Browse latest releases

Browse by creation date

Browse by origin

A B C D F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z

Browse by tag

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
QA
YI YM YE

Browse by classification

Community resources

courage is contagious

Viewing cable 06PARIS1113, UDF LEADER FRANCOIS BAYROU REVIEWS HIS CENTRIST

If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Understanding cables
Every cable message consists of three parts:
  • The top box shows each cables unique reference number, when and by whom it originally was sent, and what its initial classification was.
  • The middle box contains the header information that is associated with the cable. It includes information about the receiver(s) as well as a general subject.
  • The bottom box presents the body of the cable. The opening can contain a more specific subject, references to other cables (browse by origin to find them) or additional comment. This is followed by the main contents of the cable: a summary, a collection of specific topics and a comment section.
To understand the justification used for the classification of each cable, please use this WikiSource article as reference.

Discussing cables
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol). Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #06PARIS1113.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06PARIS1113 2006-02-23 12:12 2011-02-10 08:08 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Paris
Appears in these articles:
http://abonnes.lemonde.fr/documents-wikileaks/article/2011/02/09/wikileaks-les-visiteurs-de-l-ambassade_1477418_1446239.htm
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 001113 

SIPDIS 

DEPT ALSO FOR EUR/WE, DRL/IL, INR/EUC, EUR/ERA, EUR/PPD, 
AND EB 
DEPT OF COMMERCE FOR ITA 
DEPT OF LABOR FOR ILAB 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/07/2015 
TAGS: PGOV ELAB EU FR PINR SOCI ECON
SUBJECT: UDF LEADER FRANCOIS BAYROU REVIEWS HIS CENTRIST 
STRATEGY WITH AMBASSADOR STAPLETON 

REF: A. A) EMBASSY PARIS DAILY REPORT FOR 01FEB06 
B. (B) EMBASSY PARIS DAILY REPORT FOR 30JAN06 
C. (C) EMBASSY PARIS DAILY REPORT FOR 26JAN06 
D. (D) EMBASSY PARIS DAILY REPORT FOR 11JAN06 
E. (E) EMBASSY PARIS DAILY REPORT FOR 15DEC05 
F. (F) EMBASSY PARIS DAILY REPORT FOR 01DEC05 
G. (G) EMBASSY PARIS DAILY REPORT FOR 25NOV05 

Classified By: Ambassador Craig Stapleton for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 

1. (C) Summary: At a meeting with Ambassador Stapleton on 
February 16, Union for French Democracy (UDF) leader Francois 
Bayrou reaffirmed "that France needs a centrist alternative" 
(ref B). He admitted, however, that the French persist in 
thinking in terms of "right and left," making it unlikely 
that voters in large numbers will desert the center-right and 
center-left parties for the center. Even so, Bayrou remains 
optimistic that, in the first round of the 2007 presidential 
election, he can do markedly better than his fourth place, 
7-percent showing in the 2002 election. Bayrou pointed out 
that he would be the only respectable candidate (that is, not 
of extreme left nor extreme right) in 2007 who has "already 
presented himself" to the voters in a presidential contest, 
and said that that familiarity should count in his favor. He 
dismissed Poitou-Charentes region president Segolene Royal 
(who continues to lead in popularity polls) as "having no 
political influence", and predicted that the "Segolene 
bubble" would soon burst. He said that unless Interior 
Minister Sarkozy "self-destructs" (which Bayrou said,"has 
happened before"), Sarkozy will not be dislodged as 
standard-bearer of the center-right by Prime Minister de 
Villepin. Bayrou said that, driven by reaction to the recent 
urban unrest and mounting anti-Western feeling among Muslims 
throughout the world, potential support for Jean-Marie Le Pen 
(leader of extreme right National Front (FN) party) is 
"stronger than estimated." Bayrou said that France was 
"searching for its place" in both an expanded Europe (he said 
the rejected EU constitutional treaty was indeed "a vote 
against Europe") and an economically integrated world. He 
called the French a "political" people, as opposed to an 
"economic" one, with a need for a vision and leadership. 
Bayrou did not define such a vision, although he said he 
would be doing so in coming days. Bayrou compared France to 
the U.S., saying both projected "universal values while 
seeing themselves as unique." Although accurate in his 
diagnosis of French society, Bayrou was less persuasive in 
presenting himself as the leader capable of taking France 
forward. End summary. 

TRAVAILS OF THE CENTER 
---------------------- 
2. (C) Saying that "it was very difficult to make the French 
listen to something different," Bayrou acknowledged the 
difficulties facing him as he continues to pursue his 
longstanding dream of articulating a centrist political 
vision that attracts enough support to win (ref B). He was 
optimistic for the future, however, noting that he had just 
been to Israel and citing the success of the centrist Kadima 
party as a model. In the first round of the 2002 
presidential election, Bayrou placed fourth, garnering 7 
percent of the vote. Bayrou expressed determination to do 
just as well, if not better, in the next elections. 
Unfortunately, he said, French voters still identify 
themselves as being of the left or of the right rather than 
of the center. Moreover, he implied, this "crystallization" 
of political identification is heightened at election time, 
notwithstanding public opinion surveys showing that a third 
of the electorate in principle (32 percent) favors centrist 
policies over leftist (33 percent) or rightist (25 percent) 
policies. Bayrou said he was convinced that the French were 
"yearning for renewal," which would allow him to do better 
this time than he did last time (ref D). In addition, Bayrou 
asserted that the new five-year presidential term, with the 
presidential election followed closely by legislative 
elections, should produce a new electoral dynamic, one more 
favorable to centrist candidates with centrist policy 
prescriptions. 

EXPERIENCE A BIG ASSET 
---------------------- 
3. (C) Excluding the far left and the extreme right, Bayrou 
called himself the "only other" candidate in 2007 who will 
have previously competed in a presidential election. He 
called presidential elections in France "savage," saying 
press and public feel they have the right to "dismember you." 
At the same time, having undergone this "initiation" was 
necessary for achieving the status of credible contender in 
the eyes of the electorate. Bayrou made clear that his 
"having been there before," along with the electorate's 
possible openness to a centrist third way, should help him in 
the first round of the 2007 presidential election, whereas it 
would tend to work against the "new" presidential candidates 
on the center-right and center-left. (Comment: While 
Interior Minister Sarkozy has a long political history with 
which the French electorate is familiar, PM de Villepin, who 
has never held elective office, is viewed by some as not yet 
having earned his spurs. On the center-left, only former PM 
Lionel Jospin has run for the presidency in the past, whereas 
current poll leader Segolene Royal is still seen as untested. 
End Comment.) 

FIRST TIMERS WON'T GO FAR 
------------------------- 
4. (C) Bayrou was unequivocal in dismissing any possibility 
that Socialist Segolene Royal, President of the 
Poitou-Charentes regional council and darling of current 
popularity polls, might seriously compete for the presidency. 
He said of her that "she has no political influence;" 
indeed, he went so far as to say that she had "no worthwhile 
opinions", and that her highly-touted candidacy was backed by 
nothing beyond "photos." He was nearly as unequivocal about 
Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's chances of dislodging 
Interior Minister Sarkozy as the standard-bearer of the 
center-right. Bayou observed that "unless Sarkozy implodes" 
-- to which Bayrou added, "which has happened before" (Bayrou 
cited as an example his defeat of Sarkozy in an early 
European parliamentary election) -- Sarkozy's control of the 
center-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party 
virtually guarantees him a place in the race. (Comment: It 
is the conventional wisdom in contemporary French 
presidential politics that first-time candidates don't win. 
Bayrou did not comment on the chances of former prime 
minister Lionel Jospin, should Jospin enter the race. 2007 
would be Jospin's third presidential contest. End comment.) 

STRENGTH OF LE PEN NOT TO BE UNDERESTIMATED 
------------------------------------------- 
5. (C) Bayrou said that potential support for extreme right 
National Front (FN) leader (and veteran presidential 
candidate) Jean-Marie Le Pen was "stronger than estimated." 
Bayrou said that last Fall's weeks of urban unrest, involving 
largely immigrant, urban youths of Muslim descent, along with 
the current wave of anti-western feeling gripping the Muslim 
world and continuing economic turmoil and uncertainty, could 
swell the ranks of Le Pen supporters well beyond what might 
be admitted to pollsters. (Note and comment: A number of 
other experienced observers -- most recently and notably 
former prime minister Raymond Barre at a meeting with 
Ambassador on February 21 -- have also noted that Le Pen, if 
he qualifies to run, stays healthy, and faces conventional, 
lackluster establishment opponents could, as in 2002, do much 
better than polls might predict. End note and comment.) 

STRENGTHENING PARLIAMENT IS KEY REFORM 
-------------------------------------- 
6. (C) Bayrou has long been among the National Assembly's 
most eloquent and out-spoken defenders of parliament's 
prerogatives against the executive. In recent weeks, Bayrou 
has led opposition to the Villepin government's recourse to 
Article 49-3 of the French Constitution, which permits the 
government to "engage its responsibility," absent the passage 
of a no-confidence vote, to put an end to parliamentary 
debate of its most recent package of labor reform 
measures(ref A). Bayrou told Ambassador Stapleton he favored 
a mandatory three-month deliberation period before any vote 
on legislation. Bayrou asserted that the Constitution needs 
to be amended to give parliament more of a balancing role 
against the executive, including a stronger role in foreign 
affairs issues, particularly European issues. He advocated a 
bicameral system, similar to the U.S., in which some of the 
seats would be awarded on a proportional basis. Bayou 
stopped well short of calling for a parliamentary system, 
however. He insisted that the presidency should stay as is, 
an office elected by universal suffrage, with the president 
accountable directly to the people, not to the parliament. 

FRENCH ALIENATED AND FRANCE WITHOUT DIRECTION 
--------------------------------------------- 
7. (C) Bayrou said that the popular mood was edgy and 
suspicious -- "the French don't believe in much anymore" -- 
and that this heightened the attractions of the "answers" 
proposed by the far left and the extreme right. He added 
that France was "searching for its place" in both an expanded 
Europe and an economically integrated world. Bayrou observed 
that the French, as manifested in their rejection of the 
proposed EU constitution last May, had "lost confidence in 
Europe," seeing the European project not as a source of hope, 
but as representing feared globalization. Notwithstanding 
what many pundits were saying, Bayrou also insisted that the 
failed referendum was in fact a vote against Europe. "France 
was a nation first, not a European member state," Bayrou 
observed. Bayrou mused that, in the past, France saw Europe 
as more or less synonymous with its own interests, but that 
that was no longer the case in the wake of successive 
enlargements. He castigated current French ideas for a 
"directoire" of larger countries. 

FEARS OF ISLAM AND "CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS" 
------------------------------------------- 
8. (C) Bayrou touched on burgeoning tensions among France's 
different ethnic and religious groups and placed them in the 
context of a larger "clash of civilizations." In Bayrou's 
view, the war in Iraq ("a catastrophe the devil himself could 
not have better conceived") is largely to blame for 
polarizing the Muslim world against the West. The feeling 
that a hostile civilization is pressing in on them tempts the 
French to fall back on their traditional, societal values. 
Bayrou wondered aloud if the values of Islam and Europe were 
compatible, speculating that Islamic societies placed 
religious conformity, as represented in the Koran, over the 
aspirations of ordinary people. He said he feared that the 
chasm between those who put man first, and those who saw God 
above all, was unbridgeable. 

THE FRENCH ARE A POLITICAL PEOPLE 
--------------------------------- 
9. (C) As he often does, Bayrou insisted that the French 
have been exceptionally shaped by their highly conflictive 
history. In Bayrou's view, this has made them a 
pre-eminently "political people," not satisfied with mere 
co-existence in a national economy, but rather, intent on 
articulating a "project for society," founded on universal 
values that overcome their differences. He drew out a 
similarity between the U.S. and France from this, pointing 
out that only the Americans and French claim "universality" 
for their social and political ideals, while also seeing 
themselves as unique. He also perceived a similar French 
need to show leadership and be led by strong leaders. 

COMMENT 
------- 
10. (C) In his demeanor and analyses, Bayrou displayed all 
the stolid determination and wily cunning that have kept him 
in the game of French presidential politics, albeit as a 
perennial also-ran. His opponents, President Chirac foremost 
among them, along with the establishments of the center-left 
PS and the center right UMP would mightily like to write off 
Bayrou and the UDF as marginal -- and they can't quite do so. 
A volatile electorate, Bayrou's familiarity and 
effectiveness as a candidate, and his centrist (indeed, 
radically centrist) policy proposals could conspire, 
depending on who also runs in the first round of the 2007 
election, to swell his 7 percent of the vote into double 
digits -- not enough for him to make the second round, but 
enough to make Bayrou's support essential for winning the 
second round if the two second round contenders are evenly 
matched. 

11. (C) Bayrou has not yet articulated a compelling and 
understandable political vision for France; he must do so if 
he is to make himself a credible contender for the 
presidency. While Bayrou showed himself a remarkably astute 
and articulate observer of the political scene, and largely 
accurate in his diagnoses of the ills of French society, he 
was less convincing when it came to proposing what to do. 
When queried on the vision of France's future that he planned 
to put before the electorate, he merely invited the 
Ambassodor to pay close attention to his speeches in coming 
weeks. Similarly, when asked if his strategy for a centrist 
alternative was geared toward winning the next election or 
directed more toward the future, Bayrou responded that his 
strategy was "short-, mid- and long-term." 
Please visit Paris' Classified Website at: 
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm 

Hofmann