Sunday, January 28, 2007

Why is Segolene Royal campaigning in the Caribbean..?

I was in the middle of a post on Segolene Royal's statements during a campaign visit to the Antilles this past weekend, when suddenly the question occured to me: why in the world is a candidate running for the office of President of France, looking for votes in the Caribbean??
In yet another of those humbling moments that the internet can provide the serious scholar each and every painful day, it turns out that there is a story here with which, I readily admit, I was in complete and total ignorance.
Here's the result of a quick study:

It turns out, that the islands of Martinique and Guadaloupe belong to a curious territorial category called "Overseas Regions" ("Région d'outre-mer"), which, according to Wikipedia,

... have similar powers to those of the regions of metropolitan France. They have had these powers since 1982, when France's decentralisation policy dictated that they be given elected regional councils along with other regional powers.
As integral parts of the French Republic, they are represented in the National Assembly, Senate and Economic and Social Council, elect a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), and also use the euro as their currency.

Well, if there's precedent for islands in the Caribbean to be admitted into the European Union, I feel a little silly for having written in the past against Turkey's joining the EU...
The Islands of Martinique and Guadaloupe, visited this past weekend by socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal, have over 400,000 inhabitants apiece. According to Yahoo France (my translation):
"In 2002, the left was not able to mobilize the electorate (approx 630,000 eligeable voters) in the areas which were favorable to them: in Guadeloupe, [2002 Socialist presidential candidate] Lionel Jospin only arrived in third place, behind the PRG ["Parti Radicale de Gauche", Radical Left Party] deputy from French Guiana, Christiane Taubira, and Jacques Chirac."

[Apparently in 2002, over 65.7% of eligeable voters stayed away from the polls during the "premier tour"]

It turns out that French Guiana, home of the historically notorious penal colony, Devil's Island, located on the northern coast of South America, is also in the European Union, and it's currency is also the euro.

Maybe when Sego's verbal gaffes cause her poll numbers to slip the next time, she can arrange to campaign in South America, to sew up the Guianian socialist vote. If she continues to make seriously embarrassing comments, other refuges, er I mean, campaign stops, can include other French overseas departments, such as European Union member Réunion Island, off the coast of Madagascar (she won't have to go through that tiresome travel ritual of changing her currency, since...
...due to varying time zones in the European Union, Réunion was the first region in the world to use the euro, and the first ever purchase using the euro occurred at 12.01 a.m., when regional council president Paul Vergès bought a bag of lychees at a Saint-Denis market...

If her poll numbers drop really low, mme Royal could visit the overseas collectivity of the French islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, off the coast of Newfoundland, partly to rekindle the sparks from Canada's fight with France over coastal fishing rights, and also as a symbolic protest for the death penalty, since...

...The only time the guillotine was ever used in North America was in Saint-Pierre in the late 1800s. Joseph Néel was convicted of killing a Mr. Coupard on the "île aux Chiens" on December 30, 1888, and executed by guillotine on August 24, 1889. The guillotine had to be shipped from Martinique and it did not arrive in working order. It was very difficult to get anyone to perform the execution; finally a recent immigrant was coaxed into doing the job.

Note for any socialist party advance staff who read our blog: scratch the planned visit to neighboring Langlade Island, also part of France's overseas collectivities:

Langlade lost its sole year-round inhabitant, Charles Lafitte, when he died in July 2006.


tiberge said...

@ charles

Good article. The overseas possessions are often called DOM-TOM (Départements et Territoires d'Outre-mer).

Also, I think Ségolène spent three years in Martinique when she was young. She certainly felt more comfortable there than before the cameras being quizzed on French submarines.

The overseas vote is small, but sometimes that's all it takes...

truepeers said...


The overseas vote is small, but the road trips appeal to all those at home who imagine France as more of an empire than a nation. I wonder when she will invite Canada to rejoin the mother country and sign up to the EU?