30/04/2007 - D-7 - 2nd round
On 6th May next, 44.5 million French are being called to vote, for the 2nd round, in order to appoint their future President. They will have the choice between two candidates who won the first round on 22nd April: Nicolas Sarkozy (UMP) who won 31.18% of the vote in the first round and Ségolène Royal (PS) who won 25.87% of the vote.
The Socialist candidate, Ségolène Royal, has received the support of the Communist Party (PCF) (1.93%), the Greens (1.57%) and the far left parties (Revolutionary Communist League, LCR; Workers Party, PT and for the first time ever in France, Lutte Ouvrière, LO) who managed to rally 7.07% of the vote in the first round.
Philippe de Villiers, (MPF) who won 2.23% of the vote and who, on the evening of 22nd April, said that he would give no voting advice in the second round came back on his decision and finally called on 25th April for a vote in favour of Nicolas Sarkozy. National Front leader (FN), Jean-Marie Le Pen who won 10.44% of the vote will convene the members and supporters of his party to a rally on 1st May in Paris. He then might provide his advice on how to vote or on the contrary call not to choose between the two candidates in the second round.
Neither of the two camps rallied 50% of the vote on 22nd April. Indeed the left achieved one of its worst scores in the first round of a presidential election winning 36.44% of the vote only. The right did not fare better: with 43.85% of the vote it achieved the lowest result in its history. The 6.82 million votes (18.7%) that went to centrist candidate, François Bayrou (UDF) therefore forms an extremely desirable reservoir of votes, sought after by both candidates standing in the second round.
François Bayrou, who did not qualify for the second round in spite of an honourable result, entirely dominated the political arena in the first week between rounds. On 23rd April Ségolène Royal called on the UDF chairman to a public debate "in all clarity, transparency, in front of everyone," and said she was ready to appoint UDF Ministers in her future government. "I heard the appeal made by the electorate with regard to the need for renewal and to take on the ideas at their source," she said. For his part, Nicolas Sarkozy turned towards the centrist party MPs most of whom have publicly demonstrated they will support him during the second round. UDF MPs elected thanks to rightwing votes are not forgetting that there will be general elections fives weeks after the second round of the presidential election.
On 25th April the centrist candidate held a press conference that everyone was waiting for and during which, as expected, he refused to give any voting advice. Everyone noticed however that he "spared" Ségolène Royal, who in his eyes represents "a chronic cause for concern" whilst he was extremely critical of Nicolas Sarkozy whose "taste for intimidation and threat" he denounced; Sarkozy comprises "a serious cause for concern" in his eyes. "At present I do not know what I shall do, but I now have a small idea of what I shall not do," he answered when asked about the way he will vote on 6th May. François Bayrou also announced the end of the UDF and the creation of a new political party, the Democrat Party, which he hopes will put candidates forward in all constituencies during the general elections on 10th and 17th June next. Finally the UDF president accepted the debate suggested to him by the Socialist candidate saying that he was open to any type of honest discussion saying that he would like their dialogue to be broadcast on TV.
After many uncertainties this debate during which François Bayrou fiercely defended his independence which he cannot give up without compromising his political future – and during which Ségolène Royal conceded nothing of her Presidential Pact which she did however say she was ready to "complete", finally took place on 28th April and was broadcast by the TV channel BFM and on radio RMC. This dialogue, an all time first under the Vth Republic focussed on five themes: the institutions, Europe, education, employment and public finance. It enabled the revelation of a number of points of agreement between Ségolène Royal and François Bayrou, for example with regard to the State and the institutions, but it did also reveal major differences, notably in the economic and social area. Hence the UDF president says he disagrees with the idea that growth can be boosted by providing money to a great number of the French. It represents "a significant additional imbalance to our public spending. I think that it is not the right choice and that also it would not be possible long term. It has never worked and cannot work in an open economy like ours," he maintained. "The Presidential Pact is not a State Pact, on the contrary and that is why it is so modern. All of the economic and social reforms are undertaken in a partnership in the shape of contracts with companies, social partners and the regions," answered Ségolène Royal. Both politicians are divided over Europe. Criticising the ideas expressed by the Socialist candidate about the European Central Bank (ECB), which were widely adopted by Nicolas Sarkozy, François Bayrou defended the control of inflation, the ECB's mission, recalling that a cheaper euro would rhyme with a rise in interest rates. The PS candidate repeated that she would plead for a reform of the ECB status if she were elected, "I want Europe to take care of growth and employment as well," she declared.
Although some of the left witnessed a constructive, high quality dialogue in this debate others protested violently against what they believe to be a re-centring of the Socialist Party. Hence MP Henri Emmanuelli (PS) seceded and maintained he would create a new "progressive" left party rallying all anti-liberals. "This debate was to the honour of its players and worthy of a presidential election. It is an important act towards democratic renewal revealing the archaic, authoritarian ideas of Nicolas Sarkozy and his refusal to debate anything," stressed Jean-Marc Ayrault, chairman of the Socialist group in the National Assembly, the lower house in French Parliament.
On the right criticism was unanimous. "Making people believe in makeshift, artificial similitude whilst everything basically opposes the most archaic Socialists in Europe and the representatives of the UDF who in their majority voted in favour of the government laws over the past five years truly is an intellectual hoax," said Bernard Accoyer, UMP chairman at the National Assembly. Likewise Nicolas Sarkozy qualified the debate as "being contrary to the idea behind French institutions (...) it embodied, to my mind, the height of everything grotesque in the Vth Republic. We should keep our feet on the ground! François Bayrou did not get through to the second round of the presidential election. I shall allow no one to steal the second round of the presidential election from the French. No one will steal the debate for which the French voted for en masse last Sunday. It would truly be a rejection of democracy. We have one week before the impetus of the first round collapses on a lie, bad faith and due to the spite of bad losers who cannot resign themselves to leaving the stage," stressed the UMP candidate who denounced the "gutter politics" undertaken by his adversaries.
François Bayrou said he was pleased with the debate he had had with the Socialist candidate. "We opened up a route which many others will take one day. There is nothing easier in an important time like this one to enlighten citizens by providing them with the opinion of political leaders on major issues. We saw that we could agree or disagree without needing to swear allegiance to one another. Whoever is elected that person will need to make the various political trends work in harmony. None of our country's problems can be solved if we cannot rise beyond these conflicts," he declared adding that he was ready to debate with Nicolas Sarkozy, an offer that the latter is still rejecting.
Both candidates in the second round have therefore chosen totally different strategies to rally the majority of the electorate of François Bayrou, which will be vital in their bid to win the presidential election.
Nicolas Sarkozy, who seemed to be slightly in the background in the first week between rounds in which Ségolène Royal and François Bayrou mostly dominated the scene, chose to talk increasingly about issues affecting foreign policy whilst remaining loyal to his first ideas in the first round which focussed on the value of work. "I want to be the candidate of the France that works, of the France that works hard. I wanted to place my presidential campaign under the banner of the respect of work and workers and under the banner of protecting factories. I need you and I am asking you to have confidence in me," he said on 28th April. The UMP candidate also repeated his commitment to achieving full employment within the next five years, i.e. an unemployment level of 5% (versus 8.3% at present), and to protecting workers from relocations. He did however address the centrist electorate during his meeting in Paris on 29th April. "Since François Bayrou wants to put an end to the UDF I say to the UDF MPs who support me that they are welcome as free men and women. I am not done with the UDF. I respect the UDF, its electorate, its values, ideas and convictions. I need them. I am asking them to give up nothing. I would like to address the electorate of the centre, whose values are so close to my own. I want to tell them that their sensitivity has its place within the presidential majority that I would like to build and around which I would like to rally the French," he maintained. For the very first time he suggested, if elected, discussions with all political forces about the introduction of "some proportionality into the Senate or the National Assembly without risking instability which would be disastrous. I want everyone to feel they are represented in the Republic but I would like to maintain the majority vote which is the key to the stability of the Republic," he stressed.
For her part Ségolène Royal chose to refocus or not to focus – on her party thereby continuing a trend she had set at the beginning of her campaign. Saying that she was "free and the prisoner of no dogma," she is now trying to transform the Socialist Party into a true Social Democrat movement in the image of other European leftwing parties. "It is by turning to the presidential election that we can achieve political renewal. It is a moment that I cannot afford to let slip," she declared seeming decided about achieving the transformation of the Socialist Party in two weeks, a change that the party has rejected so many times - when Lionel Jospin was defeated in the first round of the presidential election on 21st April 2002 or when François Mitterrand died – the only Socialist to have been elected President of the Republic (1981-1995) to date and even in 1983 when there was a turning point with regard to rigour. Although this strategy is not popular amongst the "elephants" of the PS (leaders of the biggest departmental federations and the members of the national bureau), it does seem however to receive the approval of most of the electorate: a poll undertaken by the SOFRES published in the Figaro Magazine on 28th April revealed that François Bayrou would be the preferred choice as Prime Minister amongst the French if the Socialist candidate were to win (37% versus 29% for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, PS). "I am not ruling anything out," said Ségolène Royal, when interviewed on the subject on 29th April.
In a poll on 26th and 27th April by the SOFRES for radio station RTL, TV channel LCI and the daily, Le Monde, before the debate between Ségolène Royal and François Bayrou, and which was published on 29th April, 41% of François Bayrou's electorate were planning to vote for Ségolène Royal and 32% for Nicolas Sarkozy. 27% did not say how they were intending to vote.
"On Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd April eleven million of you, in mainland France, in the provinces abroad and elsewhere gave me your vote. Great hope rose in the country," wrote Nicolas Sarkozy in the new flyer that will be going out to voters. "Over nine million gave me their confidence in the first round and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You know this one thing: I am a free, sincere woman," says the text signed by Ségolène Royal. The official campaign for the second round started on 27th April at midnight; it will end at the same time on 4th May (or 3rd for voters in America and French Polynesia).
On 2nd May both candidates will meet for a live TV debate at 21:00 broadcast by the two main French TV channels, TF1 and France2, several radio stations as well as the Internet such as for example on the site of the European TV channel ARTE (http://www.arte.tv/fr/70.html
) which will also offer internet users a simultaneous translation in German.
All of the pollsters forecast that Nicolas Sarkozy will win on 6th May. According to the latest poll on 26th and 27th April by SOFRES for RTL and LCI and the daily Le Figaro, published 29th April the UMP candidate will win with 52% of the vote versus 48% for Ségolène Royal. However 17% of those interviewed still say they have not made their choice.