With less than a year and a half to go before the next French presidential election, and current President Nicolas Sarkozy at 35% popularity, could France end up shifting further to the right? The possibility is a good one. Sarkozy won the 2007 race by largely borrowing from the right-wing Front National party’s platform on everything from immigration reform to national security. Keeping in mind that French presidential elections usually consist of two rounds of voting (if no one party gets 50% of votes in the first round), with other parties throwing their weight behind one of the remaining two parties in exchange for concessions and government positions, Sarkozy beat Socialist Segolene Royale in 2007 because he nabbed right-wing and centrist party votes after the first round, which put him over the top in the second and final vote.
The advantage Sarkozy had in 2007 is that he had never been given the chance to be in charge. He always had to dodge the long shadow of his party’s leader, Jacques Chirac, whom few outside of France (or even in France) could ever legitimately label right-leaning or laissez faire. Chirac spent his mandate importing his beloved Africa into France one Muslim immigrant at a time, appreciating the various resulting cultural manifestations such as bar-b-cueing Citroens as a form of public debate, and taking advantage of various sanctions imposed by the world community on dodgy regimes like Saddam Hussein’s to enjoy market monopoly free of any legitimate competition.
Sarkozy was supposed to be a break from all that. But then something got in the way: France. The Economist, having hailed Sarkozy as the new Napoleon, recently called him the “incredible shrinking president”, and criticized him for not following through on his good ideas. The criticism came from the right, not from the left. The result of gridlock or inaction is maintenance of the status quo, which in France is nanny-state left. And this isn’t what a majority of French voted for when they elected Sarkozy.
A summary of the disappointments:
*Sarkozy pushed DNA testing legislation through parliament to ensure actual relation between family reunification immigrants. But when the bill had passed and was ready to be signed, he told his minister not to.
* After running a campaign emphasizing cultural integration and the secular nature of the French state, Sarkozy sent his prime minister – the head of French government -- to open a new mosque during which he made warm declarations about Islam.