Thursday, February 23, 2012

PoliticsFrance: Presidential Campaigns: Frontrunners in marathon toward April 22 first round

The President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, is campaigning as tho his hair were afire.  Despite his experience and t+m at the helm, his bid for a new term under the party banner of the UMP (Union pour  un Mouvement Populaire = Union for a Popular Movement, to which are allied a number of micro-parties).  The votes will occur presumably in two rounds — the first on April 22, the second on May 6 for a run-off vote if necessary.  And it seems a second ballot will indeed be necessary.

Monsieur le Président Sarkozy is up against the Socialist gladhander François Hollande.  The Parti Socialiste's "first secretary" (leader) has been daubed "Monsieur petites blagues" (Mister Little Jokes) by Sarkozy, due to Hollande's recent book Les meilleurs blagues de François Hollande.  Undoubtedly, the touché has something to do with one of Hollande's "little jokes" in the book.  "What is a sardine?  A whale that has endured five years of Sarkozysme."  Sarkozy-ism.  France as a sardine that once was a whale (Napoleon)?

Sarkozy has changed the precious tone of anti-Sarkozysme, induced by Hollande into and upon the campaign up to this point, by blasting Hollande as an Obama-think-al+k wild spender unafraid of off-handedly incurring a crippling national debt, burdening the next generation, and in danger of reducing France to the Greek model of financial and social disaster.  Hollande pretends there is no ongoing financial crisis in Europe.  And he mimics Obama's moves, looking very much the marionette.  "Two days after US President Barack Obama put tax reform at the heart of his re-election campaign, France's Socialiste nominee François Hollande pledged to raise levies on banks, big firms and the rich to plow the country out of debt."  He uses the same rhetorical ploys as the American President — for instance, the Warren Buffet manoeuvre whose secretary allegedly pays more taxes than he does — but, of course, he pays only Capital Gains Tax on his billion dollars investments, while Debbie Bosanek pays personal income tax l+k most of us.  By the way, Debbie appeared alongside the First Lady when Prez Obama rolled out the dubious comparison, while just two days later, "her case was taken up by ... François Hollande" (First Obama, now Hollande stresses fiscal fairness [Jan28,3k12]).  It seems François is Barack's running mate.  "The Obama brand ... remains hugely fashionable in European countries starved of politicians with an ability to capture the public's imagination."

But before Sarkozy can concentrate exclusively on Hollande's gentilhomme-socialism of the PS (one of many socialist, communist, trotskyist, and left-anarchist political entitites in France), first the President must steal a chunk of votes by protest voters, ballots that may be squandered on the Front National party on the clearly r+twing end of the French political-partyt spectrum.  The Front is led now by the redoubtable Marine Le Pen.

On the other hand, Sarkozy must contend also with the popularity of François Bayrou's MoDem (Mouvement Democratique): "Centrist politician Francois Bayrou is more popular than his rivals for the French presidency a poll showed on Monday, suggesting he could make a surge similar to 2007 when he almost squeezed into a two-candidate runoff," says a Reuters report (Jan17,2k12).

— Politicarp

The Telegraph, London UK (Feb19,2k12) article by Henry Samuel in Marseille
Also: The Guardian, London UK (Feb19,2k12) by Angelique Chrisafis, Marseille
Don't miss: France 24: Candidate endorsements enrage small parties, again (Jan24,2k12) by Joseph Bamat
— Samuel's article reposted here with refWrite comment by Politicarp,
refWrite Frontpage politics columnist
general editor, refWrite

Nicolas Sarkozy styles himself 

as man of the people

Nicolas Sarkozy styled himself as the candidate of the people yesterday as he told 12,000 supporters he kept France strong by averting economic "catastrophe," at his first major rally.

Unable to all squeeze into the 8,000-capacity hall, thousands of sympathisers had to watch the hour-long speech from giant screens outside as Mr Sarkozy's UMP party put on a show of force in Marseille, France's biggest city run by the Right.
A sea of tricolor flags, a blockbuster-style campaign anthem and the presence of Carla Bruni-Sarkozy – attending her first ever campaign rally – were designed to help the incumbent belie polls predicting [Sarkozy's] defeat [by] Socialist rival François Hollande in elections beginning April 22.
"I have come to speak to the people of France," he thundered, repeating that he had "succeeded in avoiding (economic) catastrophe" and his reforms had been "masked by the crisis".
Anyone seeking proof that France was not as badly hit as others should ask a "Greek worker" or an "Italian pensioner," he said.
"To downplay the crisis is not only dishonest, it is dangerous," he said – clearly accusing Mr Hollande of doing so. "To tell the French: sleep easy, there is no crisis, there is no risk, is to play with the future of the French."

Mr Sarkozy backs an EU fiscal pact drawn up with Germany's Angela Merkel on tightening budgetary austerity rules. Mr Hollande wants to relax and amend it to place the focus more on growth.
With 63 days to go before round one, the two mainstream candidates have begun to widen their advance on the remaining contenders.
A focus on traditional conservative values and a promise of handing power to the people to circumvent the "elites" through referendums on welfare and immigration has helped Mr Sarkozy pull out of striking range of Marine Le Pen, the far-Right National Front candidate. He is now between seven to 11 points clear.
But it has done little to dent the lead of Mr Hollande, despite a difficult week for the Socialist – accused of doublespeak by attacking unregulated "finance" while seemingly placating the City of London.
Mr Sarkozy on Sunday warned of the dangers of picking an adversary who "pretends to be Thatcher in London and Mitterrand in Paris", claiming the Socialists had backtracked on a range of issues from immigration to returning the official retirement age to 60.
His camp is hoping a "carpet bomb campaign" in which he injects new ideas and publicity stunts on a daily basis will allow him to dictate the agenda, and divorce "Sarkozysme" – his politics – from "Sarkozy" the man.
"It's all about storytelling," he told the Daily Telegraph and other French journalists as he opened what he insisted were modest campaign headquarters in Paris on Saturday.
New proposals on Sunday included reducing the number of MPs in the National Assembly and adding a dose of proportional representation.
Despite the cheers and the full house, there was nothing like the fervour of the early stages of Mr Sarkozy's 2007 electoral campaign. The most heartfelt cheers came at the end, when Mr Sarkozy cried "help me...succeed for France".
Speaking afterwards, militants were anything but wildly confident. Sébastien, a UMP youth member, said: "Here it is easy to convince people as it's preaching to the converted, but when it comes to convincing the whole of France, that's another ball game. "
Jacqueline, an estate agent in Marseille, 50, said: "It will be very difficult. He's the best but it will be very tough."
The starting gun for the Sarkozy campaign sounded last Wednesday when he formally announced his candidacy for a second term, followed by a provincial rally in Annecy, in which he accused Mr Hollande of "lying morning to night".
Clearly stunned by the virulence of the language, Mr Hollande's campaign has appeared to lose momentum. But the Socialist nicknamed Mr Normal said he would not be reduced to "street fighting" with a "brutal and inconsistent" candidate.
"The only referendum is the presidential election and I know the question: 'Do you want to continue with the outgoing President?," he asked.
Mr Sarkozy received surprise support on Sunday from Claude Allègre, a former Socialist education minister, who praised his "great qualities in foreign policy and Europe" which would prevent France becoming the new Greece or Italy.
Mr Hollande, however, was "not up to the job".
"(He) constantly changes his mind. If he's elected we'll have Chirac II in power," he said.
Stuck with the nickname of "President of the rich", Mr Sarkozy is trying to recast himself as a man of the people, the underdog which the "system" – the media, pollsters and the Left – want to evict.
"I won't be the candidate of a small elite against the people," he said.
His strategy has infuriated Ms Le Pen, the self-styled "candidate of popular revolt", who implored her supporters not to heed the Sarkozy siren as they did in 2007.
"The President of the rich, the little candidate of the fat cats, the bling-bling president would now suddenly be the candidate of the people?," she said in a presidential convention on Saturday in Lille.
"Only imbeciles would be taken in by such a U-turn."

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