France: The Sarko vs. Ségo Prism

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3)

[Thanks to Alexandre Enkerli for pitching this show. It will record at 5:00 pm Eastern to accomodate overseas guests.]

The wild first round of French presidential elections is over, and the shaggy 12 candidates have been whittled down to a slim two. It’s a classic battle of left and right now, with the conservative interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy going head to head against the Socialist Ségolène Royal, president of the Poitou-Charentes region in Central France.

If there was a consensus among the 12 candidates in the first round it was negative: there’s more pessimism about France’s role in the world today and her future prospects for the future than we’ve seen in a long, long time. Of course, that’s where the consensus ends. Just what should be done to rescue France’s battered economy, social fabric, and self-identity is completely up for debate.

And it’s a fascinating debate. So what can we learn about France through the prism of the Sarko v. Ségo race? Is it possible to imagine a Clinton-Blairesque “third way” in this clearly demarcated country that invented the cardinal directions of left and right? (Or did that third way, represented by François Bayrou, already fail?) How sustainable is the French welfare state? Were the flaming banlieues two summers ago an isolated skirmish or a taste of future unrest? What stance will France take with respect to the U.S.? The E.U.? Her own identity?

What pictures of France do you see in this contest?

Christine Ockrent


Anchor and Producer, France Europe Express

Jerome Guillet

Blogger, Jerome a Paris of the European Tribune

Paris-based energy banker

Patrick Belton

Blogger, Oxblog

Extra Credit Reading

Débat Ségolène Royal – Nicolas Sarkozy : partie 1

Elaine Sciolino, Candidates Spar Vigorously as French Vote Nears, The New York Times, May 3, 2007: “By midway, Ms. Royal’s perpetual smile disappeared from her face. Their tone was reminiscent of a couple bickering at the breakfast table, with the husband barely restraining his sense of superiority and the wife attacking him for not listening to her.”

Jennifer Brea, The French Presidential Election: A View From Outside the Metropole, Global Voices, April 26, 2007: “Here’s a view of the election from outside the metropole — voters in overseas French departments, interested bloggers in former French colonies, and the growing ranks of hyphenated French.”

Jerome Guillet, Why the French election matters to all progressives, European Tribune, April 21, 2007: “If Sarkozy loses, the 5 biggest European countries will actually have parties of the left in power. Italy and Spain, with their undoubtedly leftwing governments will suddenly be remembered; people will focus on the fact that the SPD is part of the coalition in power in Germany, and that it is formally a Labor government in power in London. The momentum for “reform” will be very different.”

Simon Dickson, Video in the French election, I’m Simon Dickson, April 24, 2007: “I thought I’d glance at what les candidats en France were up to. And blimey – Nicolas Sarkozy really digs the 2.0 thing. His campaign slogan – ‘together everything becomes possible’ – is, of course, tailor-made for the whole collaborative online thing, but even so, it’s quite startling to see him embrace it quite so fervently.”

Catholicgauze, French Presidential Election Round 1 is Over, Geographic Travels with Catholicgauze!, April 23, 2007: “The geography of the election is along similar lines of previous elections. The east and north parts of France vote conservative while the southwest, the west, and Paris go Socialist.”

French Election: What Sarkozy and Royal Stand For, The Tocqueville Connection, April 30, 2007: “Here are the key proposals of the rightwing Nicolas Sarkozy and the Socialist Segolene Royal.”

Good blog for French election beginners: French Élection 2007

Related Content