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Whoever wins inherits a host of problems, and a shot at greatness
SAURABH KUMAR | Issue Dated: April 1, 2007
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TERMS & CONDITIONS APPLY France, a nation of more than 60 million souls, is in a dilemma – to choose its immediate future. Frenchmen have always remained sceptical of their ‘decision making capability’ and thus, for ages, allowed the world to meddle in their affairs. Nevertheless, the time has come, for the land of good wine and good women, to decide their future course and thus Frenchmen are looking forward to the coming elections. Eleven candidates have been finalised for the first round of elections 22 April. The election is being seen as a major event in European political circles as, apart from selecting a President, it will gauge the depth of the famous French tolerance and homogeneity – the ethos France stands for.

As the picture gets clear, Centre-Right leader Nicolas Sarkozy of UMP, and Socialist Party leader Segolene Royal are emerging as frontrunners in an election expected to generate heat in western Europe. Nearly all the pre-poll surveys are predicting a run-off as no candidate is expected to win an outright majority. The battle has become three-cornered with the participation of Francois Bayrou of the centrist UDF. Bayrou is expected to bite into the share of Sarkozy. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, noted international affairs analyst, told TSI, “The French election has become multi-cornered. It will be interesting to see if centrists pose a threat to traditional parties.” Another prominent candidate who is expected to grab a major chunk of votes is the Far-Right Jean-Marie Le Pen of the National Front Party. Le Pen had stunned the world in the 2002 elections by grabbing more than 17% vote; nevertheless his popularity, based more on anti-Muslim and anti-migrants rhetoric and less on credibility, is thankfully waning fast. TERMS & CONDITIONS APPLY Sarkozy, son of an immigrant, seems to have an edge. Most of his votes are coming from the young who are looking up to him to bail France out of anarchy. Many regard his possible victory as a symbol of ethnic integration in a country struggling with the rising demands of immigrants.

In his rallies, Sarkozy has repeatedly stressed on topics such as providing employment and creating a homogeneous France. The irony is, Royal is also raising the same issues but with different dimensions. Her influence is particular on the labour community that comprises mainly immigrants from erstwhile French colonies. The immigrant community has a substantial Muslim population and has remained on the receiving end of rightist forces in France for more than a decade now. There have been increasing instances of racial bias in France and this is evident in every area from providing jobs to building homes. Le Pen has repeatedly given comments that make a mockery of French culture and its ethos. For instance, he criticised the fact that nearly all the members of the 2006 FIFA World Cup French squad happened to be Muslims.

The era of Jacques Chirac has finally come to its end and a mood of disillusionment is widespread in France. The starting years of the new century bewildered the country with the insurgence of immigrants, growing youth unemployment and a stagnant economy. Nevertheless, the elections could be a turning point for people longing to see a revitalised France.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017