As I write, my mum is in the queue at the consulate to place her vote in the French presidential elections. The choice is so unbelievably poor that she almost considered ditching Nicolas Sarkozy in favour of the fringe Francois Poutou, who has fantastically promised to simply cancel France’s debt. It’s been that kind of campaign.
Sarkozy, the incumbent, has had an awful campaign. At the end of the day, the French don’t like him. They like their head of state to be demure and serious, and therefore rather resent Sarkozy’s gallivanting at the beginning of his term. His recent sobering-up has done little to reverse this. To add to his mistakes, Sarkozy has fought the election by pandering to the anti-immigration right in the hope of winning over the supporters of Marine Le Pen. This kind of populism is just not attractive. Nevertheless, I’d vote for him. He is the tallest dwarf (ironically – he is actually very short) on economic policy, and has a working relationship with Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor. In times of crisis, France actually needs a centre-right president who will keep a grip on the fiscal situation.
Here’s why: on the left is Francois Hollande. He is full of promises – not least a wildly popular 75% top rate of tax – which would wreck France’s economy and public finances. He probably won’t implement all of these measures, but he will be compelled to do some of the things he says he will.
Today is the first of two rounds of voting – the second consists of a run off between the two most popular candidates. Unless there is an unexpected upset (e.g. a surge in support for Le Pen or the far-left Jean-Luke Melenchon) the run off should be between Hollande and Sarkozy. Hollande will probably win, unless a nation finally makes an acquaintance with common sense.
The sad thing is that the French don’t even really like Hollande. He is unbelievably dull, and has never held public office. The fact is that the pro-Hollande vote is really anti-Sarkozy. That’s no way to elect a President.