Monday, April 30, 2007

Pollster has bad news for Royal


Le Monde has a long interview with Frederic Dabi, the head of IFOP's public opinion department, on the outlook for this weekend's election...and for Royal, he's not very bullish. Although Dabi says that her victory is theoretically possible, it is politically difficult, and the debate on Wednesday will not be enough to reverse any trends.

"The victory of Royal in the second round appears arithmetically possible, but politically very difficult. She must indeed gather the near total of the left, and must manage to attract a great number of Bayrou voters.

(...)

Historically, one never saw a televised debate between two rounds reverse a tendency. Contrary to what was said, it is not the debate of 1974 that ensured the victory of Giscard d'Estaing, who was at the front before the debate. It is the same thing for Mitterrand in 1981. As for 1988 and 1995, the variation in the intentions of vote between, on the one hand, Mitterrand and Chirac and, on the other hand, Chirac and Jospin, were not reduced."


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Royal hints at PM


In an interview with Le Monde Socialist candidate Segolene Royal hinted that she might appoint former Minister of Finances Dominique Strauss-Kahn as prime minister if she were elected president next Sunday. Here's the exchange:

LM: You have been in competition with Dominique Strauss-Kahn. He was absent during your campaign for the first round, and now he is very (much) present...

SR: Dominique is present at my side at his request and I am pleased. He is a talented and imaginative man. He could be a very good Prime Minister, if such is my choice.

Strauss-Khan, or DSK as the media abbrieviates, challenged Royal for the Socialist Party nomination last fall and came in second place. He is quite close to former Socialist PM Michel Rocard, who openly called for a PS alliance with UDF leader Francois Bayrou several weeks ago, so Royal is now using DSK as much as possible to appeal to UDF voters. This could also be a ploy to counter attacks that her economic program is anti-growth, for when DSK was Minister of Finances, France enjoyed higher GDP growth and decreasing unemployment. He was also against the 35 hour work week, a position about which Royal has been at best unclear.

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Sarkozy strikes at '68 strikes


Yesterday night Nicolas Sarkozy spoke to an audience of 30,000 people, telling them that he was the candidate against the paralyzing left-wing strikes of May 1968.

"In this election, it is a question of whether the heritage of May '68 should be perpetuated or if it should be liquidated once and for all...They have questioned my integrity, my honour, my sincerity, my character. They explained I was dangerous for freedom. They suspect me of wanting to install a police state. They accuse me of pressuring [the media]. I have not joined them in the mud where they wanted to drag me."

It was perhaps his strongest attack yet, blaming what he named the "gauche caviars" for formenting a crisis of "morality, authoity, work, and national identity." In some ways his words sound like they could have come from any American right-wing candidate fighting the "culture wars" against the "hedonistic" left, but the difference is that Sarkozy is talking about economic and public values, not abortion and gay marriage. He is essentially creating the same Vietnam era split that separated John Kerry from George Bush, the former believing that the war was wrong and progress was made during the 60s, and the latter believing the war was just and that the 60s were nothing but the manifestation of immorality. Ok, I'm generalizing.

Such strong attacks could not be ignored, and today Segolene Royal defended the progress that came from 1968, although she admitted that the means were sometimes excessive.

"When I hear Nicolas Sarkozy say that it is necessary to 'liquidate' May 68, I think that it is a very violent vocabulary...By revalorizing the wages, France was freed and growth began again. Of course, there were some excesses as during all tormented periods...all excesses were also the formidable ones advanced compared to the conquests of freedom, autonomy, equality of men and women, trade-union right."


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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Webmasters in overdrive


Just before the first round of elections Nicolas Sarkozy's website went into a special "72 heures pour ganger!" with a special blog entitled "Sunday Everything is Possible". Apparently now Segolene Royal's campaign is hoping that the internet can help them with last minute electoral momentum as well.

Royal's flagship website Desirs d'avenir, which helped propel her upstart primary campaign, now has a brand new opening section entitled "La France Présidente", which includes a gazillion interactive windows that cover her campaign vision, presidential pact, and biography. I'm not one for too much glitz, but the site is actually very well done, mixing text, image, and video in a collage-like format reminiscent of Ipod advertisements. If it helps get her message across, great, but let's hope that France does not decide on its next president by the quality of the candidate's website alone.

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Does the center matter?


As reported below, around 80% of the French electorate is decided, either to vote for Nicolas Sarkozy, Segolene Royal, or to abstain. A new TNS-Sofres poll sheds some light on where the undecided are leaning.

According to the poll, 8% of voters are still deciding between the two candidates, and another 7% are deciding whether or not to abstain. The poll also reaffirms the rapid shift of Bayrou supporters from Sarkozy to Royal. Before last weekend's vote a majority of Bayrou voters were planning on voting Sarkozy in the runoff, but now 51% of the French believe that a Bayrou-Royal alliance would be natural, against only 33% for the same with Sarkozy. To reinforce this point, 52% of voters believe that Royal's victory would most likely allow take into account Bayrou's ideas; only 27% believe a Sarkozy victory would do the same.

But if this is bad news for Sarkozy at the center, he still has support in one of the most crucial arenas. 64% of the French believe Sarkozy will bring "many or quite some changes", with Royal lagging at a dismal 38%. Will voters vote for change over the center? At this point, it appears so.

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UDF leader supports UMP, Is Feminism to Blame?


One of the highest ranking members of the UDF, Hervé Morin, has announced that he will be voting for UMP candidate Nicolas Sarkozy. The rest of the UDF camp repeated that this does not signal that Bayrou is violating his neutrality, but that each voter is free to make his or her choice.

Other than that it's been a slow news day so far, so here's some snippets from a Boston Globe op-ed written by a female professor at MIT. She concludes that femininity and power "are still incompatible in many parts of the world," and that Segolene Royals a victim.

Indeed, if any woman is to reach the highest office, it should be Ségolène Royal, for she corresponds to a French national archetype of femininity. In a new book the writer Michele Sarde details how this young woman from the provinces represents a subtle mixture of traditional France (with her similarities to great feminine figures such as Joan of Arc) and the rebellious modernity of Simone de Beauvoir. She is an educated woman who has always worked. With her partner, Francois Hollande, she has shared both private responsibilities (they have four children together) and political visions (he is the secretary of the Socialist Party).

So where are the feminists who should be celebrating this historic occasion and protesting the sexist attacks on the first serious woman candidate for the French presidency? A petition entitled "1 million women have had enough!" -- objecting to the way Royal has been treated -- has gathered only 17,000 signatures. "Feminism" remains a taboo word in France.

Femininity and power are still incompatible in many parts of the world. I say this with a glance toward this side of the Atlantic, where the first serious woman candidate for president has endured petty, unfair criticism in areas ranging from her hair style to her marriage. So while women are gaining political power around the world , the bad news is that they still often find themselves blocked by unrealistic expectations and intractable gender stereotypes. Royal's experience may reflect not just a "French exception," but also a more global reality.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Too little, too late?


Socialist candidate Segolene Royal has dominated the airwaves in recent days, sidelining Nicolas Sarkozy as she secured the first ever debate between a runoff candidate and a losing candidate, and now winning a plurality of Bayrou's voters (35% compared to 29% for Sarkozy). Not only that, she is attempting to seize the center within the course of several days, walking a political tightrope that risks the alienation many the traditional supporters.

But even if this is allowing her to slowly climb in the polls, it all may be too little too late. According to Ipsos, 85% of the French have made up their minds on for whom to vote and will not alter their decision. This is far higher than the 60% in the days leading up to the first round vote, and leaves little breathing room for Royal to stage a major comeback. Certainly it is enough to get even with Sarkozy before election day, but as of now, it is hard to imagine that this will not continue to be Sarkozy's election to lose. The reverse side of this logic is that it is Royal's election to win, but apparently she has only just realized this.

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Socialists gather round after debate


Watch debate here.

Today Segolene Royal and former UDF challenger Francois Bayrou debated in Paris on live TV, and the general feeling among Socialist leaders is that Royal made the best of the opportunity.

The hour and 45 minute debate was really more of a dialogue, and although both made clear that this was not the beginning of any formal cooperation, there was little to no animosity on either side.

"This event without precedent underlines the modernization of the political life and the need to leave the confrontation of block against bloc...I do not seek to convince Francois Bayrou...(but) to walk some of the way together...(to maintain) direct dialogue with the French."

Royal relieved many socialists by not budging even an inch on her 100 point "presidential pact", even joking at one point to Bayrou that "You are an excellent defender of the presidential pact!"

UMP candidate Nicolas Sarkozy spent the day criticizing the debate:

"There they are, the two of them, in a big hotel, chatting together. I, I am in the midst of the French people."

...but that only seemed to invigorate the Socialists' praise. And if anything was identical among those voices, it was that the only loser in today's debate was the one candidate not present.

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Happy 1st debate day

Today Segolene Royal and Francois Bayrou are debating on BFM TV, starting at 11:00am in France. It's going on right now, so I'll have a full debrief later in the day.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Libya enters election campaign


Libya may not be a hot topic on most foreign policy agendas now that it has stopped overtly exporting terrorism, but it took center stage in yesterday's presidential campaign. Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor were sentenced to death this past December for infecting 426 children with HIV, causing international furore as independent scientists denied that it was the medics' fault. Both Sarkozy and Royal met with members of the prisoners' families yesterday, pledging to work for their release.

Royal:

"The aim is to do everything to obtain their release, particularly on a European level."

Sarkozy:

"I want France to put human rights to the service of these women's rights. We cannot leave them in this situation. We must react, we must act. If I am elected president of the republic, I will make the release of these women and this man a priority."

Of course while moral support is always welcome, neither had any concrete proposals on how to resolve the issue. Perhaps to underline this shallowness, an official of Libya's Foreign Ministry told reporters today that the statements of the two candidates were merely "pre-election publicity".

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Olympic athlete? Vote Sarkozy.


UMP candidate Nicolas Sarkozy has likely just won over a very small and inconsequential group of French voters: Olympic athletes.

Socialist candidate Segolene Royal has recently echoed former challenger Francois Bayrou in saying that a boycott of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Bejing is possible if China does not act to stop the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, something not done since the US and Soviet Union held their respective boycotts during the Cold War. While Nicolas Sarkozy has also said that China and Sudan must do more to promote human rights, he has also said that he would not boycott the Olympic games.

"We have the duty - I don't say right - the duty to ask questions of the status of political prisoners, of democracy. (...) I consider that the sporting event is going to bring an extraordinary breath of freedom and that China will be forced to change."


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Prodi calls for Royal-Bayrou alliance


Italian PM Romano Prodi was originally supposed to meet Segolene Royal at a rally in Lyon yesterday, but instead, he today issued an appeal to Royal and Francois Bayrou to form a new alliance of the center-left.

"I am convinced that new alliances of the center-left can give a new dynamism to the political and democratic life of our societies and our Europe. They are the essential condition to make Europe more democratic, more political and more social.

All through this election, you will take part in the restoration of the French political life and beyond, of the European political life. (...) You can become together the new majority of France and we can become together, in 2009, the new majority of Europe."


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Bayrou takes on Sarkozy


Update: Reuters is reporting that the Royal-Bayrou debate will be on Saturday and broadcast by BFM TV and RMC.


As I write this Le Monde is reporting that a Royal-Bayrou debate will end up taking place this Saturday afternoon, but that will not do anything to hide the accusations Nicolas Sarkozy has faced for the initial cancellation by Canal+ yesterday.

Canal+ said in a statement that the cancellation was necessary because of election rules requiring equal air time, but according to Royal adviser Jack Lang, that was plainly unecessary.

"The CSA, to my knowledge, has imposed nothing...a time to speak was offered to Mr. Sarkozy by Canal+ either Saturday or Sunday."

Most surprisingly perhaps, UDF candidate Francois Bayrou, who just declared his neutrality in the second round, lashed out at Sarkozy, accusing him of pulling the strings for the cancellation of the debate and saying that this is just one example of a dangerous pattern of behavior.

"When I held a press conference Wednesday I spoke of Nicolas Sarkozy about intimidation and threat. It is exactly there where we are.

It is that this debate was cancelled while asserting, or by claiming, that there were rules of the CSA and a request of the CSA who would prevent the holding of the debate. This is absolutely false.

Here, by a whole series of networks (...), which bring closer very great financial powers and of very great media powers around Nicolas Sarkozy, of the direct interventions are made near the draftings, are made near the chains, so that information is locked.

One is choosing the way of an immense regression which blames the elementary right of the French to be informed. And think that Nicolas Sarkozy is not yet elected. Then, what will he be if he is elected?"


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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Debate cancelled


Almost as soon as the Royal-Bayrou debate was scheduled...it was cancelled. Canal+, which was originally going to organize the debate, made a public statement that denied any debate would take place this Saturday.

"(The) rules impose a strict equality of air time between presidential candidates, so Canal+ cannot broadcast the debate between Segolene Royal and Francois Bayrou."

However, a Socialist party spokesman later said that they would ensure this debate is held one way or another.

Blog attempts to align UMP-UDF


UMP candidate Nicolas Sarkozy and UDF candidate Francois Bayrou may not be allied in the runoff, but that has not stopped former UMP PM Jean-Pierre Raffarin and current UDF Education Minister Gilles de Robien from attempting to form their own ad-hoc alliance.

Their new blog, ledebatudfump.com, (which is hung up at the moment) lists 10 common values that the UMP and UDF share, and asks arty supporters to leave comments. While this may not be enough to upstage Segolene Royal's debate with Bayrou this Saturday, it could open the door for more UDF leaders to publicly support Sarkozy, a tense situation that Bayrou would presumably like to avoid.


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Sego-Franco Debate on


Socialist candidate Segolene Royal and former UDF candidate Francois Bayrou will finally be debating this Saturday at 11:00am in France (5:00am EST). According to Royal co-campaign director Jean-Louis Bianco, it will be broadcast on Canal+, d'i-Télévision, and France-Inter. This follows several days of public discussion back and forth, and last minute opposition from the regional press forum that Royal had first proposed.

The debate itself will be one hour long and moderated by two journalists. For Royal this is a success in itself, for she now has the upper hand in wooing Bayrou's centrist voters while sidelining Sarkozy completely. Bayrou is also gaining, staying in the limelight even though he is not endorsing any candidate.

Debate(s) News


Today UDF candidate Francois Bayrou once again accepted Segolene Royal's proposition of a debate this Friday in front of the regional press, so long as it is televised. Of course, right when everything seemed to be falling into place, the organizer of this regional press forum have said that they are opposed to the idea of a Royal-Bayrou debate.

As for the real debate between Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal, it will be broadcast by TF1 and France 2, although other stations are free to broadcast as well. Sarkozy and Royal will be face to face and rather close together, but it is so far undecided if they are going to be standing or sitting. Producers have yet to decide whether they will watch the reaction of one candidate while the other is talking. As for the decoration, it will be more modern than previous debates and "very luminous", but according to moderator Patrick Poivre d'Arvor:

"Nothing must disturb the viewers or disturb the debate by a blazing decoration because it is not a variety programme."


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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sarkozy and Royal take to airwaves


Both Segolene Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy have made the rounds on French TV tonight, addressing the delicate issue of Francois Bayrou and the UDF.

Royal appeared on the France 2 show "A vous de juger", again asking for a debate with Bayrou, and showing remarkable respect for a man who just absolutely criticized her economic plans during a press conference earlier today.

He is a man of the right but he has moved. Over the course of this campaign he has understood a certain number of things and values comprised in my presidential pact. I don't aim to seduce, I aim to gather. There are good ideas to take everywhere. Opening my hand to Mr. Bayrou seems to me a responsible step, respectful to the voters and useful for France."

Nicolas Sarkozy appeared on TF1, refusing the proposition of a debate by Bayrou, but saying that he is ready for dialogue.

"The debate of the second round, it is Mrs. Royal and Mr. Sarkozy. Here are what they have, said the French. In a soccer competition, there is a final. The final is between number 1 and number 2. Number 3, he does another thing but he is not in the final.

For the remainder, I remain a man of dialogue, listening and openness. If Mr. Bayrou wishes that we work, that we reflect, that I listen to, I will readily do it in a form which remains to be determined. For my part I am very open."


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Royal Bayrou debate?


Already receiving criticism from several left-wing candidates for not backing Royal, UDF candidate Francois Bayrou did accept Segolene Royal's proposal for a public dialogue. After this, Royal said that she and Bayrou should debate this Friday in order discuss certain portions of her presidential pact.

"I propose this debate of explanations on a certain number of proposals of my presidential pact, with the only objective to enlighten the voters, to give dignity to the debate, to clarify the solutions which will make it possible for France to advance (...), and not to convince Francois Bayrou."

Royal may be taking a risky step, because anything that could highlight the differences between her and Bayrou would end up hurting her on election day. Then again, at several points behind in the polls, she needs to do as much as possible to captivate his voters, even if no official endorsement or alliance takes place.

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Bayrou: Just say No


Sorry I don't have time to expand upon this now, but UDF candidate Francois Bayrou just announced that he will not be officially endorsing any candidate in the runoff, although he welcomes the overtures of cooperation and dialogue from the two candidates.

I will not give an instruction of vote...I estimate that the French who voted for me are in conscious free citizens of their choice."


Update: Not only did Bayrou refuse to endorse any candidate in today's press conference, he also judged them harshly enough to ensure that he will not back down from neutrality in this election. Bayrou described both Sarkozy's and Royal's presidential programs as a "delirious increase" in expenditure. He also criticized Royal's counter-growth economic plans and Sarkozy for "inflaming dangerous topics."

Also as promised in his election campaign, Bayrou announced the formation of a new political party, "Parti démocrate", which will presumably receive support from the 7 million French who voted for Bayrou in this election.

It will be interesting to see where this election campaign will go, now that the biggest question, Bayrou, has been answered. This will certainly not stop Royal or Sarkozy from continuing to reach out to Bayrou's supporters, but they will have to push their own program's instead of just appealing to the man himself.

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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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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sego lays out her cards



Today Socialist candidate Segolene Royal reaffirmed her intention to welcome UDF Francois Bayrou into her ranks, saying that if he joined her presidential pact, she would name UDF party members to government ministries. Bayrou will speak tomorrow, but the French media says he is unlikely to make any decisions by then.

Royal also did some house cleaning, thanking "from the bottom of her heart" all the left-wing candidates who endorsed her following their own defeat in the first round. Nevertheless, it is too early to tell if all this maneuvering is shifting the polls. While a recent Sofres poll shows Royal at 49%, just 2 points away from Sarkozy, Ipsos continues to show a 7 point gap.

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Prodi to support Royal


A day after former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi publicly threw his support behind UMP candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, it was announced that current Italian PM Romano Prodi will support Socialist candidate Segolene Royal, and may even join her for a campaign rally. This moves Royal's foreign endorsements up to 3: Zapatero, Chavez, and Prodi. As far as I know Sarkozy has not been officially endorsed by a current foreign leader, but of course, Washington and London are doing little to disguise their enthusiasm for the UMP candidate.

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Socialist Shift?


After a full day of courting Francois Bayrou's voters, fortunes may just be moving slightly in Segolene Royal's favor. According to a new Ipsos poll taken yesterday, 38% of Bayrou's voters would vote for Royal, compared to 35% for Sarkozy, and 27% abstention. Most previous polls showed Nicolas Sarkozy had the slight edge, so with this reversal, we will have to wait and see if anything changed in the general runoff polls.

Co-founder of Doctor's Without Border's Bernard Kouchner, who praised the idea of an alliance between the PS and UDF before the election, has said that Royal's proposition of a dialogue with Bayrou is historically important for the Socialist Party.

That, this is a historic movement in the French Socialist Party, this opening, because all the other European social democratic parties have nod this, they have opened, they have accepted the regulated market economy, while controlling it, and it is this alliance which made Europe."


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Monday, April 23, 2007

Econ 101


In the name of political simplifaction, Nicolas Sarkozy is defined as "right-wing" and Segolene Royal as "left-wing". But to Bloomberg News's economic perspective, Sarkozy is "supply" and Royal is "demand".

"Whether to focus on demand or supply is the main divide between the two candidates," said Dominique Barbet, senior economist at BNP Paribas in Paris. "Sarkozy is more ambitious on the labor market, while Royal wants to increase consumption." (...)

"His platform is a coherent pro-market reformist program, which should enhance potential growth," said Eric Chaney, chief European economist at Morgan Stanley in London and a former forecaster at the French Finance Ministry.

"Royal's program may spur the economy more quickly than Sarkozy's while doing little to improve its longer-term performance," said Gilles Moec, senior economist at Bank of America Corp. in London. (...) Her proposals focus on bolstering consumer demand, which already accounts for two-thirds of the economy, and may not go far enough to address barriers to growth, economists say. "She does nothing to boost potential growth," Moec said.


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Horse race begins, endorsements flow


As the campaign for the second round of voting finished its first day, everyone is either asking for votes or recommending who to vote for.

Foreign Affairs

As reported earlier, Venezuelan President sent his best wishes to Segolene Royal, although he admitted to not knowing her. Later in the day, former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi, another pristine example of democracy, announced his support for Nicolas Sarkozy.

(We) will see two conceptions of politics and economics clash, and naturally we are supporters of Sarkozy."

This was quickly denounced by Royal, who said she wanted no part of Berlusconi's Europe. Combined with Spanish PM Zapatero's endorsement of Royal on the eve of the election, there seems to be a competition among foreign leaders to see who can most interfere with France's domestic affairs.

Besson's Betrayal

Today the Judas of this campaign, former Socialist Economic Secretary Eric Besson, who resigned during Royal's campaign and proceeded to write a damaging book about her, declared his support for Sarkozy in front of almost 10,000 UMP supporters.

"I am a man of the left who will support and vote for a man who asserts himself of the right.

I am a progressive convinced that, for this election, it is a republican of the right who carries best the values in which I believe."


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Royal reaches out to Bayrou


Socialist candidate Segolene Royal made her first public overture to UDF candidate Francois Bayrou in order to build a untied front against leading candidate Nicolas Sarkozy. According to the AFP:

Royal proposes a "dialogue open and public" with Francois Bayrou on "values" to seek "convergences" for the second round of the presidential election.


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France's Funniest Home Videos


The mark of any comfortable politician is usually his ability to make fun of himself, and intentionally or unintentionally, Sarkozy's camp is doing much more of this than Royal right now. Some examples:

On Sarkozy's "NSTV" there is now a video montage of election night, behind which play's the most Disneyesque, cheesy, and inspiring music available. Interestingly, the video shows that Segolene Royal's speech was broadcast on the big screen last night in Sarkozy's HQ, a not so subtle hint that Sarkozy wants to seem as inclusive as possible.

You can also watch a video from last Friday, in which Sarkozy rides a horse through a river. I knew politics could get dirty, but this seems to be going a bit too far. Is there that big of a "horseback-riding" vote that Sarkozy was appealing to?

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Chavez supports Royal


Socialist candidate Segolene Royal has received support from an unlikely place: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

We don't know her, but woman and socialist...our heart is with her."

He also invited her (potential) predecessor, President Jacques Chirac, to come to Venezuela.

"the French president was an excellent friend, I invited him to come here to rest. Let us hope that he will visit us one day."


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Bayrou center of attention


On a day when the media can finally focus all attention on the two major candidates in this election, all eyes have now turned to UDF candidate Francois Bayrou, who while losing in a disappointing third, holds a disproportionally large section of France's swing votes, all crucial on the May 6 runoff. The question is what will he do with this 18.5% of the vote.

The capital which he accumulated during this campaign, he intends to convert it into an autonomous force, which will have its own representation within the French National Assembly: "This hope that we gave birth to...I will not give up it," promised Mr. Bayrou. I will not give up any of these convictions. I will not retrogress."

But will he endorse either Royal or Sarkozy? Bayrou is going to speak at another press conference this Wednesday April 25, and may speak again after the May 2 debate. Other than that, we are left with these words: "I do not exclude anything."

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Election over...at least for now


There's not too much news news now that official tallies are being released and all candidates have reacted in some form or another to today's outcome. TF1 anchor Patrick Poivre d'Arvor has announced that Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal will debate face to face on May 2, the Wednesday before the May 6 vote.

Already a number of new polls have been released predicting the results of the second round. IFOP, CSA, and Ipsos all show Sarkozy winning by 7%-8%, although these numbers will only fluctuate in the coming days.

If you live in France you can find out the election results in your area at LeFigaro.com, where they have a "Le résultat de votre ville" search. Anyone can also follow the links on the righthand side of the page to Royal's and Sarkozy's websites, which each prominently feature their respective candidate's speech from earlier tonight.

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Royal is endorsed, Le Pen and Bayrou wait


Socialist candidate Segolene Royal picked up several endorsements from far-left candidates, including that of Marie-George Buffet, Dominique Voynet, and Arlette Laguiller. Here's what Buffet said:

"Lucid on the insufficiencies and ambiguities of the program of the socialist candidate, I call without hesitation all the men and all the women of the left, and all the democrats to vote and elect on May 6 Ségolène Royal."


The two heavyweights, UDF candidate Francois Bayrou and FN candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen have yet to officially endorse anyone. The president of the UDF said:

"We will listen to what the candidates qualified for the second round say and we will say 'how one ensures that the transformation of the French political life can be done?'"


Le Pen seemed almost defiant, claiming victory in the battle of ideas but then saying that his ability to apply the right solutions was stopped by the same candidates who seized his issues.

"We won the battle of the ideas, the nation and patriotism, immigration and the insecurity were put at the heart of the campaign by adversaries which, as lately as yesterday...This ideological victory is an irreversible asset of the National Front.

(But) I fear that the French were misused and I predict to them with sadness of the following days...Those who seized the ideas of the National Front, only prevented us from applying the true solutions to all the problems of France."

Strauss-Khan invites losers to join Royal


Dominique Strauss-Khan, former socialist challenger to Segolene Royal, has called on all voters whose candidate did not win tonight to join Royal in the runoff.

"I feel in this first turn the hope of a revival (...) I believe that henceforth the victory by the revival is possible.

It is necessary that the second round, the victory with the second round of Ségolène Royal is not done solely on the rejection of Nicolas Sarkozy but on a will of change to build this house of the revival.

It is a call with all the voters who do not have their preferred candidate in the second round, those who were more on the left than Ségolène, those who were on the right and who want to build with her the revival which one needs.

Inside there is no agreement of party and of negotiation. There is simply Ségolène Royal who proposes a revival and it is necessary that those who want this revival can line up behind her."

Candidates begin to respond


Now free speech is once again legal, so let's talk. The final tally will show Sarkozy in the upper 29%, Royal from 25%-26%, Bayrou about 18.5%, and Le Pen at roughly 11%. Hopefully we'll get some official responses from the campaigns.

According to France24, Socialist chief Francois Hollande has called for "a very large gathering around the pact of Segolene Royal." Her site is now featuring a "Disover in 7 min the 7 pillars of the presidential pact", and a live video feed from Melle.

Sarkozy's site has a live video feed as well, although my computer's completely stuck. Current PM Dominique de Villepin has responded, congratulating Sarkozy for his "excellent score", and saying that the high voter turnout "marks the vitality of our democracy."

I don't know what Bayrou's site is going for. All they have is a post that says he received 18%-19% of the vote and arrived in third place. It also says he will make a declaration later in the evening.

And finally, I don't see any changes or movement on the Le Pen site.

Results out, 2 weeks to go


By now most unofficial results are out and barring any last minute upset, Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal will be going to the second round. Personally I hope that some of the overt skepticism of polls in the French media goes away; it is understandable considering the 2002 upset, but preliminary results this time around mirror the most recent polls quite closely. Actually, the biggest surprise seems to be Jean-Marie Le Pen, who was expected to do (possibly) as best or better than last time. At this point, it looks like polls overestimated him rather than the common belief that he was underestimated.

Obviously the Royal team would have liked to finish neck and neck with Sarkozy, but a very strong second is a decent consolation prize. Finally we'll have the opportunity to see the two major candidates debate face to face. That could possibly influence the May 6 vote much more than the SarkoSego results of this first round.


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Sarkozy and Royal win?

Belga News Agency is reporting that UMP candidate Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist candidate Segolene Royal will be in the presidential runoff. No exact numbers yet.

You can see updates of the results at top right. I'm not going to publish them as posts right now because some of these may be agglomerated on French sites.

Huge turnout


Apparently the French come out to vote as much as they protest. As of 5:00pm today (20 min ago), particpation was 73.87%, 15 points higher than 2002. The record for voter turnout was all the way back in 1965, with 84.8%. Any exit polls won't be out until roughly 6:00pm.

Update: According to Ipsos and IFOP, voter turnout might have been 87%, a new record.

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Day in the life


Good weather and a million newly registered voters may be helping turnout today, but according to Reuters there are several other novel incentives.

Incentives to vote included a puppet show near the northern city of Lille offering free tickets to those with a voters' card showing they had voted, and a cinema giving discounts to voters in the northern town of Saint-Omer...

Hotels have offered discounts to voters in a bid to counter the slump they usually see on election weekends, and food delivery firms such as caterers and pizza chains banked on a jump in business thanks to election night parties.

One catering firm, Premiere Etoile, offered a special dish for each main candidate -- a "sweet and feminine" poultry fricassee for Royal "with a touch of sourness", grilled lamb for Sarkozy "for carnivores who like intense flavours" and duck for centrist Francois Bayrou from his native southwestern France.

Several problems have been reported, such as polling stations being glued/nailed shut in Marseille and wariness with new electronic voting machines, but nothing too serious to influence the outcome. Unfortunately, democracy's choices do not seem to please everyone. Vinvent Brun, a 25 year-old from Strasbourg, was one of them.

"I decided when I got up this morning, based on my mood. I cast an empty ballot."

The World May Never Know...



...what was on that ballot.

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All major candidates have voted


More candidates have voted as the morning/afternoon has progressed.

At 11:30 Jean-Marie Le Pen showed up to vote without any family, telling reporters that he would spend the day "At home, I think, in my garden with the sun."

At around 12:30 both Segolene Royal and Francois Bayrou cast their ballots. Keeping to his traditional farmer image, Bayrou attended church before going to vote. Royal used her vote to do a little last minute campaigning, walking around, greeting, and shaking some hands.

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Happy Earth Day...and Election Day too


Welcome to today's game. Polling stations opened in France at 8:00am local time (2:00am EST) and are to remain open until either 6:00pm or 8:00pm depending on location. The first real event of the day came at 10:55, when Nicolas Sarkozy, accompanied by his wife Cecilia and two daughters, came to vote at the Edith-Gorce-Franklin School in Neuilly-sur-Seine, the same town Sarkozy where Sarkozy was elected mayor at age 22.

The other big news so far is voter turnout. As of noon today (30 min ago) participation was 31.21%, this is a large increase over 2002, when the same time produced only 21.4% turnout.

Anyway, not much to report now, but stay tuned for more.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

First day of voting over


The first day of voting in France's overseas territories is now over. In all previous elections overseas territories voted on the same day as their homeland counterparts, but because of the time difference, the final results were already known in some places before voting even closed. This led to US-size abstention rates, 64.5% alone in Martinique in 2002.

So who has actually already voted? The islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, northeast of Canada, who together muster 5000 registered voters, opened voting stations at 8:00am local time. A more sizeable 656,500 registered voters were then given the chance to cast their ballots in Martinique, Guadeloupe, and French Guiana. Finally French Polynesia opened its doors, with a population (according to Wikipedia) of roughly 260,000.

Stuff to do while waiting


It's still a long wait until tomorrow night (in France), so for any election watchers out there who need some reading material, here are good links to check out.

1. PBS/Frontline has done a 16 min piece on the current state of the French welfare state, entitled "France: The Precarious Generation -- Au revoir job security." They also have a general overview of this year's election and a quite indepth interview with Bruno Palier, a political scientist at France's Sciences Po (Sarkozy attended but did not graduate from that school). Not to be stereotypical, but Palier ends the interview with the profoundly French observation that "there is no reason to live if you're not optimistic." Honestly though, if you are curious about how France has gotten into the mess it is in, the interview and video are very illuminating.

2. The Council on Foreign Relations is also publishing some good material in anticipation of the election. Their Director of Europe Studies gives a pretty lucid interview for Americans who are just viewing this election for the first time, and an interactive timeline of Franco-American relations is helpful for Americans (and French) who forget that their countries are actually friends. The Council's always excellent publication Foreign Affairs has also reviewed Nicolas Sarkozy's book Testimony in the May/June edition. The review was actually done by The Economist's Paris Bureau Chief, and ends on an optimistic note:

"The real question is whether the less daring, more populist stance that Sarkozy has taken during the election camapign genuinely calls into question his commitment to the values and policies expressed in the pages of Testimony...The Sarkozy of Testimony is a blunter, tougher-talking politician than the man on the campaign trail. That one has been savvy with his voters. But the one who inhabits the pages of this compelling book may be closer to the real Nicolas Sarkozy."


3. Unfortunately there is somewhat of a media blackout in France because the state apparently fears that last minute info might influence voters (as if the coverage over the past months doesn't do the same?!). However, for those like me who cannot even watch over-regulated French TV if we wanted to, you can watch several news channels including France24 and BFM TV if you go to the site World Wide Internet TeleVision and scroll down to France.

Other than that, there's only one other thing to say to the candidates: good night and good luck.

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Campaign closes, Wash Up


Today all presidential campaigning has stopped and some overseas territories are beginning to vote. In lieu of polls or presidential statements, here's a rather funny article from The New York Times.

There is one French company that is tired of free publicity. It is Kärcher, which makes high-pressure washers used to clean dirt, graffiti and wear from building façades. Its products cleaned Mount Rushmore.

But “to Kärcher” has become a French political verb with explosive content. The leading presidential candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, coined the term two years ago when he went to the immigrant suburb of La Courneuve after a boy was killed by a stray bullet, and said he would clean out troublemakers there “with a Kärcher.” Mr. Sarkozy’s opponent on the far-right, Jean-Marie Le Pen, responded during a stop in the suburb of Argenteuil last week. “If some want to Kärcher-ize you, to exclude you, we want to help you get out of these ghettos,” he told people there.

Apparently the Kärcher company itself isn't too pleased with this free publicity, and has sent all 12 of this year's candidates a request to not use their company name. But this infamy doesn't seem to have hurt sales: in 2006 world revenue jumped 13%.

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