By Youssef Outmane
By Youssef Outmane
Morocco World News
Casablanca, April 22, 2012
As France gets ready to vote in the first round of presidential elections today April 22, Sarkozy running neck and neck with his socialist challenger Hollande are the two main rivals. They are about 10 points ahead of third-ranked, Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader, in surveys for Sunday’s first round, with hard leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon, the surprise of the campaign, challenging Le Pen for third place.
Many French were still undecided about for whom they will cast their vote. Many voters have complained that the campaign has been lackluster and the candidates uninspiring.
Mohammed Merah is the gunman whose murders have shifted the political debate in favor of incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy. The French president has fully exploited the opportunity to appear as tougher and more capable of handling this kind of crisis than Hollande. This drama was the main issue in France this year, and Sarkozy’s biggest advantage since February 2012.
Two months earlier, Sarkozy and the president’s far-right rival Marine Le Pen, had latched onto the issue of “Halal” meat (meat slaughtered according to Islamic traditions) and turned it into a topic that for a few frenzied days dominated the election debate.
In fact, the financial crisis in the Euro-zone has been all but forgotten, amid these raging debates in France. Unsurprisingly, the candidates differ widely on how they would go about responding to the current crisis, and how their policies would impact voters.
Both candidates Sarkozy and Hollande have proposed measures to halve immigration, welfare reform, and push for tougher European Union conditions on trade with emerging nations. Sarkozy promised spending cuts and a new law committing France to balanced budgets; Hollande wants push to renegotiate the European Union’s Fiscal Compact Treaty, and says he will take on big business in a show of solidarity with the French electorate.
The biggest loser: France’s Hollande or Sarkozy’s Europe?
Currently, President Sarkozy’s party has a significant majority of 357 out of 577 seats in the lower house of the French Parliament. And Hollande’s party has just 140 seats. Sarkozy might now inch past Hollande in the first round tomorrow 22 April, but Hollande is still likely to easily beat Sarkozy in the head-to-head run-off on 6 May.
So if Hollande’s coattails prove too short to shore up a majority for his party, the Socialists could create a coalition with the Left Front, which means a nightmare for Europe that will not take any decisions on the debt crisis without France.
Both candidates Sarkozy and Hollande are set to face off in a May 6 decider for which the Socialist has a comfortable lead of between 7 and 14 percentage points. It could give France its first left-wing head of state in 17 years.
By the end of this petty and shallow presidential campaign, we are waiting for tonight’s results , to see who’s the winner of the first round. We will not sit idly by. We will be waiting in front of the television and a grill of “halal” meat, the smell of which has covered the French elections.
Youssef Outmane if the editor-in-chief of the Casablanca-based Radio Plus