Sunday, April 22, 2007

Do the French still guillotine Royals?

I'll admit to not having paid as much attention to the French Presidential election as I could have. One reason for this is my general lack of interest in or liking for France (give me Germany any day) and another, perhaps related, is that I stopped learning French over a decade ago and have hardly used the language ever since. That said, I have known who Nicholas Sarkozy is for a long time (see Political junkie test!).

Whoever wins will have a hard task filling Jacques Chirac's shoes. Whilst I've never been the greatest fan of Chirac, it is hard to deny that he has steered France on a course that has made her a far more influential country in the world today than the UK. Indeed I don't doubt there are many here who would agree with Chirac over Blair on transatlanticism. French domestic affairs are another matter - the country may officially regard everyone as "French" to the point of banning collecting statistics on ethnicity (which some right wing ideologues in the UK call for, as though it would solve all racial and cultural issues) but the riots and alienation make me wonder if this is where the UK will be in a few years' time.

Most of the opinion polls I've heard of seem to suggest that it's between Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal, with the former triumphing in the second round. If François Bayrou could get to the last two then things will be interesting. And if Sarkosy finds himself in a second round against Jean-Marie Le Pen, as Chirac did five years ago, then Christmas won't have come early enough for him. And Le Pen is likely to do a lot better than polls suggest again, though I suspect left-wing voters will be more cautious about voting for the fringe elements also in this race. This in turn will make Bayrou's chances of overtaking Royal harder. The turnout has already surpassed the last election, again denting Le Pen's chances. But what direction will France take?

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