If the French or Americans don't see similarities in their social systems, they are utterly wrong. As the UDF's Francois Bayrou continues to advance in the polls, it is surprising to find that this centrist and even sometimes "boring" man has had the typical religious upbringing of many/most American candidates.
He's a gentleman farmer known as the horse-whisperer, a fervent Catholic who raises thoroughbred mares and writes historical biographies, posing for photographs on his tractor to appear close to the people.
Born near the Catholic pilgrimage town of Lourdes, the devout Mr Bayrou was once described by the senator Charles Pasqua as "the only politician who assured me that the Virgin Mary appeared to him and predicted he would be president of the republic". Married at 20 and with six children and 11 grandchildren, the regular churchgoer is nonetheless a staunch defender of the secular state. A biographer of the French king Henry IV, he has recently succumbed to the trend for presidential candidates to talk about the suffering of their youth, describing how he overcame a childhood stutter which gave him the nickname "Shakes" at school because he couldn't pronounce Shakespeare.
But despite the respectability and non-partisanship for which he stands, Bayrou has faced some more blunt words from political analysts.
Frédéric Dabi of pollsters Ifop called him a "receptacle" for those let down by the main candidates' campaigns.
However, one shouldn't brush off those labels too quickly. After all, the one thing you can be sure of, is that Sarko or Sego, there will always be trash.
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