The true reason for Sarkozy’s defeat: the triumph of Baya Benmahmound

What’s abundantly clear is that Nicolas Sarkozy was handed a decisive, if not historic, walloping that drove him and his conservative Union pour un Mouvement Populaire party from power.

The reason behind the defeat is less clear.

It’s not for a lack of trying.

Dear friend and frequent commenter Dan Middleton pointed to this radio piece from PRI that talked about Sarkozy the man and his repeated violations of French expectations of presidential behavior that he eventually was derisively dubbed “President Bling.”

On the other hand, this Washington Post piece pointed to Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party victory as a rejection of the austerity policies forged and endorsed by Sarkozy and his German counterpart Angela Merkel.

Me, I’ve got my own theory: it’s the triumph of Baya Benmahmoud.

For those not familiar with the free-spirited protagonist of Michel LeClerc’s satirical farce “The Names of Love,”  I’d put it right up to the top of your Netflix queue.  Not only does the film shed light on Hollande’s secret weapon, it also provides insight on some of France’s enduring silence of two of its most shameful episodes: the murder of the majority of French Jews during the Holocaust and World War II, and the brutal killing that took place under the leadership of Charles de Gaulle during the Algerian War.

Sara Forestier’s Baya, the child of a hippie mother and a penniless Algerian father, imbided radical politics in the air of her parents’ constantly full home.

In addition to being remarkably absent minded-in one of the film’s more silly scenes, she leaves a checkout line in a grocery store to return home, eventually ending up walking the street naked without realizing it-she has developed a very specific theory of political conversion.

Rather than convince right wingers of the error of their ways through dialogue, she sleeps them over to the left side of the political arena.

She actually ends up caring for Arthur Martin, a middle-aged and stiffly controlled scientist who idolizes former Socialist leader Lionel Jospin.

Martin’s family history centers on his mother, a Holocaust survivors whose parents, Greek Jews, were killed during World War II.

His mother and father both treat the past as to be denied at all costs.

For her part, Benmahmoud  is the victim of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her piano teacher-a violation that robbed her of her innocence and, she feels, musical gifts.

The story of this unlikely couple falling the traditional script of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl is hardly the point.

Rather LeClerc uses that basic plot line to explore all kinds of issues in French society.

The film ends with a pregnant Benmahmoud, who wrote a book detailing her adventures in literal sexual politics before leaving her chosen profession, realizing in horror that she may have voted for Sarkozy for president in 2007.

Martin’s reassurances as she’s pushing that her vote did not the make the difference in the 2 million vote margin by which President Bling defeated Socialist opponent Segolene Royal do not hold much sway.

Five years later, Hollande, Royal’s long-term partner and father of their four children, has emerged victorious.

No word yet from Benmahmoud, but I know the reason I’m putting at the top of the heap for the first Socialist triumph in 15 years.


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