French presidential elections, round one (JERUSALEM POST) By JOSEPH STRICH, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT 04/24/12)
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PARIS – The presidential election campaign restarted here Monday
morning, just a few hours after the announcement of the official
results for the first round.
Extreme-Right candidate Marine Le Pen of the Front National (FN)
Party made a surprising key victory, coming in third place with 18
percent of the votes. Her father Jean-Marie Le Pen did the same 10
years ago when he eliminated Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin during
the first round, bringing more than 80% of voters to give their voice
to Jacques Chirac during the second round.
Incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy came in second place with 27% of
The loss to his Socialist challenger François Hollande was a surprise
for nobody, since the French leader has been steadily declining in
popularity ever since taking office.
Voters have been crying out against both his policies and his
infamous “bling-bling” persona.
Le Pen wants to lead in the legislative elections this June, what she
terms the “third round” of this year’s elections series.
“The ‘battle of France’ [a reference to the Battle of France with
Germany in June 1940, or to the Battle of the Marne during World War
I] has just begun... on the road of national resistance,” she
declared during her election rally Sunday night, while TV screens
behind her displayed a 20% victory for her party.
The mood of the meeting was festive, with her supporters elegantly
dressed and dancing, toasting champagne to their heroine, known
as “the blue-marine wave.”
What will the Front National Party do for the second round? “Let
suspense operate, wait for the first of May at the Place de l’Opera,”
Jean-Marie Le Pen told The Jerusalem Post, referring to the yearly
demonstration the FN holds in celebration of French heroine Joan of
Arc, the national symbol for party.
The candidate is refusing for the moment to say which candidate she
will endorse in the May 6 run-off election, but promises to do so
during the May 1 gathering. According to specialists, though, a
significant portion of her blue-collar voters will probably give
their voices to the Socialist candidate in the second round.
Meanwhile, though centrist candidate François Bayrou has not yet
revealed his intentions, he has promised “to take [his]
responsibilities” after he hears the choices of the two finalists at
the planned television debate.
While disappointed at being beaten by Le Pen, fourth-place winner
Jean-Luc Mélenchon expressed solidarity with the Left, calling on his
constituents to vote for Hollande in the second round “without
dragging their feet.” He was speaking at his election-night rally at
the Place de Stalingrad.
What we see is that Sarkozy must bridge the large gap between Right
and Left voters, a seemingly impossible mission. He must talk to and
convince both the extreme Right and the Center, and for that purpose,
he held a “strategic meeting” Monday morning in his Paris
headquarters, to analyze the statistics and define his strategy.
The president’s staff made the decision to occupy the field, to
spread the message, in order to catch up.
But, said Henri Guaino, Sarkozy’s special adviser, “there will be no
We are going to talk to the people.... If [in Europe] we don’t listen
to the people, there is an enormous risk [of going down] the same
tragic road as in the ’30s.”
In the Hollande camp, too, there is an understanding of the necessity
to unify, and not to depend only on the Left. While Hollande looks
optimistic, Segolene Royal, the ex-candidate who lost to Sarkozy in
2007, said to BFM TV: “There [are] a lot of suffering people among FN
voters, and not only FN members.”
Eric Besson, one of Sarkozy’s closest ministers, concluded: “The
match will be tight, but it’s possible for Sarkozy.” (© 1995-2011,
The Jerusalem Post 04/24/12)
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