Sunday, April 22, 2012

French elections - 1

Today is the first round of the French presidential elections and, if one is to go by the opinion polls, François Hollande, the man whose name and appearance nobody could recall a few months ago, is likely to come top, beating Nicolas Sarkozy, the incumbent. The unknown are the three candidates who are following behind them; unknown in the sense of nobody knowing precisely how many votes they will take and which way those might go in the second round.

To recapitulate, they are: Marine Le Pen, Jean-Marie's daughter, President of Front Nationale and, therefore, the national socialist candidate whose support is around 15 per cent, according to the last polls; Jean-Luc Mélenchon, also at 15 per cent or so, who can be said to be the Marxist socialist candidate; and François Bayrou, who has some vaguely liberal ideas but is also a firm supporter of the European Union and France's deeper involvement in it and who is polling at about 13 per cent. Other parties are likely to get some votes as well and, as they are mostly far left, we have to assume that in the second round their candidates will support M. Hollande.

The New York Sun is a little more optimistic though it does not think terribly highly of M. Sarkozy. Quoting my friend Michel Gurfinkiel, the editorial says:
All the more reason to note a cable just in from our erstwhile Paris correspondent, Michel Gurfinkiel, who is not so certain that M. Sarkozy is doomed. “In Right-Left terms,” he writes, the outlook is “that all non-Left parties combined garner about 53%, and all Left parties combined 47%.” So, he says, “the question is how many Le Pen and Bayrou voters will rally Sarkozy on the second ballot. My guess is that 2/3 of them at least will. Which, on the face of it, would bring Sarkozy to 46 % only or so.” On top of that, though, “there is another dimension to the picture: so far, some 30 % of the voters say they will not vote, or they are still undecided. I am sure that at least half of them will vote on the second ballot. And most of them are conservative voters who got utterly disappointed by Sarkozy during his first term, but still hate the Left even more.”
Taking all the variables into account, Sarkozy might yet win in the second round though only by the narrowest of margins. The New York Sun has another axe to grind as well:
All the more reason to wonder whether an American president who had a better grasp of the European drama, a clearer commitment to the idea of American exceptionalism, a more emotional connection to the possibilities of France than President Obama has on any of those points, whether such a president could have played a more constructive role in incenting the French away from the disaster that socialism would, if it comes, be for them. We comprehend that it’s a long shot, but one way to think of a France bereft of inspiring leaders is as an opportunity for a strong and articulate American president to inspire the French in our direction.
My own view, for what it's worth, is that it would have made little difference though it would have been helpful to all of us to have an American President who was aware of the rest of the world and, if not knowledgeable himself, would listen to those who were instead of surrounding himself with his equally narrow-minded cronies. Sadly, no matter who wins, France will be saddled with a socialist President.

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