Président ou Présidente?

The French are still making up their mind [Update – they have made up their mind: Nicolas Sarkozy has been elected President – more soon]. Once again in record numbers – the only official figures released so far estimate the voter turnout at noon at 34,11%, the highest number since 1974, apparently. One winner of the Presidential race is therefore clearly institutional democracy – although burning cars is probably considered a way of political expression by some, not least, Ségolène Royal, who, earlier this week, warned that a Sarkozy victory could lead to violent protests in some Banlieues. While that is certainly not entirely out of the realm of the possible, and Sarkozy’s reaction was appropriately forceful, accusing her of fanning the (possible) flames, I doubt it was a particularly clever move on Royal’s behalf, to end her campaign by scaring voters. Apart from that, she’s probably also lost all votes of those about 3000 policemen who are now spending the evening in the suburbs to preempt any possible social unrest.
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French Presidential Debate Notes

Style is clearly more important than substance in Presidential debates. Unfortunately, after 45 minutes of speaking time for each candidate, I was, quite frankly, very disappointed on both accounts. Neither Ségolène Royal nor Nicolas Sarkozy were able to present coherent arguments of their respective programmes. Instead, they kept constantly interrupting each other, Royal more so than Sarkozy, kept losing discourse threads (sometimes even without being interrupted) in pointless debates about specific figures or jumped from one point to another. Sarkozy may have been a little more concise on the economic parts (taxes, pensions, labour market regulation, welfare) of the debate, but he certainly did not “win” that debate by any stretch of imagination.
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French Presidential debate broadcast online

If the weather in France is even remotely as warm and sunny as it is here in South-West Germany today, I have doubts tonight’s televised debate between Ségolène Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy will be able to get 86% turnout yet again. Still, if you would like to tune in to the debate, but you don’t receive French tv (or even speak French) there are a couple of options available.

ARTE.tv broadcasts the event live in both French and German, while France 24 will offer interactive coverage as well as tv-streams (wmv9, 400 kpbs) in English, French, and Arabic (links via wwitv.com).

French Elections: Ticker

A few minutes to go to the official first results in the first round…

Unofficially, Ipsos puts Ségoléne Royal on 26.5 per cent, Nicolas Sarkozy 27.5 per cent, Jean-Marie Le Pen 17 per cent, and François Bayrou on 16 per cent, with OIivier Besancenot doing best out of the broom wagon candidates. CSA, which has been consistently more favourable to the Socialists, puts Ségo and Sarko level pegging on 26 per cent, and the same results for the others.

However, these figures are being constantly updated at the moment (see Le Temps de Généve). They currently put it this way:

  1. Nicolas Sarkozy (UMP): 29,4 %
  2. Ségolène Royal (PS): 26,2 %
  3. François Bayrou (UDF): 18,6 %
  4. Jean-Marie Le Pen (FN) : 10,8 %

There are also going to be exit polls soon enough. Everyone is clear on one thing, that turnout has been enormous: according to Radio France-Inter, the official figure is 85 per cent, although the unofficial data is going even higher.

Update

First official results (updated at 40% count)

  1. Sarkozy – 30.5 per cent
  2. Royal – 25.2
  3. Bayrou – 18.3
  4. Le Pen – 11.3
  5. Besancenot – 4.6
  6. De Villiers – 2.4
  7. Buffet – 2
  8. Laguillier – 1.5
  9. Voynet – 1.5
  10. Nihous – 1.2
  11. Bov̩ Р1
  12. Schivardi – 0.3

Crash for the far right…and not great for the Communists.

Update by Tobias – Sarkozy gave a conciliatory – or “presidential” – speech at his campaign headquarters, complimenting Mme Royal, thanking the French voters for a result that would allow the choice between, as he put it, two alternative sets of policies. He called for a dignified second leg of the campaign and hoped that it would amount to a true competition of ideas.

Update by Alex – Marie-Georges Buffet says all good communists must come to the aid of the party..the Socialist party. Pity there’s only 2 per cent of them.

Update by Alex – Arlette Laguillier says – for the first time since 1981 and the last time in her career – that her supporters should vote Socialist. De Villiers now ranting about “Européeisme(sic)” being a dead ideology responsible for abortion and euthanasia. Vote Sarko, he finally gets around to saying. Voynet goes Socialist, too, with the mighty weight of her 1.5 per cent. But what will Bayrou do?

Update by Alex – Olivier Besancenot calls on supporters to support the Socialists “at the ballot box and in the streets”. That should be enough to fill the gap… Also, DSK has been out calling for people who didn’t get their preferred candidate but want “renewal” to vote PS. Dominique de Villepin, meanwhile, congratulates Sarko through gritted teeth.

Update by Alex – Bayrou about to speak..whingeing about the pollsters..still blathering..and eventually says nothing..

Update by Alex – Le Pen says his supporters should abstain “for the moment” (eh?) but he will give further advice on the 1st of May. “Le Front National n’est pas a vendre!” But who would buy it?

RFI reports that 20 départements have completed counting, but the Ile-de-France (the populous metropolitan area around Paris) is still counting, with the large suburban départements like Seine-Saint Denis and Val-de-Marne still to come.

Update by Alex – Corréze, Chirac’s home turf, goes socialist by a distance, while the Communists crash badly in their old stronghold of Ariége.

Another Trip to 50-50 Land

It’s getting terribly close…

The last two opinion polls in the French elections put Royal and Sarkozy level pegging in the first round, with one of them showing nils apiece in the second round too. With numbers, the first poll, carried out by CSA on the 21st, shows Royal on 26 per cent, Sarko on 26 per cent, and Bayrou on 20. The second, by LH2 for 20 Minutes, puts the top two on 27 per cent each.

The really interesting thing is that both polls also measured voting intentions for the second round. CSA showed Sarko and Sego breaking 50-50. LH2 put Sarko up 51-49. But that’s not the really interesting thing. To both come in at 49-50 per cent, the top candidates will have to gain about 48 percentage points between them. Obviously, if you voted in the first round, you’re likely to vote in the second. Which poses a question: how’s it going to happen?

Francois Bayrou’s support is around 20 per cent. Jean-Marie Le Pen’s is 13 per cent. Olivier Besancenot is at 3, Arlette Laguiller at 2.5 (up 1.5 per cent!), Marie-George Buffet 2, Frederic Nihous 2, de Villiers 1, Voynet 1, Schivarni 0.5. A total, then, of 44 per cent up for grabs. Out of which, say, 9 per cent can be attributed firmly to the Left and 15 per cent to the Right, before the difficult question of how to attribute Bayrou’s voters. Assuming the Le Pen/de Villiers vote goes to Sarko, that would put the balance at 35/42 of the original vote..but how do the Bayrou Boys and Girls break? At a minimum, the Left would need to hold its ground, then persuade 7 percentage points of Bayrou voters – not far off a third – plus a majority of the remainder to switch.

Not that this is reflected by Royal’s rhetoric..

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.
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Battle Royal

A long time ago, in a year already far away, some commenters were mentionning a recent poll showing that Ségolène Royal was now leading the race to become the socialist party nominee for the 2007 French presidential election. One salient finding of the poll was that she was supported by a plurality of both French voters (36%) and socialist sympathizers (48%).

At this point, even casual observers of the French political scene would to tempted to ask : just who the hell is this Ségolène Royal I have never heard of? Well, I’m glad you asked and I was preparing to bore you with a clumsily written and long-winded summary about the race for the Socialist party nomination and Ms Royal’s short but happy political carreer. But I’ve just found that Doug Ireland has already done it, albeit in a clear way, complete with color pictures, snarky criticism of the French press and the inevitable comparison to Hillary Clinton. So go read him and come back if you really want to know my opinion about Segolène Royal’s chances.
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