Nothing is obvious and nothing is clear

Ségolene Royal’s campaign is doomed. The total vote for the Left is polling (32 to 36 per cent) almost as low as it was in 1969, when the second round vote was between a Gaullist, Georges Pompidou, and a centrist/classical rightist, Alain Poher, with everyone to the left crashing at the first turn on a total of 31 per cent.

Ségolene Royal is on course to win. Her polls, ranging between 24 and 27 per cent, are as good as François Mitterand’s in 1981, when he got 25.8 per cent, not a mountain more than the Communist candidate, Georges Marchais, who had 15.3 per cent . And, since 1958, the left has always been in second place after the first round, even when Mitterand won the run-off. The French elections remain fascinating, even though many of the delightful possibilities have boiled off.

Clearly, the Right has finally gained a reasonable measure of unity around Sarkozy, at the cost of watering down his platform substantially. The chance of anyone making a last-minute challenge (Jacques..) is now minimal. A string of other possibilities have gone bust – the promise of a united far-left candidacy has fallen apart, and the collectifs antilibéraux are now murmuring about whether it might be possible to drop José Bové and turn back to Olivier Besancenot, who isn’t willing. Jean-Marie Le Pen may not make it onto the ballot, as he is reported to be struggling to get the 500 mayors’ signatures required.

But at the same time, some of them are being recreated within the major blocks. Royal has recently decided to pull Dominique Strauss-Kahn back onto the campaign, in order to appeal to the centre and also lend it “du serieux”. This, of course, inevitably meant that Laurent Fabius has had to come out from under his sulk to balance the ticket. However, disunity on the left is proving to be a nonproblem, with the far-left and the various microparties failing to draw voters away from the PS. Laguiller, Besancenot, and Bové are each pulling about 1 per cent, and the Communist candidate Marie-Georges Buffet some 3 per cent. The MRC, PRG et al aren’t breaching the margin of error.

Instead the problem is on the other side of the party, with the Bayrou boom. If 2002 was the election when the extremes wandered off, this is the election when the Sensible Party broke away. Suddenly, François Bayrou is at 24 per cent in the polls, and might even win a second round.

That sounds sensational, but it’s not. After all, in the event of Bayrou versus Sarkozy, he could count on the whole anti-Sarko vote. It’s the nature of the system. As DSK told Le Monde, the logic of voting for Bayrou excludes voting for Sarkozy in the second round. Speaking of DSK, he’s clearly been wheeled out to appeal to the Bayrou voters, but one wonders what happens if Bayrou edges out Sarko instead?

This is obviously more likely to happen if Le Pen gets his signatures. At the moment, it’s 26 per cent for Sarko, 25 per cent for Royal, and 24 for Bayrou. But there is no real split-potential left on the Left, and Bayrou is hardly competing for the Le Pen vote. See comments at the Collectif Antilibérale for supporting data. Would it be too cynical to expect a few socialist village mayors’ names on the nomination sheet? Sarkozy has announced that he wouldn’t attempt to put pressure on Le Pen’s nominators, but a) he shouldn’t anyway, b) possibly he hasn’t realised the threat, and c) it could be some sort of triple-weird counterpsy freako.