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With Carla and Nicolas, in the Lycée Jean de la Fontaine
By JOSEPH STRICH
05/07/2012
She appeared first, smiling, dressed simply like every Parisian girl, all black, calf-length trousers, ballerina flats.
 
PARIS – She appeared first, smiling and dressed simply like every Parisian girl today, all in black, calf-length trousers and ballerina flats.

“Carla! Carla!” shouted the crowd, voters and the just curious, among them journalists, photographers and TV crews from the entire world.

They were all waiting in front of Lycée Jean de la Fontaine, 32 Boulevard Murat, in the 16th arrondissement, the location of a polling station where outgoing French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Italian wife, the ex-top model Carla Bruni, were expected to vote at 11:30 a.m. To find the polling station, one must exit the Porte d’Auteuil Metro station, at the corner of Rue de Montmorency where the couple lives, and follow the flags and police officers along the boulevard.

Then we saw him.

“Nicolas! Nicolas! We will win! We will win!” The chanters, all supporters of Sarkozy, wanted to believe in his victory and that “everything becomes possible,” shouting the slogan of his previous and victorious campaign of 2007, which had the same strong impact as Obama’s 2008 “Yes we can.”

“I am sad for my president, he looks very tired,” said Odile Spiegler, who shares her time between her beloved France and Israel. Spiegler has lived in Netanya since marrying Israeli soccer legend Mordechai Spiegler, after having having been married the first time in Neuilly, near Paris, in a ceremony conducted by Sarkozy, then the mayor of the little town.

Another woman spoke about François Bayrou, the leader of the center-right, who on Thursday announced his intention to vote for the Socialist Party’s François Hollande. “He is against the program of Hollande but he votes against Sarkozy. France is not important for him, only his personal feelings,” she said.

Hearing that at the security gate Liona, a journalist for the Italian TV station RAI, said that throughout the campaign, everywhere in France she noticed that “there is a very hard anti-Sarkozy feeling, just like in Italy with Silvio Berlusconi.”

She added that “there is a big interest in Italy in these elections, because of the European and economic implications.”

“He [Sarkozy] is the only one who can save us,” answered a blonde woman, for whom “the other one [Hollande] doesn’t know anything or how to speak to the US. He has had a full facelift, and his companion, Valérie Trierweiler, a journalist from Paris Match, is an intriguer.”

This day could be considered “The Longest Day,” at the end of which “everything is really possible,” as I was told in an Auteuil café by a friend who is a French ambassador in Africa.

According to him, the reason is “the universal right to direct voting, a way of voting that is typically European and which gives every citizen the ability to decide and change everything.”

Maybe he is just hoping for Sarkozy’s reelection but still he is aware of the difficulties and not very optimistic.

The day was gray, rainy, like the original “longest day” of June 6, 1944, not sunny as one would expect in May in Paris.

Everything was closed except the schools where the polling stations are located. It’s a public holiday. I remembered that Tuesday, May 8, is also holiday commemorating the victory in Europe at the end of World War II in 1945, and many people will not work on Monday, the day after the election, since it is an tradition in France to make the election a long weekend. It was also like this last week on May 1.

A thought occurred to me that France is a country filled with public holidays.

Even if officially the Socialist Party was not talking about a victory and the preparations it is making, I saw workers preparing the Place de la Bastille for a possible victory feast later at night. It happened like this last time in 1981, the only time that a Socialist (François Mitterrand) was the victor.

By midday, the TV stations were announcing a 30.66-percent voter turn out so far, with 18% of people expected to abstain, according to the press.

The polls are obstinately carrying on giving Hollande victory, but Sarkozy also is stubborn, believing that he might spring a surprise.

“There is a chance at the finish,” said Jean Francois Copé, the head of Sarkozy’s UMP party, whose activists and supporters were waiting nervously late into the afternoon and in the early evening for the results at the Mutualité convention center in Paris, while the Socialists filled the entire building at 10 Rue de Solferino, the Socialist Party headquarters. All the surrounding streets were full of supporters and media from all around the world waiting for the next French president.

On the Left, nobody is seriously envisaging defeat.

“Anti-Sarkozyism is so strong,” explains one of the people in charge. The Left has benefited from a favorable atmosphere created by the economic crisis and the persistent unpopularity of Sarkozy.
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