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Guest Slot: Mr.Chip’s guide to the 2007 French Election

June 2nd, 2006

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    Can Ségo stay silent to beat Sarkozy

Just six months back, you could scoop up Ségolène Royal, the dark horse of the French left, at 12/1 when the May 2007 presidential election was sure to be a slugfest between two conservatives, Dominique de Villepin and Nicolas Sarkozy.

Now, after Villepin’s spectacular implosion over a trivial change to labour law and now a Watergate-like spying scandal, Royal (at 11/4) looks like the only thing standing in the way of Sarkozy as he bids to replace lameduck president Jacques Chirac next year.

    Royal’s feat is all the more impressive since, apart from the fact that she is a former Socialist minister and current governor of the Poitou-Charentes region (thereby ruler of many a Brit), nobody knows where she stands politically.

By saying she “admires” some of Blair’s policies, she stole the mantle of left-reformer till then owned by former finance minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Then, to shake off the hated “blairiste” tag, she criticised him for failing to speak up when Peugeot shut its Ryton plant. By keeping mum yet dominating magazine covers, she has convinced 59% of French voters in a May 19-20 BVA poll to vote for her.

    So why is she leading Sarkozy in the polls but rightly trailing him in the betting markets?

Because she has to continue alienating nobody for 11 long, long months. And that’s even assuming she manages to convince the Socialist Party’s unreconstructed leftist base to pick her as candidate. In a clever move, Strauss-Kahn this week started smoking her out by warning she was probably “more conservative” than Sarkozy.

This may surprise those whose knowledge of “Sarko” comes from the English-language press but Strauss-Kahn is actually right.

Sarkozy’s tough approach to street crime, which is motivated both by an attempt to eat into Jean-Marie Le Pen’s support and a Blunkettish view that working-class people are its victims more than its perpetrators, is compensated by a “left-wing” approach to social policy. For example, he champions positive discrimination for minorities in the jobs markets and state funding for mosque-building.

A frenetic campaigner and the embodiment of change, Sarkozy will crush any Socialist candidate other than Royal. She is the only one he fears since he believes she could run an entire campaign based on opposing him rather than setting out any policies of her own.

This is doubtful. A real political pro she may be but it’s hard to avoid comparisons with Wesley Clark in 2003; a superstar till he opened his mouth. The smart money has to stay with Sarkozy with Lionel Jospin generous at 25/1 and Strauss-Kahn a good bet if you can get someone to open a book.

French election betting

Mister Chip is a European policy analyst and regular on the site and is writing under an assumed name so “he doesn’t upset his clients”

Note from Mike Smithson: CymruMark will be writing a guide to next year’s Welsh Assembly Elections which I will publish over the weekend.






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