The Rue de Solférino is on the left bank of the Seine in Paris. It takes its name from the Battle of Solférino fought by Napoleon III and Victor Emmanuel II on one side against Francis Joseph of Austria on the other back in 1859. Needless to say Napoleon’s team won.
The street has many political associations and today is the headquarters of France’s Parti Socialiste. The Rue de Solférino is now witnessing another historic battle as the PS’ Francois Hollande seeks to oust the Bling Bling president of France, Sarkozy, from power. That battle will be decided by French voters on Sunday May 6.
At the Parti Socialiste HQ is the office of Pierre Kanuty, the party’s political advisor for International and Europe affairs. He is also a prolific blogger and shared with me his views on the state of the election so far after Sunday’s first round.
Pierre considers the first round of the presidential election - The beginning of the end for Sarkozy. He continued: “One can learn a lot from Sunday’s vote. The turnout was finally better than expected. French citizens are crazy about politics and despite a very long sequence - the socialist open primaries and the campaign, many of them vote.
“François Hollande gathered 10 millions of voters, reaching one of the highest results for a socialist candidate. Sarkozy didn't succeed at all. The hyper president never had a real momentum.”
That was the good news: what of the bad?
Pierre shares the views expressed here by the PS’s UK candidate Axelle Lemaire said: “The bad news came from the Front National (extreme right) with its best result since one voter out of five gave his or her vote to Marine Le Pen.
“New look but old ideas; the FN will put a heavy pressure on the Conservatives. Some pundits predict that they want to destroy the Conservative UMP in order to reshape the right.”
On the far left candidate Pierre observe: “Melenchon didn’t reach his goal - to be the third man, but with 10 per cent, he give the Communist Party and the radical left a steady weight.
“The Green Party failed in an election that is not right for them. With the crisis, people care less about ecology than about keeping their jobs.”
So what of the coming days before the final presidential run-off and the period that follows in France and wider Europe?
Pierre is a realist and issues a stark warning: “The victory is close but we’re not there yet. The right wing parties may lose in the vote, but they have already won in the heads - such a reality exists all over Europe.
“The progressives will have to address theses issues: how can we tackle the crisis, reduce deficit, find growth and make solidarity between people a priority?”
That is the challenge not just facing Hollande and the Parti Socialiste but those on the left of politics throughout Europe: it is a battle that has to be won.
(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).