By Anastasiya Pershkina
France is in for a historic runoff after Socialist leader Francois Hollande has secured a 1.5% lead in the first round of presidential elections and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is coming in third. The outcome of the second round will depend on Le Pen’s supporters.
Voter turnout in the first round of the elections was high, at over 80%. Voters are resorting to the so-called “protest vote” in an attempt to influence the main candidates. Ivan Bunin of the Center for Political Technology, comments.
“One group of voters – about 50% – picked their favorite and stuck with him. The other 50% kept changing their favorites looking for ways to make the most of the voting and express their protest. They sided with Melenchon to force Hollande to move farther left and punished Sarkozy be giving their votes for Madame Le Pen.”
As a result, Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande received 28.61% of votes, incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy – 27.08%, National Front leader Marine Le Pen – 18.01%, Left Front leader Jean-Luc Melenchon – 11.13%. Igor Bunin believes that there are two winners but they don’t include Nicolas Sarkozy.
“Francois Hollande is one of the winners. It’s for the second time that a Socialist leader runs ahead of a right-wing leader in the first round. Sarkozy hoped that he would be the first. Far-right leader Marine Le Pen scored higher than expected, easily beating her father Lean Mari Le Pen’s record success in 2002. She has demonstrated the far-right’s best results ever. Sarkozy hoped to steal the electorate from the National Front but he failed. Sarkozy’s program, which hinges on security guarantees and measures against immigration, proved secondary. Far-right voters chose to return to the basics.”
Now, the outcome of the runoff vote will depend on the votes of the losing candidates. The Communists will likely vote for Hollande. The centrists will split. Nevertheless, the final outcome will be determined by those who voted for Jean-Luc Melenchon and Marine Le Pen. For modern France, it’s strange that the country’s future should depend on far-right forces. Yuri Rubinsky of the French research center at the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, comments.
“Everything will depend on Marine Le Pen’s position. She wants her National Front to become a weighty political player. Whether she can secure this will become clear after parliamentary elections in June. Marine Le Pen expects Sarkozy’s moderate right party to go into dialogue with National Front, on the program, and on campaign tactics. Sarkozy’s party is expected to pay back by securing the National Front a considerable faction in parliament.”
However, an alliance with the far-right forces might cost Sarkozy’s his reputation, particularly since he has already lost some voter trust over his tough stance on immigration and ethnic groups.