The polls show a tightening race between the incumbent French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the current favorite French Socialist Francois Hollande and they are in a virtual tie on the first ballot with 30%.
When the French are asked about their second ballot opinion, the race is still Hollande’s to lose. He will mop up voters whose candidates are eliminated after the first round from the center to the far left while Marine Le Pen of the far right National Front can be expected to instruct her voters not to vote for Sarkozy in the second round. Without capturing the bulk of that vote, Sarkozy does not have a chance in the second round.
Sarkozy, however, at least knows that he won’t be embarrassed like former Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin was in the 2002 elections ,when a split in the ranks of the left allowed Jean Marie Le Pen, Marine’s father, to eliminate him after the first ballot.
As Sarkozy has regained some strength, he is now doubling Marine Le Pen’s score. A couple of months ago they were running neck and neck, making the possibility of an electoral shock realistic. Sarkozy has benefited from the financial crisis, even though investors are not waiting for an investment house downgrade to pummel French debt.
Le Pen has also suffered from the assumption that it is going to be a two man race and therefore she has not received the attention due her. Her attempt to establish her foreign policy credentials by visiting Washington and meeting with congressmen ended in failure as congressmen shunned her.
She has therefore sought to make a splash with policy statements that no one is going to ignore.
First is that under a Le Pen presidency France will abandon the Euro that has eviscerated French industry and is responsible for the “Himalaya of debt” that France has accumulated. Here she is competing with the antiglobalization sentiment that is prevalent on both the right and the left.
The second Le Pen initiative is the restoration of the death penalty abolished in 1981. This is an attempt to solidify Le Pen’s image as the law and order candidate.
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