France will decide between incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy, of the center-right UMP (Union pour Movement Populaire), and Socialiste François Hollande in the presidential election run-offs on Sunday, 6 May. The two candidates emerged victorious from a surprising first round of voting two weeks ago, which saw the the far-right Front National’s Marine Le Pen securing nearly 18 percent of the vote.
Sarkozy and Hollande squared off in an televised debate on Wednesday night that revealed primarily that the two men “really, truly loathe” each other, as Mary Dejevsky noted at The Independent. Now, both are pulling out all the stops to woo the undecided, as well as those far right voters who came out in force two weeks ago; Sarkozy was dealt a blow earlier this week when Le Pen refused to endorse him.
But as it comes down to the wire, what is the commentariat saying?
How close will it be?
The majority of commentators are expecting Hollande to hold onto his current lead. The BBC’s graphic demonstrates that the socialist is ahead of Sarkozy in the most recent polls by around 6 percent. If these predictions translate into results, the BBC’s Hugh Schofield pointed out, that will make Sarkozy the first President since 1981 not to win a second term. However, the result may be closer than expected, Professor Dominique Reynié, director of the influential Paris-based thinktank Fondapol, the Foundation for Political Innovation, told The Guardian, while at The Telegraph Anne-Elisabeth Moutet noted that “neither candidate is in fact a shoo-in”.
Why everyone expects Sarkozy to go
Sarkozy has not been popular for a long time, nor has the precarious European economy helped him out much. The infamous French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo’s front cover this week was an image of Sarkozy about to be flicked away by a giant hand, as well as a series of cartoons entitled “10 reasons not to vote Sarkozy”, which included “l’austerite” (austerity) and his ill effects on education. His departure seems assured: Satirical Brain magazine have created a viral video montage entitled ‘Nicolas Sarkozy: je suis venu pour vous dire que je m’en vais’ (“I’ve come to tell you I’m leaving”).
The case against Hollande
Critics mostly cite Hollande’s lack of experience, as well as his anti-austerity socialist values. Grainne McCarthy of The Wall Street Journal described Hollande as “a career politician who has never held a government post”, while Reuter’s Peter Gumbel questioned whether Hollande would have the ability to “put in place lasting structural improvements”. The Economist goes further, declaring that Hollande would be “bad for his country and Europe”: His election would nullify the cozy relationship between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Sarkozy, weakening the “Franco-German motor that drives the European Union”.
What could President Hollande mean for Europe?
The Guardian‘s Ian Traynor claimed that election for Hollande would trigger “a sea change in European politics at a time of crisis” — with a President Hollande acting as a “tonic”; with a Sarkozy re-election, expect just more of the same. And, contrary to the gloom and doom prophesied by The Economist, Hollande’s election won’t precipitate France or Europe’s collapse, said Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff at the Christian Science Monitor: That “battle royale” between Hollande and Merkel over austerity most expect may be “something more like a subtle adjustment.”
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