On Sunday, France will elect its leader for the next five years. Unlike the last two presidential campaigns, this one has proven to be particularly lacking in enthusiasm, and does not convey much hope. Voters will now have to choose between Nicolas Sarkozy, the right-wing incumbent, and the center-left candidate François Hollande. Polls have consistently predicted a victory for Hollande, but as the first round of voting has shown, forecasts can be quite wrong. Both candidates have had drastically different strategies. In an attempt to recreate the momentum of his 2007 campaign, Sarkozy has once again used language that he believes will rally far-right voters to his cause. Hollande has played the card of the “normal” president, who is composed and rational.
Interestingly enough, various politicians and former ministers from Sarkozy’s party have said they would vote for Hollande, further emphasising the widespread sentiment that the president’s reign has come to an end. I believe it would be a mistake to completely dismiss Sarkozy’s chances of a second mandate. Data has shown that more than 20% of voters make a decision only once inside the polling booth and the televised debate that will see the two candidates oppose each other on May 2 can also further influence the vote.
Another mistake would be to consider that Hollande’s victory will trigger an even larger economic crisis in Europe, or that his presidency would somehow embark France on a radically socialist agenda. Coming from the same mould as the majority of French politicians, Hollande is not a novice and if victorious, he will aim to secure trust, and compromise with his closest partners, especially Germany.
This leaves us with the problem of the xenophobic and reactionary far-right party of Marine Le Pen. Having secured an incredibly good score last week (more than six million people voted for her party), her aim now is to have a substantial number of MPs after the June parliamentary elections. If successful, she will unfortunately manage to solidly anchor her movement and ideas in the French political sphere.
It is also unclear whether Madame Le Pen’s voters will massively support Sarkozy; polls have shown that many of them are disillusioned partisans of the left that could switch again.
Overall, the French public seems to be saying one thing: François Hollande is not the perfect candidate for the job, but we are fed up with Nicolas Sarkozy.