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Can They Get A Bandwagon Rolling?

  • March 23rd, 2007
  • Posted by 7thmin

chirac-004.jpgThe outgoing French President Jacques Chirac has announced his full support for Nicolas Sarkozy, the candidate for his own party, the conservative UMP. This long-awaited announcement now heads a list of endorsements designed to consolidate the candidate’s front-runner status.

The candidate is seen as a vote-winner, where he has been a “man of action”, for example as Interior Minister appealing to many anxious voters by taking a tough stance over last year’s riots in immigrant districts around Paris.

He is also seen as brash; enough to fall out with Chirac over internal party differences, and coming up with a fairly ungracious response to this week’s endorsement: he’d “never thought of himself as anyone’s successor.”

Chirac delayed his announcement until after the closing of nominations, with twelve candidates standing for the presidency, including those from five left-wing parties, two centre-right, greens, and Jean-Marie Le Pen’s right-wing National Front.

Political friends of the President suggested his preferred successor would have been Alain Juppe, one of three former Prime Ministers roped in now by campaign managers to endorse the Sarkozy candidature.

Opinion polls indicate that Sarkozy is positioned to win but far from secure.

He is in front for the first round of voting, and voting intentions for a second round show the combined left-wing vote is down somewhat, meaning he would defeat the Socialist Party candidate, Segolene Royal – if voting took place today.

The same polls say he would find it much harder, though, if the third-placed candidate, Francois Bayrou, should beat Ms Royal on the day, and so get into the two-candidate second round.

Le Pen is the only other candidate given any chance of getting into the second round.

Why signs of strong support for Bayrou, from the right-of-centre liberal party, the UDF?

Most analysis is framing this as a voter rebellion against the two major parties, seen as not having governed well, or not having provided leadership for the country in fairly confusing times.

Image questions add to that.

Sarkozy is seen as prone to be divisive, maybe with the wrong temperament to be President.

Royal has been tagged a lightweight. She stumbled a few times in the news media over points of policy; then some senior figures left the campaign team, complaining she would not, or could not carry the agreed party platform. She remains an attractive candidate, looking for new constituencies at community level in suburbs, small towns or schools.

Bayrou is the more orthodox presidential material; he comes from a patriotic farming background, is not aggressive and not too dazzling either; so he might be under consideration by the public as a tie-breaker.

What the public thinks is the key to all this, and remains fairly unfathomable.

There is a high “undecided” factor in the polls, but it is getting late for major changes; voting takes place on Sunday 22.4.07.

Sarkozy leads, though small shifts can still occur and change the balance in a strategic way.

References:

Sarkozy recoit le soutien de Chirac et quitte le government“, (Sarkozy gets Chirac’s backing and now resigns from the Ministry), Le Monde, Paris, 22.3.07, p1.

Politique: la defiance des Francais“, (Politics: the French people’s defiance), Le Monde, Paris, 14.3.07, p 1.

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