Monday, May 14, 2007

Good Night and Good Luck

I will by signing off from here. Thanks to all who have come here over the past half-year to follow the French election news, I've have a lot of fun and I hope you have too. This site will be up for the forseeable future if you have any pressing need to look back on the past few months' campaign. I hope you'll continue to follow the French news at my new site seen above, Politique, which will aim to do the same thing this blog has done for the election but for French politics in general. If you ever need to reach me send a message to

Sunday, May 13, 2007

New Home

If you're curious why I haven't updated recently, it's because I am currently getting the successor site, Politique, ready. I will soon be doing all my posting there in a few days.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Royal Hurry

Nicolas Sarkozy is working behind the scenes to put a government together, and still has several days until becoming France's next president, but that has not stopped Segolene Royal from beginning the 2012 presidential campaign.

Today Royal said that the Socialist primary campaign in late summer and fall of 2006 was a destructive process, and that "internal attacks" were seized upon by the right in the presidential campaign. To remedy this Royal suggested a much speeded up process of designating the Socialist candidate for 2012:

"It will be necessary to reform the calendar of designation (...) It's necessary that the candidate is designated much earlier, so that he is not exhausted in quarrels and internal conflicts."

And her timetable? "Quickly...after the legislative elections, as of the next congress." Any Socialist Party congress would be held in March 2008 or in the autumn. Nothing seems to be stopping her from positioning herself to be the 2012 candidate, although to have any chance of winning, she would likely have to break away from the hard-line socialists and far leftists that have restrained the party from moving closer towards a US/UK style mainstream left wing. With the fractures between herself and her own party this time around, she is also hoping that "Ensemble, tout devient possible."

Friday, May 11, 2007

Sarkozy & Blair, Royal & Clinton

Today President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy met UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in Paris, although Blair is himself stepping down at the end of June. After the meeting, Blair told reporters "I totally agree" when asked about Sarkozy's idea of a simplified EU treaty, a response to the "No" vote against the EU constitution in France. Sarkozy also used the occasion to praise Blair for his work as prime minister:

"Tony Blair profoundly modernized his country. He knew how to create majorities beyond his own political family to achieve important results."

This past week's vote has also brought another international political duo into the mix: Segolene Royal and Hillary Clinton. Early in the week Clinton operatives went on damage control, ensuring that no analogies are made between the two:

"Other than the fact that they are both women, they don't have much in common."

"Hillary Clinton offers a very different kind of choice than the French faced...(she) is well regarded as strong, smart and a leader. Her experience says she is ready to see the country through changes with a steady, substantive and sure hand."

However, this is not the first time Clinton has tried to distance herself from her French counterpart. In late last year it was reported that Segolene Royal had cancelled her US trip because Hillary Clinton refused to meet with her.

Royal to sit out

Socialist candidate Segolene Royal has announced today that she will not be a candidate in the upcoming legislative elections, saying it goes against her principles.

"Although the law allows it, the future is not of multiple political offices, and I apply myself to this non-plurality of which I had defended the principle during the presidential campaign."

She is currently the President of the Poitou-Charentes region. Even the question of being in multiple political offices at the same time is foreign to most American ears, although this is quite a common practice in France, where a national politician might then hold some other position back in his/her home district.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

French tell Sarkozy to enjoy

Newly elected Nicolas Sarkozy has taken heat for freely using the yacht of a billionaire friend off of Malta, but apparently the French don't seem to care. In a newly released Opinion Way poll, 58% of the French said that the trip was "not outrageous," more than the 53% that elected him president.

However, the numbers break down roughly on party and political lines. 95% of Sarkozy voters considered the trip normal, whereas 67% of Royal voters were shocked. But considering Royal's defeat, the left really needs a new strategy. Why not let Sarkozy enjoy his vacation...when it comes time for economic reform at home, he might conveniently leave vacation time alone.

A Bush welcomes Sarkozy

In a sign of possible things to come and something that is sure to ruffle the feathers of some French, today US President George Bush said he looks forward to working with his new French counterpart.

"I had met with him before when he came over here and found him to be a very engaging, energetic, smart, capable person. We will have our differences and we will have our agreements, and I'm looking forward to working with him."

Bush also mentioned that he had been three minutes late in the scheduled congratulations call, so "I'm so grateful that he took my phone call."

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

A little humor

Yes Nicolas Sarkozy is getting ready for a new job and sporadic violence continues, but that doesn't mean there is not time for a little bit of humor.

FRENCH president-in-waiting Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday unveiled his radical plans for a social revolution in France including a cut in the lunch break from nine to eight hours.

Restaurants have been told that 'dejeuner' must now consist of a maximum of 12 courses, reduced from 14, excluding petit fours.

Wine consumption by workers with their afternoon meal will be limited to one bottle per person, although there will be no restriction on champagne.

As a result, Mr Sarkozy said, the working day in France will be increased from the current three hours to three-and-a-half.

Mr Sarkozy wasted no time in jetting off on holiday after winning the election saying he would be back to sort out France after a nice long break.

The Return of the King

Tonight President-Elect Nicolas Sarkozy will return from vacationing to France. His travels have raised some eyebrows because the yacht he has been photographed in belongs to a French businessman and corporate raider by the name of Vincent Bolloré, who is listed as being worth US$1.7 billion and the 451st richest person in the world.

Sporadic violence and protests have continued since this past Sunday night, but these have been greeted by pleas from left-wing leaders to stop. Soccer player Lilian Thuram had this to say.

"Stop! There are many other means of being made hear more effectively. We live in a society full of prejudices, this violence reinforces them whereas they should be fought.

(...) people revolt when it there is injustice...Nicolas Sarkozy was elected democratically."

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Blair gets digital

British PM Tony Blair spoke with Nicolas Sarkozy soon after his win, congratulating him and getting the first opportunity to talk with Sarkozy's choice of French Prime Minister. But that wasn't enough for Downing Street. Yesterday Blair's official Youtube page posted two video congratulations by the British Prime Minister, one 2:32 minute version in English, and a longer 3:43 minute version in French. Unfortunately, comments are banned, so Blair won't be getting any hints on improving his French (or English for that matter, he seemed to be struggling at certain moments). Ironically, the video looks like it was dreamed up by Segolene Royal's campaign...perhaps her campaign advisors now have some new opportunities on the horizon.

Protests, US, Hallyday

While Nicolas Sarkozy is vacationing on the Republic of Malta, he missed scattered protests and violence across France on the night of his election, resulting in 592 arrests and 730 burned cars.

Some of the most concentrated violence took place at Place de la Bastille in Paris where the police fired volley after volley of teargas cluster grenades that looked like fireworks before descending on the crowd of young protesters. At one point, the square — the site of the July 14, 1789, uprising that is celebrated annually — was thick with white teargas reflecting the orange glow of a car fire while silhouetted youths heaved paving stones at tight formations of armored riot police officers.

American reaction
Americans on both political aisles have gotten downright giddy, at least relatively speaking, and White House sources say that Bush was relieved he didn't have to congratulate Royal.

We certainly look forward to cooperation with the French,” Tony Snow, the White House press secretary, said Monday, adding: “We know that there are going to be areas of disagreement. But on the other hand, there are certainly real opportunities to work together on a broad range of issues.”

The two presidents will meet in Berlin next month for the Group of 8 summit meeting of industrial nations, and Mr. Sarkozy would be expected to visit the United States for the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September.

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, told CNN on Sunday, “It would be nice to have someone who’s head of France who doesn’t have a knee-jerk reaction against the United States.”

On the same program, Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, said that “Sarkozy would be favorable to the United States,” adding, “Clearly his views are more in line with ours.”

Newt Gingrich, the former Republican speaker of the House, meanwhile, praised Mr. Sarkozy on the CBS News program “Face the Nation” on Sunday as “the candidate of change.”

May surprise
Although it may not turn out to be true, Sarkozy has been elected on a platform of competence, and that will mean that voters will expect results. Luckily, they only had to wait until today when singer Johnny Hallyday announced that he will leave his exile in Switzerland and return to France now that Sarkozy will cap taxes at 50%.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Back in the USSA

Ok, just the US, but I'm back after about 36 hours in France. Thanks for all those who tuned in last night, it's always something to see a campaign that has lasted for months and months end in one night. This blog is obviously nearing the end of its usefullness, although I will be covering news at least until Sarkozy's inauguration on May 16. At that point I will definitely have something new, which will likely be related, although I will not have the endurance to keep up a daily news site. It will likely be a mixture of news and analysis updated every few days...but that's too far in the future for right now.

The biggest news of the day has been Sarkozy's announcement (actually during a telephone call with Tony Blair) that his prime minister will be Francois Fillon, currently his senior political advisor. Fillon is roughly the same age as Sarkozy, and has been Minister of Labor and Minister of Higher Education and Research.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

A look forward

Sorry it took so long to get back, there were some technical difficulties. This was a night filled with statements. First Royal graciously accepted defeat, then Sarkozy spoke, then Royal again spoke from a balcony, and finally, UDF candidate Francois Bayrou, who had the last word on his own political fortunes.

But rhetoric does not naturally translate into practice. Nicolas Sarkozy now must prove himself, making sometimes painful economic reform palatable and sustainable in terms of public opinion, reinvigorating US-France relations without becoming the next Tony Blair, and dealing with a host of other domestic and international issues that are not pressing but still crucial. Sarkozy does not and will not succeed in everything, but he is being elected on a promise of competence, and that will demand quick results of some kind.

In many ways we have had mixed impressions and messages from Sarkozy. He is the son of an immigrant who wants to crack down on immigration, but who has at the same time suggested affirmative action and other initiatives to integrate the unemployed/underemployed minorities. He wants to cut state jobs and liberalize the labor market, but will not hesitate to interfere in the name of economic nationalism. He once called Frances stance in advance of the Iraq war "arrogant", but then praised it. The real Sarkozy will only be revealed overtime, for better or for worse.

Royal will also have a chance to prove herself. With her stunning primary victory, she gave her party a whole new criteria with which to choose candidates, at the risk of sounding cliche, the whole process became more Americanized, realizing that exciting personality is a key component in a democratic leader. Some thought she might become a French John Kennedy. She didnt. But she is still a relatively young woman in political terms, and can still accomplish a great deal if she wished to.

The great thing about democracy is that although it is hard to find great leaders, getting rid of bad ones is easy (unless Le Pen gets into the second round). If five years hence Sarkozy has reneged on his promises in face of pressure from the street, or enacted reform that has genuinely harmed the French way of life, he can be removed. Whether there are good alternatives is the task of the French left and center for the next five years.

Bayoru has a choice

The leader of the UMP in the National Assembly has asked UDF candidate Francois Bayrou to join Sarkozy in his majority.

"I wish that Francois Bayrou rejoins us, he was with us for decades, he has his place today. But it is up to him to do so."

Awaiting Sarkozy

Next President of France Nicolas Sarkozy will be speaking momentarily in his first speech since the results have come out...he is being driven there now. His car is being swarmed by motorcycles, I believe both security and press. Numerous UMP supporters are celebrating outside his campaign HQ, and more are/going to be gathering at the Place de la Concorde, which is already set for a live performance.

Segolene Talks

Socialist candidate Segolene Royal is adressing an audience outside her campaign HQ just a minute after the results became official. She said that the high turnout is a sign of a new democracy. "We are going to continue together...I assume responsibility." At the end of the several minute statement she told her supporters to keep their energy and that she will continue to battle with them.

Little disturbance during vote

Despite the incredible turnout today, reports so far show very little disturbances or problems. Several voting stations were vandalized in Paris, and 34 cars were burned last night, but nothing that could affect the results.

Sarkozy v. Spiderman

I would just like to point out the coincidence that Sarkozy (presumably, of course) will win this election on the same day that Spider Man 3 becomes the "most successful new release in box office history", raking in US$148 million this opening weekend. Even if Sarkozy gets a turnout record, that is not exqatly a good consolation comparison with $148 million.

Sarkozy Wins

French media still must adhere to not publishing results for the next half hour, but they are basically declaring UMP candidate Nicolas Sarkozy the winner.

The headline on

"Les partisans de Nicolas Sarkozy ne doutent plus de leur succès"

Candidates set for results

At 6:00pm Segolene Royal arrived at her campaign HQ on Boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris, although no statements were made. Police are also preparing for a probable Sarkozy victory celebration at La Place de la Concorde, closing three metro stqtions and deploying extra forces to the area.

Candidates voting

This montage from Le Figaro; each candidate voting in his/her own district earlier in the day. According to the BBC, Sarkozy voted along with his two daughters, but his wife Cecilia, who was present during the first round, was missing today. At 5:00 pm Sarkozy arrived at his HQ in Paris to await results.

Total participation might hit 86%

Ifop and CSA are predicting that final turnout will hit 85% to 86% of voters, approaching final turnouts of 87.3% in 1974 and 85.9% in 1981.

Turnout over 75%

By 5:00 pm French time, turnout has reached 75.11%, one of the highest in decades, and several points above the 73.87% at the same time two weekends ago. The big question of course is who will benefit. It could be more Le Pen voters who decided to ignore calls for abstention and come out to vote for Sarkozy. It could also be voters of Bayrou, but because they are split more evenly, it is hard to say who that would help.

Walking around today it is (ironically considering the heavy press coverage) difficult to even recognize that an election is taking place. Other than the occasional candidate posters and a few voting stations tucked into schools, there really was not much apparent activity.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Voting begins, Party planned, Stay tuned

Voting begins

Just like two Saturdays ago, the islands Saint Pierre and Miquelon off of eastern Canada began the presidential vote at 8:00 am local time. They are being followed by French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and French Polynesia. French voters in the rest of the Americas, including 74,000 in the US, 46,000 in Canada, 11,600 in Argentina, 10,889 in Brazil, and a scattering of others will also be voting today. The number of registered voters overseas has more than doubled since 2002, (820,000 compared with 385,000), although over 100,000 people return to vote in France itself.

Party planning

According to a source close to Nicolas Sarkozy, a victory party for Sunday night is already being planned to take place at the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Some of Sarkozy's most high-profile supporters will take part in the event, including French singer and current Swiss resident Johnny Hallyday.

Be back soon

Thanks to France 24, I am actually going to Paris tonight, so I won't be updating until sometime in the afternoon on Sunday. Because I don't want to find myself a target of Inspector Clouseau, I will not be publishing voting results until 8:00 pm French time, although I can say that the probability that every poll taken over the past 3 months is wrong is approaching zero, so don't hold your breath for any massive upsets. Thanks for staying tuned and I'll be back online soon.

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Final interview with Sarkozy

UMP candidate Nicolas Sarkozy gave a final interview with Le Parisien, but because of election rules, it was only published on its website.

Asked on whether Royal's predictions that there would be riots if he were elected, Sarkozy responded:

"To explain that if people don't vote for one candidate there will be violence is quite simply to refuse the democratic and republican expression of opinion. We've never seen this before, never. It's a worrying form of intolerance."

And later on:

"That is to say that certain persons would contest the rules of the Republic and the law of the majority. I cannot imagine it...Despite all the efforts of Madame Royal, the "Anyone but Sarkozy", she has not met great success."

He was also asked about Royal comparing him with President Bush, Sarkozy replied:

"Instead of explaining her propositions and criticizing mine, she has wanted to caricature me...I am myself, I defend my own ideas."

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Friday, May 4, 2007

Campaign closes with fiery rhetoric

The last day of the week before election weekend ended with some of the harshest rhetoric seen in this campaign, much of it coming from Socialist candidate Segolene Royal:

"I find it indecent to say that the election is already done and indecent the statements of Mr. Sarkozy who said that the game's finished...(Mr. Sarkozy is a) danger. I am not the only one to say it. Francois Bayrou said with harder words still. It is known for example that the situation is extremely fragile in the popular districts. When he makes acclaim the word Kärcher in his meetings, it is very imprudent."

Earlier she got downright ridiculous, accusing Sarkozy of being a threat to democracy.

"When I see the way in which this debate (with the president of UDF) was scorned, was vilified, I think that tomorrow, the Republic will be in difficulty, democracy is indeed threatened.

The right-wing candidate is a danger to the unity of the Republic, for social peace, the public services. It is necessary to escape this lead cover of power the media, the financial powers. Is is necessary that the people draw themselves up, seizes their ballot."

By far the oddest moment of the day came when a civil saftey helicopter flew over near where Royal was, and she said: "Hello! We are here. They observe us..."

This all comes as the last polls give Nicolas Sarkozy an even farther lead. According to an Ipsos poll taken today, Sarkozy would win with 55%, a 10 point victory over Royal.

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Royal gets desperate

With no change recorded in polls after Wednesday's debate, Socialist candidate Segolene Royal is playing her last two cards available.

George Bush:

"He (Sarkozy) imitates George W. Bush in this technique of compassionate conservative. One cries over people. The various facts are used and, when one is at responsibilities, one does not act for the present and one promises for tomorrow. See the election campaigns of Bush, but, when there was the catastrophe of New-Orleans, one did not see it on the ground!...(Sarkozy) carries the same neoconservative ideology."


"Come massively to the ballot boxes and come to make the polls lie. Stop (media) conditioning your voters without without rest, stop leaving the polls format (voters), let the voters choose!


Me, I initially ask them to come to vote massively and also to revolt against this way of making which consists in saying that since the surveys spoke, the ballot boxes spoke."

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Thursday, May 3, 2007

Polls show no change

Despite a vigorous debate last night between Segolene Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy, the latest polls show little change in the final round. A CSA poll carried out today puts Sarkozy a full 6 points ahead of Royal at 53%, despite the fact that Royal is now getting 37% of Bayrou's voters (30% for Sarkozy). If it does give Royal any hope, however, 33% of Bayrou voters claim they will abstain, and last minute momentum could always sway minds.

Sarkozy also seems to be holding strong among Le Pen voters, even after Le Pen has called for a massive abstention during the runoff. In fact, only 12% of Le Pen voters plan on abstaining, compared to a full 72% who will be voting for Sarkozy on Sunday. Conversely, an Ipsos poll from May 2-3 says that 28% will abstain, but 58% will still vote Sarkozy.

While these numbers are not exact, the possible abstention of a third of Bayrou's or a sizeable number of Le Pen's voters can visibly affect the final tally. Obviously one could devise scenarios in which a high Bayrou low Le Pen turnout would boost Royal, or the converse boost Sarkozy, but I wouldn't hazard a guess as of now. But if Sarkozy still thinks, like soccer, that the runoff is only between first and second place, he may be slightly mistaken.

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Election Coverage

For any NPR fans in the US you might recognize the name Christopher Lyndon, who used to host the show The Connection. Anyway, I've been alerted that his new show, Open Source, has a show tonight entirely on the French election, including a discussion with a journalist from France Europe Express and 2 bloggers. If you have any questions for the guests or comments, head over there. Cherish English language election analysis when you can.

Le Monde endorses Royal

Today has been the typical end of campaign day. Sarkozy held a final rally in Montpellier, Royal in Lille. Although an Opinionway poll said that 53% of viewers found Sarkozy more convincing in last night's debate (compared to 31% for Royal), the general feeling is that it was a draw, at least in how it will affect the polls. Final polls are also showing a near 90% firmness of vote, which leaves very few voters undecided.

Le Monde has given a cautious endoresement to Segolene Royal, although it concedes that "The president of the UMP is likely going to become the president of the country" for various campaign reasons.

Le Monde director Jean-Marie Colombani says that Royal's project is centered on addressing a social elevator that "is broken down not only for those which are with the bottom of the scale, but for an always increasing part of this middle class." He accuses Sarkozy of an "American" vision because his propositions "favor the top of the social pyramid." Colombani ends with this:

"Ségolène Royal outlined a "desire" of change, laying out a prospect. Her defeat, especially if it were heavy, would inevitably plunge the PS in the resettling of accounts, the return in strength of all the archaisms and all the negative Utopias. Her victory would give her the authority to begin this work of essential reinvention. It is a bet. For the country, it deserves to be tried.

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Bayrou won't vote Sarko

UDF leader Francois Bayrou has refused to endorse either presidential candidate in this weekend's runoff, although he told Le Monde last night that "I will not vote for Sarkozy...he risks worsening the tears in the social fabric."

This now leaves Sarkozy taking two major blows in the past week(s): the loss of the majority of Bayrou's voters and the possible abstention of Le Pen's voters. Neither seems in itself capable of pulling him down as of now, at least according to the polls, but the combined effect could bring him equal to Royal, especially if polls are not taking into account voter turnout.

But if he felt good about his debate performance, he shouldn't worry. 20 million viewers tuned in on average last night, with a peak at 9:45pm at 23.1 million around the world.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Thoughts on Debate

I've just finished watching the majority of tonight's debate, so I thought I would finally comment. First of all, Royal did a much better job during most of the debate itself in terms of TV behavior. Each candidate naturally repeated the same propositions that we have heard throughout the campaign, but Sarkozy was noticeably looking at the table or at the moderators, where as Royal was always looking intently across the table at Sarkozy.

Nevertheless, the conclusions gave me the reverse impression. Sarkozy either wear's his heart on his sleeve or is an excellent actor, for whenever he talks about the value of work and his intent to act, he comes across convincingly and charismatic. Royal, on the other hand, easily slipped into her "mother of four" speech, which ended up sounding trite and scripted.

Overall, this will lead voters to make up their minds only by reinforcing already established impressions. Neither candidate really stood out for the better or worse, which by default will hurt Royal. In tomorrow's Washington Post the article on the debate highlights Royal's instant of "anger" as a decisive moment.

In front of millions of television viewers, Sarkozy turned the tables. Royal got furious when he started talking about handicapped children, saying he was "playing" with the issue. "I am very angry," she said.

"You become unhinged very easily, Madame," said Sarkozy. "To be president of the republic, one must be calm. ... I don't know why Mrs. Royal, who's usually calm, has lost her calm."

If this becomes the defining moment of the debate, it could very well damage her, although I doubt it will do either. You can watch the interchange here. Watching it one starts to get flashbacks to that 1993 debate between the two, when a younger Segolene Royal refused to allow Sarkozy to interrupt her. It's reassuring to know that despite the differences in circumstances, they haven't much changed.

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Everybody Wins

If the leaders of the PS and UMP are to be believed, both Royal and Sarkozy won tonight's debate.

Francois Hollande (Head of PS and Royal partner):

"The debate was profitable. Segolene led and even dominated the exchange (...). She showed (...) credibility. She also showed coherence."

Julien Dray (Royal spokesperson):

"Those which did not know Ségolène Royal discovered a president, a woman of authority, convictions. Several times, Nicolas Sarkozy was on the defensive. Perhaps it is that he did not expect such a confrontation and such an intensity.

Rachida Dati (Sarkozy spokesperson):

"He was very clearly and very precise, which was not the case of Ségolène Royal who throughout this debate was very fuzzy, indeed in confusion (...) She added confusion to confusion, fuzziness to fuzziness."

Valerie Pecresse (UMP spokesperson):

"This debate, it is Nicolas Sarkozy who won it. Because everyone thought that he was going to be unnerved. Because all the campaign of the PS was only founded on its character, and the fact that it was to make fear."

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Live roundups

For those who want a minute by minute account, follow these links here:

The Guardian Unlimited

Le Monde


Noodle Pie

Debate Debrief

UMP candidate Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist candidate Segolene Royal debated tonight in their first and final debate before this Sunday's election runoff. Obviously I cannot summarize a two hour debate right now...I haven't even watched it. But here's some quotes for those who didn't see it.

Sarkozy opened the debate after a random selection. Topics ranged from every domestic problem imaginable to foreign affairs. According to CNN:

Sarkozy often seemed to hold back in the debate, which ran over the scheduled two hours, rarely staring Royal in the eyes and talking instead to the pair of presiding journalists.

As a note, I am leaving sections out of these quotes, and they are not in order.

Royal: "There are democratic forces moving in Turkey which need to be consolidated."

Sarkozy: "Even if it is a non-religious country, it is in Asia Minor. I will not explain to the French schoolboys that the borders of Europe are with Iraq and Syria. When one makes of Kurdistan a European problem, one will not have advanced things."


Sarkozy: "On nuclear power, are you on the side of Mr. Chevènement or on the side of the Greens?"

Royal: "Do you know what is the share of the nuclear power?"

Sarkozy: "We have half of our electricity which is of nuclear origin."

Royal: "No, 17% only."


Royal: "To play with the handicap as you have just done is properly scandalous...One reaches the height of political immorality...It is your government which removed not only the Handiscol plan, which removed the assistance-teachers and who makes that today less than one child out of two who was accomodated five years ago in the school of the Republic are not it today."

Sarkozy: "There are three times more handicapped children provided education for today than your time, to Madam."

Royal: "It is not true!"

Sarkozy: "Do not point at me with your finger. To be a president of the Republic, it is necessary to be calm."

Royal: "When there are injustices, there are healthy angers, there are angers which I will have even when I am a president of the Republic."

More later.

Debate Viewing

Unfortunately I won't be able to cover the debate live, although I will have a full review of the debate and reactions to it later tonight. If you are interested in viewing the debate, you can watch it live here, and also likely on several other French news channels here. Most analysts agree that this debate will not swing many voters unless something catastrophic happens, although I wouldn't count anything out. Make sure to observe what Segolene Royal is wearing, as that may hint as to how she will be behaving against Sarkozy. I know it sounds sexist, but it is true.

Foreign Policy Gap

Whoever follows in President Jacques Chirac's footsteps, he or she will undoubtably be a relative foreign policy novice. To account for the lack of experience and lack of attention on foreign policy in this campaign, The New York Times has a great overview of how Royal or Sarkozy might behave on the world stage, and their rough and tumble experiences so far.

Actually the most interesting part of the article was the comments that have come from US leaders. According to one unnamed senior White House official, Sarkozy's September 2006 visit to President Bush made quite the impression.

"What struck everybody is how strong a person he is and how strong a leader he could be. He was rather impressive, to tell you the truth."

Sarkozy even collected support from left-wing Senator Barack Obama, who said:

“I shouldn’t be predicting French elections, but I know that he has a good opportunity to lead France in the future.”

Forgive me for not accepting Obama's laissez-faire approach. Finally, (I know I'm ignoring the important stuff) the article sums up Sarkozy's and Royal's English language skills in comparison to Chirac's fluency.

The English-language skills of Ms. Royal, who was an au pair in Ireland in the summer of 1971, are rough. A short news clip of undetermined date and origin circulating on YouTube has her saying, in part, “Or with this government, investment in research has decreasing a lot, and that’s bad. I can see, as the presidency of the region, that we need money to invest in research and environment.”

As for Mr. Sarkozy’s English, it is more mind over matter. As he told New York City Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta during a visit last September: “I run. This morning. In Central Park. With T-shirt firefighters.”

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Happy Debate Day

Tonight from 9:00pm to 11:00pm Socialist candidate Segolene Royal and UMP candidate Nicolas Sarkozy will debate on live French television, but before the debate, they have ensured that almost every little detail is accounted for.

The two candidates will be seated facing each other, two meters apart, and at a wood and plexiglass table to reduce reflections. A full 12 cameramen will be filming the event. Each candidate will bring his or her own makeup crew. Just as voting day neared a record turnout, the number of viewers of this debate might do the same. The current record for viewers of a French presidential debate is 1974, when 25 million people tuned in to watch Francois Mitterrand and Valery Giscard d'Estaing. Taking a population of 64 million, that would mean almost 2 in 5 French need to watch it to break the record.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Royal campaign rally, 60,000 strong

Tonight Socialist candidate Segolene Royal spoke to an audience of 60,000 at Charléty stadium in Paris, which ironically enough, was a center of the May 1968 protests. Other than the ordinary fiery rhetoric, Royal took Sarkozy on directly on the issue of the value of work, and criticized him for the brutality of his style of governing.

"I do not want to see these women in tears any more in front of the gates of their closed companies, the glances of the workmen fired without protection. And those which philosophize on the value work, have they seen these citizens there? (...) Our country does not need brutality or shock. (France) does not need to declare the war on public utilities, it needs confidence..."

"brutality in the control of the public affairs, which can endanger social peace, civil peace. This danger is contained in the program of the right-wing candidate. I want peace civil in my country!"

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Le Pen calls off vote

National Front candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen, who witnessed his party in one of its worst performances last weekend during the first round of voting, has called on his supporters to abstain in the coming runoff.

"It would be illusory and dangerous to vote for the Socialist candidate to avenge Nicolas Sarkozy's prevention of our programme. But it also would be insane to hand our votes to a candidate who continues to consider us extremists...abstain massively."

It is unclear how many people he is capable of swaying now that the strength of his support has been thoroughly discredited, but he does have a very strong group of loyalists who may now stay at home on election day. This may not eliminate Nicolas Sarkozy's advantage, but it can only hurt it.

Exclusive Debate Preview

Tomorrow night at 9:00pm (3:00pm EST) Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal will debate on live French television; the International Herald Tribune has a preview. But this won't be the first time these two candidates have come face to face on TV:

When they debated in a TV studio in 1993 they were both political youngsters. The resulting "don't speak to me like that!" outburst from Royal can now be watched on the Internet. She compared him to a "steamroller" and said, "All the television viewers can see that what you are saying is completely off-base!"

But both are formidable talkers, equally combative and prone to override television interviewers who try to butt in. But it would likely require a complete loss of cool, major mistakes or a blatantly misogynistic attack by Sarkozy — which all seem very unlikely from a now seasoned, media-savvy campaigner — for Wednesday's debate to significantly boost Royal's chances of being elected the first woman president of France. (...)

Aides of Royal and Sarkozy organized Wednesday's debate down to the smallest detail. The candidates will face off for two hours, seated at a wooden table and filmed by at least eight cameras. They drew lots to see who will sit where. Fittingly, chance put Royal on the left of the TV screen, and Sarkozy on the right

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