It’s not exactly a done deal, but it seems pretty likely that France’s next president is going to be a Socialist.
That’s essentially an expletive in the US these days.
But for the French, social democracy is starting to look, at least to many, like a welcome change from the austerity measures imposed by the current president, Nicolas Sarkozy.
Francois Hollande, his Socialist rival, has promised a 75 percent income tax on the rich, and to renegotiate the budget-trimming deal for the EU that Sarkozy and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, are pushing.
When asked why they were voting, and what their concerns were in a recent video by GlobalPost’s Ben Barnier, Parisians focused largely on the economy: jobs, pensions, and hope for the future. Their solution? It’s time to move forward.
That spells trouble for the current leadership — a trend, by the way, that’s taking shape across the euro zone. (This is a handy breakdown of the latest European leaders to fall.)
In France, the most recent polls showed Hollande in the lead — but not by a huge margin. Per the AP:
A poll by the BVA agency shows 52.5 percent support for Hollande and 47.5 percent for Sarkozy. A poll by the agency CSA shows 53 percent for Hollande and 47 percent for Sarkozy. For both polling agencies, that was the smallest spread registered in the campaign, which a few months ago saw polls predicting Hollande winning by a crushing 60 percent to Sarkozy's 40.
Hollande initially had such a strong lead going into the election that it seemed like the vote would be only a formality. But as the campaign has progress, Sarkozy has gained slowly in the polls.
And he could still win. The president has been courting the far-right voters from the National Front party, led by Marine Le Pen. It's your typical anti-immigrant stuff, full of voters who are uncomfortable with the influx of newcomers — largely brown-skinned, and Muslim — in France. Le Pen has also campaigned on conservative economic policies to the right of Sarkozy, proposing protectionist policies and even promising to take France out of the euro entirely.
But after winning a surprisingly large 18 percent in the first round, she backed away from Sarko, saying she would rather abstain from voting than choose either of the front-runners. That may have cost Sarkozy the support he was expecting to get from her voters.
So why is Hollande not trouncing his rival? As Isabelle Roughol reported for GlobalPost, Hollande lacks so much charisma that the campaign has largely revolved around Sarkozy — voters either want the guy to stay in office, or they don't. Hollande has positioned himself as the anti-Sarkozy, a mild-mannered man who rides his scooter to work and wants to stand up for the little guy, instead of wining and dining with the wealthy.
In these days of populist protests, maybe mild-mannered scooter riders are the kind of leaders people are craving.