Economic revival, the Euro-zone, and alliance with US international policy at stake in the French presidential election

Across France and the French overseas domains and territories, voters are going to the polls, and their level of dissatisfaction is surpassed only by the height of what is at stake for France, Europe, and US international policy.

The Europe Center invites the Stanford and area community to join us Friday, May 4th, for a roundtable discussion on the upcoming French elections.    (Sign-up here [link]).  Three analysts from different fields of expertise – Arthur Goldhammer, Laurent Cohen-Tanugi, and Jimia Boutouba – will discuss the election and its wider context.  The Europe Center is timing this public event  for the eve of round 2, with much to analyze from round 1, and policy options to consider for the impending winner.

Round 1 (April 22) results:

  • François Hollande: 28.6%
  • Nicolas Sarkozy 27.2%
  • Marine Le Pen 17.9%
  • Jean-Luc Melenchon 11.1%
  • François Bayrou 9.1%
  • Five other candidates 6.1%

Speculation during the two-week interim period between round 1 and 2 will focus on the leader of the far-right Front National – Marine Le Pen, who took her party to its highest vote tally in modern memory.  How will the two remaining candidates vie for these voters who were apparently preoccupied with a perceived threat from immigration, cultural dilution, and security?  Especially in the wake of the recent tragic violence in Toulouse, candidate Sarkozy courted such far-right voters, but candidate Hollande vociferously chastised the tactic as capitalizing on the tragedy.

Available opinion surveys note widespread disenchantment with incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has put his personal stamp on Euro-zone rescue and recovery and alliance with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but who has failed to deliver such reform, stability, or growth in France.  President Sarkozy has also raised the profile of France and its international policy on the Afghan international peace-keeping force, as well as the Arab Spring and most recently international effort to enforce a cease fire in Syria.

French voters also express disappointment with Socialist candidate François Hollande, frequently labeling him and his party as vaguely center-right and having abandoned a clear commitment to the party’s traditional platform of equality and social justice.
Interest – and survey support – grew in the run-up to the first round of voting for the candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who brings a background as a teacher and self-identified Trotskyite, to lead the party Front de Gauche – a loose coalition of ex-Communists, environmental left, and the rough equivalent of U.S. “99%” movement.  

What did not happen this year was to have an “alternative” candidates from what are seen as the edges of ideological spectrum can win enough votes to edge out Sarkozy or Hollande and survive to the second round – as happened in 2002 when Jean-Marie Le Pen (father of Marine) out-placed the Socialist Lionel Jospin, to make it to the second round, and effectively compel center-left Socialists to hand the election to Jacques Chirac.

The French presidential election is organized to accommodate two rounds.  The first round took place Sunday, April 22.  Because no candidate won more than fifty percent of the vote, there will be a run-off election of the top two candidates, on Sunday, May 6.
Basic facts of the structure of the French Presidential election are at:

Latest blog entry by Arthur Goldhammer:

Opinion poll results from the leading agency Ipsos Public Affairs are updated frequently at: