November 1, 2015


Alain Juppé: from cold, grey automaton to saviour of France? : 20 years ago he was loathed, but Juppé has undergone a remarkable transformation - and set his sights on the presidency (Angelique Chrisafis, 1 November 2015, The Guardian)

In a packed village hall in rural Normandy, hundreds of people cheered as a 70-year-old politician, hailed as the saviour of France, took the stage.

"Our society is not well!" boomed Alain Juppé, the mayor of Bordeaux and an elder statesman. "France is disorientated, frightened, fractured and hatred is spreading, but I refuse to give in to the intellectuals who say the nation is in decline." He railed against the far-right ideas and anti-immigration rhetoric that has come to dominate French politics. "France can bounce back," he said. "We have to break this mood of suspicion and build a society of trust."

After a standing ovation, supporters rushed forward to shake his hand, jostling for selfies and autographs. This was "Juppémania", France's extraordinary new political phenomenon - an unexpected outpouring of emotion that could change the course of the 2017 presidential race. [...]

Now Juppé has taken on what could be his toughest battle yet, running against the former president Nicolas Sarkozy in the primary race to chose a candidate for the right and centre-right in France's 2017 presidential election.

As Sarkozy moves ever further to the right in an effort to court voters from the Front National with hardline policies on immigration and national identity, Juppé has become his fiercest opponent, calling for moderation and social harmony. He coined the term France's "happy identity" and argues that everyone can live together despite their differences. He also says the country needs pro-business structural reform, public spending cuts and a firm, pro-European ideal. The standoff has become a personal battle for the soul of the French right, a contest between Sarkozy's jumpy and divisive personality and Juppé's pipe-and-slippers calm.

"Alain Juppé is a unifying figure who can talk about anything without creating divisions and controversy. We need that because France is at a crossroads. There's a rise in extremism in France and if we can't get a handle on it, anything could happen," said Samuel Delahaye, the deputy mayor of a village in Calvados and part of Juppé's Normandy support committee.

"He's so calming and reassuring," said Elisabeth Sérié, who worked with elderly people and had driven 80km to hear him speak.

"This country needs to reform and I think he's level-headed enough to do it," said Roger Martin, a retired dairy farmer.

Posted by at November 1, 2015 10:51 AM