A French witch’s brew / Voters just can’t bear Sarkozy (NEW YORK POST OP-ED) By AMIR TAHERI PARIS, FRANCE 04/24/12)
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The first round of the French presidential election appears to have
produced a witch’s brew that could affect Europe’s half-hearted
efforts to face its economic problems.
Pundits have hailed the results as a victory for the French left at
one end and the hard right at the other.
The candidate of the moderate-conservative camp, President Nicolas
Sarkozy, ended up with just over 27 percent of the vote — coming
second to Socialist, Francois Hollande, with just over 28 percent.
The hard-right National Front candidate, Marine Le Pen, collected 18
percent of the vote.
But was there a “sharp turn to the left,” as much of the European
media claimed yesterday?
The candidate of the “authentic” left, Jean-Luc Melenchon, who
promised a new French revolution (mercifully minus the guillotine),
won 11 percent — half what Jacques Duclos won on a similar platform
five decades ago.
In its various shades, the left had four candidates, including
Hollande. To this must be added the “Green” candidate, Eva Joly, who
signed a pact with Hollande before the election. Together, the five
candidates of the “rainbow left” collected 42 percent of the vote,
not exactly the “political tsunami” that some have suggested.
The right, also in its different shades, had five candidates,
including Francois Bayrou, who, after years as a Cabinet minister in
various right-of-center governments, decided to play lone ranger. He
won around 8 percent of the vote. Two other rightist candidates won
around 2 percent.
Thus, leaving aside Le Pen’s electorate, the right ended up with 37
percent of the vote. And most observers agree that the bulk of Le
Pen’s vote came from conservatives angry at Sarkozy’s pugnacious
The united “rainbow left” enters the second round on May 6 with 42
percent of the vote, leaving a fragmented right with more than 55
percent of the vote.
If Sarkozy attracts the bulk of those votes, he’ll win. But can he?
While everything is possible in an election, the answer a day after
the first round must be negative.
What about the “dramatic rise of the extreme right,” again as
European media also claimed yesterday?
That, too, is exaggerated. Le Pen’s score was better than that of her
father Jean-Marie Le Pen in the 2007 presidential election but not as
good as the hard right’s performance in 2002. In that year’s
presidential election, Le Pen père and Bruno Megret, another hard-
line candidate, together won almost 20 percent of the vote.
Opinion polls show big majorities in support of Sarkozy’s key
domestic and foreign policies. But while his record may be globally
positive, his style has turned him into his own worst enemy. If he
loses, we’d have had an election in which a good record was rejected
because the candidate that defended it gets on the voters’ nerves.
This election showed a France that is still on the right in a big way
but that may yet elect a leftist president. (Copyright 2012 NYP
Holdings, Inc. 04/24/12)
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