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The Shadow of the Olive Tree

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08 March 2007 Blog Home : March 2007 : Permalink

French Presidential News

After months of tedious predictability things are hotting up and becoming slightly more exciting. The most likely scenario remains President Sarkozy but the Airbus woes could hurt him and the emergences of Bayrou as a viable alternative in the middle means that choosing between Sarko and Sego is no longer the only game in town.

For those that care it seems that, despite the kind words by Sarko, the loony fringe candidates (i.e. Le Pen and far-left Communist Revolutionary League leader Olivier Besancenot) may still be out of luck when it comes to getting the required signatures from mayors that allow them to stand as candidates. The BBC reports on that and on the enterprising mayor who has put his signature up for auction. As the BBC noted in the first article linked Sarko probably isn't being entirely altruistic in this case:

... Mr Sarkozy's gesture may not be quite so altruistic as it seems - if the National Front is not represented in the elections next month, he will be forced to shift his own position to the right. That would alienate some supporters and give more ground to Mr Bayrou.

I think it goes beyond that however. Sarko needs to get some traction with the far right and there have been distinct rumours that his party, the UMP, has been behind some of the pressure put on mayors not to put their names down for Le Pen. This could lead to a backlash if Le Pen fails to get the signatures with far right voters deciding to either stay at home or vote for someone other than Sarko, who otherwise should be their favoured 2nd choice after Le Pen. However Sarko also benefits from seeing more loopy lefty candidates because they can help destabilize the Sego campaign by making populist statements that she will feel bound to echo to keep her place as a standard bearer of the left but which may end up alienating the more centrist voters. Of course given Sarko's publically voiced desire for Le Pen to stand if Le Pen doesn't stand then Sarko should gain most of Le Pen's voters because he has shown himself to be more sympathetic than anyone else. In other words this public statement is basically a Win-Win-Win for Sarko in terms of gaming the system.

For Sego however the problem seems to be too much money. Or rather havnig assets which you have deliberately undervalued apparently to avoid taxation. I'm not sure that this story has much staying power as the French are sufficiently cynical about their leaders as to expect this kind of thing, however it could annoy a few people. It is worth noting that the Mougins house appears to be at least Ms Royal's third house as she has one in Paris and one in the region she is president of, Poitou-Charentes (which is nowhere near Mougins).

The other breaking news though is that the "centrist" François Bayrou is catching up with the front-runners in the opinion polls (Bayrou 21%, Royal 24%, Sarko 29%, Le Pen 13%). This is unlikely to last as Bayrou seems to have been doing far more campaigning and getting far more coverage than the other two on French TV recently. The TV coverage is, I think, due to guilt from the TV stations that their apparent plan to ignore Mr Bayrou had been rumbled and mentioned. I suspect that once TV coverage returns to a more balanced form his support will slip a bit. On the other hand if Royal manages to make more mistakes Bayrou is likely to pick up votes from the saner parts of the left and thus could edge Royal for the number 2 spot. I think it is unlikely that (assuming he gets his signatures) Le Pen will be able to repeat his 2002 trick of coming second but I think it is no longer as certain as it once seemed that Sego will come second. And in a Bayrou-Sarko second round it is entirely possible that Sarko will lose, although I have yet to see any opinion polls asking that question.

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin