The Charlety stadium in Southern Paris was litterally overflowing with Segolene supporters when I arrived for her last big public meeting. People were scaling the fences and vaulting into the grounds while nervous security personel looked on helpless. Fearing a crush, the organisers appealed to the prefecture and closed the gates, prompting an outcry and a lot of pushing and shoving. It took me over an hour to get past the security at the press entrance, where journalists were being allowed in one by one.
‘I hope she runs her country better than this,’ remarked one colleague. He was one of the polite ones.
Inside, Socialists blamed foul play by the interior ministry for deliberate lack of crowd control.
Around 40,000 supporters madde it into the stadium, leaving 20,000 outside. Segolene won then, beating the measly 20,000 UMP supporters who showed up on Sunday to cheer on Sarkozy at his final meeting in the Bercy concert hall. Had they turned up for a free concert with rock stars Yannick Noah, Benabar, Indochine, and Les Tetes Raides? You might have thought so when Segolene arrived in her trademark white suit, twinned with an orange t-shirt (trying to reach out to Bayrou supporters?). She had hardly begun her speech, when she was drowned out by ‘Segolene, president’ and ‘we are going to win.’ But like so often, she appeared unable to harness and channel this energy. Instead of urging the holidaymakers to enjoy the concert, she started to talk politics, prompting a small exodus. People, many of whom were rally virgins, may have got bored. They might also have got fed up with the mediocre sound system which made it almost impossible to make out what she was saying most of the time.
‘The Socialists always try to do things on the cheap and it shows,’ said one colleague.
Segolene was best when she picked up on the whiff of the ’68 that Sarkozy tried to crush last week.
In his speech at Bercy he claimed ‘everything is the fault of May 68,’ Segolene said. ‘He got stung by which fly? Because May 68, it was 40 years ago!’ She accused him of wanting to create a 68-style revolt, giving him the excuse to crush it. She told the crowd, where several rainbow flags were flying, that she stands for peace. And flashed her radiant smile.