News

French Vote Sunday in First Round of Presidential Elections

France's President and candidate for re-election in the 2012 election, Nicolas Sarkozy delivers a speech before building trade professionals as part of his campaign, in Paris, April 17, 2012.
France's President and candidate for re-election in the 2012 election, Nicolas Sarkozy delivers a speech before building trade professionals as part of his campaign, in Paris, April 17, 2012.

Nicolas Sarkozy

  • Elected president in 2007
  • Raised France's legal retirement age from 60 to 62
  • Born 1955 and raised in Paris
  • Married to former super model Carla Bruni
  • Committed to balancing France's budget by 2016

French voters go to the polls Sunday for the first round of presidential elections with two top contenders dominating the campaigning - incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande, the Socialist Party candidate.

President Sarkozy is running for a second term, and many analysts say he is facing an uphill battle. After five years in office, he is seen by many French voters as not delivering on his promises of cutting government spending, increasing wages and creating more jobs.

“He sees himself as the candidate of economic growth,” said John Merriman, an expert on France at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. “But in fact, the results of his presidency have not been marked by any economic growth at all.

“It [France] still has a very high unemployment rate, young people particularly - educated young people, uneducated young people - the level of unemployment is very, very high,” Merriman said. “And this is going to work against Sarkozy.”

The latest statistics show more than 20 percent of France’s young people are unemployed - more than twice the overall unemployment rate.

Merriman and others say Sarkozy, married to former super-model Carla Bruni, has alienated many people because of his lavish life-style.

“He gives the impression that all he really cares about is big yachts and big trips and big restaurants and big money,” said Merriman.

In an effort to counter that perception, Bruni told several French news outlets: “We are modest people.”

Dominique Moisi, senior adviser to the French Institute for International Affairs in Paris, points to some of Sarkozy’s accomplishments.

“Resisting the financial and economic crisis. Being at the helm of the European presidency of the Union at the worst time and sustaining the high winds. Starting to reform France on retirement age and the university system. And intervening and making a difference in the Ivory Coast and Libya.”

Moisi said Sarkozy’s message to voters should be simple: “You need me. Help me save you because the winds are going to be even tougher. You need someone with experience. In fact, any other candidate would be dangerous for you because he would lack the experience I’ve had.”

Francois Hollande visits the SAFRA industrial rail body factory on a campaign trip in Albi, France, April 16, 2012.
Francois Hollande visits the SAFRA industrial rail body factory on a campaign trip in Albi, France, April 16, 2012.

Sarkozy’s main challenger is Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande, a veteran politician who has never held a national government position. A graduate of the prestigious National School of Administration [ENA], Hollande has been a member of the National Assembly since the late 1980s and secretary-general of the Socialist Party.

Hollande, according to Moisi, is “a discreet person, a man who says: ‘you must vote for me because I’m normal.’ But as a result, the French may not only find him normal, but slightly banal.

“He is not charismatic - that’s the least one can say,” Moisi concluded. “But he is reasonable, serious and, in fact, friendly.”

Hollande’s political platform includes raising taxes on the very rich, freezing fuel prices, increasing welfare payments and hiring 60,000 new teachers.

Francois Hollande

  • Has never held national government office.
  • Called for 75 percent tax on France's richest people.
  • Wants to cut president's salary by 30 percent.
  • Born 1954 in Roen .
  • Not married, former partner of Segolene Royal.

His ex-partner, and the mother of his four children, is Segolene Royal. She was the Socialist Party presidential candidate in 2007, but lost to Sarkozy. She has endorsed Hollande this time around.

There are eight other candidates for the French presidency, including far-right Marine Le Pen, far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon and centrist Francois Bayrou.

No one is expected to get the 50 percent necessary to win outright in the first round of balloting this Sunday. This will mean that the two top vote-getters will face each other in a second round of voting scheduled for May 6.  

Public opinion surveys show Sarkozy and Hollande are expected to make it through to the second round. And if polls are correct, Hollande will be the next president of France.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Cha Cha Cohen
April 20, 2012 9:04 AM
We sincerely hope that God help us to select a good & honest person who can extinguish the burning fires from this earth and establish a harmonius & happy world free from animosity and nastiness!

by: Cha Cha Cohen
April 19, 2012 8:36 AM
Sarkozy talking about immigrants? Which immigrants, Hungarian, Greek or Italian? Mind boggles!

by: Yasin
April 18, 2012 4:44 PM
well Sarkozy is bad officer for presidential election in french I wouldn't like him because his marks are too sore since many immigrants come to french and sarkozy has avoided coming of some immigrants

by: zoe morgan roman norman sydney christian z
April 18, 2012 4:21 PM
Because it gives an equal chance to all combinations of programs, not just parties, Ranked Ballot is the only thing that's truly both just & free. This is what the French need to get a truly COMPROMISE president, not just the leader of the biggest gang on the block.

by: Mike
April 17, 2012 12:44 PM
The French people have not learned their lesson. They think that anger and irrational, unsustainable government will get them what they want. Fine! That will make them less competitive with US exports. This election may help push Germany (and a few others) into their own currency union wthout France, Italy, Greece, and Spain. I wonder if the idiots in D.C. will learn anything from this.

Best regards

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailandi
X
May 05, 2015 5:50 PM
Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailand

Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Russia's 'Victory Day' Glory Over Nazis Overshadowed by Ukraine

ussia is preparing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, known since the Soviet era as “The Great Patriotic War,” with a massive parade on May 9th of military hardware and millions of medals handed out to veterans or their relatives. But critics say the Soviet-style display of power and nationalism overshadows tragic scars during and after the war that still influence politics and foreign policy, especially in the current Ukraine crisis.
Video

Video WWII Anniversary Brings Old Friends and New Worries

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II has special significance, with Russia becoming more assertive in Ukraine and sending its military planes to the edges of western countries’ airspace. Changes in the geostrategic balance and the transatlantic relationship are felt across the continent, not least in German towns that have hosted U.S. military bases since the defeat of Nazi Germany. VOA’s Al Pessin visited Schweinfurt, Germany, where a large base closed last year.
Video

Video Abraham Lincoln Funeral Re-created for 150th Civil War Anniversary

Over the last four years, commemorative events to mark the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War have brought thousands of visitors to battlefields and historic landmarks across the country. As VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, the final event in the Civil War's sesquicentennial honors the final journey home of the slain American President, Abraham Lincoln.
Video

Video Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalists

Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Volunteers Pull Together to Aid Baltimore Riot Victims

Calm has returned to Baltimore, Maryland, after authorities lifted an overnight curfew imposed almost a week ago to stem the rioting that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray - the 25-year-old black man who died of spinal injuries suffered while in police custody. Six police officers, three of them African-American, have been charged in connection with his death. Baltimore is now trying to get back to normal, in part with the help of volunteers who responded to calls to help those in the city'
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Obama Praises Work of 3 Immigrant Journalists

President Barack Obama met with three immigrant journalists at the White House Friday to praise them for their work ahead of World Press Freedom Day, May 3. In attendance: Dieu Cay (his pen name) a blogger from Vietnam recently released from prison; Lily Mengesha from Ethiopia who was harassed and detained for exposing the marrying off of young girls as child brides, and Fatima Tlisova, an ethnic Circassian from the North Caucasus region of Russia, who works for VOA's Russian Service.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

VOA Blogs