The first round of the French presidential elections is on 22 April, the run-off between the top two candidates on 6 May.
The right-wing president Nicolas Sarkozy, Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), is polling on 26% compared to François Hollande, candidate of the Socialist Party (PS), on 30%.
However, if you add up the scores for all “right-wing“ candidates and all “left-wing“ candidates, and if they divide among Sarkozy and Hollande respectively, Sarkozy would win. If you add all the voters (left and right) against the new euro cuts treaty, then the opponents are a big majority.
On the far left, the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (New Anti-capitalist party — NPA) is running Philippe Poutou; Lutte ouvrière (LO) is running Nathalie Arthaud.
To stand, candidates must collect the signatures of 500 elected representatives, including mayors, by 16 March. Poutou is struggling. Marine Le Pen of the fascist Front National (FN — National Front) stands at 14% in the polls, but is also struggling to get the 500. Her father Jean-Marie Le Pen got only 507 signatures in 2007 — but won 10.4% of the vote (3.8 million votes).
The far-left but increasingly eccentric Parti des travailleurs (Workers’ Party) is not standing this time (it got 0.5% of the vote in 2007). Its representative Gérard Schivardi has declared: “These elections are pointless, the presidential power is non-existent”!
The once powerful, now shrunken Communist Party (PCF) is not standing its own candidate this time. It polled 1.9% in 2007. It is backing the left-wing career politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon, currently on 8%. In 2008 Mélenchon left the PS and formed the Parti de gauche (PdG — Left Party). The PdG and the PCF and some smaller fragments together make up the Front de Gauche (FdG — Left Front) for the 2012 election.
The FdG programme is radical sounding, packed with “interesting“ ideas, e.g., a constituent assembly for a new (sixth) republic, limiting presidential powers and strengthening those of parliament.
It proposes “the right to work“, 1700 euros minimum wage (LO demands the same); the highest salary no more than 20 times that of the lowest in an enterprise. The FdG will impose a levy on financial transactions to pay for emergency house-building: 200,000 new homes a year for five years.
LO and the NPA offer programmes of radical transitional demands, such as workers taking control of banks and enterprises; the sharing out of work without loss of pay to end unemployment; wages indexed to prices. None of this is proposed as achieveable without social and political struggle, and that is maybe why, with confidence low, NPA and LO scores are also low.
Poutou is below 1% in the opinion polls, an unknown compared to Olivier Besancenot, candidate of the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) in 2007. Besancenot quickly became famous as “the postman” when he first stood in 2002, and got 4.1% in 2007. (The LCR set up and dissolved into the NPA in 2009.)
LO’s candidate, Nathalie Arthaud, likewise succeeds a well-known figure.
Arlette Laguiller stood as LO’s candidate in every presidential election since 1974 and was a national figure. She scored 1.3% in 2007 — squeezed by Besancenot, who appealed particularly to young voters (10% of 18-24s, 8% of 25-34s). Arthaud is on 1%.
Finally, squeezing the far-left, there is the fairly strong showing of the PS. Hollande says he will row back on austerity, and the pension age increase — for some. He will tax big companies more in order to pay to create jobs; he promises 60,000 more teachers. He will re-negotiate the EU’s new stability pact.
Alarmed even by such relatively tame promises, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel is supporting Sarkozy. However, Sarkozy is still massively unpopular for many reasons, primarily the social attacks by his government. He is tainted by sleaze. He seems flashy in the age of the austerity that he himself insists on. France has lost its AAA credit rating; unemployment is 10%.