The French Open, one of tennis’ major grand slams, is coming up fast and hence to use the terminology of that sport the first round of that country’s presidential election sees the umpire call “Advantage Hollande”. However as in politics and in sport having the advantage does not guarantee victory.
In the first round of polling held on Sunday April 22 socialist Hollande took 28.6 per cent of the votes to put him ahead of the current president Sarkozy on 27.2 per cent. The big surprise of the day was the high vote for far right candidate Marine Le Pen with 17.9 per cent. In fourth place was the voice for the far left Jean-Luc Melenchon on 11.1 per cent whilst the centrist Francois Bayrou registered 9.1 per cent.
The second round on Sunday May 6 will be between Hollande and Sarkozy to determine who is the next president of France. Already Ifop has conducted and published a poll which on the basis of the soundings carried out after the polls closed on Sunday sees Hollande capturing 54.5 per cent of the vote with Sarkozy trailing on 45.5 per cent.
Just how the three main eliminated candidates’ votes are distributed in the second round is key to the outcome of the presidential election. The same Ifop polls said 83 per cent of the far left Jean-Luc Melenchon vote would go to Hollande whilst Sarkozy would collect 38 per cent of Bayrou’s voters and 48 per cent of Le Pen’s. Hollande would pick up 32 and 31 per cent respectively.
In the end event it may be down to the fact that the French voters have simply had enough of President Bling Bling and believe that socialist Hollande is more suited to these austere times.
Axelle Lemaire is the Parti Socialiste candidate for the UK and Northern Europe constituency for the French parliamentary elections that will be held in June. However she has also been working to get her supporters out to vote in the same constituency on April 22 and will again on May 6 for her party leader Francois Hollande.
On the first round vote Lemaire said: “We have good reasons to feel satisfied with the results. It is the first time in French modern political history that an outgoing president does not pass the first round in a leading position, and polls indicate that Mr Hollande enjoys a significant advance in the second round. But it leaves a sweet and sour taste, given the high score of the extreme right candidate Marine Le Pen, who actually attracted more voters than her father when he made it to the second round in 2002. In itself this is another sign that social democracy throughout Europe is facing a serious challenge from extremist and populist parties. Mr Hollande is the best candidate to address the real concerns of the people regarding their social and legal safety”.
So how did the French voters in the British Isles and other areas of Europe in this constituency vote? Lemaire says: “The results of the first round of the French presidential election in the North Europe constituency show that victory is possible for François Hollande here. Overall, the number of left-wing voters in the first round has increased compared with 2007, and seems to be higher than that of the right. There is clearly an opportunity to show that abroad too, French people want change for their country, and see addressed issues of justice, fairness and equality, as well as a clear strategy for Europe and for growth. This first result also indicates that the race will be tight, with every vote counting. Which path do we want France to take in the next five years and for the future generations? It is up to us to decide, in France, and abroad.”
On May 6 the people of France will speak: the chance of a historic socialist victory is within Hollande’s grasp if the voters have the courage of their convictions they have shown so far.
(The above article appeared in the London Progressive Journal on April 26 and a version in the Morning Star on April 27 2012 as well as other online publications).
Emma Reynolds: Labour’s Shadow Europe Minister also writes on this subject at: