France the bastion of democracy has voted in the first round of the Presidential elections. As the polls suggested François Hollande of the Parti socialiste has finished just ahead of the President Nicholas Sarkozy of the UMP. In third place with what is a shocking result is Marine Le Pen, the leader of the Front National, the right wing anti-immigrant party who managed to get almost one in five of all the votes cast. In fourth place with a smaller vote than what polls had suggested at 11.1 % was Jean -Luc Mélenchon whose vote while substantial was somewhat below what he and his coalition had hoped for. The centrist François Bayrou came fifth with 9.1%, enough votes to be a factor in influencing the final second round outcome. The ecologist Eva Joly scored 2.3% of the vote. Both she and Mèlenchon have made it clear that would like their supporters to vote for Hollande in the second round and expressed their strong opposition to the showing of the far right.
The success of the far right under Marine Le Pen is the result of the neglect of high unemployment in France, particularly among youth and the radicalizing impact this has had on French politics. Austerity is a socially dangerous policy if it is practiced in the midst of an economic depression. This must be the lesson drawn from this election. The European leadership should take this to heart as a warning not to be complacent about unemployment and not to embrace austerity as a policy to solve an economic crisis no matter what the bond market actors may say or demand.
We shall see what the second round delivers as Sarkozy and Hollande go head to head. Hollande for the moment is ahead and seems more likely to win but it may well be closer than some believe. Sarkozy has the dilemma of requiring the votes of those who voted for the National front in the first round. Not a pleasing prospect to say the least.
For him to win assuming that Hollande captures all of the Joly and Melenchon votes and those of the small left parties plus half of Bayrou’s vote Sarkozy will have to win all of those votes cast for the Gaullist Dupont-Aignan and at least 6 million of the votes cast for Le Pen. Assuming that the remaining 400,000 of those votes were cast for Hollande Sarkozy would end up with 17.8 million votes and Hollande with 17.6 million. This assumes the same number of voters and that none of the Hollande or Sarkozy voters switch in the second round. But its rather doubtful that Sarkozy can win so many Bayrou votes if he moves closer to the Le Pen positions in order to capture the necessary votes from that camp. Furthermore some polls suggest that close to one third of the Le Pen vote will either abstain or vote for Hollande. So it would seem that Hollande has an easier task than Sarkozy in capturing the Presidency in the second round.
Latest Results from the Ministry of the Interior
François Hollande 10,180,284
Nicholas Sarkozy 9,628,693
Marine Le Pen 6,401,945
Jean-Luc Mélenchon 3,957,677
François Bayrou 3,237,686
Eva Joly 810,795
Nicholas Dupont-Aignan 639,846
Phillipe Poutou 408,807
Nathalie Artoud 201,593
Jacques Cheminade 88,370
Total votes cast and counted 35,555,696 out of 45,225,158 eligible voters.