Tuesday

31st May 2016

Brussels to breathe sigh of relief after French vote

  • Hollande has led in most first round polls and in all second round polls over Sarkozy (Photo: Anirudh Koul)

The first round of France's presidential elections on Sunday (22 April) will bring Brussels a step closer to resumption of normal business, with the EU capital on something of a political lock-down as the campaigning has gathered pace.

Nicolas Sarkozy and his main challenger Francois Hollande are, according to polls, set to make it through to the run-off on 6 May.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Hoping to avoid bcoming the first one-term president since 1981, centre-right Sarkozy (with 27.5% according to a BVA poll) is talking up his economic credentials as the country struggles with a 12-year unemployment high and huge public debt.

Tough anti-immigrant language, the changing of key EU policies and blowing hot and cold on Berlin have also featured in his campaign.

But he has been unable to dislodge Socialist contender Hollande (29.5%) from the lead.

Emerging from the shadows after it became clear that disgraced former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss Kahn would not lead the centre-left party, the low-key Hollande has positioned himself as the anti-austerity candidate, pledging a 75 percent tax on the super-rich. He also makes much of being the anti-Sarkozy in terms of his less showy style.

Both leading candidates are feeling threatened by ones further right and left.

Marine Le Pen (14%), heading up the far-right National Front, is peddling protectionism, xenophobia and Brussels-bashing. She believes she will make it through to the second round of elections, as her father Jean-Marie Le Pen did in 2002.

The genuine surprise of the campaign has been the rise of Jean-Luc Melenchon on the far left. Polling at 13 percent, he is set to poach leftist voters unconvinced by the centrist Hollande, and has called for a 20 percent rise in the minimum wage and a full pension for people older than 60.

The rest of the field consists of centrist Francois Bayrou (12%), Green Eva Joly (2%), rightist Nicolas Dupont (1%) and three far-left candidates - Philippe Poutou (1%), Nathalie Arthuad (0%) and Jacques Cheminade (0%).

The view from outside

For onlookers in Brussels and other national capitals, the challenge has been to sort the wheat from the chaff in campaign rhetoric on European issues.

EU officials have had a typical case of selective hearing since electioneering began in earnest.

This especially concerns Sarkozy's comments on making Europe more protectionist by establishing a 'Buy European Act,' pulling France out of the EU's borderless area unless there is progress on strengthening borders and altering the role of the European Central Bank to focus on growth.

"It's France. Let's wait and see what really happens after 6 May," one EU official said, referring to the second round. "None of these things are issues where France can simply act alone," the contact added.

Hollande's biggest European issue is a pledge to alter the fiscal compact treaty. His talk on this has ranged from full-blown renegotiation to simply adding text on growth measures.

He recently told Germany's Handelsblatt that: "If the pact contains no measures for growth, I can't recommend it for ratification."

But there are doubts that he will do much because the treaty has already been signed by 25 countries and some have ratified it. "There is to be a separate French declaration appended to the treaty. [Hollande] intends to put into it that toughness on spending should be accompanied by pro-growth measures," said one senior EU source.

Many in the EU capital are keen to see the back of the French elections because they cause disruption.

EU pause to end

According to diplomats, once the next president of the fifth Republic is installed, talks on issues such as the EU's multi-annual budget and tweaking the rules on EU borders will begin in earnest.

Early indications of the result are to come after the last polls close at 8pm local time.

Analysts say French voters often use the first round to make a point but the second one to vote in earnest. Hollande has led, just, in most first round polls and in all second round polls over Sarkozy.

While the campaign winds down Friday (20 April) ahead of polling day, a different political storm is brewing.

French authorities are threatening to pursue media outlets that publish exit poll results - available from around 6.30pm - before last poll stations close in big cities such as Paris and Marseilles.

In 2007, French voters flocked to Belgian and Swiss websites to see leaked exit polls. But with the rise of Twitter and Facebook, French commentators are questioning whether the media blackout in France can or should be maintained.

Those breaking the ban, including social media users, could face a fine of €75,000, the French authorities warned on Thursday.

Analysis

How Portugal's leftist 'contraption' works

After six months in power, the improvised left-wing coalition between socialists, leftists and communists has managed to rule and even thrived, to many Portuguese's surprise.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary reinforces fence on Serbian border
  2. Juncker to seek renewed backing for TTIP talks
  3. EP president rules out return to German politics
  4. Austrian far-right wants to probe election fraud accusations
  5. Irish PM warns Brexit could bring back border controls
  6. Truckmakers risk record cartel fine
  7. London mayor teams up with British PM on Brexit
  8. Syrian refugees sue Denmark over immigration law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCAEducation and Training 2020 - Giving Young People the Workplace Skills They Need
  2. EPSUTrade Unions Back New Undeclared Work Platform
  3. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCould targeting children’s fitness boost academic performance?
  4. World VisionDeclares the World Humanitarian Summit a Positive Step in a Longer Journey to Ending Need
  5. EJCPresident Dr. Moshe Kantor on Brexit and the Jewish Question
  6. Swedish EnterprisesNew rules for posted workers - Better Protection or the End of Posting ?
  7. World VisionWhy The EU Needs to Put Children at the Centre of Emergencies - In Their Words
  8. ACCASustainability Reporting in Danger of Losing Its Momentum Says ACCA and CDSB
  9. Dialogue PlatformDiversity as Heritage of Humanity! Join the “Colors of the World“ Show at the EP
  10. Centre Maurits CoppietersNew Responses to the Basque Peace Process? MEP Juaristi on Stateless Challenges Conference
  11. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceImproving Cardiovascular Health Begins by Closing the Gap in Sex Disparities
  12. IPHRBrussels Talks to Take Stock of Human Rights in Turkmenistan