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France: It's Sarkozy vs. Royal

French voters turned out in droves for Sunday's presidential election, but the high number of voters didn't affect the expected results: Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal advanced to a second round of voting.

Sarkozy, who hails from the same center-right party as outgoing President Jacques Chirac, led the 12-way field with 30 percent. Royal, a relatively new face on the political scene, took 25 percent. Francois Bayrou, who had called for an end to the right-left ideological division in the country's politics, took 18 percent, while rightist candidate Jean Marie Le-Pen garnered 11 percent. Turnout was estimated as high as 80 percent.

Sarkozy and Royal began the contest as the most likely to advance to the second round of voting on May 6, and despite several notable stumbles -- especially on Royal's part -- managed to fulfill their early promise. European newspapers are already painting the Sarkozy-Royal matchup as a choice with major implications for the future of the country. Both candidates have preached reform but Sarkozy is seen as the more radical reformer -- even extolling an American work ethic and way of life.

For more analysis on what happened Sunday and what it means, make sure to check out the German Marshall Fund's blog penned by Paris resident Amaya Bloch-Laine.

We won't be regularly updating on the French elections but do plan to keep and eye on it as May 6 approaches.

By Chris Cillizza  |  April 22, 2007; 6:56 PM ET
Categories:  Odds and Ends  
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Posted by: p8sbto9r9a | May 8, 2007 9:27 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: yaafibdqsd | May 8, 2007 9:25 PM | Report abuse

The leftist French translator doing the simultaneous translating of the Sarko - Royal debate for US viewers intentionally so grossly and so outrageously mistranslated Sarkozy to make Sarko look as bad as possible. He was promptly (the next day)fired from the Second (leftist) French channel who had hired him after massive complaints from expatriate French viewers who caught on to the manipulations.

Posted by: sara saint helen | May 7, 2007 7:39 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: w8vr1s6l96 | May 7, 2007 12:30 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: fjtw1t3k91 | May 7, 2007 12:20 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: JAZZY | May 5, 2007 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Last night I watched the debate -- Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal. Not being a fluent French speaker, I picked up points here and there, but mostly I paid attention to their body language. One thing became extraordinarily clear, there is fear afoot. So for a few hours last night, I looked to see which candidate I would want to see representing a country my family now calls home.

On one hand there is Ségolène Royal representing the socialist party. Socialism, a socio-economic system in which property and the distribution of wealth are subject to control by the community (wikipedia), seems like a great idea. However, I still cannot figure out why a number of people I know very well, and believe in the socialists way, do not feel as though corporations are part of the community too. I have to divert for a moment...

Unless I have my translation totally off (which wouldn't surprise me) Ms. Royal was demanding government programs be put into place such as policemen walking women home at night to remain safe. Of course, an immediate solution came my mind -- the government should encourage BNP Paribas to sponsor a paid group of ex-convicts who would wear these fabulous looking gas station attendant type jump suits, inspired by the famous French rap star K-Mel and designed by Christian Dior with the BNP logo and a tag line: "Keeping You and Your Money Safe" to walk these ladies (or anyone else who might feel fearful) home. A win:win:win:win:win for everyone. It is run privately, gives ex-convicts jobs, gives the convicts an outfit they feel proud to wear, generates a powerful message for BNP, no taxpayers need to flip the bill and who would want to mug someone walking around with an ex-con -- all people are safe. Ah, is this the capitalist in me -- OR the socialist in me as all of these people involved in this plan are a part of the French community! Why is it I feel as though Ms. Royal seems so fearful and so angry towards big business? They are part of the community too. Sorry for the segue.

On the other had there is Nicolas Sarkozy, representing the right-wing party (a more capitalist and conservative approach). Mr. Sarkozy at times raised his voice but mostly kept his cool. I believe I would feel less worried with him being across the negotiating table with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong Il.

Over 10 years ago I heard Neale Donald Walsh say "Anger is Fear Announced". At first I thought this was not 100% true until I read the book "The Gift of Fear" by Gavin De Becker and all datapoints I have observed over the past 10 years have proved the statement true. So whenever I see someone who is angry, I ask them or myself, "where is the fear"? It is always there. It can be the fear of not being strong, fear of ridicule, fear of losing, fear of being hurt, fear of looking stupid, etc. etc. The list is long but oh so clear. Anger is a natural reaction of an animal of fear. And, if you are across the table from someone else who is angry and fearful how can you possibly diffuse the fear in them if you are fearful yourself. How can constructive talks about peace and reform take place if both parties are butting heads?

I recently went to Monkey Mountain in Thailand. There my family came front and center with animal anger and fear. My three year old, Alexia, held out a banana for one monkey, when it came too near she shrieked. The monkey got angry as it thought Alexia was about to fight her. Unfortunately the monkey struck first and attacked her. She was ok, very shaken, but not hurt. Anger is an animal's way of defending itself. Look angry and scary and perhaps the other animal will back down and you will not get hurt or die. Why do we forget we are animals as well. Scared of being hurt, in one way or another, and afraid to admit it. Coaching can help.

Getting back to our friends, Ms. Royal and Mr. Sarkozy. Both of them need a coach. They need a coach in order to understand their fears so they can address them head on so these fears do not come out as anger. They also need listening skills. They both come from a place of "listen to me, I know" -- a serious fault of most politicians these days. Perhaps I should send them a little email recommending services :-).

Posted by: Janice Gjertsen-Caillet, CEO | May 3, 2007 8:03 AM | Report abuse

A candidate whose stands on issues are as poorly thought through, knee-jerk reactionary, vague and wishy-washy as Madame Royal's does not do justice to her electorate.

Posted by: sara saint helen | May 3, 2007 4:55 AM | Report abuse

A candidate whose stands on issues are as poorly thought through, knee-jerk reactionary, vague and wishy-washy as Madame Royal's does not do justice to her electorate.

Posted by: dent34 | May 3, 2007 4:53 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: p44km0c0pz | April 30, 2007 5:47 PM | Report abuse

But Im not comparing Buchanan and Guliani! If anything, sarko is the french version of dick cheney... The Human rights league came out with a report today on sarko's very disturbing tenure as minister of the interior, and analaysed the troubling similarities with Le pen's own program, labeling his past work and his presential program a threat to democracy.

Posted by: Seb | April 26, 2007 5:42 PM | Report abuse

"What do you mean, 'a relatively new face?'"

Sure, Royal was already in the government more than 15 ago but she can be seen as a relatively new "forefront" face. Until the last two years, the socialist forefront faces (aka "elephants") were Laurent Fabius, Mitterrand's poltical heir, Lionel Jospin, the former PM, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a social democrat, and even Francois Hollande, who is in charge of the socialist party and is sharing mrs Royal's life.
Since they were seen as the likely candidates, Segolene Royal could be seen as a relatively new face when she decided to run.
Thats's how I understand what CC meant.

Seb, I really don't agree with you. Would you compare Pat Buchanan with Rudy Giuliani? Do you think it was a good idea to let Le Pen get all the ballots he had? Sarkozy wants to kill Le Pen's Front National in the same way that Mitterrand killed the Communist Party. You can dislike his ideas, but they are no threat at all to democracy.

Posted by: Pierre | April 25, 2007 5:16 AM | Report abuse

Royal, Royal, a relatively new face on the political scene, took 25 percent.?????

What do you mean, 'a relatively new face?'

She first served as junior minister under her erstwhile mentor, Socialist President François Mitterand.

Ségolène Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy (hopefully the future president of the French Republic) are at par with each other when it comes to presence on the national political scene.

Do you think that being at the forefront of national politics for more than 20 years is 'relatively new?'

Posted by: HILLBLOGGER3 | April 24, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Au contraire.
One of the reasons why Lepen did poorly this time round was that some of his electorat was convinced by sarkozy's ideas, which, I remind you, are tough on immigration. Many political commentators have dissected this. sarkozy is no way a center-right candidate, his ideas are extremely conservative. Le pen even admitted that many of his ideas were taken forth by "other candidates" hint hint. Whether sarko likes it or not, he is pretty close to the nationalist right.

Posted by: Seb | April 24, 2007 2:10 PM | Report abuse

There's absolutely nothing in common between 2002 and 2007 since Sarkozy has nothing to do with Le Pen.
How can you compare them?

Posted by: Pierre | April 24, 2007 4:04 AM | Report abuse

I am saddened by the much more remote possibility of cohabitation occurring due to the reforms a few years back that synchronized the French election cycle for the legislature and presidency. It was a neat, intriguing, instructive and controversial quirk among democracies. The French system truly is unique in the world: it is predicated upon the concept of a 'dynamic presidency' where the role and power of the incumbent president changes according to the will of the people. Should the president and legislature ever represent opposing parties, power sharing ensues by virtue of the president having to appoint an opposition leader to the office of premier, to whom he also must cede leadership of many domestic issues. In our nation's system, the role and constitutionally prescribed powers of the presidency are independent of the result of mid-term elections. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a prime minster whose party loses his legislative majorities, simply loses his job, end of story! Anyway, while poly-scientists disagree upon the efficacy and desirability of a system such as France's, I have always been intrigued by it. Maybe the winner of this upcoming election will yet have to endure cohabitation in the future if French voters develop more of an affinity for split ticket voting like we Americans!

Posted by: Too bad that France has synchronized their legislative and presidential elections | April 23, 2007 8:36 PM | Report abuse

I do know what im talking about. Its the exact same problem that was exposed in 2002 against Lepen when he reached the 2nd round, as everyone saw that it was the-sit-back-and-watch-mentality that allowed him to be there in the 1rst place.

Posted by: Seb | April 23, 2007 8:05 PM | Report abuse

"refusing an alliance would do considerable damage to Bayrou's political future, as he will be branded as the man who sat by and did nothing while sarko was elected."

It's really pathetic. Try to know what you're talking about.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2007 5:04 PM | Report abuse

refusing an alliance would do considerable damage to Bayrou's political future, as he will be branded as the man who sat by and did nothing while sarko was elected.

Posted by: Seb | April 23, 2007 4:30 PM | Report abuse

"This is one reason why i'd have to disagree w/ Mr. Hubbard: a fully mobilized PS was still 5 points behind Sarko."

But it was still the highest PS first-round showing since Mitterand in 1988: even with Jospin's fate in 2002 hanging over the left, it's traditionally more splintered than the right. (It'll be interesting to see if the pollsters can gauge whether the FN's vote just withered away or leaked towards Sarkozy, even as the centre-right leaked to Bayrou.)

Speaking of Bayrou, the chatter about a UDF-PS alliance for the parliamentary election may increase in order to woo his support. Paradoxically, I think this might worsen Ségo's slim (but real) chance of an upset, because it'll be the older generation of PS nabobs doing the talking.

Posted by: Nick S | April 23, 2007 2:32 PM | Report abuse

One of the most interesting parts of Royal's first-round victory is that women could potentially lead the two largest countries in continental Europe! Although I think she's a bit of a longshot against Sarkozy, she does stand a fair chance.

Along with women leaders elected in South America, this potential trend has to give a boost to Hillary on the Democratic side, and, umm, no one on the Republican side.

Posted by: pacman | April 23, 2007 1:19 PM | Report abuse

The unprecedented turnout is likely related to the left's desire to avoid the Socialist Party's disastrous showing in 2002 (in which LePen outpoled Jospin). This is one reason why i'd have to disagree w/ Mr. Hubbard: a fully mobilized PS was still 5 points behind Sarko. assuming Sarko gets at least 80% of the LePen vote and 50% of Bayrou vote (logical assumptions) the numbers are in his favor. Bayrou incidentally will NOT endorse a candidate (the only scenario i could think of is if Royale were to offer him the Prime Miinster's office...) And btw Aussie, a Bayrou victory would have been a disastor for France - his party is much too marginal to have had any chance of effectively governing, although you're absolutely correct - he would have won the 2nd round...

Posted by: Alexis | April 23, 2007 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Pretty underwelming response to the two blogs about the French elections, which I think is a bit disappointing. I genuinely don't want to pick a fight here, but is it fair to say that most Americans don't care what happens outside of US borders unless they are directly affected?

Anyway, thankyou CC, I thought it was a welcome diversion and I hope we can return to the topic closer to the date of the runoff. Judging by some of the posters here, this won't be as easy to predict as the first round was. In a way I would've liked Bayrou to be in the runoff vote instead of Royal because then he would've had the whole of the left to himself...some of Sarkozy's rhetoric does worry me and I'd be happy if he doesn't win.

Posted by: Aussie view | April 23, 2007 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Their campaign was relatively short, kudos the French. The Americans should learn something, what do we gain from having this horribly expensive campaigns drag on two years?

Posted by: ConsDemo | April 23, 2007 9:03 AM | Report abuse

to vanderleun:

Bayrou will endorse nobody. The thing is, the constituency who voted for him yesterday is not his constituency. Alone, he's nothing ; he did a clever campaign by attracting the center-right voters disgusted by Sarkozy's seduction of Le Pen's electors, and the center-left voters disappointed by the choice of Royal. It's not as if he's a communist leader followed with discipline by his voters ; his voters will be split in two (or in 60% Royal - 40%M Sarko, I think) no matter what he says, so he'll almost certainly keep quiet. The real question for Bayrou is now "how will I manage to keep on existing after May 7th, and especially for next June's parliament election?"
His deputies at the Assemblée Nationale (the lower House) will push him to rally the winner of the 2nd round, most probably Sarkozy with whom they feel more confortable, because otherwise (i.e. with no agreement on electoral district split), given the poll system in parliamentary election, they'll get no seat. But Bayrou will only do so after the 2nd round, especially since his 18% might now allow him to have a few token ministers in a Sarko-led or Royal-led cabinet. He HAS to play smoothly.

Posted by: jouflu | April 23, 2007 5:44 AM | Report abuse

Oh God, how good it feels...

Yesterday, we came to the ballot boxes in almost unprecendented turnout. We punished Le Pen by giving him his worst figures since before 1988. We ignored the trostkyites, the communists, the law-and-order anti-muslim pro-church candidate De Villiers. We proved we were a civic, grown up community of people dedicated to the improvement of their future. You cannot realise how good it feels, after the nightmere of 2002, the "No" to the European Constitution, the agony of Chirac.
The French are still wary, but we proved yesterday that we hadn't lost our capacity to believe, and to trust mainstream candidates. No let's hope they'll understand the huge responsibility that they've been entrusted with.
Even though the candidate I voted for, Royal, will struggle to win the 2nd round because of yesterday's figures, there is a clear sigh of hope in this 1st round...

Posted by: jouflu | April 23, 2007 5:34 AM | Report abuse

Once upon a time, in another century, i another country, two teams of senators went to Vietnam on two separate fact finding missions. On their return to Washington they testified before the same comittee. Their reports were so divergent that at one point, thechairman exclaimed "Gentlemen, are we talking about the same country ?"
Reading some comments on France I am often tempted to ask the same question

Posted by: Bodiansky | April 23, 2007 5:07 AM | Report abuse

I live in France, and my views are perhaps skewed by working in an academic environment, almost entirely left-wing, and living in a mainly Arab neighborhood.

Despite the polls, I would put my money on Royal. Sarkozy will undoubtedly get most of the Le Pen vote, bringing him up to 41%. And Royal will, with much less effort, get most of the far-left vote, bringing her up to around 39%.

Of course, the big question is to know how much of the Bayrou vote Sarkozy will get, and I would guess "not much", as those voters are primarily voting for a conciliator, and by no stretch of the imagination could Sarkozy come across as anything but the nastiest sort of divider. Of course, If Bayrou endorses Sarkozy, he will win, but if Bayrou endorses Royal, as I expect, perhaps in exchange for the prime-ministership, then I think she will win.

Posted by: John Hubbard | April 23, 2007 2:54 AM | Report abuse

In the next two weeks, you'll find that certain elements in France will supply the inflammatory material.

Posted by: vanderleun | April 23, 2007 2:31 AM | Report abuse

Les Guignols d'Info have cast Sego and Sarko as Snow White and the Angry Dwarf. Both caricatures are fair.

If I were forced to put money on the outcome, it'd have to go towards Sarko, but the turnout numbers and the surge in registration may complicate predictions. One thing's for certain: Sego needs two weeks without saying something dumb, and Sarko needs two weeks without saying something inflammatory.

Posted by: Nick S | April 23, 2007 1:02 AM | Report abuse

It will be interesting to see what happens with the runoff. One thing that Sarkozy is able to inspire is the kind of visceral hatred from his opponents that Bush does in the US. I've seen really hateful graffiti against him on the Paris metro, while Royal gets a much kinder treatment from the vandal-minded. It really seems that Sarkozy is a true divide and conquer type of politician that will represent HIS faction and no one else. I hope I'm wrong because, as we have seen here in the US, the price of having such a leader is huge for society as a whole. Much of my contact in France extends to the Muslim community and they hate Sarkozy with an intense passion. I don't have feelings one way or the other for Royal, but if Sarkozy wins, I predict riots that exceed those of 2005. Worse still if he tries to turn France toward the US version of capitalism and job security.

Posted by: wharris | April 23, 2007 12:27 AM | Report abuse

All the "left-of-the-left" candidats (Besancenot, Laguiller, Bove, Buffet) as well as the Greens have already pledged tu support Mrs. Royal for the 2nd round. This should give her more maneuvring room as she can look towards the center voters that voted for Bayrou.

These candidats have pretty much accepted that Mrs. Royale needs to attract as many centrist voters as possible to stop Sarkozy, who will have to attract both the far right and the center.

Although Segolene came out 2nd, I definitely think that the presidential post is still very much open.

Posted by: Seb | April 22, 2007 11:45 PM | Report abuse

Chris, although I don't expect the "regular updates" on France, I do appreciate the sheer inclusion of this contest on the Fix. After all, there was something new to talk about during the weekend!

Posted by: jojo | April 22, 2007 11:41 PM | Report abuse

"an 85% turnout indicates more than anything else that they don't want it to continue to drift Left."

A big ol' non sequitur from Gerard there, who seems to want to make the thread his own little echo chamber. Quel surprise.

If there's anything to be drawn from the turnout, it's that it reverses the experience of 2002, in which abstention as an expression of dissatisfaction with the status quo presented the electorate with a choice between the status quo and something worse. This time, they knew their votes counted.

(Who was M. le president in 2003? The Left? And who has been registering to vote? Gosh, those aren't hard questions.)

As Le Monde notes, both candidates now face interesting tightropes to appeal to the supporters of other candidates. Sarkozy will presumably hope that Le Pen's 11 per cent will show up for him: he can't campaign for those votes without alienating Bayrou's 18 per cent. Royal faces a similar problem with the supporters of the 'dwarfs of the left'. And the man in France's most photographed tractor can swing the outcome.

Posted by: Nick S | April 22, 2007 11:16 PM | Report abuse

"Royal, a relatively new face on the political scene."

Sorry to monopolize this thread, but again the quickest check of the Wikipedia entry on Royal shows that there's nothing "new" about her face on the scene.

She's been, for example, "a deputy in the National Assembly for the Deux-Sèvres département (1988-1992, 1993-1997, 2002-)."

She was "she was the minister of Environment under Pierre Bérégovoy from 1992 to 1993, she failed to be elected mayor of Niort against the incumbent Socialist who ran as an Independent when she received the nomination. She first considered a run for President during the Socialist Party's primaries for the 1995 elections but decided against it because only heavyweights were running.[citation needed] When the Left won the 1997 legislative election, she stood for the presidency of the National Assembly; "

There' more, much more, at....égolène_Royal#Political_career

Posted by: vanderleun | April 22, 2007 10:14 PM | Report abuse

More clueless comments from the American media (this time the Wapo itself...):

"The huge turnout also underscored voter enthusiasm for the more modern, personality-driven, American-style campaigns to replace outgoing two-term President Jacques Chirac."

Where the heck do they get that obsession from?

Posted by: superfrenchie | April 22, 2007 10:12 PM | Report abuse

" Both candidates have preached reform but Sarkozy is seen as the more radical reformer -- even extolling an American work ethic and way of life."

Let's be a little clearer about that. Sarkozy is seen as "radical" because he would reverse many Leftist policies of recent decades. He is clearly to the Right.

Royal is firmly in the Left/Liberal camp and would extend Leftist policies.

The election is a referendum on the direction most of the French want to see their country go. And an 85% turnout indicates more than anything else that they don't want it to continue to drift Left.

Posted by: vanderleun | April 22, 2007 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Considering your belief in a race too close to call of yesterday, it is not surprising that you won't be updating further. You gotta be careful when reading the Washington Post for your poll info. Could be way off.

Posted by: Vanderleun | April 22, 2007 10:04 PM | Report abuse

Chris: turnout is actually closer to 85%!

The French election from a Frenchie's point of view:

Posted by: superfrenchie | April 22, 2007 8:26 PM | Report abuse

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