After a rather tedious electoral campaign, the first round of the French election proved to be a surprising evening.
Firstly, contrary to polls’ predictions, Francois Hollande took the lead in the first round with Nicolas Sarkozy taking around 1.5 percentage points less, making Hollande the frontrunner for the second round. Secondly, one third of the voters made their choice in favour of candidates with extreme leanings, among them the candidate of the nationalist “Front National,” Marine Le Pen, and the candidate of the extreme left-wing “Front de Gauche,” Jean-Luc Melenchon. Finally, the election turn-out was unexpectedly high, 80% of all eligible voters.
Clearly, the French electorate are indeed interested in the future of their country, and more notably the choices made show that there is an ample number of people disappointed with the two leading candidates.
Marine Le Pen, who came out third with around 18%, declines to endorse either Sarkozy or Hollande. How then will all her voters decide in the second round?
It is quite probable that some will vote either way, but it is more likely that the majority will abstain. Louis Aliot, the second most important politician of the FN and Marine Le Pen’s partner, has already said that he will spoil his ballot on the 6th of May.
Marine Le Pen has made it clear that there is nothing to negotiate about; therefore she is unlikely to change her mind and endorse either Sarkozy or Hollande. Sarkozy’s strategy could be geared towards that and consequently try to court the electorate of the FN. He has already called for halving the number of visas for new immigrants, questioned the granting of dual citizenships and proposed the reintroduction of border controls.
In the meantime the Socialist candidate Francois Hollande cannot afford to take a break. Although he has garnered the support of Jean-Luc Melenchon from the FG, Eva Joly from the Greens and Philippe Poutou from the NPA (New Anti-capitalist Party), nothing is decided yet.
While the voters of MoDem candidate Francois Bayrou might split up evenly between Sarkozy and Hollande, the behaviour of the voters of the FN is far less predictable.
While Sarkozy may try to woo FN voters with his politics, many of them personally dislike Sarkozy due to his opportunism and alleged aloofness.
The electorate has not forgotten that Sarkozy went to a luxurious restaurant on the evening of the 2007 election and went yachting with billionaire Vincent Bollore instead of secluding himself in a monastery as he had promised to do prior to the election.
Amongst all this uncertainty, one thing is definite. It is the FN voters who will decide the fate of their current president and it is they who are the most important political factor in France at the moment.