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Incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy Comes Second in French Presidential Election First Round, to Face Francois Hollande in Run-off

Posted on the 23 April 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy comes second in French presidential election first round, to face Francois Hollande in run-off

France goes to the polls photo: jugglerpm

French President Nicolas Sarkozy took second place in the first round of the presidential elections on Sunday – the first time in fifty years an incumbent has failed to win. First place went to socialist Francois Hollande, who has been riding high in the polls.

In the biggest surprise of the night, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen of the Front National took 18 percent of the vote for a strong third-place finish.

Confused about the French presidential candidates? Check out The Periscope Post’s handy guide.

What happens now? As nobody secured an absolute majority in the first round, the top two candidates, Sarkozy and Hollande, will go head-to-head in a run-off vote on 6 May. Most political commentators agree that Sarkozy’s hope of victory rests in winning over Le Pen’s voters. “He has no choice but to try and conquer back those voters who had voted for him five years ago and now opted for the extreme right,” wrote Christine Ockrent on The Guardian’s Comment is Free. “Immigration, security, protectionism: the conservative candidate will have to stick to rhetoric similar to the Front National to find a rebound.” However, Charles Bremmer reported for The Times (£) that some Sarkozy advisers are quite rightly questioning the wisdom of focusing on Front National voters at the expense of moderates.

What are the real issues influencing French voters? The Periscope Post gives you the lowdown on the main topics of conversation.

Sarkozy under pressure. “Polls taken Sunday evening find Hollande winning the May 6 contest with scores ranging from 53% to 56%,” reported Bruce Crumley for Time. Part of Sarkozy’s problem is that he has opted to concentrate “virtually all decision-making power within the Elysée”, which means he cannot blame the government for policy failures: “That has left Sarkozy alone in the cross-hairs of French voters weary of sluggish economic results, rising unemployment, austerity cures to a debt crisis critics say Sarkozy created during his five year tenure,” Crumley said.

Le Figaro provided an interactive map of the French presidential election first-round results.

What does Le Pen result mean? According to Reuters, Le Pen’s third-place finish gives her “a solid base to move forward on her core targets – June’s parliamentary election and, in the longer-term, the 2017 presidential race”. But Tim Stanley played down the extreme-right candidate’s “victory” in The Telegraph: “Given how far France has shifted to the Right on immigration, it is surprising that Marine didn’t do any better. Yes, she attracted 20 percent of Frenchmen to vote for her. But she simultaneously alienated 80 percent at the very moment when her message was part of the national agenda.”

Twitter rebellion. Under French election laws, making public predictions about the result before the polls close is punishable by a large fine. But as France24 reported, Twitter users got round the ban by using code words, under the #radiolondres hashtag: “Incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy became either Tokaji wine which, like his father, comes from Hungary, or Rolex because of his perceived ‘bling-bling’ lifestyle.” Hollande was Gouda cheese, while Le Pen was “associated with the names of totalitarian regimes or rodents”.

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