Going down to the wire in France

The Times Online reports today the desperate measures that France’s Socialist candidate for president Ségolène Royal is pulling out all the stops in order to defeat the conservative Nicolas Sarkozy. The type of demonization taking place is something Democrats here who have done similarly would be proud of (emphasis added):

Ms Royal, the left-wing candidate who is about four points behind the conservative Mr Sarkozy in polls, denounced her opponent for the “great violence” and “brutality” of a campaign that she maintained was frightening away voters.

She will use a critical television debate with her opponent tomorrow to contrast her “France at peace with itself” with Mr Sarkozy’s “France of the hard Right”.

Ms Royal’s line of attack, five days before the country goes to the polls, was amplified yesterday by aides and supporters. In the latest torrent of anti-Sarko vitriol, 100 stars of the arts and sciences declared that “Sarkozy embodies a hard radicalised Right . . . with all its fears and hates. Entrusting the presidency to a demagogue like this means real danger.”

For the Left, vilifying Mr Sarkozy offers a last hope of breaking his march to the Elysée Palace on Sunday. Ms Royal’s aim is to stir anti-Sarkozy fears among those who voted for the centrist candidate, François Bayrou, who was eliminated with 18 per cent of the vote on April 22.

After attacking Mr Bayrou as a stealth Sarkozyite in the first phase of the campaign, Ms Royal has reversed course over the past week and waged a charm offensive towards him and his voters. In another gesture yesterday, she suggested that, if elected, she would appoint as prime minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a Socialist rival who is popular with the pro-Bayrou centre.

Fomenting the TSS factor (Tout sauf Sarkozy — anyone but Sarkozy) became inevitable when he emerged from the first-round vote with much greater credibility than Ms Royal but little popularity.

A CSA poll on Sunday found that 65 per cent of French people think Mr Sarkozy “solid” compared with only 24 per cent for the Socialist. Yet only 29 per cent find him likeable, compared with a 57 per cent rating for Ms Royal.


As a tough Interior Minister until last month, the ambitious Mr Sarkozy earned the dislike of many young people — especially those from the immigrant ghettos. His doctrines of radical economic reform and individual responsibility — never before aired by a senior French politician — have been welcomed by many as a revolution, but cast by opponents as divisive, cruel and unFrench.

Mr Sarkozy has offered opponents new ammunition over the past month by breaching politically correct taboos on immigration and national identity and successfully wooing supporters of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the far-right candidate.


He proceeded to spur fresh fury among the left-wing Establishment by blaming the “generation of 1968” for the moral crisis of France. The Socialist party elders and many top civil servants and academics were students in that year of revolt.

Pro-Royal campaigners have called him a “French Berlusconi”, a new Bonaparte and a “French George W. Bush”.

Using celebrities, and painting your opponent as a crazed right wing radical ready to steer you back into the dark ages. Sound familiar?

Can you imagine France turning into an ally of the US under his leadership? The Euros would go NUTS! For that reason alone, I hope he wins :D

Pejman Yousefzadeh writes that while Sarkozy is far from perfect, he would “represent a clear, dramatic and refreshing break from France’s status quo, a status quo alarmingly bereft of dynamism.”

American Enterprise Intitute Research Assistant Jurgen Reinhoudt takes us ‘inside the mind’ of Sarkozy.

French Election 2007 has a preview of tonight’s big debate between Sarkozy and Royal, which will be broadcast at 9 pm France’s time, which is 3 pm ET. (Correction: That debate was Wednesdsay night, not Tuesday night)

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