………………………………………….. on 21 April 2012 …………………………………………
France’s presidential candidates observed a one-day truce today on the eve of a first-round vote expected to send President Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist challenger Francois Hollande through to next month’s runoff.
Final polls before a mandatory media blackout on campaigning from midnight on Friday showed Mr Hollande narrowly ahead of the conservative leader for tomorrow ‘s first-round vote but the comfortable winner of the second round on May 6.
Voting began today in French overseas territories, including the north Atlantic islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon just off the coast of Canada.
Many of the 44.5 million registered voters have complained about a lacklustre campaign, and the prospect of a record abstention looms over tomorrow’s vote in mainland France. On the streets of Paris, disappointed voters said the main candidates had ignored the pressing challenges facing their country, including unemployment running at a 12-year high and gloomy economic prospects.
“The campaign has not been serious enough. The important issues have not been discussed,” said Frederic Le Fevre, a self-employed businessman. “They’ve focused on childish arguments, throwing blame at each other.”
Candidates argued for weeks about halal meat and the cost of a driving licence. Even the leading contenders tried to win the limelight with largely symbolic proposals, like Mr Hollande’s plan to scrap the word “race” from the constitution and Mr Sarkozy’s offer to bring monthly pension payments forward by eight days.
An Ifop poll in early April suggested that 32 per cent of registered voters might not bother to vote in the first round. Mr Hollande, mindful of an upset in 2002 when far-right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen knocked out Socialist Lionel Jospin in the first round amid the highest-ever abstention rate, warned supporters against complacency at a closing rally yesterday.
“It’s the sixth of May when we will have a president but April 22 will decide the dynamic one way or another,” he said.
After trailing Mr Hollande for months, Mr Sarkozy edged ahead in first-round voting intention polls for a few weeks, helped by his strong response to a shooting spree by an al Qaeda-inspired gunman who killed seven people in southwest France last month.
He lost that lead in the last week before the election, and polls yesterday showed Mr Hollande winning the first round by 28 per cent to 27, and taking the second by 55 per cent to 45.It would be the first time in France’s Fifth Republic, founded in 1958, that an incumbent president has not finished top of the first round.
France’s presidential candidates have needled each other over the euro and the dire state of the French economy before Sunday’s first-round vote, as the Socialist challenger François Hollande kept his lead over President Nicolas Sarkozy in most polls.
With the election shaping up as a referendum on Sarkozy’s personality, bling style and contested record in office, the president told French radio he had helped steer the eurozone through the worst of its debt crisis, styling himself as the only one with the experience to protect France. Hollande in turn blamed him for mismanaging France’s strained public finances.
“The risk of the euro imploding doesn’t exist anymore,” Sarkozy told RTL radio. “Europe is convalescent. That’s a reality. We can’t afford any mistakes. The minute we ease up on cutting spending, reducing the deficit, reducing the debt, France will share the fate of Spain.” He then attacked what he called Hollande’s lack of experience. “For 10 years he was head of the Socialist party. He wasn’t the head of very much. That’s the truth,” he said.
Hollande told Europe 1 radio that France’s budget woes were the result of five years of Sarkozy’s policies. He called for European action to revive growth to fight the debt crisis.
“The important thing is to put our public finances in order. They’ve been turned completely upside down these past years due to irresponsible fiscal policy and the crisis.”
He said the European Central Bank must take a radically different role by lending directly to troubled eurozone states rather than to banks, and by keeping interest rates low. He acknowledged that Germany opposed expanding the ECB’s role.
Sarkozy also apologised for what he called his “error” of a lack of “solemnity” at the start of his presidency, answering criticisms of his image as a showy “president of the rich”.
He is the least popular French president to run for re-election. If he fails to come first by a good margin in Sunday’s vote, it would be difficult for him to win the final runoff on 6 May in which two remaining candidates face each other.
If Hollande wins on Sunday, he would be in a good position for the second round, which every poll for a year has predicted him winning.
Much will hinge on the combined overall score of all the candidates on the French left. If it is a historic high, of between 44-48%, as the polls suggest, it would make a Hollande victory more likely. The extreme-right Front National’s Marine Le Pen and the radical left’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon are vying for third place ahead of the centrist François Bayrou.
French voters have been critical of the campaign, saying it lacked substance, contained too much personal sniping and candidates spent more time criticising each other than discussing proposals. Almost a quarter of voters remain undecided and abstention could be as high as 20-30%, compared with a very high turnout in the last election.
France gets ready to vote
> On Sunday France votes in the first round of the French presidential election. Two out of 10 candidates will go through to a second-round runoff on 6 May.
> All polls over the past two months have pointed to the rightwing president Nicolas Sarkozy and the Socialist François Hollande facing each other in the runoff. Who comes first on Sunday, and crucially with what margin, will determine the tone of the final two weeks of the race.
> Polls show the extreme-right Front National’s Marine Le Pen and the radical leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon battling for third place, with centrist François Bayrou in fourth. The positioning of these candidates is important in terms of how their voters will line up for the second round. Every poll for a year has shown Hollande winning the final round runoff.
> Abstentionism could be a factor. A poll for Le Parisien by BVA (Brulé Ville et Associés) warned it could be 24%, far higher than for the last presidential election.
How the Front de Gauche has been winning the French working-class vote
The cherry blossom is out in force in a small street on Paris’s southern outskirts. Well it might be, because it is here in an old shoe factory that the political sensation of France’s presidential election has been stitched together.
The headquarters of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s campaign is known as The Factory. One visit is enough to convince you that there is more to Mélenchon’s rise in the polls than the man himself. He is difficult to typify. He talks to people who think they belong to the modern world, but about subjects they are not used to hearing in an election like this – history, France, culture – why they inherited the welfare state they have.
The former Socialist senator is not just a firebrand on the stump. He is also everyone’s favourite professeur de fac, a real instituteur républicain. But Mélenchon, the candidate who speaks his mind, is not enough to explain the rise of the Front de Gauche, a coalition of seven parties of which by far the strongest are the communists. Mélenchon’s own party, the Parti de Gauche is dwarfed by it (10,000 members compared with the communist PCF’s 130,000).
Irrespective of how it does on Sunday in the first round of the presidential election, it harbours serious long-term political ambitions. It already thinks it has won one national election – the referendum on the doomed European constitution. This was in 2005 and the year in which Mélenchon broke Socialist party ranks, sacrificing a comfortable career as a senator over this issue. Although what was later to become known as the Lisbon treaty was little more than a compendium of previous treaties, in the left’s eyes it institutionalised a concept of Europe that put free-trade principles guaranteeing an internal market above a Europe defending social and trade union rights.
Mélenchon campaigned for a no vote, and got it. Brussels did not accept no for an answer and when the constitution was downsized into a more humble treaty, it was to the French parliament, not to the popular vote, that it turned for approval. For the French far left this still counted as a victory, because they had recaptured this form of Euroscepticism from the far right.
The next stop on this political journey was Germany and the founding congress of Die Linke, which was formed out of defections from the SPD and the dissolution of the former communists. Raquel Garrido, in charge of the front’s international relations, said: “The European social democratic movement had an historic opportunity in 1989 to rebuild something that was both democratic and socialist. And they failed. So what we had on our hands was a double responsibility – to build something after the failure of state communism and the European social democratic movement.”
It took them two more years to organise their split from the French Socialists and get the communists on board. From then on they have risen steadily in national prominence, first at the European parliamentary elections in 2009 when they got five seats in Strasbourg, and then the French regional elections. When they started their presidential campaign on June 29 last year, they decided to go big – large open-air rallies that had more the feel of Tahrir Square than a sedate and controlled indoor rally designed for television. Their slogan, “Place au Peuple”, was a pun in that it means both “make room for the people” and the “the people’s square”, but after Mélenchon appeared on national television, that is literally what his rallies became. More than 100,000 people crammed into Place de la Bastille in Paris, and similar scenes were repeated in Nantes and Toulouse.
After these shows of force, both Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande felt they had to organise mass open-air rallies themselves. But the Front de Gauche was not really targeting them. They decided early on to go for Marine Le Pen, Jean-Marie’s daughter who had transformed the Front National into a modern far-right party.
It has been a deadly battle. After a television duel in which Mélenchon destroyed Le Pen’s credentials as a feminist, particularly on the issue of abortion, the Front National went back to its far right roots, plucking one of their heros out of the air. He is Robert Brasillach, a fascist who advocated that Jewish children should be sent to the camps with their families. He was the only journalist to be executed after the libération at the end of the second world war, but as he did not kill anyone, he is honoured to this day by Le Pen as a victim of conscience.
The Front National’s fortunes have wavered, and recently they have been going up in the polls into third place. But the Front de Gauche is unwavering in its intention to recapture the working-class vote. Garrido said: “We really need the extreme right to go back into their box. This would be one of the real transformations of this campaign. If we go in front of the Front National, France would go back to what it really is, a very mixed country with a high rate of mixed marriages, its own republican culture and tradition.” Whatever happens on Sunday, the Front de Gauche is here to stay.
The following are the Candidates for this Presidential Election of France:
1. The Greens: MEP and former magistrate Eva Joly
2. National Front: Party President and MEP Marine Le Pen was selected on 16 May 2011
3. Union for a Popular Movement: On 15 February 2012, President Nicolas Sarkozy announced he was running for a second five year term.
4. Left Front: Jean-Luc Mélenchon MEP
5. New Anticapitalist Party: Philippe Poutou
6. Workers’ Struggle: Nathalie Arthaud
7. Solidarité et progrès: Jacques Cheminade
8. Democratic Movement: François Bayrou, president of MoDem and MP, confirmed his candidacy on 22 August 2011
9. Mayor and Member of Parliament Nicolas Dupont-Aignan
10. Socialist Party: President of the General Council of Corrèze, former First Secretary of the Socialist Party and MP François Hollande
For more review & Details & history of candidates, you may visit the following link:
…………………………………………. on 22 April 2012 …………………………………..
Turnout solid in French presidential election
PARIS (AP) — Voters were turning out Sunday in solid numbers for the first round of France’s presidential election, with conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy’s political career on the line amid frustration over his personal style and inability to turn around a stagnant French economy.
Sunday’s balloting will trim down a list of 10 candidates from across the political spectrum to two finalists for a decisive May 6 runoff, which will set a course for the next five years in this pillar of the European Union.
The Interior Ministry said early turnout figures showed 28 percent of France’s 44-million-plus voters cast ballots before noon — less than the 31 percent in 2007 at the same time, but more than in the four previous races.
Sarkozy and his main expected challenger, Socialist nominee Francois Hollande, have pushed for a strong turnout on the idea that it would help the political mainstream and dilute the impact of more ideological voters.
Polls for months have shown that Sarkozy and Hollande are likely to make the cut — and suggest Hollande would win the campaign finale.
“This is an election that will weigh on the future of Europe. That’s why many people are watching us,” said Hollande after voting in Tulle, a town in central France. “They’re wondering not so much what the winner’s name will be, but especially what policies will follow.”
“That’s why I’m not in a competition just of personalities. I am in a competition in which I must give new breath of life to my country and a new commitment to Europe,” he added, urging a big turnout from voters.
Sarkozy waved to supporters and apologized to polling station attendants “for the big fuss” as he voted at a high school in posh western Paris along with his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy — and a throng of journalists in tow. Behind barriers, a small crowd chanted “Bravo! Bravo!” as they left. He didn’t speak to the media on the way out.
Sarkozy, defending his record on the campaign trail, has repeatedly pointed to a tough economic climate and debt troubles across Europe — not just in France.
But with turnout a looming question, surprises could await among candidates including far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen, Communist-backed firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon or centrist Francois Bayrou.
While they are not expected to win, a strong performance by one or all of them could cast a shadow over the second round vote. Polls show the five other candidates are expected to receive low single-digit percentages.
Balloting got under way Saturday in France’s embassies and overseas holdings. Polls have shown that concerns about jobs — with the unemployment rate hovering near a 10-year high — and the economy are top issues.
The campaign has often centered on hot-button issues such as immigration, Islam in France, and calls for taxes on the rich — which experts suggest will in fact have little effect on France’s high state budget deficit.
TV images showed Hollande and several other candidates voting at polling stations around France. Some voters expressed disappointment about the crop of presidential aspirants, while others say France needs a new track.
“I think most people are not satisfied with the last five years, people want change, especially in terms of job creation,” said voter Eli Lazovsky, a 38-year-old hotel manager, after casting a ballot in a well-to-do Paris neighborhood off the Champs-Elysees.
Hollande, in his Mr. Nice Guy kind of way, has tapped into a fear of the free market that has always held more sway in France than almost anywhere in the West, and has enjoyed a resurgence in the era of Occupy Wall Street and anti-banker backlash.
Hollande wants to tax high-income earners at 75 percent and reconsider a hard-won European fiscal treaty meant to stem the continent’s debt crisis. He says it’s too focused on cost-cutting and hurts ordinary folks.
More than anything else, this campaign is a referendum on the man currently in charge: Sarkozy inspired voters in 2007 with pledges to break with the past and make France a more dynamic economy.
After an initial wave of reforms, his momentum fizzled. His stormy personal life got in the way: He divorced months into office, then quickly married former supermodel Bruni and became seen as a bling-bling president more concerned with pleasing his super-rich friends than serving the public.
But municipal employee Marie-Francaise Gouyet, 55, said she didn’t believe the polls that suggested that Sarkozy is likely to lose to Hollande in the second round. She said she favored the president’s economic policies.
“We don’t have the choice, we have to stick to austerity,” she said, adding that she voted for Sarkozy. “‘Sarko’ put in place important reforms like for pensions. He has a good record for his first 5 years.”
Entrepreneur Mohammed Derisse, 37, who backs Hollande, countered: “We can’t spend much more money. But the president has to do it with less pressure. Sarkozy was too much pressure. Hollande wants to do it in a soft way, not hurt the people.”
The presidential election will determine the make-up of the next government and will finish just a month before elections for the National Assembly that is currently controlled by Sarkozy’s conservatives.
Turnout in the 2007 first round was nearly 84 percent, the highest figure since the 1970s. Sarkozy is battling to avoid becoming France’s first one-term president since Valery Giscard d’Estaing lost to Socialist Francois Mitterrand in 1981.
Sarkozy has said he’ll pull out of politics if he loses.
Cecile Brisson, Angela Charlton and Jonathan Shenfield in Paris and Masha Macpherson in Tulle, France, contributed to this report.
………………………………………….. on 22 April 2012, after 1st round voting …………………………………………
French presidential Election takes Interesting Turn
It is true that the French Presidential Election is now not more far from settled. Socialist Party’s Francois Hollande is the favourite so far, but let see what will happen over the next upcoming two week as the lead of Francois not with very high ratio, its too narrow over President Sarkozy.
Marine Le Pen’s vote at 19% exceeded all expectations and keep mind that her votes also very important to determine who will wins the second round of this election.
……………. 6 May 2012 ……………
Sarkozy bites the dust
PARIS: Francois Hollande was elected France’s first Socialist president in nearly two decades on Sunday, dealing a humiliating defeat to incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and shaking up European politics.
The result will have major implications for Europe as it struggles to emerge from a financial crisis and for France, the eurozone’s second-largest economy and a nuclear-armed permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Hollande won the vote with about 52 percent, according to several estimates from polling firms based on ballot samples, becoming France’s first Socialist president since Francois Mitterrand left office in 1995.
Sarkozy quickly conceded defeat and signalled that he intends to step back from frontline politics. “The French people have made their choice. Francois Hollande is president of France and he must be respected,” the outgoing leader told an emotional crowd of supporters, adding that he wished his successor well.
“In this new era, I will remain one of you, but my place will no longer be the same. My engagement with the life of my country will now be different, but time will never strain the bonds between us,” he told supporters.
Sarkozy stopped short of confirming his retirement, but leaders in his right-wing UMP party told AFP that he had told them he would not lead them into June’s parliamentary elections.
Hollande was due to speak later and joyful crowds had already gathered in his adopted hometown of Tulle and in Paris to celebrate his victory. “We are rid of a poison that was blighting our society. A normal president! It gives us a lot to dream about,” said Didier Stephan, a 70-year-old artist who was among throngs of supporters at Paris’s Place de la Bastille.
Hollande led in opinion polls throughout the campaign and won the April 22 first round with 28.6 percent to Sarkozy’s 27.2 percent — making the right-winger the first-ever incumbent to lose in the first round.
Grey skies and rain showers greeted voters across much of France, but turnout was high, hitting 71.96 percent at 5:00 pm according to interior ministry figures. More than 46 million people were eligible to vote.
The election was marked by fears over European Union-imposed austerity and globalisation, and Hollande has said his first foreign meeting will be with German Chancellor Angela Merkel — the key driver of EU budget policy.
The 57-year-old Socialist has vowed to renegotiate the hard-fought fiscal austerity pact signed by EU leaders in March to make it focus more on growth, but is facing resistance from Merkel.
Berlin moved quickly to establish ties with Hollande, with Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle vowing “close partnership” between the two nations and saying: “We will work together on a growth pact.”
Hollande has said he will move quickly to implement his traditionally Socialist tax-and-spend programme, which calls for boosting taxes on the rich, increasing state spending and hiring some 60,000 teachers.
Sarkozy fought a fierce campaign, saying a victory for Hollande would spark market panic and financial chaos and calling him a “liar” and “slanderer” in the final days of the race.But Sarkozy failed to overcome deep-rooted anger at meagre economic growth and increasing joblessness, and disappointment after he failed to live up to the promises of his 2007 election.
Sarkozy, 57, was also deeply unpopular on a personal level, with many voters turned off by his flashy “bling bling” lifestyle — exemplified by his marriage to former supermodel Carla Bruni — and aggressive behaviour.
Hollande has vowed to be a “normal president” in contrast with Sarkozy, but some have raised concerns over his lack of experience. Hollande, a long-time Socialist party leader and local lawmaker from the central Correze region, has never held a top government post.
The first round of the election last month was marked by a record score for Marine Le Pen of the far-right, anti-immigrant and anti-Europe National Front, when she took nearly 18 percent of the vote.
Sarkozy turned increasingly to the right ahead of the run-off — vowing to restrict immigration and “defend French values” — but Le Pen refused to call on her supporters to back him and she cast a blank ballot.
Hollande won the backing of centrist Francois Bayrou, who took nine percent in the first round, and Communist-backed Jean-Luc Melenchon of the Left Front, who took 11 percent. “This is a very big failure (for Sarkozy) against a candidate who has no experience in government,” said political analyst Stephane Rozes.”It is not so much for the content of his policies that he has been punished, but for his way of being and acting,” Rozes said.
Hollande is expected to be sworn in by May 15 and after seeing Merkel will quickly set off for a series of international meetings, including a G8 summit in the US on May 18-19 and Nato gathering in Chicago on May 20-21.
The Socialists, Sarkozy’s right-wing UMP and France’s other political parties will now be focused on a parliamentary election to be held over two rounds on June 10 and June 17.