Sunday, April 22, 2007

French election updates

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(Updates to the post two below this one.)

12:54 am: The BBC has the latest numbers:

  • Sarkozy: 31.1%
  • Royal: 25.8%
  • Bayrou: 18.6%
  • Le Pen: 10.5%

Sarkozy did well to break through 30 percent, but Royal came in a solid second, setting up a fascinating showdown. It's too bad Bayrou didn't do better, but he -- and French centrism -- came in a respectable third. And although it is rather distressing for the National Front candidate to win over 10 percent of the popular vote, Le Pen nonetheless did quite poorly given recent elections -- in 2002, he actually made it through to the second round (where he was trounced by Chirac).

So now, on to the second round!

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6:06 pm: The exit polls were right. Here's what the AP is reporting: "Preliminary results from the Interior Ministry, based on a count of 21 million votes — or more than 50 per cent — had him leading with 30 per cent, followed by Royal with 24 per cent." Bayrou is third with 18 percent, Le Pen fourth with 11 percent ("one of his worst showings in the five presidential elections he has contested").

So what now? "Royal can expect support from parties to her left, which swung behind her after their candidates were eliminated. But the scramble is now on for voters in the middle ground of French politics and others who deserted the left and right in favour of Francois Bayrou." Which is to say, Bayrou as kingmaker. Or at least his centrist supporters as collective kingmaker.

The second round vote is on May 6. These should be a couple of interesting weeks ahead.

Here are some quotes from the BBC:

-- Sarkozy: "By putting Mrs Royal in second place, they clearly marked their wish to go to the end of the debate between two ideas of the nation, two projects for society, two value systems, two concepts of politics."

-- Royal: "On 6 May we will have a clear choice between two very different paths. I extend my hand to all those who think like me that it is not only possible but urgent to leave a system that no longer works." And this is where I agree with her, and what, now that Bayrou has been eliminated, leads me to support her: "I call tonight for the rallying of all those who identify with the values of the presidential pact and who think that it is possible to reform France without brutalising it, who want to make human values triumph over stock market valuations, who want to put an end to the insecurity and precariousness that have painfully worsened in recent years." She refuses "to cultivate fear," which is exactly what Sarkozy has been doing all along. (For more on how "Sarkozy has struck fear and anger in the hearts of many," see the Guardian Unlimited.)

-- Bayrou: "More than seven million French people came together to support magnificent idea of change. It is these millions of French people I am thinking of... They opened a path of hope for France and this path of hope will not stop. There is finally a centre in France, a large centre, a strong centre, an independent centre capable of speaking and acting beyond previous borders."

**********

2:21 pm: It's Sarko-Ségo. Here's the latest from the BBC:

Centre-right leader Nicolas Sarkozy will meet Socialist Segolene Royal in the run-off of France's presidential election on 6 May, exit polls suggest.

Mr Sarkozy, a former interior minister, came first with 30%, ahead of Ms Royal, who is bidding to be France's first woman president, on 25.2%.

Centrist Francois Bayrou got 18.3%, and far-right Jean-Marie Le Pen 11.5%.

Voting throughout the day reached record numbers, with turnout put at 84% -- the highest for nearly 50 years.

A strong showing for Sarkozy, as well as for Royal, if the numbers hold up. Bayrou apparently hasn't won over enough of the centrist undecideds to mount a challenge for second. And -- and this is very good news -- there's been no "bump" for Le Pen, which means Sarkozy may have been quite successful in his efforts to reach out to rightist voters (which could hurt him in the second round). The question now is whether a unified left-center opposition to Sarkozy will emerge out of this round. Le Pen's supporters presumably will go with Sarkozy. Will Bayrou's go with Royal?

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