The Sarco-Sego battle draws closer: The first web-driven Primaries

Segolene Royal Nicholas Sarcozy


Two charismatic politicians are expected to contest a fascinating battle to become the next President of France. In the right corner, Nicholas Sarcozy. On the left, the equally newsworthy Segolene Royal. The unfolding story promises to be one in which the new web technologies will play a significant role, as the protagonists attempt to induce more participative democracy into their campaigns. But a surprise candidate appear in the mix? (Updates added)


In just a month, the political pendulum seems to have swung in favour of Sarcozy. Royal has been somewhat error-prone, and has been damaged by inexperience and a lack of deftness (e.g. in remarks in Canada, somewhat touchy about its Anglophone/Francophone tensions).

Talk turns to a late run by centrist politician Francois Bayrou.

Original post
Last night’s TV spot just about made the late-night news in the UK. Edited highlights can be misleading. British commentators concluded that Segolene’s chances now look extremely slim. New technology, a fresh and appealing image, may not be anywhere as important as I suggested…

Can the outcome be so clear, so early in the battle? Do not pendulums swing in both directions?

Original posting (January 14th 2007)

Nicolas Paul Stephane Sarkozy de Nagy-Bocsa – more commonly known as Nicolas Sarkozy was today appointed the centre-right candidate for the French presidency. Rivals within the ruling UMP alliance Rival candidates have dropped out in recent months, leaving Sakozy as the most likely candidate to challenge seriously Segolene Royal. But the French political system tends to be structurally disposed towards complex and potentially fragile alliances. Sakozy has been emerging as a strong challenger but his appointment today is hardly a ringing endorsement.

From the other side of the Channel, the BBC noted that

The 51-year-old was chosen by party members via an internet vote. Just 69% cast a vote, but 98% voted for Mr Sarkozy, who was the only candidate. Some 327,000 UMP members could vote. Many attended a lavish rally in Paris. But President Jacques Chirac was not present, while several senior party figures had said they would abstain ..Mr Sarkozy was aiming for a show of unity, despite bitter divisions at the top of the UMP.

The UMP election process had concluded with a web-based debate between politicians and party members.

Segolene’s web-based campaigning

Segolene had also embraced web technologies energetically in her campaign to win the nomination to represent the left-wing of French politics. She has encouraged participative democracy through her web site and has claimed that the responses have shaped her election platform (details of which were also released on the web).

In Webs we trust

The web-innovations will delight those who see the web as the great new information revolution. There will, naturally be unexpected problems. My attempts to surf the URL sites today met with signal lack of success (or lack of signal success). Royal’s site does appear to be working and playing a part in her campaign.

Some interesting questions

Is France where the first web-based Primaries are taking place? Will Sarkozy survive his most important political battles, namely, against the political enemies on his own side? Will France, who gave a grateful world the concept of Chauvinism, now elect its first female President? Whatever. If French politicians can use Blogs to shape their policies, I too will welcome messages on these questions, concerning the new e-world in which we elect the leaders we deserve.

3 Responses to The Sarco-Sego battle draws closer: The first web-driven Primaries

  1. PC says:

    There is phenomenal potential from social computing/web2.0 in many spheres (but I would say that wouldn’t I!) of which the political domain is just one.

    But, politicians have to tread carefully, probably more carefully than most. For this world is one where comments, posts and updates are forever retained and there is little scope for recovery once that ‘submit’ button is clicked. But t’was ever thus? Newspapers have always been saved for posterity in archives, serving much the same purpose as website caches aren’t they?, But newspaper archives are dusty, restricted places where only a few hardy souls dare venture to seek out a single copy of an old print run.

    The equivalent archive on the Internet is far from dusty. It is dynamic, easily replicable and of course global in its reach. This archive can be searched, sourced and referenced from Manchester to Manila…everyone hitting the same content. This archive grows with every permalink, every replication of a web page on another site, every comment from every reader. It never dies.

    Politicians need careful thought as to how best to embrace social technologies. A blog is one thing and the massive potential for widescale electoral consultation is undoubted, but we should ask ourselves whether David Camerons foray into a YouTube like site so early in the game was misguided ( Does he cringe when he sees those early videos? Probably (at least I hope so). Does he wish they never existed? Maybe. Can he get rid of them? No. Has he unleashed a beast that he will need to nuture for a considerable length of time? Yes.

    But, on balance you have to hand it to Cameron. He’s had a go and it will probably be to his benefit in the long run as he has given himself the capability to engage with his (ever changing and ever more tech savvy) audience, however stage managed it may be.

    Whilst the barriers to using these technologies are constantly diminishing, the consideration and strategic thought required as to how best to use them is constantly rising. It’s an easy game to get into, a very tricky game to navigate and a potentially impossible(?) one to exit.


  2. Tudor says:

    Peter, you’ve raised one of the issues I suspect will be constantly tested through experience in the future, namely the legacy of any item posted to the web. In the past it was vital for creative people to be able to claim primacy for their work, in music as much as in the patent office. Now the pressure swings to avoid the ‘hostages to fortune’ effect.

    So we will have increasingly awareness of the risks of commiting one’s self. In creativity research, one of the frequently mentioned blocks is fear of looking foolish. Which is why radical creators tend to have a strong self-confidence (ego strength).

    Those seeking to go public with an idea have always had to ‘go at risk’ . I suspect this will remain the case, and that there will be an ajustment to the greater accessibility of ‘legacy’ evidence.

    Cameron did go at risk. I thought his video blog was inevitably ‘read’ for its innovative medium rather than its content.

    Yet, if actions mean anything, my response to your message supported your point about the need for caution in going public. I immediately edited the dyslectic spellings of Sarcozy and Royal on the grounds that the editing might help surfers to find the post …

  3. […] the popular papers. This although there were wide implications for future elections of the use of web-based interaction with voters to shape policy and even to vote for […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: