Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sarkozy Adopts a Right-wing Line as Francois Hollande Leads French Presidential Race

Nicolas Sarkozy is fighting to stay on the job after the upcoming April-May, 2012 Presidential elections in France and he finds it a very uphill battle. He has been challenged from both the right and the left of the political spectrum. Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande is now leading Sarkozy in opinion polls by around 3%. If a Sarkozy-Hollande second round is to be held, the incumbent is expected to lose badly.

As in 2007, he is hoping to convince as much as possible right-wing voters of France to vote for him and thereby win the round 1 of the election. Nicolas Dupont-Aignan of Arise the Republic and Dominique de Villepin of United Republic will attract small numbers of the voters. The real contest in the right wing camp is between Sarkozy and Marine Le Pen of the National Front (FN). In 2007, Sarkozy was able to attract some voters from the ultra-right wing Jean-Marie Le Pen of the National Party. Five years later, Sarkozy wants to do the same to Le Pen’s daughter, Marine. This has created an atmosphere where Sarkozy is tilting more to the right and as a result is at loggerheads with Ms. Le Pen.

For instance, Sarkozy has declared that the integration of immigrant communities has not been successful in France. As such, he wants to cut the immigration to France by nearly half. Ms. Le Pen is accusing Sarkozy of stealing liberally from her program.

Furthermore, Ms. Le Pen claimed that Halal and Kosher food were sold in French supermarkets with no notification, Sarkozy declared that all such products should be accordingly labeled. Sarkozy’s own foreign minister Alain Juppe has declared that the debate over this matter is a “false problem”. However, the fact remains that Sarkozy, in a bid to woo extreme right wing voters, is just borrowing points from the National Front candidate. It seems that, at least in some aspects, Sarkozy’s campaign is run by Ms. Le Pen.

As opinion polls show, more than one tenth of the voters will support the FN candidate in the upcoming elections. If Sarkozy is able to get the support of some of them,

Meanwhile, the elections field a number of left-wing candidates also. Francois Hollande is leading the pack as the candidate of the centre-left Socialist Party (PS). Opinion polls show him obtaining around 30% of the votes. Eva Joly, the Green Party candidate will do better than their performance in 2007. Jean-Luc Melenchon is the candidate of the Left Front, an alliance of left wing parties led by the Communists. He may obtain around one tenth of the vote.

The extreme left is represented by Philippe Poutou of the New Anticapitalist Party and Nathale Arthaud of Workers Struggle. The former party was formed by Revolutionary Communist League and several other Trotskyist groups in 2009. Olivier Besencenot of the Revolutionary Communist League managed to obtain more than 4% of the vote in both 2002 and 2007 elections.

The remaining candidate is the centrist Francois Bayrou of the Democratic Movement. He did quite well in the 2007 election by receiving 18% of the votes in round 1. He is not expected to repeat his success five years ago and as the latest opinion polls show, is still behind Marine Le Pen.

Francois Hollande, the main challenger to Sarkozy, is aware that his popularity is more to do with Sarkozy’s unpopularity than his own program. Some government ministers of Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) are dissatisfied with some of his policies and statements. None of the candidates is expected to win 50% of the votes in the first round of the election on April 22. Therefore, it will be a head-on collision between Sarkozy and Hollande which will determine the outcome of the election on May 6. If Hollande is able to utilize Sarkozy’s unpopularity wisely, he could easily end up being the next president of the Republic of France.

Image: Francois Hollande, January 2012. Matthieu Riegler, Wikimedia Commons.

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