Monday, April 23, 2007

Sarkozy, Royal To Face Off In French Presidential Runoff

Yesterday was round one of the French presidential election process, with the two establishment candidates making the cut for the second round. For awhile, it was beginning to look like there might be some real drama in this race, when an up and coming, self-styled centrist named Francois Bayrou gained some serious ground. But in the end, the challenge was beaten back. And today, things are somewhat back to normal in the republique with the top two candidates back in the status quo.

If you are a follower of French politics, you'll know that in the last election, there was an anomaly of sorts. Far-Right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen won enough support in the opening round to shut out the Socialist candidate. But that's as far as he could get. You see, Le Pen is France's Pat Buchanan, who as most Americans know is a very divisive figure. Both can make sense at times, but both are incredibly anti-semitic and considered by many to be racist towards other groups, as well. Having Le Pen in the second round made Chirac, the winner by default.

But this time, we see things as most French seem to like it: Gaullist vs. Socialist, Right vs. Left. In a sense, we can see France's political scene as a reflection of the way politics have evolved here, in America. Sarkozy represents the more conservative (if that's possible) portion of the French electorate, with the obvious representative of the liberal portion being led by Royal. Both represent very different visions and goals for France.

Now, the shoring up of support from the candidates that didn't make it, becomes the biggest obstacle for either candidate. Here are the latest numbers from the election, you can take your pick as to where you want to read them: SuperFrenchie or the French Election Blog.

For the moment we'll go with the numbers used by th AFP (which is what Boz at the FEB is using):

Sarkozy 31.11%

Royal 25.84%

Bayrou 18.55%

Le Pen 10.5%.

These are the top four vote-getters. As I said earlier, the goal is now to get support from those that supported the other candidates, which may sound easy but isn't always.

In any political situation like this, a politician may endorse another. But that may or may not translate into votes. If Bayrou supported Royal tomorrow, Royal would hope that the votes would follow. But realistically, it doesn't always happen that way. Not all of the 18% would automatically swing over and vote for her (or Sarkozy, if he were to support him). Bayrou represents the swing vote and that vote, like here in America, usually gets split. Which way it gets split and by what margin, may very well determine the election.

But there's still a bit of a fly in the ointment here, in that Le Pen's supporters were at 10 %. What this means is not as clear as it may appear. Le Pen has little love for Sarko. So if one would automatically assume that Le Pen's supporters would go for Sarko, they may want to rethink. It's highly doubtful that Le Pen's base would even consider supporting a socialist, so that's out. The only other viable alternatives would be to vote Sarko or stay home and not vote at all.

Sarko would welcome half of Bayrou's followers, which would add another 9% to get him up to 40%. Le Pen's supporters would give him 50%. That would put him more into the driver's seat than Royal, if this scenario were to play out. But there are two weeks for the French to make up their minds. Two weeks for those that didn't vote for Sarko or Royal to decide whether they can find it in the hearts to support either of them, now.

Basically what it will come down to is whether or not Royal or Sarkozy can sell their vision of France to the "rank and file" French people. Who will avoid gaffes/blunders and who will close the deal, will be determined by these final two weeks of campaigning and a head to head debate.


Here is a well-written analysis about the results of the election.

Addendum II:

Just got back from Amerloque's place. He too has a well-written piece of analysis on the election.


Greg said...

I think you are right to suggest that participation will decline in the 2d round (it would be hard for it to go any higher!). But I'm not sure who that benefits. It's probably a wash.

The only thing that surprised me was how poorly le Pen did. I thought conditions were ripe for him to do better than ever. Yet, he lost a million voters in relation to the last election. Not sure why.

I have a running bet with my wife that a pro-American candidate like Sarko cannot win, and that Sego is guaranteed victory. She has played the anti-American card during the election, as has every other candidate, including Sarko. Anyway, that's my position and I'm sticking to it. I hope I'm wrong though - I would prefer someone who is clearly a friend of America rather than someone who by her own words agrees with the world view of Hezbollah and thinks America "needs to be contained."

LASunsett said...


//I would prefer someone who is clearly a friend of America rather than someone who by her own words agrees with the world view of Hezbollah and thinks America "needs to be contained."//

I think you know what I think. ;)