Look out for French politics

Jun 03, 11 Look out for French politics

In one form or the other, the world is still enamoured by the magic captured by the election of President Obama especially after the passage of healthcare and the assassination of Osama. However, the reality of current events seems to be driving the world and Africa in particular into taking notice of the forthcoming IMF elections.

As the characters emerge onto the scene, it appears a high drama is set to take off. First in line is current President Nicolas Sarkozy who, according to Time magazine’s 2011 top 100 influential people, has distinguished himself this year as interventionist in chief. The intervention in Ivory Coast has raised debates scrutinizing post-colonial French involvement in Africa specifically to questions of sovereignty. Also, its foray in Libya assuming control of a situation lacking in international leadership has caught the eye of observers on the continent whose imagination is obviously stirred by President Sarkozy’s comments on Libya that:

“It (intervention) is a serious decision that we have been forced to take. Together with our Arab, European and North American partners, France has decided to take up its role, its role in the face of history.”

This and the fact that the Libyan government claims to have funded Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign while holding a “grave secret” ought to make it interesting to watch.

Second in line is the recently shamed Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Tipped to win next year’s election his socialist party is said to be in disarray as it seeks to decide whether to support or abandon him while seeking out a different election strategy. Though it seem unlikely he will be able to survive this scandal, his resignation at the IMF has opened the race for a new occupant of the Directorship. Currently Christine Lagarde, France’s minister for finance, has emerged as the leading contender with backing from the British and the Germans.

Though she is described as “distinguished, extremely qualified and very experienced” her prospects seem to be up against a proposal mainly led by South Africa and Australia for a candidate outside of the traditional European source pool. South African former finance minister Trevor Manuel’s name is being touted for the post.

Emerging countries are calling for the next managing director to be chosen from a non-European country, thus ending the continent’s 65-year hold on the IMF’s top job. While developing countries have not coalesced behind a single candidate for the post it seems the opportunity has presented itself for the implementation of representation at higher levels of international financial institutions. It also provides an opportunity to show whether there is some clout in the informal clustering of emerging countries as characterised by BRICSA and IBSA.

Last on the list are Marine Le Pen and Dominique de Villepin. As leader of France’s National Front party Ms Le Pen seems to have sugar coated her party’s extremist nationalist principles with her smooth communication skills. The Financial Times posit that recent events seem to be in her favour with the centre-right President lagging behind in opinion polls and the socialists in confusion. Her outspokenness for the African immigrant in the Strauss-Kahn case astutely exploited the incident touching on a demographic that the nationalists have traditionally alienated.

Dominique de Villepin is a former diplomat, who rose to become Prime Minister. A protégé of Jacques Chirac and arch nemesis of President Sarkozy, Villepin is widely known for his opposition to the Iraq invasion. He was indicted for involvement in the Cleanstream affair in which a Luxembourg bank was alleged to have aided many prominent French politicians and companies evade taxes. Villepin accused President Sarkozy of using the affair to pursue him for political reasons. He was acquitted of every accusation against him in the affair and he has since formed République Solidaire as a centre right alternative to Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) and is considering running for president in the 2012.

Though the issues have not crystallized yet I can bet this will be a worthwhile political soapie to look forward to.

Photo by TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³’s