Thursday, March 8, 2007

Chirac says goodbye to open election

French President Jacques Chirac will address France this coming Sunday about his plans for the upcoming presidential election. All signs indicate that he has no intention of running again himself, so the only remaining question will be whether or not he supports his own party's candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy.

It's hard not to imagine, however, that Chirac doesn't regret that he is leaving a rather open field. Recent polls showing Bayrou within inches of Sarkozy and Royal, as well as polls showing many French voters are still undecided, have sent even the English language press into a frenzy.

Ironically, Bayrou's rise is uniting both Royal and Sarkozy when they would rather be distinguishing themselves. Royal obviously must defeat Bayrou in the first round in order to even have a chance at the presidency, but Sarkozy knows that Bayrou is set to beat him in a second round runoff.

The one big difference from last election is that the "third man" is not a fringe candidate (as Le Pen was) who relies on voters on the far end of the political spectrum, but a centrist candidate whose votes would otherwise go to Sarkozy or Royal.

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