After a nine-week campaign, the French presidential hopefuls have moved to the second round of voting, with François Hollande of the Socialist Party and Nicholas Sarkozy, the incumbent, due to contest the final round in May. Yet all the hype and the stage-managed rallies cannot hide that the French people were unimpressed with the ten candidates placed before them.
Neither candidate persuaded much more than a quarter of the electorate that they can treat the current malaise afflicting France. Like others in Europe, the French have shaky banks, unemployment (over 2.85 million people), short time working (another 1.5 million), fears about the euro, attacks on pensions (initiated by Sarkozy) and much more.
Neither Hollande nor Sarkozy will address the root of the problem: that France is subject to the directives of the EU. Total Oil plan to shut its main refinery; Peugeot aims to close major factories; France’s premier foundry and casting plant is closing; agriculture is threatened by cheap imports from Morocco and Spain. Yet neither candidate can bring himself to break with the EU and support their own producers.
Hollande has been rattled by the anger expressed by French industrial workers and farmers. He talks vaguely about approaching Merkel to “re-negotiate” the latest EU fiscal treaty.
Sarkozy, so far denied an adventure in the former French colony of Syria, has suddenly discovered that Le Pen is gathering votes on unrestricted immigration. He now says France will withdraw from the Schengen Agreement on open borders if the Italians keep sending French-speaking African migrants straight to France. ■