Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Before There Can Be an Election in America There Has to be an Election in France

This One We Can All Sit Back and Enjoy – Center Right vs Center Left

France is going to have its Presidential election in April and May.  The reason for the April and May situation is that the French election is a two step process.  The first stage involves all of the candidates, the second stage is a run-off with the two top vote getters for the first stage.

Unless there is a major upset, the two candidates facing each other in the second round will be the current President, Nicolas Sarkozy and the Socialist candidate, Francois Hollande.  The reason why we all want to sit back and watch this one, it promises to be a vitriolic campaign, and everyone loves bitter vitriol in their politics, despite what they say.

Here is the incumbent commenting on his likely run-off opponent.

In three days of frantic campaigning since he finally entered the race, President Nicolas Sarkozy has called the Socialist front-runner, François Hollande", a "liar, both morning and night", part of an "immobile elite" and a member of an arrogant "caste" that opposes the real interests of the French nation.

One reason for this attack is that Mr. Sarkozy is losing big time in the polls.  He is close in the first stage

Mr Hollande, holding a substantial but narrowing lead in the polls nine weeks before the first round of voting on Sunday 22 April – there will be a second round on 6 May for the two leaders – already looks a little shell-shocked

But he is not looking good in a one-on-one contest.  So he is going to run as an outsider.

You have to hand it to Mr Sarkozy. As the most unpopular president in recent French history, he plans to fight an unashamedly populist campaign. From his guerrilla base inside the Elysée Palace, he plans to run as an outsider or, in his own phrase, "an ordinary Frenchman among the French".

And the French President is taking his cue from American politics,

A man widely seen as having governed on behalf of a small tribe of his rich friends has cast himself as the candidate "of the people" fighting a "statist and corporatist elite". A president who has sworn to defend "French values" and "French national identity" has modelled his campaign on the tar-brush politics of the American right.

Which is not complimentary to either Mr. Sarkozy or the American right.  And the incumbent President is apparently going to “go ugly” even more.

Mr Hollande will be painted relentlessly in the next couple of weeks as "immobile", "mendacious" and the representative of "powerful interests and castes who oppose all change". President Sarkozy will, equally energetically, push hot-button, right-wing "value" issues such as family, discipline, work and identity.

France has an ultra right wing party, whose leader Martine Le Pen is expected to gain substantial votes in the first round, but not enough to enter the second round.  It is obviously Mr. Sarkozy’s plan to get her votes in the second round, meaning he will run a strong right wing campaign. 

The Socialist opponent is running as a moderately left winger,

Mr Hollande is running a tortoise-against-hare campaign. In conversation with British and US media correspondents over lunch last week, the front-runner was charming, funny, approachable, eloquent and knowledgeable. He came close to admitting that his moderate, safe-pair-of-hands, "normal" candidature would perhaps not work in any other year; or against any other candidate. "I decided to run," he said, "because I felt that, at this time, and perhaps no other, I happen to offer the blend of qualities which... the electorate is seeking and would allow [France] to succeed: stability, serenity, respect, restraint."

But this has its risks also

But in trying to be all things to all men, Mr Hollande may end up annoying both the further left and the centrist voters that he needs

So there is an election where the incumbent will move away from the center to pick up the extremist votes, and the opponent will run to the center and endanger his popularity amongst the left wing votes.  All in all a nice political diversion and preliminary event (except for the French for whom it will be the main event) while we all wait for the U. S. general election to take the stage.

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