Monday, April 30, 2007

Sarkozy's cynical appeal to the center

By Michael J.W. Stickings

With Royal and Bayrou seeking common ground, and with Bayrou seeming to give his supporters a subtle cue to support Royal in next Sunday's second round of the French presidential election, Sarkozy is now himself trying to woo the center. At a rally in Paris yesterday, Sarkozy explicitly reached out to Bayrou's supporters. He reiterated the rightist views that form the core of his platform, but "[h]e said the views of Mr Bayrou's supporters would be taken into account and he offered to introduce some proportional representation in parliament".

Aw, how generous. Politicians will say anything in a pinch, won't they? -- and Sarkozy is certainly in one. He's the favourite to win the presidency, given how well he did in the first round, but enough support from Bayrou's center could put Royal over the top.

And here's the problem for Sarkozy: I don't think he's on the hard right, but his platform seems to be a mixture of neo-liberalism, xenophobia, authoritarianism. And during the campaign leading up to the first round he made a concerted effort to reach out to Le Pen's rightist National Front, a movement that is truly hard right. And that effort seems to have worked -- Sarkozy won and Le Pen ended up a distant fourth. And now, after all that, he's making an appeal to the center?

Surely French voters do not have such short memories.

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