The French electoral law has changed and in the new redistricting 11 circuits were created so French citizens residing overseas and registered to vote at French embassies, like yours truly, would have for the first time direct representatives. 11 out of 577 may be small but is a good start, and a privilege accorded to very few citizens of any country.
The new circuits are huge (mine, the number 2, covers from Mexico to Patagonia) and campaigning is difficult. Internet is thus at a premium, and not for campaigning purpose alone (with Skype big time), but also because French citizens duly registered with an e-mail have been allowed to vote through Internet. Indeed, if you live in Yaracuy the need to go to Caracas is a chore: you may do it for president but may balk for other votes. I think that one's Representative is more important than one's President, at least in normal countries, and thus I did not vote through Internet, cherishing too much the physical ceremony of sliding my ballot in an envelope, putting it into the glass voting case and listening to the "a voté", he has voted.
Inquiring before hand, I learned that the right which is favored in my circuit (Sarkozy won with 54% and in Caracas by 3 to 1 almost) was going divided, and there is the drama. See, like many Parliaments, major political parties try to reward political operators with safe parliamentary seats. And for the second district the UMP sent someone who lives in France but who "travels a lot through Latin America" I was told and thus he is supposed to know our problems. It backfired badly and may cost the UMP what was supposedly going to be a safe seat.
The problem is that the right has been dominating the area and over the years it has placed a lot of people in the diverse organizations serving our community (we do vote for our regional delegates, who in turn elect our senators in France, less powerful figures than in the US but still significative). Thus over the decades there has been a lot of people acquiring the necessary weight to run for office, from Rio Grande to Patagonia) and the sudden arrival of a certain Drouhaud was not taken lightly (we call them "parachuté" for the dropped on quality). Thus came the candidacy of Mrs Lindemann, a notable figure of the French community in Brazil. Her supporters have been threatened by the UMP, many of them, I was told, asked to return their party card, in addition to other insults. But the insurgency prospered anyway.
I got an earful last Saturday since you can hang around the voting station and chit chat with all sorts of people as long as you please. The divisions between the French community in Venezuela has gone as far as people not talking to each other anymore. Having good acquaintances in both sides you can imagine what I heard. I, for one, went the dissident way because I think that Paris UMP leadership was dead wrong on that one. Indeed, I do know personally on how tight the community is, on how elected locals, right or left, work together for the community problems. Sending what is a total stranger, but, oh so sponsored by French business, was a major mistake pitting against each other the French folks that reside permanently now overseas against those who come only for a few years to make a buck and vote for their party rather than their kindred.
Unfortunately Drouhaud did win, barely, with 22% to 16% for Lindemann for whom I voted. After all, there are chavista mind sets everywhere and plenty of folks will vote the official UMP (or official Socialist as there are plenty of impositions from that side too in France, all sharing in the bad habits). What is worse is that as a consequence of the division, the leftists candidates made quite a serious inroad and their total combined is higher than the right total so far. Still, considering that participation over all was around half of the presidential vote a month ago, the seat is not safe yet for the Socialists.
|Coronado speaking on the left|
I was invited by my socialist friends to attend his electoral meeting, a small affair where not 30 showed up, myself being probably the lone provincial folk. My friends did know I voted for Sarkozy, but that was no obstacle in our community. Coronado is OK, articulate, does not buy Chavez, and is in fact very aware of his dismal environmental record. The only thing I can criticize him from that reunion is that he sneaked out to smoke which for a member of the ecologist movement of France should be a No-No.
Thus I will vote for Sergio Coronado in the second round ballot, because at least he will not be coming to Venezuela to peddle French goods to the chavista government. I think he will be more concerned about our fate here than Drouhaud would, as I sense that this last one will be more concerned in what goods Chavez is willing to buy from France. In other words, he will become a salesman for the French business that supported his run and he will have no trouble to kiss chavista ass as needed. I may be wrong but I have not heard anything that would prove otherwise whereas Coronado did express his many criticism to the current regime in public.
It is always discomforting for me to note over and over, again and again, that the main stream Socialist have been more critical of Chavez overall than the French UMP (Ramonet and others should not be included as they are in the left fringes that worship chavismo, Melanchon heading that trend these days). It is always good to remember that Liberation was the first critical paper in France, as early as 2003 if memory serves me well. Le Monde started later but never looked back whereas Le Figaro at this point still manages to publish bland pieces on Venezuela and Chavez. Drouhaud reads Le Figaro whereas Coronado and myself read Libé and Le Monde. My endorsement is thus clear.