The runoff in the past election pitted Mr. Chirac against the right-wing, ultra-nationalist candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen. Socialists and other left-leaning parties were not fond of the Gaullist Chirac, but they really abhorred Le Pen. So, the vote for Jacques was a vote against Jean. An interesting note on Chirac that many Americans do not know is, Chirac served as President Francois Mitterand's Prime Minister (a Socialist) from 1986-88, the same post he held from 1974-76. He was also Mayor of Paris and has held many other posts, as well.
So, don't feel too sorry for him, he has had a long political career.
He will be rememered for a number of things, but he will most likely be most remembered for his present term as President, which has been quite volatile. It has been marked by public opposition to the Iraq War (I still think he has has aided more in intelligence than he has been willing to say), immigrant and labor riots, and the big one: the French vote against the EU Constitution. Most French people stood with him on his public refusal to support the ouster of Saddam Hussein, but have turned on him in other areas.
His legacy now in question, it has been reported that he is depressed. It just further solidifies my opinion, I don't think that he will run, again. His credibility took a nose-dive after that EU vote and it is doubtful he will be able to recover. France wants a new direction, which is the old one. The direction Chirac wanted to take France in, was that of Europeanization. Face it, France does not want to lose it Frenchness, for the greater good of the continent.
And honestly? I cannot blame them.
The EU is bogged down in so much elitist bureaucracy, I cannot see that it can accomplish much if anything at all, even if it were given a constitution. France is not the only country either. Holland and Poland are not too keen on the EU idea either.
So, who will France pick as their next leader? Who wants to step up to the podium to tackle the restless French people's problems.? Who wants to be the whipping post for whatever is irritating them at any given time. And better yet, who will they want for that job?
It's hard to say.
There isn't much coming out about the upcoming campaign, at least not in the U.S. media. Part of it may be, they don't have campaigns for nearly as long as we do here in America. Other than a few articles on posturing, there hasn't been much campaign news here in the U.S., at least not just yet. Whoever it will be though, may have to define themselves by where they sit on the issue of the EU. Does France really want to be involved in it, or not? That will no doubt be asked and will be one of the many factors the French people will have to consider, in their choice. That might be the hot button issue, much like the border is ours.
Le Pen is already a leading candidate, by virtue of having done so well in 2002. His ultra-nationalist ideology is what many people in France think the nation needs right now. But the socialists that have been a formidable force and the more moderate Gaullists have entirely different world views for what they feel France's image should be. Le Pen looks to keep France French, not mingle his culture with others. He is the Pat Buchanan of France. He is highly anti-immigration. He sees the problems that the country faces due to the massive immigration of Arab Muslims. He, no doubt, also sees how it endangers French culture and tradition. However, there are many that vehemently disagree with him, it will not be easy for him to ascend much further than to where he is right now. That is, unless there are more immigrant riots.
The big problem I see with him, is he is not the biggest fan of Israel, or Jews in general. Some have referred to him as downright anti-semitic. They also fear that he will isolate France more than it presently is and could be a catalyzing force in Europe. By that I mean, he would be more protectionist and Europe could see his election as a threat to the EU. And thus, tensions could arise that haven't been there since the end of WWII.
The more moderate candidate that seems to be the one that can take some of the edge off of Le Pen's harsh edge, yet maintain the Frenchness of France (all while making people think he is taking the country in a new direction) is Nicolas Sarkozy. He has emerged as a leading candidate in "Union pour un Mouvement Populaire" (Union for Popular Movement) party, the party that backs Chirac (he is not a member). He has openly criticized the policies of Chirac and his PM, Dominique de Villepin. He wants to be the element of change within the party. To have any chance, he must prove to the people that he is not Chirac.
The up and coming Socialist candidate has been featured over at Super Frenchie's site. Her name is Ségolène Royal. She carries a lot of weight in the party because of who she has a civil union with and who is also the father of her children, Francois Hollande, who is the party leader. It sounds like she is waiting on former
First and foremost, she is a socialist. And unless one is a socialist, they are not likely to appeal to moderates. But, she is a good looking woman and may win some support on sex appeal, alone. I am not being sexist here, it's just a fact that some men think in those terms, sad as it may be. The other thing to note in a supposed candidacy of hers is, to elect her means electing Hollande. Unless there's a falling out of the two, which is most unlikely, he will be in the mix prominently should she run and win.
What kind of president France will choose next year is not an easy prediction to make. With all of the uncertainties that are present in today's republic, it's not going to be an easy thing to predict at this stage of the game. It's a less than a year away and a lot can happen, between now and then. But one thing is pretty assured, Jacques Chirac will not be the one to lead France, after his term expires. His era will soon be over.
If you are one that puts a lot credence in early polls and sees them as valid indicators so early in the season, an early poll released this past April shows, Sarkozy and Royal in a dead heat. The same pollsters also determined that in a runoff situation, Royal would win. But, as I have stated, it would be very premature to speculate at this point in time. So, I will refrain from making a guess and see what you think?
Will Sarkozy sell his new direction to the people, will the Socialists reclaim the Presidency, or will the nation swing a hard right to Le Pen? Or will someone come up out of the dust from seemingly nowhere to storm the French political scene?