8:40: Sarko and SÃ©go in the second round then. Which means two important things. Firstly, someone at work owes me a coffee (I really should have bet for something more pricey). Secondly, the election that had been billed by some pundits as one of the most inpredictible ever has delivered very predictible results indeed: the two candidates that were ahead in the polls since the beginning get through to the runoff; the Bayrou insurgency receded in the late campaign, just like the polls were showing; and all the minor candidates were crushed, with the Communist and Green parties looking DOA now. The only half-surprise is the (relative) crash of the extreme right: but it is a surprise only because many thought Le Pen would get a big result, against what most of the polls were predicting. I sense the always-reviled pollsters will have a field day tonight.
Update by Alex: LibÃ© carried time-series graphs for all the pollsters on Friday, and one of the striking things was that Le Pen had gained no more than 1 per cent or so over the campaign, whichever poll you looked at.
8:50 (Emmanuel) : there’s no denying that Sarkozy is looking good now. Not only is he ahead by a significant margin, but Royal does not have significant reserves of votes to tap into for the second round (the total of all left-wing candidates is around 36%). Much will depend on FranÃ§ois Bayrou’s attitude in the next days but even if (a really big “if”) he calls his voters to support Royal, it remains doubtful that they’ll follow him.
9:10 (Emmanuel) : The much-awaited Bayrou is speaking. Begins with that worn-out platitude: “French politics will never be the same”. Big score despite negative media, polls and pundits. Strongly criticizes the two main parties. Hints that “decisions” will be taken in the next days.
9:20 (Emmanuel) : Official CW about Bayrou is that he won’t support Sarkozy and that he can’t support Royal (because UDF MPs clearly need the support of the UMP to be reelected in June). Hence his pox-in-both-your-houses attitude. One striking thing nonetheless: all the left-wing candidates have been falling over themselves to give their support to Royal (even the famously intransigent Laguiller); so far, no candidate has called to vote for Sarkozy.
9:47 (Alex) : Royal making incredibly long, incredibly lacklustre speech. Bayrou was bad enough but this is dire. You wouldnâ€™t think this was one of the highest scores for a Socialist in the first round ever.
9:50 (Emmanuel) : Damn. Alex just wrote exactly what I was thinking. When you hear SegolÃ¨ne speaking, you always wonder how she managed to go that far. Really unispiring stuff.
10:00 (Alex) : Le Pen is gradually sinking with each update of the polls. He’s now below the lowest estimate of his score at the beginning of the campaign. And the Communists have done very badly in places like AriÃ©ge..
10:05 (Alex) : Thierry Maillet says it’s 1981 over again. Giscard got 28.3 per cent, Mitterand 25.9, Chirac 18, and Georges Marchais of the PCF 15. 2007==(Giscard:Sarkozy, Mitterand:Royal, Chirac:Bayrou, Marchais:Le Pen)? Perhaps. Maillet points out that many of the voters who left the PCF moved to the FN.
10:14 (Alex): Itâ€™s worth pointing out that so far, the dÃ©partements that are reporting are very few, and most are overseas territories. As LibÃ©â€™s front-page Flash map points out, the masses are yet to engage. Meanwhile, gurks! Eric Besson, the PS national secretary who walked out of SÃ©golÃ©ne Royalâ€™s economic team, has announced that heâ€™s supporting Sarkozy.
10:15 (Tobias) – coverage of international online coverage – the BBC duly notes the high turnout and realizses that â€œFrance opts for a left-right battle.â€ The BBCâ€™s political correspondent Jonathan Marcus also states that
â€œWhoever finally wins the presidency, â€¦ it will mark a change of political generation and perhaps a shift in French international priorities, making this election matter even to those outside France.â€
Quite right. The NY Times enlists the help of the AP and also notes the generational change, as well as the gender dynamics in play -
â€œIf the results confirm that, France will get its first president born after World War II after the May 6 final round. If she wins, Royal will become Franceâ€™s first woman president.â€
Wondering about Bayrouâ€™s weak results, the newspaper reminds that one principal motivation for many voters was not to allow the participation of Le Pen in the second round. Germanyâ€™s conservative â€œDie Weltâ€ mentions that Sarkozyâ€™s move to the right paid off in the first round but questions whether it might not have the opposite effect in two weeks, mentioning the importance of the Bayrou vote, the majority of which seems willing to rally behind Royal to avoid Sarkozy – possibly without any official recommendation from the former candidate. Sarkozy will now have to move back to the center, but Die Welt doubts his efforts will be convincing following months of rather divisive campaigning.
For the liberal weekly Die Zeitâ€™s â€œBlog Tricoloreâ€ (in German) Alain-Xavier Wurstâ€ files a report from Royalâ€™s headquarters and notes that the mood is getting better by the minute after they realised that this election will not be a repetition of the last one. He also explains that one winner of the current election wasnâ€™t even on the polls – the telecommunications industry apparently expects as many text messages as after last yearâ€™s world cup final, that, for the first time in decades, Jaques Chirac must has voted for someone else – probably SÃ©golÃ¨ne Royal, and that there are about three million new voters, mostly young people, many of whom live in the Banlieues offended by Monsieur Sarkozy.
It will be very interesting to dissect todayâ€™s result in a little more detail. A regional breakdown will be available at the French interior ministryâ€™s site – but at the moment, all results are still empty. Donâ€™t forget itâ€™s a Sundayâ€¦
10:15 (Emmanuel): first second-round poll. Sarko 54% – SÃ©go 46%. As anticipated, it really will be an uphill battle for the left-wing candidate.
10:25 (Alex): Or maybe not. More results are coming in, and the gap is closing – 29.6 vs 27.4, with Le Pen tanking under the 10 per cent mark. PS, Liberation has a regional results map on their front page.
10:50 (Emmanuel): A lot of interesting tidbits in the Ipsos exit poll (pdf). Like, for all the talk about the underwhelming result of Le Pen, the fact that he’s still first in the blue-collar demographic slice (“ouvriers“).
10:59 (Tobias): Nadine Morano explains on arte.tv that Sarkozy wants to convince pro-European voters by explaining that he was the only one who wants to go forward with a “mini-treaty” and avoid a second referendum on the constitution.
11:05 (Emmanuel): France Info radio reporting Sarkozy first in Paris, Seine-Saint-Denis (aka the place where all those cars were burnt in 2005) dÃ©partements.
11:12 (Tobias): Daniel Cohn-Bendit believes that Bayrou was in the end beaten by the problem that the UDF feels the need/needs to cooperate with Sarkozy’s UMP in the parliamentary elections. That, according to Cohn-Bendit, essentially made Bayrou’s “third way” proposal a lot less credible. Interestingly, he also praises Sarkozy for his ability to pull Le Pen voters into the “normal” parliamentary spectrum.
11:15 (Emmanuel): Another second-round poll, this time from CSA. And another expected result: Sarkozy 53,5% – Royal 46,5%. Among the people who voted for Bayrou it’s: 16% unsure, 45% Royal, 39% Sarkozy.
11:35 (Emmanuel): And the WTF award of the day goes to unknown candidate GÃ©rard Schivardi (dead-last with 0,4% of the vote) who declares: “I’m a happy man. This electoral base will allow me to create a new political party“.
11:55 (Emmanuel): Droite caviar? Sarko gets 73% in his own (posh) town of Neuilly, and 58% in the (posh) 8th arrondissement of Paris. Meanwhile, Royal barely comes out ahead in Bordeaux, a bit of a surprise since this is the town of ex-Prime minister and Sarkozy ally Alain JuppÃ©.
12:05 (Alex): Droite ouvriÃ©re. Sarko just sneaks it in the Pas de Calais. Even there, where the biggest city is still Communist-run, the PCF gets only 3.4 per cent.
01:05 (Emmanuel): well, the bottle of wine is empty now and the official results are still not coming, so just a last comment to say that I fully agree with Pascal RichÃ©’s analysis: based on the first round results, SÃ©golÃ¨ne Royal really has an impossible equation to solve, considering that the total of left-wing votes and one half of Bayrou’s total still left her at something like 45%. Adding to that the fact that Sarkozy is a much better debater than she is, and it’s hard to be very optimistic right now if you’re a left-wing voter (which, I hasten to add, I am). But, as they say, one week is a long time in politics. And she has two. But she better get started now.
Oh, and a warm welcome to our soon-to-be-there 1,000,000th Afoe visitor.