3-dimensional May Day for France’s Super Tuesday

Sarkozy scrambles for support while Le Pen’s wave rolls on ahead of presidential elections.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy 370 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/France Television)
French President Nicolas Sarkozy 370 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/France Television)
PARIS – Traditionally, the French people celebrate May Day, the day of the workers, by holding huge demonstrations in the streets of Paris, led by the different Labor Unions and left-wing political parties.
This year, the importance of the day was increased by the political situation, five days before Sunday’s second and final round of the presidential elections, pitting President Nicolas Sarkozy of the right-wing UMP party, who has been unable thus far to garner the support of the extreme right and the center, against François Hollande, the representative of the Socialist Party who has massive support from the extreme-left and the Green Party.
This year, the two main parties each had their own demonstration, which started exactly at the same time, 3 p.m., after Sarkozy decided to hold a last-minute, especially big meeting before the election on Sunday in a desperate attempt to rally his supporters. But his decision to choose to hold his rally at Trocadero Square in front of the Champ de Mars and the Eiffel Tower as the location and to call it “the Feast of Real Work,” irritated the Left, who went out in their hundreds of thousands to defend “their May Day.”
The third demonstration, that of the right-wing Marine Le Pen’s National Front party, was held earlier in the morning in front of the Place of the Opera, after tens of thousands of her supporters had walked from the Pyrenees Plaza where stands the statue of Joan of Arc, the heroine of French history for the last 600 years and the symbol of the French nation in the eyes of the National Front.
Since its foundation, the National Front movement has celebrated its “feast of patriotism” on May 1, in opposition to the Left, who glorify international and socialist values on that day.
Le Pen’s supporters, who came from all over France, mainly wanted to hear who her choice would be for the second round of the presidential election, either Sarkozy or Hollande.
No one was surprised when she declared, “I’ll cast a blank vote on Sunday and for the Blue-Marine [the new name of her movement] at the legislative elections on June 10 and 17.”
Her comments followed a speech made by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen on the history of France – in which he even reminded his audience the capture of Jerusalem by the Crusaders – that he concluded by saying, “Vive Joan [of Arc], Vive Marine, Vive la France!” Sarkozy’s gathering, billed as “the Great Rally of May Day,” was held in Trocadero Square.
“We are 200,000!” declared Sarkozy to his audience, composed mainly of families enjoying the sunny springtime weather. “With General De Gaulle, the French people were writing history.
We also want to write history, in spite of those who want to deny for us the right to talk to the French citizens on May 1, as if they were the sole owners of that day.”
He called for the unions “to put aside the red flag and serve France.”
According to Sarkozy, the country can resolve its economic and social problems only through the value of work, “the real work.”
At the same time, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators started to fill the Denfert-Rochereau Plaza in order to march from there to the historical Bastille Plaza.
The slogan “Neither for Sarkozy nor for Marine. May Day is the feast of the workers” was scrawled on walls in the very crowded metro stations leading to the meeting. The famous Lion of Denfert was covered by a huge red flag and a young man held a banner reading “Virez Sarko” (Sarko out!).
An old lady who had come from Normandy said that her first May Day demonstration was in 1963, where she met her husband.
“I haven’t decided yet whether to vote for Hollande or to abstain,” she said.