Mon Apr 23rd, 2012 at 03:05:15 AM EST
The official results in the first round of the French presidential election (99% of votes, some overseas votes yet to come in):
(Source: Le Monde)
This is the first time in the Fifth Republic that an incumbent president has been beaten in the first round of the election. The polls on the second round show him beaten by a margin of from 6 to 10 points, and the pollsters have been pretty much right up to now. In spite of UMP noise and talking points, Sarkozy looks set for an exit, stage right. (Insert big smiley here).
But... With a good turnout (80.16%), generally held to be favourable to the left, it is more from the right that Sarkozy has been rejected. Marine Le Pen gets a record score for the Front National, leaving Jean-Luc Mélenchon way behind. The pressure-from-the-left situation we could hope for hasn't materialised.
Why? Certainly, Sarkozy himself bears a large share of the responsibility. Over a decade in power he has constantly worked the levers of fear, insecurity and xenophobia, and he has predictably enough made the extreme right's bed. Secondly, the Front National's facelift with the daughter instead of the grimacing old ultra-right daddy seems to be working. But there also seems to me to be here a vote by default, since the left overall has not developed and communicated efficiently a narrative that could offer voters a new angle on where things are going and why. Insofar as a narrative has been efficiently put across, it has been "immigration is responsible", from the right.
Sarkozy probably won't benefit personally (though expect huge noise over the next fortnight on xenophobia, security, Islam as he attempts to drag FN voters his way). But the left is in need of a total mental refit.
Not that anyone here will find that surprising.