So apparently there’s an election for a new president in France at the moment. I don’t know how much appears in the media outside of France, but here you can read about little else. Well that’s not strictly true – but it seems to me no edition of my preferred newspaper, le Parisien (also probably the paper that one that requires the lowest level of French), is complete without at least 2 stories about the left’s presidential hopeful, Ségolène Royal, and one about the right’s Nicolas Sarkozy.

The problem for Ségolène is she isn’t doing too well at the moment, despite starting out with a considerable lead over her closest rival, Sarkozy, she’s now well behind him with just 27% of the vote in the first round, versus his 33%. In the second round (the first two past the post in the first round go head to head) she is nowhere near him with 45% of the vote versus his 55%.

To try and rectify this, the socialist party faithful were handing out Ségolène’s “Presidential Pact” – her manifesto – at the market this morning. It’s a lovely 4 page document trimmed in feminine pink rather than socialist red.
So what does this document contain? Well it’s broken down into 9 sections that cover topics: work/unemployment, confidence refound, purchase power, education and culture, violence/social behaviour, social security, the environment, a new republic,  and finally France in Europe and peace in the world. Each section has an average of 10 promises that add up to a grand total of 100 propositions. Some of the stuff seems a little hard to believe: 90% of your former salary if you are made redundant, an interest free loan to any young person for their “first life project” (I’m wondering if “premier projet de vie” is ambiguous in French as its literal translation is in English). However most of the promises seem fairly straight forward and often good ideas too. Some propositions are quite interesting too: she proposes that a public enterprises tax be varied according to how much of its profits are reinvested and how much are given to share holds, if more is reinvested then less tax is paid. To me the reinvestment of a company’s profits in the company seems like a good idea, however I know that long term invest that hold large amount of shares, particularly banks, are more interested in seeing good dividends than rising share values, so to discourage them to hold stocks in French companies seems like a bad idea.

So if the manifesto is reasonably sound why is her popularity sliding? Well le Parisien here offers details of several things she’s doing wrong (along with tips about how she could do better – let’s hope she’s a reader!).  It basically says (here I’m paraphrasing quite a lot as you may have guessed):
- Blunders – too many slip up’s, especially concerning foreign visits. Think poorly timed visits to the west bank and misplace comments about French Canadian independence
- Economy – It looks like the manifesto is simply too expensive
- Power – already looks like she’s a bit of a control freak not delegating enough to her campaign managers
- Coordination – lack of coordination between Ségolène’s campaign office and the PS (Parti-Socialiste) campaign office
- Logistics – poor planning of debates and speeches, the paper sites give a talk at Rennes, a University town, on employment when a talk on education a been delivered a few days before at Dunkerque
- Discipline – too many personal initiatives without bothering to tell the campaign team what’s going on
- Listening – basically she’s accused of not listening to friends and colleagues

I haven’t seen Nicolas Sarkozy’s manifesto yet – I’ll be sure to let you know when I do.