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Sarkozy and Hollande chase the disaffected Le Pen vote

By Sanchia Alasia
April 30th 2012

François Hollande is still on course to become the next President of France, the second Socialist President since 1954. In the first round of elections last week, Hollande edged ahead of incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy by a slim margin of 1.5 points.

The far left and Greens have pledged their support for Hollande in contrast to Front National leader Marine Le Pen, who has categorically told her 6.5 million voters not to vote for Sarkozy. Despite this, however, it seems likely most of the far right party’s supporters will end up gritting their teeth and voting for Sarkozy.

Recent polls estimate 45% to 60% of people who voted for Le Pen will transfer their vote to Sarkozy in the second round, whereas 18% to 26% would support Hollande. That is still not enough for Sarkozy to win as he would need another 20% to make the gains needed. Many votes for Le Pen came from women, blue collar workers and voters that lived in rural areas, particularly in theGard region of France.

In the end, though, Sarkozy’s lurch to the right seems to have done him few favours in this election. Though the anti-immigration and anti-European vote went primarily to Le Pen, Sarkozy has reiterated that if elected he will “defend the French way of life”, reduce immigration and secure France’s borders. The President emphatically stated there were not 6.5 million fascists in France.

Both Hollande and Sarkozy have realised Le Pen’s supporters could hold the key to their electoral success on May 6th, although in reality many may not vote in the second round.

Hollande stated on Friday that limiting illegal immigration during an economic crisis was “essential”, and said that if he takes office he will ask Parliament to fix the number of immigrants allowed into France every year. He has stated, however, that he was not prepared to seduce Le Pen’s vote at any price and would seek to give residents who are non-European citizens the right to vote in local elections.

In the national daily Libération Hollande stated:

“There is a part of the Le Pen electorate that comes from the left… Who are against privilege, against globalisation, against a Europe that doesn’t work. It’s up to me to convince them that it is the left that will defend them.”

There is a final televised debate on the May 2nd between Hollande and Sarkozy to make their last bids to the French voters.

If elected, once Hollande takes up office we will see whether he will govern France as a centrist or leftist. With France potentially on the brink of an economic crisis – their credit rating having been downgraded recently – the programmes and policies implemented will need to have a strong impact for France to turn her fortunes around.

Originally published in Left Foot Forward.

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