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FRANCE 22 Apr – 6 May 2012 French voters choose president

France elects a president in two rounds in April and May, and conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy might not keep his job. The slow economy

April 22, 2012 - NULL

FRANCE 22 Apr - 6 May 2012 French voters choose president

France elects a president in two rounds in April and May, and conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy might not keep his job. The slow economy and his austerity measures have caused widespread disgruntlement. This time round, the Socialist candidate could walk away with the prize because France's ascendant National Front has a strong candidate who could split the conservative vote between the candidates of the ruling Union for a Popular Majority and the far right.

A parliamentary vote follows in June.

Recent local elections and opinion polls show the inroads the

FRANCE 22 Apr - 6 May 2012 French voters choose president

France elects a president in two rounds in April and May, and conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy might not keep his job. The slow economy and his austerity measures have caused widespread disgruntlement. This time round, the Socialist candidate could walk away with the prize because France's ascendant National Front has a strong candidate who could split the conservative vote between the candidates of the ruling Union for a Popular Majority and the far right.

A parliamentary vote follows in June.

Recent local elections and opinion polls show the inroads the National Front has taken on the ruling party and the Socialists. Joblessness, immigration policy and Islam -- France has Europe's biggest Muslim population -- are adding to the public disgruntlement and are giving the National Front an edge. Polls suggest new NF leader, Marine Le Pen, daughter of far-right firebrand Jean-Marie Le Pen, could beat Sarkozy and take his place in the 2012 presidential run-off. Her father eliminated Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin in 2002.

The challengers to Sarkozy could come from within his own party. Former French environment minister and centrist politician Jean-Louis Borloo is considering a bid for the UMP nomination. Sarkozy is counting on his presidency of the Group of 20 major economies for 12 months from November to burnish his global leadership resume, a reminder to voters of his prompt action at the peak of the financial crisis in 2008. The crisis threatened debt restructuring, and banking and market problems, forcing Sarkozy to take a tighten money policy.

The best-rated Socialist challenger is International Monetary Fund chief Dominque Strauss-Kahn, but he has yet to declare his intentions of running for his party's nomination. Former Socialist Party leader François Hollande and Ségolène Royal, his former partner, who lost to Sarkozy in 2007, have already declared their intention to run in 2012.

A big danger to the Socialists is the disunity in the party. Infighting ahead of the 2007 presidential race made the party look disorganized and helped Sarkozy to victory over his Socialist rival, Royal. The Socialist party wants to avoid a repeat of the "political aberration" of April 2002 when an array of leftwing candidates split the vote and the Socialists were knocked out in the first round by the National Front. The Socialists appear to have learned a lesson and plan to hold the country's first presidential primary in October. The tactic is aimed at widening the vote for a candidate, thus widening his or her appeal. The nominee will also be expected to give the party the kind of unified look it will need for victory.

Though the situation looks promising for a Socialist win, it would defy the odds: François Mitterrand, elected in 1981, is modern France's only Socialist president. (WRITTEN May 2011)

RELATED READING:

Porschegate leaves Sarkozy rival with the headache of champagne socialism (Guardian 9 May 2011)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/09/porsche-dominique-strauss-kahn-france

http://m.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/opinion/the-rising-fortunes-of-strauss-kahn/article1921341/?service=mobile

France sets date for 2012 election battle (Reuters/ABS-CBN 11 May 2011)
http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/global-filipino/world/05/11/11/france-sets-date-2012-election-battle

Reforming gloomy France (Economist 20 Apr 2011)
http://www.economist.com/node/18584584?story_id=18584584&fsrc=rss

France Draws Election Battle Lines Over AAA Rating (WSJ 5 May 2011)
http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20110505-716075.html

Porsche driving Socialist? Not in France (France 24 5 May 2011)
http://www.france24.com/en/20110505-french-right-revels-socialist-candidate-strauss-kahn-porsche-photo#

Socialists back-pedal on US-style primaries (France 24 2 Apr 2011) http://www.france24.com/en/20110401-french-socialist-party-primary-elections-hollande-royal-aubry-strauss-kahn

FACTBOX-Key political risks to watch in France (Reuters 3 Sep 2010) http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/factbox-key-political-risks-to-watch-in-france

Marine Le Pen becomes Front National leader (Telegraph 16 Jan 2011)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/8261969/Marine-Le-Pen-becomes-Front-National-leader-A-pivotal-moment-for-French-politics.html#

Date written/update: 2012-04-22