This morning Chirac finally (and tepidly) endorsed Sarkozy as his choice for prez. Much was made of the wait and basically it was about as climactic as Clinton endorsing Gore in 2000 (or Bush Jr. endorsing whatever fascist gets the nomination next year). There was a big thing on the noon interview show that the lab lunch crowd watches (of which I join about 3 days a week) about the impending (5 weeks!) first-round of the election. The main reason is that last time (’02) Le Pen came out of nowhere to make the top two (who advance to the second and final round).
This time the left learned their lesson and anointed SégolÃ¨ne Royal and are more or less standing behind her (last time, the left was much more split than usual, which contributed to Le Pen sneaking into the 2nd round with 17%). The right is more or less united behind Sarko.
[also for reference: No Sex, Please, We’re French, an NYT op-ed by Stephen Clark printed 23 March]
FranÃ§ois Bayrou is the “third man” but I’d be surprised if he made the second round. His main claim to fame is that he was Education Sec’y at some point (indeed, started out as a French teacher), embraced the new centrist Union for French Democracy (UDF) party (“ni droite, ni gauche“), and therefore comes off as a warm ‘n’ fuzzy outsider. It’s been enough to get him to about 20% in the polls (vs. 29% Sarko, 25% Ségo, 15% Le Pen) but I don’t think he has legs. Yesterday Valérie received a mock chain-email saying “Don’t vote for Bayrou: Jean-Paul C. of Paris voted for Bayrou once and days later lost his job and his wife left him… Cathérine T. voted for Bayrou and mysteriously came down with a rare illness… Pierre L. voted UDF and suddenly lost his life savings….” The bottom line is he doesn’t really say anything but he’s constantly talking (and, curiously, eating) and it’s starting to wear thin.
Despite all the hype, I really don’t see much chance for anything other than a Ségo-Sarko showdown and the current polls (there are several new ones daily) show it right at 50-50. And oh, by the way, there’s still 40% undecided.
Some notables about the election: There are 12 candidates (each one has to get 500 mayoral endorsements, from any village, town, or city large enough to have an elected mayor), including José Bové, who snuck in under the wire at the deadline; four of them are women, of whom the socialist Royal is the furthest to the right (the others represent the communist, green, and workers’ struggle parties — the latter has run in every prez election since 1974); Le Pen’s mystique has pretty much faded, since he made the cut last time and picked up virtually no votes between the first and second rounds — he’s also splitting votes this time with at least one other fascist; one candidate represents the “Hunting, Fishing, and Tradition” party; one candidate is a particularly in-your-face 32-year-old who is either extreme right or extreme left (I haven’t figured that out yet but he’ll prolly run every in every election until 2074); a recent theory has been floated about the ubiquitous polls, which are conducted by telephone — land-line telephone, to be exact — some pundits are wondering how many people who are cell-only are being left out and thus skewing the numbers; there’s a rule that now that the official candidates have been certified (as of yesterday with their 500 endorsements), all of them must get equal airtime until 2 weeks before the election when they’re all completely cut off.
The bottom line is that it would be really interesting if the US prez elections were run the same way, i.e. all primary candidates from both parties (how pathetic is it that we can say “both”?) thrown together in one big mosh and only the top two emerge for the final showdown. You definitely get the feeling that every view on the spectrum is represented in some form or another.