French Politics, Libya, Chirac, Japan Tsunami…
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What a busy week it has been in world affairs.
First, there were two political polls conducted in France that sparked controversy and debate throughout the country. They showed that ultra-conservative Marine Le Pen, an expected presidential candidate in 2012 from the Front National (FN) far-right party, would come out on top, over both current President Nicolas Sarkozy as well as different potential candidates from the Parti Socialiste (Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Martine Aubry, François Hollande).
It is true that Sarkozy’s approval ratings are at record lows, an unbelievable 31%. But Le Pen and the FN have been carefully building its network and image. Financial daily La Tribune analyzes, however, that the average voter who would be inclined to vote for Le Pen is a lower or lower-middle class income, less-educated French citizen. French rednecks.
With upcoming district elections (élections cantonales), Sarkozy has ruled out any alliance between his UMP party and the FN. Indeed, polling institution IFOP is looking at the potential the FN has in winning some of these elections. Asked what she would do in case of a choice between FN and PS, current Ecology Minister (and member of Sarkozy’s cabinet) Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet was not afraid to say she would support the Socialist Party in that hypothetical case.
One interesting poll on La Tribune asks readers what the support for Le Pen means, with 50% responding that it is a good wake-up call to the PS and UMP parties who have failed to deliver for France, 21.5% saying that it is being overhyped and 18% stating that it is a worry for Sarkozy. We will see how this political situation evolves, and certainly it is very early to tell for the 2012 elections. However, it does seem that the FN is gaining momentum. Regarding 2012, Dominique Strauss-Kahn is believed to be interested in being the Socialist candidate, but there is significant resistance at the PS to his candidacy.
In other news, former French President Jacques Chirac is on trial for corruption (“misappropriation of public funds”) when he was Mayor of Paris, but his trial was set back another few months after an objection based on legal procedure. As the Economist states, “there is a sense that with him in the dock stands France’s culture of political impunity.”
As the Libyan crisis continues (see special reports by Al-Jazeera, BBC News and Le Figaro), France has been taking a leading role (with President Obama following closely) in the international community, recently calling for “targeted strikes” against Gaddafi’s forces, in a joint statement after an EU summit with British Prime Minister David Cameron. What was perhaps just as bold was France’s recognition of the Libyan opposition as the legitimate government of Libya. The EU has officially called for the Libyan leader to step down. This will continue to be front-page news and we all hope the crisis will be resolved soon.
With one crisis comes another. The recent, devastating earthquake and ensuing tsunami in Japan has brought leaders all over the world to declare support and solidarity as well as possible humanitarian assistance to Japan. Sarkozy recently made a similar statement.
Stay tuned for more news.
Photo: © Eric Feferberg / AFP
Michael Barrett is a communications consultant, freelance translator and English teacher. He writes a must-read blog for expats called American Expat In France.
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