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Presidente? Challenge In France

  • April 23rd, 2007
  • Posted by 7thmin

segolene-royal.jpgThe conservative leader Nicolas Sarkhozy took a strong lead in voting for France’s next President on Sunday. His opponent in the two-way run-off in a fortnight will be Segolene Royal – overcoming a hoodoo that saw her Socialist Party kept out of the final last time.

French voters turned out in brilliant Spring sunshine (22.4.07), in big numbers – an 85% turn-out – to nominate the front-runner, Nicolas Sarkhozy, and the candidate of the second main party, Segolene Royal, to contest a show-down contest on 6 May.

Figures at the close of polling for the leading four candidates, out of twelve; based on actual votes cast during the day:

Nicolas Sarkhozy UMP (conservative party) 30.5%

Segolene Royal PS (socialist party) 25.7%

Francois Bayrou (UDF) (centre-right) 18.5%

Jean-Marie Le Pen (FN) (nationalist right wing) 11%

The result ended the surge of the anti-immigration movement behind Jean-marie Le Pen, who got into second place in 2002, displacing the leader of an unpopular Socialist Party government of the time, Lionel Jospin.

Mr Sarkhozy, who as Interior Minister took a tough line against rioting youth in the suburbs, in 2005, had set out in his campaign language to take some of Le Pen’s support.

In his victory night speech he did not lose sight of that option, even while proposing to unify the country; promising to “protect people who are scared”:

“I will protect them from violence and from delinquents – and also from degradation of their working conditions, and from exclusion,” he said.

He described the choice for the coming two weeks as between two different ideas of society.

Segolene Royal, a former Environment Minister, has sought to promote the idea of a nurturing and helpful government.

She has the option of taking a harder stance to try to mobilise widespread personal feeling against Mr Sarkhozy.

She did have the gloves off for a time last week, appealing directly for the support of women; declaring the idea of a “President Sarkhozy” was “worrying”, and saying that unlike him she would “not go down on bended knee to George Bush.”

The arithmetic of the first round of voting favours Mr Sarkhozy for the final round but still does not tell what will happen.

Francois Bayrou might want to direct some of his 18% support to one of the two survivors.

His strong vote has impressed all commentators; he has good standing.

Members of parliament from his party are believed to favour the conservative side, but many of the rank and file disagree – at Bayrou’s final campaign rally they hissed and booed at the mention of Nicolas Sarkhozy’s name.

With such large numbers, their vote is not expected to be disciplined.

Backers of Jean-Marie Le Pen are known to begrudge a vote to either of the two main candidiates; many might not vote next time.

Minor candidates received nearly 15%, with a large percentage of that on the left wing – offering some hope to the challenege by Segolene Royal.

With a big lift both in enrolments and in the percentage of people voting, democratic government has won a victory; a grand contest is next.