By Joan Trevor
The first round of voting in the French presidential election will be on Sunday 22 April; assuming that no one wins a majority then (and no one will) the second round will be two weeks later on Sunday 6 May.
The likely run-off in the second round will be between right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy, recently interior minister, and the not very left-wing Socialist Party candidate Ségolène Royal. A repeat of the situation in 2002 when the National Front fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen got through to the second round is unlikely.
In the campaign for the first round, those candidates that succeeded in getting the 500 signatures of the mayors or other elected politicians they need to stand — and that was a tall order for many — have been able to put forward their programmes on the public media, guaranteed equal air time. That has made, all told, for quite a lot of anti-capitalist propaganda, albeit of variable quality.
The Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) candidate Olivier Besancenot is riding higher than the other far-left candidates in the opinion polls: on 16 April he was on 5 per cent, the Communist Party’s Marie-George Buffet (posing as a “united left” candidate) and Lutte Ouvrière (LO)’s Arlette Laguiller on 2.5 per cent, the Greens’ Dominique Voynet on 2 per cent and José Bové, the radical small farmer, who earlier ruled himself out of standing as a unity candidate for the anti-capitalist left, and ended up standing as a candidate for himself, on 1.5 per cent. It looks like the far left is heading for a lower score overall than in 2002, when in the first round LO got 5.7 per cent, LCR 4.3 per cent, and the Workers’ Party 0.5 per cent.
The LCR’s campaign includes an emergency plan “to change our lives and cast off the rule of capital”, with these demands:
• A real job on a good wage.
• Work fewer hours and not so hard, so that everyone can have a job.
• The right to a safe environment — our lives, not their profits.
• Defend and extend social protection.
• Public services to meet social need.
• The rights and the means to live our lives the way we want.
LCR campaign slogans are: “Our lives matter more than their profits”; “Vote the way you fight” (“Votez comme vous luttez”); “For a new anti-capitalist force”; “Yes, for socialism!”; “An effective vote: vote with your heart and with your head”.
The last is an appeal to those who support LCR policies but fear a replay of 2002 and so would vote Royal in the first round. It also addresses those who would vote for the centre-right candidate, François Bayrou, on the grounds that he alone, with Socialist Party and centre votes, can beat Nicolas Sarkozy in the second round. The LCR says that 2002 happened because the Socialist Party’s candidate, prime minister Lionel Jospin, performed disastrously, and:
“Sarkozy but must be beaten, but we also need to beat the politics of the right, and of those who in the name of the left only give neoliberalism [capitalism] more options… …we will have five years of a new presidency. If it is of the right, we can place no confidence in the soft left to lead the resistance against the bosses, as the last five years have amply demonstrated. If it is Socialist, we will need an opposition to its left to force ordinary people’s aspirations on it. Were Royal elected, she would carry out policies to the right of those of Socialist governments of the past, and so much more so if she is not under the pressure that a good score for candidates to her left would represent.”
Following hard on the presidential election are the parliamentary elections on 10 and 17 June; the parliamentary elections, naturally, are likely to follow the pattern of the presidential election. That was the intention when the constitution was changed in 2000 to replace the presidential septennat (seven year term) with the quinquennat (five years).
Chirac wanted to guard against any more periods of “cohabitation”, where the president is of one political persuasion, and the parliament and the prime minister of another.
• Campaign websites