After Presidential Primary Defeat, Is Martine Aubry France's Next Prime Minister?

After a bitter Socialist primary campaign won by Francois Hollande, Martine Aubry, the party leader and primary runner-up has put all her weight behind her former rival. And If Hollande unseats Nicolas Sarkozy for the Presidency, Aubry may be headed for t

(cc Siren-Com)
(cc Siren-Com)
David Revault d'Allonnes

PARIS - "Rock solid." That's how Bernard Cazeneuve, a spokesman for Socialist party presidential candidate Francois Hollande describes the candidate's relationship with Martine Aubry. It is a noteworthy description indeed, since Aubry, the leader of the Socialist party, was until recently Hollande's chief rival for the primary nomination for the chance to challenge French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

During a recent joint campaign swing the pair made to the Gandrange steel factory in eastern France, Cazeneuve spoke of "a relationship that was pacified, friendly and constructive."

Three months after losing the Socialist primary to Hollande, Aubry is now on the front line of her former rival's presidential campaign. "I'm always by his side, on all issues," says Aubry before adding that between the former opponents "it's all very natural."

For the Socialist party leader, the scar of the primary has healed. "That's how it works. It's democracy," she says. "That very same night, I was 100% behind him."

Her friends confirm her commitment. "She doesn't have a choice," says Marylise Lebranchu, a Socialist member of parliament. "She has dealt with her failure. Martine knows how to move on." For Jean-Marc Germain, her chief of staff, "Martine is a woman of duty."

Aubry says that it is important, as Socialist party leader, to be Hollande's No. 1 supporter, and get the whole party machine mobilized in the campaign for the May election against Sarkozy.

"It's absolutely obvious that we're different," Aubry says of Hollande. "But I have no reason to hate him. There are people for whom I couldn't have led such a hands-on campaign."

The tandem will have specific roles, according to one Socialist official: "Francois is trying to unite, Martine is striking the blows."

Aubry may not be as blunt, but she doesn't deny that the candidate must be shielded. "Francois' role is to talk to the French people. He doesn't have to constantly react to Sarkozy. In these types of debates, others must jump in."

On the trail

Hollande, who used to be the party leader, knows what it's like to be in her shoes, having experienced the defeats of Socialist candidates in both 2002 and 2007. "Experience proves that a good relationship between the candidate and the party leader is crucial to victory," says Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, a Socialist member of parliament. "The presidency is a solitary fight that you must win as a team."

Hollande, who isn't facing internal attacks like other Socialist candidates in the past, has been taking good care of Aubry. In Gandrange, he touted Aubry's social credentials by celebrating the institution in France of the 35-hour-work-week, one of Aubry's major achievements as Labor Minister.

"I'll be out on the trail," she promises. She says she already has dozens of meetings planned and will be going on several trips abroad on Hollande's behalf. But she's adamant she's not looking past the presidential election, though there are already rumors that she could be the new prime minister if Hollande wins. "I have never positioned myself. My only wish is for us to win," she says. "The choice of a prime minister will come later, depending on what the country needs. I have never worried about it."

Read the original article in French

Photo - cc Siren-Com

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How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.

But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

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