PARIS – The presidential election campaign restarted here Monday morning, just a
few hours after the announcement of the official results for the first
Extreme-Right candidate Marine Le Pen of the Front National (FN)
Party made a surprising key victory, coming in third place with 18 percent of
the votes. Her father Jean-Marie Le Pen did the same 10 years ago when he
eliminated Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin during the first round, bringing
more than 80% of voters to give their voice to Jacques Chirac during the second
Incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy came in second place with 27%
of the votes.
The loss to his Socialist challenger François Hollande was
a surprise for nobody, since the French leader has been steadily declining in
popularity ever since taking office.
Voters have been crying out against
both his policies and his infamous “bling-bling” persona.
Le Pen wants to
lead in the legislative elections this June, what she terms the “third round” of
this year’s elections series.
“The ‘battle of France’ [a reference to the
Battle of France with Germany in June 1940, or to the Battle of the Marne during
World War I] has just begun... on the road of national resistance,” she declared
during her election rally Sunday night, while TV screens behind her displayed a
20% victory for her party.
The mood of the meeting was festive, with her
supporters elegantly dressed and dancing, toasting champagne to their heroine,
known as “the blue-marine wave.”
What will the Front National Party do
for the second round? “Let suspense operate, wait for the first of May at the
Place de l’Opera,” Jean-Marie Le Pen told The Jerusalem Post, referring to the
yearly demonstration the FN holds in celebration of French heroine Joan of Arc,
the national symbol for party.
The candidate is refusing for the moment
to say which candidate she will endorse in the May 6 run-off election, but
promises to do so during the May 1 gathering. According to specialists, though,
a significant portion of her blue-collar voters will probably give their voices
to the Socialist candidate in the second round.
centrist candidate François Bayrou has not yet revealed his intentions, he has
promised “to take [his] responsibilities” after he hears the choices of the two
finalists at the planned television debate.
While disappointed at being
beaten by Le Pen, fourth-place winner Jean-Luc Mélenchon expressed solidarity
with the Left, calling on his constituents to vote for Hollande in the second
round “without dragging their feet.” He was speaking at his election-night rally
at the Place de Stalingrad.
What we see is that Sarkozy must bridge the
large gap between Right and Left voters, a seemingly impossible mission. He must
talk to and convince both the extreme Right and the Center, and for that
purpose, he held a “strategic meeting” Monday morning in his Paris headquarters,
to analyze the statistics and define his strategy.
The president’s staff
made the decision to occupy the field, to spread the message, in order to catch
But, said Henri Guaino, Sarkozy’s special adviser, “there will be no
We are going to talk to the people.... If [in
Europe] we don’t listen to the people, there is an enormous risk [of going down]
the same tragic road as in the ’30s.”
In the Hollande camp, too, there is
an understanding of the necessity to unify, and not to depend only on the Left.
While Hollande looks optimistic, Segolene Royal, the ex-candidate who lost to
Sarkozy in 2007, said to BFM TV: “There [are] a lot of suffering people among FN
voters, and not only FN members.”
Eric Besson, one of Sarkozy’s closest
ministers, concluded: “The match will be tight, but it’s possible for Sarkozy.”