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Cablegate: Michel Rocard: Don't Rule Out a Surprise in 2007

VZCZCXRO5811
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHFR #5166/01 2121344
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 311344Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9945
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 005166

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/31/2016
TAGS: PGOV PREL FR
SUBJECT: MICHEL ROCARD: DON'T RULE OUT A SURPRISE IN 2007
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

REF: 05 PARIS 7360

Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Josiah Rosenblatt for reaso
ns 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: Amb. Stapleton met with Michel Rocard on
July 19 (see reftel for report on previous meeting). Rocard,
who supports Dominique Strauss-Kahn for the Socialist Party
(PS) presidential nomination, appeared resigned to a Royal
victory in the party primary. He regretted that neither she
nor Nicolas Sarkozy, the current front-runners, have the
requisite foreign policy experience for the job. Rocard also
noted that although he believes the Fifth Republic has
outlived its usefulness, no constitutional change is likely,
given the array of problems facing France and the length of
time it would take to debate and pass a new constitution.
Finally, he voiced his well-known criticisms of his own PS,
which still has not made the transition to a modern
social-democratic party, missing yet another opportunity in
June, when the party adopted its program. On Iraq, Rocard
regretted errors by Chirac in handling the transatlantic
relationship in the run-up to the war. Addressing the
current situation, Rocard said the U.S. must not make an
early exit from Iraq; a prolonged USG presence in Iraq will
ultimately bring the U.S. and France together. END SUMMARY.

2. (C) Michel Rocard, former prime minister under Mitterrand
and current PS member of the European Parliament, offered
views on the French political scene. Cautioning aginst too
early a conclusion that either Segolene Royal or Nicolas
Sarkozy will be elected president in 2007, Rocard cautioned
that throughout the history of the Fifth Republic, candidates
in the lead a year before the elections -- including Jacques
Chaban-Delmas, Edouard Balladur, Raymond Barre, and himself
-- have all failed to win the presidency. At the moment, "in
the absence of other serious candidates, the least improbable
scenario is a second-round contest between Royal and
Sarkozy." However, he stressed, each election has produced a
surprise, knocking out the front runner; it is the nature of
a surprise that we don't know what that might be this time
around.

3. (C) Rocard reprised his view that Sarkozy advocates
"detestable" policies, particularly in the area of human
rights, where he represents a "danger." Despite his
continuing support for Dominique Strauss-Kahn for the PS
presidential nomination, Rocard appeared resigned to a Royal
victory within the party, referring to her as if she were
already the nominee. Describing her as until now having
lived a "peaceful little existence without conflict" as a
deputy from Poitou-Charente, he implied that she would not be
up to the rigors of a presidential campaign. He further
worried about her lack of knowledge of foreign affairs -- he
cited specifically the Middle East and "delicate" U.S.-French
relations in this regard -- and economics. That said, he
admitted that she is "not stupid" and has good advisors.

4. (C) Regarding the direction and reform of the PS, Rocard
divulged that earlier that day, Royal had pulled him aside
and told him she would like to see the PS head in a social
democratic direction, along the lines of the socialist
parties of Scandinavia. He conceded that she was saying what
she knew he wanted to hear but surmised that she has some
genuine interest in modernizing the party.

5. (C) Recalling the PS's November convention, Rocard noted
that 57 percent of the party members voted to support a
motion that would have effectively moved the PS toward the
social democratic model. Rocard strongly regretted that the
PS leadership preferred unanimity over change, ending up with
a kitchen-sink approach to its program, and a squandered
opportunity for a change of identity for the last socialist
party in western Europe to embrace social democracy.

6. (C) Rocard also related his belief that the Fifth Republic
has outlived its utility and that the constitution should be
replaced with one that would diminish presidential power. He
noted, however, that undertaking to revise the constitution
would take two years, during which time nothing else would be
accomplished in France. Political leaders would
understandably consider the opportunity cost of such a
project -- with an unknowable result -- too great.
Furthermore, while constitutional reform may be of great
interest fo the political elite, it has little resonance with
public opinion.

7. (C) Rocard reiterated previously stated views that Chirac
had grievously overplayed his hand in the lead-up to the 2003
intervention in Iraq and caused gratuitous harm to the
Franco-American relationship. Rocard simultaneously
criticized the USG for failing to appreciate French expertise
on Arab cultures as well as France's own tragic experience in

PARIS 00005166 002 OF 002


triggering and confronting insurgencies in the Maghreb and
elsewhere. He concluded the meeting by remarking insistently
that the USG must not leave Iraq. He added that the longer
that the USG stayed in Iraq, the closer France and America
would grow.

Please visit Paris' Classified Website at:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm

STAPLETON

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