The Day After Tomorrow

Stéphane Pedrazzi
Stéphane Pedrazzi

In just two days, the French people will choose their next president and incumbent Jacques Chirac will become history. Nicolas Sarkozy now seems very likely to succeed him to the presidency.

According to the latest polls, he will be elected with at least 53% of votes (Ifop survey), 6 percentage points ahead of his rival, Ségolène Royal. Considering the margin of error is somewhere between 2 and 3%, Sarkozy is in the safe zone.


Nothing seems able to dent Sarkozy’s election plans anymore, even extreme-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen urging his supporters not to vote for any of the remaining candidates. The Ipsos survey shows that most of them (58%) will support Sarkozy on Sunday.

The same thing happened with François Bayrou. The centre-right leader revealed that he will not vote for Sarkozy, although he refused to give any official recommendation. But once again, the impact seems to be very limited.

According to an Ipsos poll, the voters who chose Bayrou in the first round will split their allegiances equally on Sunday (one third for Sarkozy, one third for Royal, one third will not vote at all).

Still Hope for Royal?

Ségolène Royal, the socialist candidate, believes there is still hope, claiming that voters will choose the next President, not the polls. Her wording turned aggressive towards her rival, as she called Sarkozy a “danger”, urged voters to “open (their) eyes.”

Royal too knows that the polls might be very wrong. In 2002 none of them predicted that Le Pen would make it to the second round. And in 1995, Prime Minister Edouard Balladur was the favourite. Why then could they not no be wrong again? Actually, if Royal loses this election, it would be the first time since 1988, that the forecasts were right.

Some socialist leaders, such as the former Prime Minister Michel Rocard, remain rational, and think there is still time for negotiation. In Le Monde newspaper, he reiterated his call for a coalition with the centre-right leader, François Bayrou. A last minute call, just before the media blackout starts again.

Sarkozy is taking it easy. He knows that a violent reaction would play against him and he probably knows that the worst is still to come. French people will vote again in June to choose their MPs. An open clash between Sarkozy, Bayrou and Le Pen would ease the way for socialists, and grant them the control of the National Assembly. A dark scenario, which would plunge the country straight into another “cohabitation”, for the fourth time in the last two decades.

The day after tomorrow could also be tough in the suburbs. Although Sarkozy is likely to be elected with a large number of votes, and in a democratic system, his triumph could spark more unrest in the suburbs, as early as Sunday night.