2007-04-20 Nick Champeaux
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If Europeans could vote in the French presidential elections - who would they be backing?

In France, voting machines will be used for the first time for a presidential voteIn France, voting machines will be used for the first time for a presidential vote
Europeans want Ségolène Royal for president ! Twice as many would prefer French socialist presidential candidate Ségolène Royal, compared to her right wing rival Nicolas Sarkozy…..That’s what came out of a Harris Interactive survey for the Financial times newspaper. The survey was conducted in four countries: Germany, Italy, Spain and Britain. That’s only four out of twenty seven European member states, and it’s just an opinion poll in the first place. That said European commentators and correspondents tend to be more critical of Nicolas Sarkozy, compared to their French colleagues.

Most of France’s influential newspapers, TV channels and radio stations are owned by a handful of businessmen, who are often careful not to upset politicians, especially when they’re in a good position to win important elections. That’s why foreign media correspondents in Paris have less of a problem being hard hitting. José Maria Marti-Font is head of the Paris bureau for the Spanish daily El Pais. He has written an article on Nicolas Sarkozy entitled “the thirst for power”.

French conservative presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, flanked by supporters, sings the national anthem at the end of a campaign meetingFrench conservative presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, flanked by supporters, sings the national anthem at the end of a campaign meeting
"For Politicians to be ambitious is normal, but if they put their ambitions first, then we’re in trouble. The French press is very polite with politicians. For example Nicolas Sarkozy makes no secret of the fact that he personally called the majority shareholder of the daily newspaper “Libération” because he was not pleased with the way an article portrayed him! That would never happen in countries such as Spain, Britain or Germany."

Moving West to Germany where some of Sarkozy’s comments haven’t gone very well with a number of commentators. On two occasions Sarkozy said that no nation had contributed more to human rights than France, adding that France had not invented the holocaust , ignoring what Germany has done for the memory of the Shoah. Jacqueline Hénard is a German researcher and editorialist, she is the Paris correspondent for the Swiss Tages-Anzeiger newspaper.

"I do not agree with use history for political purposes, especially when it’s done in such a cheap manner. I mean everybody can see what he Sarkozy is trying to do. He is trying to lure voters from the National Front, the worst voters of the National Front, but I don’t think that he can go as far as that. And I think that the staff around German Chancellor Angela Merkel might remember these statements if he is elected."

upporters of French socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal wave flags during her last campaign meeting in Toulouseupporters of French socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal wave flags during her last campaign meeting in Toulouse
Nicolas Sarkozy receives much more support across the channel. The Times daily newspaper endorses Sarkozy. And in London last week the “Economist” referred to Sarkozy as France’s chance. Here is an extract of what leaders of the influential weekly said about the fifty two year old contender.

"Unlike the others, and despite his long service as a minister under Mister Chirac, Sarkozy makes no bones of admitting that France needs radical change. He openly admires America; he is enthusiastic about the economic renaissance of Britain. He plans an early legislative blitz to take on hitherto untouchable issues such as labour-market liberalisation, cutting corporate and income taxes and trimming public-sector pensions."

The Economist chooses Sarkozy for a lack of anything better. The article actually devotes more column inches to criticizing Sarkozy than praising him, referring to him as a populist, someone who is less of a principled liberal than a brutal pragmatist.

French far-right leader and presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen on a meeting in NiceFrench far-right leader and presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen on a meeting in Nice
And what do European editorialists have to say about François Bayrou and his plans to put together a German type grand coalition? ……Jeanne Rubner from the Süddeutsche Zeitung says such plans are not realistic.

"We in Germany do not see the French as naturally inclined to coalition politics."

The French are seen as being Left or right and not really anything in between. They are not consensual, this system doesn’t suit the French political system and it doesn’t fit their way of doing politics. Here in Germany, it is seen as a dream, a nice dream, but a dream.

It may be a dream but it is an idea that is tempting the French electorate. Nicolas Sarkozy is aware of that. That’s probably why he has just come out in favour of including left wing ministers in his government if elected. But for many socialists, sharing power with Sarkozy would be more a nightmare than a dream.

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elections, france, nicolas sarkozy, public opinion, segolene royale

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