Politics: In France, the return of the blog campaign

In France, Socialist candidate Segolene Royal is running a Howard Dean-like Internet campaign for her party's nomination, and it's helping her make waves.

In France, Socialist candidate Segolene Royal is running a Howard Dean-like Internet campaign for her party's nomination, and it's helping her make waves, the Washington Post reports.

Sneered at by top politicos and dismissed by party elders, Royal "has confounded them all with an Internet-aided insurgent campaign that has propelled her to the top of national polls. Her Howard Dean-style strategy -- going over the heads of party elders with a grass-roots run for office that has proved wildly popular among voters -- could make France's first cyber-candidate its first female president."

At a time when France has been embroiled in major upheaval and political disarray, French voters are embracing the Dean-style notion of a new, Internet-based politics.

Her campaign Web site, "Desires for the Future," features blogs that solicit views on the economy, unemployment and immigration. Chapter by chapter, she is writing and publishing a book on the site that has been likened to a political manifesto. She recently shook the Socialist Party hierarchy by using her Web site to criticize one of its sacred cows -- the 35-hour workweek.

Her reliance on the blog reflects her relative weakness, an analyst said. "She needed her blog to create a network within the Socialist Party," he said.

France will soon have as many folks online as the US did in the 2004 election. The impact of the Internet is the great question mark. ""Little by little the Internet is playing a more important role, but you can't say whether it changes 1 or 2 percent of the vote," [Claude] Malhuret, [an official in Chirac's party] said. "And since you don't know, you can't ignore it."

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