So there we have it. The French have voted with their hearts and shown their true colours with 15 percent of the first round votes going to the eccentrics, and now there is a straight left versus right contest. At least, this time, there is a ‘Partie Socialiste’ involved. The lesson of 2002 has been learned (when Josspin was knocked out in the first round and Le Pen gave the French a fright). I have never lived in a more politically aware society than today’s France. What an astonishing electoral turnout! They were queuing up to vote yesterday in the hot noonday sun (over 27 degrees here). Today, everyone is buzzing with it from 16-year-old students to the North African immigrant at the supermarket checkout counter. And what are they saying? The young and the immigrant both claim there is not much to choose between the two front-runners. Unemployment looms large and the immigrants see no future for their children in a society that chooses ‘Jules’ for the job over ‘Mohammed’ whatever their qualifications.
Ségolène’s E’s (employment, education, ecology) appeal to the young and dispossessed but Sarkozy has a four percent head start and is attempting to convey the message that he will address social exclusion – the ‘have-nots’. He seems to be popular with the older voters, the ‘haves’, and his declared aim to get rid of the ‘tax on fortune’ and the ‘droits de succession’ – inheritance taxes – please the well-heeled ‘right.’ He has massive support in ‘Alsace/Lorraine near the German border – up to an amazing 70 percent in some towns!
Just watch the French driving – they lunge to the left before turning right – there is a good chance that the same will be true during this second ‘tour’ and his support will increase.
François Bayrou claims he is Europe’s most desired man – and it is probably true – his 18 percent of the vote is now being courted by Sarkozy and Royal, but he is ‘not to be bought,’ according to his campaign organiser. He will certainly play his game carefully (all three of them are graduates of the elitist ENA – the ‘university for politicians’- and all have previously held ministries, even if none has been Prime Minister). Le Pen with his 10 percent is in a strong position too, but, despite his charisma when he speaks (the young really understand his language!), he is 79, and Sarkozy has clearly rejected his style of politics. His 10 percent could go to either of the front-runners – he is unlikely to stand in 2012.
The one sure thing – after May 6th France will finally have a president in his or her fifties – born since the war.