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What is at stake for Brittany with the French presidential election?
What is at stake for Brittany with the French presidential election? A poll done by well established polling service (CSA) for the dally Telegramme in 2002 showed that an astonishing number of Bretons, 22% where in favour of independence. This is higher than in Corsica. Why is it then
Philippe Argouarch
Publié le 7/04/07 16:59 -- mis à jour le 00/00/00 00:00

A poll done by well established polling service (CSA) for the daily Le Telegramme in 2002 showed an astonishing number of Bretons, 23% in favour of independence. (voir le site) This is higher than in Corsica. Why is it then, that none of the breton parties, either the UDB on the left, or the Breton Party on the center right have such a hard time to move ahead in the regional politics and even less in national parliament ones? The answer lies in the fact that regional elections are held only every 6 years and regional elected people have no power in France. In the client system maintained by the Paris government, people votes to have access to credits, development contracts, loans, the pork as Americans say. The breton parties and goals still seems to be too adventurous and uncertain for the main stream breton electors tied to the central ruling parties by so many social services, special deregulations and other strings.

Nevertheless, UDB (Breton democratic Union), part of the socialist coalition ruling the regional Council since 2005 is, at the least, giving a legitimity to the movement so decried and criticized in the past by the french media. Its real electoral power is however less than 5%. Worst, the real power of this regional council is practically null since its budget is less than a medium size city such as Rennes. Its members are not elected individually but are issued from list chosen by the winning coalition, an archaic french electoral method.

With the presidential election this year, it is more and more obvious that the future of Brittany rests in the hands of the future president of France since so much in France is decided my the executive branch. It is the president that choose a government and gives it its direction. Not very well known abroad. the French assembly in Paris does not have the initiative of the law but is told by the governement or the president what to debate and vote. Some backdoors rules allows the goverment to bypass the parliament if too much obstruction exists.

If the senate is not even elected by the main electorate and is , in the eyes of many, the main obstacle to devolution in France, the president has the power to alter the constitution and even the republic by just asking the assemblies to do so or calling for a referendum.

Both Segolene Royal and Francois Bayou propose a 6th republic with some interesting prospects for Brittany because it brings more democracy to France, more power to the parliament, more devolution and a much more balanced division of power between the 3 branches. giving more power to the parliament is good for Bittany since we also have deputies! even a minority can voice its concern in the parliament. Agaisnt a hostil president we can do nothing however. Bayrou will also forbid more than one elected fonction per person and limit the number of terms.

Segolene royal who runs second in the polls seems to have some good institutional reforms in her programm also some seem to ne jacobinistic in nature (create no-elected juries to watch elected offcials) . She took position for the reunification and the ratification of the chart but her voting track records and past position does not support her positions that could be just tactical since she runs behind in the polls and try to gather more support in the regions (21 of the 23 regions are socialist ruled).

Union for French Democracy (UDF) leader François Bayrou is in 3rd position now. He has taken position firmly for the reunification of Brittany and the ratification of the European Chart of minority languages. His past record in the parliament shows that he has previously supported some proposition in this sense. He himself speaks the bearnais, a dialect of occitan. More important for Bretagne he wants to change institutions for more represativity and more power to the parliament, more devolution. Above all, he wants to balance the budget and get rid of the enormous french national debt. The constitution will be changed to this effect if he is elected. Budget will have to be balanced. Whatever score Bayrou is going to do, he is certain to do a big score in Brittany where Christian-Democracy is strong. More, Bayrou come from the countryside and is a declared catholic and a father of six, a former school teacher. This well understood in Brittany. There is nothing in his background that could offend a traditionalist Breton but what is extraordinary none also that could offend a Breton nationalist or devolutionist. Bayrou gathers everyone in Brittany for the first time. Both the Daily Ouest-France and Agence Bretagne Presse are for the first time betting for the same horse but not exactly for the same reasons!

However, UDB (Breton Union democratic) has called to vote for the green candidate Dominique Voynet who is credited in the polls with less than 2%. She too took a stand on the Chart and on reunification. They seem prisoner from their own coalition, a pack they signed during regional elections but of course some will vote for Bayrou because he can make a difference. Voynet has of course no chance to pass the first round. In fact voting for her instead of Segolene Royal is only helping Bayrou to get a shot at the second turn.

Le Pen, a Breton himself would, be the worst president for Brittany. His daughter, active in the campaign, took recently position against bilingual road signs. They want the return to old french nationalism, the National Front they rule, does not care about Brittany at all. It is to the honour of Brittany that not a single elected official has given his support to Le Pen (candidates must gather 500 signatures of elected officials to be allowed to run for president). Le Pen always does his worst score in Brittany, 5.26% in the 2004 european elections and 8,47 in the regional.

Sarkozy, the favourite in the polls would be a disaster for Brittany but certainly less that Le Pen. He could reform the bankrupt french social system but it should not escape to the Bretons that it is the Sarkoxy/Villepin team that kicked out jean Pierre Rafarin, who in 2004 had attempted to start a true devolution in France. Sarkozy does represent the jacobinist/bonapartist reaction on the right and could bring a dangerous area of confrontation in France. Sarkozy is the Margaret Thatcher way. Bayrou is the Angela Merkel way, and Segolen Royal is the old socialist way which is politics as usual as if the world had not changed the last 50 years. Many now realize and wonder what is the use to try over and over to divide the pie in more equals parts when the pie is becomming smaller and smaller. They do realize they have less and less saucisson and butter on the table but they are not sure yet how to adjust to the brave new word of a world economy. As before, the 4 millions Bretons will play a critical role in the vote.

Philippe Argouarch

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