Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, March 23, 2007

The French Election - why is Bayrou climbing?

There's an interesting Op-ed in the New York Times today about the upcoming French election, which starts off promising but then goes wrong. The central question is, why is centrist candidate François Bayrou climbing in the polls? The author gives two explanations: the first is that Bayrou is the son of farmers. I don't think this can be overlooked; the French feel a real rapport with "les paysans", which is why agricultural subsidies will never go away in France (sorry, RbR). But he also posits that Bayrou's strength is that he is boring; specifically, that "[t]hey want things to stay the way they have always been." I'm sorry, but I don't buy this at all. It's much more complicated than that.

The two main candidates in the race are Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal. Let's start with Sarkozy. Fairly or not, a lot of people just plain don't like him. He is viewed as manipulative and under-handed. He has a strong anti-immigrant stance, which plays well with a lot of French, but turns off many voters too. Sarkozy is a non-starter for self-identified socialists, who make up a good chunk of the country.

So these people will vote for Royal, right? Not so fast. Many French citizens don't like what socialism has done to France. While there are many people who like the 35-hour work week (and some who want a 32-hour work week!) many are opposed. Small business owners who voted Mitterrand now feel the left has abandoned them, and that the right is helping (although, as I mentioned, Sarkozy is a non-starter). Many people don't like Royal -- some find her smug, some don't like the way she talks (important in a country where they love their language) but I don't think she's the problem. I think years of rule by the left are the problem.

These disillusioned socialists are tending toward Bayrou and they like what they are hearing. He is saying all the right things, but questions remain. Can he be an effective leader? Will he keep his pre-election promises? It's going to be interesting -- stay tuned.

7 comments:

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Anonymous said...

The real reason the French like ag subsidies is that the Dutch and Germans are paying for them through the EU's CAP system. If the French tax payers actually had to pay for their own subsidies I wonder how long "les paysans" would be heros.

A centrist candidate will probably be worst for Le Pen. So long as the race was between an unpopular Socialist and an unpopular Gaulist, Le Pen could hope for second place in the 1st round. But with a viable centrist there, Le Pen is probably out of luck.

RBR

USWest said...

I agree with Bell Curve. The NYT piece oversimplified the situation in France. According to a recent Economist article and Ifop, if Bayrou were to make it to the seocnd round, he would defeat Sarkozy 59%-40% and Royal 57% to 39%. At the time of the article, which was last week, Sarkozy has 27%, Royale 26% an Bayrou 23%.

The Economist article points out something else that is worth noting: the French are nortorious for last minute election upsets, and that Bayrou would have an uphill battle if he were to win considering that he only has 27 seats in the 577 seat National Assembly. No wonder he has kep his proposals modest and toward the center. He will need support from the wings to make any government work.

USWest said...

Oh, and FYI, in my opinion the NYT article was short on fact and big on sterotype. The French aren't baguette-carrying, wine-drinking, gallois-smoking, farm-loving, baret-wearing short people who go into estasy over art.

In fact, they drink less wine and eat fewer baguettes than ever before and the only ones wearing barets these days are the Basque who invented them to begin with. Most of them like the idea of art, but know about as much about it as the average American.

The Law Talking Guy said...

USWest writes, quoting the Economist, that the "French are notorious for last-minute election upsets." I suspect this means they are really notorious for bad polling data. =)

USWest said...

Ha,ha! No worse than we are. We don't seem to predict our elections very well either!

The Law Talking Guy said...

Oh, I disagree. We predict our elections very well, but they are often so very close that even a good prediction doesn't work too well. I think the Economist meant that the French will 'unexpectedly' give someone a much larger vote share than pre-election polls predicted.