Monday, April 09, 2007

Sarkozy time

By Michael J.W. Stickings

France will hold its next presidential election in less than two weeks -- on April 22. If no candidate wins at least 50 percent of the vote, a second-round run-off election between the top two candidates will be held on May 6.

The top two candidates are Nicolas Sarkozy of the conservative Union for a Popular Movement and Ségolène Royal of the Socialist Party. Recent polls put Sarkozy up by anywhere between 2 1/2 and 8 points over Royal in terms of first-round preference, but he tops out at just 31.5 percent. Royal's support hovers in the low- to mid-20s. François Bayrou of the centrist Union for French Democracy polls a close third, with as much as 21 percent. Jean-Marie Le Pen of the far-right National Front is a solid fourth at 12-16 percent.

In terms of second-round preference, Sarkozy leads Royal by 2-8 points. (An early-April poll showed a 51-49 result.) However, multiple Ipsos polls show Bayrou beating Sarkozy in the run-off election. Sarkozy is the clear favourite, but if Bayrou can beat Royal in the first round, he may just knock off Sarkozy in the second. Considering that "Others" are polling at around 12-16 percent, there is much uncertainty going into the election.

Sarkozy is a former minister of both finance and the interior. He is also an extremely effective and charismatic politician. Once a close ally of current President Jacques Chirac, the two men now loathe each other. A dominant figure in French politics, he has angered both the left and the right. However, there is little doubt that he is now something of a law-and-order neoliberal -- this is what passes for mainstream conservatism in France today. He is neoliberal on taxes and jobs/unemployment/labour, as well as authoritarian on crime and immigration (particularly since the 2005 riots). The Wikipedia entry linked above puts is well: He seems to be pursuing "an Atlanticist foreign policy and a Thatcherite economic policy" -- yes, he's even rather pro-American, a radical and courageous position for a leading French politician to take.

Heraclitus has previously written on Royal and Bayrou. I recommend both posts.

For more on Sarkozy, beyond Wikipedia, I recommend this excellent piece at Der Spiegel. Although his critics refer to him as a "neoliberal with a French passport," he is perhaps best understood as a "third way" centrist (by the standards of Western European politics) with a penchant for provocative rhetoric.

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