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France 1st Round Notes

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After the 2002 debacle, France is back on track with a traditional center-right versus center-left showdown in two weeks. Some Americans on the right seem to think that Sarkozy, the center-right candidate who is much more to the right than Chirac, will somehow be America's best friend. Unless France decides to cede its business interests and become the 51st state, don't count on it. Sarkozy will definitely be friendlier to the US but let's not forget that what is in the interest of the US is not necessarily what is in the best interest of France. Royal would surely be less interested in building any relations with Bush, but depending on who makes it to the White House in 2008, that could change.

Glancing at the polling data, it could be a tough battle for Royal. The left (center-left to far left) brought a little more than 36% of all voters while the right (center-right to far right) counted around 44%. The next two weeks will be about fighting for the Bayrou (18%) voters. Many of the Bayrou supporters were center/center-right voters but who feared Sarkozy and his divisive and aggressive politics. I'm not convinced Sarkozy will win the majority of these voters but he needs to close a much smaller gap to hit 50%. There is also the question of Le Pen voters and whether or not they will abstain or vote for Sarkozy. It should be noted that while Le Pen's percentage collapsed in 20007 (10.5% compared to 18.86% in 2002) the actual number of supporters did not fall dramatically. He failed because of voter turnout. Again, did the top candidates misunderstand 2002 and think they needed to turn hard right or were voters angry and disgusted with lack of results or action by the political powers?

Still missing from the campaign is a serious discussion about rampant racism in the French system. There is an entire segment of society that is still on the outside looking in. They are not to be found in the grandes ecoles nor are they in the board rooms and they barely even have a showing in politics. For starters, how about allowing others to receive quality education and taking normal middle class jobs? It's an embarrassment and counter productive for the future of the country to keep going like this. Isn't it already obvious that letting the same old group rule the country is not working? Also disturbing was a comment by a Sarko supporter (and UMP member) last night about Sarko being there "to protect the French people." Absolutely puzzling in so many ways.

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