L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

18 April 2007 Blog Home : April 2007 : Permalink

The Sarko Referendum Approaches

The opinion polls are becoming more confused, the media is getting more excited and the voters are probably getting more confused but round one of the referendum on whether France wants Sarkozy as president is approaching. For those of my readers who haven't got all the background, EURSOC, in addition to its own commentry, links to this excellent and lengthy New Yorker piece about the major candidates. As I have said before Sarko is far from perfect. He is not going to noticeably reduce the size or impact of the French state on its citizens - he may prune parts of it but he is highly unlikely to perform major surgery - and he is unlikely to produce major economic reform. However it is certain that, unlike Chirac, Mitterand or any of the other candidates in 2007, he is going to be an active, possibly hyperactive, president.

The question is whether a majority of French voters want such an active president. When it was Sego vs Sarko the choice was clear. Even in the mess of polls in recent days it is clear that in a second round contest Sarko beats Sego. He also, for what it is worth, beats Le Pen. The problem is whether one of those two are the other front runner in the second round. It is possible the Sarko will not make it to round two but I think it unlikely. The general unity of the "right" and the fractiousness of the "left" mean that it is unlikley that he will come third in Sunday's election. Having said that I agree with Simon Heffer (H/t the EU Referendum blog) that

Th[e voters], however, may yet cast their votes in a way that makes a mockery of the current opinion poll findings, and deliver an entirely unpredictable outcome to what has been an entirely (and, for those concerned, often frustratingly) unpredictable election.

To go back to Sarko or not. At the first round he merely needs more than about a quarter of the vote to be sure of getting through to round two. Let me explain: Le Pen and the loony left fringe candidates combined will get around 25% of the votes cast. This means that the remaining 75% or so will be split between Sarko, Sego and Bayrou. If he gets more than a third of that amount (i.e. more than 25% of the total) he will be in at least second place and hence able to go through to round two.

Assuming the opinion polls are not utter fantasy this should be easy. Sarko has been the front runner in the first round for months and has never been below about 27-28% support. Most of the polls put him higher and there seems to be some evidence that some of the undecided voters are actually Sarko supporters who are embarassed to admit it - similar to the way that English voters lied about their suppport for Mrs T. Although it is also worth noting tat Simon Heffer points out that Le Pen may also see a rise in actual votes at Sarko's expense for much the same reason.

All this first round will prove though is that Sarko is acceptable to between a quarter and  a third of the voters. It is the second round where the real referendum starts. In round two he needs to attract the 13-15% of the electorate who will probably vote for Le Pen as well as some other votes. This is where the question of the other runner is key. If Sego is the other candidate than he is safe because her vacuity scares a lot of people but that is not the case for Bayrou. Given a choice of Bayrou or Sarko we've seen a lot of polls that show that Sarko gets about 45% of the vote (i.e. his own ~30% plus Le Pen's 15%) and Bayrou gets everyone else.

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin