French elections: Sarkozy takes a beating at the polls

Posted by Anthony Page

Socialist 'man of the people' Francois Hollande heaps pressure on France president Nicolas Sarkozy in first round vote.

Francois HollandePoor old President Nicolas Sarkozy – running second in the French Presidential elections! He faces the prospect of surrendering office to the Socialists - the first incumbent to do so since Valéry Giscard d'Estaing in 1981.

Le Monde is now predicting that Sarkozy will lose to Francois Hollande, the Socialist leader. In this first stage vote the two other runners up will now step aside and Sarkozy and Hollande will slug it out. 

The most surprising thing is the proportion of the vote these two lesser players have drawn to their parties. The extreme right politician – Marine Le Pen, Leader of the National Front Party - and daughter of Jean Marie Le Pen, secured between 18.2% and 20% of the vote. The outsider Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the communist leader representing the Left Front achieved a surprising 10.5% to 13%.

So what’s this got to do with us you might well ask? The answer is a lot! In the past three months we will have had three major eurozone countries change governments – Italy, Spain and now France, and all moved to the Left.

Germany’s next election is in the autumn of 2013, six months before the UK General Election in May 2014.

Elections always unsettle world markets – especially the money markets. The move towards socialist governments in major eurozone countries will unsettle them even more. This could well rock the boat of European economic recovery, which in turn will have a dramatic impact on the UK recovery.  

Despite what the Labour Party did with their profligate spending while in office, we could see a swing to Labour as the British voter rebels against the cuts the coalition have put in place to stabilize the UK economic environment. 

George Osborne, David Cameron and especially Nick Clegg will be watching the French election results like hawks!

Even though the bitter medicine we have had to take will work in the long run, the fickle UK electorate may just bite the bullet and say it time for a change. Nick Clegg, in this situation, is dead in the water – even if the vote was split again as in 2010. If another coalition was put together, the likes of Ed Miliband and Ed Balls working with Nick Clegg is remote to say the least. Nick Clegg would have to step down and a new Lib Dem elected. 

If Labour came in with an outright win then they would face the challenge of facing the reality office against a backdrop of electioneering rhetoric! No easy job if you’ve listened to Ed Balls recently. 

Still, they could take a leaf out of the book of one Chicago’s famous bootlegging mayors. When asked why he had not delivered any of his election promises famously said, ‘Tell them I lied!’.

Of course, David Cameron may just pull off the coup of his career and win the election with a thumping majority – Hmmm, very unlikely!  Even a small majority would be a notable achievement!

With luck and the Gods behind him the economy and employment will improve and he will be able to go to into the election vindicated. If we are all still in the doldrums then he will have the same fight on his hands as Sarkozy - winning an election when everything is still travelling south. The next couple of weeks in France will be very telling for European politics ... and us!

Photographs: © Présidence de la République - L. Blevennec

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