French election heats up: Hollande and Sarkozy neck and neck with Mélenchon in third Le Pen close behind

The French Presidential election taking place amidst the turmoil and deprivation unleashed by the crash and failed austerity approach of the European leadership is turning into a very interesting contest. It would seem with only a week to go before the first round that Nicholas Sarkozy, the UMP candidate is likely to be beaten in the second round  May 6th by the French socialist party candidate , François Hollande by a margin of  about 54 to 46 %, if one is to believe the most recent polls.

But the results of round one promise to be very interesting as the surging strength of the likely third place finisher Jean -Luc Mélenchon who represents a union of left parties including the former communist party and several small  far left parties has created a major stir in the campaign. Mélenchon with united support of the radical  left and those left of the centre left Socialist party is scoring as high as 17% in some polls. This would be an astonishing recovery for these parties from their abysmal showing in the 2007 election. To their credit they have run a spirited anti-austerity campaign with mass rallies that have attracted as many as  100,000 people to a rally in Marseilles. M.Melenchon who is a former socialist party minister has rejected the policies of austerity and is advocating a heavy tax on those who earn more than 300,000 euros a year as well as an emphasis on major public spending to stimulate the economy. If as expected he shows well in the first round his policy stances may stiffen the resolve of the socialist party and candidate François Hollande to proceed with an anti- austerity program.

Up to now he has largely spoken only in general terms about this and at the same time has complained about the debt load that he argues Nicholas Sarkozy has imposed on France, thereby sending mixed messages about his intentions once in power.

Nicholas Sarkozy who is at 27 % in the polls for his part continues to distance himself from the austerity emphasis of Chancellor Merkel and is calling for the European Central Bank to forget its obsession with inflation and instead concentrate on promoting economic growth. Despite this sensible stance he remains unpopular among a wide swath of the French electorate and his progressive edge on monetary policy is weakened by his record of cuts to pensions and his apparent tilting in favour of anti-immigrant sentiment. For her part, Marine LePen  of the FN continues to attract anti-immigrant far right support including unfortunately according to polls 25 % of those voters 18 to 24 roughly the same percentage of that vote held by Hollande who is at around 28-30 % in the overall polls. The polls suggest she will win about 15-16 % of the vote in the first round.

Other candidates include the Greens, led by Eva Joly at 3% in the polls, a progressive  centrist independent François Bayrou and good speaker who is unfortunately a fiscal conservative but placing employment issues at the centre of his campaign who polls between 9 and 11% and one centre right  Guaullist candidate Nicolas Dupont -Aignan who is a charismatic speaker and opposes ”euro domination” at 1 %and three other far left candidates who poll very small percentages.


About haroldchorneyeconomist

I am Professor of political economy at Concordia university in Montréal, Québec, Canada. I received my B.A.Hons (econ.&poli sci) from the University of Manitoba. I also completed my M.A. degree in economics there. Went on to spend two years at the London School of Economics as a Ph.D. student in economics and then completed my Ph.D. in political economy at the University of Toronto. Was named a John W.Dafoe fellow, a CMHC fellow and a Canada Council fellow. I also was named a Woodrow Wilson fellow in 1968 after completing my first class honours undergraduate degree. Worked as an economist in the area of education, labour economics and as the senior economist with the Manitoba Housing and Renewal Corporation for the Government of Manitoba from 1972 to 1978. I also have worked as an economic consultant for MDT socio-economic consultants and have been consulted on urban planning, health policy, linguistic duality and public sector finance questions by the governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan,the cities of Regina and Saskatoon, Ontario and the Federal government of Canada. I have also been consulted by senior leaders of the British Labour party, MPs from the Progressive Conservative party, the Liberal party and the New Democrats on economic policy questions. Members of the Government of France under the Presidency of Francois Mitterand discussed my work on public sector deficits. I have also run for elected office at the municipal level. I first began to write about quantitative easing as a useful policy option during the early 1980s.
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