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French carrots and sticks for Nicolas Sarkozy

13.04.2012  |  14:35

The last five years have been characterized by an economic slowdown for the French. The global financial crisis could not but affect the political sphere. In 2010, when the country's budget deficit has exceeded six percent of GDP, the popularity of Sarkozy has dropped significantly. The success of Sarkozy's five-year rule is very doubtful

On April 9 the presidential race officially started in France. The gap between Nicolas Sarkozy running for the second term and his main rival, Francois Hollande, is only two percent. On April 22 the first round of voting with 10 presidential candidates will be held. Most likely, the outcome of the election will be decided in the second round, scheduled for May 6. In the French presidential election in 2007 there was also a second round.

Nicolas Sarkozy, who ran from the ruling party "Union for a Popular Movement" then was six percent ahead of the candidate of the Socialist Party, 53-year-old Segolene Royal. The balance of power observed before the election was something reminiscent of the one that has evolved today. Sarkozy, the then interior minister under President Chirac, had a rating of 29.5 percent. Segolene Royal rated 25 percent, and from the beginning there were good chances of moving to the second round. However, many experts have already questioned her final victory. In February of 2012 Sarkozy officially announced his intention to run for president for the second term. According to opinion polls conducted in late March of 2012, the incumbent head of state today would secure the same 29.5 percent of voters.

At the same time, the candidate from the Socialists, Francois Hollande, is still lagging behind the favorite of the presidential race by two percent. But the balance of forces may significantly change in the second round of the presidential elections. In recent months, the "left" strengthened their position. The voters who voted for the "Left Front" and the "green" will rather prefer to vote for Hollande than Sarkozy who disappointed many Frenchmen with his rigid social policies. In part, this situation is confirmed by the results of surveys conducted by the Institute for the Study of Public Opinion Ifop Fiducial.

It is expected that on May 6 Hollande will be supported by over 54 percent of the French,

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while Sarkozy can count only on 45 percent of the vote. The last five years have been characterized by an economic slowdown for the French. The global financial crisis could not but affect the political sphere. In 2010, when the country's budget deficit has exceeded six percent of GDP, the popularity of Sarkozy has dropped significantly. The discontent was fueled by the French media reports about the corruption scandal related to the election campaign of the President of the Republic.

Nevertheless, the incumbent was able to restore his position and confidently engaged in the current presidential race. Another question is what Sarkozy can offer to the ordinary French who have so many questions in connection with the unresolved social and economic problems in the country. The "success" of Sarkozy's five-year rule is very doubtful. Economic calculations of the government did not materialize: the national debt has reached 80 per cent of GDP instead of the expected 50-60 percent, while the unemployment rate rose to 10 percent.

France started talking seriously about the problem of poverty. In foreign policy, Sarkozy has often resorted to unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of other countries. He launched a military operation in Côte d'Ivoire in order to remove objectionable President Gbagbo. After an argument with a former "friend of France," the Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Sarkozy sent warplanes to the cities of Libya to destroy the regime of Jamahiriya. Very controversial reaction both in France and in Europe was caused by the loud statements of the French president on the need to combat illegal migration. Brutal killings "of Toulouse shooter" once again reminded that the security system in the country is far from perfect.

However, the declared campaign against migrants, who, as is commonly believed, deprive citizens of jobs, will contribute to the growth of Sarkozy's popularity among the native French. Today, the president openly speaks against wearing the burqa in public places, and against the recognition of polygamy. His main political rival, Francois Hollande, by contrast, strongly emphasizes the need to adhere to the principles of tolerance, more than counting on the support of representatives of national minorities. In the election campaign of Sarkozy the special role is played by creating an image of the real Frenchman. The president travels by bicycle through the streets, demonstrating excellent physical shape. He deliberately mimics the iconic actor Louis de Funes. Speaking in the city of Caen, Sarkozy did not skimp on the severity against his political opponents.

"Francois Hollande announced his program for one year. And we thought he was a candidate for the presidency for five years! During the first year we will spend everything, without restrictions, without consequences, and will begin with the changes in the pension system," he said after the candidate of the Socialist program announced his priority measures for the near future. The candidate from the "Left Front" Jean-Luc Mélenchon who claims the third place in the presidential race with fifteen percent of the vote was mentioned by the current President as well. "What do you have in common with Jean-Luc Mélenchon and those who promote hatred, the deficit, who denies any reality?" "Liberation" quoted the president's words. Socialist Francois Hollande had already earned the nickname "The Quiet Man." By contrast, he avoids heated debates and harsh public statements.

He positions himself as a balanced politician, far from the scandals and intrigues constantly accompanying Sarkozy. Hollande is in favor of easing the law to raise the retirement age and the adoption of a new program aimed at creating 60,000 new jobs in the public sector. In any case, the race in France is now in full swing. On April 9, the strict rules according to which each candidate is able to use 43 minutes of air time for campaigning came in force. The total cost of the presidential elections in France, paid from the state budget, will amount to 228 million euros. Yuri Sosinsky Semikhat Pravda.Ru  Read the original in Russian.



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