Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bayrou faces opportunity, danger

While UDF candidate Francois Bayrou may be in one of the most enviable political positions, with both runoff candidates showering him with promises of govenment ministries and presidential majorities, he also faces the risks that his supporters will unilaterally abandon him and/or that the majority UMP party could make a frontal attack during upcoming legislative elections.

Bayrou faced a tricky exercise in keeping his diverse electorate behind him, however, as some UDF lawmakers deserted him Tuesday to back Sarkozy. Bayrou's political future is at stake.

Education Minister Gilles de Robien, a UDF member who backs Sarkozy, was quoted in Le Parisien on Wednesday as saying Bayrou is at an "impasse" and has "lost his bet."

If Sarkozy continues to bleed him of lawmakers, Bayrou could find himself empty-handed or shut out of parliament, with hopes of a new political landscape dashed.

And while an alliance with the socialists doesn't appear too likely, an alliance with the UMP could be politically damaging.

Some analysts speculated that Bayrou could strike a deal with Sarkozy's UMP party that would guarantee spots for the centrists in the government and boost their chances in parliament. Otherwise, Sarkozy's UMP party could seek revenge during legislative elections by putting UMP candidates in every constituency with a centrist candidate.

"If he returns to the right, it's a failure, and will be viewed as an attempt to protect the interests of the UDF," Vincent Tiberj, political analyst with the Institute of Political Science. "If he supports no one, it's irresponsible."

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