This week may have been a good one for Francois Hollande. The unemployment numbers came down (maybe), Sarko is in the hot seat (kind of), and a third of France may have no mayor.
Up Is Down
Insee, the main government statistics bureau, announced that the unemployment rate – which has hovered over 10 percent for ages – declined 0.1 percent. Immediately, this prompted cheers: Jean-Marc Ayrault, France’s prime minister, said that these numbers were a sign that unemployment was declining. Then the French media’s brow collectively furrowed, because Insee’s numbers also don’t match up with those furnished by the unemployment office.
That disparity may be because, as Le Monde found out, the two bureaus don’t get their data from the same place. So don’t pop champagne to celebrate Francois Hollande belatedly fulfilling election promises just yet; according to the Insee, a decline of 0.1 percent means (as you’d suspected) absolutely nothing, statistically. That may be why the economist interviewed by Le Monde crabbily said that he didn’t need to explain things to the French people; that’s the media’s job to explain things. Way harsh.
France is a country where no one will blink an eye at the President’s affair with a much younger actress, and everyone will be up in arms when banal recordings of the former President are leaked. Satirical magazine Canard Enchainé published the tapes, Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy are suing, and former Presidential advisor Patrick Buisson claims that Sarkozy knew that he was being recorded.
But it was what the recording means for Buisson’s legacy about which the media worried. Gaël Brustier, a political scientist aligned with the Socialist Party, mused in Le Figaro about Buisson’s role in the Champs Elysée, acknowledging that, in the United States, no one would think twice about the President’s strategist. Le Figaro also worried whether this scandal meant the end of the right-wing. According to another political scientist, Thomas Guénolé, it does not. Phew.
The 2014 municipal elections are coming up, which is exciting for no one. Seriously, by Thursday evening, there are hundreds of municipalities without mayoral candidates – a real problem since Thursday evening was the deadline for candidacy announcement. Also, the government banned write-in candidates, according to L’Express, so no one is allowed to be voted mayor if they did not declare themselves to be a candidate.
So what happens when no one runs for mayor in a town? Elections could be canceled, with a body made up of three to seven people acting as mayor for the next few months until a special election is called. Ostensibly, someone will step up to the candidate plate by then, because it would be embarrassing to have a series of elections in which no one runs. More drastically, those towns could be enveloped into other towns. France is literally on its way to becoming just Paris.