Woman in Politics . . . Part 2: at the Cirque d’hiver

Woman in Politics . . . Part 2: at the Cirque d’hiver

On April 3, 2022,  Anne Hidalgo held her last major campaign rally at the Cirque d’Hiver in Paris. The first-round election was seven days away.   A number of Socialist Party heavyweights were present, including her campaign manager, Johanna Rolland, mayor of Nantes; David Assouline, senator representing Paris; Martine Aubry, former Chair of the Socialist Party, Mayor of Lille; and Bernard Cazeneuve, former Interior Minister, and Hollande’s last prime minister.  Olivier Faure, chair of the Socialist Party, was there, although Hidalgo did not introduce him.  She did introduce Jean Jouzel, a leading climatologist, who supported her campaign.

It was a good speech, which brought the crowd of about 2000 to its feet in the last five or ten minutes, cheering; Le Monde did a good job of covering the statements she made, though not the atmosphere.  The most important aspect of the speech was her tone of optimism.  Socialism is “the certainty that collective action is possible.”  Socialism is a refusal of “fatalism.”  Socialism is a belief in solidarity, which must be upheld even during an era of egoism and antagonism.  “La gauche” represents the fight for Liberty, “step by step”–as the brave Ukrainian people, who must be supported, are doing now.  Far from the depressing dirges of landscapes of abandoned factories, drugs, and misery, so beloved by the extreme Right, this was a message of hope, a reflection on the Socialist Party’s decisive role in building social security and justice through the decades.

She discussed Paris and the ravages it had suffered, in 2015, from Islamic extremism (the Charlie Hebdo shootings and Bataclan); she repeated throughout the speech her belief in the importance of laïcité, the secular state. She knew, by this time, that she would not get to the second round.  Nevertheless she asked the crowd to remember back to 2017, when people voted Macron, fearing a second round between Fillon (the Right) and Le Pen (the Far Right).  But Macron, she pointed out, is of the Right, engaged in dismantling the hard-won Socialist protections.  Macron, she said, had destroyed “the Right” (Les Républicains) with his own right-wing politics.  She listed what Macron had done–his attempts at pension reform, cutting taxes for the rich, reducing the building of public housing.  (A few days later, in an interview, she stated that Macron’s “obsession” was to be alone, in the face of the extremes: “It was necessary for him to eliminate all reasonable republican offers on the right and on the left.  I find this extremely dangerous, disquieting and archaic for an incumbent president, young in age, to think of democratic life in that way.”)[1]

Her other target among the candidates was Jean-Luc Mélenchon–”someone who is refusing to help the Ukrainians,” who is “soft on Putin and supports Madero.” Mélenchon has stated that he would break with the European Union, if not formally, by ignoring their mandates.  But only the EU, she said, could insure economic recovery.  In 2017, Mélenchon refused to endorse Macron against Le Pen.  And for years, through a series of different parties, Mélenchon had been trying to destroy the Socialists, locally and regionally, by running candidates against them.

She borrowed, in modified form,  one of the popular policies from the 2017 Hamon campaign, a start-up fund for young people as they entered their careers–in this case, 5000 euros.  And she ended by listing the programs she would put into place, all in the name of “social justice” and “reviving democracy.”  It was a stirring speech.[1]

It did not matter.

Throughout the campaign, the press looked for endorsements from  recent incumbents–Nicolas Sarkozy (Les Républicains) and François Hollande (Parti socialiste)–whose parties were given no chance of taking the presidency.  Sarkozy did not endorse Pécresse, letting it be known, instead, that he would endorse Macron between the first and second rounds, as he did.  Hollande did endorse Hidalgo and also appeared with her. [2]

But it was complicated.

On March 15, 2022 (thus before the April 10 first round election)  Le Monde published a report on Hollande’s presidential ambitions.  According to their story, Julien Dray, former Socialist deputy and founder of SOS Racisme in 1984, who had served as advisor to Mitterand, began to fan the flames in November, 2021.  Dray brought with him Christian Michel, a political strategist and communications expert.  They were in agreement, according to Le Monde reporter Laurent Telo, (who seemed to have gotten his information from Michel, who was also occasionally directly quoted),that Hidalgo’s campaign was already dead, and that they would need someone else.[3]  Hollande had just published Affronter, his latest book, and they believed that another run by him was risky but worth trying.  Hollande was not unwilling.  They all convinced themselves that they could claw back some of the socialists, now likely disillusioned, who had gone to Macron; some ecologists; others on the left who did not like Mélenchon.  What they might have going for them, they believed, was a sort of nostalgia, a desire not to see the PS die.  They would have to “lance the boil” of Hollande’s unpopular previous term, which for some reason they believed he could do with two “well-prepared” television appearances.

Hollande also had a second team of “young énarques,” thirty-somethings, who had served in the ministerial cabinets of Hollande’s presidency and were now adrift.  They were working on a program, just in case: according to Maxime Boutron, who had worked for Michel Sapin, former Minister of Labor under Hollande: “In 24 hours, we can launch a campaign.  In the corridors we have some thirty enthusiastic experts, proud of the accomplishments of François Hollande in 2017 and who want to pursue it: redistribution, emancipation, but also the control of deficits, a lowering of unemployment.”

On December 8, when Hidalgo made her appearance on TF1, to issue her primary challenge to Yannick Jadot (EELV), Hollande was in Lille to speak to Mayor Martine Aubry. No further information on that meeting.

On December 21, 2021, Hollande brought his two teams together.  They began meeting twice weekly to plan strategy.  Since part of their determination was to have the suggestion of Hollande’s candidacy come from elsewhere, they were in effect dependent on how long it took for Hidalgo to face the inevitable.  As Hidalgo’s “intentions to vote” percentage fell below 5%, Hollande said “privately” that “The polls that fall every day . . . . That’s going to turn into a supplice.”  He said nothing publicly about the “inexplicable candidacy,” as Le Monde called it, of Christiane Taubira, anointed by the online “Popular Primary.”

The meetings continued.  Tarek Ouagguini, the founder and CEO of the political polling and consulting firm Happydemics, recalled that Hollande kept his thoughts about launching the campaign to himself–a common trait for those who knew him–but he did make it clear that he did not wish Hidalgo to be pushed out, or at least not overtly.  On January 23, 2022, while speaking to a number of students, he was asked if he was a candidate; his answer?  “For the moment, I’m not a candidate.”  He was expected by his teams to say something more at a conference in Paris on January 31;  he did not.  Hidalgo stated that she would be in this to the end.  Though Hollande made no moves, the speculation and attention on him were not helpful.

Telo recalled  Dray’s previous life as a trotskiste et mouvementiste, both signaling impatience, and said that Dray was reported to have urged Hollande to declare his candidacy: “If you don’t move, nothing will happen.  The announcement of your candidacy will seal the end of Hidalgo.”  Hollande stalled.  On February 1, Dray urged Pierre Jouvet and Luc Broussy, both members of the party central direction (Jouvet also acting as spokesman), to urge Hollande to run.  They were surprised at how blunt Dray was .  But time was passing, and Dray finally realized that by taking “an unbelievable time” to decide, Hollande had shut himself out of the picture–at least for now.  This story came out about three weeks before the first-round election.

On March 22, and after the story’s publication, Hollande again asserted his support for Hidalgo, in terms that suggested his determination to go down with the ship. He joined her in Limoges on the 22nd, stating, “I am here because I am faithful and loyal, especially when it’s difficult.  What would one have said if I had remained silent or out of sight”–a statement that perhaps was a shot at Sarkozy, who had not endorsed Valérie Pécresse, but was certainly not an indication of confidence.   And Hollande made his statement worse by suggesting that “before the Legislatives, an initiative should be taken to reconstruct la gauche de responsabilité (the responsible left)–by which he meant, presumably, not the Left that had been constructed by Mélenchon.  Might he run for the National Assembly himself?  There were rumors that he might, but he ultimately did not. [4]

Anne Hidalgo came in with 1.75% of the vote.


Header Image: Photo 58056025 / Anne Hidalgo © Denis Makarenko | Dreamstime.com

[1] “Interview: Anne Hidalgo (Parti Socialiste): ‘Il faut que les Français puissent avoir un toit sur la tête,’” Actu.fr, April 8, 2022.  https://actu.fr/politique/election-presidentielle/anne-hidalgo-parti-socialiste-il-faut-que-les-francais-puissent-avoir-un-toit-sur-la-tete_50002109.html;

“ . . . Revivez la journée politique du 3 avril,” Le Monde, April 3, 2022.  https://www.lemonde.fr/politique/live/2022/04/03/valerie-pecresse-s-apprete-a-debuter-son-meeting-a-paris-anne-hidalgo-et-jean-luc-melenchon-denoncent-la-politique-d-emmanuel-macron-l-actualite-politique-en-direct_6120370_823448.html 

https://www.youtube.com/live/Y3vXqghJ0rU?feature=share. Speech of Anne Hidalgo at the Cirque d’hiver. Livestreamed april 3, 2022.

[2] Adam Sage, “French Election 2022: Nicolas Sarkozy sells himself to President Macron as kingmaker,” The Times, April 1, 2022.  https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/french-election-2022-nicolas-sarkozy-sells-himself-to-president-macron-as-kingmaker-jllpqgn03; Maia de la Baume, “Sarkozy calls on supporters to back Emmanuel Macron,” Politico, April 12, 2022.  https://www.politico.eu/article/nicolas-sarkozy-voter-support-emmanuel-macron-election-france/

[3] All of the following comes from Laurent Telo, “Comment François Hollande s’est préparé, en secret, à être candidat à l’élection présidentielle 2022,” Le Monde, March 15, 2022.  https://www.lemonde.fr/politique/article/2022/03/15/election-presidentielle-2022-comment-francois-hollande-s-est-prepare-en-secret-a-etre-candidat_6117527_823448.html

[4] Hollande déjà prêt à ‘prendre toute sa part’ dans la reoconstruction du PS,” Valeurs actuelles, March 23, 2022.  https://www.valeursactuelles.com/politique/hollande-deja-pret-a-prendre-toute-sa-part-dans-la-reconstruction-du-ps; See also Maxime Birken, “François Hollande apporte son soutien à Hidalgo et tacle Sarkozy au passage,” Huffpost, March 22, 2022. 

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