French presidential elections: the run-up to Sunday

Yesterday, in a final run-up report to France’s presidential elections, RMC host Eric Brunet said that unions were holding the ‘workers’ day’ hostage. He quoted General De Gaulle’s statement from May 1, 1950, in which he said that the day should be for all workers, not just union members. 61% of Brunet’s listeners agreed with De Gaulle.

Nicolas Sarkozy held his own march yesterday in support of ‘real work’. Brunet asked if Sarkozy had politicised the day. Brunet’s guest from Nouvel Observateur accused Sarkozy, as a head of state, of engaging in media and political manipulation. (De Gaulle was only party leader at the time he made his pronouncement.) But callers disagreed, siding with Sarkozy. Many French people went to work, although others spent the day at home.

The CGT advised voters to cast their ballot for François Hollande on Sunday, May 6, but Jean-Claude Mailly from Force Ouvrière (Workers’ Force), said it was not a union’s place to endorse political candidates.

Meanwhile, as expected, Marine Le Pen said she would be casting a blank ballot on Sunday, however, ‘everyone must vote according to his conscience’. RMC’s FN callers were split evenly between blank ballots and votes for Sarkozy or Hollande. Le Pen gave her workers’ march a Joan of Arc theme, combining May 1 with the saint’s feast day of May 8, something which her father Jean-Marie started several years ago.

Christian Democrat Christine Boutin offered an explanation for the number of young Catholic voters — 27% — who voted for Marine Le Pen on April 22. She says that — although she disagrees with their choice — they were following the Pope’s instructions to become politically active Catholics. However, the Pope would not approve of their voting preference, either; he is pro-immigration.

RMC’s Jean-Jacques Bourdin interviewed Sarkozy the morning of May 1. 57% of listeners found the president ‘convincing’.

Bourdin asked, ‘Does France have too many immigrants?’ Sarkozy replied that France was receiving immigrants quicker than the country could assimilate them into society. In a later RMC interview that day, Sarkozy’s campaign manager Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet (NKM) said that illegal workers, especially those being paid under the table, were a greater problem than many realised. (Living up to their ‘Big Mouths’ name, RMC’s Grandes Gueules shouted her down.) NKM said that Sarkozy would ask for a law requiring immigrants wishing to bring family members to France to show that they have sufficient financial means to support them. She added that Sarkozy would also seek to have more fines levied against companies using illegal immigrant labour.

On being accused by left-wing Médiapart of receiving 2007 campaign funds from Gaddafi’s regime, Sarkozy filed an official complaint against the online press site run by the leftist Edwy Plénel (formerly of Le Monde). Médiapart, in turn, accused Sarkozy of intimidating journalists.

Meanwhile, the centre-right online magazine Atlantico asked whether, with all their anti-Sarkozy coverage, the Left wants to foment another revolution in France. Siding with Sarkozy are free-market doctors, among them a gynecologist who correctly points out that the local clinic — not the large hospital model — is the way forward for health, particularly in rural areas. Philippe Herlin, an economist, says that although Sarkozy hasn’t been perfect, his economic plan still makes sense. In any event, he finds it superior to Hollande’s, which intends to penalise those earning over €1m with a 75% basic tax rate. Herlin calls this ‘social racism’.

Perhaps M. Herlin took his cue from The Economist, which called Hollande ‘rather dangerous’, a position the newspaper defended by saying they have endorsed both right- and left-wing candidates. Atlantico predicts that more French will be migrating to Britain if Hollande wins. They note that some of the wealthiest moved to Britain several years ago for more favourable taxes; this time around, enterprising entrepreneurs might follow.

Tonight (May 2) France2 will broadcast a two-hour debate between the two candidates. Last week’s press interview featured Sarkozy and Hollande separately at the latter’s request. Atlantico‘s survey showed that 50% of voters found Sarkozy convincing; only 36% plumped for ‘Flamby’, although he still leads in the polls by several points.

An Ifop-Marianne poll which appeared in Le Parisien claims that the newspaper’s readership most closely reflects the French electorate: in the first round on April 22, 28% voted for Hollande, 26% for Sarkozy and 17% for Le Pen. Among radio stations, the poll showed that RMC most closely represented French voters: 26% voted Hollande, 23% Sarkozy and 24% Le Pen. 33% of Le Pen voters polled listen to NRJ, which features French popular music.

Then there is the Muslim vote. From Switzerland, the radical cleric Tariq Ramadan (expelled from France several years ago, pre-Sarkozy) recommended a vote ‘to defeat Sarkozy’, as the Grandes Gueules reported on RMC last week. The media inferred that Ramadan implied a vote for Hollande, although the cleric says that he named no one in particular. The blog Tout Sauf Hollande (Anyone But Hollande) has details of Muslim support as well as a video from YouTube — of the PS candidate courting the poor suburban vote. Hollande’s team was careful to show a diverse mix of voters and youthful supporters.

The election might be closer than conventional polls suggest. Electionscope says that Sarkozy could win with 50.2% of the vote. They claim to use older models for their survey results, not the recent ‘Left-weighted’ polling methods.

Let’s hope they are right, if only for the sake of stability. Yesterday, Sarkozy said on RMC that he has a successful life not because of politics but thanks to his family and the tendency over time to become less excitable.

If Hollande wins, it will be because of the emotional — at times over the top — discourse and accusations from the leftist media. This will no doubt escalate prior to the Parliamentary elections in June.